God Bless the LC

From The Living Church:

An online calendar designed by the Diocese of Washington in part to help parents teach their children about Advent becomes active Dec. 1. In addition to the calendar there are other Advent-related activities available at the site for children.

Read it all.

San Joaquin steps back (updated twice)

UPDATE: Some bloggers and commenters have suggested that in the story below, the AP may have misinterpreted the most recent letter between Bishops Schofield and Jefferts Schori. I've looked into this in some detail, and I can say that that wasn't the case. The most recent story on the situation is here. It includes this:

" 'Instead of declaring that we're on our way to this or that province, it says we recognize and declare that we're Anglican,' said the Rev. Van McCalister, a spokesman for the diocese, which covers a wide swath of Central California. Amendments can be made during the meeting."

The language that will be put before the conventions is as follows: The Diocese of San Joaquin is constituted by the Faith, Order, and Practice of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as received by the Anglican Communion. The Diocese shall be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and in full communion with the See of Canterbury.

So, I think this bears out the story below.

Breaking news from AP:

NEW YORK — Episcopal leaders offered conservatives more independence from the national church Thursday, as a California diocese quietly backed down from its threat of a swift break with the denomination.

The Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, made the change as it came under pressure from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her advisers to ease off a proposal to leave.

A spokesman for the Diocese of San Joaquin, the Rev. Van McCalister, would not elaborate Thursday on why his diocese changed course on breaking away. Two weeks ago, Jefferts Schori told San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield in a public letter that leaving would put "many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence" and was akin to violating his ordination vows.

Read it all here.

Initial reaction

The statement from Bishop Jefferts Schori, et. al. today regarding alternative oversight strikes me as a promising development.

I believe that the divisions in the Anglican Communion are pervasive, rather than province-specific. Every jurisdiction in the Communion will sooner or later have to either repress or make accommodations for theological minorities. It seems to me preferable to work toward such accommodations within the existing provincial structure, if that is possible, rather than staging a "devil take the hindmost" scramble that might result in global realignment, but might also result in some of our smaller, poorer provinces collapsing or falling under the control of secular rulers, powerful donors, etc. This proposal suggests how the Communion might move in that direction.

Elsewhere: Sarah Dylan Breuer has a thoughtful response, and Integrity's release makes the salient point that the secretary general of the Anglican Communion was involved in the meeting that produced this proposal.

Diagnostic breakthrough

by Tobias, the physician.

Bishops develop proposal responding to 'Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury'

From Episcopal News Service

A group of bishops, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has developed a proposal responding to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury" addressing what other petitioning bishops and dioceses have termed "alternative primatial oversight" or "alternative primatial relationship." Full texts of the group's response and accompanying statement follow here.

A Response to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury"

Some bishops and dioceses of the Episcopal Church have requested that the Archbishop of Canterbury provide what they have variously called "alternative primatial oversight" or an "alternative primatial relationship." In consultation with the Presiding Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed that a number of bishops from the Episcopal Church meet to explore a way forward. A first meeting took place in September, and a second meeting in November developed the following proposal that seeks to address the concerns of those parishes and dioceses which for serious theological reasons feel a need for space, and to encourage them to remain within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

1. Taking seriously the concerns of the petitioning bishops and dioceses, the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, will appoint a Primatial Vicar in episcopal orders to serve as the Presiding Bishop’s designated pastor in such dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could preside at consecrations of bishops in these dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could also serve the dioceses involved on any other appropriate matters either at the initiative of the Presiding Bishop or at the request of the petitioning dioceses.

2. The Primatial Vicar would be accountable to the Presiding Bishop and would report to an Advisory Panel that would consist of the designee of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop’s designee, a bishop of The Episcopal Church selected by the petitioning dioceses, and the President of the House of Deputies (or designee).

3. This arrangement for a Primatial Vicar does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate, when appropriate, some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

4. Individual congregations who dissent from the decisions of their diocesan leadership are reminded of the availability of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight and its process of appeal.

5. This arrangement is provisional in nature, in effect for three years, beginning January 1, 2007. During that time, the Presiding Bishop is asked to monitor its efficacy and to consult with the House of Bishops and the Executive Council regarding this arrangement and possible future developments.

Statement

A group of bishops, including the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, gathered at the initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has developed a proposal for the appointment of a Primatial Vicar in response to those bishops and dioceses that have requested what they termed "alternative primatial oversight" or an "alternative primatial relationship."

Those present at the September meeting, in addition to Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori, included Bishops Peter James Lee of Virginia, and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida, as co-conveners, and Bishops James Stanton of Dallas, Edward Salmon of South Carolina, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, Robert O’Neill of Colorado, and Mark Sisk of New York. Bishop Don Wimberly of Texas was invited but did not attend. The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion was also present at the September meeting.

The same bishops and Canon Kearon were invited to the November meeting with the exception of Bishop Griswold who had completed his tenure as Presiding Bishop. Bishop Don Johnson of West Tennessee joined the group in November. Bishops Salmon, Stanton, Iker, Duncan and Wimberly did not attend the November meeting. Bishop Lipscomb, who had been involved in the planning of the meeting, was unexpectedly hospitalized at the time of the November meeting, sent his sincere regrets, and was briefed on the meeting at its conclusion.

The proposal provides for the appointment by the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury of a Primatial Vicar as the Presiding Bishop’s designated pastor to bishops and dioceses that have requested such oversight. The Primatial Vicar, in episcopal orders, could preside at consecrations of bishops in those dioceses. The Primatial Vicar, accountable to the Presiding Bishop, would report to an advisory panel that would include the designees of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, and a bishop of the Episcopal Church selected by the dioceses petitioning for pastoral care by the Primatial Vicar.

The response makes clear that the arrangement does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The response also specifies that the Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

The response drafted at the New York November 27th meeting is provisional in nature, beginning January 1, 2007 and continuing for three years. The New York group asked the Presiding Bishop to monitor its efficacy, and to consult with the House of Bishops and the Executive Council regarding the arrangement and possible future developments.

The response has been submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the bishops of the petitioning dioceses.

Bishop Lee of Virginia, co-convenor of the meetings that drafted the response said: "The group was conscious of the need to respond quickly to the needs of parishes and dioceses which felt themselves to be under pressure and sought a proposal which could be put into place without delay. Accordingly, this is a provisional measure that is entirely within the discretion of the Presiding Bishop and requires no canonical change nor any action by the General Convention. It is intended to provide some space for dioceses and congregations that feel they need it while the Anglican Communion sorts out more lasting measures to deal with differences. Those of us who drafted it hope it will be received and used in good faith."

Predictably negative reactions here and here.

Thanks, again

I wanted to thank everyone who has visited our Web site since last December 1. For the first time in any 12-month period, we've had over 1 million visitors and over 2.5 million "page views." I haven't done the research yet, but I believe that's an increase of more than 300 percent over any previous 12-month period.

If you are new to the site and unfamiliar with some of our resources, please look in on the Spirituality section, especially the audio visual meditations. Have a look at the diocesan movie, and the diocesan newspaper, and our online Advent calendar. If you are trying to get up to speed on the Anglican controversy, have a look at Following the Money.

We'd love to have you join us some Sunday morning, or any time, really. So if you live in Washington, or suburban Maryland, and are looking for a church home, please visit our Find a Church page and, um, find a church. (If you don't live near D.C., you can find a church here.)

Thanks again for visiting, and if you would like to support our work with a contribution, please give to the Bishop's Appeal.

Saint Dorothy Day

She didn't want to be canonized, as paxpdx at Street Prophets points out. Today is the 26th anniversary of her death. If you ever get a chance to read her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, pick it up. William Miller's biography is also good. The homepages of her movement, The Catholic Worker, is here and here.

Bishop Schofield responds

Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin has responded to a letter from our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. If youare just catching up with this story, the backgrond is here.

Please consider...

...including our online Advent calendar in your daily devotions this December.

The final adventure...

...of the 2006 St. Andrew's Boys Cross Country team is here. The state champs are pictured here. Both girls squads won state championships as well.

An open letter on alternative primatial oversight

Drop in here to read an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury critiquing recent requests for alternative primatial oversight by seven or eight dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

The letter, which was mailed to Archbishop Rowan Williams some two weeks ago, is from the Consultation Steering Committee, a network that includes representatives from Integrity, the Episcopal Urban Caucus, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Episcopal Women's Caucus, the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Episcopal Church Publishing Company, among others.

It was erroneously reported on the House of Bishops and Deputies email list, and on several conservative blogs that the letter was "from" the Diocese of Washington. That isn't the case. We are hosting it on our Web server because our bishop believes it is a worthwhile contribution to the debate about the future of our Communion, but we had no role in producing the letter, and haven't taken an official position on its contents.

Give it a read and tell me what you make of it.

Increments

I once worked in a suburban bureau of The Washington Post. One of the challenges reporters in such positions face is how frequently to report on incremental developments in ongoing stories. Write too frequently and you bore your audience with what they might consider minutiae. Write too infrequently and you lose readers to community newspapers for whom these incremental developments sometimes constitute a major story.

I am beginning to feel similarly about developments in the saga of the Anglican Communion. I know some of you visit to keep up with every twist and turn. This is the blog’s bread and butter. But sometimes it seems to me that all we do is twist and turn without ever moving forward. And chronicling such pseudo-developments becomes tedious. Today’s story is that the bishops of Pittsburgh and Forth Worth have refused an invitation from the bishop of Virginia to attend another meeting about alternative primatial oversight in New York. You can read Bishop Iker’s letter to Bishop Lee, here.

Is this significant? I am not sure. Since becoming our presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori has said that if push comes to shove, she will fight to uphold the constitutions and canons of our church. Her statements of resolve have now been met by statements of resolve on the part of those bishops who are eager for alternative primatial oversight. I emphasize the word “statements” because nobody has actually had to demonstrate any resolve yet.

Does this advance the story much? You tell me. I have some thoughts (but no inside information) of how the various actors intend to play their hands in the months ahead, but I don’t have the time to flesh them out this morning. I hope to come back to this, and to the Radner-Goddard piece I mentioned yesterday at a later date.

Meanwhile, Tobias and Mark are worth reading today.

Update: Lionel is worth reading, too.

It is to laugh

Go here now.

Putting animals on the theological agenda

An intriguing press release from England begins:

"More than 40 theologians - out of 100 academics from 10 countries - have agreed to become Advisers to the new Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics – to be launched online on Monday (27 November) at www.oxfordanimalethics.com - which aims to put animals on the intellectual agenda.

The Centre is the world’s first academy dedicated to the enhancement of the ethical status of animals through academic publication, teaching and research. Academics world-wide from both the sciences and the humanities will be eligible to become Fellows of the Centre. It will act as an international, independent think tank for the advancement of progressive thought about animals."

To read the entire release click "continue reading."

Read more »

Anglican news round-up

While I have been occupied with the business of the League of Language Cranks (look two items downblog) the wheels of Anglican disputation have continued to grind.

Father Jake has news about some of Bishop John-David Schofield's recent presentations in the Diocese of San Joaquin. There is new information there regarding the plans of the Network and its allies in Africa and Southeast Asia. New information has also emerged regarding what strikes me as a very generous offer regarding alternative primatial oversight that was made by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, but rejected by Bishop Jack Iker.

Simon Sarmiento has gathered together several reports and op-ed pieces from the rightward leaning Telegraph advancing speculation that the Most. Rev. Rowan Williams will step down as the Archbishop of Canterbury after the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

The Times of London favors John Sentamu, the Archibshop of York as his replacement--tomorrow if possible.

On their editorial pages, both the Times and the Telegraph are hostile to Williams, so it is difficult to judge from this distance, how seriously to take this speculation. Had Jonathan Petre's name appeared on one of the Telegraph stories, I'd take the news more seriously.

For a brisk lesson in how the conservative British press has made Archbishop Williams' life miserable, have a look at Andrew Brown's recent analysis in the Church Times.

Meanwhile, members of Fulcrum in the UK have published two signficant articles, one on recent activities in Northern Virginia, and the other entitled "Human Rights, Homosexuality and the Anglican Communion: Reflections in Light of Nigeria" which comments on Bishop John Bryson Chane's op-ed piece on the same subject that appeared in the Washington Post nine months ago. (And which you can read by clicking on the "continue reading" line below.)

We will be returning to the latter of these Fulcrum pieces in the near future, so give it a read. You may also want to tune in on the conversation over at Stand Firm.

Read more »

Father Calciu, RIP

Yesterday's Washington Post brought news that the Rev. Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa had died at age 80. Father Calciu was a Romanian Orthodox priest, and a staunch anti-communist, who endured 21 years in prison, but was allowed to immigrate to the United States in 1985. When Romania rose up against Communism four years later, the Post sent me to Bailey's Cross Roads, in suburban Virginia, to interview him. To read that piece, clilck on "continue reading."

Read more »

The LLC forms the SPDA

After a few days off I like to jump right in with a hard-hitting look at one of the pressing issues of the day. In that spirit, I pass along this press release:

The League of Language Cranks (LLC) today announced the formation of the Society for the Preservation of Definite Articles (SPDA.)

LLC founder Jim Naughton said the word “the” was among the most endangered in the English language.

“I am constantly hearing people use the expression ‘in future,’ said Naughton, who is also the society’s temporary chair and the league’s sole member. “Future is not a proper noun. It is not Christmas. It is not Luxembourg. It requires an article.”

Naughton said he was particularly distressed by the neglect of definitive articles among the younger set. “Take ‘prom,’ he said. “It used to be the prom, a definite article for a definite event. Now it’s just prom. ‘We are going to Prom.’ Apocalypse takes a definite article, but prom goes unmodified.”

“Next thing you know, it will be a verb,” he warned

Scholars have hypothesized that the decline in the use of definite articles is caused by contemporary speakers’ desire for economy of expression.

“Nonsense,” Naughton said. “I blame the British. These innovations always begin with them. In future. In hospital. On holiday. Sometimes I just want to run up to them shouting “The.The.The.The.The.The.The.”

Naughton said the SPDA platform allowed for the incorporation of certain British expressions into American speech, but expressed a preference for “such phrases as are frequently used by rural constabularies on British detective shows.”

“I am particularly fond of ‘That’s as may be,’ he added.

The SPDA has attempted to recruit partners for a massive public awareness campaign, but thus far without success. Leading newspaper publishers, citing cost concerns, have declined to print definite articles in red ink, and Ebay has rejected Naughton’s suggestion that it feature the word “the” rather than “it” in its popular television commercials.

“What we’d really like to do is sponsor a college bowl game,” Naughton said. “Either The Bowl, or The The Bowl. But we don’t have that kind of cash.”

With his education campaign at a standstill, the SPDA leader was evasive about whether the group might seek a legislative remedy.

“We have no such plans,” Naughton said. “At present.”

Thank who?

I wrote this column seven or eight years ago for Beliefnet.com. Happy Thanksgiving from the Diocese of Washington.

A few years ago, while I was on an academic fellowship, my family and I spent Thanksgiving with other fellows and their families. In religious terms, we were a mixed bunch: Christians, Unitarians, Jews, agnostics, and atheists.
A multi-religious dinner table always presents a bit of a problem when it is time to say the grace before meals. But Thanksgiving presents a particularly sticky situation, because it is the one occasion on which even the irreligious feel that some sort of invocation should be made. But who, or what, should we invoke?

After several minutes of communal hemming and hawing, one of the braver of our number delivered a prayer to the earth, thanking it for its bounty and seeking its forgiveness for our environmental sins. In all, it sounded more Green Party than pagan. Having crossed that hastily improvised bridge, we tucked into our feast.

But the moment stayed with me, for it illustrated what a peculiar, not to mention sneaky, holiday we were celebrating.

Thanksgiving is not a purely civic holiday like Memorial Day or Independence Day, although we are, in part, celebrating the fortitude of our Pilgrim forebears. Nor, like Christmas or Passover, does it come freighted with the content of a particular faith. Rather, Thanksgiving straddles these two categories; it is civic and religious. To paraphrase Jesus, Thanksgiving gives both to Caesar and to God.

In doing so, it discomfits believer and unbeliever equally. For giving thanks assumes the existence of one (One?) who deserves our gratitude--anathema to atheists. But giving thanks as a nation assumes that we stand before God as citizens of a country, as well as members of a faith. And that should offend anyone who believes that salvation flows from the church and not from the state.

Thanksgiving, in other words, assumes the existence of something that doesn't exist: an American faith.

On these grounds, I suppose one could argue that this holiday violates the establishment clause of the Constitution. I leave that task for some particularly dogmatic member of Americans for the Separation of Church and State. What interests me is the ubiquity of gratitude, the understanding, even among witnessing atheists, that it is important to be grateful for our good fortune.

For me, the desire to give thanks is evidence, at a minimum, that human beings are innately religious. The theologian Karl Rahner wrote that there is a "God-shaped hole" in every one of us. With Rahner, I believe that it is God who put it there.

You can take that argument or leave it. But if you leave it, help me to understand why we experience this particular species of gratitude. I'm not talking about the kind of gratitude we feel toward someone who has done us a favor. I mean the sort of global gratitude inspired by gifts we could not have known enough to ask for, or the kind we feel when matters beyond our control end well for us.

Who do you thank for your sweetheart's brown eyes; for growing up where it snows (or doesn't); for being alive at the same time as Bruce Springsteen; or for seeing your children born into a country that is prosperous and at peace?

You might argue that there is no one to be thanked. Maybe all our purported blessings are a matter of random chance. Perhaps the desire to extend gratitude beyond the human is an evolutionary glitch--a useful social trait that got too big for its britches.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps we awaken one day and realize that we are not now, and have never been, masters of our own destinies; that our successes were not entirely of our own making; that our souls magnify the Lord, whether we like it or not.

Again, you can take this argument or leave it. It is easier to believe in chance than in grace. Chance requires nothing from us. In fact, if life is a succession of random events, than any response to good fortune is superfluous.

Grace is different. In receiving grace, we are challenged to become channels of grace. This is more than a matter of a few good deeds (although those help); it is an invitation to place one's self in God's hands, and devote one's self toward what we perceive as God's ends.

Thanksgiving, then, is a call to action: a gentle poke to awaken our collective conscience from its postprandial slumber. To whom much is given, etc. etc.

In a county as religiously diverse as ours, we may never be able to express our gratitude in words that are acceptable to everyone. Fortunately, deeds work even better.

Clarifying our intentions

I am open to the amicable separation of dissenting congregations from the Episcopal Church. And I am open—post separation—to congregations in our church aligning themselves with other provinces in the Communion, so long as theological minorities in other provinces are accorded similar rights. And I am eager to move in the direction of resolution as quickly as possible because I believe the anxiety that attends our current crisis is detrimental to the health of our Church.

But if separation is attempted through confrontation rather than negotiation, if rights are asserted by parties who do not possess them, then I think the Church has to respond aggressively, or risk anarchy. For that reason, I was pleased to read the letter Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori released yesterday to Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin (whose relevant etter is here.)

In this letter, Bishop Jefferts Schori makes a single, unremarkable point: The Episcopal Church intends to adhere to its constitution and canons. That this statement produced such relief on the left and anger on the right (see the appropriate blogs for a sampling) indicates that the Church had previously done a poor job of communicating its resolve.

For more than three years, the Church’s internal and external opponents have behaved as though in consecrating Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Church forfeited the right to enforce its own rules. Bishop Jefferts Schori has made it clear that this is not the case.

I think the presiding bishop’s letter will allay the anxiety of the majority of the Episcopal faithful, who may have wondered whether the Church’s leaders had spine sufficient to respond to a direct challenge.

I would like to believe that Bishop Schofield would now step back from the reckless course he has chosen and open negotiations with the presiding bishop on an amicable, honorable departure. This situation needn't escalate, as more judicious conservative leaders, who have chosen a less confrontational course, are well aware.

Surf's up

Surfing the Anglican blogosphere today, I found an excellent analysis of recent developments in the Communion by Mark Harris, and a charming yet trenchant essay on Anglican Dream-Church Syndrome (ADCS) at Anglicans Online.

Presiding Bishop urges Schofield to "consider the consequences"

ENS is reporting that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has sent the following letter to Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin. (Background info is available here.)

My dear brother:

I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." I must strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care.

I certainly understand that you personally disagree with decisions by General Conventions over the past 30 and more years. You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity.

As you contemplate this action I would also remind you of the trust which you and I both hold for those who have come before and those who will come after us. None of us has received the property held by the Church today to use as we will. We have received it as stewards, for those who enjoy it today and those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future. Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forebears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation.

The Church will endure whatever decision you make in San Joaquin. The people who are its members, however, will suffer in the midst of this conflict, and probably suffer unnecessarily. Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, but not in the service of division and antagonism. He calls us to take up our crosses in his service of reconciling the world to God. Would that you might lead the people of San Joaquin toward decisions that build up the Body, that bring abundant life to those within and beyond our Church, that restore us to oneness.

I stand ready for conversation and reconciliation. May God bless your deliberation.

I remain

Your servant in Christ,

+Katharine

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate

What Paul Meant

Richard Wrightman Fox reviews Garry Wills' new book on St. Paul today on Slate. An excerpt:

One wonders how receptive 21st-century liberal Christians will prove when offered a portrait of Paul as the loyal preinstitutional follower of Jesus, preaching charity for the poor and love of God and neighbor. The last two centuries of American Christian history show how concertedly many liberals have clung to images of orthodox archfoes—especially the first-century Paul and the 18th-century Jonathan Edwards—as convenient targets for dismissal. Edwards' sermon on "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is read in isolation from his rhapsodic hymns to the love between God and believer, then trotted out to make liberals feel liberated from their pinched, judgmental forebears. The same goes for Paul's alleged preoccupation with church rules, sin, guilt, celibacy, and the denigration of women.

Hot stove league

The Times of London is reporting that Pope Benedict XVI is "drawing up plans to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church."

"Pope Benedict XVI is keen to reach out to conservative Anglicans who have been antagonised by their church’s stance on women priests and homosexuality," writes Christopher Morgan. "Senior Vatican figures are understood to have drawn up a dossier on the most effective means of attracting disenchanted Anglicans."

If the pope thinks that a majority of disaffected Anglicans are of the Anglo-Catholic, rather than the Evangelical variety, I think he's getting bad intelligence.

That said, I heartily endorse his effort. Let's trade dissidents. Just give us time to build churches for the millions of Catholics who agree with the Episcopal Church, rather than their own magisterium, on the issues of birth control, priestly celibacy, women's ordination, etc.

PB in the NYT

The interview with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori mentioned a few items downblog is here.

The weekend

My wife and I thought Stranger than Fiction was much better than the reviewers did. That may be because we would pay to hear Emma Thompson read meatloaf recipes. And Helen Mirren is not to be missed in the new (and final) Prime Suspect on Sunday night on PBS.

For your weekend reading, can I suggest this column by Martin L. Smith. It is about finding a "spirituality of shopping," and seems appropriate to the season.

Rowan on the convenant, etc.

Church Times has an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury on his upcoming meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. It is well worth reading in its entirely, but I want to highlight one passage.

I may be guilty of finding only what I am looking for in the archbishop's words, but that said, I don't think he's given much encouragement to people who want the Episcopal and Canadian churches tossed out of the Communion. In fact, I think that for the near term, that ship has sailed. It may return at the conclusion of the covenant drafting process, and we may be faced with the choice of swallowing our principles to retain our membership, but, again, in the near term, I think the notion that we will be anything other than full members of the Anglican Communion has no basis.

CT: The Anglican Church has acquired a reputation in some quarters of being un-unifiable with. . .

RW: [The question] who are you talking to? That’s right. And I never quite know how to answer that. I have a very strong commitment to the idea that the essential identity and unity of the Church just is the sort of sacramental givenness of the eucharist and the ministry, and if you want to know who you’re discussing or negotiating with, that’s who: the community around the bishop and the sacrament.

But I know that that’s not quite enough, because how people understand that varies. Not every bit of the Anglican spectrum would assume that that’s the central point. So, yes, it’s harder than it was — which is one reason why I think something like the Covenant proposal needs to be under discussion.

The reason I’ve given such support as I have to the Covenant as an idea is, it just seems to me a natural vehicle for autonomous Churches to make voluntary, corporate commitments to each other, and say, “This, at least, is how we recognise each other.” And that may help other Church recognise Anglicans.

CT: But the problem with the Covenant is that you need a degree of friendship from both sides: people can volunteer to be part of the group, but if the group doesn’t want to accept them . . .

RW: That’s right. It’s got to be an opt-in thing.

CT: But who’s the gatekeeper?

RW: I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. We haven’t got a very clear answer to that. It could be me, but I don’t think that it’s either sensible or theologically defensible to have an individual whose relation to the Communion is a contingent historical one having that kind of sole authority. I would like to see a more conciliar structure — which we haven’t quite got: the Primates’ Meeting isn’t quite it, the Lambeth Conference isn’t quite it, and the Anglican Consultative Council isn’t quite it.

CT: The problem with any conciliar structure is that it’s open to manipulation and lobbying.

RW: So are individuals. Archbishops are fairly open to manipulation and lobbying. I’m sure I remember reading Church Times articles on the subject.

PB in NYT, says ENS

Episcopal News Service is reporting that an interview with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori may be appearing in The New York Times Magazine this Sunday. If it does, you will find it here. My guess is that it would be the "Questions for..." feature usually done by Deborah Solomon.

Washington area Episcopalians prominent in Post's new On Faith feature

Newsweek and The Washington Post this week launched a new Web-based conversation on religion called On Faith. A number of prominent panelists have agreed to respond weekly (more or less) to a question posed by hosts Jon Meachem and Sally Quinn.

This week's question: If some religious people believe they have a monopoly on truth, then are conversation and common ground possible? If so, what would be the difficulties and benefits of such a conversation?

I like this new feature already because so many Episcopalians, local and otherwise are included on the panel.

Panelists include: Bishop John Bryson Chane, Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, the Rev. Luis Leon of St. John's, Lafayette Square, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd, III, dean of Washington National Cathedral and the Rev. William Tully, rector of St. Bartholomew's in New York, who is still remembered fondly by his former parishioners at St. Columba's in DC.

Mohammed Khatami is also on the panel. Someone had better alert Bishops John Lipscomb, Edward Little and Geralyn Wolf. After raising such a ruckus about Khatami's invitation to speak at Washington National Cathedral back in September, they were silent when Khatami met with the Archbishop of Canterbury two weeks ago, and I'd hate for them to miss another opportunity to express their concerns. People might begin to think that they were grandstanding back in September, and that would be deeply unfortunate.

Rowan and the women

Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans has coverage of a controversy regarding an interview in which a British Catholic newspaper says the Most. Rev. Rowan Williams expressed some misgivings about women's ordination. Williams, in a statement, says he did no such thing. The British press has had a field day.
I haven't had a chance to read any of this yet. But I can tell you that it is a press secretary's nightmare.

Who should decide the future of the Anglican family?

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of the Church of Southern Africa has given a major address on "Finding the Heartlands of Anglicanism." A press release from the archbishop's office is below. The full text is available beneath the keep reading button.

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has called for a global Anglican gathering that is “much more representative than the Lambeth Conference” to explore the current challenges facing the Anglican Communion.

“The future of our Anglican family is far too important to be left just to Bishops, even meeting in the breadth of the Lambeth Conference,” Archbishop Ndungane said during a Roundtable - Finding the Heartlands of Anglicanism at Trinity Theological College in Melbourne, Australia on Thursday 16th 2006.

“If we are to take the radical step of pursuing a Covenant, I would like this process to be owned and driven by the widest possible representation of the church.

Archbishop Ndungane warns that sidelining laity, including women and young people and parish clergy from critical church decisions runs against the essence of “authentic, orthodox, Anglican self-understanding.”

“We need a large gathering with a flexible, open agenda that allows people from across our global family to meet one another in informal encounters, to listen to one another, and to recognise the marks of Christ in one another, and to get to know one another’s cultures and challenges,” Archbishop Ndungane says.

“In this context we can discuss how we should live together, including whether a Covenant – and if so, what form of Covenant – would best enhance our shared life and calling.”

Archbishop Ndungane suggests that the central themes that emerge during such a gathering could inform the Covenant Design Group, for presentation at a special meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The proposal to develop a Convenant must reflect a commitment to “enhance and strengthen the calling of all Anglicans, throughout the whole diversity of the globe, to faithful mission and ministry in the years – even centuries – ahead.”

“We can afford to take our time over this and ensure we get it right – even ten years is a very short time in Christian history. We must not be railroaded into a quick fix that merely meets the concerns of one part of our constituency.”

Archbishop Ndungane says that the task of the Church is not self-preservation, rather “the building up of God’s people for God’s mission and ministry within God’s world.”

“We desire to be a Church in which abundant, God-given, Christ-shaped, life can flourish, and this life can be shared with the world for the building of God’s kingdom. This is a task for the whole Church together.”

“This is God’s church, and we are in his hands. Therefore I am optimistic about our future.”

Read more »

Leaving

The folks at Stand Firm in Faith are reporting that the vestries of Truro Church and the Falls Church, two large churches in northern Virginia, have voted to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church.

Update: a press release from the churches is beneath the "keep reading" button. (Hat tip, Kendall.)

Update, the second: the Diocese of Virginia's press release is now available. (Hat tip, Karen B.)

Update, the third: For some reason, these events have put me in mind of the following passage from George Will's book Bunts: When Ted Williams retired in 1960, a sportswriter said that Boston knew how Britain felt when it lost India. Indeed. Britain felt diminished, but also a bit relieved.

Read more »

Playing well with other children

Click on the continue reading button to find a story from the Anglican Communion News Service about the St. Augustine's Seminar, which met last week at Lambeth Palace at the invitation of the Archibshop of Canterbury "to prepare an agenda for consideration by the Design Group of the Lambeth Conference." The story isn't as interesting as the note to editors that follows. It lists countries that sent representatives to the meeting.

Those included the Central Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, the West Indies and... the United States. I don't want to read too much into this. But at the moment it would seem that all of the contestants are still on the island.

Read more »

Stay or go?

Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin has written a letter to his diocese about seceeding from the Episcopal Church. Click to read it all.

Read more »

Apologies to C. S. Lewis

Tobias Haller has a good one this morning.

PB tells EC to 'communicate the Good News'

From Episcopal News Service

In her opening remarks to the meeting of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council November 12, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori set the group's work in the context of mission and ministry.

Executive Council members must "figure out how to communicate the Good News we know in this body" to the diverse communities in which the Episcopal Church exists, especially to those people who have not been touched by the gospel or who are not yet part of a faith community.

"We have remarkable opportunities to speak and do Good News to people who don't know what that means," she said.

Both she and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson said they are committed to what Jefferts Schori called the "deed-based evangelism" personified in the church's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

The full story is here, and the PB's sermon at the opening EC Eucharist is here.

There is an old rule, familiar to those who have taught writing and those who have studied it, that reads "show, don't tell." It makes a handy justification for "deed-based evangelism." But deeds alone aren't enough when communicating to a mass audience. Supportive though I am of the Millennium Development Goals, I think it would be a mistake to hang the full weight of our evangelistic aspirations on the hope that people will respond positively to the good example we are attempting to set. At some point, to persuade people to embrace our faith, we have to reach them on intimate level. Having them respect our example isn't enough.

Almost everyone I know respects the daylights out of the Society of Friends, but only a couple of them are Quakers.

Oremus

I have a particular interest in the Liturgy of the Hours. But, as a working person, I'm not always in a position to grab my Book of Common Prayer and dive in. That's where Oremus, a wonderful site based in the UK comes in. A few months ago, I signed up for an email subscription, and now an order for Morning Prayer appears each day in my inbox. A reminder like that makes it hard to forget my prayers, no matter how busy the day becomes. You can subscribe here. If your life is governed to some degree by what appears in your inbox, it is important to have the proper sort of things showing up.

Veterans' Day

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
From The Book of Common Prayer

Not long ago, a friend who edits a neurology magazine asked me to write a profile of a soldier who had returned from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury. Such injuries, typically caused by roadside explosive devices, have become the signature wound of this war.(USA Today is on the case here, Stars and Stripes here and you can listen to an NPR piece here.) It is as if nobody just gets shot anymore, someone at Walter Reed Hospital told me in a moment of balck humor.

These injuries are particuarly challenging to treat because many of the symptoms are behavioral as opposed to "physical" in the traditional sense of that word, although obviously the symptoms are rooted in physical damage to the brain and nervous system.

The public relations people at Walter Reed, paired me up with Brian Radke, a native of the Pacific Coast who had moved to Arizon shortly before enlisting. The article I wrote hasn't appeared yet, so I can't excerpt it here, but Dean Baker, of Brian's old hometown newspaper The Columbian has been following his story pretty closely, and has written excellent pieces available here and here. There's another sweet piece about him by a Columbian columnist here.

Brian was a pleasure to meet and to talk to, very honest about the difficulties he was facing in recovering rom his multiple injuries, and able to laugh at some of his new infirmities in a disarming way. Working on the story about Brian, and reflecting on the service, of the Rev. Stuart Kenworthy of Christ Church, Georgetown, (read a letter he wrote when he was in Iraq here, reminds me that working with warriors is grace-filled work, whatever one thinks of the war they are involved in.

Please remember Brian, his wife, Nova, and his parents Dave and Lynn in your prayers today.

Catch Nightline tonight

U2charist to air on ABC's Nightline

[ENS] The national news show Nightline filmed the November 3 "U2charist" that was held at All Saints Church, Briarcliff Manor, in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

The service will be aired on Nightline on Friday, November 10, at 11:30 p.m. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline.

Nightline also interviewed the rector, the Rev. Tim Schenck, as well as people who participated in the service.

The U2charist, which rallies around the Millennium Development Goals and the ONE Campaign, features the music of the Irish rock band U2 and its lead singer, Bono.

You can learn more about U2charists here.

Congrats, Diana

Christianity for the Rest of Us, by Diana Butler Bass, has been named one of the Best Religion Books of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. Diana, a member of the Church of the Epiphany, will be the homilist and keynote speaker at our diocesan convention in late January.

You can learn more about her work here, here and here, and learn more about the Epiphany's outreach ministries in this article by Lucy Chumbley, and in part two of Hugh Drescher's film on our diocese.

An article on Epiphany's environmental ministry, "Rooftop gardens" resides here.

A new resource

The Church Times' (U. K.)new Web site is worth a look. We need a Church Times to call our own.

Animal husbandry

I listen to sports radio, and sometimes during football season, the newscasts are one long injury report. Someone has pulled a hamstring. Someone has tweaked an ankle. Someone has aggravated a tendon. Someone has strained a groin. (A groin?)

Anyway, in the midst of one such report today I learned something truly significant. Somewhere in this great country of ours, a professional football player is nursing a calf.

I know a lot has happened this week, but this is a breakthrough for our species, and I think it deserves wider play.

Requiem for Fallen Fighters

The Washington Post carries a very nice piece this morning on a church in our neighboring diocese of Virginia

"On the first Monday of every month, the Rev. Robert H. Malm stands before his congregation at a special requiem service and reads the name and rank of every U.S. serviceman or woman who was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan the previous month.

The first thing he notices is that most of the casualties are enlisted men. The officers and the women, those names jump out. But it's the privates, the specialists, the corporals and the sergeants who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Read it all.

At a loss

The most recent issue of The Christian Century includes an article in which news editor John Dart quotes C. Kirk Hadaway, our Church’s director of research, as saying we have suffered a “precipitous drop” in membership in the last three years.

The article says in part:

“[W]e were actually doing better than most other mainline denominations in the 1990s through 2002, with a few years of growth," Hadaway told the Century. "So it is a precipitous drop in losing 36,000 in both 2003 and 2004, and now 42,000 in 2005."

Half of the losses stemmed from parish conflicts over the 2003 Episcopal General Convention's approval of the election of an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, according to Hadaway.”

I’ve written before about the problems I perceive in the way in which our Church shares information with the people in the pews. In this instance, I think it would have been helpful to observe the principles of Damage Control 101. When you have bad news to report, you break the news yourself, you do it as quickly and completely as possible, and you do your best to explain why it happened.

It’s very strange to have the news come out as it did in this case, at a conference of the Religious Research Association, in connection with a paper on ‘Propagation, Proselytization, and Retention: Interpreting the Growth, Decline and Distribution of Religious Populations’ that Hadaway co-authored Penny Long Marler of Samford University. And from what I can tell, the information that Hadaway cites is still not available on the internet, which is also kind of odd.

Dart quotes James B. Lemler, the Church’s director of mission, as saying the losses "are not more than we expected.” Had we released this news ourselves, we could have offered something quite a bit more vigorous. Something along the lines of “We’ve made a painful choice for the sake of the Gospel, and as these numbers make clear, we have paid a price for doing so. That’s a common occurrence in the history of Christ’s Church. Our hope is that theme in Christian history. It is our hope that people who believe as we do that God calls us to include gay and are inspired by our choice will come…

I know there are people at the “home office” who understand media relations, but I don’t think they are being listened to.

Moving from back story to front, I’ve been perplexed by the response to the Century’s article by people whom I usually agree with. There’s been an attempt to downplay the significance of this development on the House of Bishop and Deputies list, which seems to me to be part of a pattern to minimize the importance of our continually declining membership. On one level this is understandable. In the midst of our current controversy, any sign of failing health in the Episcopal Church is attributed by partisan commentators to the election of Bishop Robinson. We, in turn, respond defensively saying that not only isn’t the consecration responsible for our membership problems (which is largely true if one accepts the inevitability of this one time hit we have taken) but we don’t actually have any membership problems (which is not true.)

We need to get past our defensiveness, and make a coherent, comprehensive response to the many forces that are slowly emptying our pews. We are “selling” the Gospel, the most valuable thing in the world, yet institutionally, we display neither urgency nor sophistication in our attempts to sell it.

Am I being unfair? Or are people as frustrated about efforts in this regard as I am?

Pleae pray for Bishop Lee

From the Diocese of Virginia

Nov. 8

Shortly after 10 a.m. today Bishop Lee was released from St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond, Virginia after a 24-hour observation period. As you know he was admitted there yesterday morning, Nov. 7, exhibiting symptoms of a mild stroke.

Following a battery of tests including MRI, EEG, CT scans and a carotid artery test, there has been no conclusive diagnosis. However, Bishop Lee says that the doctors are recording the incident as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) though he explains that his symptoms were not fully characteristic of TIA.

I spoke with him this morning. He sounds great and says he feels fine.

Though he has been ordered by doctors not to drive until the results of a final test are received on Friday, he is expected to attend a meeting of the Diocesan Executive Board on Thursday with the Standing Committee, regional deans and presidents in Northern Virginia. He will be driven by his clerk, Mr. Will Packard.

Thank you for your expressions of concern and your prayers.

Recapturing the mystical dimension

Just as I was about to post this item, I saw that my friend Father Jake had posted it as well. It's an essay by Father John-Julian, founder of the Order of Julian of Norwich that appeared on the House of Bishop and Deputies list two days ago. We are reprinting it with his permission, and with his email address. So you can correspond with him by clicking here.

The Mystical Christ

What has been eroding in the Church for the last two generations has been the denial of its central and primal mystical dimensions. We keep seeing Jesus as some historical personage, delimited by time and space. We keep seeing “church” as institutional. We keep seeing the Word as a collection of black scribbles on a page. We keep seeing the core of our ecclesial nature as either canonical or biblical or organizational. We keep refusing the ineffable, immeasurable, and unimaginable dimensions of our Christ, and the universal utter Presence of the Holy Spirit.

Why are young people these days talking about wanting “spirituality” without “religion”? Because religion has been shrunken and withered into law, measurement, emotion, and/or overt certainty about those things we cannot even vaguely comprehend. Why do people turn to New Age religion? Because it recognizes the mystical dimension, albeit in a sad, weak, and occult way.

Meister Eckhardt, Dame Julian, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and dozens of other Christian mystics through the centuries all speak of the “divine” in each human being – something of the Creator God, some image of Divinity, implanted or inherent in our very creation. And that is not dependent upon any specific creeds or canons. The Creator Christ dwells no less in the Muslim or the Jew than in the Christian. We are each a “mini-incarnation”. When the Muslim bows down in his five daily prayers, it is Christ bowing down. When the Jew lights the candles for her Sabbath meal, it is Christ who brings light to that table. When the Buddhist seeks for union with the Eternal, it is the Christ who is both seeking and sought.

John’s plain and unadorned theological statement that “God is love” was extended in our antiphon for the Maundy: “Ubi amor, ibi deus” “Where love is, there is God!” And we can say with the same certainty: “Where love is, there is Jesus Christ.” That same Jesus Christ died not for some, but for all, and he has brought the potential for the fullness of salvation to every human soul – even those who because of some accidental historical or sociological or prejudicial circumstance don’t happen to call him “Jesus” as we do. He is the Way – that is, any human way to God is Christ. He is the Truth – that is, every truth is Christ. He is the Life – that is, every life is Christ. There is no way to the Father except through the Christ, so all ways to the Father are also Christ, even when that is not overtly stated.

The difference is that the Christian sees all this more clearly, understands it more deeply (though no less incomprehensibly), calls him by his name, and worships accordingly. And the Christian is joyously eager to share that insight, that comprehension, and that worship – not as triumphantly righteous or rigidly exclusive or narrowly judgmental, but as eagerly generous and utterly unselfish, so glad that the joy can be shared lovingly (as is the very nature of all true joy and love). Our evangelism cannot be “You are wrong, and we are right” but, your “unknown God”, your Allah, your Yahweh, your Manitou, is also the generous Father whose Son sacrificially cancelled all ideas of divine wrath or judgment.

None of this “demotes” Jesus Christ in any way, nor dismisses him as merely-one-among-many, nor by-passes the Atonement. What it does is to recognize Christ’s infinite ubiquity, his universal mystical incidence, his unlimited enfolding presence, and our own weak inadequacy in comprehending the spiritually immeasurable vastness that is the true Jesus Christ.

And if this is true between religious traditions, it is thrice true within the Mystical Body that is Jesus Christ. Whatever words you may use, you, oh eye, simply cannot cancel me who am a foot. You may curse me or despise me or refuse me a place at table, but you cannot evade the fact that whether you like it or not, we are and will always be one – inside the mystical Christ. And since we are one, you simply cannot live the Christ life without me, no matter how much you may wish it. The Blood of Christ flows out copiously and floods and drowns and washes all of us, forgiving all our sins, enfolding all of us in divine grace. And we are already one, just as the Christ and the Father are one. And may whatever bogus falsehood gives the lie to that cosmic truth shrivel and die.

And so may we go out and allow the Christ in us to serve the Christ in every one of those others who differ from us, who suffer, and who stand in want.

The property issue

Steve Waring of the Living Church reports here on a presentation by David Booth Beers, chancellor of the Episcopal Church, to the inaugural meeting of the Episcopal Majority last week.

The headline reads: Chancellor: Episcopal Church Will Prevail in Communion and Courts

It's a complex piece, so it is hard to choose an excerpt. Read it all.

O gracious light

If you need a moment today to catch your breath, slow your pulse, or set your mind on higher things, please visit our home page and take two minutes to watch and listen to a new meditation inspired by the vesper prayer Phos Hilaron.

O gracious light, features the photos of Walter Calahan, the music of The Princeton Singers, the stained glass of Washington National Cathedral, and the "pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven."

Peacemaker

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane received the Peacemaker Award last night from our diocesan Commission on Peace. His remarks are here.

An excerpt:

"Our hearts are too small, our generosity is too limited – because we know that a stable and lasting peace can only be founded on justice and equality of dignity and equality of opportunity, and those who have more than enough are too often unwilling to do what it takes to meet the needs of those who have less than sufficient.

This is the great tragedy of Afghanistan , and the unfolding heartbreak we now see in Iraq .

Politicians were prepared to make a military commitment, and to win a war – misguided though they may have been.

But, far worse, they have not been prepared to make the necessary commitment to stay the course and follow through by building the peace.

Indeed, it is unclear whether they even understood, as they deployed their forces, that without a firm and concrete undertaking to pursue the process of rebuilding, they would fatally undermine their own objectives.

Strong words, you may say. But there is no part of this world that is not God's world, there is no area of human endeavour that is beyond his concern. Christians cannot rest unless we pursue God's best in every area of creation – and that includes the pursuit of his peace which passes all understanding."

Previous winners of the award include Lee Hamilton, Helen Caldicott, the Arab/Evangelical Episcopal School in Ramallah, CARE, George Mitchell, Desmond Tutu and Marian Wright Edelman.

Gentle disputation

Anglicans Online gently disputes Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh's recent statement that he and his supporters feel that "our church has been taken away from us."

Get Credibility

Get Religion is a blog that covers and critiques the mainstream media's coverage of religion. Some days, I pick up valuable perspective when I visit. On other days, I am reminded that the site is bankrolled by Howard "Stoney" Ahmanson. Today's visit fell into the second category.

An entry on the multi-colored vestments that Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wore at her investiture passes on an allegation--that Bishop Gene Robinson left his wife for a man--that has by now been so thoroughly discredited that publishing it constitutes either reckless disregard for the truth, or a level ignorance about the issue that ought to disqualify one as a commentator.

The same posting also states that our new PB doesn't think that Jesus is "necessary" for salvation. I've discussed this peculiar notion one item downblog. On the complex issue of soteriology, the folks who claim to "get" religion are trafficking in analysis too shallow to wet your toenails.

Note too that the item is illustrated by a photograph of a stole that Bishop Jefferts Schori never wore, a stole that the GR people don't know if she ever would wear. Some days GR criticizes the press, today it is engaging in the tactics it normally deplores.

Orthodox soteriology

There's a headline that just pulls you right in, huh? Nothin' but readers, as Ben Bradlee used to say.

Anyway, as soteriology (the study of the doctrine of salvation) is not a word I get to us everyday, I just want to savor its appearance for a moment.

Moving on: In the days leading up to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s investiture, the Anglican right made a great deal of noise about interviews she gave to Time magazine, and to Robin Young of NPR’s show Here and Now.

Time:

Q. Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

Bishop Jefferts Schori: We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

NPR:

Robin Young: So you’re saying there are other ways to God.

Bishop Jefferts Schori: Human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them…with the ultimate... with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. That doesn’t mean that a Hindu doesn’t experience God except through Jesus. It says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships

* * *

I am not going to transcribe the voluminous and frequently vitriolic responses that these interviews prompted in the usual quarters. Nor am I going to dispute that many evangelical Christians believe, in good faith, that salvation requires an explicit embrace of Jesus Christ as your personal savior. But that view is not normative outside evangelical precincts, and I think many of those shooting spitballs at our new presiding bishop know that.

For instance, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, says as follows:

"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day."

"Those who no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation."

Pope John Paul II said something similar in Dominus Iesus (2000):

"Nevertheless, God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, "does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors'". Therefore, the sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain."

"Theology today, in its reflection on the existence of other religious experiences and on their meaning in God's salvific plan, is invited to explore if and in what way the historical figures and positive elements of these religions may fall within the divine plan of salvation. In this undertaking, theological research has a vast field of work under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council, in fact, has stated that: "the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude, but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a participation in this one source"."

"With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it "in ways known to himself"."

Some of the most interesting thinking on the issue of "salvation outside the church" was done by the late Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, who developed the notion of the "anonymous Christian," which he described as follows:

"Anonymous Christianity means that a person lives in the grace of God and attains salvation outside of explicitly constituted Christianity… Let us say, a Buddhist monk… who, because he follows his conscience, attains salvation and lives in the grace of God; of him I must say that he is an anonymous Christian; if not, I would have to presuppose that there is a genuine path to salvation that really attains that goal, but that simply has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. But I cannot do that. And so, if I hold if everyone depends upon Jesus Christ for salvation, and if at the same time I hold that many live in the world who have not expressly recognized Jesus Christ, then there remains in my opinion nothing else but to take up this postulate of an anonymous Christianity."

For a fuller explanation of Rahner's thinking go here and here. He and Hans urs Von Balthasar (whose own thinking on the question of universal salvation is so complex that even his admirerers can't agree on what it says) had vigorous debates on this issue, so I am not suggesting that Rahner's view is beyond dispute, but it is not "unorthodox" and neither is Bishop Jefferts Schori.

I have no quarrel with people who want to believe that accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior is the only way to heaven. But it simply is not the case that those who disagree with you are in rebellion against some long-settled and universally accepted issue of Christian doctrine.

The weekend that was

If you are just checking in after a weekend offline, our coverage of the investiture and seating of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori begins ten items down blog with an entry called "Bright brisk and buzzing," and ends here, with a story from Episcopal News Service about two of ur local parishes, St. Thomas's on DuPont Circle and St. Alban's here on the Cathedral close, in hosting young people in town for the historic event.

En cathedra

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was officially seated today in an 11 a. m. liturgy at Washington National Cathedral. Episcopal News Service has the story. The full text of her sermon is here.

A taste:

"Saints are those who are vulnerable to the gut-wrenching pain of this world. Some of us have to be seized by the throat or thrown into the tomb before we can begin to find that depth of compassion. And perhaps unless we are, we won't leave our comfortable narrow lives - or our remarkably nasty ones - to wake up and begin to answer that pain."

National Public Radio's coverage of yesterday's investiture is here.

Sunday papers

The morning newspapers are full of stories about yesterday's investiture of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. We can expect reporters to feel what we feel on occasions like this one. For those of us accustomed to worrying about the vitality and viability of our Church, yesterday felt like a turning point, the end of an era of anxiety, and the beginning of a braver day. We didn't look like a troubled church yesterday; we looked joyful and confident, and Christian to our core. A British friend of mine who was at the service said, with tongue somewhat in cheek, "I think the Episcopal Church should send a mission to England."

Obviously mine is an intensely subjective viewpoint, and it isn't captured in the stories, below, although some carry certain hints. So it falls to us to make clear what a momentous day yesterday was. Ready?

Update: The Guardian.

Here are stories from The Los Angeles Times The Washington Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Additional coverage from Episcopal News Service includes a piece on international guests, and one of the few articles that explored the views of people attending the service.

ENS's updated photo galleries, including high resolution pictures, are here.

Fabulous photographs

Update: see the photographs on the National Cathedral's site. Number 8 is a real beauty.

Fabulous photographs from the investiture of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church can be found here. And I am told that there will be more to come, so visit often.

Mary Frances Schjoenberg's story for ENS is here.

Meeting her public

Ninety minutes after her investiture, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is still standing in the midst of the nave of Washington National Cathedral, greeting well-wishers. The lovely carillon that rang for almost an hour after the Eucharist has ended. The food is all gone at the receptions on the close. In fact just about everybody has cleared out except me and the folks from Episcopal News Service who are working in our conference room. Meanwhile, the sedan that is taking her wherever she is going next is sitting outside the Cathedral. The driver has the motor running, but I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon.

Selective outrage

On this busy day, this little bit of news almost excaped my attention. The lead:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has met with HE Seyyed Muhammad Khatami, former President of Iran, who is visiting London this week.
Williams received Khatami at Lambeth Palace on the morning of November 2 and the two discussed developing relationships between Christian and Muslim Institutions, especially the developing dialogue between the Church of England and Iranian Islamic organizations. The conversation explored a growing perception that peoples' spiritual needs were more urgent than ever and required a more comprehensive response than modern society and culture seemed able to offer.

Williams was encouraged to learn of Mr Khatami's work in establishing a center in Geneva to pursue his 'Dialogue of Civilisations' initiative. Williams said that the meeting had been a positive one.

"I was heartened by the support Mr. Khatami expressed for the idea that religious leaders in places of tension and conflict should play a vital role in building confidence and trust between communities," he said. "People of faith have much to contribute to the solving of the problems caused by mistrust and misunderstanding."

Regular visitors may recall that Bishop John Bryson Chane and Dean Samuel Lloyd of Washington National Cathedral came in for a raft of verbal abuse from the Anglican right when Khatami spoke at the Cathedral in September. I will be curious to see how the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the blogosphere respond to this news.

Coverage

Rachel Zoll of AP's story is here. There is a nice picture here.

The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Guardian and Religion News Service were on hand, so I sholuld have more later. There were any number of riveting images that graced the eye during the Eucharist--images that preach, if you know what I mean--and I will keep an eye out for those as well.

In your hearing

An excerpt from the presiding bishop's sermon:

What keeps us from the tireless search for that vision of shalom? There are probably only two answers, and they are connected – apathy and fear. One is the unwillingness to acknowledge the pain of other people, the other is an unwillingness to acknowledge that pain with enough courage to act. The cure for each is a deep and abiding hope. If God in Jesus has made captivity captive, has taken fear hostage, it is for the liberation and flourishing of hope. Augustine said that as Christians, we are prisoners of hope – a ridiculously assertive hope, a hope that unflinchingly assails the doors of heaven, a hope that will not cease until that dream of God has swallowed up death forever, a hope that has the audacity to join Jesus in saying, "today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

And how shall that scripture be fulfilled in our hearing? In the will to make peace with one who disdains our theological position – for his has merit, too, as the fruit of faithfulness. In the courage to challenge our legislators to make poverty history, to fund AIDS work in Africa, and the distribution of anti-malarial mosquito nets, and primary schools where all children are welcomed. In the will to look within our own hearts and confront the shadows that darken the dream that God has planted there.

That scripture is fulfilled each time we reach beyond our narrow self-interest to call another home.

Joyful noise

I was hoping to come back from the investiture with perceptive things to say, but I am awash in good feeling and incapable of analysis. I will start posting links soon. It feels very good to be an Episcopalian today.

Celebration

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's investiture as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church beings at 11 a. m. EST, and can be viewed here. The service leaflet is here.

Bright, brisk and buzzing

It is alliteration day here at Daily Episcopalian, a bright, brisk morning on the buzzing close of Washington National Cathedral. I got here just after 8:15 and found a knot of about thirty people already queued up at the west entrance of the Cathedral for the opening of the big front doors, which is scheduled for 10. Taxi cabs streamed down south road, and here and there, I spotted bishops with their rochets and chemires (spell check wants to make that rockets and chemises) slung over their shoulders in dry cleaning bags walking toward the Way of Peace entrance on the south side of their church.

I attended some of the Episcopal Majority gathering yesterday and the Episcopal Divinity School reception (they were gracious enough to serve as an unofficial gathering place from members of Episcopal Communicators) at a hotel on Woodley Road. I missed the presentation by David Booth Beers, chancellor of the Episcopal Church, on property issues, but I caught up with Nan Cobbey of Episcopal Life and Steve Waring of the Living Church when I caught up with him at the reception he gave me the distinct impression that Beers had committed news, so I will be watching the Living Church site for further developments.

My initial impression, based mostly on scuttlebutt and some brief conversations with friends who work and Church Center and in the secular press, is that Bishop Jefferts Schori's administration, for lack of a better word, will be marked by more directness and openness that was Bishop Griswold's, and that this will reduce anxiety levels in the church.

Here's a round up of recent news:

Pat McCaughan of ENS covered the Episcopal Majority meeting. EM's own coverage of its events is here. Mark Harris, who has been elected to the EM steering committee says...

Rachel Zoll of the AP and Jane Lampman of the Christian Science Monitor have written profiles of Bishop Jefferts Schori.

Meanwhile, as Steve Levin reports in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted yesterday at its annual diocesan convention to withdraw from a national church province and seek alternative oversight.

I don't so much mind that they voted to do this. I take it as an expression of conscience. But that they held their convention on this particular weekend will be interpreted in most quarters, as petty.

“Today’s actions are clearly illegal under the canon law of our church,” observed Dr. Joan R. Gundersen, president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), the group that led opposition to the resolution.” The constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church allow for only one Presiding Bishop, one House of Bishops, and require the General Convention to approve any change in provincial assignments. This diocese is asking individuals outside The Episcopal Church to intervene where they have no authority,” said Dr. Gundersen.

PEP's release is here.

Now I am going to go look for Stephen Bates of the Guardian. Have you ever been to a reunion at which they give a prize to the person who traveled the greatest distance to be there? Steve flew in last night from Islamabad where he was covering Prince Charles' trip to Pakistan. I am sure he will need some coffee.

The calendar is coming

This year, for the third year, our diocesan Web site will host an Advent calendar. Previous editions are here, and here. The calendar has been among our most popular features, both in numbers of visits, and number of links from other sites, and I'd really appreciate it if those of you who are preparing lists of Advent resources would consider including our Web address, www.edow.org. The calendar will eventually have its own address, but it will always be visible from the homepage.

If you aren't familiar with the calendar, a few quick words are in order. We create it in cooperation with Washington National Cathedral which, each year, hosts an exhibition of crèches (Nativity scenes) from around the world.

Clicking on the number for the appointed day takes the user to a picture of a figure from one of the crèches. That page contains further links to a daily meditation (much like those in our spirituality section) and a daily online giving opportunity, many of which are gleaned from Episcopal Relief and Development's Gifts for Life catalog.

The calendar will go live on December 1, and I will post updates about its arrival as the day approaches.

We also have some online Advent activities for children if you are in the market.

Anglican doings

I was out of the office all day yesterday at parishes and schools (Face to face contact with actual Episcopalians. Why haven't I thought of this before!), and will be out most of the afternoon at investiture-related events. Those of you who visit the blog primarily for Anglican news updates should consider having a look at Mark Harris's blog Predludium, listed on our blog role, and Simon Sarmiento's Thinking Anglicans, which is listed over there as well. Lionel Deimel's essay about the upcoming diocesan convention in Pittsburgh, and the news about a Welch cathedral dean banning George Carey from the premises are worthy of deeper consideration than I can give them this morning.

Nicely played, Bishop Katharine

The Presiding Bishop has written to four of her fellow primates asking them to visit with her when they are in the country later this month. The letter to Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya and Justice Akrofi of West Africa reads:

To my esteemed brothers in Christ:

While I have not yet had the privilege and honor to meet all of you, I very much look forward to working with you in the coming years as we endeavor to lead the Body of Christ in this portion called the Anglican Communion. I deeply value the possibilities we have in the Anglican Communion for addressing the mission God has given us to reconcile the world he has created. In the spirit of Lambeth 1998, the Episcopal Church has identified the Millennium Development Goals as the framework for our missional work in the coming years. I would hope we might see the common interest we all have for seeing those Goals met, as they provide a concrete image of the Reign of God in our own day, where the hungry are fed, the thirsty watered, and the prisoners of disease and oppression set free.

I understand that you will be in the United States in mid-November for a gathering at Falls Church, Virginia. Considering the difficulty and expense of such a journey, I hope that during your visit you might be willing to pay a call on me, so that we might begin to build toward such a missional relationship. If that is a possibility, I hope you will contact this office as soon as possible. I would be more than happy to alter my schedule to accommodate you.

I look forward to hearing from you, and meeting you. May God bless your ministries and your travels.

I remain

Your servant in Christ,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, but it is seldom possible to fulfill both charges simultaneously. The Presiding Bishop has pulled it off. The invitation presents a particularly difficult choice for Archbishop Gomez. The other three recipients can spurn the PB at no cost to themselves beyond an enhanced reputation for churlishness, a price that Akinola long ago decided was worth paying. But Gomez, as chair of the Covenant Design committee, can expect the calls for his removal from that position to intensify if he demonstrates that he is unwilling to deal fairly with representatives of every province in the Communion.

Point of personal privilege

The eyes of the sports-loving world were focused on the Bullis School in Potomac, Md., on Saturday morning for the Metropolitan Athletic Conference's Junior Varsity Cross Country championship race. And by "the sports-loving world" I mean "blood relatives of the contestants, and a few of their friends."

A story about the meet is here, and a picture of the four all-conference JV runners from the victorious team from St. Andrew's Episcopal School is here.

If you are curious about the relevance of this item, can I just point out how handsome that kid in the long-sleeved blue shirt is?

Wisdom from the Scotist

I visit the Anglican Scotist's blog every now and then, and always learn something. He offers a very learned critique of some arguments regarding heresy advanced by Matt Kennedy of Stand Firm in Faith here, and here. Among the Scotist's several virtues is his ability to ground all his arguments in classical theology. Have a look.

Mainline on the move?

Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today features the work of Diana Butler Bass in her story on growing mainline parishes in today's paper. Diana, a member of Epiphany Church in downtown D. C. will be the featured speaker at our diocesan convention in late January. Here latest book is Christianity for the Rest of Us. As Grossman explains:

"Bass set out on a Lilly Foundation grant to find 50 mainline churches rooted in the Gospel, rich in worship, strong in social justice, creative in spirituality and radiating hospitality. Instead, she found 1,000 thriving congregations from California to Virginia."

The story is worth a read and so is the book.

Meetings, forums, etc.

A variety of meetings and forums are scheduled in Washington this week to coincide with the investiture of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada as our new presiding bishop. Episcopal News Service has this story, which includes news of an upcoming meeting of Bishops Working for a Just Society, a group co-founded by Bishop John Bryson Chane, and the initial meeting of the Episcopal Majority, among others.

Meanwhile, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire will be the featured speaker at a forum on Working for Justice and the Common Good: The Struggle for Inclusion, Diversity and Equality Within Religion. It is being held on Thursday at 9 a. m. at the Center for American Progress, 1333 H St. NW.

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