Busy on May 5?

I always tell parishes that the images on their homepages should give users a strong sense of what they are all about. This group definitely followed my advice.

Refresher course

Father Jake is teaching a refresher course. Me, I am still puzzling over reports that a signficant number of our bishops were unaware of the material he is covering until the task force on property disputes put it in front of them.

The Church Times says...

In its lead editorial, The Church Times suggests that talk of schism is "exaggerated and premature."

I wish I could agree, but I think Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria is forcing an "us or them" choice on the Primates, and will continue to do so. But I like this bit:

"Looked at over time, it is clearly theological nonsense to suggest that the Holy Spirit might lead people in different directions. But, in the short term, while clarity is being sought, it is natural for different groups to share the opinions of the society that has formed them. Thus one group acts in solidarity with vulnerable gay and lesbian people in society, another wishes to support normal family networks. Both groups act out of principle, and there is virtue in both. If Anglicans around the world can recognise this — and most do — then disagreements will be seen as the signs of a Church working towards a fuller understanding of God’s Kingdom."

Amen.

The Listening Process

Update, this link from bls seems appropriate to the discussion Father Matt Kennedy and I are having in the comments section. I have mentioned the article by Father James Alison before, but it is always worth another look.

ThiI have been slow off the mark in pointing out that documents regarding the "listening process" underway in (some provinces) of the Anglican Communion are now onlne. The Church Times story highlights the views of Archbisho Peter Akinola of Nigeria, which you can read here. I am wondering if these views are shared by members of the churches in the United states that have voted to join forces with him?

He says: “Our argument is that, if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration.”

One potentially helpful element in this response is that it commits Akinola to the argument that a homosexual orientation is "acquired" The evidence suggests a much more complex picture, and that evidence can be marshalled and put before the Communion. The archbishop would have left himself more intellectual room to maneuver had he argued that a homosexual orientation is sinful, whether acquired of not. But he didn't. We should do our best to make ue of this opening.

Into Great Silence opens in DC

My friend Desson Thomson reviews the film about life in a Carthusian monastery. (An earlier item on the film is here.)

He writes: At first, the silence feels imposing -- practically deafening -- as we watch the documentary "Into Great Silence" and the monks of the Grand Chartreuse monastery praying, reading the Bible or simply sitting in quiet contemplation.

But as we become acclimated to this muted atmosphere (we have plenty of time, as the film is nearly three hours long), something extraordinary happens: Our senses sharpen. The whispering of snow outside, the occasional clearing of a throat and -- sweet mercy! -- the clanging of a bell that summons these befrocked Carthusians to prayer reach our ears with a resounding purity. We may not experience their inner glories, but when we hear the monks' Gregorian chants, it's as though we have slipped from our seats into the back pews of Chartreuse."

An influential rabbi

From Washington Jewish Week:

How influential

Three local rabbis have made it onto a list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. (We're kvelling, but shouldn't there be more from the nation's capital?).

This list, which appears this week in Newsweek, was put together by Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, Newscorp's Gary Ginsberg and JTN Productions' Jay Sanderson, with a system that gives points for such questions as: Are the rabbis known nationally/internationally? (20 points); do they have a media presence? (10 points); do they have political/social influence? (20 points); and have they made an impact on Judaism in their career? (10 points).

The three admit their judgments are subjective.

Making the list from Greater Washington are, at No. 10, Bruce Lustig, Washington Hebrew Congregation; No. 16, David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center; and No. 41, Sid Schwarz, founder and president of Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values.

Lustig says he's flattered to be not just on the list, but ranked so highly. He credits the opportunities he's had working with both Washington Hebrew and the Abrahamic Dialogue he created with Episcopal Bishop John Chane and American University Islamic studies chair Akbar Ahmed for leading to his rank.

And, he says, he doesn't know the three people who created the list, but he found the scoring very interesting.

Prayers answered in Nigeria?

Davis Mac-Iyalla and Colin Coward are reporting that anti-gay legislation supported by Archbishop Peter Akinola is in serious trouble.

Davis said:

“Because of the continuing uncertainty, Changing Attitude Nigeria will not celebrate the defeat of the bill publicly until after May 29. We are quietly confident and feeling more happy, but there is still the potential for lobbying in favour of the bill to take place by the Church of Nigeria and for the Government to spring a surprise. However, if the Church was confident about the success of the bill, we think they would be issuing a confident public statement now, which they are not.”

Bishop Herzog becomes a Catholic

The former bishop of Albany has joined the Roman Catholic Church. The Living Church has the story.

Bishop Whalon responds to Ephraim Radner

Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, keeps a lively blog. Recently he responded to some of Ephraim Radner's recent writings.

"[Radner] wrote in part:

It is clear that the official structures of TEC have rejected the plea made to them, or have begun to do so in respect of what was, if we be honest, a critical effort at peace-making: the Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar scheme. Will the Bishops by 30 September agree to other requests made of them or are we seeing the handwriting on the wall? I fear the answer to that seems virtually foregone.

To which I replied:

At Camp Allen (last week), I asked the Presiding Bishop during the business meeting whether she felt she could still name a primatial vicar. She responded on the record that this option is still open to her.

What your bishops said is clearly impossible is a council with a majority of foreign bishops overseeing (the operative word) the work of such a bishop. Had the scheme been consultative, it might well have been acceptable...

What concerns me very deeply is the notion that Dr Radner is putting forth here, and that the Primates Communiqué also implies: the Primates Meeting has now become the final arbiter of issues in the Anglican Communion. Who agreed to this? There is certainly no agreement between the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting on this, for example. (ed. note: emphasis mine.)

Furthermore, the Constitution is very clear that any bishop (or other cleric) exercising ministry in this church, never mind jurisdiction, has to declare conformity to the doctrine discipline and worship of TEC. Did the Pastoral Scheme envisage the foreign bishops taking the Oath of Conformity? And why would anyone think that the House of Bishops has the power to overrule the Constitution? Even Archbishop Akinola has to respect his.

What is also clear about the Communiqué is that it had several iterations before being finalized at the eleventh hour, and that no one was happy with it at that time. It certainly started out as a "critical effort at peace-making," but ended up proposing a coercive structure that implicitly trumped the governance of our church by the highly questionable rule of the Primates. Moreover, by its silence on proposed legislation criminalizing sexual orientation, the Communiqué seems to endorse it. So TEC is condemned for ignoring the standard of Lambeth I.10, while those who would hold us to it are not reprimanded for violating the same standard? This isn't peace-making, by anyone's standards."

While you are at the bishop's blog, have a look at his: "Long Note on the Situation"

The ABC takes some leave

Ruth Gledhill reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury is taking a "study leave" in June and July, followed by his annual holiday in August. That leaves only a handful of dates on which he could meet with the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops before the September 30 deadline by which the bishops must respond to recommendations from the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

Another possible presentment

The Bishop of Pennsylvania may face an ecclesiastical trial. Details here. No word yet on whether he will exercise the "Armstrong option" and declare himself a member of the Church of Nigeria.

Hat tip Ann Fontaine

More from Colorado

Bishop Robert O'Neill has outlined the charges against the Rev. Don Armstrong, the Colorado priest who led his congregation into the Church of Nigeria on the same day that the diocese's Standing Committee decided there was enough evidence to being a presentment against him for theft and tax fraud.

Armstrong is the leader of the Anglican Communion Institute. The charges are on the third and final page of the document.

The bishop of Northern Michigan

Here is a must-read account of the Houe of Bishops meeting by Bishop Jim Kelsey of Northern Michigan. It is the most comprehensive description of what happened at the meeting that I have seen so far.

A few highlights, beginning with a description of a conversation that Episcopal bishops who attended the TEAM conference in South Africa had with Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury:

But it was discouraging to hear about a meeting held between Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the US Episcopal bishops who were present. It was clear that at the meeting, Rowan Williams was uncomfortable and defensive, and that he has a distorted picture of The Episcopal Church (believing that the dissidents in our midst make up 40% of the Episcopal Church - - a bizarre and wildly inaccurate figure). When asked how the rest of the world perceives our efforts to promote and advance the Millennium Development Goals, Williams responded that he thought it was received as "papering over differences, and buying votes". (Quite a different read from the face to face encounters our people experienced throughout the TEAM conference!). When asked what would happen after the September 30th deadline set by the Primates' Communiqué, and who would decide about the adequacy of the response of the Episcopal Church to its demands, Rowan Williams responded that it would not be he who would decide since, as he said, "I'm not a Pope; that's not how our system works... I'll take it to the Primates, and they will decide". (As if that's how our system works!!!) This was sobering to hear, to say the least! At least we know where we stand, and what lies ahead. This again, helped set the stage for what transpired at the meeting that was about to begin.


More: Then, an amazing thing happened. Monday was set aside for consideration of the proposed Covenant, and we were addressed by the two Episcopal members of the international drafting committee which had prepared an initial draft for the Primates to review in Tanzania. (For the full text of that draft Covenant, see http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/42/50/acns4252.cfm) The first to speak to us was a self-described conservative, Ephraim Radner. He has been a main player with the dissident groups in the Church, and many of us were frankly shocked to realize what a significant role he has representing our Church, given his very marginal perspective. Reception of his remarks were, at best, lukewarm.

Yet more: By the way, those who had been at the Primates' meeting in Tanzania reported some very disturbing dynamics. The Primate of Mexico, Carlos Touche Porter, said that every time there was a break, new amendments were proposed for the Communiqué, always more critical of The Episcopal Church. His comment was, "as the meeting went on, I began to feel less like a Primate and more like a Cardinal". Between his observations and those of our press corps, it was clear, in fact, that every time there was a break, Peter Akinola disappeared into a room where Martin Minns and other conservative US folks were holed up, and when he emerged, he had the next revisions for the Communiqué - which in fact were adopted. In the earlier drafts, there was a phrase"We respect The Episcopal Church", and on the strength alone of Peter Akinola's objection, that phrase was removed. All of this provides important information: that it is clear who is in control of the Primates' Meeting, and this reinforces why it is so important that the Primates not be given increased power as a centralized authority in the Anglican Communion.

Still more: On the morning of the last business day, Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington and Chair of the Property Disputes Committee gave an in depth report concerning research done on the tactics of the Network and the American Anglican Council (AAC) and other conservative/dissident groups. It was chilling. There is now clear evidence that there has been a strategy by these groups to create an alternative ecclesial structure within the United States, with alternative leadership (Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh as the Moderator of the Network) which might be recognized by the leadership of the Anglican Communion (i.e. - by those strengthened "Instruments of Unity") as the true Anglican Church in the United States. If indeed the Anglican Communion is transformed into a hierarchical body (through the implementation of the Windsor Report recommendations) and the Primates shift their support to the Network/AAC/CANA/AMiA congregations & dioceses, there will be a legal basis by which the dissident congregations will be able to claim ownership of all properties and church assets.

(Hat tip to Ann Fontaine.)

ABC kinda sorta speaks out in a muted and extremely qualified sort of way

Updated: Simon Sarmiento has an excellent bunch of links up on this issue.

Rowan Williams says the Church must be a safe place for gay people, but even in this statement he does not publicly criticize those working to make it a dangerous one.

This is as close as he comes: I share the concerns expressed about situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten ... proper liberties." (emphasis mine.)

"Is seen to be." That's a peculiar choice of words. The issue isn't how Peter Akinola is perceived. The issue is what he is doing: supporting a law that would legalize human rights violations against gay people and their supporters, and tolerating a smear campaign against the most prominent gay Christian in his country.

First in silence, now in speech Williams has demonstrated that he will go to great lengths to avoid crossing Akinola. This has been noticed both within the Communion and without. He can only hope that the damage to his credibility is reversible.

Do see the Mad Priest's comment here.

The latest from Ephraim Radner

Updated with this from Christopher Seitz. This is fascinating. He's appointed himself head of the Camp Allen bishops and begun dictating their course of action to them. It will be interesting to see how many follow his lead.

Read it here.

I am not sure Radner has taken into account that the Primates have not expressed their support for the course of action that he advocates in their name. I have pointed out two items downstream.

The piece, for all its scholarly prolixity, feels rooted in personal grievance. It also feels badly timed. Radner is coming off a difficult performance before the House of Bishops during which he alienated some existing supporters and gathered no new ones. There has probably never been a time when the house's theological minority was less likely to follow him and his five colleagues from the Anglican Communion Institute. (Keep in mind that one of those colleagues just joined the Church of Nigeria, not exactly a booster shot for the Institute’s credibility.)

Remember just a week or so ago that Radner objected strenuously when I mentioned that he was a board member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which is devoted to undermining the mainline Protestant churches in the U. S.. Guilt by association he said. Highlighting divisions when we should be striving for unity. Now here he is, these few days later, leading a movement to provoke confrontation with the leadership of the Episcopal Church.

Something to keep an eye on: will N. T. Wright and Fulcrum insert themselves into this situation to shore up the ACI? Fulcrum is a close ally of the ACI. Indeed, Andrew Goddard is a member of both organizations, and Wright has certainly displayed a willingness to issue toothless ultimatums to the Episcopal Church (and to do so in a way that benefits his opponents and dismays his friends.)

It may be, however, that in advocating internal revolt in the Episcopal Church, Radner will alienate those in Britain who favor squeezing us out more gradually. And it may be that leaders of the Communion will understand that Radner, through is affiliation with the IRD and his sudden turn toward confronttion, has damaged the political fortunes of the Covenant more than any of the document's opponents ever could have.

A new advertising initiative

Eight churches in our diocese are collaborating on an ad campaign. The churches, most of them in southern Montgomery County, have purchased about 20 ads that will run in the weekly Gazette newspapers during the coming year. The advertisement was designed by the Church Ad Project, and it directs people to EpiscopalMontgomery.org. Have a look.

Imposition

Some commenters who are disappointed that the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops was not willing to accept the Primates' proposal to appoint a Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar to minister to its theological minority have suggested that such a plan should be imposed upon the Church.

It is unclear under whose authority this would be done. While the plan for the council and vicar was endorsed at the Primates Meeting, the imposition of such a plan on the Episcopal Church was not. The language of the communique suggests the Church may have its participation in the life of the Communion restricted in unspecified ways if it does not accept the Primates' plan, but it does not suggest that what the communique refers to as "recommendations" will be imposed upon the Church if it declines to accept them.

The Primates, then, have not endorsed the actions that some commenters are urging in their name. They may do so at some future date, or they may not. There is no guarantee that the dozen Primates who are friendly to the Episcopal Church, and those who just would like this controversy to go away, would back such a measure.

Provocative statements from Los Angeles ministry fair

The Living Church was on hand to hear Canon John Peterson, former secretary general of the Anglican Communon say this: “Many in the Anglican Communion are trying to impose a Roman form of governance. The Anglican Communion will be seriously weakened if it moves to a Roman magisterial form of governance.” (Read it all.)

And to hear Bishop Jon Bruno say this: "It’s time for [Archbishop Rowan Williams] to stop being Chamberlain and start acting like Churchill." (Read it all.)

Susan Russell has coverage of this event as well.

Bishop Jefferts Schori's on Easter, and the recent HOB meeting

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's Easter message is here. A video interview with the Rev. Jan Nunley, the Episcopal Church's deputy for communications is here.

ACI leader's parish joins Church of Nigeria

Just two months ago, the Rev. Don Armstrong of the Anglican Communion Institute was meeting with the Episcopal Church's "Windsor bishops" at Camp Allen in Texas to help them consider alternative primatial oversight. Tonight comes news that he has led his parish, the largest in Colorado, into the Church of Nigeria.

The diocese's news release is here. The parish's news page is here.

This move, comes on the heels of this essay by Ephraim Radner, another member of the ACI, who helped write the first draft of the Archbishop of Canterbury's covenant for the Anglican Communion. Radner is a member of the board of directors of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which works to destabilize mainline Protestant churches.

These developments are somewhat perplexing because the ACI scored a major victory in Tanzania when the ACI-coached "Windsor bishops," were given a significant role in the primatial vicar scheme embraced by the Primates. Can it be that it only took the rejection of that scheme by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops to chase these fellows from the field? Maybe. But I wish we knew more.

In any case, Armstrong's desertion, coupled with Radner's association with the IRD have destroyed the ACI's credibility with Episcopal bishops, and damaged it in England as well. The ACI is an institute in the Simonian, rather than Smithsonian sense, and two of its six members have taken themselves out of the action.

Update: Interestingly, Christopher Setiz of the ACI is still insisting that the Windsor bishops meet and do his bidding. Seitz wants a group of bishops who number no more than 20, and perhaps as few as 14, to defy the rest of the House of Bishops and, in all liklihood, the Executive Council, and embrace a plan put forth by an organization which just saw one of its six members jump ship for the Church of Nigeria.

If this were to happen, it seems likely there would be serious consequences for the Church and the Windsor Bishops. But I can't seem to come up with any scenario in which there would be consequences for Christopher Setiz.

A guest editorial from Father Dan Martins of the Diocese of San Joaquin

Update: bls at Topmost Apple chimes in.

Editor's note: Last week I invited Father Dan Martins of the Diocese of San Joaquin to write an article for Daily Episcopalian. I am delighted that he has accepted. The piece below grows out of an email conversation that Dan and I had, and, as he explains the details well, I won't get into that here. I am hoping that the article will inspire conversation that might move liberals and conservatives closer to a mutual understanding of what each side needs from the other if we are to remain together as a Church. From a little bit of previous experience, I anticipate two problems that can occur in these types of exchanges.

One is that the "ideological visitor," Dan in this case, gets swamped with questions from a dozen well-meaning interlocutors and can't respond to them all. We are going to deal with that by making two forums open for this discussion. Dan will post the piece on this blog: Confessions of a Carioca. If you want to ask him questions or interact directly with him, head over there to post your comments and questions. He will publish and respond to them in his own time. If you prefer to critique the piece, offer a proposal of your own, or interact with people other than Dan (who may drop in from time to time if he's got the time) then Daily Episcopalian is the place for your response.

The other issue that arises in these sorts of conversations is--quite simply--civility. I am going to moderate all comments to the blog today and tomorrow. That may mean it will be hours before your post appears, but I think in the long run it will make for a more fruitful exchange. If I can make one recommendation that may help keep the conversation lively, but civil, it is the advice that Ernest Hemingway gave young writers about the editing process: "Kill all your darlings." If you think you've gotten off a particularly witty retort; said something in a marvelously sharp-edged sort of way; absolutely decimated your debating partner, etc., take that language out. That kind of writing tends to appeal to the hometown fans on any blog, but playing to the crowd, rallying the faithful, firing back at the commenters on another blog (while necessary at times) isn't what this exchange is for. So let's embrace a certain rhetorical circumspection before responding to the thoughtful words that follow.

A Motion to Reconsider
By the Rev. Dan Martins

I am grateful to Jim Naughton for his kind invitation to offer a “guest editorial” on his fine blog. In the wake of the mind-of-the-house resolutions passed of late by the House of Bishops, I participated in a comment thread in which I suggested that they had just kissed off the only live option for maintaining some semblance of institutional unity among those who have—until recently, at least—identified themselves as Episcopalians. Jim wrote me off-line, saying in effect, “So we’re at an impasse. What do you think will work?”

My initial response was along the lines of “Define ‘work.’” That’s an important question because it’s a step toward articulating a goal, and one element in the current unpleasantness is certainly a disparity of goals. As I organize my own thinking, I have found a particular analytical map to be helpful (not infallible, just helpful). It is predicated on the assumption of an omnipresent tension, a polarity, between the values of truth and unity. It presumes that we all value both truth and unity, but we do so in different ways and to different degrees.

On both ends of the ideological-theological-ethical spectrum are those who tend to let truth trump unity. For Liberals (progressives, re-appraisers), the operative truth is the gospel mandate for full inclusion, radical hospitality, toward “all sorts and conditions” of human beings in the life and ministry of the church. For Conservatives (orthodox, re-asserters), the operative truth is the gospel mandate for personal holiness and righteousness, taking God on God’s terms, and not trying to remake him according to our own specifications. For both groups, the goal is to have their operative truth triumph and become the ruling institutional norm.

In the middle, then, are those whose default mode is to hold their perception of truth with such a degree of humility as allows the equally important gospel value of unity to live and move and have some being. This group straddles the center line, and includes people who are on both sides of the divisive issues. For this group, the goal is to find a way to remain visibly and organically connected with one another, even in the face of radical disagreement about some pretty basic questions. (Full disclosure: I number myself in this category—to the right of center, of course. I do, however, sometimes make common cause with conservatives of the “truth before unity” variety, and hold many of them in high esteem.)

Of course, these categories are not absolute or rigid. They are porous at the borders. Even “Truth Liberals” and “Truth Conservatives” can seriously care about unity. But it’s unity on their terms; they’re not willing to surrender a vigorous prosecution of what they believe to be the demands of truth in order to maintain unity. They want to control the institutional apparatus of the church. They don’t necessarily want to unchurch those who disagree with them, but the losers must be willing to play by the rules of the winners. By the same token, both “Unity Liberals” and “Unity Conservatives” can have a profound respect for truth, and none them would embrace unity at any cost. Everyone has a “line in the sand” somewhere. (For what it may be worth, I believe many Unity Conservatives feel as though the House of Bishops crossed that line with their resolutions.)

So, as Jim has invited me to write about what I think might “work,” the way I’m going to interpret “work” is through the lens of the goal of the “unity” party—that is, What might enable those with disparate points of view to remain under the institutional umbrella of the Episcopal Church in some way? The “Truth Liberal” take-it-or-leave-it offer is, “We don’t bend our polity one millimeter, and we don’t flinch for a nanosecond in the ‘full inclusion’ of our LGBT members, even at the cost of cashing in our membership in the Anglican Communion.” The corresponding “Truth Conservative” position is, “We don’t back off one whit from traditional Christian sexual ethics, and we remain in communion with Canterbury, even if that means creating a ‘replacement’ Anglican province in the territories now covered by the Episcopal Church.” I respect and honor those who hold both points of view. Many of them are my friends. But trying to bridge that gap is a task for someone with more intellectual horsepower and political moxie than is available to me. I must address my appeal to the “unity party” (not having any idea if there is anyone left out there who so self-identifies, and how many there might be), speaking as a member of that party who holds conservative (orthodox, traditional, re-asserter) views on the questions about which we contend with one another.

Many are no doubt asking, “Why is unity that important, anyway? This marriage is over. You’re kicking a dead horse. Why not just go our separate ways, pursue mission as we believe God has shown it to us, and leave one another alone?” I have three responses—one spiritual, one emotional, and one practical:

Unity is itself a “gospel truth.” The epistle for Lent III—with its emphasis the ministry of reconciliation that the Church has received from her Lord—was particularly compelling for me this year, coupled, as it was, with the deep reconciliation signified in the parable of the Prodigal Son. God clearly wants all those who call themselves disciples of his Son to be visibly one. Any divisions, any “brand names” (denominations), among Christians, break the heart of God.

And the corollary is this: Any schism is incalculably more difficult to mend than it is to create in the first place. Just as with marriages, trial separations between Christian bodies more often turn into divorce than into reconciliation.

It’s my church too! This is an anguished, feeling-laden cry. As we look schism in the eye, there is not one set of lips—Liberal or Conservative, Truth or Unity—on which it could not plausibly be heard. Let me speak very personally, in the hope that, with some appropriate translation, my experience might be emblematic of others’. I’m clearly on record that I am an Episcopalian, not for its own sake, but as an instrumental means of being an Anglican. At the end of the day, I will choose to remain Anglican even at the cost of remaining Episcopalian. Yet, I love the Episcopal Church with every fiber of my being. The effective moment of my “conversion” was when I sat down in a college music department practice room in 1971 with a piano and a copy of the Hymnal 1940. I thought to myself, “Where have these hymns been all my life? If there’s a church that actually sings them, I need to be in it.” I have lived and served in five different dioceses, in both lay and ordained states. I’m the graduate of an accredited seminary of the Episcopal Church. All three of my now-grown children attended an Episcopal school in Baton Rouge, LA and all three are graduates of Sewanee—The University of the South, very much an Episcopal institution. The 1979 Prayer Book has formed me spiritually for three decades now (and I think it’s the finest of the genre within Anglicanism). I have enthusiastically displayed the Episcopal shield logo on a long succession of Chrysler minivans. I’ve been a deputy to two General Conventions, and read General Ordination exams four times. This is as much my church as it is anyone else’s. I have no desire to leave it. It is my home. Yet, even as a “Unity Conservative,” I have my limits. They are now uncomfortably in plain sight.

Let’s not give God’s money to lawyers. I know some good people who are lawyers, and I realize they do necessary work, but wherever trial lawyers gather, tragedy has already struck. This is not the venue to debate the substance of the “justice issue” of church property. The only point I want to make is that, if there is not an institutional solution to our disputes, there will be endless rounds of court battles lasting decades and costing tens of millions of dollars. That’s not a “should”; it’s just an “is.” It does no good to point fingers or assign blame. It will be a tragedy for which we will have to answer on the Day of the Lord. However one conceives of the Church’s mission—whether it’s the MDGs or open-air evangelistic crusades—it’s mission that will suffer for the sake of billable hours. Everyone, on all sides, will lose the credibility of their Christian witness.

So now what do we do? If you’ve read this far, I’m sorry to have to tell you: I don’t know! I and many others are feeling devastated after the HOB meeting because the Pastoral Council/Primatial Vicar plan was the last best hope. It has the potential to keep even some “Truth Conservatives” on board because it provides a much needed layer of insulation between them and the behavior of official church leaders, all the while maintaining some degree of formal ties (the name “Episcopal,” the Pension Fund, informal relationships, history and heritage, even participation in General Convention and service on CCABs).

All I can think of to do is implore my co-partisans in the “Unity Party”—those on both sides of the divide—to “seriously lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions” (BCP, p. 818). We need to bend. All of us. Beginning with the knee joint. For the sake of unity, we need to be willing to live in a church that irritates us. We’ve got to be willing to swallow some horse pills. My sense is that many “Unity Conservatives” would be willing to say to our LGBT members: “While we cannot condone the blessing of committed relationships other than heterosexual marriage, because anything else falls short of God’s design, neither will we harass, condemn, or judge you. We will let you live in peace, and be available to you with informal pastoral support. And we will remain in an Episcopal Church in which many (most?) believe that God is calling us to something more overt, as a faithful minority, even as we disagree about God’s call.” I, at least, could say that—but no more. Trust me, that much is a horse pill! But unity is important enough for me to swallow it.

What horse pill are “Unity Liberals” willing to swallow? Not being one, I can’t answer that question. But I can suggest that “Unity Conservatives” might welcome something like this: “Just because you don’t support the goal of ‘full inclusion’ doesn’t mean you’re homophobic, and those of you who can’t accept women as priests and bishops are not misogynists. We understand the need for some degree of ‘insulation’ from what church leaders are saying and doing, even while we don’t agree with your perception. We believe conservative dioceses should be able to elect bishops that reflect their values, and have those elections consented to. And while we don’t share many of the views of our Anglican brothers and sisters in the developing world, our unity with them is so precious to us that we are willing to lay aside some of what we consider to be true.”

This would not be an ideal church for either Liberals or Conservatives. It would be annoying. It would be messy. It would be profoundly costly—in a spiritual, not in a financial sense. It would therefore be real. It would mean letting go of our American idolization of democratic and parliamentary processes. The “majority” would need to learn to serve, rather than to rule, and the “minority” would need to be humble enough not to exploit the graciousness of the majority, but to replace mere obduracy with self-differentiated openness. Such a church would have a chance, at least, of making the sort of witness in the world that God expects of us. It might just work.

Clarifications

Bishop Jeffrey Steenson obfuscates. The Rev. Susan Russell clarifies.

Bishop Whalon: Best meeting ever...and more

Update: See Mumcat.
Bishop Pierre Whalon of the convocatin in Europe has written on his blog:

One image I will always remember: a new bishop asked her to clarify her stand on the uniqueness of Christ. +Katharine replied that her view is similar to that of Vatican II (Nostra ætate, actually), namely that Jesus Christ is the final self-revelation of God in the world, but that salvation is possible outside of the Christian Church. He seemed dissatisfied with this reply. After adjourning the session, she went right over to him and they talked for fifteen minutes, alone in the meeting room.

This showed two things about the new Presiding Bishop. First, contrary to some reports, her Christology is orthodox. There have been some who have held that extra ecclesiam nulla salus—outside the Church there is no salvation. But this does not jibe with Jesus’ behavior toward Gentiles nor to Paul’s teaching about grace. What is essential, as the PB noted, is that Christians do not know how God saves people outside the New Covenant. Somehow Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, makes provision, since through him all people are offered salvation.

The other aspect of this incident is that +Katharine Jefferts-Schori cares about people who do not agree with her. She did not know that I was standing outside the meeting room with two other bishops, chewing the fat, until we realized that the two of them were still talking in the room. So this was not for show.

A hopeful delay in Nigeria?

Colin Coward of Changing Attitude emailed me this morning to say that the Nigerian legislature did not consider the hateful anti-gay legislation being supported by Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Church of Nigeria before adjourning yesterday. The legislature as currently composed does not reconvene until May, after the general election, and then only for one week.

If the bill doesn't pass in May, it can be reintroduced in a future session, but people who have been monitoring the situation for various human rights organizations have suggested that the election may alter political dynamics enough to make passage of the bill in its current form less likely.

The bishop of California

Bishop Marc Andrus' letter to this diocese brings back memories of my grad school days when the poet Philip Booth introduced me to the work of the poet Elizabeth Bishop. You can skip ahead and get to the newsy bits if you like, but then go back and read the poem with which Bishop Andrus begins his piece.

Canon Popoola speaks

Canon AkinTunde Popoola, director of communications for the Church of Nigeria, just posted a comment at Thinking Anglicans regarding his Church's support for the anti-gay legislation being considered by the legislature:

"I do not think speaking publicly against the bill will do the Gospel any good in our context."

He may be speaking of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has not publicly opposed the bill. I don't think he can be speaking of his own Church, which has not opposed the bill because it has been busy supporting it.

News and color from the bishop of Rhode Island

There's both good information and great color in Bishop Geralyn Wolf's report to her diocese.

Info: "I would wholeheartedly support the Presiding Bishop’s selection of a Primatial Vicar (or whatever title is appropriate), in consultation with those dioceses who have requested same. In addition, I uphold the concept of accountability. For the integrity of our church, I believe that this should occur internally, with the Primatial Vicar serving at the pleasure of the Presiding Bishop. While the vote of the House was not unanimous, responses crossed 'party' lines." (emphasis mine: That's at least three "Windsor" bishops opposed to or uninterested in the Primates' oversight scheme.)

More info: "Bishops who support the Windsor Report gathered for a brief session, and plan to meet in August. (emphasis mine. I'd heard a report of an April meeting.) Again, these bishops hold different opinions on the work before us, but all believe that the Windsor Report remains the best document available to move forward as a Communion."

Color: "The final dinner was marked with much laughter and thanksgiving, regardless of which side you buttered your bread. The women bishops gave me another veiled miter, and Bishop Barbara Harris and I walked down the aisle of the dining room arm and arm, with the other women following. Bishop Harris kept waving her hand announcing, 'mother-of-the-bride, mother-of-the-bride.' " (Note: Bishop Wolf is getting married this summer.)

It sounds as though the bishops actually had fun, which I believe is unprecedented.

The bishop of Virginia

Dear Friends,

The meeting of the House of Bishops this week at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas may prove to be an historic turning point in the life of the Anglican Communion. The Bishops overwhelmingly rejected a “Pastoral Scheme” that was proposed by the Primates of the Anglican Communion at their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. By doing so, the bishops reaffirmed that the Episcopal Church is a self-governing, autonomous church, and that it is not divided. We also served notice that we cannot accept intervention in the governance of our Church by foreign prelates.

In addition, we affirmed very strongly our passionate desire to remain in communion with other Anglican churches across the world, and we adopted a unanimous resolution, introduced by the Rt. Rev. John Howe, the Bishop of Central Florida and leader of the more conservative bishops, asking the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Steering Committee of the Primates to meet face to face with our House of Bishops at the earliest opportunity. We believe that many foreign primates do not have an accurate sense of the Episcopal Church and we think such a meeting is imperative.

We believe that the bonds of affection which tie us to churches all across the world remain strong even if they are strained, especially with some churches in the global south. But even with those churches, we have many points of contact and shared ministry.

Differences among Episcopalians are ours to resolve, and the spirit of the House of Bishops was respectful of differences. But we are also united in protecting the integrity of the Episcopal Church as an independent, autonomous and undivided Church.

I ask you to continue to pray for our Church, for the Anglican Communion, for the Primates, for those who suffer oppression, for the poor, the needy and for all who seek the redeeming love of Christ.

Faithfully yours,

Peter James Lee

(source)

The "Windsor" bishops

Bishop Don Wimberly of Texas who convened both meetings of the so-called "Windsor" or "Camp Allen" bishops has written to his diocese. He doesn't sound much like someone eager to participate in a scheme for alternative oversight.

It is too early to draw a firm conclusion, but it seems at least possible that Bishops N. T. Wright, Michael Scott-Joynt, Rowan Williams and everyone else who accepted the Anglican Communion Institute's assessment of the mood of our House of Bishops were badly mistaken.

Some 25 bishops attended one of the two "Windsor bishops" meetings held at Camp Allen (one in September 2006 and one in January 2007), but not everyone who comes to the open house puts in a bid on the property.

Of the 21 bishops who signed a September 22, 2006 letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, saying that the Episcopal Church "did not adequately" to the Windsor Report, several have retired, and it is not at all clear that all of those remaining are a) intersted in any kind of alternative oversight or b) are able to persuade their dioceses to accept such a scheme. It may be that the "Windsor bishops" are really the Network bishops plus just a few others.

We will know more when this group--whatever its size--convenes again during the last week of April.

You can buy anything on Ebay

That Brother Causticus is very funny.

The Nigerian debate

Changing Attitude writes that the Nigerian legislature resumed debate of highly controversial anti-gay legislation yesterday, and that Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, is lobying on the bill's behalf.

CA writes: "The version of the Bill presented yesterday is the original "Sani" version that was presented last March. No amendments have been made and the public hearing has not influenced the Bill in anyway. The bill does not take into consideration the views of the Human Rights Committee of the House that the bill will create a fundamental abuse of LGBT human rights. The Committee is understood to be trying to block the Bill and the chair of the Committee reported that they are going to present a minority report."

Davis Mac-Iyalla writes: "Conservative Christians want to use Nigeria as an example to other African countries to demonstrate that anti-gay legislation can be passed which criminalizes all affection and activity between LGBT people.”

The bishop of Arizona

Dean Nick Knisely has Bishop Kirk Smith's statement in which, refreshingly, he admits that his initial appraisal of the Primates' Communique was naive. Having bishops who admit it when they are wrong may take some getting used to, eh?

The bishop writes: Let me emphasize that the subject of the Communiqué (namely human sexuality) was not discussed in our gathering AT ALL. What was discussed with alarm was the process that we were being asked to follow; indeed which the Archbishop of Canterbury has already begun to put into place by the creation of a Primatial Vicar and Pastoral Council, which would exercise oversight over our own American church. This notion was soundly rejected by the majority of both liberal and conservative bishops. The issue was not our participation in the Anglican Communion, which we unanimously wish to continue, but the legality of the tactics used by a minority of Primates to enforce their views upon us. Our decision, not to accept their ultimatum, was not an issue of theology, but of sovereignty. Some will attempt to portray our resistance to their interference as "choosing to walk alone" from the Anglican Communion. This is certainly not the case. We remain as committed to the Communion as ever, but we must find a way of doing so that is true to our own Constitution. As much as we wish to work together with all Anglicans throughout the world, we are mindful that in 16th Century, the Church of England was created in opposition to a distant Roman Pope and Curia, and that in the 18th Century our country in turn fought a revolution to free ourselves from British rule. Why would we want to turn over our independence to a small group of foreign prelates, who we did not elect, and who have no legal authority over us?

Beyondism

Street Prophets has an item on "Beyondism", which describes a certain sort of holier-than-thou approach to secular politics that is alive and well in the debate within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Pastor Dan writes: "I don’t think we need to write the liberal-vs.-conservative divide of modern politics into unchanging truth. And there very well may be a better way of doing politics so that it’s not so partisan. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that we can somehow transcend the human condition here. Like it or not, we are stuck with our differences of opinion as a basic condition of our existence. Until the day of final reconciliation comes, we’ll all be of different minds about lots of things, including politics."

And: "Vive les politiques, then. Bashing one another over the head with political cudgels keeps us strong. And really, God bless us for that.

In answer to the inevitable question, yes politics is all about power. But that’s exactly my point. The "pesky divisions" of partisan politics aren’t really the issue. How those divisions are used to hold power over one another is a different question. Some people feel that faithful people must give up on power altogether. I think that we have to find ethical ways of holding and using power."

Even The Telegraph

In an editorial today, The Telegraph, no one's idea of a leftist publication, blames Rowan Williams' embrace of Peter Akinola for the crisis in the Communion.

"Dr Williams now finds himself out of favour with liberals and moderate conservatives in his own Communion. And, harsh though it may sound, he has only himself to blame.

In the past couple of years, he has allowed conservative Anglicanism to be hijacked by extremists. Archbishop Peter Akinola, Anglican Primate of Nigeria, is the leader of the Global South provinces opposed to the ordination of actively homosexual clergy.

That is fair enough, but he has also defended new Nigerian legislation that makes "cancerous" (his word) same-sex activity punishable by up to five years' imprisonment. The deeply divisive figure of Archbishop Akinola was central to Dr Williams's Tanzanian compromise; is it any wonder that it has been rejected?

The Archbishop's attempts to hold together the Communion have led him to a theological position so convoluted that he now has few natural supporters. He will find himself exposed at next year's Lambeth Conference - if, that is, it can take place at all without the support of the American Church."

The Mad Priest's take on the significance of this editorial, similar to mine but with a greater depth of understanding, is worth reading.

Join in

They are talking about us over at Street Prophets.

Offending the right people

Have a look.

The Bishop of Alabama

The Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley has written to this diocese. He says in part: "It became clear to the bishops gathered at Camp Allen that the proposal of the Primates to establish a Pastoral Council, including appointed bishops from outside our church, to provide oversight within the Episcopal Church is not compatible with our polity. This pastoral scheme outlined in the Communiqué is not workable within our Constitution and Canons, and it was important for us to say this forthrightly."

Bishop Parsely attended the second of the "Camp Allen" meetings, but he doesn't sound here like a man interested in alternative oversight. If he ever was.

A delightful debut

I forgot to mention that the new Episcopal News Service/ Episcopal Life Web site makes its debut today. Have a look.

Stephen Bates on the HOB

The Guardian's religion reporter has just posted this item to the paper's blog.

Meanwhile, Susan Russell is the "guest voice" at the Washington Post's On Faith site.

The audacity of deviants

A column from The Daily Trust of Abuja.

Note especially this passage: What amazes some of us is the audacity of deviants. The end times are here with us. We will hear and witness many strange things. A minority with an aberrant lifestyle will be pushing to impose their behaviour on the majority. A people who ought to hide their heads in shame want to pressure us to accept and even promote their aberrant lifestyle. In much of the Western world, gay people have compelled society to tolerate or accept their lifestyle but we in Africa have resolutely refused to toe that line. This is one issue that Africa seems to have resolved not to follow the West despite intimidation from those quarters.

And this one: It is certain that if those who signed the genocide convention knew that the definition of genocide is so elastic that it also protects lesbians and homosexuals, they would have hesitated before signing. In these end times, we will continue to see the manifestations of the wiles of Satan. So-called international laws, conventions and treaties that call for universal obedience may be no more than satanic instruments designed and disguised in such a manner that very few may have the wisdom to decode that they are meant to advance the cause of Satan.

Putting on my Frank Luntz hat for a moment

Polity.

Don't use the word. Ever. It is tantamount to wearing a sign around your neck that says: "Vote for me. Not only am I anally-retentive, but I enjoy using words the average person doesn't understand."

"Governance" is better, but what's really needed is a phrase that explains why "polity" is theology. A challenge to our polity is a challenge to "the way we discern and respond to the will of God."

Or words to that effect.

Update: Brian Kaylor's thoughts on this are worth reading, as always.

A challenge

I don't know whether it is fair to pose a challenge that I won't be responding to myself, but here goes.

Archbishop Rowan Williams clearly does not believe that the Anglican Communion's current governance is sufficient to the task before it. Most of the regular visitors to this blog clearly aren't willing to embrace the primate-dominated covenant that he is backing. Can you come up with something that responds to his desire for mutual accountability, greater catholicity and a more coherent ecumenical witness without inhibiting member Churches from responding to the will of God as they perceive it?

The property issue

C. B. raises a good point in the comment box a couple of items down blog:

"The property issue clearly was a factor in the Bishops thinking. The NY Times reports:

Several bishops also said in interviews that they believed that the pastoral council arrangement was intended to strengthen the position of conservative parishes or dioceses that want to leave the Episcopal Church and take their property with them. The breakaway parishes could claim that they came under the new pastoral council guided by the primates, and that the council was the highest authority in the Episcopal Church’s hierarchy.

Bishop Mark Sisk, of New York, said in an interview, “The concern is that that would indicate we are, in some sense, subservient to the primates, rather than simply a church in fellowship with them. And that could have significant legal implications.”

Which leads me to wonder whether these implications were an unintended consequence of the Primates' communique --I think that is entirely possible. The thing was put together under duress and on deadline--or an attempt by the Communion, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to acquire some American real estate.

Coverage begins

And as is so often the case, Thinking Anglicans is the place to follow it. I think the U. S. papers will probably publish slightly different versions of their stories, including quotes from the late afternoon news conference from Camp Allen, tomorrow.

(Such as this one from the NYT which quotes Bishop Chane and, wait for it... Jake! And this one from the Post. Oh, and this one from USA Today.)

In the meantime, click on the "continue reading" tab to see the letter that Bishop John Howe of Central Florida has written to his diocese. Howe is an extremely conservative man, so elements of this letter may surprise you. (Hat tip Ann Fontaine.)

Read more »

House of Bishops: Message to God's People

To read the concluding statement from the House of Bishops meeting click on the "continue reading" tab.

What journalist call the "nut" graph comes late in the piece. Here it is:

It is our strong desire to remain within the fellowship of the Anglican Communion. The Primates' Communiqué, however, raises significant concerns. First among these is what is arguably an unprecedented shift of power toward the Primates, represented, in part, by the proposed "Pastoral Scheme." This proposed plan calls for the appointment of a Primatial Vicar and Pastoral Council for The Episcopal Church whose membership would consist of "up to five members; two nominated by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council." We believe this proposal contravenes the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. Moreover, because it is proposed that this scheme take immediate effect, we were compelled, at this March meeting, to request that the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church decline to participate in this aspect of the Communiqué's requests. Nonetheless, we pledge to continue working to find a way of meeting the pastoral concerns raised by the Primates that are compatible with our own Church's polity and canons. We should note that our recommendation to Executive Council not to participate in the Pastoral Scheme, though not unanimously endorsed by this House, came at the conclusion of long and gracious conversation.

Read more »

Rowan Williams responds

Lambeth Palace has released this quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury:

"This initial response of the House of Bishops is discouraging and indicates the need for further discussion and clarification. Some important questions have still to be addressed and no one is underestimating the challenges ahead."

Meanwhile, AP has a story on the wires.

Bishop Chane writes to the diocese

A Pastoral Letter to the People and Clergy of the Diocese of Washington

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus,

I write to you as we begin to close the Spring Session of the House of Bishops, meeting in Navasota, Texas, March 16-21. I am pleased that the House of Bishops was finally able to craft resolutions that seem to best describe how we see the state of the Episcopal Church at this time in its life. The resolutions that were passed did not please everyone, yet there was clearly a shift in the way we have worked together.

This meeting of the House was prayer-centered, with almost two hours each day spent in prayer and in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Bible study at our small table groups took place each morning and was a wonderful way to re-connect with one another and to prepare for the work that was before us.

Discussions and debate on the floor as we crafted the resolutions (available here) were respectful, thoughtful. There was none of the mean-spiritedness or “hostage taking” that has occurred on occasion at previous House meetings. We were deliberate in our actions and we spent over three hours in debate to craft what you now have before you.

The first resolution, “Mind of the House of Bishops Resolution Addressed to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church” passed in the House by a simple voice vote after several hours of debate. The second resolution, “To the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates' Steering Committee” passed unanimously. The third resolution, which puts forth “A Statement from the House of Bishops-March 20, 2007” passed by a standing vote after some modifications in language.

These resolutions make clear that in spite of our differences on human sexuality and other issues, a solid majority of the House viewed the recommendations contained in the Primates' communiqué from Tanzania as offensive to our Church and disrespectful of the way that we discern and respond to God’s will. Our democratic polity is not universally admired within the Communion, but I was encouraged to see so many bishops resist the Primates’ call for our House to act unilaterally. We are a hierarchical church to be sure, but in our governance, the voice of bishops is balanced by the voices of the clergy and laity.

It was the hope of the bishops that the statement we have released will be a helpful teaching tool for the Church as we continue to discuss how best to respond to the Primates’ ultimatum by their September 30th deadline. As always I ask your prayers for the Episcopal Church, our Presiding Bishop Katharine, and all of our brothers and sisters throughout the Anglican Communion as we seek ways to walk together during these times of great challenge and change.

In Christ’s Peace, Power and Love,
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane

Welcome back

Father Jake has broken his Lenten blogfast to weigh in on the House of Bishops' resolutions.

Forbes profiles the PB

The new issue of Forbes has an excellent article on Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and women's ordination.

Dave Walker is on the story

The proprietor of Cartoon Church has located the primatial vicar.

The blogs respond to the bishops

Afternoon update

Lisa Fox of Episcopal Majority is tracking the blogosphere's reaction to the three resolutions passed yesterday by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. For background, look one item downstream.

And don't miss Tobais' creative take.

No, thank you

Updates: The Living Church story is here. There may not be much press coverage in the morning because the story broke so late. Second update: Rebecca Trounson of the LA Times did manage to get a story in.

If the Primates' "recommendations" were really an ultimatum, then the House of Bishops has said no. There are probably sublter ways to parse the following documents, but those will have to wait until tomorrow, or at least until my son has finished the online research he needs to complete his homework.

In the meantine, the three resolutions passed by the house today are here. Pay special attention to 1 and 3. And an ENS story is here.

The key passage in resolution 1 reads: Resolved, the House of Bishops believes the proposed Pastoral Scheme of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué of February 19, 2007 would be injurious to The Episcopal Church and urges that the Executive Council decline to participate in it; and

The key passage in number 3 may be this one: With great hope that we will continue to be welcome in the councils of the family of Churches we know as the Anglican Communion, we believe that to participate in the Primates' Pastoral scheme would be injurious to The Episcopal Church for many reasons.

First, it violates our church law in that it would call for a delegation of primatial authority not permissible under our Canons and a compromise of our autonomy as a Church not permissible under our Constitution.

Second, it fundamentally changes the character of the Windsor process and the covenant design process in which we thought all the Anglican Churches were participating together.

Third, it violates our founding principles as The Episcopal Church following our own liberation from colonialism and the beginning of a life independent of the Church of England.

Fourth, it is a very serious departure from our English Reformation heritage. It abandons the generous orthodoxy of our Prayer Book tradition. It sacrifices the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking Bishops. And, for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.

Most important of all it is spiritually unsound. The pastoral scheme encourages one of the worst tendencies of our Western culture, which is to break relationships when we find them difficult instead of doing the hard work necessary to repair them and be instruments of reconciliation. The real cultural phenomenon that threatens the spiritual life of our people, including marriage and family life, is the ease with which we choose to break our relationships and the vows that established them rather than seek the transformative power of the Gospel in them. We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division.

Unpacking Professor Grieb's paper

I have just had a chance to read the Rev. Katherine Grieb's presentation to the House of Bishops yesterday, and to pull out some highlights for your perusal. If the bishops take what she is saying seriously, and I don't know offhand why they wouldn't, I think the possibility that the House will actually commit news before the end of its current meeting has crept up a notch. Prof. Grieb is regarded as a liberal, I think, by most people, but also as an institutionalist. That she is calling for a five-year fast from participation in the governing bodies of the Communion is a signficant development. I don't know that I think what she is proposing is a good idea--The longer we are in limbo, the worse it is for our institutional health.--but I am eager to hear how the bishops will respond.

I also appreciate the deft maneuver she has executed in endorsing the Presiding Bishop's call for a fast, but changing the activities from which we are abstaining. On to the highlights.


On the composition of the covenant drafting committee:

When we first formed as a group and introduced ourselves to one another, it became obvious that we were missing three of our members, no small matter in a group of that size. The representatives from South Africa, Ireland and Ceylon were unable to attend the meeting. We had been formed as a group in November, so undoubtedly they had prior commitments, but for whatever reasons they did not send replacements and we were missing those perspectives that I assume were also carefully chosen to balance the group. This was a concern to me because South Africa has been through the experience of apartheid and the powerful work of the Truth and Reconciliation process; Ceylon has recently ordained women after careful discussion, and Ireland has experienced the bitter religious conflicts between Roman Catholics and Protestants and also the peacemaking efforts. The perspectives of these three members would have been invaluable to our committee.

At the beginning of our work, one of the Primates present suggested that there might need to be a minority report, looking at me .... We worked together well, listening to one another, respecting one another's differences. But the absence of the three members I described meant that there were only one or two voices at the table to speak for the use of the covenant as binding the whole Communion together with different points of view on issues that are not adiaphora represented in it.


On the content of the proposed covenant:

That same majority point of view was also most insistent on the key role of the Primates as the interpreters and enforcers of the Covenant. A few of us suggested that the Anglican Consultative Council, being more representative of the Anglican Communion as a whole, including women and laity, might be the better body to interpret the Covenant. But it was felt that the group is too large, that it meets too infrequently, and that the ''augmented role'' of the Primates was a major part of the rationale for the Covenant in the first place. The language about the Primates prevailed, with the reminder that the Communion as a whole would be discussing this move at length, that this was a draft document to be tested by the larger Communion.

The same sort of discussion happened around the issue of the normativity of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in section 2.5. The only footnote in the document recognizes that there are other duly authorized Books of Common Prayer in the Anglican Communion, ''but acknowledges the foundational nature of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 in the life of the Communion.'' So that section now reads that ''each member Church and the Communion as a whole, affirms''…''that, led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.'' Once again, objections that this would work to exclude provinces that are not ordered by the 1662 Prayerbook were met with the argument that this was the sort of thing that the provinces would need to discuss and report back about: how central is the role of the Thirty-nine Articles or the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican Communion as a whole?

So the Proposed Anglican Covenant is most clearly based on the covenant document already widely circulated and ratified in principle by representatives of the Global South.


After Dar es Salaam:

The character of that discussion and discernment process has been clarified considerably by the Primates' Communiqué and by the specific ''assurances'' requested from the Episcopal Church by September 30 of this year. The Primates are acting in an unprecedented way, setting up a ''pastoral council'' and one or more ''primatial vicars,'' as if the Proposed Anglican Covenant process had been completed and the document already ratified by all the provinces. But the long careful process the Covenant Design Group had envisioned with respect t our section 6.6 – by which, eventually, in extreme circumstances, after all procedural due process had been followed, a member Church might be judged to have ''relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the Covenant's prupose'' by :the councils of the Instruments of Communion'' (all of the Instruments of Communion) – that suggested process has been ignored, bypassed, condensed, or otherwise made irrelevant by the Primates' Communiqué. The Primates have given the clearest possible signal that they themselves cannot wait for the Proposed Anglican Covenant. Their section 30 states that ''an interim response is required in the period until the Covenant is secured.'' As we speculate about what could have motivated such a strong response when the work of the Covenant Design Group had clearly advanced beyond anyone's initial expectations, I think we should assume that the Episcopal Church is considered so unreliable and so untrustworthy that the Primates feel the Anglican Communion is presently endangered without these ''assurances'' and without the imposed structures (the pastoral council and the primatial vicars).
...

The Primates' Communiqué makes it clear that the bicameral structure of our polity is not important to them: the House of Bishops is to give these assurances on its own, through its Primate. A polity that would require us to do this another way is our problem.

Prof. Grieb's key insight:

It says that failure to give these assurances means that the relationship between us ''remains damaged at best'' and this ''has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the Anglican Communion.'' In other words, this is a highly condensed version of section 6.6 of our Proposed Anglican Covenant document. We see that the main purpose of the Proposed Anglican Covenant is directed at the Episcopal Church specifically and the issue of same-sex relationships particularly. We see that section 6.6, far from being a logical outcome of a long list of believes we hold in common, is the point of the covenant-making process. We also see how the Primates are very likely to interpret the Proposed Anglican Covenant when it is finally in place: as a means to bring the practices of a province holding a minority view on a contentious matter into line with the view of majority of the Primates themselves so that the Communion speaks with only one voice.

Her recommendation:

I suggest that we enter a five-year period of fasting from full participation in the Anglican Communion to give us all time to think and to listen more carefully to one another. I think we should engage in prayerful non-participation in global meetings (in Lambeth, in the Anglican Consultative Council, in other Communion committee meetings) or, if invited to do so, send observers who could comment, if asked, on the matter under discussion. We should continue on the local level to send money and people wherever they are wanted. (This is not about taking our marbles and going home.) We need to remain wholly engaged in the mission of the church, as closely tied as we are allowed to the See of Canterbury and to the Anglican Communion as a whole. But we should absent ourselves from positions of leadership, stepping out of the room, so that the discussions of the Anglican Communion about itself can go on without spending any more time on our situation which has preoccupied it.

A special convention?

I do not think the House of Bishops can make this decision alone – a least not in our polity. It is essential for us to listen to all the representatives of the Episcopal Church, and our constitution does provide for calling a special General Convention. Article 1, section 7 says special meetings may be held as provided for by the canons. Canon 1.1.3 (a) vests the right of calling a special meeting of the General Convention in the bishops. The Presiding Bishop summons the meeting, designates the time and place, with the consent of the requisition of a majority of the bishops expressed to the Presiding Bishop in writing. Canon 1.1.3 (b) says that deputies elected to the preceding General Convention shall be the deputies of the Special Convention. This could be a stripped down, more tightly focused General Convention and somebody who knows a lot more about this than I do can tell us if there are ways to streamline the resolutions process to deal with the Primates' request as directly as possible.

The music:

Theologically, biblically, I think we are at Antioch with Paul, in Jerusalem with Jeremiah, and walking the way of the Cross with that mysterious Son of Man. With Paul in Antioch, we have – perhaps without adequate consultation with Jerusalem – been having table fellowship (koinonia) with Gentiles, until the men from James came to tell us that we have to stop doing it. They want a moratorium on eating with Gentiles. This presents the community with a difficult decision. Peter and Barnabas pull away from the table physically and ritually separate themselves from the Gentiles. Paul says, ''I can't do it.'' If he had not, most of us would not be here today, being Gentiles ourselves.

Jeremiah in Jerusalem before the exile told the frightened people to wake up and appreciate their situation. Their naïve belief that God would never allow the city of Jerusalem and its Temple to be taken by the Babylonians was not going to save them. They were going into exile, one way or another. They could do it the hard way or the easier way, but they were going into exile. I think the metaphor of ''exile'' captures something of the pain we can expect from being in less than full communion with the Primates, who will certainly distance themselves from us, if not in September, then later on down the line. But we might remember that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have long lived in exile and it will be a great privilege to go into exile in their company.

Finally, I think we are in the place of all potential disciples of Jesus when some Pharisees come to warn him about Herod. He will go his way today, and the next day, and tday after that, healing and teaching and casting out demons, but eventually he will end up in Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who lose their lives for now on the way to Jerusalem, when things are hard and scary and it feels like death is all around, then we shouldn't be surprised later when the Son of Man says he doesn't want to be seen with us.

Where is that mysterious Son of Man hidden today? What is the cross that we are to take up? This message is especially directed to those of us who are called to ''stand with'' a rejected category of persons. Dietrich Bonfoeffer recognized the hidden Son of Man in the persecuted Jews. Abraham Heschel, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., had eyes to see the Son of Man hidden in the rejected separate and unequal ones. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi caught a glimpse of him in the Dalit, the ''untouchables'' of India. Since we shall have to answer for these things we do on the day of judgment, it may not burt to ask ourselves ahead of time the question Jesus asks us: What good will it do any of us, even if we gain the whole world, if we forfeit our soul, our life, our self?

Bishop Howard of Florida rejects Panel of Reference proposal

The Living Church has the story.

What Bishop Epting told the primates

"I must say, in all humility but with complete honesty, that – at least in the States – we have been treated with more charity by our ecumenical and interfaith partners than we have by some in our own Anglican Communion! No national dialogues have been terminated, or even missed a beat, because of our current difficulties. The only church which has officially broken off dialogue with the Episcopal Church is the Russian Orthodox Church and – if I may say – even the Vatican has difficulty sustaining that relationship!"

Read it all.

Money looms in Episcopalians rift with Anglicans

The New York Times has begun to examine the devastation that would be wreaked upon the Anglican Communion and its poorest provinces if Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, allows a conservative faction led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Bishop Martyn Minns of Northern Virginia to drive the Episcopal Church out of the Communion.

Laurie Goodstein and Neela Banerjee write:

"The truth is, the Episcopal Church bankrolls much of the Communion’s operations. And a cutoff of that money, while unlikely at this time, could deal the Communion a devastating blow.

The Episcopal Church’s 2.3 million members make up a small fraction of the 77 million members in the Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest affiliation of Christian churches. Nevertheless, the Episcopal Church finances at least a third of the Communion’s annual operations.

Episcopalians give tens of millions more each year to support aid and development programs in the Communion’s poorer provinces in Africa, Asia and Latin America. At least $18 million annually flows from Episcopal Church headquarters in New York, and millions more are sent directly from American dioceses and parishes that support Anglican churches, schools, clinics and missionaries abroad."

Goodstein and Banerjee allow the Rev. Bill Atwood to secrete his usual bile:

"The Rev. Bill Atwood, the general secretary of the Ekklesia Society, a theologically conservative aid organization in Texas, accused the Episcopal Church of using its money to buy off opponents in poor countries. 'It’s a pretty lousy thing to do: to try and use money to weaken the philosophical position of people overseas,' Dr. Atwood said. "

But then they nail him on it:

"Ekklesia also disburses grants overseas and has helped to finance strategy meetings between conservative Episcopalians and their foreign Anglican counterparts, but Dr. Atwood would not divulge any financial information and it is not publicly available. '
Which raises the question: why isn't that information publicly available? The Ekklesia Society is not a church. The most charitable way to describe it would be as a development agency. But most of the church-related development agencies I am aware of either funnel their money through a church (This is how the Anglican Relief and Development agency mentioned in this story operates.) or seek tax-exempt status under provision 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue code.

But tax-exempt charities must make their records public, and Atwood doesn't do that. So why is he allowed to keep his fundraising activities a secret? And perhaps more to the point, why is secrecy necessary?

House hears trio of papers

The bishops gathered at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas have heard three papers, one from the Rev. Ian T. Douglass of the Episcopal Divinity School on the Millennium Develoments goals and one from each of the Episcopal Church's two members on the panel working on the Anglican Covenant.

Douglass' presentation is here. The other presentation are by the Rev. Ephraim Radner, a board member of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, and the Rev. Katherine Grieb of Virginia Theological Seminary.

Shining a little light on the IRD

Talk2Action has news of a new video produced by United Methodist Minister Steven D. Martin. Renewal or ruin? examines the role of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in sowing dissent within mainline denominations and advancing a hard-right political agenda. The story will be somewhat familiar to readers of part one my series Following the Money, but Martin's 25 minute video makes the information much more accessible, and it is perfect for adult education classes.

By the way, am I the last one to learn that the Rev. Ephraim Radner, who is helping to write the proposed Anglican Covenant, is a member of the IRD's board? Does it bother anybody else that this sensitive work is being done by a man so closely allied with an organization that aims to "restructure the permanent governing structure" of "theologically flawed" Protestant denominations? (see FtM, Part one, footnote 3.)

The board is chaired by Roberta Ahmanson, whose billionaire husband Howard has said that while he no longer thinks it is "essential" to stone gay people, adds "It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things." (See FtM, Part one, footnote 13.)

The Rev. Philip W. Turner is a member of the IRD's Board of Advisors. He, like Radner is one of the six members of the Anglican Communion Institute. It is worth keeping these ties in mind when reading the ACI's frequent interventions in the current debate over homosexuality and church order.

We can't promise this to all of our guests

SInce I am in the midst of sharing stories from this month's edition of Washington Window (see one item down) I must pass on this tale of the girls from a South African township who went to tea at the White House. It begins:

Sheila Radebe sat on the edge of the bed in Northwest Washington, D.C., staring at the photograph of herself standing with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office. That morning she and six fellow South Africans had been invited to the White House, where they had tea with First Lady Laura Bush and met with the President. Radebe, a teacher at a township preprimary school near Johannesburg, had a hard time believing it had really happened.

"People back home asked me to make sure and get a picture of the White House," she said. "I never dreamed I would actually be inside the White House, talking with the President, having tea with Mrs. Bush. Now they'll have to believe me.

"This was a God-given gift to be a delegate for Kwasa."

For St. John's, Lafayette Square, the God-given gift was the week-long presence of Radebe and her fellow travelers at the end of January. Since 2004, St. John's has enjoyed an ongoing partnership with the Diocese of Highveld, South Africa, with an emphasis on the Kwasa Centre, where Radebe teaches. The partnership is multi-layered. In addition to providing financial support for Kwasa, groups of St. John's parishioners have traveled twice to South Africa, and two groups of South Africans have visited Washington, D.C. St. John's Sunday school classes have raised money to buy soccer goals for Kwasa, and this year collected soccer clothes and shoes to send back with the South African visitors.

Read it all. And then a little more.

Patrolling the grates

Lucy Chumbley, the editor of Washington Window, has written a wonderful story about the Grate Patrol, a ministry to the homeless carried out by parishioners of St. Paul's Church on K Street, in the Foggy Bottom section of Washington D. C. Have a look. I'd be happy to have you share links to stories about good ministries in your necks of the woods as well.

An excerpt:

Tina Mallett's map of the Mall is not like the ones used by tourists. And Mallett is not your typical cartographer, with an eye for unchanging topography.

This gentle woman, who wears a knitted orange headband and an equally warm smile, maintains an ever-evolving guide for the Grate Patrol team.

There are no monuments on her map, no museums or attractions. Just markings that indicate the spots where the destitute are usually to be found.

Mallett gathers her updates on the streets - "mainly from one person saying, 'There's someone else over there.'"

Marks are erased if someone isn't in a particular spot for a month or so, and new ones chart the ebb and flow of those struggling to survive in the parks, alleys and wide avenues of the nation's capital city.

Duncan on the ropes?

The Anglican Scotist is of the opinion that Bishop Robert Duncan and the other Network bishops may be in a poor strategic position post-Tanzania. I don't know that I agree, but it is an interesting read.

Mark Lawrence plays the victim

Updated: John B. Chilton provided this link to an encouraging article in the Living Church. It goes a long way toward addressing some of the concerns I have expressed below.

If this article by Alan Cooperman in The Washington Post and this one by Adam Parker in the Charleston Post and Courier are any indication, the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence and the leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina plan to blame everyone but themselves for his failure to get the consents necessary to become their bishop.

This is not only unhelpful if they hope to get Lawrence confirmed on a second go-round, it is also dishonest.

Lawrence was not rejected because of his conservative views on Scriptural interpretation homosexuality; he was rejected because he did not state his intention to keep the diocese within the Episcopal Church with sufficient clarity until the 11th hour. By the time he said the words most Standing Committees were waiting to hear, those committees were up against a deadline and, in their haste to communicate consents, at least seven did not follow the proper procedures. (Keep in mind that some Standing Committees that reportedly consented to the election filed no paperwork whatsoever.) Hence their consents could not be verified.

The Presiding Bishop's office gave South Carolina three extra days to get its consents in order. A number of standing committees met (some to reconsider decisions arleady taken) in emergency sessions when they received word that Lawrence, had, at last, been a bit more explicit in his profession of loyalty to the Episcopal Church. Both of these actions demonstrated both flexibility and generosity. In response, Lawrence and the diocesan leadership have chosen to cast themselves as the victim and attempt to make political hay out of a situation that is, in significant measure, of their own making.

My bishop voted to consent to Lawrence's election. Our standing committee did not. I had no horse in the race, and have suggested in other postings that I think Lawrence can eventually be confirmed if the diocese reelects him. But if the candidate and the diocesan leadership continue this truth-distorting, self-exonerating media offensive, they will dissipate the goodwill necessary for that to occur.

Update: Tobias Haller points us to a worthwhile exchange.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

In her musings on the patron of Ireland, the Rev. Susan Russell has put the only persuasive spiritual spin that I have read on the "fast" that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is urging on gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church. She writes:

"On this particular St. Patrick's Day I believe asking gay and lesbian Episcopalians to hang in there and continue to take the vision of a Body of Christ that fully includes all the baptized BACK to the church that still holds their vocations and relationships hostage is almost as hard to imagine as asking Patrick to go evangelize the Irish who enslaved him.

And yet that's the vision we've been given – that's the call we have received."

I am curious Rowan

The Mad Priest and our mutual friend Goran have a scoop over at Of Course I Could be Wrong.

They point out that:

1. The Church of Sweden's leaders have said that they are willing to allow gay people to marry in church on the same basis as heterosexual couples, although bishops are unsure whether to call the unions marriage. The decision will make the church the first major denomination in the world to allow full gay church marriage in practice.

and

2. Under the Porvoo Agreement, The Church Of England is in full communion with the Church of Sweden and allow each other's clergy to work in each other's parishes in either country.

Now the Church of Sweden is not a member of the Anglican Communion, so its relationship to Canterbury is not precisely analogous to ours. Still, it seems to me that Rowan Williams needs to explain why the Episcopal Church's decision to allow the blessing of same-sex relationships is, in his eyes, a Communion-breaking offense, while the Church of Sweden's decision to allow same-sex marriage is not.

The Panel of Reference weighs in again

(Update: See Marhsall's posting. He's given this much more thought than anybody else I have come across.)

This time on cases involving parishes in Florida. I have just given it a very quick read. Have a look.

This would seem to be the nub of it: "As an integral part of this recommendation, we are commending what we are calling a “good neighbour” episcopal ministry. It represents a development of the plan for delegated episcopal pastoral oversight. The “neighbour” bishop would have an oversight extended to him or her from the diocesan bishop, which would include effective and necessary sharing of decisions with regard to clergy appointments for the parish and ordination process. As neighbour, the bishop would live in reasonable geographical proximity. Most important of all, the spirit of this ministry would be neighbourly."

You should note to, however, that the Panel, which thank goodness has no authority in U. S. Courts puts forward a a controversial reading of the Preamble of our Constitution.

At paragraph 26 it writes: The constitutional documents of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada require those Churches to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Church “throughout the world”, and loyal to the historic Anglican formularies.

But what the constituion actually says is: The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America… is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.

That's a statement of fact, not a legal requirement. The Panel needs to be set straight on this, if only to keep it from making further boneheaded readings of our documents and then attempting to force those interpetations upon us.

Not this time

(Update: If you were expecting Mark Lawrence to acknowledge that he played any roll whatsoever in his rejection as bishop of South Carolina, this article will disappoint you. Hat tip: Doug S.)

This item is a write-thru of a previous item. Because facts are our friends.

From ENS:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has declared "null and void" the election of the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence to be the 14th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina....

Canonically adequate ballots were received by South Carolina from 50 diocesan standing committees. (Jim's note: 56 consents are required.) Several other standing committees were reported to have consented, but no signatures were attached to their ballots, or the ballot itself was missing from South Carolina's records, Jefferts Schori reported. Any committee that did not respond is considered to have voted no.

"In the past, when consents to episcopal elections have been so closely contested, the diocese has been diligent in seeking to have canonically adequate ballots submitted, asking Standing Committees to resubmit their ballots when necessary," she added. "It is certainly my hope that in future any diocese seeking consent to an election will use all possible effort to ensure that ballots are received in an appropriate form and in a timely manner."

Read it all.

I am hoping to keep Daily Episcopalian a recrimination-free zone. The way out of this situation is for the diocese to re-elect Lawrence, for Lawrence to restate his stance on various contentious issues, and for the Standing Committees to respond in a timely fashion.

Or else what?

Updated: the Anglican Scotist considers some similar issues.

The Primates of the Anglican Communion have set a September 30 deadline for the Episcopal Church to accept a set of unpalatable recommendations or face unspecified consequences. As we think through our response, we need to arrive at a realistic sense of what those consequences might be. Thoughts?

I think the timing of the deadline indicates that if we don't give the Primates what they want, the majority of our bishops will not be invited to the Lambeth Conference, and that various other provinces will declare the 15 countries within our Church an open mission field. In practical terms, I wonder whether either of those developments would create significant problems for us. I would very much like to hear from people who think that they would. (And the rest of you, too, of course.)

In analyzing the potential consequences if we say "no" to the Primates, I think it is also helpful to consider what is likely to happen if we say "yes." Will the parishes that have left the Episcopal Church return? Will internal opposition cease? Will Peter Akinola tell Martyn Minns that the United States is no longer mission territory and designate him bishop-without-portfolio? I think all of these outcomes are unlikely. Read this reflection on the meeting in Tanzania and I think you will, too.

A more realistic hope is that if we do what the Primates are asking, and the Akinolytes continue on their present course, the moral weight of the Communion's disapproval will fall upon them, and not on us. What would be the practical benefits of such a shift? If the reports that Archbishop Akinola had a plan to split the Communion in his briefcase in Tanzania are correct, one imagines that's he's held on to a copy, and might produce it at any time. So it seems to me that the Communion is going to split whenever Archbishop Akinola and his advisors decide that it is in their interests to split it.

If we say no to the Primates, I think we will be faced with reduced membership in the Communion, though perhaps not outright expulsion. (I am unclear on whether the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Consultative Council makes the final determination on this issue, and I ask you to refrain from argument by assertion if you weight in on this point.) However, we would have sent a clear message about our commitment to the full inclusion of all Christians in the ministries of the Church; we'd have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice for our beliefs, and we'd have turned aside an attempt to change the way our Church discerns the will of God (a concept done no justice by the legalistic term "polity.")

On the other hand, if we say yes, we may, through skillful diplomacy, be able to remain in the Communion long enough for the Primates to become tired to the Akinolytes' antics, and to accept that if the Nigerian faction cannot dominate the Communion, it will split it. We would do this at some cost to our gay and lesbian members, to our consciences and to our convictions about how God reveals himself to the Church. We'd face the challenge of changing the mind of the Communion (with or without the Akinolytes) on the issue of gay relationships, and we'd still have to figure out whether we could live with a Communion Covenant that may well concentrate power in the hands of the Primates, but we'd retain our membership in body that has been historically and theologically important to us, and in which we find the majority of our partners in world mission. (My sense is that we will have plenty of partners in mission no matter what we do, so maybe that last point isn't crucial.)

If we say yes to the Primates, and remain in the Communion, we will probably minimize domestic fallout in the "Camp Allen" dioceses (which includes Texas, our second-largest) and some others (including, perhaps, Virginia, our largest.) But we would probably trigger fallout in many other dioceses, including those encompassing some of our larger metropolitan areas. It isn't clear to me which response would minimize dislocation.

I am aware that one can respond to the questions I am asking by saying that the Episcopal Church should do the moral thing and let the chips fall where they may. I recognize that that response is appealing to those on both sides (myself included) who think they know what the moral thing is. But just for the sake of argument, let's consider what would be best for the health of the Episcopal Church, and the viability of its future, because that, in some measure, must inform our response.

What are the consequences of our yes? Of our no?

Who can you trust?

Father Greg Jones, the Anglican Centrist is asking who one can trust in the current dispute in our Communion. I think he overstates the extent to which Bishop Jack Spong's views are shared by liberal Episcopalians (and I am sure he overstates the extent to which they are shared by this liberal Episcopalian). As a result, I am not entirely comfortable with the left-right equivalence he establishes in the piece, but it is nonetheless a valuable contribution to the current discussion.

Time to separate?

Is it time for the Anglican Communion to separate? Stephen Bates of the Guardian thinks so. He writes:

Separation would ensure that conservative evangelicals and their developing world allies, with their fierce denunciations of homosexuals, could retreat into their own pure, sexually-unsullied, hermetically sealed bubble and float off on their own, while liberals and those who feel that the church can indeed accommodate itself to all types and conditions of folk can spend their energies on issues that should rightly concern them more.

Talk first, act later

The House of Bishops meets this weekend for the first time since the rather unfortunate outcome of the gathering in Tanzania last month, but don't expect much in the way of news, unless Bishop Robert Duncan and his followers have something up their collective sleeve.

Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today has the story here. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has a story as well. (Hat tip Paul Canady.)

Radio round-up

Updated with Marketplace's take on the property issues in Northern Virginina.

The NPR affiliate in Sacramento has a report featuring Bishop John David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Rev. Susan Russell among others.

The BBC World Service program "Analysis" also has a report that features yours truly and Father David Anderson of the Church of Nigeria.

10 Recommendations conclude TEAM Conference

Or: "What the real Christians were talking about while the rest of us were quarreling about sex and jockeying for political advantage"

ENS--As it concluded its eight-day conference on March 14, the Towards Effective Anglican Mission (TEAM) conference issued 10 recommendations meant to help to guide dioceses and parishes as they strive to live out their mission in the world.

''Our intention was not that this be yet another gathering that recounts the many challenges facing our world,'' Cape Town Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, told the final plenary session. ''Rather, the intention was that in accordance with our mission as the body of Christ, we develop actionable plans and strategies that can be utilized to instill new hope and vision in our communities and in the world at large.''

Read it all, especially this quote from the archbishop:

''As we seek to build this heavenly kingdom, we must remember that the Word did not come as a philosophical concept or as a political program, nor was the Word made text. 'Rather, 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.' Therefore, as the body of Christ, we do not have the option of choosing between spiritual or physical undertakings, but we must recognize that in God's call to mission, the two are inexorably linked. Mission is holistic and therefore our actions in mission should take into account the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of God's people.''

The European Parliament takes on the Church of Nigeria

It seems that just about everyone who is not a either a Primate of the Anglican Communion, or a member of Bishop Martyn Minns' convocation on the Potomac is at least a little bit unsettled by the fact that the Church of Nigeria is advocating human rights violations.

The resolutions that the European Parliament will consider tomorrow on this issue are here, here, here, here, here and here. (Thanks, Simon.)

At the risk of becoming tedious: The Archbishop of Nigeria, who believes that gay people should be put in prison for holding hands, is dictating the Anglican Communion's policies on same-sex relationships, and the only people who don't seem to find this outrageous are the other leaders of the Anglican Communion.

Canada responds to Windsor

I have been slow in posting this link to the Anglican Church of Canada's response to the Windsor Report. For other news of the Canadian Church look here, here and here.

(Hat tip Andrew Staples.)

What do you make of this?

A curious document has been unearthed during discovery in the case involving Bishop Duncan and Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh. The complete filing is here. The document is on page 23 of the pdf. Mark Harris' thoughts are here.

Hat tip to EH.

TEAM conference winds up

The secular media did not pay much attention to the TEAM conference which concludes today in South Africa, but ENS has provided excellent coverage, including a terrific photo gallery.

The best story I've read on the confrence by someone who doesn't work for ENS is this article from the Inter Press Service News Agency, which focuses on power relationships.

Will Scott's blog is here, and Bishop Marc Andrus' is here.

Utah shows the way

Have a look at this thoughtful document prepared by the Diocese of Utah in response to the Primates' communique. It is signed by the diocesan bishop the Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, the Standing Committee, the Diocesan Council, the deputies and alternates to General Convention 2006, and the diocese's canon for ministry formation the Rev. Mary June Nestler. If the laity and clergy of the Episcopal Church are really serious about making their voices heard in regards to the Primates' recommendations , and if their bishops are really serious about wanting to hear those voices, here is a model for how it can be done.

(Hat tip to the Rev. Jessee Neat.)

Lawrence redux?

Tobias Haller has an excellent assessment of Mark Lawrence's situation. At the moment, Lawrence seems to have fallen one Standing Committee short of the consents needed to become the bishop of South Carolina. Note Tobias' last paragraph in which he suggests that South Carolina may elect Lawrence again in the hope that next time he will get the necessary votes. I don't know the plans of the diocesan leadership, but that's what I would do if I were them.

Bishop Sisk takes Archbishop Akinola to task

This excellent letter by Bishop Mark Sisk of New York appears in today's New York Times. It comes in response to an early Times' editorial.

Re “Denying Rights in Nigeria” (editorial, March 8):

I am embarrassed to learn that an archbishop of the Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, is a major supporter of the odious Nigerian legislation designed to deny basic human rights to gay and lesbian people.

What deeply saddens me is that he is a well-regarded leader to many of the most conservative Episcopalians in this country. But what puzzles me is the apparent willingness of the archbishop of Canterbury and other primates of the Anglican Communion to appease him in his insistence that the Episcopal Church’s welcome of gay and lesbian people is somehow un-Christian.

As your editorial rightly concludes, this proposed legislation, and his support of it, are a chilling reminder of the profound dangers to which bigotry can open us.

Supine complicity with such a view, as you rightly stated, “sets a treacherous example for the region and the world.”

(Rt. Rev.) Mark S. Sisk
New York, March 9, 2007
The writer is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

I have been meaning to say...

...that while I agree with them about almost nothing, and have no real opinion about their candidate, I admire the way the folks at Stand Firm have worked to muster the necessary consents for Mark Lawrence to become bishop of South Carolina. This is what netroots activism looks like when it goes to church, and we are fools if we fail to pay attention.

Andrew and others

I am afraid I will be of little use again today, but Thinking Anglicans has news about the Primate of Mexico endorsing Inclusive Church and links to interviews with Davis Mac-Iyalla; the Admiral of Morality notes an encouraging development in Canada; and Susan Russell and Mark Harris both link to a sermon that Louie Crew gave in our diocese on Sunday. Those links are over in my blog roll.

Let me be among the first, though, to call your attention to Father Andrew Gerns' incisive critique of the Primates' communique and the proposed Anglican covenant.

Nick Knisely looks ahead

Tired of being ignored, my sinuses have decided that I should be aware of them every waking minute today. So I have nothing to offer, but fortunately, the Very Rev. Nicholas Knisely of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix does.

Into Great Silence

A documentary about life among Carthusian monks is getting terrific reviews. The LA Times loves it. So does Newsday. A. O. Scott of the New York Times, writes: I hesitate, given the early date and the project’s modesty, to call “Into Great Silence” one of the best films of the year. I prefer to think of it as the antidote to all of the others.

The Boston Globe's story about filmmaker Philip Groning is here. It includes this summary.

... the austere, 162-minute film, with its sublime, painterly images and ambient sounds, is contemplative, meditative , and intensely introspective, capturing the poetic, unhurried rhythms of everyday life in the monastery. Gröning, who directed, produced, shot , and edited the film, sought to collapse the dividing line between the screen and the audience, immersing viewers into the world of the monastery and allowing them the opportunity to surrender to the rituals and repetitions of its inhabitants and the changing seasons that occur outside the windows of the stone charterhouse.

(Hat tip to Robert Ginn)

The situation in South Carolina

I have been more or less sitting out the controversy about whether the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence would receive consent from enough Standing Committees to become the next bishop of South Carolina. Simon has an excellent set of links here. I believe that tomorrow is the deadline for receiving 56 consents, and that Lawrence has received 52. But check my facts at Thinking Anglicans.

A parting on the left

Alan Cooperman does a nice job in this morning's Washington Post of noting a division between Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and liberal Episcopalians without sensationalizing or personalizing the matter. The story, which includes several quotes from Bishop John Chane, is here.

But where is Josephine?

Visit Elizabeth Kaeton's place. She's been leaked a letter from Bishop Duncan to Network congregations. He is asking the rectors of those congregations to read this letter in their churches on Sunday. (The Episcopal Majority's version is easier to read.)

I don't want to ruin my evening by commenting at any length. But, by way of preview, let me say that students of Napoleon will be reminded of that grand moment in the Cathedral of Notre Dame when he placed the crown of emperor upon his own head.

Stations

On this Lenten Friday, spend some time with our Stations of the Cross, and our daily meditation.

VOA

Voice of America has this article on the anti-gay legislation under consideration in Nigeria. Davis Mac-Iyalla of Changing Attitude-Nigeria has apparently fled the country and is now in Togo. (Hat tip to Andrew in Montreal.)

Ruth Gledhill has also joined the chorus opposing the bill.

Troublesome bishop 2

Updated

The required reading for this item is yesterday's item "A troublesome bishop," which discusses a meeting among Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bernard Malango, the Archbishop of Central Africa and Nolbert Kunonga, bishop of the Harare diocese in Zimbabwe, a crony of Robert Mugabe who has incited murder from his pulpit. Following the meeting, the two archbishops put out a statement so obtuse that I suggested a casual observer would never have known that Kunonga has been accused of serious human rights violations, or that Malango has protected him from prosecution.

Well, it wasn't only casual observers who were fooled. Have a look at this Reuters story. (Hat tip to Ann F.) The reporter clearly knew nothing of the circumstances that occasioned the meeting, so Kunonga and Malango get a free pass.

Stephen Bates of The Guardian has caught the absurdity of this situation. He writes:

Inspiring news from South Africa where Rowan Williams, our beleaguered Archbishop of Canterbury has had a meeting with the Bishop of Harare. You might think that on the scale of things Nolbert Kunonga, a crony of the Mugabe regime -who has been accused by his black parishioners of inciting murder against his opponents, embezzlement, seizing a white farm for his own use and demanding that Zimbabwe's starving churchgoers should all contribute to a wedding anniversary present for him and his wife - might be considered a little beyond the pale even for the famously inclusive Anglican communion, on a par, say, with Gene Robinson, the American gay bishop, about whom African archbishops are constantly critical. But no: Dr Williams merely asked Kunonga "to encourage the development of an independent voice" in Zimbabwe. So that's all right then.

(Hat tip to Simon)

Time wakes up

Even Time, whose coverage of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria has been credulous at best, is now aware that the man is advocating the legalization of human rights violations. The story is here.

Glad as I am to see a major news magazine call the archbishop to account, I find the piece perplexing; it is difficult to tell whether the revisionism at work here is deliberate. Bishop John Bryson Chane had an op-ed about the proposed Nigerian law published in The Washington Post last February. The Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church, and now a bishop in the Church of Nigeria, responded on the church's Web site shortly thereafter. The Anglican blogosphere, in which members of Truro and the Falls Church are active participants, was abuzz with charge and countercharges. So the notion advanced in this piece, that the good people of Northern Virginia just recently found out about this law and are now owed an explanation is difficult to take seriously. As is the notion that Akinola ever, at any point, actually "softened" his support for the legislation. As is the notion that white Americans, rather than gay Nigerians, are the people to whom the archbishop owes his explanation.

Time declared Akinola one of the 100 most influential people in the world a few months back, and it has been covering its backside, and his, ever since. Even in calling him out, the rump coverage continues.

Blogging the TEAM conference

The Rev. Will Scott of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (a friend of this site from its Blog of Daniel days), is blogging from the TEAM conference in South Africa. His bishop, Marc Andrus, is blogging, too. And the bishop's got pictures.

Anglican silence equals African deaths

This Reuters article spells out why it is so important to defeat the proposed Nigerian legislation that we've been discussiong on this blog for more than a year now. And why it is so maddening that Rowan Williams, Martyn Minns, et. al. have been silent in order to avoid offending Peter Akinola.

Two excerpts:

"But nearly a quarter of a century into the epidemic, there is a wall of silence that surrounds AIDS and same-sex practices that may prove to be a significant obstacle to conquering the disease," according to the 124-page report by New York based- non-governmental organization.

and:

"Homophobic stigma, the denial of homosexuality, and legislation that criminalizes same-sex behavior, all serve to push the issue of same-sex HIV transmission further underground, and drastically limit HIV services," (Cary Alan) Johnson (the author of the report) said.

(Hat tip: Matthew Hunt.)

"Renouncing all compensations"

Visit Pastor Dan at Street Prophets, but not before you clear a few minutes to give this provocative item some thought.

TEAM conference under way in South Africa

ENS has extended coverage here.

Meeting through March 14 at the Birchwood Conference Centre near Johannesburg, TEAM is welcoming more than 400 people from 30 of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces to review the church's response to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and how it can do more as one of the world's largest grassroots development networks.

Rowan Williams delivered the keynote address after Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane welcomed visitors.

To learn who is sponsoring the conference, visit the TEAM Web site.

For Mary Ann Harmon

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Mary Ann Harmon, mother of Canon Kendall Harmon, who died today of cancer. Pray too for Kendall and his family as they grieve their loss.

The New York Times has condemned "Akinola's law." The Anglican Communion has not.

From The Times editorial page today:

A poisonous piece of legislation is quickly making its way through the Nigerian National Assembly. Billed as an anti-gay-marriage act, it is a far-reaching assault on basic rights of association, assembly and expression. Chillingly, the legislation — proposed last year by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo — has the full and enthusiastic support of the leader of Nigeria’s powerful Anglican church. Unless the international community speaks out quickly and forcefully against the bill, it is almost certain to become law.

Read it all.

The Bishop of Western Louisiana

Bishop Bruce MacPherson's presentation to the Primates in Tanzania is now available at Stand Firm. As Simon Sarmiento, Mark Harris and Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh have suggested in a different context, he is relying on some extremely fuzzy math.

Note the gratuitous shot at Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's Christology.

The bishop of Vermont

Bishop Thomas Ely writes of the Primates' recommendations:

In my judgment, these requests invite the House of Bishops to declare that, for the sake of unity, we will forsake our own Baptismal Covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all people” and to “respect the dignity of every human person.” I am not prepared to do that. In this diocese, we have carefully and prayerfully considered our commitment to the inclusion of all, not only as recipients of our pastoral care but also as participants in ministry at all levels. I am not willing to compromise our spiritual, pastoral, and justice commitments as Christians to the many faithful gay and lesbian clergy and lay members of this church for a false and deceptive unity.

A troublesome bishop

No, not Gene Robinson.

The Anglican Communion News Service provides this profoundly peculiar statement from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop Bernard Malango of Central Africa regarding the pair's meeting today with Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, Anglican Bishop of Harare.

Kunonga, a crony of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe had been charged in an ecclesiastical court with incitement to murder, intimidating critics, ignoring church law, mishandling funds and preaching racial hatred. "He has also occupied a farm and evicted 40 families from a local village," Stephen Bates wrote in The Church of England Newspaper. "A couple of months ago he even licensed the acting vice-president of Zimbabwe Joseph Msika, a man on record as saying that whites are not human beings, to act as a deacon of the church."

(For an excellent background article on Kunonga, look here.)

Malango has consistently protected Kunonga, dismissing the 38 charges against him when an ecclesiastical trial became chaotic, and attending the celebration of the bishop's wedding anniversary.

Now comes the following statement:

"We are grateful for the chance to meet face to face and discuss the role of the church in Zimbabwe and the wider region in working towards the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals.

"We shared our deep concerns with the Bishop of Harare about the situation in Zimbabwe, affirming those places where Anglican ministries are bearing fruit and the church is growing, but also expressing the widespread concerns in the global church and in the international community about the deteriorating economic life of Zimbabwe and issues of human rights and peaceful non-partisan protest.

"We encouraged the development of an independent voice for the church in response to these challenges. All ministers of the gospel must be free to serve and to speak for the needs of those most deprived and disadvantaged.

"We want to find new channels of communication and to facilitate regional conversations about issues of development and justice, including the impact of sanctions, so that Anglicans may work together more effectively with and for the poor whom they serve in Christ's name."

This statement, coming in the midst of Williams' silence on the matter of Peter Akinola's support for human rights violations, makes you wonder what a conservative prelate would have to do in order to elicit a public expression of displeasure from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days begin on Friday

From ENS:

The Episcopal Church is one of nearly 50 religious groups sponsoring this year's Ecumenical Advocacy Days March 9–12 in Washington, D.C.

The theme of the fifth annual gathering of social-justice advocates from around the nation is "... and How are the Children?" Nearly 1,300 religious advocates are expected to attend.

The theme, focusing on issues affecting children, will guide and inspire workshops and speakers in eight different areas of concern: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, domestic, jubilee and economic justice, eco-justice, and global security. Experts will train participants on how to do advocacy and inform them of U.S. domestic and international policies that impact all of God's children.

The gathering will conclude with a visit to Capitol Hill where participants will ask their Congressional representatives to make the needs of children the center of the 2007 legislative agenda.

Read it all.

Devo-to-go

Podcasts for Lent. Check it out. This page on what Episcopalians believe, from the campus minister at Georgia Southern University, is also worth a look.

Rhetoric good, substance missing?

I have been unable to make much sense of the Church of England's recent debate on homosexuality at its General Synod. According to the Telegraph's Jonathan Petre, I am not alone.

Waiting on word from Nigeria

Mark Harris reports on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church's discussion of Nigerian legislation that would legalized human rights violations. There is no word yet on whether this legislation has passed.

Integrity from Integrity

The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins reflects here on a conversation that he and the Rev. Susan Russell had with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in the wake of the Primates Meeting in Tanzania. Of the many insightful things Michael says, I choose to highlight this:

"She told the Church Center staff after her return from Tanzania that she really did not know if the Episcopal Church could make a positive response to the 'requests' of the Primates. I believe she sincerely means that, and is willing for us as a Church to disagree with her. I say disagree, because I do believe she thinks the current proposals are the best way forward, and I have no doubt she will continue to argue for them. On the other hand, she is not going to force us to do something we are not willing to do."

From your lips to God's ear, Michael.

Diana Butler Bass

Diana Butler Bass spoke at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on Sunday. The talk built, to some extent, on her presentation at our diocesan convention in late January. Give a listen.

Blessing a home (and the people who live in it)

The Rev. Tobias Haller, whom regular readers will remember has been nominated (by me) to become the next Bishop of Nevada, has continued his thoughtful examination of whether a rite already in the Book of Occasional Services can be used to bless same-sex relationships. No word yet on how the essay has been received in Winnemucca or Tonopah.

(And speaking of Tonopah, does anybody else remember Willin' by Little Feat, or Of Missing Persons, the song Jackson Browne wrote when Lowell George, the band's leader, died?)

Thinking along with Marshall

Marshall Scott continues to brainstorm responses to the Primates' communique. Have a look.

"Who is he trying to fool with this?"

Andrew Brown's column of press criticism in this week's Church Times is provocative as always. He and John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter have caught Ruth Gledhill out on the story she rushed into the Times of London on the supposed rapprochement between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Allen calls the story “false — not oversold or exaggerated, but false.”

Of at least equal interest is his takedown of the Archbiship of Canterbury's recent article in the Telegraph. He sees our situation very clearly.

Williams wrote:

“One of the hardest things in all this has been to keep insisting on the absolute moral imperative of combating bigotry and violence against gay people, and the need to secure appropriate civic and legal protection for couples who have chosen to share their lives.”

Brown responds:

"Who is he trying to fool with this? Is he really describing the policy of the Nigerian Church? Or the Rwandan? There is a great deal that is subtle and illuminating in his article, but none of that portion describes the way that things are actually done, or discussed among the Primates, if we are to judge from the reports of others present at these meetings.

"In a similar way, his article says that: 'The suggestion of a structure in America to care for the minority tries to remove any need for external intervention.' This could only appear true if you knew nothing of the politics surrounding it.

"But there is this uneasy nagging fear that, like a journalist, Dr Williams believes this stuff while he is writing it. I can’t honestly see what other motive he might have for saying it. Obviously, he knows as well as anyone else that Dr Jefferts Schori cannot satisfy her enemies within and outside the United States, and that every test she passes will be replaced by one that is harder."

Brown makes an excellent point. Either the Archbishop of Canterbury is terminally naive, or he believes that we are. Neither prospect is encouraging.

The Mad Priest has seen the future

Of the Anglican Communion that is. And it looks like this. (Scroll down a bit once the window opens.)

Nominations are open

I don't know whether you noticed it, but the blog reached a milestone yesterday when the Diocese of Nevada, former see of our Presiding Bishop, posted a call for nominations to fill the vacancy caused by her elevation in the comment section of my item on the dust settling after the Primates Meeting in Tanzania. Daily Episcopalian has never been put to such a high purpose before. This is surely a sign that blogs, as a medium, have come of age within the Church. Either that or we are living in the Last Days.

Anyway, having this notice posted on a blog got me thinking about which bloggers might make good bishops. Who would you nominate? I'd have to go for Tobais Haller, even though he inexplicably disagrees with me about the content of the recent communique. But I am not sure that Nevada is right for him.

Words of wisdom from Bill and Jane Tully

The Tully family is remembered fondly in the Diocese of Washington where they served St. Columba's, our largest parish with much the same verve and compassion they now bring to St. Bart's in New York. Both the Rev. Bill Tully and his wife Jane have written movingly and insightfully from a personal perspective about the issues now confronting the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Jane, a leader of Clergy Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, was a member of the delegation that spoke about the Episcopal Church's awakening to its sinful treatment of gay and lesbian Christians to the Anglican Consultative Council at Nottingham in 2005.

Now, in the wake of the recent meetings is Tanzania, the Tullys are speaking out again.

Bill's article for the On Faith feature of the Washington Post's Web site is here.

Jane's recent essay for CFLAG is here.

Canterbury writes the Primates

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written a pastoral letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

I am tired of pointing out that the Anglican Communion has no body authorized to promulgate the "formal standard of teaching" that the archbishop keeps referring to, so let's focus instead on how quickly he wants to establish the Pastoral Council that will work with the primatial vicar recommended by the Primates. He is asking for nominations for chairman of that council by March 16.

I continue to have questions about whether any body other than the General Convention has the authority to authorize our participation in the vicar scheme, and would be delighted if someone could persuade me one way or the other. Until otherwise persuaded, I'll argue, just for the heck of it, that because the General Convention holds primatial authority, and the vicar scheme calls for a delegation of that authority, the decision must be made by General Convention.

The Primate of Wales

Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales, whom one dearly wishes had been able to make it to Dar es Salaam, has given an excellent speech in Cork. You can read it here. He makes the case for the Episcopal Church better than we have made it ourselves. (Hat tip to Simon.)

Dust settling

EpiScope has a nice round-up of recent articles about the Episcopal Church. And don't miss this one from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

You might also want to have a look at Steve Waring's coverage of the Executive Council meeting for the Living Church.

The stories are becoming more reflective and less reactive. We may be in for a bit of a lull. Untl the House of Bishops meets in Texas in two weeks, that is.

Executive Council's letter to the Church

Here is the Executive Council's letter to the Church.

A bit:

Executive Council recognizes that the requests made by the Primates, directed to the House of Bishops and the Presiding Bishop, raise important and unresolved questions about the polity of the Episcopal Church and its ecclesiology. We have authorized the appointment of a work group to consider the role, responsibilities and potential response of the Executive Council to the issues raised by the Primates. The work group will make a report and recommendations at the June 2007 meeting of the Council.

We wish clearly to affirm that our position as a church is to welcome all persons, particularly those perceived to be the least among us. We wish to reaffirm to our lesbian and gay members that they remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church.

Further, we offer our prayerful affirmation to all who struggle with the issues that concern us: those who are deeply concerned about the future of their Church and its place within the wider Communion, and those who are not reconciled to certain actions of General Convention. We wish to reaffirm that they too remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church.

Don't expect a major statement

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is meeting in Portland. Or perhaps they have finished meeting, but not yet made a final statement. For hints at what might be in such a statement, read Matt Kennedy's live blog from Sunday afternoon's session. As you can see, the Council does not seem poised to commit news.

Except perhaps for this resolution: EC-008: authorizes the presiding officers of Executive Council to appoint a work group, chaired by House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, to consider the role, responsibilities and potential response of the Council to the issues raised by the Primates communiqué and report to the Council’s June meeting.

Meanwhile, here is Bishop Jefferts Schori's sermon from the liturgy, and here is a story from ENS on some of the business that the Council handled.

If women ran the show

Whenever I read about what the Anglican women who assemble annually at the United Nations are up to, I wish they ran the Communion. Karen Chane, our bishop's wife, is an active member of this gathering and always comes back with far more information about what life is like elsewhere in the Communion than we get through official channels. Here is the story of their latest meeting from ENS.

It begins:

A group of Anglican women, as an expression of their faithfulness to the church's mission, issued a statement March 3 reiterating their unequivocal commitment "to remaining always in 'communion' with and for one another," and emphasizing that "rebuilding and reconciling the world" is central to their faith.

The statement came as more than 80 Anglican women are meeting in New York February 26-March 9 for the 51st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).

The Anglican delegation is the largest non-governmental representation at the UNCSW, an annual meeting that brings thousands of women from around the world to New York, in part to address the challenges raised by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially Goal 3 which calls for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

"We remain resolute in our solidarity with one another and in our commitment, above all else, to pursue and fulfill God's mission in all we say and do," the statement said.

Hospitality

My thanks to the Rev. Peter D'Angio and the people at St. Luke's in Scranton who welcomed me to their 5 p. m. service on Saturday evening. They know how to make a newcomer feel at home. Father Peter, who is new to the parish, greeted me near the door when I arrived, and two members of the congregation engaged me in conversation after the service. Were I not an out-of-town visitor, I don't doubt that I'd be receiving a follow-up phone call this week. I look forward to going back there again, the next time I visit my folks.

Weekend forecast

Light to non-existent blogging this weekend due to birthdays of sons, brother, father and self falling within 23 days of one another, thus providing pretext for annual gathering in coalbelt hometown.

The item below ought to provide fodder for conversation. Keep an eye on Political Spaghetti for news from Nigeria, and ENS for coverage of Executive Council.

The Pastoral Council and the Primatial Vicar

Thus far, most of our discussion of the Primates' Communiqué has focused on the issue of human sexuality. For the weekend, I'd like to shift the focus to the proposals for a Pastoral Council and a Primatial Vicar. What do we make of these?

Speaking just for myself, these are the proposals about which I've been most willing to heed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's call for patient listening. It's much more appropriate here than in regard to issues of human sexuality, which we've been debating for more than 30 years.) Additionally, bending toward the will of the Primates on this issue doesn't require great sacrifice from an isolated minority while asking nothing from the rest of the Church.

Which isn't to say that I necessarily like this proposal, only that it doesn't strike me as a cut and dried matter of conscience.

The best analyses of the pastoral council, primatial vicar scheme that I have read so far, come from Bishops William Persell of Chicago and John Howard of Florida, neither of whom much care for it.

In my own reading, I've noticed one thing that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. In the discussion of the duties of the Pastoral Council, the Primates say this body should: "consider whether any of the courses of action contemplated by the Windsor Report §157 should be applied to the life of The Episcopal Church or its bishops, and, if appropriate, to recommend such action to The Episcopal Church and its institutions and to the Instruments of Communion."

The relevant language in the Windsor Report reads:

"There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart. We would much rather not speculate on actions that might need to be taken if, after acceptance by the primates, our recommendations are not implemented. However, we note that there are, in any human dispute, courses that may be followed: processes of mediation and arbitration; non-invitation to relevant representative bodies and meetings; invitation, but to observer status only; and, as an absolute last resort, withdrawal from membership. We earnestly hope that none of these will prove necessary."

Part of the Council's charge, then, has nothing to do with providing adequate care for theological minorities. Rather, it is authorized to act as an external body to police our internal activities and recommend sanctions against the Church and against individual bishops. The potential for mischief making is apparent and unlimited. This is Dromantine's Panel of Reference with an even more meddlesome brief. And considering how little research the Panel does before making its pronouncements, this provision alone is enough to make me extremely skeptical about the Council and the Vicar.

Click on the "continue reading", or pay a visit here and look at pages 8 thru 10 to see the relevant recommendations. The relevant sections of the Windsor Report can be found here

Read more »

Two diocesan clergy respond

Two of our diocesan clergy, the Revs Elizabeth Carl and Carol Cole Flanagan have responded, individually, to the Primates' communique. You can read both responses by clicking on the "continue reading" tab.

Read more »

Executive Council meeting begins today

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church meets today through March 4, in Portland, Oregon. You can find a roster of the Council here.

The silence of the lambs

A letter from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Asscoation in the UK to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Rowan,

Lesbian and gay Anglicans are deeply shocked by the failure of the recent meeting of Primates in Tanzania to condemn a new law in Nigeria that will imprison those who wish to openly debate a change of attitude to homosexuality in that country.

We are all keenly aware that the Nigerian Anglican church has been an avid promoter (some say the drafter) of this law which bizarrely claims to outlaw something (same-sex marriage) already not legally permissible in Nigeria. The darker and deeper purpose of this law is to prevent any “listening process” by criminalising those who would openly engage with such a process. When the Primates met at the Dromantine they issued a statement anathematising what this new Nigerian law sets out to do. As the Primates met in Dar es Salaam this legislation was being discussed in a public hearing of the Nigerian House of Representatives - yet you remained silent. At a time when many are loosing confidence in this or that group of Primates, we find ourselves loosing confidence in them all.

Click keep reading see it all.

Read more »

The President of the House of Deputies is on the move

I am impressed by Bonnie Anderson's willingness to go into Network dioceses to rach out to loyal Episcopalians. Read about her visit to Pittsburgh.

Protecting Davis Mac-Iyalla

Press Release: Changing Attitude England challenges the Primate of All Nigeria and CANA Bishop Martyn Minns to publicly defend Davis Mac-Iyalla. To read it, click the "continue reading" tab.

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Evil in progress

Matt Thompson has the latest from Nigeria. Nothing definitive. But nothing good.

Matt writes:

Here's a bit of history to add to Scott Long's account (in the Human Rights Watch press release). Archbishop Akinola (Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion) pushed hard for this legislation. Twice he publicly and explicitly endorsed the legislation. The legislation was approved by the President's Executive Council a few weeks after the embarrassing (for Akinola) appearance of Changing Attitude Nigeria (a gay and lesbian Anglican organization) and its extensive coverage by the press, even by the New York Times. Since the legislation would ban Changing Attitude from operating in Nigeria, one wonders not only about the timing, but also about the rationalizations that Akinola has put forward to his American supporters that he does not endorse jailing gay people.

For God's sake, where are the conservative Anglicans? Why don't they see this for the public relations disaster that it is?

The "Christian Leaders" letter to Nigerian politicians was signed only by liberal Anglicans, but of all the members of the Anglican Communion, they are the least likely to sway the Nigerian legislature. Akinola's conservative supporters -- by failing to add their voices to the voices of their liberal co-religionists -- are betraying themselves, their followers, and all of us, but most of all the gay and lesbian Nigerians who will endure the worst of it. If conservative Anglicans (and Archbishop Rowan Williams) fail to condemn this sub-human bit of populist nonsense and if they fail to condemn Akinola's endorsement, they will bear the shame of it to their graves.

This could have been stopped a long time ago. Instead, conservative Anglicans saw it as just another cog in their battle with the liberal Episcopal Church.

Lord Carey to the rescue!

The Church of England Newspaper, which you can buy online for a pound, has an intriguing column by Stephen Bates of the Guardian, which he was kind enough to send along. You can read it by clicking the "continue reading" tag.

In this piece, Bates suggests that George Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, has been sounded out about becoming the "primatial vicar" that the Primates want to impose upon the Episcopal Church.

Actually, he does more than suggest it. Judge for yourself: "The former Archbishop of Canterbury’s name is certainly being raised in some quarters in the ex-colonies as a possible conciliation candidate and one whose nationality should prove no bar among the various American factions."

So there you go--a good deal on a used Archbishop of Canterbury. Take it for a spin. See how it handles.

Read more »

The Bishop of Florida

The Rt. Rev. John Howard, Bishop of Florida, is extensively critical of the Primates' recommendations for reasons that have nothing to do with human sexuality. (Hat tip to Ann F.) Click "continue reading" to see it all.

Read more »

Headline news

Working under severe space constraints, headline writers sometimes distort a story by oversimplifying it. In other instances, these same constraints induce the writer to reduce a story to its poetic essence. Whatever your opinion of the headlines below, keep in mind that they are drawn from a variety of publications. For that reason, I think they give us a good sense of how Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's presentation yesterday was interpreted by people outside of the Church. (Meaning 99 percent of the country.)

Episcopalians told to back off support for gays

Gay issue can wait, Episcopal bishop asserts

Don't support gays for now, Episcopal bishop says

Episcopal leader asks for letup of gay support

Episcopal bishop asks for less gay inclusion

Episcopal leader asks members to make concessions on gays

There were also headlines that said Bishop Jefferts Schori had asked for "calm," or sought "compromise." But we shouldn't kid ourselves about the perception being created as we consider our course.

Thursday's question

In considering the response that the Episcopal Church should make to the recommendations from the Primates of the Angilcan Communion, I find that my thinking shifts depending on the goal I have in mind.

If our concern is to remain within the Communion, it may well be necessary to accept the Primates' recommendations, and to be willing to live with the restrictions therein for as long as most of us are alive. (My reasons for thinking the "new consensus" on homosexual relationships will not emerge any time soon are best saved for another post.)

If our concern is to evangelize the country in which most of us live, then I think it may be necessary to respectfully decline the recommendations and be willing to face the consequences. I don't think our Church will appeal to conservatives because we have not changed our minds about homosexuality, we've only agreed to bide our time in pursuing the goal of full inclusion. But having agreed, under international pressure, to pull back from the pursuit of that goal, we can hardly expect liberal thinking people to rally to our banner either. And I think the numbers of people willing to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to attend a Church that defines its charism as "facilitating the conversation" are probably rather small.

My sense, then, is that it will be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to remain in the Communion and do effective evangelism. At the very least, giving top priority to one is likely to have a negative impact on our ability to do the other.

Do you agree that we have to make a choice? And if so, how should we make it?

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