Thanks

I wanted to thank everyone who visited the diocesan Web site this month. We had more than 150,000 visits from more than 50,000 different computers, and averaged about 11,000 page views per day. It was our busiest month by far, busier than when The Book of Daniel was on television, and news about the blog was in TV Guide, busier than during General Convention. So thanks for coming, and thanks for caring about the issues we discuss here.

If you are new to the blog, please have a look at the rest of our diocesan Web site, especially our movie, the online version of the Washington Window, and the meditations and readings in our spirituality section.

And if you would like to support what we do here, consider a donation to the Bishop's Appeal.

About those letters

As I’ve mentioned below, The Living Church is reporting that David Booth Beers, chancellor of the Episcopal Church "has written identical letters to the chancellors of two traditionalist dioceses demanding that they change language “that can be read as cutting against an ‘unqualified accession’ to the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church."

This report has generated an outpouring of blog-based analysis and reaction. Father Jake likes the move, and doesn’t care for Bishop Iker’s response. Mark Harris says the chancellor is doing his job. The Admiral of Morality, a delightful newcomer, suggests, like Jake, that the letters signal “the arrival of a new Presiding Bishop who, fresh from Canterbury, is prepared to act boldly and swiftly in the name of Christ and His Episcopal Church.”

Commenters on Kendall Harmon’s blog aren’t happy, but aren’t alarmed either. I think they understand that nothing definitive has happened here. The rhetoric is more reich-related on Stand Firm in Faith. (I can understand being upset about this, as it seems to represent a change in course at Church Center, but all this jackboot business, please)

I generally agree with Jake and Mark on the issues confronting our church, but I am more uneasy than they about these letters. My unease may be rooted in reasons peculiar to myself, or to a person in my profession, but I think it hints at a broader problem: namely, the seeming unwillingness of our leadership to recognize the virtue of dealing more openly with the press and with Church members regarding the problems before us.

When your organization is involved in an ongoing controversy, it is extremely advantageous to be able to control the content and timing of news stories. The Episcopal right understands this well, and keeps creating well-timed news events that get reporters’ attention, and foster the impression that they are on the march while the Church leadership is in retreat. Here was an occasion, however, where both the content of the next news story (“Chancellor sends letters”) and the timing of the news story (a clock that starts ticking when the letters are mailed) were entirely in Church Center’s control.

If it is a given that the content of the letters will become public, the most media-savvy thing to do is to release the letters broadly with an explanation of why you were doing what you were doing and why you were doing it now. This not only insures that your side of the story leads whatever pieces might be written, it also guarantees that your interpretive framing of the story will be taken seriously.

The other benefits of this approach include damping down rumor and speculation--People are less likely to wonder about your intentions if you explain them; demonstrating that you have nothing to hide or fear; and reassuring the members of your organization that the organization can be counted on to report upon its own activities in a timely and relatively forthright way.

If you choose not to follow this approach, and the content of the letters come out from a different source, not only don’t you reap the advantages I’ve outlined, you reap their inverse.

Controlling the timing of a news event is also a tremendous advantage because it allows you to make sure that the story breaks when it does you the most good or least the harm—depending on the type of story it is. If, for instance, you are about to introduce the new leader of your organization to the general public, if that person is more or less a blank public slate, if you are eager to sell this individual’s tenure as the beginning of a fresh new day, and if you have spent a great deal of time and a little bit of money to build the stage on which this new leader will make her entrance, then controlling the timing of a potentially distracting news story means that you can make sure it breaks after the big event. Otherwise you turn advantage into disadvantage by forcing your new leader to talk abut precisely the issues you are trying to move past.

Finally, a release that places an individual development in a broader context---We are doing X so that we can (do/avoid) Y and therefore achieve Z.—persuades your potentially anxious membership (which is getting its information about your intentions from skeptical, unfriendly or uninformed sources) that there is a steady hand on the wheel, and an alert navigator in the passenger’s seat. In the absence of such reassurance, the passengers are left to study the unfamiliar scenery rolling by outside the window and trust that the driver is heading home by another way.

When we don’t communicate information, we communicate anxiety.

People don’t come to church to have their anxieties amplified.

Are we there yet?

Investiture resources

Thing 1

From ENS: The second of two Sunday bulletin inserts about the prayer and celebrations surrounding the investiture and seating of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is available for use by congregations.

Designed for use in congregations on November 5, this second insert features Jefferts Schori's greeting to the Episcopal Church. In it she invites Church to widen 'shalom' by taking up U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

Thing 2, also from ENS

"Final preparations for the November 4 live webcast of Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori's investiture are nearing completion. Satellite time has been booked, production crews are in place and excitement is growing.

"The hardest thing to determine is exactly how many people plan to view the webcast live," said Mike Collins, director of broadcast and multimedia for the church. "We are asking people to register for the webcast in order to get a fairly accurate number of potential participants. We want to make certain there is more than enough bandwidth available, to ensure that the service is viewable to everyone interested."

"You don't have to register to view the webcast, and if you click the link at 11 a.m. on November 4, you aren't going to be stopped to fill out a form before you're able to view the service," said Collins.
"Registering will help us be good stewards and provide the best viewing experience for the most people."

Viewers are invited to register at webcast@episcopalchurch.org and leave their contact information as well as their preferred streaming media player.

Collins also suggested a few other steps to ensure that viewers don't encounter technical difficulties on November 4. "It's a good idea to make sure your streaming media player of choice, either Windows Media Player or Real Player, is up to date and working properly," he said. "I would also encourage people to be aware of what streaming rate works best on their system. There are things that could happen on the user's end over which we have no control, including their connection speed or how many users might be online from the same location.

"If you are using a cable modem, DSL, or some other newer technology you will probably want to choose our high bandwidth option. If you connect to the internet through a standard phone line modem, the low bandwidth option will be your best bet," Collins added. "And there is always the audio-only option for those who desire it.

Claude Rains, call your agent

Steve Waring of The Living Church writes that David Booth Beers, chancellor of the Episcopal Church "has written identical letters to the chancellors of two traditionalist dioceses demanding that they change language “that can be read as cutting against an ‘unqualified accession’ to the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church."

Bishop Jack Iker of Forth Worth calls the timing of the letter "shocking," coming as it does just two days before Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori becomes our new presiding bishop. But folks who don't think that dioceses have the right to decide which of the Church's canons they will comply with think it is shocking that it took so long for these letters to be written.

An invitation from the Presiding Bishop-elect

The Rev. Susan Russell, has called our attention to this passage in the materials that Episcopal News Service has prepared for this weekend's investiture of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church:

Bishop Jefferts Schori’s Saturday homily will be based on Isaiah 25: 1-9, Psalm 98, Ephesians 4:1-8; 11-16, and Luke 4:14-21. Please consider joining her in prayer and contemplation of these texts during the coming week. In the gospel lesson, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, one of the bishop’s favorite passages, which Jesus takes as his own mission “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor ...”

Susan has suggested that the Church share some of this contemplation online. So consider this an invitation to do so.

Here, courtesy of the invaluable folks at Oremus, are links to

The First Lesson

The Psalm

The Second Lesson

and the Gospel.

What do they say to you?

You can share your thoughts in the comment section, or at a blog created just for this purpose.

Swan Song

The Presiding Bishop, whose term ends on Wednesday, preached at St. John's Anglican Church in Notting Hill, London on Sunday.

Two excerpts:

1. In my own country the naïve belief on the part of many that the United States can only do good in the world meant that many of us who spoke against the impending invasion of Iraq were labeled unpatriotic. Now, as this unconscionable war drags on and on – costing thousands of lives due to deception and a president's blind insistence on the rightness of his course – the eyes of many have been opened. Now, a season of sober self-examination has begun. But, alas, how quickly we forget what we have learned. How easily we revert once again to blinded sight. How eagerly we wrap ourselves again in the security of old chauvinisms and certitudes and the dark comfort they afford.

2. In the Acts of the Apostles, which is an account of what happens when the Spirit of the risen Christ is unleashed in the world, we find the apostolic church challenged in its Jewishness by the Spirit who ignores the boundaries established by the law and descends upon the Gentiles – those outside the law and therefore outside the community of faith. The church had to struggle, therefore, with the provocative and unsettling fact of the Spirit's presence in the lives of those heretofore considered unredeemed. The church, faced with this new reality, found itself challenged and obliged – not without struggle and debate – to modify the law, and therefore its self understanding, in order to make way for those whom the law would exclude.

The result was not simply a compromise, but a new way of seeing: the marginalized and excluded and unclean were now regarded as brothers and sisters held fast within the arms of Christ's saving embrace. Is it not possible that the Spirit of truth is profoundly present in our own day in the struggles and tensions we are experiencing in the life of the Anglican Communion?

Forests, trees, etc.

Mark Harris and Simon Sarmiento are doing the hard work on what hte latest development in the Diocese of Dallas saga is allabout. And I am especially grateful, because, well, life is short. Sarah Dylan Bruer also has a comment.

When Katharine met Rowan

Here is the latest release from ENS. It is carefully opaque, the lines set so close together that it is impossible to read between them.

It begins:

"Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – hosting a discussion that affirmed the Episcopal Church’s commitment to the shared ministries of the Anglican Communion -- welcomed Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori to Lambeth Palace October 27 for a 90-minute meeting described as a “cordial and collegial” exchange.

The morning visit, requested by Griswold last spring, provided the Presiding Bishop the opportunity to introduce his successor to the Archbishop in the week preceding the November 1 start of the nine-year tenure to which she was elected June 18.

“I was pleased to see the warmth of cordial interaction between the Archbishop and the Presiding Bishop-elect,” Griswold said after the meeting, where the three shared private conversations for which no observers were present.

Jefferts Schori stated her appreciation for the “frank conversation about challenges in the Communion,” and for “the opportunity to meet together face to face and begin a relationship that we hope will be fruitful and collegial.”

Lessons of history

Giles Fraser's column in the Church Times applies the lessons of history to our Communion's current controversy:

On Sunday, I dined in Exeter College, Oxford, under a portrait of Charles I. He was not a man without failings, but I raised a glass to him none the less. As a Royalist soldier once said to his parliamentary opposite number: "We have the sins of men - eating and drinking - but you have those of devils - spiritual pride and rebellion."

It's possible to recognise a number of the battles that curse today's Church as being fought out in the 17th century. That's why it is essential to remember our history. At the end of the civil war, most people recognised that no single theological party was ever going to land a knockout blow on the other, and that all would have to learn to co-exist.

Charles II sought to introduce a declaration of indulgence to extend religious liberty to all, Roman Catholics and Nonconformists alike. Being overly suspicious, Parliament blocked him. The civil war all but destroyed this country; it filled the land with beggars, orphans, and the maimed. It poisoned relations with the Scots and Irish to this day. Some battles are not worth fighting."

What would be so bad about...

The Living Church brings news that:

"The primates of four provinces in the Anglican Communion have offered to meet in November with the bishops, chancellors and standing committee presidents from the eight Episcopal dioceses that petitioned Archbishop Rowan Williams last July for alternative primatial oversight.

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria; the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies; the Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya; and the Most Rev. Justice Akrofi, Primate of West Africa, have told the seven bishops and eight dioceses that the Nov. 15 meeting, to be held at The Falls Church in Falls Church, Va., will not preempt whatever is decided at the Feb. 14-19 primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Instead, the November meeting is intended to allow the American dioceses to express their needs directly to Global South leaders."

My question is, what would be so bad about allowing the parishes in the Network diocese that want to join one of these gentleman’s provinces to join that province? From that point we could negotiate property settlements, gather the parishes that don't want to follow the Network leadership and re-establish Episcopal dioceses in those areas.

If allowing provincial leaders to cross provincial boundaries to minister to theological minorities is the cost of keeping the Communion together so that is members can cooperate in mission, I don't think that is too high a price to pay--assuming that other provinces were willing to acknowledge that they had theological minorities. We'd need guidelines that don't yet exist to govern this process so it didn't disintegrate into sheep-stealing and property grabbing, but it seems to me that those could be worked out.

George Conger's story mentions that these four primates are trustees of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund "an organization chartered by the Anglican Communion Network in 2004 to support the Church in the developing world."

After two year's in existence, the ARDF doesn't seem to have filed yet for independent status as a 501.c.3, organization, at least not as far as I can tell from poking around a bit on the IRS's Publication 78 Web site. That is probably not a big deal to the majority of its contributors who have an implicit trust in the Anglican Communion Network, which administers the fund. But it is something on which organizations that formulate standards of transparency and accountability place a premium.

How is King David like Bill Clinton?

Over at Slate, David Plotz discusses why King David reminds him of Bill Clinton, and asks why David and Jonathan kiss so much in his ongong feature Blogging the Bible.

Significant or merely curious?

Some things are happening on the Episcopal right these days that are either significant or merely curious, and I am not sure which.

Not long ago, Canon Ellis Brust, formerly the executive director of the American Anglican Council, left that position to become executive director of the Anglican Mission in America. This is especially curious because just a few weeks before his departure from the AAC, Canon Brust was one of two unsuccessful candidates for Bishop of South Carolina, a diocese with close ties to the AAC.

To make things a little more peculiar, the AMiA is involved in a bitter property dispute with South Carolina. So Brust went from being a candidate to lead one party in a law suit, to leading the opposing party in that same suit in the blink of an eye. This is the first of the events that I hope someone can interpret for me.

The second event concerns the decision of the Diocese of Dallas to withdraw from the request to the Archbishop of Canterbury for alternative primatial oversight. There is news of this development on the Web site of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

It says …”the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has released the full text of the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight (APO). The appeal, which lays out the request of the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, South Carolina and Springfield, was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury on July 20. It explains why the dioceses involved believe that APO is necessary and what that oversight might look like. Since July, Dallas has withdrawn its request, but Quincy has joined the other appellants.”

(The illustrious Jeffrey Weiss has a story on the Diocese of Dallas’ recent convention here. And Simon Sarmiento is on the case here.)

I have no idea why the Diocese of Dallas has changed its mind on APO, or why it hasn’t followed the lead of several dioceses that seem to be pursuing the ecclesial equivalent of secession. Neither do I have any sense of whether this represents fragmentation within the Network, or a decision to pursue different strategies toward a similar goal, or something else entirely. So I’d like someone to fill me in. Volunteers?

Finally, Mark Harris has called attention to a recent speech by Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network.

In this speech Bishop Duncan says several things that I consider silly, which I don’t want to dwell on, one thing that confuses me, and one that gives me some hope.

The confusing bit is where he says: “There are two churches claiming to be the Episcopal Church.” Putting aside for the moment the fact that I think this claim, if it exists, is preposterous, this isn’t what I understood the majority of conservative Episcopalians to be saying up to this point. I have understood people to say the Episcopal Church was in error (to put in gently) and needed to be expelled from the Anglican Communion and replaced with an alternate jurisdiction. I have understood people to say the Episcopal Church was an apostate church and that its dissidents should become members of other Anglican province, and I have understood people to say that at a minimum a parallel province needed to be established within the Episcopal Church for those who dissent from its current direction.

But I haven’t heard anyone other than Bishop Duncan say: We are the Episcopal Church and you are not. I’d be interested to know whether this contention is widely supported.

That said, this piece of his address tht made my ears perk up:

“We have reached the moment where a mediation to achieve disengagement is the only way forward. I believe that the other Episcopal Church – the one not represented in this convocation – has finally also come to that conclusion, as well. I believe that a mediated settlement will be in place by this time next year, or that the principals will be well on their way to such a settlement. How can we set one another free to proclaim the gospel (the Truth) as we, so differently, understand it? How can we bless one another as cousins, rather than oppress one another as brothers? The day for a serious and wide-ranging mediation has arrived.”

I have been pushing the idea of a settlemtent to resolve our current dispute, and it is a subject I hope to return to relatively soon, but not before I have something coherent to say. Unlike Bishop Duncan, I probably wouldn't favor mediation, but negotiation. That said, I am glad to see that the bishop isn't urging his supporters to go to the mattresses, legally speaking.

Sneak preview 2

With All Saints Day approaching, I thought I'd give readers an advanced look at a column in the November issue of Washington Window by Margaret Treadwell, a family psychotherapist, and director of The Counseling Center at St. Columba’s Church, here in D.C. The column deals with grieving, and seems appropriate to the season because the approaching feast so often brings back memories of the saints who have graced our own lives.

I'd also like to invite you to the "Remembering" service, 7:30-9 p.m., on Nov. 6, at The Counseling Center at 4201 Albemarle St. NW. Peggy describes "Remebering" as "an evening when people who have lost loved ones can begin to heal by telling stories about those who have died."

Registration is helpful – 202/363-9779 ext. 2

Click "continue" to read the column.

Read more »

Sneak preview

In the upcoming issue of Washington Window , the Rev. Dr. George Clifford, III spells out an agenda for Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's tenure as presiding bishop. The issue won't be arriving in mailboxes until this weekend at the earliest, but you can read the Rev. Clifford's piece by clicking on "continue reading."

Read more »

A supplmental oversight arrangement in our diocese

Bishop John Bryson Chane has appointed the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, bishop of South Carolina , to provide supplemental episcopal oversight to All Saints Church, Chevy Chase, Md.

The story is here. Bishop Chane's letter to All Saints' parishioners is here.

Microlending

As a longtime fan of microlending--See this somewhat dated Beliefnet column.--I was thrilled when Muhammad Yunus, the godfather of microlending, recently won the Nobel Prize. Now Connie Bruck of The New Yorker has in-depth account of recent developments on this promising front in the war against poverty. A front, I might add, on which liberal and conservative believers have served with distinction.

Friday Night Lights IV

It is only fitting that a blog that was brought into existence by one doomed TV show should champion the cause of another possibly doomed offering from NBC. But believe me, Friday Night Lights is a much better show than The Book of Daniel (except for that one stellar Daniel episode when they flashed back to the death of one of their children.)

Even Tom Shales, television critic of The Washington Post, a man who is not free with praise, speaks well of it:

"Friday Night Lights" has plenty of realism -- as well as passion, soul and heart at levels rare in episodic TV."

Like regular commenter Widening Gyre, Shales thinks that the show may be misplaced at 8 p. m. on Tuesdays. (That's tonight: hint, hint.) "Even so," he writes, "and whatever it takes, a place just has to be found for 'Friday Night Lights' on the prime-time schedule. It has already won a place in many a serious viewer's heart.

On covenant making

Mark Harris has called my attention to the Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission's response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's proposal for an Anglican covenant.

Paragraph 3. 3 caught my eye, given that conservatives are unhappy with the current Panel of Refrence and liberals are suspicious of Archbishop Gomez's leadership of the working group established by Archbishop Rowan Williams to begin crafting the covenant:

"These observations suggest an important corollary to the concept of covenant-making: any covenant requires an instrument to interpret it. There is no such thing as a self-interpreting covenant any more than there are self-interpreting scriptures. A covenant implies an interpretive body to decide on what level of polity it is best addressed and whether or to what extent it has been breached. This result is more than a curiosity in a tradition such as Anglicanism where authority is dispersed rather than centralised in a pope and/or magisterium. The subtle interplay between persuasion and coercion characteristic of the Anglican way complicates any simplistic attempt to resolve conflicts by appealing them to one figure or body. Nevertheless, issues of intensity, extent, and substance require a solution in a way that will be satisfactory to the great majority. Otherwise resentment grows and mistrust materialises in ways harmful to the spread of the gospel, the mission of the church to anticipate the reign of God."

And note this fascinating descriptive phrase in 4.4: "the informal gathering of bishops at Lambeth." Otherwise known as the Lambeth Conference.

And finally this at 4.7: Lobby groups are a natural form of persuasion in any large community. However, this process is open to corruption when persuasion and influence are exercised in private. Such a tendency can have the effect of corroding the trust and openness which is vital to our walking together. It may be that there should be some code of ethics among us in regard to private lobbying activities. Such a code would inform our common understanding and fellowship.

Bishop Joe Doss also has an essay on the covenant on the Episcopal Majority site.

Tutu's biographer to speak at Cathedral

John Allen, author of Rabble-Rouser for Peace, a biography of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will speak on Thursday at 7 p. m. in the Common Room of the Cathedral College on the grounds of the National Cathedral.

Here is a map of the Cathedral close. The College is the last building on the left before you leave the grounds via the Woodely Road exit.)

Allen, Tutu's former press secretary is managing editor of the African news Web site AllAfrica.com

Additional details can be found here. A recent profile of Archbishop Tutu is here.

A new trend in church marketing?

The New York Times carried an instructive article on church marketing this weekend. The key graphs concern Willow Creek Community Church, a well-known non-denominational mega-church in Illinois:

"Willow Creek’s shift in strategy mirrors moves by other houses of worship across a number of denominations to overhaul the programs they offer to build their congregations. These organizations say they are modeling their outreach practices on proven business and marketing strategies — not unlike what Wal-Mart is doing by adding more-fashionable clothes or what Borders is doing with its smaller “express” bookstores — to reach potential new members or to keep existing ones. They are also changing how they deliver those messages, using videocasts on cellphones and other new technologies, including an increasing emphasis on blogs and podcasts.

Bill Hybels, the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek, has used business-world strategies — notably branding and word-of-mouth marketing — to help the church grow from 125 congregants 30 years ago into the megachurch it is today. While Mr. Hybels says he does not use marketing techniques to spread God’s word, “we do attempt to harness the full potential of modern technology and business strategies to communicate with our members and our community.”

and:

"The new messages — from Willow Creek and other nondenominational churches to mainstream denominations like the Episcopal and the United Methodist churches — tend to focus on connectedness, theology and shared values.

According to academics, including Robert B. Whitesel, who teaches at Indiana Wesleyan University, that change represents a shift from some past marketing efforts, which sought to make church more fun and inviting to baby boomers. "

Defending the faith

"I’m sick of theology done by cocky salesmen, atheistic or otherwise," writes Giles Fraser in his review of Richard Dawkins latest argument for atheism.

"The God of Israel is the God of the burning bush, the God who exists in the cloudy mountain-top, whose face cannot be seen. This is not the God who doubles as my best pal, or who fits a snappy one-line definition. The God who has been at the centre of the Church’s life for centuries is a God who is disconcertingly inscrutable, and utterly resistant to cheap certainty."

I can't tell you what a delightful change of pace it is to read a liberal Christian arguing about faith with an atheist rather than with a conservative Christian.

To consent, or not to consent?

ENS has a story that beigns:

In letters sent October 19 to bishops with jurisdiction and all the Episcopal Church's diocesan standing committees, Via Media USA argues that the episcopacy of the bishop-elect of the Diocese of South Carolina "would represent a threat to the unity of our church and to the cohesion" of the diocese.

Lionel Deimel's essay: "No Consents, a Crucial Test for the Episcopal Church is here.

Father Jake talks about consents here, and Mark Harris weighs in here.

I don't have any insight on what our Standing Committee will do here in D. C. At General Convention Bishop Chane opposed resolution B033, (the manner of life resolution) by saying that he would consent "after prayer and careful consideration of any person duly elected by a diocese in this Church.”

A question about evangelism

As you may have heard, the population of the United States now tops 300 million. The Episcopal Church claims about 2.3 million members if I am remembering correctly. That's less than one percent of the population. Meaning, if I remember my high school statistics correctly, than were I in a room with 99 other Americans chosen at random, I'd be the only Episcopalian. I bring this up not to lament the size of our church, I do that in various other places, but to pose a question.

If I want to double the number of Episcopalians in that room, I need to persuade only one other person to join the Church. What's the best way to do that? Should I speak broadly to the other 99 folks in the room, or should I concentrate my efforts on the few people whom I sense are most likely to give me a hearing?

What are the implications of my choice for parochial, diocesan and Church-wide evangelism and advertising efforts?

Mark Harris is in the house. Or will be soon.

Here's an opportunity to get to know Mark Harris as something more than a blog link.

He will lead "The Matrix and the Compass Rose" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 at St. Columba's Church in northwest D.C. According to Episcopal Majority:

"His session will address the assumptions that have held the Episcopal Church together, how they are changing, and how The Episcopal Majority can help guide the Church through these times."

Mark is a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and serves on the Standing Commission on World Mission. He was a member of the staff of the Episcopal Church Center for 12 years and has written The Challenge of Change: The Anglican Communion in the Post-Modern Era.

In other TEM news:

David Booth Beers, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, will lead the "Legal Issues Confronting Parishes and Dioceses" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C. Mr. Beers is a partner in the law firm of Goodwin-Proctor in Washington, D.C. As Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, he has an extensive non-profit practice that is both national and international in scope.

Click here for more info on the meeting.

Separation anxiety

The Rev. Matt Kennedy of Stand Firm in Faith has been graciously hosting a conversation on that site about whether an amicable separation might be the best solution to the crisis that currently besets the Episcopal Church. The conversation grew out of an exchange that he and I had here, and, in general, I've found it edifying. Matt and I are clearly not allies on the issues that divide the Church and the Communion, but I value the contribution he's made in hosting this conversation, and I encourage you to take a look at it and weigh in either here or there.

Update: I've finished speaking my piece, over there. Done talking, but still listening.

The Wire 2

Slate is hosting a fascinating discussion of my favorite TV show, The Wire. I've extolled the virtues of the show here, but not with this kind of insight. One of the participants is David Mills, a writer for the show, who once upon a time sat across a divider from me in the Style section of The Washington Post. (And yes, if you pick his name up, I will drop it again.)

It's Revival time

It's Revival time in the Diocese of Washington.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, will be the featured preacher at our second annual “Word to the City” revival at Washington National Cathedral (7 p. m. on October 19, 20.)

St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church Gospel Choir and the Rev. Christine Wiley of Covenant Baptist Church will perform on Oct. 19, and PAUL (Performing Artists Under Our Lord) will sing on Oct. 20.

There's more information here.

Friday Night Lights III: AP is on the case

Frazier Moore, a television critic for the Associated Press, laments the small audiences tuning in to Friday Night Lights. (Tuesdays at 8 on NBC.)

He picks up on a point I've pushed a couple of times:

"Friday Night Lights" has claimed a world far from TV's beaten path, and depicts it with such honesty that we viewers behold its ordinary people (and, by extension, ourselves) with new eyes. In the writing, acting and on-location filming (the production is based in Austin), "Friday Night Lights" debunks the "TV AP version" of things, depicting real life on its own indigenous terms.

"That, alone is a powerful reason to watch.

"Here's another: It includes religious faith among the forces at work in Dillon, Texas. Viewers who complain about a spiritual void in TV drama should embrace this show for how it weaves prayer (along with Panthers football, barbecue and the Red Hot Chili Peppers) into the community's belief system."

Coming soon to a parish near me

Episcopal Majority, which describes itself as "a grassroots organization committed to the values and vitality of The Episcopal Church" that works to "neutralize the negative influence of the American Anglican Council (AAC), the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), and related groups" is holding its first national gathering at St. Columba's Church in northwest Washington, D. C. on Friday November 3 and Saturday November 4.

Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles will be the featured speaker on Friday.

An agenda and online registration are here. A statement of pruprose and a partial list of supporters are here. Mark Harris, who I seem to be linking to a lot today, has an excellent post on the importance of the meeting here.

Should Gomez step down?

Mark Harris believes that Drexel Gomez should step down as chair of the working group that the Archbishop of Canterbury has appointed to begin work on an Anglican covenant. He makes a strong argument, and has initiated a lively discussion.

A magisterial dismissal

UPDATED

The Very Rev. Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark, has written a magisterial dismissal of the Kigali statement. (In the eyes of this observer, who, admittedly, didn't think much of the statement to begin with.) It appears in this week's issue of Church Times, and called to my attention by the Pressmail service of St. Matthew's, Westminster. (You can subscribe to pressmail by sending an email to pressmail@stmw.org.) The piece is beneath the continue reading button, but I wanted to call attention to one particular point that Slee makes because it touches on an isue that I have attempted to raise myself:

"Then there is finance. Delegates paid their own fares (what from?) with nothing for accommodation, conference facilities, and resources. Who paid? He who pays the piper calls the tune.

There should be a debate about the dependency of certain Anglican Primates on external financial resourcing, and a call for transparency and accountability. Whoever paid for the conference at Kigali had an agenda that needs examination. Those who benefited need to show that their judgement was unaffected by hospitality.

There is something unpleasant about Christian leaders from the developing nations accepting invisible financial assistance from those who once were their (white) masters, and from whom they have proudly gained independent status as Churches. There is a new colonialism abroad, which shows all the exploitative tendencies of the old in new forms."

Here is a response to Dean Slee's piece from Archbishop Yong Ping Chung. Interesting to see this appear on the Anglican Mainstream site. AM, a British-based group, received $12,000 in funding last year from the American Anglican Council. (That's according to the AAC's IRS Form 990 for 2005.) So, an organization sustained in part by conservative American donors is downplaying the influence of conservative American donors.

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I was afraid of this

Drop in on Beliefnet this evening and you find the headline: Episcopalians May Say No to Weddings. The link leads to this story from G. Jeffrey MacDonald of Religion News Service, which begins: “Episcopal clergy in Massachusetts would give up their centuries-old authority to conduct marriage ceremonies under a new proposal aimed at leveling the playing field for gay couples seeking a church blessing.”

I've already mentioned that I think this is a bad idea, but I didn't discuss this initiative's potential for negative publicity.

The Episcopal Church can, in time, win the debate about same-sex blessings, and eventually, perhaps, the debate about gay marriage if it makes clear its desire to open a cherished institution to a population that has been unfairly denied admission. This is, essentially, a conservative, pro-marriage argument, and it has been embraced by numerous high-profile conservatives, including Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks.

The Episcopal Church will lose the debate about same-sex blessings if it appears to be undermining the institution for political purposes, and it will lose the support of many—perhaps most, of the people in its pews, if it appears to downplay the sacred nature of the lifelong commitment spouses make to one another.

Whatever worthy goals the folks who back this initiative hope to achieve, what they have achieved so far is a headline that reads: Episcopalians May Say No to Weddings. And that hurts.

Panel of Reference speaks

UPDATED
The report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference on the Diocese of New Westminster (Vancouver), which blesses same sex unions, is here. It is an 11-page pdf. The documet is encrypted, so I can't pluck out any highlights.

At first read it seems that the panel has embraced, more or less, the Anglican Church of Canada's existing plan for what they call Shared Episcopal Ministry. This would not seem to be good news for people seeking extra-provincial recognition in any Anglican province, although perhaps I am reading the report too broadly. On the other hand, the panel seems to believe, or wants to believe that the Canadian Church is going to reverse course on same-sex blessings at its next synod, and seems to suggest that if it doesn't these issues might be re-opened.

A lengthier analysis lurks beneath the "continue reading" button.

See also Tobias Haller and Father Jake, who argues that the report is "as close as we're going to get to an official refutation" of the Kigali statement of several weeks ago, calling for an alternative Anglican province in the United States.

The diocese of NW has welcomed the report. The Canadian primate has welcomed it, too. Archbishops Gomez and Venables don't like it. Gomez's statement is closely reasoned and worth reading. Venables' less so. It is worth mentioning that Venables is one of the border crossing primates who comes in for criticism in the report.

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"Daniel" returns

I recenlty received this email from someone who frequented this blog in its previous incarnation:

Hey Jim--

Back in January of this year, I spent hours on your blog--way too many of them, actually--arguing passionately about the television show "The Book Of Daniel."

I don't know if you're aware, but a DVD of the entire series was recently released. The DVD includes all 8 of the episodes (some of which were never televised) as well as deleted scenes. Info can be found here.

Given that the blog was sort of the premiere place on the Internet to discuss the show and the surrounding controversy, I thought you might want to let your readers know about it. :-)

Withholding the sacraments

The Chicago Tribune ran a story yesterday by Manya A. Brachear about a liberal parish in the conversative Diocese of Springfield asking for delegated episcopal oversight.

I read through the piece too quickly and missed what may be the most significant development: Peter Beckwith, the bishop of Springfield, is refusing to confirm any candidates from the parish in question.

The key paragraph: "In November 2005, Bennett contacted Beckwith to ask if he was opposed to confirming a lesbian who wished to join the Church. At that point, Bennett said, the bishop declared he would confirm no one in the parish because 'the faith was not being taught' there."

Am I wrong in thinking that even in these contentious times that this constitues derelection fo episcopal duty? I'm pretty sure that if a liberal bishop refused to confirm someone who disagreed with him on issues of human sexuality, we'd hear about it.

Back to work

My younger son and I have been nursing the same sort of cold these past few days. I am back at my desk now, but he's still on the mend. There have been several developments in the Anglican world while I’ve been sick, and I hope to get to them in due course. But the one that jumped out at me involves a recent speech by the Primate of Wales, the Most Rev. Barry Morgan, who was a member of the Lambeth Commission that authored the Windsor Report.

You can read the entire address here, or read the section regarding the Communion clicking on the continue reading button.

The archbishop is of the opinion that the Episcopal Church has responded constructively to the Windsor Report. His holding this opinion settles nothing, of course, but it is a useful balance to Bishop Tom Wright who has devoted himself to elucidating our perceived failure in this regard.

What struck me about the archbishop's statement, though, wasn't his seeming vote of confidence in the Episcopal Church, but the passage in which he writes:

"I do not know whether the Communion will ultimately hold together or not. If it fractures, it will not be a simple matter of just one province not recognising another but parishes and dioceses within provinces allying themselves with like-minded parishes and dioceses in other provinces. In other words, the fault lines will run through provinces as well as between them. Is that what we really want?"

To which I can only respond: Yes, given the alternatives, I think this may be what I want. It is a better solution (in my unofficial view) than establishing some sort of protectorate for conservative Episcopalians governed by the primate of another province, but still part of the Episcopal Church. It is better than the ongoing feuding that has crippled our ability to do mission. It is better than forcing the capitulation of one side or the other in our deeply divided communion. If each side believes that it is speaking the Word of God, then neither should have any fear of making its case in the marketplace of religious ideas.

A little further on, the archbishop writes: “And what kind of a church will we be, if we only associate with those who think or behave like us or conform to our view of things? No room then for difference or dissidence and what kind of witness to the Gospel is that?”

But I don’t think he’s got this right. There would still be plenty of differences within the communities that resulted from the divisions within the Communion. Just to offer two quick examples, conservatives would have disagreements about the role of women in ordained ministry. On the liberal side, people could even disagree about the wisdom of electing gay bishops. (However, they’d have to agree the election of such a bishop would not be a church-breaking issue.)

I don’t want the Communion to break up, but I am not interested in capitulation or forcing capitulation. Some sort of looser, messier association seems to me the sanest way to get on with our lives in Christ. I am open to persuasion, or course. So have at it.

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Friday Night Lights II

I’ve found another fan of Friday Night Lights the new NBC show on Tuesday nights. Slate has a glowing review today.

Troy Patterson writes: "If you understand that a touchdown is worth six points and have a rough idea of how many feet are in a yard, you should be able to follow the show. If you're interested in thoughtful, low-key riffs on community, Christianity, and youth culture in America, you should love it."

I wrote about the way religion was handled in the first episode last week, and I continue to be impressed. The second episode, which aired last night, began on a Sunday morning with various characters at their various churches. The head cheerleader, whose quarterback-boyfriend has been paralyzed while making a tackle, says a prayer for his heeling while lying on this chest in this hospital room. All of this is handled matter-of-factly, as part of the wharp and woove of everyday life. The series’ creators do not keep their characters at an ironic distance in these moments, and I appreciate that.

In praise of Thinking Anglicans

I am under the weather today, or, more accurately, the weather is on top of me. Fortunately, Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans has a raft of good material available including Inclusive Church's incisive critique of recent doings in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and additional IC responses to the statement of the leaders of the not-all-that-Global South who met recently in Kigali. This one is particularly good.

Faith-based favoritism

The New York Times is in the midst of a four-part series on "how American religious organizations benefit from an increasingly accommodating government." Today's article focuses on how poorly faith-based groups are allowed to treat employees.

Getting out of the marriage business?

Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe has a story that begins:

"In a novel approach to the tensions that have accompanied the same-sex marriage debate in many religious denominations, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts this month will consider getting out of the marriage business.

A group of local Episcopal priests, saying that the gay marriage debate has intensified their longtime concern about acting as agents of the state by officiating at marriages, is proposing that the Episcopal Church adopt a new approach. Any couples qualified to get married under state law could be married by a justice of the peace, and then, if they want a religious imprimatur for their marriage, they could come to the Episcopal Church seeking a blessing from a priest."

I am not ready, and perhaps not qualified, to discuss the theological merits of the argument that these priests are making. But as someone who is always looking for way to get unchurched people to cross the threshold of our churches, can I say that this strikes me as a truly terrible idea? Why should we pursue a strategy that would result in fewer people turning to us at important times in their lives? Why would we want to reduce the number of occasions on which people see us doing the sort of thing that we typically do extremely well?

And while I am reeling off rhetorical questions, would anyone like to bet me that a move like this would be enormously unpopular with the people in our pews, regardless of their views on gay marriage?

(Hat tip to Kendall.)

Two tidbits for Sunday

The Washington Post has a video report on the Blessing of the Animals service held at Washington National Cathedral last week on its homepage. Scroll down a bit and keep your eye on the center of the page.

Meanwhile, Mark Harris has an analysis of recent developments on the Anglican right that is far more ambitious than what I have attempted here.

Asleep at the switch

I missed this development earlier in the week.

Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph reports that "Conservative Anglican leaders are urging the Archbishop of Canterbury to crack down on gay clergy in England or risk a boycott of the 2008 Lambeth Conference."

AAC's leader leaves

Steve Waring of the Living Church has broken this story:

"The Rev. Canon Ellis Brust, chief operating officer of the American Anglican Council (AAC) and one of three candidates in the episcopal election in the Diocese of South Carolina last month, has accepted a call to be executive officer for the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). His wife, Cynthia, director of communications for the AAC, also will join the AMiA as director of communications."

I wonder if the AAC's funders have decided that it has outlived its usefulness. This development suggests some interesting infighting on the Anglican right. The Rev. Brust goes from running for bishop in South Carolina to taking over an organization that is locked in a bitter court battle with the diocese. He moves from the leadership of an organization that made its own distorted noitons of "Windsor compliance" the litmus test for remaiining in the Anglican Communion to the leadership of an organization that has not use for Windsor whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the moderator of the Anglican Communion Network has released this letter, which reads to me like commentary on a debate that I am not privy to.

Open the Window

The October issue of the Washington Window is online. It includes a column on "the sacred bond that we have with animals" by the Rev. Martin L. Smith that you can find beneath the "continue reading" button.

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Subway Series

As some visitors know, I trod that well-worn career path from covering Major League Baseball to working for the Episcopal Church. With a few stops in between. One of those stops was at Beliefnet, where I wrote the column below on the theological significance of the 2000 World Series--the Subway Series, in which the New York Yankees played the New York Mets. As those two teams may meet once again this October, I thought I'd trot this piece out for another spin around the track. It begins:

All right-thinking individuals will acknowledge that the meeting of the Yankees and the Mets in the 2000 World Series was ordained by God before the dawn of time. Indeed, the game of baseball, the New York City transit system, and Bob Costas--though they have served well in other, unrelated capacities--were called into being solely to play their parts in the grand allegory that unfolded in the last ten days.

Click to keep reading.

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Surfing

Father Matthew of St. Paul's Church in Yonkers has ventured out onto YouTube with some entertaining results. Meanwhile, the Rev. Ken Howard, rector of St. Nicholas Church in Darnestown, MD, has started a blog called Curb your Dogma. And the Rev. Michael Hopkins, formerly of our diocese, has a new blog, From Glory into Glory, which includes an excellent sermon "The Primates or 'the mikros.'"

Standing Up for the MDGs

The latest from the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

On Sunday, October 15, Episcopalians have an opportunity to help set a new Guinness World Record by standing up against global poverty and supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

What is STAND UP?
Launched by the Millennium Campaign, STAND UP is an innovative and exciting challenge to set an official Guinness World Record - the greatest number of people ever to STAND UP Against Poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals - on October 15-16, 2006. STAND up is supported by the ONE Campaign, the Episcopal Church, and other anti-poverty advocates, and is designed to raise public awareness of global poverty and the MDGs. To learn more, click here: http://standagainstpoverty.org.

Click on contnue to keep reading.

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Friday Night Lights

A new television show, based loosely on Buzz Bissinger's marvelous book, made its debut on NBC last night. I thought Friday Night Lights was pretty good, except for the clichéd outcome of the big game. I am calling it to your attention, though, because it featured some of the few instances in which I've heard people pray on a prime time television show. Players recited most of the Lord's Prayer in one scene, and a star halfback offered an extemporaneous prayer for the healing of an injured teammate in another. Add to this mix the question that a Pop Warner player asks the team's star quarterback--Do you think God likes football?--and you've got an episode that takes seriously the role of faith in people's everyday lives. I am eager to see whether this theme is sustained.

St. Francis of Assisi

This reflection comes from the daily readings in the spirituality section of our diocesan Web site:

Perhaps the most sensitive and most deeply rooted spiritual challenge faced by affluent North Americans who wish to claim Francis as a spiritual guide is the question of private property. There is no “mine” from Francis’s perspective. That Francis divested himself of all his property and all his belongings was the bedrock of his spirituality. His total divestment, in turn, invites total detachment for those of us who seek genuinely to emulate Francis. What property and assets we own we do not own. We hold them in trust, for the sake of the poor. What’s mine, in a word, is not mine. I hold it not for the sake of status and worldly security, but in trust, in the spirit of Francis, for the sake of the poor.

If we choose to make the commitment to let go of the power that goes with our wealth, that commitment will mean at least four things. First, we who aspire to claim Francis as our spiritual guide must also claim the practice of philanthropy as our most important fiscal priority. The first thing we do when a check comes in will be to set aside some generous percentage of that amount to be donated directly or, probably better, indirectly, through agencies that do these things effectively, to minister to the poor of this world.

From "The Spirituality of Nature and the Poor: Revisiting the Historic Vision of St. Francis" by H. Paul Santmire, in Tending the Holy: Spiritual Direction Across Traditions, edited by Norvene Vest. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing.

Filipino bishop murdered

Matthew Davies of Episcopal News Service has the story:

Bishop Alberto Ramento of Tarlac in the Philippines, former Prime Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, or Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), was found stabbed to death at his rectory on the morning of October 3.

The initial police report said that he may have been killed by robbers, but others suspect Ramento, an outspoken critic of the Philippine government, could have been the victim of a political killing, the Manila Times reported.

Click continue reading to see it all.

Mark Harris has this commentary, and the Mad Priest has some background.

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Money and (church) politics

The Washington Post has a front page story today about "outside groups" with commercial and ideological agendas shoveling unprecedented amounts of money into closely contested elections.


I mention this not to make a point about campaign finance reform, but to point out that pieces of this nature are a commonplace of political journalism. The premise is that you can learn a lot about candidates by examining the list of their financial supporters. This particular piece also raises another question: Is the democratic process distorted when a candidate owes more to wealthy individuals and organizations outside his or her district than to the voters within?

The same issues are worth examining in church politics. So if you haven't read Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right, give it a look. It is useful to know that the people who fund the American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy are also the people funding the drive to teach creationism in the schools, to deny that human activity plays a role in global warming, to roll back minimum wage laws and a host of other causes dear to movement conservatives. It is also useful to consider the future of our faith communities if wealthy individuals and organizations with no connection to these communities continue to exercise significant financial influence in internal church disputes.

San Joaquin contemplates secession

The Diocese of San Joaquin will consider legislation at its convention in December to "transfer all relationships and communion from ECUSA to an Anglican Province to be determined at a Special Convention called by the Bishop of San Joaquin."

Click on "continue reading" to see the full story from Episcopal News Service.

Speaking only for myself (not as a diocesan mouthpiece): I support people who cannot in good conscience remain within the Episcopal Church finding other homes within the Anglican Communion. I support negotiated settlements on property issues. But this move seems unnecessarily confrontational to me. In fact, it seems designed to push issues of authority and ownership beyond negotiation and into either ecclesiastical or civil courts. Because if a diocese acts as though it can secceed, and the Church does nothing to stop it, then, in effect, the Church has conceeded the point. And this is true no matter how many times we reiterate in our official materials that: "Under the canons of the Episcopal Church, dioceses are designated and recognized by the General Convention."

While we are considering this issue, there is one point that I wish those eager to leave the Church would clear up for me. Where, to your way of thinking, does final ecclesiological authority rest? If push comes to shove between Communion and province, or province and diocese, or diocese and congregation, which unit has the greatest legitimacy? At the moment, the answer seems to shift with your majority, and that makes it difficult to know your mind.

Update: Mark Harris examines this issue in detail, and I mean detail, here.

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The Rev. Sanford Garner has died

The Rev. Sanford Garner, Jr., who served 17 years as the rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, one of our largest parishes, has died. The Washington Post's obituary is here. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress called him "a model of how important a priest can be in the modern world."

Confirmation received

Update: Turns out Bishop Lee has offered Minns a license to continue as "priest-in-charge," not rector at Truro. The license would require him to abide by the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, which, seemingly, would prevent him from performing episcopal acts in Episcopal dioceses unless invited by the diocesan bishop. At least that is my read.

Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia has indeed licensed the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns to remain as rector of Truro Church until January 1. Minns is a bishop in the Church of Nigeria.

Representing constituencies of one

Update: Turns out the quotation below is from the Rev. Jonathan Jennings, press secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It ended up in my e-mailbox courtesy of the folks who monitor the British press at St. Matthew's, Westminster in London. You can find a story about it on the Living Church's Web site.

The quote:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury was not involved in the organisation of the Texas meeting and the Bishops of Durham and Winchester did not attend at his request. Once they had been invited by the organizers they sought his consent to become involved in these discussions. This was discussed in the context of other initiatives and of the statements publicly made by the Archbishops since the General Convention, and consent was given to their participation in their own right in the Texas meeting."

I was glad to see this statement. We have a tendency in this country to treat any Christian with airfare and an English accent as a spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Particularly when we like what said Christian has to say.

A step toward totalitarianism?

Garrison Keillor is in a feisty mood. Here's some of what he has to say:

I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for "Homegrown Democrat," but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics -- I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?

The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise, so why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing just fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?

Not ready for prime time

If you visit the blog much, you know that I am under the illusion that I have something useful to say about youth sports. Almost thirty years ago, I covered the Little League World Series, as an intern at Newsday, and while I enjoyed it then, I am uneasy about what it has become. I am uneasy for similar reasons about the media's growing fascination with ranking high school sports teams. Alissa Quart, author of Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child has written an op-ed piece in today's New York Times that articulates my principal concerns. An excerpt:

"Youth competitions can certainly have positive effects. They can expand children’s social worlds, make them feel less isolated and give them a sense of mastery and discipline. But when TV cameras are added to the mix, the stakes can change. At televised competitions, I have seen children turn their faces away from the cameras so that their tears wouldn’t be visible — the pathos of the losers when forced to confront the winners being filmed. Even some of the winners responded with self-consciousness. Watching this happen in real time convinced me that high school football games, spelling bees and other pageants and competitions of youth should be witnessed in actual fields, halls and stadiums rather than on television sets. "

Harvesting intolerance

Stephen Bates has writen a commentary on the Kigali statement on the Guardian's blog.

An excerpt:

"The Kigali statement was rich in self-righteousness and has rightly been picked apart as schismatic in an editorial in last Friday's Church Times. It indeed mentioned the Rwanda genocide of 12 years ago, though without reflecting that it was the result of inter-tribal intolerance and bigotry, and then went on to expatiate at length about homosexuality and the shortcomings of the US church.

Curiously, the primates found no time whatever to address shortcomings much nearer to home, such as the corruption of the Anglican church in Central Africa and particularly the weird and deranged behaviour of the Bishop of Harare, charged by his own congregation with expropriating land, embezzling funds and, most extraordinary of all, inciting the murder of his opponents. Recently, the good bishop even ordered all churches within his diocese to devote their Sunday offerings to buying him and his wife 33rd wedding anniversary presents, rather than devoting their hard-earned money to more worthwhile and, one might have thought, urgent causes. But there we are, everyday life in the ever-so righteous Anglican church in Africa.

They must hope that even the most fervent or purblind conservative evangelicals in the rest of the world will ignore or overlook such minor peccadilloes in their pursuit of the much greater wickedness of those members of the church who wish to bless the long-term, monogamous and loving commitment of same-sex couples who, in the face of all provocation, actually wish to remain members of such an institutionally homophobic church as the Anglican communion has become.

There aren't any Church of England conservatives flying out, I notice, to raise their voices against the outrageous actions of the Rt Rev Dr Nolbert Kunonga of Harare, or to offer their outspoken support to his poor, benighted parishioners. Or to call for him to be thrown out of the church like the Americans and Canadians. It is all much too difficult and much less agreeable than accepting free trips to be feted by the conservative dissidents of the US Episcopal church."

The piece also mentions a sermon delivered yesterday at Southwark Cathedral by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, which you can find here.

Wishes and horses

Tobias Haller's latest is not to be missed.

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