An old monk on young adult spirituality

Brother Kevin Hackett of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist gave this talk recently at Trinty Church, Wall Street.

Two of my favorite parts follow.

One young man has undertaken the practice—a key word—of joining us for Morning Prayer on Fridays. Why? In his own words, “it keeps me honest with God.” Another twenty-something is with us for Compline nearly every night. Why? “I sleep better if I’ve prayed like this. I like it that there is confession every night. I know I’ll sleep better,” he says. A young woman in her thirties comes to our noonday Eucharist on Wednesdays during her lunch break. Why? “It keeps me going and centered until Sunday,” she says.

In practical terms, in our preaching and teaching, we are open and honest about the joys of discipline and the undertaking of practices that seem limiting from the outside, and we tell the truth about the challenges these same things present for a group of ordinary Christian men. This openness to genuine questions of Christian life and practice demonstrates an appreciation for ambiguity, which my friend, researcher and author Diana Butler Bass, has identified as a key point in congregations that are flourishing. Last November, in an address to the convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, Diana identified the monastery as a place of “authentic and vital worship, because the brothers and their public practices embody the three signs of vitality I have observed in my research of congregations that are ‘bursting with life:’”

1) tradition, not traditionalism;
2) faithfulness, not fundamentalism; and
3) wisdom, not certainty.

We brothers are avid and committed truth-tellers, even when “how it is” conflicts with “how it’s supposed to be.” In matters of discipleship, theology can be helpful, but it must withstand the searing heat of lived experience in order to have credibility and authenticity.

The crisis that isn't

Christopher Wilkins essay on the Episcopal Majority blog is well worth reading.

He says in part:

Despite the controversy noted above, neither The Episcopal Church nor the Anglican Communion is really in crisis. Those parts that experience a "crisis" at present do so because their leaders fomented it and benefit from having it continue. In The Episcopal Church, it is only where AAC/ACN members have come into leadership or influence that there is a struggle over whether to continue with the denomination. What deep splits exist in the church, whether at the provincial, diocesan, or parochial level, are not ones between conservatives and liberals or between “orthodox” Anglicans and “pagan/apostate” Episcopalians. The splits are between a majority that is able to hold diverse opinions and worship and serve together, and a self-designated minority that cannot. This group seeks either to bend the church to its will or to get out of it with as much as they can carry.

This is not to say that the disagreements and tensions in the Church are not real. They are, and should be taken seriously. They should not be overblown, however, and will not be solved by destabilizing or decentralizing the church. Out of more than 7,000 parishes within The Episcopal Church, precious few have sought to leave. Out of 111 dioceses that make up The Episcopal Church, only seven are seeking ecclesiastical oversight from someone other than our newly elected Presiding Bishop. These attempts to post structural solutions to manufactured pastoral problems mask a grasp for power—the very sort of behavior against which the gospels and the apostles repeatedly witness, and which has proved so destructive to Christian communities in the past.

Faith appeals not working for Dems

Have a look at Amy Sullivan's thoughtful piece from Slate on the Democratic Party's declining appeal to religious voters.

An excerpt:

The Pew Research Center's annual poll on religion and politics, released last week, shows that while 85 percent of voters say religion is important to them, only 26 percent of Americans think the Democratic Party is "friendly" to religion. That's down from 40 percent in the summer of 2004 and 42 percent the year before that—in other words, a 16-point plunge over three years. The decline is especially troubling because it cuts across the political and religious spectra, encompassing liberals and conservatives, white and black evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. The Republican Party also experienced a drop in the percentage of Americans who say it is friendly to religion—eight points over the past year. But that decrease occurred mostly among white evangelicals and Catholics and the reasons for it seem obvious: Two years of broken promises by the GOP.

In contrast, the Democrats' crumbling credibility on religion wasn't caused by one thing. And that may be the problem. All at once, the party needs to counter conservative attacks, change the conventional wisdom that Democrats just aren't religious, and expand the party's reach to moderate religious voters. To do that, the party will need a little more faith and a whole lot more work.

Local kids make good

Our diocesan youth ministry earned a little ink in the KidsPost section of The Washington Post this morning. The story focuses on area kids who participated in the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Here is the relevant excerpt:

"About 30 kids from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington spent their spring break in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Bayou La Batre, Alabama -- two towns hit hard by Katrina.

They helped rebuild a church. They unloaded trucks filled with donated furniture. They interviewed displaced residents about their needs.

Rockville's Jack Stonesifer, 14, found the damage 'pretty surprising.'

'There were some casinos on the beach -- one of the major ways the town [Gulfport] gets money -- and a lot of them were totally demolished,' he said, 'and a church where the entire thing was wiped out.'

He also was struck by the size of the trailers the federal government supplied to some who lost their homes: 'There were four people [in a space] barely as big as your room. And some people have to live there for months. That amazed a lot of us.'

Kelly Crabtree, who lives in the District, helped in a couple of ways. First, her family adopted a 3-year-old terrier, Sadie, who had been rescued in New Orleans, Louisiana. Then Kelly signed up for the Episcopal Diocese trip 'because I thought it was the best way to help. It's hard to send money when you're only 14.'

Her tasks included shopping for supplies, unloading trucks of furniture and painting a church.

Said Kelly: 'A woman at the church told us, 'I can't tell you how grateful I am. I'd give you the moon if I could.' I was so happy we could help them.' "

Jack is from Christ Church, Rockville. Kelly is from St. Columba's. Three cheers for them, for the other 28 kids on these mission trips, and for Paul Canady, the diocesan deputy for youth.

Bye-bye, Salty

The Salty Vicar is closing up his shop. I will miss him. He was one of my favorite Episcopal bloggers. His last post is well worth reading.

Organizing the majority

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the formation of Episcopal Majority, a newly-formed progressive pressure group within our Church. They've been joined by another group, Wake Up, which is organizing in the Diocese of New York.

EM has this to say about itself:

"The Episcopal Majority is a grassroots organization committed to the values and vitality of The Episcopal Church and working to neutralize the negative influence of the American Anglican Council (AAC), the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), and related groups. The impetus for our group began in Columbus, Ohio, during the recent General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Initially, we were a group of former university chaplains, but our membership has grown to include many people and organizations from different places (both theologically and geographically). We welcome their participation.

"We have felt for some time that there needed to be an organized response to the well-financed and well-organized groups whose words and actions have been largely destructive. Many others, clergy and lay alike, are looking for ways to counteract the damage done and to build a coalition representing the majority of The Episcopal Church."

EM is holding a major meeting here in Washington on the weekend that the new Presiding Bishop is installed. You can read more about it here. You can also sign the group's statement of purpose by using the comments function at its Web site.

Wake Up describes itself thusly:

"WAKE UP is a coalition of concerned Episcopalians who seek a Full Inclusion Church.

"We came into being during the summer of 2006, following the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. While pleased at the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop, we experienced the passage of Resolution B-033 as a betrayal of the Church's professed acceptance of lesbian and gay Christians as full members of the Body of Christ. We also view with alarm the attempts of some, both within and outside the Episcopal Church, to move us in a direction of exclusion, intolerance, and dogmatic 'purity codes' that have never been part of the Anglican heritage.

"Our primary purpose is to TAKE ACTION to STOP THE APPEASEMENT of theological bullies, and protect the Anglican heritage of inclusion and openness that has been passed down to us.

"We value the unity of the Anglican Communion, but not at the price of appeasement and injustice.

"While we enjoy the hospitality of an inclusive parish in New York City, we are an independent and loosely-structured group that invites other individuals, vestries, parishes, organizations, and groups to sign on in solidarity with our Statement of Purpose."

You can have a look at its Web site and sign its statement of purpose if you are of a mind.

The Guest List

What follows is a statement from the Presiding Bishop on the upcoming meeting regarding "alternative primatial oversight."

I don't know whether it is significant that none of the bishops who opposed the "manner of life" resolution--passed on the last day of General Convention and meant to insure our ongoing involvement in conversations regarding the future of the Anglican Communion--have been invited. But any meeting which requires a conservative counterweight to the resolutely centerist Peter Lee of Virginia (see the statement) is weighted heavily to one side.

My hunch is that the composition of this group will give momentum to an argument/fear already abroad in liberal circles: that when push comes our elected episcopal leadership may well betray the convictions of the majorities that elected them for the sake of what they perceive to be our institutional viability.

I am not suggesting that a betryal is in the works, but this matter continues to be handled on both sides of the ocean in a way certain to demoralize the Church's left/center majority.

I would feel a lot better about this meeting if some lay people, such as Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, were involved.

The statement:

I have become aware of a great deal of speculation regarding a meeting that will take place in New York in mid-September. I would like, therefore, to offer a few clarifying words on what has been conceived as
an opportunity for those of differing perspectives to come together in a spirit of mutual respect to exchange views.

Shortly after the General Convention, Kenneth Kearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, shared with me some conversations he had had with the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the whole notion of
"alternative primatial oversight" and the difficulty in making a response. Though application for the same had been made to the Archbishop, it was clear in our conversation that the Archbishop, though symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, has no direct authority over the internal life of the Provinces that make up the Communion. Canon Kearon's point was that such requests needed to be discussed and a resolution be sought within the Episcopal Church itself. We agreed that the most helpful next step might be to have a candid conversation to
include the Presiding Bishop-elect and me together with bishops who have expressed a need for "alternative primatial oversight," and to have Canon Kearon join with us in the conversations. Bishops Duncan and Iker
were then asked to be participants. We also agreed that the group might be expanded by other bishops to be chosen by the participants themselves. Bishops Duncan and Iker invited Bishops Salmon, Stanton and
Wimberly to take part. I have asked Bishops Henderson, O'Neill and Sisk.

This is the genesis of the meeting now set for mid-September. Bishop Peter Lee was asked to serve as convener and he in turn thought it would be helpful were he joined by a bishop known to have views different from
his own. Accordingly, Bishop John Lipscomb was also asked to serve as convener. Whether or not this is the first in a series or in fact a one-time conversation will be decided by the group itself.

As I write these words I am deeply mindful of the state of the world and of the desperate need for the costly and all-engaging work of reconciliation. In the light of the ongoing struggles across the globe, and certainly at this moment in the Middle East, the preoccupation with our own internal disagreements must not allow us to close our eyes to the needs of the world and its suffering people.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
August 22, 2006

Former Iranian President to speak at Cathedral on Sept. 7

If today's story in The Washington Post is on the money, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will be speaking at Washington National Cathedral on Thursday evening September 7. This has been in the works for a couple of weeks, and until the State Department says publicly that they will issue Khatami a visa, the deal isn't entirely done, but that process must have progressed far enough for the Cathedral, and the Post, to feel comfortable in going public with the possibility.

My understanding is that Khatami, who is coming to the U. S. to attend a conference at the U. N., was approached by several local organizations about extending his visit to speak in D. C. He expressed a desire to speak in a religious setting. The Cathedral's Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation under Canon John L. Peterson took up the task from there.

According to the Post, Khatami "plans to speak on the dialogue of civilizations and the role the three Abrahamic faiths -- Islam, Judaism and Christianity -- can play in the peace process. Plans call for the event, at the National Cathedral at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, to be free and open to the public."

The Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation previously sponsored a gathering of religious leaders to address issues of global poverty, and to rally support for the Millennium Development Goals.

Bishop John Chane and other groups in the diocese have also been involved in numerous interfaith activities, including the upcoming September 11 Unity Walk, which you can learn more about here.

There's a new blog in town

Check out Episcopal Majority. They've got spunk, and brains, and, of course, good taste in the blogs they cite..

Ministering with the deaf

Have a look at this signed morning prayer service, that was held by St. Barnabas Church for the Deaf in our diocese in late July. To learn more about St. Barnabas, visit their Web site. Or read about their activities here. We have a feature on this congregation coming up in the September issue of Washington Window.

Snakes on a Plane

What are the implications for the Episcopal Church? Discuss.

Ad(d) Nauseum

[ENS] The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, has asked two Episcopal Church bishops to convene a small group of fellow bishops in New York in the first half of September "to discuss
some of the difficult issues facing the Church and to explore possible resolutions."

Click below for the whole story.

Read more »

Bishop Herbert Thompson has died

We have received this sad news from the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

"Bishop Herbert Thompson Jr., eighth bishop of Southern Ohio, died Wednesday, August 16, while on a trip in Italy. He served Southern Ohio with grace, compassion and good humor for 17 years, retiring in December, 2005.

"As we mourn the loss of a good friend, pastor and shepherd of the flock, we are reminded that death is the gate to eternal life. And we can be assured that Herbert and Russelle are dancing once more. Our faith gives us confidence that we as continue our course on earth, we will one day be reunited with those who have gone before.

"As soon as possible, we will send details of the arrangements by e-mail (e-News Connections) and post them online.

Please visit "Requiem for Bishop Thompson," a website established for us to share our memories and to celebrate the life of Bishop Thompson.

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that your servant Herbert, being raised with him, may know the strength of his presence, and rejoice in his eternal glory, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Safe and Sound

What a lift we've all had here at Church House this afternoon! The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, who had been serving as a chaplain with our armed forces in Iraq came walking through the door a little while ago, hale and hearty. We knew he would be home this month, but weren't sure when. Turns out he got back about six days ago. It was great to see him. He looks a little thinner than he did when he left, but he's in great spirits. He's off to the University of Deleware to see his son, a punter, scrimmage with the football team, and then he and his family are heading off on vacation.

If you haven't read Stuart's dispatch from Iraq that ran in the most recent issue of the Washington Window, please have a look at it on our home page.

Welcome back, Stuart.

First Freedom

Consider signing this petition at It is part of a national public education campaign being undertaken by The Interfaith Alliance Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church & State to emphasize the importance of religious freedom to policy makers and the media.
It reads in part:

We, the undersigned, call upon elected and appointed officials to join us in reaffirming America's religious freedom by demonstrating a commitment to the following:

Every American should have the right to make personal decisions -- about family life, reproductive health, end of life care and other matters of personal conscience.
American tax dollars should not go to charities that discriminate in hiring based on religious belief or that promote a particular religious faith as a requirement for receiving services.
Political candidates should not be endorsed or opposed by houses of worship.
Public schools should teach with academic integrity and without the promotion of religious preference or belief.
Decisions about scientific and health policies should be based on the best available scientific data, not on religious doctrine.

Support the Minimum Wage Hike

The latest from the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

Just before members of Congress left Washington for their August recess, there was a flicker of hope for an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage which was quickly extinguished by political gamesmanship. The minimum wage increase was attached to several other controversial measures, and ultimately they all failed.

For ten long years, Congress has raised its own pay but failed to pass an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage - shocking when one realizes that a full-time worker earning the $5.15 minimum wage makes only $10,700 annually – that is $6,000 below the poverty line. Due to inflation, today’s $5.15 minimum wage is lower in value than the minimum wage in 1950.

Tell Congress it is not OK to use the Minimum Wage to play political games – they need to address the minimum wage on its own merits.

YOUR VOICE is critical over the August Recess. Right now your Senators and Representative are at home – within easy reach of their constituents. Contact your Senators and Representatives – make an appointment with them, or attend a town hall or other public meeting where they will be speaking – urge them to raise the Federal Minimum Wage before the end of the 109th Congress.

To send an email message to your Senators and Representatives click here.


Hello again.

It seems that I have returned from vacation without a great deal to say. I've caught up on all the recent developments in the Anglican saga, and for some reason, I don't feel like I need to say anything much about them.

I am hoping to spend more time this fall on helping our parishes to grow, and less time on what, from the perspective of a few weeks off, seems our increasingly irrelvant internal eccleisal drama.

Let's see how long my resolve will hold up.

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