While I'm away...

I will be away for three weeks, beginning today. While I am gone, I hope regular visitors will avail themselves of the daily meditations offered in the spirituality section of our Web site. I hope newcomers curious about our Church will watch our diocesan movie, and meet a few people living out their faith. And I hope those of you interested in supporting this blog will do so by contributing to our Bishop's Appeal.

Also, please visit some of the good folks whose blogs are listed in our blog roll.

Bishop John Bryson Chane's pastoral letter on the violence in Israel and Lebanon

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

These past days the morning paper and evening newscast have brought us graphic stories of violence, bloodshed, and warfare. We have lived on a steady diet of such stories since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the violence shows no signs of abating. At times I worry that we, as a nation, will becoming accustomed to this brutality that we will loose our capacity to be outraged by the daily killing and wounding of soldiers, civilians and children caught up in conflicts that convulse our world.

The latest outbreak of violence involves Israel and the Hezbollah movement in southern Lebanon. Once again our efforts to find diplomatic solutions to complex political realities have failed, and once again we are left with the horror of these consequences.

Three weeks ago, I meet with six ambassadors from Middle Eastern countries to explore ways in which inter-faith religious leaders from around the globe might contribute to a diplomatic initiative that might end terror and bloodshed in that region. We were mindful that four years ago, George Carey, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, played a key role in crafting the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land. In that document, more than a dozen senior Christian, Jewish and Moslem leaders in the Middle East pledged to use their religious and moral authority to work for an end to violence and the resumption of the peace process. God willing, we will find a way to resurrect the spirit of cooperation and reconciliation that made their agreement possible, for religion continues to be the primary fault line in the Middle East.

My staff and I have also been in conversation with the Israeli Embassy about the situation unfolding in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. In those conversations we expressed our belief that Israel must have secure borders and our concerns about the impact that the ongoing construction of the Wall is having as it divides Israelis and Palestinians. This impact includes the restriction of access to Christian holy sites.

As Christians, we must possess a passion to work and pray for an end to violent conflicts throughout our world. In Jesus name we must become ambassadors for peace. I ask you to add to your intercessions this Sunday prayers for a cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah. Pray for an end to the violence in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, and pray that this nation, as the leader of the free world, will now exercise its moral leadership and political influence to bring such a cease fire on all fronts to fruition.

I also ask you to pray for those Palestinians in Gaza who have suffered immeasurably over these recent months and for Israelis who continue to seek security for themselves and for their state. I ask you to pray for an end to terrorism and hostage taking in all forms.

As your bishop, I continue to seek God’s forgiveness through personal prayer for our inability as a global community to embrace the very word and presence of Peace which so much defines the core of the Holy Books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

If you so choose please feel free to share this Pastoral Letter with your congregation.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane DD
Bishop of Washington

Marilyn McCord Adams on the "covenant" proposal

I have been meaning to post this sermon, delivered earlier this month at Christ Church, Oxford, by the Rev. Marilyn McCord Adams, for a few weeks. It will give you something to chew on during the three weeks that I won't be posting.

An excerpt:

"What 'Challenge and Hope' (the title of the Archbishop of Canterbury's reflection on the future of the Communion) assumes is that groups are less likely to be wrong than individuals. Sometimes this is plausible. ...

"Nevertheless, other times, where systemic evils - such as racism, classism, tribalism, sexism, and homophobia - are concerned, groups are the ones that are more apt to make mistakes. The reason is simple: such evils are the
product of deep structures that constitute the group in question; uprooting them is not surface slicing to remove a mole, but abdominal surgery that reroutes the digestive track. Where the status quo is working well for most
people, or at least for the most powerful people, the collective has every incentive to deny the problems and to resist any change. "

Click below to read it all.

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Congratulations, Dean Baxter

Former National Cathedral dean elected Bishop of Central Pennsylvania

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

[ENS] The Rev. Dr. Nathan D. Baxter, 57, rector, St. James' Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and former dean of Washington National Cathedral, was elected July 22 bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

The election, on the fifth ballot, came during the diocese's 136th annual diocesan convention, which began July 21 at Bucknell University, Lewisburg.

An election required a simple majority in both the clergy and lay order.Thus, of the 96 votes cast in the clergy order on the fifth ballot, 49 were needed for election and 84 of the 166 votes in the lay order. Baxter had 49
clergy votes and 88 in the lay order. Under the canons the Episcopal Church (III.16.4(a)), a majority of the
bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to Baxter's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

After this process is complete, the consecration of the new bishop will take place at Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, on October 21.Baxter will succeed Bishop Michael Creighton, 65, who has been bishop since January 1996 and will retire later this year.

Baxter has been rector of St. James, the largest parish in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, since October 2003. The diocese has more than 16,000 Episcopalians in 71 congregations and one mission.

From 1991 to 2003, Baxter was the dean of Washington National Cathedral. During that time, he led the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and officiated at the
memorial service for the crew of the space shuttle, Columbia. He presided over the funerals and memorial services of many prominent Americans including Thurgood Marshall, William Colby, William Fulbright, Clark Clifford, Pamela Harriman, Ron Brown and Katherine Graham, as well as the American memorial service for Princess Diana.

(To read an excerpt of an interview with the bishop-elect from the June 2003 issue of the Washington Window, click below. To read the entire interview, go to the pdf. file, here. It is on pages 7 and 10.)

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Presence

Jim S., a frequent commenter on this blog, is also the proprietor of Today Gospel Insights, which you can visit here. Last night he sent this meditation to a few friends, and agreed to let me share it on the blog.

"Suzanne and I have been exceptionally fortunate to be in our parish's book study of In God's Presence, by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki. Suchocki's book deals with prayer, if you are not familiar with it. I have been particularly interested in her descriptions (and our leader, Charlotte Rogers') about coming into the Presence.

This afternoon, I was finishing Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies, and encountered her essay entitled "Baby." Following is a section that describes what happened after her son, Sam, equipped with an ineffective -- and pink [!] -- wetsuit was to be escorted by one of the tour guides to a small cove where seals were playing:

Click below to read the excerpt.

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The latest from San Joaquin

Here is the latest from the Diocese of San Joaquin:

"We know that many of you are aware of certain rumors that have been floating recently indicating that four California bishops are making charges against the Bishop of San Joaquin that might lead to a presentment (an ecclesiastical trial).

To our knowledge, no action leading to a presentment has taken place. However, four California bishops have requested an investigation by the Title IV Review Committee.

According to a communication from Bishop Dorsey Henderson, who heads up the Review Committee, the Committee itself is still being formed. For our part, the Chancellors have already responded to the initial allegations by challenging the appropriateness of the specific Canon Law [IV.9] being used to bring charges. In short, these allegations are neither relevant nor justified."

You can take a gander at Title IV.9 here.

I am off on vacation soon, so if you are interested in discussing this issue, pay a visit to Father Jake.

Bishop Jefferts Schori: Take two

(This interview was originally scheduled to air last Sunday.)

CBS Evening News plans July 23 profile of Presiding Bishop-elect

Anchor Russ Mitchell interviews Katharine Jefferts Schori

[ENS] A CBS Evening News profile of Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori is scheduled to air nationwide during the 6 p.m. newscast on Sunday, July 23, after last week's planned airing was pre-empted by breaking news.

The profile centers around a July 13 interview conducted by CBS News anchor Russ Mitchell with Jefferts Schori on the campus of the General Theological Seminary in New York City.

Should the profile be rescheduled due to time constraints, the segment will air at a later time, said producer Chris Hulme.

Clergy and lay leaders may wish to make this announcement in congregations during July 23 Sunday services.

An interview with Rowan Williams on the crisis in the Middle East

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, was interviewed this morning on BBC's Radio 4 by Caroline Quinn.

An excerpt:

I think all states have a right to defend themselves and I don't think anyone disputes the state of Israel's right to exist and therefore the state of Israel's right to defend itself. But the question is, morally, whether that right of self-defence allows any and every method and, without for any moment suggesting that there's a sort of equivalence between terrorist activity and the activity of a legitimate state, the question is; what can a state morally do without subverting its own cause in self defence? That's the question which I think people are pressing at the moment in Israel.

Click below to read the transcript.

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Chaplain Kenworthy's letter home is in international circulation

The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy's letter home from Iraq, where he is serving as a military chaplain, has been picked up by the Anglican Communion News Service, and sent around the world via its list-serv. If you haven't read the letter to parishioners at Christ Church, Georgetown in this month's isue of the Washington Window, or seen it on our diocese's home page, have a look at it here.

"Welfare as we know it" all gone "Poverty as we know it" still here

By John Johnson

[ENS] At a Congressional oversight hearing July 19 on the 1996 welfare reform bill, known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), a letter from Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold and the leaders of four other Christian denominations pointed out that while "welfare may have ended as we know it ... poverty in our nation has not."

Bishop E. Roy Riley, Jr., chair of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Conference of Bishops, included the letter during his testimony before the House Ways and Mean Committee.

The letter, also signed by the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; and Bishop Beverly Shamana, President of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society, expressed concern that while welfare rolls may have declined after passage of the legislation in 1996, poverty persists.

"We understand that many in Congress may be inclined to celebrate a political anniversary: the tenth anniversary of the signing of PRWORA and the 'successes' of the law that as President Clinton said 'ended welfare as we know it.' This is a celebration in which we cannot join."

In his testimony before the committee, Riley commented on the goals of the 1996 welfare reform efforts, which were to reduce welfare dependence and improve employment, reduce child poverty and improve family life.

"Unfortunately the economic life reality in 2006 undermines broad claims at success. Families are stretched to the breaking point while working full-time for wages that keep them in a low-income status. There are an increasing number of poor, hungry, and uninsured Americans ... at the end of the day, the bottom line is this: nearly 20 percent of the children in this richest nation in the world live in poverty. Whatever else we have accomplished, whatever claims we make for our reforms that fact remains."

The committee convened the hearing nearly ten years after President Clinton signed the measure into law to hear testimony on the successes and failures of the law that substantially overhauled and revised the nation's welfare system. In addition to Riley, the committee heard from former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson as well as policy analysts and economists from the Brookings Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Heritage Foundation and Baruch College.

To see previous statements on the budget from the mainline leaders and Action Alerts from the Episcopal Public Policy Network, go to: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/eppn

Previous statements from the mainline leaders can be found at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_59751_ENG_HTM.htm
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_65527_ENG_HTM.htm
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_70004_ENG_HTM.htm

-- John Johnson is domestic policy analyst in the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations.

Click below to read the letter

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Blessed (and forgotten) are the poor

Today's Washington Post confirms rumors that the meek will not come into their inheritance any time soon.

"Poverty forced its way to the top of President Bush's agenda in the confusing days after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans. Confronted with one of the most pressing political crises of his presidency, Bush, who in the past had faced withering criticism for speaking little about the poor, said the nation has a solemn duty to help them.

'All of us saw on television, there's . . . some deep, persistent poverty in this region,' he said in a prime-time speech from New Orleans's Jackson Square, 17 days after the Aug. 29 hurricane. 'That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.'

As it happened, poverty's turn in the presidential limelight was brief. Bush has talked little about the issue since the immediate crisis passed, while pursuing policies that his liberal critics say will hurt the poor. He has publicly mentioned domestic poverty six times since giving back-to-back speeches on the issue in September. Domestic poverty did not come up in his State of the Union address in January, and his most recent budget included no new initiatives directed at the poor.

Read the story.

Archbishop Ndungane promotes The African Monitor

(For an UPDATE click on the keep reading button)

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, is in the midst of an extended visit with us here in Washington that is being coordinated by the Cathedral College's Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation.

He is in town to promote his new organization, The African Monitor, an independent non-government body that aims to monitor fulfillment of economic and social development projects, raise awareness of grass roots groups--including faith networks--and motivate groups to hold authorities accountable for results.

The archbishop recently spoke at the Center for Global Development. You can find out about the speech here, read a copy here, and visit the CGD's blog here.

You can also read the sermon he delivered at St. Columba's Church in our diocese this Sunday be clicking below.

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What Bishop Chane did on his summer vacation

Bishop John Byrson Chane spent the first week of July as a chaplain at the Chautauqua Institute in the Finger Lakes region of New York where he recorded an interview with the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, director of the institute's department of religion.

To listen, visit here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.
The site also features interviews with Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Times and the prominent evangelical leader the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo.

Meaning of Life TV

I want to make sure that you all have plenty to do when I go on vacation at the end of the week, so I am stockpiling online religion-related resources. Have a look at Meaning of Life TV. John Polkinghorne, Anglican priest and theoretical physicist, is one of those interviewed. Among other speakers: Freeman Dyson, Huston Smith and Edward O. Wilson

Among the topics: faith and reason, free will and the problem of evil.

The IRD is at it again

Those rascals at the Institute on Religion and Democracy are at it again. Brian Kaylor at "For God's Sake, Shut Up" has two posts on their recent activities, and Matt Thompson of Political Spaghetti has one. To learn more about he IRD, read our series, Following the Money.

The Propaganda Box is open

J-Tron, the proprietor of The Propaganda Box, has been quiet of late, but he's back with a good new post. Have a look.

Presentment possibility in San Joaquin?

The Living Church magazine is reporting that presentment is possible against the Rt. Rev. John-David Scofield, Bishop of San Joaquin, perhaps as early as next week. I don't know anything more about this than what I have read.

As this goes forward (if this goes forward) I think it is important to recognize that it is wrong to persecute someone for holding views that place them in a theological minority, and equally wrong to behave as though membership in a theological minority entitles you to declare yourself outside the authority of our Church, while still somehow a member of our Church..

Church in the streets

"Three blocks from The White House in Franklin Square Park, the Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery lifts a folding table from a small cart, sets out a woven basket of sandwich bread and a plastic bottle of grape juice and opens her arms wide.

It’s lunch hour in downtown D.C., and women in sunglasses and summer skirts sip bottled water under the trees, while businessmen with Blackberrys share benches with the destitute.

And it’s Tuesday, the day volunteers from the Church of the Epiphany on nearby G Street pack up programs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and take church to the street."

Read the story in the July issue of our diocesan paper, the Washington Window.

Bishop Jefferts Schori: Sunday night on CBS

[ENS] A CBS Nightly News profile of Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori is scheduled to air nationwide during the 6pm newscast on Sunday, July 16, unless pre-empted by breaking news.

The profile centers around a July 13 interview conducted by CBS News anchor Russ Mitchell with Jefferts Schori on the campus of the General Theological Seminary in New York City.

Should the profile be rescheduled due to time constraints, the segment will air at a later time, said producer Chris Hulme.

Clergy and lay leaders may wish to make this announcement in congregations during July 16 Sunday services.

For the Ann Coulter fan in your life

Robert S. McElvaine, who teaches history at Millsaps College has dismantled Ann Coulter's latest sin against charity at Sightings.

My favorite part of the essay are the Beatitudes according to Coulter:

Blessed are the haughty in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who exult over others, for they shall be further rewarded.
Blessed are the arrogant, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for domination, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are those who show no mercy, for they shall obtain the wealth of others.
Blessed are the hard in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the war-makers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who persecute for their own sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when you revile others and persecute others and utter all sorts of evil against them falsely on my account.

Give peace a chance?

Canon Vincent Strudwick, a member of an Anglican Consultative Council's "sub-group" fleshing out notions for an Anglican Convenant defends the covenant initiative in this week's Church Times.

In an otherwise helpful piece, he offers this bit of naive-ry:

"Now is not the time to talk more of 'constituent Churches' and 'associate Churches' of the Communion — because the 're-imagining' of the Communion is part of the covenant agenda, and belongs to all who participate."

Please, Canon, no Church will begin this process without giving some thought to where it might stand, and whom it might stand with, when the process ends. If we do not acknowledge that the process before us is, in some measure, a political one, then the cloak of theology will be thrown over all manner of backroom maneurvering. Better to have the politicking done in the daylight, and called what it is.

That said, I hope that the leaders of our various Churches will embrace the Canon's conclusion:

"The starting-point for those who engage in the process is that the covenant does not require them to accept all doctrinal opinion, sacramental devotion, or ministerial practice characteristic of other provinces, but that each believes the other to hold the essentials of the Christian faith, and that all commit themselves to respect the integrity and good faith of those whose search has led them to different understanding in matters of importance.

It is the proper role of the Communion, as part of its common life, to attempt to shed new light on these differences, attempting to discern both the truth that is our goal, as well as the grace in our search. My 'illusion' is that we have an Archbishop who can preside over such a re-imagining, and that we have a creative opportunity that should not be sidetracked lightly."

Who is Jesus for you?

The Episcopal Church is conducting an online survey asking "Who is Jesus for you?" That's the key question. Others include: Has a certain text or artistic work (besides the Bible) shaped your understanding of Jesus? Has a certain experience shaped your understanding of Jesus? Do you have a favorite Jesus website?

Responses may be featured at the Church's Visitors' Center.

A chaplain writes from Iraq

The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, is serving as an Army chaplain with the 372nd Military Police Battalion in Iraq. He's due home next month.

Please take a look at one of his recent letters home.

An excerpt:

Once you have “broken the wire” and security of the camp, the sound of radios crackling with transmissions begins, with all eyes reporting any movement around us, both pedestrian and vehicular. The driver and right side rider and gunner are all connected by headphones for easy communication. The sounds of the roaring engine, air conditioner, radio transmissions and voices within the vehicle all make that necessary. The vehicles are in a constant state of radio communication with each other. Tactical distances are observed as well as evasive maneuvers around underpasses and other places with high incidents of IED attacks or snipers. The sirens are intermittently sounded along with strong and practiced hand signals by the gunner (who is sticking out of the top of the hummer) to move other vehicles away from our path. If that does not work there is a microphone which can broadcast warnings to anyone approaching the convoy too closely.

Vehicle-borne IEDs are one of the big threat in these scenarios. They simply pull up along side and detonate. They are generally very large blasts because they are packed to the hilt with large ordnance. And then as we speed along toward our destination all eyes – chaplain included – scan every sector looking for anything that could bring immediate threat or danger. I have been amazed how calm I have felt throughout these missions and not sure whether to attribute it to inexperience or a deeper and abiding trust in God's protection. Both could be true. I hope that question will not be tested to further limits, but that is always possible.

The return trip is all of the above described, in reverse, except for the palpable sense of relief and even exhilaration that comes with being back inside the walls of safety. And lastly and most importantly, there is the sound of a whispered prayer of thanks for safe passage out and back.

Sex and power? Or power and sex?

Beliefnet is featuring an essay by Robert Bruce Mullin, a professor at the General Semiary in New York arguing that the conflict in our Church is not about homosexuality, but about power.

I've disputed this elsewhere, and this piece, while valuabe, doesn't change my mind. We are attempting to deal with the sexual panic that male homosexuality engenders in much of the world by moving towards a more authoritarian system of church governance. A different issue would have resulted in a different, and I suspect, less radical response.

That said, the piece contains a number of solid points. Mullin concludes:

Is centralization a good or a bad thing? This is a question that is far larger than the current debate over sexuality. It is not, contrary to what one hears, a “conservative” victory, but rather an institutionalists’ victory. Such a covenant would be adjudicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a group of advisers. And clearly, a transnational authority could cut different ways depending upon who controls power, and could impact “conservatives” as easily as “liberals.” The Windsor Report was as critical of African bishops extending their jurisdiction into the American church and claiming oversight over dissenting congregations as it was of the actions taken by American Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans, and such oversight is what the conservatives are asking for. Such a covenant is not the quick fix desired by dissenting Episcopalians.

The question of such an authority has not been really raised, to date, among Anglicans. It is by no means certain that when called upon the independent churches will back this shift in sovereignty.

Archbishop Williams has now put the issue forward. Let the debate begin.

An African bishop observes our Convention

Bishop G. Mdimi Mhogolo of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika in the Anglican Church of Tanzania attended our General Convention, and offers the observations hiding beneath the "deep eading" button.

One interesting little excerpt:

So one can see a Church which is more Episcopalian than Anglican. In order of priority, one is Episcopalian then Christian and then Anglican. People see themselves as Episcopalian Christians first and second as Christian Anglican Episcopalians. People love to be Episcopalian more than they love their Anglican heritage. I talked to one woman who was not an Episcopalian who came to the Convention to see how Episcopalians fight and abuse each other. But when she saw how Episcopalians loved each other with hugs and kisses during and after the meetings, she decided upon returning home to become an Episcopalian!!!

And another:

It was very amusing for me to hear each polarized group and individual appealing to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Whether a person was conservative - evangelical, charistimatic or catholic, or liberal, progressive and politically correct, or left or right, every one used to claim to have been led by the Spirit of God. I felt as though I were in a Pentecostal Church!!! The Spirit was made to take the center stage of all debates.

And, finally, this:

When one allows democratic governance of the Church to function in the Church, one has to expect surprises. Where there is less democracy in the church and the house of Bishops or an individual Bishop can muzzle other voices, then those Bishops or the individual Bishop becomes THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH. But in democratic church governance, ALL CHRISTIANS ARE DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH and Bishops are only spokespersons of the faith and not the sole interpreters of the Faith 'once received and delivered to the saints' Bishops do not have veto votes in the ECUSA, unlike many of Bishops outside the US.

Click to read it all.

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From the Presiding Bishop "A Word to the Church"

Presiding Bishop Frank Tracy Griswold has offered his first extended comments on our recently concluded General Convention and on the Archbishop of Canterbury's proposal for a two-tiered Anglican Communion.

He writes of Rowan William's plan:

"I note here that a two-tier solution to our present strains raises serious questions about how we understand ourselves as being the church. I am put in mind of Paul's understanding of the church as the body of Christ of which we are all indispensable members in virtue of our baptism. I think as well of Jesus' declaration in the Gospel of John that he is the vine and we are the branches and that apart from him we can do nothing.

Such a two-tiered view of our common life suggests to me amputated limbs and severed branches without any life-giving relationship to the One who is the source of all life. A pragmatic solution in this regard is at the expense of the deeper truth that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.

With respect to the future, the Archbishop proposes a long-term process rather than an immediate solution, and in his Address to the Synod he spoke of that process and of looking "more fully at the question of what sort of ‘Covenant' could be constructed…"

Here I am put in mind of the Archbishop's observation in another context that in Baptism we are bound together in "solidarities not of our own choosing." Communion is costly and difficult to live in the concrete, and it is impossible to do so without the love, which is the very life of the Trinity, being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

In the wake of General Convention, it is refreshing to hear any of our Church's leadership respond to Canterbury in an un-obsequious manner. But I still think a two-tiered communion is worth exploring as a way out of our present difficulties. I am not a theologian, and I have no philosophy of "what it means to be church," I am just sick of butting heads with people over the same old issues using the same old arguments when we should both be about other business.

It is possible that the Church is diminished by divisions, but it is also possible that it is enhanced by the energy that can be released when one segment of the Church defines itself clearly and sets about its mission.

By the way, any chance that we can arrange for Paul's analogy about the body and its members to get a few days off.

More from Pittsburgh

Bishop Robert Duncan has responded to the statement in the posting just below this one. He takes particular issue with the claim of the non-Network churches in his dioces that in attempting to place itself outside of Province III of the Episcopal Church, the diocese has effectively placed itself outside of the Church altogether. A press release states:

"Responding to claims made at the press conference that the specific standing committee action to give notice of an intent to disaffiliate from Province III of ECUSA's internal provincial structure (providing the diocesan convention approves this November) signified an attempt to 'leave' the Episcopal Church, Bishop Duncan stressed that it is nothing of the sort. In fact, the action is governed by the Episcopal Church's constitution. 'Article VII of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church guarantees that no diocese will be included in a province of the Episcopal Church 'without its own consent.' The specific history of the application of this article includes a diocese (Missouri, 1964 – 1977) withdrawing its consent and being treated as extra-provincial during multiple meetings of General Convention before finally being re-included in a different province. The precedent and history unequivocally support the Standing Committee’s considered action,' said Bishop Duncan.

Not so fast, says Joan Gunderson of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh in a paper you can find here.

Fact: Article VII of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church does require that a diocese agree to its placement in a particular province. Pittsburgh did agree to being in Province III. The canons of The Episcopal Church specify the assignment of each diocese to a province. There is no provision for withdrawing from a province, only for transferring to another existing province. Missouri was originally in Province VII, which includes most of the Southwest. In the 1960s, Missouri decided that it had little in common with dioceses in that geographical area and would fit better in a more Midwestern region. It stopped participating but did not try to withdraw formally from Province VII. This situation helped encourage General Convention to pass a canonical change specifying a means by which a diocese could transfer to another province. Missouri then followed the specified procedure to transfer to Province V, which includes much of the Midwest.

Joan's colleague Lionel Deimel has written an analysis of the diocese's decision to attempt to remove itself from Province III.

Push back in Pittsburgh

A number of Pittsburgh area parishes that have no interest in the "alternative primatial oversight" their bishop and standing committee are seeking have begun to organize themselves. Visit their Web site, or click below to read their statement.

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The Feast of St. Benedict

Today is the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, one of my two favorite saints. I am drawn to Benedictine spirituality because it is so darn ordinary. It has more to do with establishing holy practices (the liturgy of the hours, lectio divina) in one's life than embarking on a rigorous spiritual journey or scaling great mystical heights. You don't have to be a great spiritual athlete for Benedictine practice to shape your life.

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris is my favorite exploration of Benedictine spirituality.

Several parishes in our diocese have Benedictine study groups. We wrote about them in the Window in September, 2004. Click below to see the article.

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FEB (Female English Bishops) Watch

As those of you following its General Synod know, the Church of England is heading with gathering momentum toward allowing women to become bishops. Matthew Davies of Episcopal News Service has the story.

I have wondered, in the wake of our General Convention, how bishops from our Church would have been received had they inserted themselves into the midst of this debate, perhaps with a bit of trans-Atlantic telephonic arm-twisting, or a bit of rambling at an open microphone or maybe a lengthy last minute missive laying out what sorts of actions would be acceptable to the rest of the Communion. Not well, I suspect. "Arrogant Americans," that sort of thing.

Stephen Bates, who is covering the Synod, posted this on the Guardian's blog site:

"When I saw the Archbishop of Canterbury on Sunday, he asked me how I thought Saturday's debate had gone. He nodded in agreement when I said that it seemed all the arguments had been made before. I wish he would take a leaf out of the Archbishop of York's book and tell what he described as his "currently confused and struggling church" a little more bluntly how he feels.

I asked him how he felt and he replied sadly: "You don't want to know." Actually, I did. But deep gloom seems to be surrounding the senior staff that the covenant plan to save the Anglican communion is falling apart even before anyone's started discussing what might be in it. One senior figure admitted he did not think the communion could survive until the next scheduled meeting of all the world's Anglican bishops in 2008. Katharine Jefferts Schori has been invited for an early meeting at Lambeth Palace within the next few weeks. They hope to integrate her more closely into the network of Anglican church leaders but this seems a vain prospect given that so many parts of the church's world still don't accept the idea of women in leadership, any more than gays.

Mention the name of Nigeria's conservative (and outspoken) Archbishop Peter Akinola and a strange convulsive, wringing, motion comes over Rowan Williams's hands. If only he would...if only he dared."

I boldfaced the business about all of the arguments having been made before because it seems to me that the same was true at our General Convention. Which is why I am puzzled by the spate of articles appearing recently on blogs and list-servs about how our governing structures prevented us from having the kind of conversations that we needed to have in Columbus.

I felt the opposite. We talked extensively about the Windsor-related issues. We have been talking about little else for the last three years. We haven't talked our way to agreement, and we haven't persuaded those for whom it is a Communion-breaking issue that it isn't a Communion-breaking issue. But this has nothing to do with either the quantity or quality of our conversation. It has to do with the fact that people involved in the conversations had deeply held beliefs that they would not surrender.

The Archbishop of Cape Town on the "Heartlands of Anglicanism"

The Archbishop of Cape Town has written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion issuing a strong call to uphold the ' broad rich heartlands of our Anglican heritage.' You can read it here.

An excerpt:

Thus it is the Provinces that have the final say – through their constitutional processes and the deliberations of their synods. This is ultimately where the future of Anglicanism lies – this is where the authority to take decisions is found. We should be entirely clear about this – no matter what certain groups, or the media say. Anglicans should not be daunted when the press makes much of this group's statement or that group's communiqu�, as many do not carry substantive authority.

Rather, we should encourage the whole people of God to contribute to forging our future together. The Primates' meeting next year, and the Lambeth Conference in 2008, must take extensive counsel, but, as is well known, these are not authoritative decision making bodies. And, as gatherings solely of Bishops, they are certainly not representative of all the fullness of Anglicanism. Bishops must exercise collegiality with their clergy and people, as well as with one another.

Therefore, as both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates (in the document, Towards an Anglican Covenant) have pointed out, this means that we have a lengthy process before us. It cannot be 'solved' in the next year or two – and to attempt to do so would be dishonouring both to the Windsor Process, and, more importantly, to the people of God who count themselves Anglican

An Evangelical's Lament

Randall Balmer surveys the religious right, and doesn't like what he sees:

"Evangelicals have come a long way since ... 1972. We have moved from cultural obscurity — almost invisibility — to becoming a major force in American society. Jimmy Carter's run for the presidency launched us into the national consciousness, but evangelicals abandoned Carter by the end of the 1970s, as the nascent religious right forged an alliance with the Republican Party.

In terms of cultural and political influence, that alliance has been a bonanza for both sides. The coalition dominates talk radio and controls a growing number of state legislatures and local school boards. It is seeking, with some initial success, to recast Hollywood and the entertainment industry. The Republicans have come to depend on religious-right voters as their most reliable constituency, and, with the Republicans firmly in command of all three branches of the federal government, leaders of the religious right now enjoy unprecedented access to power.

And what has the religious right done with its political influence? Judging by the platform and the policies of the Republican Party — and I'm aware of no way to disentangle the agenda of the Republican Party from the goals of the religious right — the purpose of all this grasping for power looks something like this: an expansion of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the continued prosecution of a war in the Middle East that enraged our longtime allies and would not meet even the barest of just-war criteria, and a rejiggering of Social Security, the effect of which, most observers agree, would be to fray the social-safety net for the poorest among us."

Here's the rest.

The Stem Cell Debate

Today on Slate, Michael Kinsley argues that stem cell research raises fewer moral and ethical questions than the everyday conduct of a fertility clinic.

He writes: "If embryos are human beings, it's not OK to kill them for their stem cells just because you were going to kill them, or knowingly let them die, anyway. The better point—the killer point, if you'll pardon the expression—is that if embryos are human beings, the routine practices of fertility clinics are far worse—both in numbers and in criminal intent—than stem-cell research. And yet no one objects, or objects very loudly. President Bush actually praised the work of fertility clinics in his first speech announcing restrictions on stem cells."

In 2003, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed Resolution A014 which:

Urge[s] that the United States Congress pass legislation that would authorize federal funding for derivation of and medical research on human embryonic stem cells that were generated for IVF and remain after fertilization procedures have been concluded, provided that:

+these early embryos are no longer required for procreation by those donating them and would simply be discarded;
+those donating early embryos have given their prior informed consent to their use in stem cell research;
+the embryos were not deliberately created for research purposes;
+the embryos were not obtained by sale or purchase...

And, on a vaguely related matter, have a look at thispiece on advancements in genetic screening.

Bishop Jefferts Schori answers 10 Questions for Time

Rough waters aren't new to Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a former oceanographer who is the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Bishop Katharine, as she's known, takes over a denomination rocked by controversy at home and abroad for its liberal stance on gay clergy. She talked with TIME's Jeff Chu about her mission of social justice, the relationship between science and religion and whether faith in Jesus is the only path to heaven.

Read it here.

Time to re-think?

Theo Hobson has written perhaps the most penetrating analysis tht I have read of the intellectual impasse at which liberals in the Anglican Communion find themselves.

The key excerpt:

Williams has learned this the hard way: that Catholics cannot afford to be liberals too. A Catholic has very publicly sacrificed his or her belief in the moral rightness of ordaining homosexuals, for the sake of the church's unity. He or she is playing Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his beloved son, on divine orders. Kierkegaard called this the teleological suspension of the ethical: committing a moral crime for the sake of a cause that transcends human morality. Williams is performing the ecclesiastical suspension of the ethical: renouncing the moral good for the sake of the unity of the Church. This is what a Catholic must do.

The average liberal Anglican priest (let's call him Father Giles) is understandably irate. His former mentor is telling him that he must not push for the ordination of homosexuals while it endangers the church's unity. He must accept the fact that the institution he serves is, for now, structurally homophobic. As a member of the body he is implicated; he must share in its guilt. If he doesn't accept this, he must reside on the outskirts of the church, as a second-class citizen.

This is what Catholicism demands, Williams is telling Father Giles - and Catholicism trumps liberalism.

Saturday cartoons

I am resisting the temptation to to atttempt instant commentary on the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech yesterday to the General Synod. Instead, I offer these cartoons for your consideration. They were drawn by the Rev. Canon Andrew Doyle, a deputy from the Diocese of Texas, and called to my attention by my colleague Carol Barnwell. I especially like the one of the free range bishops and the one about the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Further thoughts on the Communion

Here is the address that Archbishop Rowan Williams gave to the Churchof England's General Synod today.

A few excerpts:

When I said, as I did in my reflections, that the Communion cannot remain as it is, I was drawing attention to some unavoidable choices. Many have said, with increasing force of late, that we must contemplate or even encourage the breakup of the Communion into national churches whose autonomy is unqualified and which relate only in some sort of loose and informal federation. This has obvious attractions for some. The problem is that it is unlikely to bear any relation to reality. Many provinces are internally fragile; we cannot assume that what will naturally happen is
a neat pattern of local consensus. There are already international alliances, formal and informal, between Provinces and between groups within different Provinces. There are lines of possible fracture that have nothing to do with provincial boundaries. The disappearance of an international structure - as, again, I have observed in recent months - leaves us with the possibility of much less than a federation, indeed, of competing and fragmenting ecclesial bodies in many contexts across the world.
...
Historic links to Canterbury have no canonical force, and we do not have (and I hope we don't develop) an international executive. We depend upon consent. My argument was and is that such consent may now need a more tangible form than it has hitherto had; hence the Covenant idea in the Windsor Report.
...
But if there is such a structure, and if we do depend on consent, the logical implication is that particular churches are free to say yes or no; and a no has consequences, not as 'punishment' but simply as a statement of what can and cannot be taken for granted in a relationship between two particular churches. When I spoke as I did in my reflections of 'churches in association', I was trying to envisage what such a relation might be if it was less than full eucharistic communion and more than mutual repudiation. It was not an attempt to muddy the waters
but to offer a vocabulary for thinking about how levels of seriously impaired or interrupted communion could be understood.

In other words, I can envisage - though I don't in the least want to see- a situation in which there may be more divisions than at present within the churches that claim an Anglican heritage. But I want there to
be some rationale for this other than pure localism or arbitrary and ad hoc definitions of who and what is acceptable.
...
I believe that the vision of Catholic sacramental unity without centralisation or coercion is one that we have witnessed to at our best and still need to work at. That is why a concern for unity - for unity (I must repeat this yet again) for unity as a means to living in the truth - is not about placing the survival of an institution above the demands of conscience. God forbid. But it is a question of how we work out, faithfully, attentively,
obediently what we need to do and say in order to remain within sight and sound of each other in the fellowship to which Christ has called us.

Is the Communion too much bother?

The Church Times asks this question in its lead editorial, and suggests that the answer may be: Yes.

"The key benefit of belonging to an international communion is the opportunity it gives for the generous exchange of gifts and ideas among different cultures. If the factions in Anglicanism don't recognise Christ in each other - and for every Nigerian who wants to expel the "Global North", there is someone who wants nothing more to do with truculent African Primates - the game is not worth the candle."

In the same issue, the Rev. Giles Fraser offers his take on the Archbishop of Canterbury's new plan for a Communion-defining covenant:

The fear that many have goes something like this: sick and tired of the conflict generated by those who recognise gay relationships as having the potential to reflect the glory of God, he is proposing a Church where all controversial theology would have to be cleared with everybody else. This would be a Church where prophecy was impossible. It wouldn't be a biblical Church: it would be a stagnant pond.

Lost Boys Found

This story in this morning's Washington Post reminded me of the work that one of our parishes, St. Stephen and the Incarnation, has done in helping to resettle some of the boys who were orphaned by Sudan's civil war.

Curiouser

Further puzzling developments:

The Living Church magazine is reporting that the Church of Nigeria may have violated its canons in electing the Rev. Canon Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in the Diocese of Virginia as a missionary bishop.

According to those canons "eligible persons to the episcopate must belong either to the Church of Nigeria or a diocese in communion with it," the report says. "The Church of Nigeria broke communion with The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia after the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson was consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire in 2003.

Meanwhile, the Church of England Newspaper is reporting that:

"Conservative leaders in the United States have responded coolly to the election of one of their own as missionary bishop of the Church of Nigeria to oversee congregations in the United States. The bishops of the Anglican Communion Network have remained silent over Canon Martyn Minns’ election, with several hoping he will not to accept the proffered office on the grounds that it would violate the Windsor Report and place the conservatives at odds with a friendly Archbishop of Canterbury."

Summer camp

My 15-year-old son is a counselor at a wonderful baseball camp featured this morning on NPR.

One of the things I like most about this camp is that its director, John McCarthy, has proven that sports can be a vehicle for mission. Have a look at Beisbol y libros.

Out of which you can be thrown

British journalist Andrew Brown is among the more astute ecclesial pundits. Here, he is interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Company.

He notes:

[A]s Rowan Williams' letter made clear, before they can get round to the business of throwing out the Americans, if that's what they're going to do, they're going to have to organise the Anglican communion into the sort of body out of which you can be thrown. Which at the moment it isn't.

Is the "covenant" already dead?

Stephen Bates of The Guardian thinks is may be. He writes:

Archbishop Rowan Williams's plea last week for measured discussion and lengthy contemplation over whether the Anglican communion should develop a mutually agreed covenant of core beliefs and then, eventually, perhaps, a looser structure of constituent churches and associated churches, seems to be falling apart within days.

The bishops of Nigeria are already demanding that those same liberals should be excised like a cancer from the body of the church. Their primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, criticised Dr Williams's letter even before he had read it. And some liberals, here and in the US, are beginning to ask themselves whether the worldwide Anglican communion is such a worthwhile body to belong to after all.

Click to read it all.

Read more »

1776 in reverse

Harold Meyerson, columnist for The Guardian and The Washington Post writes:

Maybe it's just the timing - the proximity to July 4, the day Americans celebrate their independence from Britain - that makes the sudden rebellion of half a dozen conservative dioceses within the US Episcopal church appear so, well, un-American.

But the spectacle of the leaders of the right wing of American Episcopalianism clamouring for the Archbishop of Canterbury to save them from their crazy modernist American brethren is about the closest thing to a revocation of the spirit of 1776 that we Americans have seen in a very long time.

Click to read it all

Read more »

Reading material

Chloe Breyer, an Episcopal priest, writes about the possibility and implactions of schism at Slate.

Diane Winston examines press coverage of Bishop Jefferts Schroi's election at The Revealer. She writes:

[T]he conflict narrative misses an equally significant story. Schori’s lasting impact may stem not from her sex but from the complex mix of personal qualities and life experience that equip her for leadership in a deeply divided society and the communion that reflects those conflicts. In the course of her odyssey to ecclesiastical leadership, Schori has taken on three of the nation’s most pressing issues: the growing gap between science and religion, the surge in the religiously unaffiliated Americans, and the swelling numbers of Hispanic immigrants. If she can convince her co-religionists to meet these challenges, Schori could move the church from debilitating internal debates over sexuality to reengagement with the larger society.

Draft Rowling

I would like to nominate J. K. Rowling as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Or perhaps the current Archbishop of Canterbury, if that can be arranged. I recognize that there are numerous obstacles to her consecration. The Church of England doesn’t yet consecrate women to the episcopacy. Rowling has not been ordained. For all I know, she may not even be an Anglican. But these are trifles when weighed against the opportunity for the Anglican Communion to get its hands on the one instrument that might help us make sense of where we stand in the wake of recent developments.

I speak, of course, of the Sorting Hat, the remarkable creation that assigns young newcomers to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to the proper “house.” We need the hat to tell us where to sit and who to hang out with, because all of the place cards at the Anglican party have been rearranged by Peeves, or the house elves.

Consider that just over a week ago, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, released a reflection in which he outlined plans for a new, two-tiered Anglican Communion with “constituent” and “associate” membership. The plan was portrayed in the media as a victory for conservatives within the Communion, and within the Episcopal Church because it was assumed that constituent membership would require liberal provinces to reverse course on homosexuality or risk marginalization.

Yet after the most recent missives from Nigeria (described in several posts below) it is clear that the province that most analysts proclaimed as the biggest “winner” under Williams’ proposal wants no part of it. Meanwhile the provinces that seemingly have the most to lose—the Episcopal Church, the Canadian Church and the province that includes New Zealand—have expressed a willingness to explore the Archbishop’s plan.

To complicate matters a bit, conservative Episcopalians endorsed the plan enthusiastically, then watched as Archbishops Akinola of Nigeria and Jensen of Sydney, two of their most influential allies, began issuing ultimatums designed to undermine it. The prospect of being the only Americans in the inner circle in Williams’ proposed arrangement was exciting. The prospect of being perhaps the smallest province in a breakaway movement led by Akinola may not seem so appealing.

Liberals, meanwhile, can’t agree on whether the plan is bad for our Church—because it might some day be excluded from the most important councils of the Communion—or good for our Church because we could maintain relationships with many of the same global partners without having to make compromises with conscience as we did at the General Convention last month.

It would, in these confusing circumstances, be a great blessing to have Dumbledore’s successor place the Sorting Hat on everyone’s heads, assign us all to houses, and then explain how all of our houses could contribute to the same school.

So who we write to about this? Tony Blair? Scholastic Press? Prince Charles? The Queen?

(Commenters who compare their theological opponents to "he who must not be named" will not be permitted to visit Hogsmeade for the remainder of term.)

It's a boy!

Our wondrous webkeeper Amy Elliott had her baby this morning. Emmett James Elliott entered the world just a little after 6 a. m. weighing just over 8 pounds. Our heartfelt congratulations to Amy and her husband Peter.

Hey little Emmett, the Episcopal Church welcomes you!

Akinola's alternative Lambeth

The Church of Nigeria seems to be planning to boycott the Lambeth Conference and to holds its own gathering unless the Episcopal, Canadian, and, apparently, English churches allow Archbishop Akinola to dictate their beliefs. A communiqué from its recent Episcopal synod is here.

The relevant section reads:

3. THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE

The Lambeth Conference which is one of the accepted organs of unity in the Anglican Communion is due for another meeting in 2008. the Synod, after reviewing some recent major events in the Communion, especially the effects of the ‘revisionists’ theology’, which is now making wave in America, Canada and England, observed with dismay the inability of the Church in the afore­mentioned areas to see reason for repentance from the harm and stress they have caused this communion since 1988 culminating in the consecration of Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual in 2003 as a bishop in ECUSA. Synod also regrets the inability of the See of Canterbury to prevent further impairment of the unity of the Church. It therefore, believes strongly that the moral justification for the proposed Lambeth Conference of 2008 is questionable in view of the fact that by promoting teachings and practices that are alien and inimical to the historic formularies of the Church, the Bishops of ECUSA, Canada and parts of Britain have abandoned the Biblical faith of our fathers.

4. GLOBAL SOUTH CONFERENCE

Synod underlines the need for maintaining the age-long tradition of a ten-yearly Conference of Bishops in the Anglican Communion for discussing issues affecting the Church. It therefore calls on the leadership of the Global South and Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) to do everything necessary to put in place a Conference of all Anglican Bishops to hold in 2008 should all efforts to get the apostles of ‘revisionist agenda’ to repent and retrace their steps fail.

In light of this news, I was taking another look at Bishop John Chane's op-ed piece in the Washington Post back in February. The bishop said that the Niigerian Church's support for a repressive law that punishes gays and lesbians for exercising freedom of speech and association with five years' imprisonment was especially worrying given the prominence of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola:

"Were Archbishop Akinola a solitary figure and Nigeria an isolated church, his support for institutionalized bigotry would be significant only within his own country. But the archbishop is perhaps the most powerful member of a global alliance of conservative bishops and theologians, generously supported by foundations and individual donors in the United States, who seek to dominate the Anglican Communion and expel those who oppose them, particularly the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Failing that, the archbishop and his allies have talked of forming their own purified communion -- possibly with Archbishop Akinola at its head."

In response to the piece, the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Northern Virginia, who has hosted Akinola's visits to the United States wrote in a letter to his parishioners: "[T]he idea that [Akinola] is looking to establish a ‘purified communion’ bankrolled by cabal of conservatives in the USA has no basis whatsoever and is surely the product of an overheated episcopal imagination."

Four months later, Minns is a bishop-elect in the Nigerian Church, charged with evangelizing within the United States; the conservative money stream has been documented using records filed by the American Anglican Council and others with the Internal Revenue Service; the Nigerian bishops have realeased a statement characterizing churches that fully include gays and lesbian in thier ministries as "a cancerous lump " that must be "excised" from the Anglican Communion and Akinola is threatening to hold his own Lambeth.

Overheated episcopal imagination?

(For a comprehensive study of the Nigerian bill, visit Political Spaghetti. And for the first extended commentary on today's developments, visit Mark Harrs' Preludium. Tobias Haller offers a few words, as well.)

Stewardship of the tongue

The Church of Nigeria has released a statement refering to the Episcopal Church as a "cancerous lump" that should be "excised." As any student of history will tell you this sort of rhetoric is used both to inspire and to justify violence. The Episcopal Church is not close at hand, but I fear for the safety of uncloseted gay Nigerians.

In news involving people who know how to keep a civil tongue in their heads, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has issued a news release on the recent requests for ALPO (alternative primatial oversight) by a number of conservative dioceses.

An excerpt:

“This request is divisive, yet without substance,” said PEP President Joan R. Gundersen, “since our primate, the Presiding Bishop, has virtually no power and exercises no “oversight” over dioceses and their bishops. It is an irresponsible attempt to create a media event, without regard to the genuine harm this does to parishes in the diocese, to The Episcopal Church, and to the Anglican Communion.” It represents a premature judgment of our Presiding Bishop-elect, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, of Nevada. The move by the Standing Committee has brought distress to Episcopalians committed to The Episcopal Church, as parishioners fear the organizational estrangement being sought by their bishop. It stirs up division and anxiety in the many parishes that are divided in their response to the recent church controversies and to the course of action being pursued by Bishop Duncan.

The alleged withdrawal of the diocese from Province III is even more disingenuous. Not only does the diocese already have little involvement in provincial affairs, but the Bishop of Pittsburgh well knows that the creation of provinces and the assignment of dioceses to provinces can only be done by canon of the General Convention. It would not be unprecedented for a diocese to ignore its province, but neither the Standing Committee nor the Convention of the diocese can remove the diocese from Province III; only General Convention can do that, and not before 2009. Creating a tenth province, as suggested by the resolution, likewise, can only be accomplished by General Convention. “A province of Network dioceses would be a pastoral disaster,” Gundersen suggested. “At least 13 parishes in this diocese have declined to be part of the Network and declared a commitment to The Episcopal Church. Despite assurances from the Standing Committee, these parishes, and similar parishes in other dioceses, either will be abandoned or forced into a being part of the Network against their will.”

The Guardian's lead editorial reflects on ++Rowan Williams' reflection of last week. It concludes:

The best hope for avoiding the schism of which Dr Williams warned lies in redefining the argument. Lambeth would like the rival factions to understand that the row between two fundamentally opposing points of view is superficial. What happens next is not about gay bishops, nor same-sex weddings, nor polygamy. Rather it is about the church's architecture and the degree of autonomy enjoyed by its constituent parts. Faced with the terrifying idea of first establishing and then policing the doctrinal purity for the core churches implicit in the twin-track approach, the rival factions are being challenged to stop it happening. In the end, though, Dr Williams will have to choose between unity - and bigotry.

A holiday welcome

We've had many newcomers to the blog in recent weeks. We hope you feel welcome, and would like to invite you to deepen your daily prayer life by visiting our Spirituality section.

If you are exploring the Episcopal faith, please take a few minutes to watch this film we've made about a few people and parishes of our acquaintance.

To find out more about churches in our diocese, start here. If you don't live in our diocese, start here.

And, finally, if you've become a regular visitor, and would like to support the blog by supporting the diocese, please consider contributing to our Bishop's Appeal.

Thank you.

Liberal unrest in the Church of England

The Telegraph has a piece on liberal dissastisfaction with Rowan Williams plan for a two-tier Anglican Communion.

I think the lead is a little over the top. It reads:

" Liberal clergy in Britain are preparing to turn to America's Anglican bishops for leadership in a move that could produce "civil war" and destroy the Church of England, The Sunday Telegraph has learned."

The story says:

The Rev Philip Chester, vicar of St Matthew's, Westminster, disclosed that they had met senior bishops in the American Church to explore ways of establishing a stronger network between liberal parishes. "Building closer ties with the American Church is the way forward," he said.

Among ideas discussed were the twinning of English and American parishes, and inviting more clergy from the US to come to England on placements.

There is also the radical possibility of an American bishop "overseeing" a liberal parish in this country, whose members feel marginalised by the imposition of traditional beliefs. ;;;

The Very Rev Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark, said ... ""I think we'll see over the next three or four years liberals worldwide beginning to work together to defend the true Anglican heart, which is broad, tolerant and generous and is under attack."

Meanwhile, the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, assisting bishop in the Diocese of Washington, and the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion, has published an article in The Witness magazine on Bishop Jefferts Schori called "She Will Not Be Alone."

Bad Housekeeping

Simon Sarmiento has his usual excellent round-up over on Thinking Anglicans. I am not gong to reproduce it all, having committed to light blogging this weekend. But I want to call special attention to Julia Duin's story from today's Washington Times in which the Rev. Jonathan Jennings, the Archbishop of Canterbury's press secretary says this about the election of the Rev. Martyn Minns as a bishop in the Church of Nigeria:

"This is not a welcome development. It's neither timely nor constructive. It further complicates an already complex situation."

Meanwhile, I continue to feel that the conservatives in our church have become skillful in getting the media to do thier bidding. My hat is off to them.

There are scads of "schism" stories out there occassioned by these recent requests for ALPO (alternative primatial oversight.) None of them really explain what ALPO is, or what it would accomplish, or why the Archbishop of Canterbury would do what the Windsor Report reprimands other Anglican primates for doing: crossing boundaries and laying claim to disgruntled people in other provinces.

None of the stories I read today mention that the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to intervene in the internal affairs of other Anglican province, and that he has said so on many occasions. They don't point out that in offering ALPO to these dioceses he would be setting a precedent that would make many other provinces extremely nervous. (If you offer ALPO to disgruntled Americans, on what grounds would you refuse it to northern Ugandans or gay Nigerians?) They just say that this is further evidence of blah, blah, blah.

Is it? It depends on the Archbishop's response, and none of us knows what that will be. .But if he turns these requests down (which to me seems the stronger possibility) then nothing about the reality of situation has changed very much. But the perception that the Church is coming apart--Get out while you still can!--has been intensified by these reports.

The media keeps coming into our house to cover the mess it is in, knocking over the lamps and then citing the broken light bulbs as evidence of poor housekeeping.

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