Awaiting confirmation

Somebody or other released a letter over the signature of the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns saying that Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia has decided to allow Minns to remain as rector of Truro Church in Fairfax until the church can call a new rector. If this has happened, it is out of the ordinary because Minns is a newly-ordained bishop in Church of Nigeria, which is not in Communion with the Episcopal Church and is endeavoring to have the Episcopal Church thrown out of the Anglican Communion.

I say if because no sooner had the letter appeared on the blog of a Truro vestry member than it disappeared. It is still posted on two other conservative sites, but has yet to appear on the Web sites of the diocese or the church.

If Bishop Lee has made this decision, I am sure he has his reasons and I am eager to hear them. In the letter below the "keep reading" button, Minns promises to refrain from episcopal acts in the diocese of Virginia until next year. I'd feel better if he agreed to refrain from all episcopal acts while serving at any Episcopal church

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Pants on Fire: The Sequel

From ENS: "Another Anglican Primate from the Global South has raised concerns about the lack of adequate consultation regarding the contents of a communiqué issued after a group of Global South Anglican leaders met in Kigali, Rwanda, September 19-22."

Click to read it all.

By the way, as I understand it, Jerusalem and the Middle East were represented at the Global South meeting by the Bishop of Egypt, who is sympathetic to Archbishop Akinola's ends. The Primate, Clive Handford, did not attend. Without further evidence, I don't think we can assume he endorsed the communique released in the primates' name.

Update, Archbishop Handford has told the Church Times that he can "live with" the statement.

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House of Deputies President sets a few things straight

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, has issued a response to the Kigali and Camp Allen statements. It is a plainspoken delight. I propose that it be mass-produced and laminated. Worn around the neck, it will ward off self-important bishops.

Click to read it all. Please.

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Presiding Bishop Griswold responds

On first read, this strikes me as an excellent statement.

ENS] Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has written to the bishops of the Episcopal Church, sharing reflections about the recent meeting of bishops at Camp Allen, Texas, and the gathering of Global South Anglican leaders in Kigali, Rwanda. The full text of Griswold's letter follows.

(Click below)

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Sports on Sunday

Elizabeth Kaeton has raised an interesting issue at her blog, Telling Secrets, about the Sunday morning competition between churches and sports leagues. I'm both a church employee and a long, longtime youth sports coach, and I've been swapping emails with her and one or two other folks on this topic. My thoughts are distilled beneath the "continue reading" button.

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Blessing the beasts

If you are new to this blog, please consider visiting the Spirituality section of our diocesan Web site, where you can find resources for the upcoming feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Several of the daily meditations we've chosen for next week are devoted to Francis. Our Cathedral and several of our parishes, including this one and this one will be blessing animals in the days ahead.

You can watch a short video about the blessing of the animals at St. Columba's parish by visiting this page, and clicking on Part 4.

Lois Wye wrote "Thinking theologically about animals" for the blog a few months back. And few people do that sort of thinking with more originality than our friend Sy Montgomery, author of The Good, Good Pig.

Archbishop of Canterbury to keynote conference in South Africa

ENS has news of an interesting little development in the recent Anglican infighting. Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has agreed to give the keynote address at a conference on the Millennium Development Goals to be held in Boxburg, South Africa next March. The TEAM (Toward Effective Anglican Mission) conference is being sponsored by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Primate of the Church of Southern Africa, in partnership with the Episcopal Church and Episcopal Relief and Development, among others.

"International Development is not something that stands isolated from mission, but is integral to it," Williams said. "The TEAM meeting represents the best opportunity Anglicans will have in the coming year to put the extraordinary human resources of our Communion at the service of the most vulnerable in our world and our own local communities."

Dr. Williams hasn't gone out of his way to encourage the Episcopal Church about its future in the Anglican Communion, so his high-profile role in this conference comes as a pleasant surprise.

The TEAM steering committee includes our bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane and Canon John L. Peterson of Washington National Cathedral, both of whom are currently in southern Africa, and several other leaders of the Episcopal Church.

Click on "continue reading" to see the full story.

The Living Church covered a previous development in this story.

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Sen. Danforth at the Cathedral

Former Senator John Danforth will speak at Washington National Cathedral tomorrow night at 7:30. Details are here.

To read the speech he gave at our General Convention in June, click on the "continue reading" tab. Video coverage of that speech is here.

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Get Wired

Some day when I am in good paen-writing form, I will extol the many virtues of my new favorite television show, The Wire. It is an astonishing achievement, both morally and artistically. But paen-production is on the back-burner for the moment, and you really shouldn't miss a single episode. So read Jacob Weisberg's review of the current season on Slate, and then hustle off to the video store to rent the first three seasons on DVD.

If you need more convincing, look here, here and here.

The last of these articles, from Newsday, begins as follows: "A critic for this paper once declared "The Wire" "the greatest dramatic series ever produced for television" and as the fourth season gets under way Sunday night, there's no reason to quibble with that assessment."

I imagine that the creators of the series would balk at this characterization, but if The Wire isn't urban ministry, I don't know what is.

Inclusive Church asks a few questions

Inclusive Church, a progressive Anglican lobbying group in the UK, has a few questions for the Archbishop of Canterbury. You can read their most recent news release--"The End of the Communion"--beneath the "keep reading" button.

Affirming Catholicism has expressed "sorrow" over the communique. (Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans.) And Episcopal Majority has also weighed in. Their conclusion:

"First, we must dispense with any notion that there can be some accommodation with Archbishop Akinola over the matters which divide us. He cannot be dissuaded personally, and all such Communion-wide instruments to adjudicate the dispute are now of no use whatsoever. The archbishop has simply created his own Anglicanism and announced it to the rest of us. By his edict, the remainder of Anglicans must either sign on or not.

Second, for those who do not wish to be a part of Archbishop Akinola’s new Anglicanism but still remain loyal to, and convinced of, the efficacy of the traditional Anglican way, we must now find a way to join together."

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Fool me once, shame on you...

Since it is now apparent that the organizers of the recent meeting of Anglican leaders representing parts of the Global South misled us about the level of support enjoyed by the communique which they released after the meeting, and since they've done this sort of thing before, how can we a) tell which primates actually signed off on the communique before its release, and b) trust these folks to be truthful in future dealings?

...and the lying liars who tell them

Peter Akinola and Martyn Minns are up to their old tricks again, releasing a statement in a way that implies the support of people who didn't even know the statement was being developed:

Here are some excerpts from a "clarification" about the Global South communique from Archbishop Njongonkulu Nudngage of Southern Africa. To read the full text, click on the keep reading button.

"I wish to offer this clarification of the position of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, in light of the potentially misleading impression that our Province has endorsed the Communiqué issued at the end of the meeting. Whereas Canon Livingstone Ngewu and I were present in Kigali, neither of us were made aware even of the possibility of a communiqué in the name of the Primates of the Global South, prior to its release."

and

" I also want to clarify what may be to some the ambiguous wording of section 14. CAPA Primates ‘received’ the draft ‘The Road to Lambeth’ in the sense of agreeing to give it full consideration. However, we recognised our inability to commit our Provinces to this, or indeed any other text, without consulting them. It is precisely for that consultation that we are referring it to our Provinces for study, with the expectation that comments will be made, and a final text agreed in the new year. Our ‘commending’ should not be interpreted as ‘endorsing’ the text as it currently stands – it remains a draft."

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What to do next

The longer I consider our current situation, the more I become convinced that the best solution is to let dioceses and parishes that cannot in good conscience remain within the Episcopal Church join another province of the Communion, and to negotiate equitable property settlements. This seems to me the only way that we will get beyond our current feuding. This would leave the Episcopal Church free a) to re-establish itself in the dioceses that depart and b) to get on with its life.

If the Communion embraces this solution, there would then be precedent for our entering into international alliances with churches in other countries that reject the anti-gay litmus test favored by some influential Anglican leaders. If the Communion doesn't embrace this solution, then we'd probably be out of the Communion and free to pursue these alliances anyway. I think I am more confident than the leadership of our church that we can hold our own with a faith led by a man like Peter Akinola who has embraced the notion that one should use the power of the state to put one's theological opponents in prison. (see Matt Thompson’s work on this topic, as well as the comments on Thinking Anglicans by Akinola’s spokesman, AkinTunde Poopola. Note especially his response to a commenter named Ford Elms.)

We use the word reconciliation a great deal in our church, and have been slow to respond to those who seek to undermine us because we keep holding open the possibility that we can talk our way through the current crisis. I no longer think that is possible. In fact, I now think it was never possible, and that we have dallied at our peril. If people enter your house with torches, a sensible person attempts reconciliation after the torches are out. That hasn’t happened. The Network is still pursuing the agenda it laid out at a meeting with its international allies in November 2003. (Bishop Robert Duncan's meeting notes, which surfaced in a court case, are here.) As they won’t put out their torches, we must offer terms that will persuade them to leave the house.

I am more confident than some of our national leaders that our Church can flourish after such a parting. I think they mistakenly believe that membership in the Anglican Communion is an asset to our growth and viability, and that we ought not give away what tthe leader of the American Anglican Council so charmingly refers to as "the franchise." But it seems ot me that we would be stronger after a parting, and the Network woudl be weaker.

Our Church could at long last say, yes, we accept all comers, and we have been willing to pay the price for advancing this profoundly Christian and deeply unpopular truth. Speaking soley for the moment as a cold-eyed message-crafting son of a gun, I can tell you that this messsag has real potential, not least because it gets us off the defensive, and turns the issue that has been dogging us to our favor with a significant segment of the population.

I don't doubt that the Nigerian Church in America's mesage would resonate with a certaing segment of the population as well. But the media and money dynamics of our current struggle would be altered significantly. At the moment Duncan, Martyn Minns and their merry band can be portryaed as the vanguard of a movement that is splitting the Episcopal Church and realigning the Anglican Communion. That is a role that garners headlines and cash.

Once the struggle is over, they are a group of perhaps a quarter million members on the crowded right wing of the American religious landscape, handicapped by the fact that they are more or less invisible in most of the country. Their leader, Peter Akinola, advocates putting gay people and their allies in prison. And their banker, Howard Ahmanson, once told the Orange County Register that while he no longer believed that it was "essential" to stone gay people, he would be hardpressed to say that the practice was "inherently immoral." *

Let’s get on with this. I like our chances.

*Orange County Register, August 10, 2004.

Traditionalists plan anti-homosexual Church

That is the headline on Jonathan Petre's report of f the Global South statement in today's Telegraph. It is refreshing to see the mainstream media employ this characterization.The Telegraph is a conservative paper, as is the Times of London, which now also describes this movement as "anti-gay." It will be interesting to see whetherthe U. S. media decides that it too can move beyond euphemism.

Petre's analysis of the state of play in the Communion is beneath the Continue reading button.

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Deja vu all over again

I had the strangest feeling of deja vu while reading the communique from the recent gathering of conservative primates in Rwanda. It took me awhile to remember where I had encountered these imperialistic sorts of ideas before. But then it came to me. Have a look here, and you will see that these plans date at least to a meeting among the Anglican Communion Network's leaders and their allies in the fall of 2003. (The document is Bishop Duncan's notes on the meeting, which surfaced during a court case.)

For a fuller account of have a look at the second part of my series "Following the Money."

These folks’ objectives are crystal clear, and they have pursued them with unwavering vigor. Yet we continue to talk to them as though they were interested in reconciliation, when all the conversations do is buy them time to put their plans in order.

Why are we such patsies?

A letter from the Camp Allen meeting

The 21 "Windsor-compliant" (to use the inaccurate title they have bestowed upon themselves) bishops who met at Camp Allen, Texas have sent a letter to the House of Bishops. The full text and the names of those who signed it are beneath the "Continue reading" button.

I can't get past this sentence:

"We accept and affirm the Windsor Report and view adherence to it as furthering the vocation to heal the breaches within our own Communion and in our ecumenical relationships."

Um, no you don't. It simply is not the case that all of these bishops affirm all of the Windsor Report. Several of them have actively facilitated border crossings by prelates from other provinces, or sent their priests into other bishops dioceses without permission. You can argue that this practice is justified if you like, but you can't argue that it is Windsor-compliant.

The bishops also write that the General Convention did not adequately respond to the requests of the Windsor Report because it did not legislate an "explicit moratoria regarding church discipline and order."

The obfuscatory phrase "regarding church discipline and order" might best be translated "on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops." Perhaps it is too much to ask that bishops understand the church law well enough to know what the General Convention can and can't do. It can't tell the people of a diocese whom to elect as bishop, and it can't tell diocesan bishops and standing committees how to vote when the time comes to gather consents.

So General Convention has failed these bishops in that it did not do what it could not do.

The bishops also say that they understand resolutions of the Lambeth Conference to be "the mind of the Communion for teaching and discipline. (italics mine.) Discipline is an ambiguous choice of words here. Discipline as in an accepted way of life, or discipline as in do this or pay the price?

That aside, the bishops "understanding" is akin to understanding that two plus two is five. The Lambeth Conference cannot express the "mind" of the Communion. It can only express the mind of the bishops in attendance. Its resolutions have no canonical standing in any provinces of the Communion, and such authority cannot be granted retroactively.

If what's in the letter is troubling, consider what isn't in the Ietter. As I mentioned above, the bishops couldn't even bring themselves to use the word "gay." They express sympathy for congregations that "need a safe space within which to live out the integrity of their faith in compliance with the Windsor Report." (Exactly what are a congregation's responsibilities under the Windsor Report?) But there isn't a word about the difficulties of attempting to live a Christian life in a Church that gives you the choice of embracing either celibacy or quack therapy as a sexual discipline. (Apparently if he hits a pillow with a tennis racket while shouting his mother's name, a young man's desire for Brad Pitt will morph into an attraction to Jessica Simpson.)

The bishops plan to meet again next year. I fear they will feel compelled to tell us about it.

On a personal note, I was tickled to see the names of Bishops Edward Little, John Lipscomb and Geralyn Wolf on this letter. In just a few short weeks this trio has gone from telling the people of one diocese what kind of person should not be allowed to speak in their cathedral to telling the people of all dioceses what kind of person should not be elected as bishop. Their expertise allows them to dictate terms to others on issues ranging from Middle Eastern diplomacy to moral theology. One can only admire their intellectual range.

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The Funniest Religious Joke of All-Time

Or so says an article I just came across in the Ottawa Citizen.

(as told by Emo Phillips)

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"

He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"

He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!

"Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

Aggression

Simon Sarmiento points the way to the latest from the meeting of some Anglican primates in Kigali, Rwanda.

I think that, as usual, there will be some controversy over who actually signed the statement (which you can read by clicking on the Continue Reading button) and who did not. At the moment, it is followed by a list of those "represented" at the meeting.

There is much to be grateful for in this document--everything about bringing good news to the poor-- but, as was to be expected, much to regret--such as the proposed aggression against the Episcopal Church. It will be interesting to see how the Archbishop of Canterbury. It will be interesting to see how the Anglican Communion Office responds, and it will be very interesting to see how the American liberals who are enamored of the instruments of Communion respond.

Mark Harris has some "unkind thoughts."

The Episcopal News Service story is here.

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Tutu biography is making news

The publication of Rabble-rouser for Peace, a new biography of Archbishop Desmond Tutu has generated a flurry of news coverage. The Associated Press via the San Jose Mercury News reports that Tutu wrote to former Archbishop of Canterbuy George Carey in 1998 expressing "shame" over a Lambeth Conference resolution proclaiming that homosexual acts were incompatible with Scripture.

The story also says that Tutu was "deeply saddened at the furor caused by the appointment of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

"'He found it little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of AIDS and global poverty,' wrote [the book's author John] Allen."

This story, particularly the "shame" section occasioned a press statement from Tutu's successor Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, which you can read by clicking on the keep reading button at the end of this entry. Ndungane, if I am not mistaken, is currently at a meeting of Anglican primates from Africa, Asia and Argentina, and this news cannot have broken at a good time for him.

He says, in part: "As a past leader of the church in Southern Africa, Archbishop Tutu will have an appreciation of how difficult it is to try to hold together people of different opinions in the complex and diverse world we live in today. As Anglicans we continue to value the rich diversity of our people and to strive towards unity. In the church in Southern Africa we condemn homophobia and preach a message of open and loving support for our gay and lesbian members. We are committed to continuing to listen to their views and to empathise with their experience of being homosexual."

Finally, Steven Bates, of the Guardian, writing on the paper's blogs, picks up on the revelation that Tutu was sounded out at one point about becoming Archibshop of Canterbury when Carey was chosen. Steven says this news "is likely to cause liberal members of the Church of England to sob quietly into their cocoa."

"How different the Anglican Communion might have been with Tutu at the helm," he writes. "The biography makes clear that Tutu does not share the visceral antipathy towards gays exhibited by his fellow African bishops further north in the Dark Continent. It is this that is currently tearing the worldwide Anglican communion apart.

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Did the pope aim at Protestants but hit Muslims?

Tim Noah of Slate has a fascinating analysis of the pope's controversial speech at the University of Regensburg. He notes, almost in passing, that "the true whipping boy of Pope Benedict's speech ... isn't Islam but Protestantism. The Reformation, he's arguing, sundered faith from reason and led to the rise of secular culture. Many of us would agree with that statement and count it as a point in the Reformation's favor. But the pope means it as a criticism."

I am still digesting his argument, but the piece is well worth reading.

(Full disclosure: Tim is a friend of mine.)

Cathedral burned in Nigeria

This just in from Anglican Communion News Service:

The Bishop of Dutse (Jigawa State, Nigeria) The Rt Revd Yesufu Lumu, has told ACNS in a telephone interview that a local conflict between a Christian and Muslim woman escalated into a full blown riot on the streets of the city. The end result was St Peter's Anglican Cathedral was burned to the ground and the Bishop's office and car port destroyed.

"It was calm during the night," the bishop said, but was very concerned as the "police would not respond to the calls for protection from the Christians." According to one report the anger was said to have been "sparked off by an alleged blasphemous comment on Prophet Muhammed by a Christian woman, who reportedly spoke in reaction to a similarly irreverent statement about Jesus Christ by a male Muslim."

The Provincial Communications Officer, the Revd Canon AkinTunde Popoola, told ACNS, "All vehicles belonging to the Diocese were also burnt as well as business premises of some church members" during the rioting on 19th September.

The bishop said, "No one was hurt, we are simply praying that the conflict does not spread."

We have been very critrical of various policies of the Nigerian Church, but I have to admit that I can't imagine what it would be like to minister in this kind of climate.

Looking back at "the vist"

The visit by former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to Washington National Cathedral earlier this month precipitated a blizzard of demagogic commentary, some of it from the Anglican right. Neither the Cathedral nor the diocese has responded directly to these criticisms, beyond posting the remarks made before and after Khatami's speech by Dean Samuel Lloyd of the Cathedral and Bishop John Bryson Chane of the diocese. However, those interested in learning more about the speech and about diplomatic relations with Iran might find these five contributions helpful.

This balanced report, by Eric Fingerhut of Washington Jewish Week makes it clear that Jewish opinion on the visit was not uniform.

This essay, by Steven C. Clemons, director of the American strategy program at the New America Foundation here in DC begins as follows:

"As the Pulitzer Prize winning historian John Dower tells the story so well about Japan and the United States, states that move towards war often demonize each other's leaders and whole societies in order to stir and consolidate public opinion and steel their citizens for big sacrifices ahead.

"As the White House continues to beat a drum on Iran, leaders on both sides will find ways to dehumanize the other side's key state figures.

"This hasn't happened with former Iran President Mohammed Khatami quite yet, but word is out that Senator Rick Santorum and his allies are outraged about the Iranian leader's visit and out trying to serve Khatami with a subpoena regarding war crimes. But what Santorum hasn't figured out is that his party's CEO, President Bush as well as Secretary of State Rice extended Khatami a visa because he is considered to be one of the good guys in Iran -- and a potential ally in the long run."

It is unfortunate that Bishops John Lipscomb, Edward Little and Geralyn Wolf, who lectured us publicly on our "shallow" understanding of Middle Eastern affairs didn't have a chance to talk to someone like Clemens before they called upon the Cathedral to cancel the event. They might also have been edified by a conversation with former ambassador Joe Montville, who was the Cathedral's principal adviser on the visit. Montville spent 23 years working for the State Department in North Africa and the Middle East before becoming chief of the Near East Division and then director of the Office of Global Issues, and my sense is that the bishops would have been gratified by the depth of his knowledge. We weren't able to arrange these conversations, however, because, schedules being what they are, the bishops weren't able to get in touch with us before releasing their statement to the media.

(Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright thought the visit was a good idea, too. But I digress.)

In this column by Douglas Savage, assistant director of the Institute of World Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, writes that: "the desire to fit America's foes into a single, homogenous bundle stands in the way of a more nuanced and ultimately more effective foreign policy. Today's tendency to place every demonstrated or potential adversary that appropriates the language of Islam into the same terrorist basket has led to policy decisions that are ultimately harmful to U.S. interests in the region."

You can feed your inner wonk by learning more about the New American Foundation's recent conference "U. S. Strategy in towards Iran: Thinking Through the Unthinkables--Beyond a binary choice?"

And finally, it is worth remembering that President Bush personally approved Khatami's visa because, as he told Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal : I was interested to hear what he had to say.

Dean Lloyd had it right when he said to Khatami: "In our own time Pope John Paul, II who met in 1999 with our guest this evening, understood that if the church is to facilitate healing and transformation, it cannot live on the margins of controversy uttering hopeful pieties. Rather it must immerse itself in the struggles that convulse the human family. Reconciliation requires us to seek partners to take risks to hear what these potential partners say and to examine what they do. And requires us to submit ourselves to the same searching scrutiny."

Race in the race

Ethics Daily, a Baptist site, has posted an interesting editorial on the Tennessee Senate race. The race pits Rep. Harold Ford, a black, Baptist Democrat against Bob Corker, a white Republican. By most measures, Ford is the more culturally conservative of the two candidates.

Writer Robert Parkham of the Baptist Center for Ethics notes that the "overwhelmingly white Tennessee Baptist Convention claims a membership of 1.1 million in a state with a population of 5.7 million." So Southern Baptists exert significant electorial influcence.

"How they vote will disclose how far Southern Baptists have moved away from their segregation heritage and racial prejudice," Parkham writes.

An Anglican ban on gay ordination?

The Associated Press reports that "an African-led coalition of conservative Anglican prelates is drafting a formal ban on ordination of homosexuals."

It will be interesting to learn whether this ban extends to celibate homosexuals. If it does, then these folks will have dropped the pretense that they hate the sin but love the sinner.

God on the brain, God in the brain

You may have to watcha brief ad to read this fascinating interview with Andrew Newberg on Salon about the neurological nature of religious consciousness, but it is a small price to pay. Here is a taste:

You studied Franciscan nuns who had prayed for decades, and you also studied Tibetan Buddhists who'd meditated for many years. What happened when they came into your lab?

We found that the Franciscan nuns activated several important parts of the brain during prayer. One part was the frontal lobe. I've been particularly interested in the frontal lobe because it tends to be activated whenever we focus our mind on something. This can be very mundane, like focusing on a problem we're trying to solve at work. Or it can be focusing on a phrase from the Bible, which was happening with the Franciscan nuns. They would focus their attention on a particular prayer of great meaning, and they'd begin to feel a lot of unusual experiences. They would lose their sense of self. They would feel absorbed into the prayer itself. They'd no longer see a distinction between who they are and the actual prayer process itself. Some people call it a feeling of connectedness or oneness.

One-stop shopping

Tobias Haller, elegant and persuasive as ever, explains here why Resolution B033--the "manner of life" resolution--is a moral and canonical mess, while also examining the potentially vexing issues presented by the recent episcopal election in the Diocese of South Carolina.

How did free speech become controversial?

I have only skimmed the avalanche of commentary occasioned by Pope Benedict's recent speech, but I sure did like this essay by Anne Applebaum over at Slate.
She says, in part:

"...I don't mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon...But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech—surely the pope is allowed to quote medieval texts—and of the press. And we can also unite—loudly—in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies, and elderly nuns. By "we" I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde, and Fox News. Western institutions of the left, the right, and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary—"we're pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence"—but in the days since the pope's sermon, I don't feel that I've heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus.

Andrew Brown's piece on the speech is also worth reading.

The silence of Bishop Minns, et. al.

Matt Thompson of Political Spaghetti, who is not an Episcopalian, and has not ecclesiological axe to grind in our current crisis has followed the saga of the Nigerian bill that would strip gays and lesbians of various civil rights more closely than anyone. He wonders why Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) are supporting the bill, and why Akinola's allies in this country--the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, resident of Fairfax, Va., rector of Truro Church and missionary bishop of the Church of Nigeria to the United States, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, bishop of Pittsburgh and moderator of the conservative Anglican Communion Network, the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council and others--are unwilling to speak out against a piece of legislation that criminalizes basic human rights.

He writes:

"Conservative Christianity has already taken a very hard right turn into some very dark political corners, but I am sure that conservative Anglicans in the US and elsewhere would agree with me that this is not how they want to represent themselves to their fellow citizens."

And:

"Bishop Minns, and his allies in the Anglican Communion Network, have no moral alternative but to call for this legislation to be withdrawn (as the US Department of State has done), or at the very least make a clear statement of disassociation. If they can't do this now, then from here forward let them never again declare their support of the rights of the minority in the face of a majoritartian, ideological onslaught (are you hearing this, Institute on Religion and Democracy?). They will have impeached themselves utterly."

The full post is here.

I am especially interested in Minns' silence. He is a bishop of the Nigerian Church, yet is still being allowed to serve as the rector of one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Virginia. His parish and some other large and influential congregations, such as the Falls Church, are in the midst of 40 days of discernment about the future of their relationship with the Episcopal Church. It isn't inconceivable that these parishes would decide to join the Church of Nigeria. In which case we'd have several thousand people in northern Virginia pledging themselves to a Church which, on principle at least, would seem to favor rewriting the First Amendment of our Constitution to deprive Americans--not just gays and lesbians, but those who advocate publicly for gay marriage, and members of churches that bless gay unions--of rights they now enjoy.

Pronouncements from Nigeria

Thanks to Mark Harris for staying on top of the latest pronouncements from Nigeria. There is much there to digest, including this nugget from the Standing Committee:

"The Church affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality since it is incongruent with the teachings of the Bible, Quran and the basic African traditional values."

The bill, as Matt Thompson has pointed out, is "designed to strip basic speech, press, and assembly rights, not to mention freedom of religion, from gay and lesbian citizens of Nigeria." The Anglican Right, which reveres Archbishop Peter Akinola, originally attempted to dispense with the public relations problem this bill presents, by saying that the Archbishop didn't really support it. That argument can no longer be made.

Then there were efforts, facilitated by the Living Church, to argue that it wasn't as repressive a bill as people like our bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, among others, were saying. Those foundered when the bill came under fire from numerous human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Dismiss these organizations as leftwingers if you like, but that case is harder to make against George Bush's State Department, which has also expressed misgivings about the bill.

Several commenters have attempted to argue that Muslim politicians would have made the bill even more repressive, and that the Church helped produce a more moderate bill. But there is no evidence to suggest that Muslim legislators are the driving force behind this bill. Neither the Nigerian press, nor human rights activists in that country report meetings in which backers of differing versions of the legislation pounded out a compromise. And, the language quoted above hardly suggests that the Church is holding its nose, and urging legislators to make the best of a bad situation.

At some point, I hope Archbishop Akinola's allies in this country, particularly the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, whom Akinola recently ordained to establish a branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, will offer us a moral justification for this legislation. The archbishop clearly thinks it is morally desirable to limit gays ' and lesbians' rights to freedom of speech and assembly. He clearly thinks it is desirable for the state to dictate terms to churches by defining who can receive their sacraments. It would be interesting to know whether his allies hold similar beliefs.

Rowan writes, Plano leaves

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion. His letter and a story by Episcopal News Service can be found here.

The Rev. Mark Harris' skeptical analysis of recent events can be found here. I share many of his concerns, but would add one other: it is extremely difficult to attract people to an institution that does not seem to control its own fate, and does not seem willing to stand up for what the majority of its members believe. The Episcopal Church, in many eyes, is such an institution. Little wonder that we struggle to reverse the downward trend in our membership.

Meanwhile, Christ Church Plano has reached a financial settlement with the Diocese of Dallas that allows it to leave the church and keep its property. I don't quite see this as a test case for the kind of negotiated withdrawal I've been suggesting might serve as a solution to our problems because the rector at Christ, Plano and the bishop of Dallas are ideological brethren. But there may be elements in this settlement that we can learn from. ENS's coverage is here.

...and your little dog, too

Father Jake has opened up a conversation, tongue planted none-too-firmly in cheek, about whether the Bible is, um, anti-dog. I wasn't going to link to it, until I came across this link on one of his discussion boards, and now I can't resist. It's fun, but it's also thought-provoking.

Here's an excerpt:

A scan of the biblical references to dogs gave an outlandishly depressing picture of greedy, filthy, deplorable beasts, best known for licking up enemy blood from the streets and revisiting their old vomit. They are compared to every sort of person held to be disgraceful, from male prostitutes (Deut. 23:18) to villainous enemies (Psalms 22:16) to false Christians (Philipp. 3:2). True, Christ uses some semi-friendly canine imagery in his repartee with a determined Canaanite mother in Matthew 15:26ff: reflecting that his mission at the moment is only to "the lost sheep of the House of Israel," he responds to her request to heal her daughter by saying, "it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the house dogs." Playing along with the allusion, the canny mother says, "Ah yes sir, but even house dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master's table." Jesus is impressed: "Woman, you have great faith," he says. He heals her daughter. The dog-lover can well imagine that he probably also fed a few real scraps to some very happy real dogs in his time. But a conservative skeptic would call this wishful thinking, self- serving delusion.

For the final blow against the good dog, from what ought to be the fundamentalist point of view, is delivered in Revelations 22:15. "These others must stay outside (the holy city of God): dogs, sorcerors, fornicators, murderers, and idolaters, and everyone else of false speech and false life." Case closed. No leash law in the New Jerusalem. A cat- lover's paradise descends from the skies.

Adoption?

Here's the latest from the British press. I am wondering whether having the conservative dioceses in a different church would be such a bad thing. (That's not exactly what's under discussion in the piece below, but I put the idea forward in the hopes that we can kick it around a bit.) I don't think they should be allowed to go and take the property with them as though it were rightfully theirs, but I do think we should work out reasonable terms, have an amicable parting that gives us the resources to start new dioceses in these jurisdictions, and get on with our lives and ministries.

‘Adoption’ plan for anti-gay dioceses
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

The Daily Telegrpah
(Filed: 11/09/2006)

Conservative Anglican leaders are exploring ways to ‘adopt’ seven American dioceses that have rejected the pro-gay agenda of their own Church.

The proposals, which would be likely to split the Church irrevocably, will be discussed at a critical summit in Africa this month attended by 24 conservative primates, who represent two thirds of Anglicans around the world.

Under the proposals, the primates would create a ‘parallel’ province for the seven dioceses in defiance of the liberal leadership of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism.

The summit is expected to hear legal advice about whether they could appoint a representative, probably a conservative bishop in one of the dissenting dioceses, to act for them in the new organisation.

If adopted, the development would sink the hopes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, of brokering a compromise between conservatives and liberals and would provoke a formal schism.

It would be seen as a declaration of open war by liberals, and trigger a bitter ‘divorce’ battle as rival factions fight in the law courts for the Church’s wealth and property.

Tensions have been rising since the liberal leadership of the Episcopal Church failed to fall into line with the conservative majority on homosexuals at its General Convention, in Ohio, in June.

Dr Williams said in a recent interview that he had nightmares that the Church of England would tear itself apart as people decided where their loyalties lay.

But he is hoping that the mainly African and Asian conservative leaders, led by the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, will back away from precipitate action.

Dr Williams has indicated that he would like to send a representative to the meeting, which is being held in Rwanda from Sept 18 to 22. There has been no invitation so far, but there is growing evidence that many of the so-called Global South primates will respond to his calls for restraint, at least until a meeting of the worldwide Church’s 38 primates next February.

Insiders predicted yesterday that the Global South summit, while reaffirming its opposition to the Episcopal Church, would overrule hardliners’ calls for immediate action.

Dr Williams also hopes that another meeting he has called between the liberal Episcopal Church leaders and American conservative bishops in New York, starting today, could pre-empt Global South action by devising a compromise.

He would like liberal leaders to strike a deal with a broad coalition of conservative bishops to allow the two groups to co-exist until after the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

In the long term, Dr Williams is preparing for a relatively amicable split by asking all the provinces to either opt in or out of a new ‘covenant’.

Human Rights and the Church of Nigeria

Matt Thompson of Political Spaghetti continues to do excellent work covering a proposed Nigerian law that would strip gays and lesbians of what we would regard as basic First Amendment freedoms. His previous coverage can be found here. The latest installmlent is: Why doesn't the Anglican Communion Network come clean and speak out?

He writes:

Even more troubling than the Anglican Church of Nigeria endorsing the legislation, which would imprison the church's declared theological enemies, is the acquiescence of Archbishop Akinola's allies in the United States. As I said above, there is little I can do about anything in Nigeria, but it is certainly a worthwhile activity to point out to the conservative factions within the Anglican Church -- which are currently undergoing a significant realignment out of the Episcopal Church and into other branches of the global Anglican Communion -- that their compacency is suicidally short-sighted.

Perhaps the theologically orthodox Anglican Communion Network (ACN), which is the closest Church ally of Akinola in North America, feels that the lay people and clergy they represent have no objection to imprisoning homosexuals for their beliefs (let alone for their actions -- "sodomy" is already illegal in Nigeria and subject to a far greater sentence). As far as I can tell, most in the ACN are unaware that the the Nigerian bill would do more than just ban gay marriage. (An aside: a bill to ban gay marriage, when no State in Nigeria currently allows it, is a pointless effort, anyway.) They don't realize that its greatest effect of the bill would be to strip gay and lesbian Nigerians of civil rights that we in the US reserve for even the most odious (for example, the right to a free and fair trial is granted to all -- ahem -- regardless of how evil they might be).

The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, now the Anglican Church of Nigeria's bishop in residence in the United States, provided a defense of the legislation that never mentioned the concrete prohibitions contained in the legislation, focusing instead on his belief that critics of Akinola were attacking him ad hominem. While Minns says that he "does NOT believe that criminalization is an appropriate response to those who understand themselves to be homosexuals", his statement would have had much more force if he were to have stated clearly that endorsing legislation that would put "those who understand themselves to be homosexuals" in jail for their speech is not any way for a Church to behave. It reflects badly on Minns, it reflects badly on the Anglican Communion Network, and it refects badly on its supporters.

Nature abhors a vacuum

And so, apparently, do Anglicans. In the absence of any credible information about what transpired at the recent meeting in New York, speculation has begun. If you are of a mind, you can check it out at Simon's site. While I like to indulge in speculation myself now and again, in this instance, I just don't feel there is enough to work with. I am particuarly suspicious of people who claim to know the mind of Rowan Williams.

Archbishop Williams responds

Update: And so does Bonnie Anderson, president of our House of Deputies. You can find her comments in this lengthy story from Episcopal News Service.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has responded to the statement issued earlier today from the meeting of bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) being held in New York.

Archbishop Williams said:

"It's a positive sign that these difficult conversations have been taking place in a frank and honest way. There is clearly a process at work and although it hasn't yet come to fruition, the openness and charity in which views are being shared and options discussed are nevertheless signs of hope for the future. Our prayers continue."

MEANWHILE, Episcopal New Service has filed this story, which includes commenets from Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori.

Statement from the NYC meeting

A group of bishops met in New York on 11-13 September at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and in consultation with the Presiding Bishop to review the current landscape of the church in view of conflicts within the Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury had received a request from seven dioceses for alternative primatial pastoral care and asked that American bishops address the question. The co-conveners of the meeting were Bishops Peter James Lee of Virginia and John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida. Other participating bishops were Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishops Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, James Stanton of Dallas, Edward Salmon of South Carolina, Mark Sisk of New York, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, and Robert O'Neill of Colorado. Also participating was Canon Kenneth Kearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

We had honest and frank conversations that confronted the depth of the conflicts that we face. We recognized the need to provide sufficient space, but were unable to come to common agreement on the way forward. We could not come to consensus on a common plan to move forward to meet the needs of the dioceses that issued the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight. The level of openness and charity in this conference allow us to pledge to hold one another in prayer and to work together until we have reached the solution God holds out for us.

No news is no news

A group of bishops met yesterday in New York to discuss the grievances of what the Telegraph of London in a recent headline described as "anti-gay dioceses." If there is a credible report or even a plausible batch of rumors floating in the internet ether, I haven't found them. In the meantime, Simon Sarmiento has this round-up of the pre-meeting positioning, and Lionel Deimel has an essay.

Anniversary

A few weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001, The Washington Post Magazine assigned four writers to profile people whose lives had been changed by the attacks. I was asked to profile one of the military chaplains who was was involved in rescue efforts at the Pentagon. His name was Timothy S. Mallard, and his story, which appeared originally on November 4, 2001, is just beneth the "kep reading" button. Here is a bit:

"We didn't have to look far for something to do," Mallard says. "People saw the symbols [the cross, crescent or Star of David] and they came up to us. Guys from ATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms], the FBI, they'd ask, 'Am I cracking up? Am I going crazy to feel this way? Where is God in all of this. Why is God allowing this to happen?' "

These latter questions can't be answered with a few concise remarks while smoke wafts through the lungs and all around you, the remains of the victims', most of them quite partial, are being tenderly tucked into body bags. Fortunately, what people wanted was to hear a familiar scrap of Scripture, to add their Amen to an extemporized prayer, or to accept a moment's assistance in supporting their own weight. Mallard, who has a Baptist's knowledge of the Bible, a preacher's way with words and a catcher's solid shoulders, was adept at all three.
Ministers, like therapists, know that in crises they become as vulnerable to trauma as those whom they are trying to help. Mallard's moment came on the morning of the fourth day at the close of a "critical-incident stress debriefing" that he was leading for a team of 80 rescue workers, who were just going off shift.

"They were from Tennessee, and on the previous two days they had asked me to read Scripture with them," he says. "The thing that overwhelmed me was the 23rd Psalm -- that image of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I looked over at the cut in the building, and to me that image came alive. I started weeping and said something to the effect that I had read that psalm hundreds of times, but I read it with new eyes that day. I realized that some valleys were deeper than others."

Read more »

Parish at play

The Washington Post Magazine presents St. Mark's, Capitol Hill, in the process of having a very good time.

Lloyd: The church...cannot live on the margins of controversy uttering hopeful pieties

The Washington National Cathedral and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington have been taken to task in some quarters for inviting former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to speak Thursday night. I thought the Very Rev. Samuel Lloyd, dean of the Cathedral, addressed those concerns eloquently in his introduction of the former president.

"We’re hosting this event this evening at the National Cathedral as part of this Cathedral’s ministry of reconciliation. This ministry requires us to engage in conversation with nations, faiths and individuals with whom we may have significant disagreements. It requires us to give a respectful hearing to people whose words, and maybe actions, sometimes disturb and trouble us. For us as Christians, Jesus modeled this behavior eating with the hated tax collectors, healing the servant of a despised centurion in the Roman occupying army. His words continue to challenge us. “You have heard that it was said and you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:43–45) In our own time Pope John Paul, II who met in 1999 with our guest this evening, understood that if the church is to facilitate healing and transformation, it cannot live on the margins of controversy uttering hopeful pieties. Rather it must immerse itself in the struggles that convulse the human family. Reconciliation requires us to seek partners to take risks to hear what these potential partners say and to examine what they do. And requires us to submit ourselves to the same searching scrutiny. Your Excellency, you come to the National Cathedral as one who is open to dialogue with Americans on the role of religion in peace. It’s important that we who have our common heritage in Abraham use our great traditions to come together in understanding, instead of using our weaknesses to divide. We must recognize the painful histories we both carry. We Christians recognize the destruction that we inflicted on the Muslim world during the Crusades. You, yourself, were one of the first leaders in the Middle East to recognize the terrible events of 9/11 and their impact on our country."

Bush on Khatami: I was interested to hear what he had to say.

Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal breaks the news that President Bush personally signed off on the visa for former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, who spoke at Washington Natiional Cathedral on Thursday night.

The key passge from a lengthy piece based on an interview on Air Force One:

Intriguingly, the president broke a little news on the subject of Iran, acknowledging that he personally signed off on the U.S. visit this week by former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. The trip has angered many conservatives because Mr. Khatami presided over the nuclear weapons development and cheating that Mr. Bush has pledged to stop. Why let him visit?

"I was interested to hear what he had to say," Mr. Bush responds without hesitation. "I'm interested in learning more about the Iranian government, how they think, what people think within the government. My hope is that diplomacy will work in convincing the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. And in order for diplomacy to work, it's important to hear voices other than [current President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's."

One thing Mr. Khatami has said this week is that because the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq it will never have the will to stop Iran's nuclear program. Is he right? "Well, he also said it's very important for the [coalition] troops to stay in Iraq so that there is a stable government on the Iranian border," Mr. Bush replies, rather forgivingly.

On other hand, Mr. Bush remains as blunt as ever about the nature of the Iranian regime when I ask if one lesson of North Korea is that Iran must be stopped before it acquires a bomb. "North Korea doesn't teach us that lesson. The current government [in Iran] teaches that lesson," Mr. Bush says. "Their declared policies of destruction and their support for terror makes it clear they should not have a nuclear weapon."

The impression Mr. Bush leaves is of a man deeply engaged on the Iran problem and, like several presidents before him, trying to understand what kind of diplomatic or economic pressure short of military means will change the regime's behavior. One way or another, Iran will be the major dilemma of the rest of his presidency, and Mr. Bush knows it."

A chaplain at Ground Zero

The Rev. Janet Vincent, who is about to become rector of our largest parish, St. Columba's in northwest D. C., spent months as a chaplain at Ground Zero. She was rector of Grace Church in White Plains, N. Y during the attack.She told her story last night on The New Hour with Jim Lehrer. You can listen to it here.

Mohammed Khatami's speech at the National Cathedral

As you may know, we've been in the midst of a bit of controversy here on the National Cathedral close over the past week. Last night, former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami spoke at the Cathedral.

Lucy Chumbley, editor of our diocesan newspaper Washington Window covered the event, and we shared her story with the Episcopal News Service.

The text of Khatami's speech, accompanied by photographs of the event are available on the Cathedral's Web site.

Dean Samuel Lloyd did what I thought was an excellent job explaining whythe Cathedral extended an invitation to a controversial figure such as the former president, and I am trying to get a copy of his remarks. Bishop John Chane offered a response to the speech, which you can find by clicking on the "keep reading" button below.

Read more »

Funeral arrangements for Verna Dozier

The funeral of Verna Dozier will be held on Saturday September 30 at 10:30 a. m. at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, 118 Third Street SE. Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, retired suffragan of Washington, will preside. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina will be among the eulogists.

An icon, no question about it

From the Episcopal Diocese of Washington

By Lucy Chumbley

Verna Dozier, a well-loved lay theologian, author, mentor and Christian educator in the Episcopal Church, died on Friday September 1, at Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville, Md. She was 88.

“She was without a doubt one of the most creative thinkers in the 20th century church,” said the Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington. “She made us all very proud to be from this diocese and to have known her.”

Dozier attended St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill for more than 45 years, and was that church’s first black parishioner.

She is something of a legend at St. Mark’s, where she often preached and where, in 1999, around 500 people attended the dedication of a stained glass window created in her honor, lining up to shake her hand and tell her what she meant to them.

In her window, Dozier is pictured with her younger sister, Lois – who died the year before the window was dedicated – and the prophet Amos, a champion of social justice.

“She’s an icon at St. Mark’s, no question about it,” said Jan Hoffman, one of Dozier’s closest friends.

A third generation Washingtonian, Dozier started life as a Baptist, attending the 19th Street Baptist Church with Lois and her mother, Lucie, who were lifelong members of that congregation.

Her family was poor: Her father, Lonnie, had never graduated from high school and had to work two jobs to make ends meet. Yet each night, the two girls would read aloud from the Bible and from Shakespeare – the only books they owned.

Building on this solid foundation, Dozier attended Howard University, where she earned a master’s degree in English literature and went on to become a school teacher.

As a young woman, Dozier was drawn to the Episcopal Church by the beauty of its liturgy, and was invited to join the all-white congregation of St. Mark’s by its young rector, the Rev. Bill Baxter.

“He said, ‘Verna, this church is ready for a black,’” Hoffman said.

“He told her a lie, really, that St. Mark’s was ready to be integrated,” said Dee Hahn Rollins, another friend. “But she dealt with that in a wonderful way.”

Not everyone was ready for integration, Hoffman said, recalling that she and her roommate were evicted from their Arlington apartment in 1955 for having Dozier to visit.

In 1975, after more than 30 years of teaching Shakespeare to inner city students, Dozier retired from the school system. But always the teacher, her Bible study began in earnest.

Rollins, who was in charge of women’s activities in the Diocese of Indianapolis at the time, heard about Dozier’s method of Bible study, in which scripture is examined in significant sections using different translations of the Bible.

She invited her to lead a conference at the diocese.

“I went to the airport and picked her up, and it changed my life,” Rollins said. “It changed her life, too.”

It was Dozier’s first real job teaching the Bible and the start of her second career.

She went on to give workshops all over the country – even traveling to Kenya on several occasions – and quickly became a sought-after speaker for retreats and conventions.

“She was tremendous with the Bible,” Hoffman said. “She knew so much, and she was such a vital person… She certainly was an excellent teacher. She used to preach a lot, too – she preached all over.”

Her sermons were always rooted in scripture, Hoffman said. And although social justice was often a theme, her actions spoke louder than her words, her friends said.

“She didn’t have an edge with her preaching,” Rollins said. “She never pushed an agenda, so to speak. When you listened to Verna, who she was spoke louder.”

“She was an activist with words,” Hoffman said. “But she had a feeling that there was a way that you dealt with things that did not make the gap wider, with things like racism.”

A powerful presence in the pulpit, Dozier was clear about her role as a lay preacher, and never felt the need to wear vestments, said Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon.

“She really saw the ministry of the laity as critical for the life and fulfillment of the church,” Dixon said. “She was never in awe of clergy – not with bishops or anyone else. She just saw them as people with another role to fulfill.”

For the 30 years she knew her, Dozier was her friend, mentor and advocate, Dixon said.

“When I first met Verna, she was really just taking off – her life with the church,” she said. “I saw, watched and learned from this extraordinary woman at the height of her ability.”

Dozier’s ability to ask wonderful questions and to really pay attention to the answers impressed her. “She never put anyone down – she never patronized, no matter what you did,” Dixon said.

But she also wasn’t afraid to tell it straight.

“Besides her love and friendship, Verna always called you to be your best,” Hoffman said. “She was affirming, but she was always so real.”

“That was her gift to me,” Dixon said. “That she loved me enough to tell me the truth.”

While her book “Equipping the Saints” sets out her style of Bible study, those close to her say her book, “The Dream of God: A Call to Return” best describes her beliefs.

“That really tells you who Verna is more than anything else,” Hoffman said. “What she believed.”

The book claims that as an institution, the church has fallen short of the dream of God. It reminds Christians that they are not called to worship Jesus, but to follow him.

Strong in her faith, Dozier was also emphatic that there was no way to truly be certain.

“Verna used to say that faith in God is that there are no guarantees,” Dixon said. “It is a faith enterprise. It is a risk. She was clear that that certainty that people so yearned for in a religious faith was not given to human beings.”

But she was willing to risk her life for the promise of the Gospel.

“She always used to say, ‘I might be wrong,’” Dixon said, breaking into a smile. “’But I believe it.’”

Verna J. Dozier; D. C. Teacher, Episcopal theologian (from The Washington Post)

The Washington Post's obituary on Verna Dozier appeared in this morning's editions, along with this nice photograph by her friend Dee Hahn Rollis (the second item on this page.) The obit was prepared by Bart Barnes, former head of the Post's obit desk. He is a parishioner at St. Mark's, Capitol Hill, just as Verna was.

An excerpt:

"She taught us to understand the ministry of the laity," the Very Rev. Martha Horne, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary, wrote about Ms. Dozier in a 1999 article in the Living Church magazine. "In her speaking and writing, she challenged people to accept the authority they received in baptism, and to live out their faith in their homes and offices."

With a beautiful speaking voice, imbued with the cadences of the Bible and Shakespeare, and a vivid personality, she was able to express then-radical thoughts with tact, said friend Dee Hahn-Rollins. She said Ms. Dozier insisted that "what we did from Monday to Saturday was most important and we come to our Sunday experience to be refueled."

Verna Dozier, teacher and prophet, has died

(with updates at bottom)

Verna Dozier, author, teacher and theologian, died Friday afternoon at the age of 88.

Dozier, a parishioner at St. Mark's Church on Capitol Hill, taught in the District of Columbia's public schools for 34 years before retiring in 1975 to devote herself exclusively to a ministry of writing and religious education. A popular lecturer and workshop presenter, her most influential book was The Dream of God: A Call to Return (1991.) Earlier this year, Seabury Press published Confronted by God: The Essential Verna Dozier, a collection of her writings.

Dozier lived at Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville, Md. for 14 years. In 1992, she preached at the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Washington. In 1999, St. Mark's installed a stained glass window in honor of Dozier and her sister Lois, who had died a year earlier. The window features the prophet Amos, Dozier's favorite, and figures of the two Dozier sisters. In 2003, Dozier won the first Bishop's Award from the Diocese of Washington.

Funeral arrangements are not yet complete. The Washington Post is preparing an obituary which may be published on Sunday, September 3.

A full biography by Fredrica Haris Thompsett is available here.

Updates: The Episcopal News Service has filed an obituary, a bibliography and some quotes from her writing.

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