Measuring Success

By John B. Chilton*

The Episcopal Church is not a church that evangelizes well.

In colonial times it was an establishment church and clergy were supported by taxes rather than through success in evangelism. Membership and Sunday attendance was poor in part because establishment and the involuntary taxes that went with it were resented. Despite our national myths surrounding the Plymouth Colony and Jamestown, the colonialists were, to put it mildly, not particularly religious.

With the advent of freedom of religion after the Revolution the established churches did not compete successfully with the newer sects like the Baptists and the Methodists. Neither the clergy nor the organizational structures nor the theology of the Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians were well adapted to a competitive religious economy in a frontier country. It was not so much that the established churches declined in membership but that they did not grow at the pace of the upstarts. In market share terms the established churches declined dramatically.

The Great Awakenings – the dramatic increase in religiosity amongst Americans – were not somehow driven by the transforming effects of the frontier or freedom of religion on the hearts of the people, but came from disestablishment, unregulated open competition for souls and the success of the evangelism methods (lay preachers, circuit riders, camp meetings) adopted by sects like the Methodists. Ironically, in Britain the inheritors of the Wesleys’ Methodism – faced down by the established church – became conformist in evangelism methods, and never had the same success as their American counterparts.

At least as ironically, as the Methodist Church in the U.S. matured it let go of the methods by which it had succeeded. It became a mainline church with a seminary-trained clergy, and a less convicted laity (after all, fewer demands were made of them). Fervent evangelism appealing to the heart rather than the mind was viewed with embarrassment and was actively suppressed. Going by market share, the Methodist Church today is a shadow of its former self. The Southern Baptists had passed the Methodists in membership in the South in the last decade of the 19th century, and passed them country-wide in the 1960s.

To put it harshly, the Methodists became Episcopalians without a quality liturgy. (Nonetheless membership in the United Methodist Church is still five times ours.) But what is more important for Episcopalians is what the arc of the Methodist trajectory tells us about ourselves. Membership in the Episcopal Church did not follow the dramatic rise and fall in market share terms that the Methodists experienced. Once the Methodists became so much like Episcopalians in terms of organization, methods, demands of membership, and a professional seminary-trained clergy they became just as unsuccessful as we’ve always been in terms of evangelism.

Evangelicals in the lexicon of today embrace four doctrinal statements: (a) faith in Jesus as the only way to salvation, (b) inerrancy of the Bible, (c) personal conversion (born again), and (d) active individual participation in the conversion of others. There are Evangelical denominations (e.g., Missouri Synod, Southern Baptists), and there are substantial evangelical factions within the Roman Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant denominations (e.g., Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian).

In contrast to its evangelical wing, the majority in the Episcopal Church and in its leadership (a) decline to take a narrow interpretation of “one way”, (b) likewise, decline to take a narrow view of inerrancy, (c) do not emphasize personal conversion as something that occurs dramatically or suddenly, and (d) place less energy in (superficial?) inducement of conversion and more in bringing the Kingdom closer (the social gospel). We actively encourage people to doubt and to work out for themselves what they believe.

There’s no accounting for tastes (de gustibus non est disputandum). But the evidence suggests that the passive evangelism methods of the Episcopal Church are not effective in appealing to the tastes of the majority.

Most people, it appears, want to be told that it really matters to their salvation what they believe, how they came to believe it, and what they need to do to grow in grace. They want a charismatic leadership that professes no ambiguity or uncertainty. They want to see a clear boundary between those who are in grace, and those who are not. They desire membership requirements, and an intolerance of those who do not meet the requirements. They are inspired by unshakeable confidence, not by the encouragement to question and doubt. To most of us in the Episcopal Church all this is way too close to Amway for comfort. But we appear to be in a minority amongst believers in the U.S.

You might think that a tolerant church with modern attitudes, a willingness to experiment even with its rich tradition in order to be accepting, and an orientation to bringing about the Kingdom would appeal to those who remain unchurched in secular American society. But there’s no sign that we do appeal to the unchurched, at least not in large numbers.

Many are going to call it a cheap out, but my belief is that numbers are not the only measure of success. We are not a mass market church. We are a niche church with a rich liturgical tradition that brings some closer to God’s immanence, transcendence and longing for a relationship with God’s people. But our style doesn’t work for everyone – even if they agree with us on social issues – and that’s okay.

If it is not in numbers, what can be our measure of success? Are we doing a good job of encouraging our members to deepen their relationship with God? Christian formation is an area where I have witnessed growth and improvement in the Episcopal Church in recent decades. We’re pretty good at it (in my experience). But, in my view, we are not sufficiently demanding on this front. Evangelicals are successful in part because they create a tension with secular society. I propose that we could create more healthy tension with secular society by asking our members to grow in formation, perhaps even to adopt a rule of life. There is an aching spiritual void in secular society and adopting these kinds of standards would attract some seekers among the unchurched.

There is at least one other important measure of success. The Episcopal Church is often accused of merely being a liberal lobby group and thereby largely indistinguishable for secular society. “Social gospel” is used to describe us disparagingly. But not so long ago when society resisted change in attitudes towards blacks, women, and homosexuals the renewal of gospel attitudes in the Episcopal Church moved it into tension with the secular world. As a consequence, American society has moved in our direction on those issues; the Episcopal Church is following the call to bring heaven to earth.

It is evident that our mission now is to be that city on a hill for the Anglican Communion.

Dr. John B. Chilton is an economist at the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates.) In the summers he resides near Shrine Mont Episcopal Conference Center of the Diocese of Virginia. He maintains two personal blogs, The Emirates Economist and New Virginia Church Man.


* I have drawn considerable inspiration from the research of Finke and Sharp.

Passionately Christian, Compassionately Interfaith

By Sam Candler

Down here in the South, we always care about what the Bible says. No matter whether we are liberal or conservative, many of us Christians grew up breathing biblical stories. We did more than just hear the stories; we grew to see and to trust biblical principles. Even the strangest biblical material had a message for us. That’s why we called it, and still call it, the Word of God; it is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.

Therefore, it disturbs me when, in the midst of bona fide theological debate, one group or another begins to abandon biblical support. It even disturbs me when good faith Episcopalians begin to raise reason and tradition as theological authorities over the Bible. If we Christians abandon the Word of the Bible as our principal source of theological authority, we have relinquished our very heritage.

Our trust in, and use of, the Bible is even more critical these days when we begin to discuss interfaith relationships. For, in my opinion, the issue of our time is not sexuality. The issue is interfaith relationships. We live in a world where people of very different religious traditions inevitably know and relate to one another. Will we do justice or violence to one another?

We live in a world where most of us have probably been asked, not what we believe about sexuality, but what we think about other faith traditions. We have all been asked something like: will only Christians be saved? (or some variation of the question). Our answer to that question can bring peace, or it can bring violence.

In this age, our answer must be strong and direct. We are called to be passionately Christian and compassionately interfaith. The world does not need any more wimpy Christians, or lazy liberals, or complacent conservatives. The world needs passion. I do not mean the mean-spirited sort of passion; but I mean the passion committed to peace and justice that brings forth vigor and soul, and the passion which brings forth life itself.

Therefore, the first principle in living in a multi-faith world is to be unabashedly Christian. The world needs more passionate Christians, not less passionate ones. But the world also needs a second principle: compassion in interfaith relationships.

In other words, God does not need more Christians passionate only about wiping out all other forms of religious expression. God needs Christians who are passionate about who we are, about our own identities, but who are yet compassionate toward the religious identities of other folks.

The best “interfaith dialogues” are those where Christians –and others—do not try simply to bend down to the lowest common denominator, or try to soften everything we believe. The best interfaith dialogues are those where people are strong and fully convinced of their own religious identities. The world needs passionate and sure Christians.

In fact, the world needs Christians who believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Yes, I know that some of our exclusivist brothers and sisters are accustomed to using John 14.6 as a verse which speaks against interfaith compassion; “no one comes to the Father except through me” is the second part of John 14.6. More liberal types often omit reading aloud that last section of John 14.6 during services.

But I propose that John 14.6 is a verse that witnesses fully both to passionate Christianity and to compassionate interfaith experiences. The verse does allow non-Christians to enjoy salvation. I invite those who use that verse in accusation to consider the verse more literally. Yes, more literally. Jesus did not say, “No one comes to the Father except through the Christian Church.” Jesus used the phrase, “through me.”

We do not need to disavow, or ignore, or change, John 14.6 in order to be passionately Christian and compassionately interfaith. We simply need to realize that Jesus, and the way of Jesus, is larger than the Christian Church. The way to God, through Jesus, may be much larger than the various doors and hurdles which the Christian Church has presented through history.

In short, the way of Jesus is the way of truth and of life. That is the Christian witness which the world needs to see. I know that the Bible, and the Christian witness, have been used violently. But ultimately, the Bible provides the Word of Life even when we engage others in interfaith relationships.

The Very Reverend Sam Candler is dean of St. Philip’s Cathedral in Atlanta. His sermons and reflections on “Good Faith and Common Good” can be found on the Cathedral web site.

Formed by the Church

Last week, the Rev. Liz Zivanov suggested that the Church be careful about installing young priests in positions that call for experience beyond their years. The Rev. Andrew T. Gerns, who has been ordained for half of his 50 years, has a few thoughts on the matter.

By Andrew T. Gerns

When I was a brand-new seminarian, I was sent from New York to Easton, Pennsylvania, one weekend in January to preach a sermon on Theological Education Sunday. If General Seminary raised any money that day, it certainly wasn’t my fault because while I came out here full of enthusiasm and big ideas, it was also before my first unit of CPE and well before my first homiletics class. What came out had to be in the running for The World’s Worst Sermon Award for 1980.

Twenty-two years later, I became Rector of that very same parish, in no small part because no one, and I do mean no one, remembered me or that sermon. From what I can tell, though, they seemed to have lived through the experience.

I knew I wanted to be a priest since sometime in my early teens, and while I noodled around with the idea of law or art school, I basically drove towards that goal with a certain relentlessness. The priest in my home parish had me do all kinds of kooky things to either test me or talk me out of it, like serving on parish, deanery and diocesan committees, working summers in urban day camps and even as a sexton. He made me join the Altar Guild and when I went away to college scolded me for missing church.

When I started out, the ordination canons were written for people just like me, and everyone seemed to come to the conclusion all at once that it was a bad idea. Some clergy told me that I should go out after college and get a job and experience “real life” before entering the process. Some people said three years was enough while others said five or eight. In my seminary class, which was one of the largest GTS saw until then, there were only three of us who came straight from college. They all reported to me that they had been given the same advice.

I could be wrong about this, but I think that when I became a postulant in 1979, I would be the last person in the Diocese of Connecticut to be given that status at age twenty-one for another eighteen years. In fact, I was told that my being accepted as postulant was an exception to a brand new policy that required a minimum of three years after college (essentially 25 years of age) before entry into the process. I was given a pass because I worked full time while being a full time student to pay for my education at a private liberal arts college. This, they supposed, gave me sufficient “life experience.”

Truthfully, it probably didn’t. When I was sent to my first parish, I was still 24, not-long married and with a one year old son. In other words, I didn’t know doodly about very much. I just thought I did. But I did not miss the ironic fact that people were calling me “Father” and I was young enough to be their kid or their grand-kid.

Now the truth is that between then and now, I did some really cool things—campus ministry, work in soup kitchens, community ministries, classes, camping trips and youth groups and so much more! I also did some really dumb things. There were times when I was arrogant and all-knowing and had to be cut down to size. I needed to grow up. I have crashed and burned, and at times it has been ugly. The important part was not that crashing and burning occurred, but what we—the congregations and I—have done with that experience that mattered.

As a person who has served on Commissions on Ministry, and now serves on a Standing Committee, the questions and challenges around the ordination of young adults in their mid-twenties is very alive to me. Since there are fairly few of us my age who came up that way, people may have forgotten what it is like.

Besides the obvious fact that I have accrued a quarter century of pastoral experience while I am still young enough to use it, there is a far more important truth about my journey.
In the last twenty-five years I have been formed as a priest, for sure, but I have also been formed as a person and as a Christian in the Church. The Church that formed me was not some rarified, special environment, but was the Church of ordinary parishes and missions that struggled with everyday problems of life, meaning, and how to follow Jesus every day. These communities understood, at least implicitly, that part of their vocation was to aide in the formation of young priests.

It certainly helped to be raised up in a Diocese that took the formation of new clergy very seriously and had the resources to do it well. At the time, Connecticut supervised their new ordinands through a CPE program supervised by the deployment officer. My second unit of Basic CPE was also my first year of ordained life. My second and third years were spent learning about organizational development and leadership skills. The ideal was the traditional two-year curacy, but it did not work out that way in my case where I ended flying solo or close to it. I stood in awe of the experiences of the people in my group who came to the priesthood from other careers and vocations, but we were all new together.

Most of all, it was the people in the parishes who formed me most. It was the Lebanese matriarch of a large extended family or the lonely elderly I visited who taught me the meaning of pastoral care and the ministry of presence. It was the recovering alcoholic who quietly shepherded the AA meeting in the parish hall who taught the meaning of addictions and recovery. It was choirs, altar guilds, sacristy rats and people who came every day to church even if no one else did who taught me the everyday importance of liturgy. Sometimes a layperson would gently pull me aside and make a suggestion. Sometimes someone would chew me out. Sometimes I would sit with another ordained person and work through the victories and the set-backs—including the ones of my own making.

To assume that one needs to live “real life” before becoming ordained is to assume that ordained ministry is not real life. Over and over again, I had to relearn what I had been taught in the contexts of the real life in front of me. The really important mementoes of every parish I ever served are not my office, but are the ones I carry with me wherever I go. Who I am and how I minister is largely a gift of God mediated through ordinary people in ordinary ways over many years.

The truth is that no one comes out of ordination fully formed and ready to go. All of us have tons to learn and we will never know it all. We will make mistakes, and some of them will deeply hurt people.

Age is not a predictor of competence or even of maturity. Neither does age and life experience necessarily mean that a new priest, however old, won’t do serious harm to persons or parishes. I have seen older new priests mess up just as badly—or worse—than younger new priests. I have seen priests, old and young, work out their insecurities in the pulpit before helpless congregations. I have seen clergy of every age experience crises of faith and the stresses of maturing right before our very eyes. Certainly, we can’t think that we can prevent the consequences of ordaining human beings to holy orders simply by setting higher age limits?

We must be careful of a kind of medical model of ministry that assumes that people and churches are essentially broken and need to be diagnosed and fixed by experts. As a clinical chaplain, I have come to view the sickness-model of pastoral care and counseling is of very limited, short-term value to be saved for emergencies. I have learned to balance what experts tell me with the actual experience of being with people. Just as with the formation of physicians, a fully formed priest is not only technically competent and conversant in their subjects, but have learned their craft by listening to the people they care for.

I learned this truth because I was formed, shaped for ministry, as a priest in the church. Throughout my whole adult life, through congregations that took on that delicate task of forming the clergy they have called to be their priests, I have been taught how to be both a priest and a person. Again, age is no predictor. It might even happen after we turn 50. I have a sneaking suspicion that my congregation is forming me right now. They and I might not know it, but it happens anyway.

Do I think I am a better priest after experiencing everything adult life can bring? You bet. But for me, experiencing all those things in the context of parish communities as a priest has been a lesson in how God shows up in real life and works through all of life to make us the people God made us to be.

The Rev. Andrew Gerns is the rector of Trinity Church, Easton, Pa., chair of the Evangelism Commission of the Diocese of Bethlehem and an avid Red Sox fan. Andrew is celebrating fifty years of living and twenty-five years of ordained living this year. He keeps the blog Andrew Plus.

On View: Station IX : Jesus Nailed to the Cross by Kathrin Burleson, as seen in The Soul's Journey at Episcopal Church and Visual Arts

The Long Tail of the Episcopal Church

By Micah Jackson

Before I entered the seminary, I worked in business. I don’t think I’m at all unusual in that way. Many of the clerics I encounter previously earned their bread in the for-profit business world. Some of them were very successful by any measure. It’s also true that a great many of the people sitting in Episcopal pews each Sunday are businesspeople of one kind or another. So perhaps it’s not so surprising to find that many think of a typical Episcopal parish as if it were a small business. After all, any business with an annual budget of 300-500K (not unreasonable for a medium size parish) or more, with hundreds or thousands of loyal customers and committed paid and volunteer staff, would have to be considered worth the attention of a competent manager who keeps up with the latest trends in the business literature.

But despite the many similarities between a typical Episcopal parish and a typical small business, the advice given to the latter may not automatically fit the former, at least so it seems to me. For one thing,parishes are not designed to maximize economic value for their
shareholders, as one classical definition of a business puts it, and they are not free to start manufacturing another product when market forces shift. Variations in the product are good and necessary, of course, but we are all in the Gospel business, and that’s just all there is to say about that.

So it can be tricky to evaluate the effect that a particular trendy business idea might have on the Church. Doing so faithfully requires, at least, tremendous creativity and a good hold on the values of that church body. One such trendy business idea is “The Long Tail” a reconsideration of Pareto’s Principle, which most of us know as “The 80/20 Rule.” In business this would suggest that the top 20% of a business’ customers generate 80% of the sales. In the church world, we might see the principle predicting that the top 20% of pledges bring in 80% of the budget, or that 80% of the sermons come from only 20% of the Bible. In an individual case, of course, the actual ratio may be different, but overall, Pareto’s Principle has stood the test of analysis.

Chris Anderson, in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, notices an interesting thing about the way that technology (especially the Internet) affects the 80/20 rule. (Click here to see an interactive demo of The Long Tail, skip down to the asterisk to avoid the even slightly technical language to follow) He sees that as it becomes possible to reach customers farther into the niche markets (at the extreme end of the power curve) eventually there comes a point when the area under the curve (revenue) past the inflection point is greater than that before it. In other words, it is more profitable to serve these niche customers.* Consider Despite the huge number of hit books they sell, the lion’s share of their sales (and therefore revenue) are books that are best described as unusual or obscure (the industry term is “backlist.”) It’s the same with Netflix, or eBay. Websites that cater to small markets, like egg noodle sculpture enthusiasts, also leverage the Long Tail.

There’s an argument to be made that websites like this one are benefiting from The Long Tail, as it would be difficult or impossible to distribute this content in magazine form, especially if we had to resort to traditional advertising support to do it. I know for sure that my feast-daily podcasts about the saints at St. Jerome’s Chapel draw a far, far larger audience than they ever could have if people had to come to my church to hear those sermons. Nevertheless, I don’t think that the Episcopal Church should start thinking of running parishes that way.

A traditional brick and mortar business (like a parish) simply can’t reach the number of customers necessary to benefit from The Long Tail. And if it could, it would be a tremendous burden, both from the parish end (where it would result in an endless schedule of low-attendance specialized services) and from the National Church end (where lots more tiny missions would be necessary, with the increased stress on clerical resources that comes with it). But thanks to the ease of reaching people via the Internet, the National Church and the Anglican Communion are not brick and mortar entities only, and neither is an individual parish. We can reach out to and minister with people from all over the world, greatly magnifying the Gospel’s impact in the world. Maybe that will benefit our parish, or another one, but we’re all really just divisions of the same company, right?

Jesus told the disciples to go out into the deep water, where there are lots of fish, just not all gathered together. When they hauled in their nets, they were full to breaking. The Internet is the deep water of contemporary society, and paying attention to the Long Tail could make or
break evangelism in the 21st century. Besides, Jesus never said “And if I am lifted up from the earth, I will gather the most profitable 20% to myself.”

The Rev. Micah Jackson, a priest of the Diocese of Chicago, is a doctoral student in Homiletics at the Graduate Theological Union. His personal blog is St. Jerome's Library.


By Helen Thompson

I've recently become fascinated with home improvement shows on HGTV, especially those that talk about fixing up a place on the cheap. Sometimes, it faintly reminds me of watching MacGyver when I was a teenager. They make household furniture out of paper clips and dry ice while window treatments created from repurposed cheese doodles really make that room pop! For those of you not familiar with these shows, they use a tricky technique to make sure you don't change the channel between room makeovers—they don't put a commercial break between shows. Vroom! You're hooked!

Just imagine what they could do for the vestry on a budget—new classy storage solutions for those nametags, stylish literature holders made from magazine holders spray-painted to resemble stained glass, and let's not forget the crown moulding chair rail with the two-tone paint job in the narthex. Woo hoo!

We're not strangers to changing floor plans. Full disclaimer: I was out of the church for 15 years. When I came back, many of the churches I went to had moved the altar forward and brought the Gospel into the aisles. And despite being completely churchless for a decade and a half, I had a typically Anglican response: I just really didn't know how I felt about all that. But then, over time, I realized that these changes were meant to bring the Gospel and the Eucharist closer to me.

Another makeover that had taken place while I was gone was that the Peace had become more like a farmer's market, with people wandering the aisles and chattering amongst each other, sometimes spending more time in this little walkabout than they did listening to the rector's homily. I'd just sit there staring and feeling lost. I still do, to a certain extent because my constant moves and frequent weekend travel are balanced by a solid attachment to my internet faithspaces, making me something of a technomadic parishioner rather than a truly peripatetic one. The Peace, to me, has become an exercise in overcoming mild social anxiety. And I'm going through it again, having just moved to a new town with a wonderful church where the Peace doesn't walk about as much and the Gospel is still read from the pulpit. And I find I miss the new stuff. You know how it is: how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? (Everyone, all together now, clap your hands to your cheeks like you're Home Alone and shriek, "CHAAAANNGGE??!")

But, see, that's what is so wonderful about the Church. I leave it for many years and come back to find it's grown with me, so much so that I'm staying put. And while the rest of the communion squabbles and dickers over who's sleeping with whom, I rest comfortably in the knowledge that I can sit comfortably between the Buddha and Paul, or between my conservative cousin and my aunt in the "unconventional" relationship, between my mistrustful-of-religion fiancé and my high-Anglican priestly friends. No matter whether I'm in an old stone country church or a contemporary worship structure or a coffeeshop with my emergent pals or the National Cathedral on a bright spring morning, no matter whether this week's faithspace has had an extreme makeover, churchified edition, or involves being somewhere sliding down a rock face near the Potomac River, no matter how the seasons or the scenery or the steeples change, I'm still the one who comes through the doors—literal and metaphorical—and can barely catch my breath for all the beauty that surrounds me.

Thank you, God.

Helen Thompson, known on the faithblogging circuit as Gallycat, is a writer living in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She has written for the Philadelphia City Paper, RevGalBlogPals, Geez magazine and others. Visit her on the web at Gallycat's Lounge.

Revs. & Drs.

By Elizabeth Zivanov

I’ve found myself in the line of fire more than once for suggesting that those who feel called to Holy Orders should not go directly to seminary after graduating from college. My rationale has been that those who follow this track do not have the life experience necessary to pastor a parish. Of course, I’ve been challenged and even called a few names because of this approach, so I continue to reflect on my reasons for being so stubborn about this.

I am speaking in generalizations based on my own experience and based on anecdotal evidence. I do think this topic needs to be seriously addressed at many levels by dioceses and the national church. A study on this topic would probably be a fine thesis or term project for some earnest seminarian.

Fundamentally, there is a push across the board for young clergy in the Episcopal Church. It’s an image thing; it’s an assumption; it’s a cry for hope for the future of the church: young clergy will attract young people and we all want more of them! Or perhaps it’s because we need a visual symbol of hope for the Church, and 20-somethings in alb and stole provide one.

When I think of the needs of a pastoral or family-sized parish, there is, typically, a strong expectation that the rector or vicar is capable of handling just about anything that comes her way or, if not, then she at least knows her limits and will make a referral. (For this piece, I’ll use feminine pronouns as generic.) In fact, it’s thought by many (although erroneously) that once ordained a priest, the new cleric can easily live into this expectation of Mother Knows Best and can take care of everything and everyone. Young clerics sometimes actually buy into that identity.

So we have a 25-year-old with a seminary degree, maybe 10 weeks of basic Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and some part-time field education work who is now faced with many levels of parish dynamics, deaths, marriage difficulties, drug problems, local politics, unruly children and adults, hidden agendas, triangulation, skeletons in the closets, the onset of terminal illnesses, and all the other problems that arise in parish communities. Can a 25-year-old with no practical life experience and no in-depth supervised training adequately handle being the person to whom Christians turn for their emotional, psychological, and spiritual health? Do three years of seminary provide adequate preparation?

Let’s compare this to the training of medical doctors. They have an undergraduate education and three years of medical school. So far, this is training similar to our seminarians. When they graduate, they are awarded an M.D. and are addressed as Doctor Whomever. When our seminarians graduate, they are awarded an MDiv and are ordained, thereafter being addressed as The Rev. Whomever. But once these degrees and titles are bestowed, there is a sudden shift in training and expectations. Doctors must endure another 3-7 years of highly supervised internship and residency; clergy are often assigned to parishes as vicars or to other parishes as assistants, and with questionable supervision. In some dioceses, they are assigned as vicar or rector immediately upon their ordination just because of the paucity of available ordained clergy. In relatively rare cases, these newly ordained clergy are assigned as curates, sometimes with the expectation that they will receive additional training and mentoring from the rector to whom they report. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But there is no consistency of training for newly ordained clerics in the Episcopal Church.

By the time doctors are able to go into private practice, they are in their late 20s or early 30s with extensive on-the-job training. The newly ordained cleric can ostensibly find herself as a vicar or rector as early as 24 years old.

Both medical and clerical professions muck around deeply in the lives of individuals – one physically, the other spiritually and emotionally. One is trained to know the professional limits of their training and skill; the other is not always trained to know these limits, thus using “skills” that they do not have and often causing more harm than good.

There is a perception that continues to exist on the part of parishioners, however, that clergy are trained to take care of many different personal and spiritual situations and crises that arise. They are not. They might have received a counseling class or two in seminary, but certainly nothing extensive that includes close and ongoing supervision over a sufficient period of time. Seminaries do not provide in-depth opportunities for learning and developing the soft skills, management skills, and group dynamics skills necessary for any leader of a group of diverse personalities.

A national parish clinical pastoral education program that is required of all seminary graduates could provide us with clergy who have had quality, reality-based, supervised training in parish ministry. Of course, this program would require funding from the national church and local dioceses; the willingness to commit such funding is an indication of the importance that we place on adequately training clergy for parish work. It might even be a canonical requirement that all seminary graduates experience parish CPE in the same depth and intensity as they do their hospital CPE. Instead of 10 weeks, though, it might be 9-12 months.

Or a potentially less popular option is to require a minimum age for those attending seminary – maybe 27 or higher to ensure that they have had at least some kind of real-life experience, and that there is a better chance that they have matured a little more than a 23- or 24-year old.

But to graduate and ordain young people who are not prepared for the enormous expectations of parish clergy is to put both young clergy and parishioners seriously at risk for their spiritual and emotional lives and to risk the systemic health of our parish communities.

The Rev. Liz Zivanov is rector of St. Clement's Church in Honolulu, Hawai`i, a deputy to General Convention 2006, and president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Hawai`i. Her sabbatical adventures can be followed on Stopping By Woods.

A cross on the forehead

By Missy Morain

Celebrant: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

People: I will, with God’s help.
"Baptismal Covenant," Book of Common Prayer

Sebastian was five years old, when he decided after much consideration to be baptized. He really didn’t want to be baptized for a long time prior to making his decision but, one day that changed, and he announced to the priest at his church “I want to be baptized” in a loud voice. After Sebastian’s baptism I asked him what it felt like to be baptized. His response was “It is going to take awhile to get use to this cross on my forehead.” Sebastian instinctively knew that from that moment on, he would be wearing a cross, serving as a disciple of Jesus.

During baptism we welcome new members to the household of God. We promise to the baptized, to God and to each other to form the newly baptized as a Christian. One is not baptized as an Episcopalian but as a Christian. We gain new ministers during the baptismal service and we must then begin to form these ministers. Formation is such a formidable promise that we can only agree to this promise with the help of God.

I am frequently asked "What is Christian Formation anyway?" or "Why do you say Christian Formation and not Christian Education?" I believe that the change was partly made to get away from the 1950s direct instruction style of education, a style where the teacher has the information and the students get the information from their teacher. Formation is deeper than that. It acknowledges that everyone has knowledge of God from the beginning, like Sebastian knew. Formation is about sharing our knowledge together as a community. It is about transforming a person as a Christian. It is about forming Christians and thereby forming the Body of Christ.

Christian Formation is not tangible. The results cannot be held in my hands. There are not papers to grade or projects to observe. Formation is more than education, although education is an integral part of formation.

I have not been at the baptismal service of most of the young people that I have ministered with. I have not been there to be a part of the covenant in person, and yet those promises hold true for me as well, they serve as the basis for my ministry. Each and every time that we as Christians bring a new person into the household of God we are making a great commitment for the entire body of Christ, one which each of us is called to uphold. Not for the Episcopal arm or leg of the body but the whole body. That is an awesome commitment and one which can inspire me to flee in fear. One which would make me flee and yet I don't, because I am not making this covenant on my own. I am making this covenant with all the members of the Body of Christ, which of course brings up a whole other set of fears. But hey, I can only deal with one set of my issues at a time. Right?

Missy Morain, Program Coordinator for the Cathedral College Center for Christian Formation at Washington National Cathedral, is keeper of the blog Episcopal Princess. She is on the board of directors of the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors and works with the Colloquium of Episcopal Professional and Vocational Associations.

Stuff happens

By Deirdre Good

Stuff happens. Accidents. Mental illness. Death. Throughout human history, people have asked "Why?" To ask "why" is to presume that stuff happens for a reason, that behind events lie causes we can discover. It's a question from a privileged perspective. It suggests human omniscience.

After the shock of being diagnosed with colon cancer at 43, I spent considerable energy trying to find out why. Perhaps there were genetic reasons? Perhaps there were environmental causes? Then I asked whether diet or nutrition could have been a factor. Were there emotional or psychological factors resulting in my debilitated immune system? All these factors, genetic make-up, environment, and nutrition may have played a role but in the end I could not find a reason. Perhaps there isn't one. It doesn't mean that research on the causes of cancer or even my particular case is unimportant. It just happened that at age 43 I was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. Now its part of my identity.

Jesus' disciples, seeing a person blind from birth and wanting an explanation for his condition, asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus' reply shatters the snare of looking at illness as cause and effect: "It's not that this one sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be manifest in him." Stuff happens, Jesus says. There's not necessarily a reason for it. Put the emphasis elsewhere. It's not what happens but what you do with what happens that matters.

Now it also happens that I am lesbian. Many people in the Anglican communion think of us as diseased sinners, equating sexual identity with illness and being gay with sin. Several weeks ago a woman interrogated me after a talk I gave in a nearby church. She asked how, in light of Paul's condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1, I continued to live out a sinful life style. To this woman it did not matter that Paul sees same-sex relations as a consequence of pagan idolatry and an exchange of what is natural for what is "beyond nature," or that, in chapter 2, both pagan and Jew are condemned for exercising judgment on others, or that Jesus said nothing about same-sex relations. Such discussions, I have learned from having many of them, aren't really about the biblical text. They are about something or someone else. However, it's difficult to get at what really is going on. To break out of such discussions, I sometimes agree that Paul does condemn same-sex relations. I might assent that I am a sinner just as we all are, albeit for different reasons, and that I'm in good company. But then I ask my interrogator whether the Christian gospel can be reduced to condemnation? (I did this better on Swedish Public Radio last Friday than in conversation.) I think not. To preach the good news without emphasizing Jesus' proclamation of God's love for every single one of us is to reduce the gospel to the point of distortion.

Jesus' opponents in the account of the man born blind in John's gospel continue to regard events through the prism of cause and effect. They regard the blind man as a sinner and, despite clear evidence to the contrary, Jesus as a sinner also who cannot have given sight to the blind. In the end they simply cast out the now-sighted man. Jesus finds him and explains the roles of judgment and division in his mission: "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who may see become blind." Stuff happens but the mission has moved on. I hope that all our interrogators can move on with Jesus and us too.

Deirdre Good, professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializes in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. She grew up in Kenya and loves marmite which may explain certain features of her blog, On Not Being a Sausage.

The Church of Baseball

By Heidi Shott

On Friday afternoon my family and I make the three-hour trip to Fenway Park. As always, we stop at the Kennebunkport rest stop so my husband Scott, who would sooner jump into a leech-infested lake than get behind the wheel in Boston, can hand over the keys. Before long we find our worn, wooden seats along the third baseline and settle in for the evening.

As we munch our Fenway franks, sip our Sam Adams and juggle our stuff every few minutes to allow someone in or out, we let the pleasure of being at Fenway again sink into our bones.

“Welcome to America’s best-loved ballpark!”

What I find telling is that the announcer, in greeting the crowd, doesn’t say, “Welcome to the home of America’s best-loved ball team.” Fenway Park, and the game that’s been played there for 95 seasons, is what New England fans love. Except for the nasty year of the strike, fans have trusted that a bunch of guys wearing Red Sox jerseys will take to the field at 7:05 p.m. and play baseball.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s not always the same bunch of guys. Sure, we have our saints…down in the box in front of us I spy an old duffer wearing a Carlton Fisk jersey…and last year I saw a sad-looking woolen Yastrzemski jersey on a fellow whose face looked like he’d never quite gotten over Bucky Dent’s homer or the horror of watching the ball go between Bill Buckner’s legs. I’m not quite over them myself.

When I left the staff of the Diocese of Maine last year to downshift to a consulting role, our Canon to the Ordinary – to make me feel rotten – started addressing me as Pedro and signing her emails as Manny, a nod to Pedro Martinez’s departure to the Mets and the loss felt by his friend and countryman Manny Ramirez still in Boston. Players come and players go, but we fans love the game and we love the Red Sox beyond the individuals, even when they’re stars like Pedro or Nomar. It’s the game, it’s the team, it’s the park…and somehow the magic works even if you’ve never seen a game at Fenway.

With the Red Sox seven games ahead of both the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, whom we’re playing, I luxuriate in being able to enjoy the game without feeling like every pitch matters. Our American League East lead slows everything down. There is no rush; there is no pressure. The pleasure of being in the park on a lovely Spring evening with my husband and sons and with no drunken fans in close proximity is a gift. We lose, 6-3, our boys can’t hit the ball worth beans and the terrific fielding of the Orioles’ shortstop nixes a few promising opportunities. But so what? We’re in it for the long haul, both the 2007 season and for the rest of our lives.

One gorgeous spring morning nine years ago I sat on a hard pew in the nave of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland, Maine. A priest from Chicago named Chilton Knudsen was about to be consecrated Bishop. As one of our retired bishops passed the row in the processional, my neighbor, whom I’d met a few minutes before, whispered, “That’s my bishop.”

“What? Are you nuts?” I wanted to hiss back. “You can muster loyalty to only one bishop over the course of your whole life? Give her a chance! She doesn’t even have the mitre on her head yet and you already prefer a bishop who retired 13 years ago?”

That comment still worries me because the future of Christendom, specifically our Anglican brand, cannot depend on superstars or even supervillains. It should not depend on individuals at any level. The Body of Christ depends on people coming in and sitting on the same worn, wooden seats every Sunday – seats, like those at Fenway, that have borne witness to moments of profound joy and deep sadness; good singing and bad singing; restless children and restless souls.

As years pass, the priests, the altar guild ladies, the choir members, the acolytes and even the bishops enter and depart. The Church depends on our enduring and often exhausting faithfulness to Christ’s charge to love God with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls and to love those we encounter with the great passion and intensity we usually reserve for our lovers and our children and ourselves.

The demands of really living this kind of life…of really doing the work of the Gospel day in and day out… rarely allow us to luxuriate in the mystery of the liturgy or the beauty of the prayerbook language. How important it is to remember what a rare and magnificent thing it is to be a part of a vast and loving community that existed long before us and will extend far beyond us. If only we could keep such a vision before us.

At Fenway Park, that kind of crazy thinking is what makes the people over in the left field bleachers start a wave.

What could it do in the Episcopal Church? It’s impossible to say.

Heidi Shott is communications director of the Genesis Fund, a revolving loan fund that provides expertise and low-interest loans to nonprofits engaged in community development. Her essays about trying to live a life of faith may be found at Heidoville.

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Lessons from Jerry

By Steven Charleston

The recent death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell has produced an expected flurry of media eulogies and critiques. Both his supporters and detractors have offered opinions about his legacy. If we read between the lines of these many political post mortems, I believe conservatives and liberals alike can find some lessons that the Falwell experience has to teach us. The question is: which side in the debate will learn the most from these lessons?

Here are four of those lessons for our shared reflection as we look at the mirror that Jerry Falwell holds up to all of us, what ever our faith or politics may be:

Lesson Number One: if you can create a constituency, you can exercise political power far beyond your real numbers. The secret is in perception. Jerry Falwell created the impression of a unified grassroots movement. He influenced politicians and supporters because he claimed to speak for a solid block of public opinion. While he did not invent this process, he certainly refined it in the context of American civil religion.

Lesson Number Two: all social agendas rise and fall on the tide of media exposure. In our culture, images on a screen are validation. Falwell was one of the early practitioners of media religion. By using the most contemporary forms of communication, he was able to galvanize large numbers of people to both see and respond to his message. Even those who disagreed with him were talking about him, and as anyone in show business knows, the fact that people are talking is all that matters.

Lesson Number Three: if public opinion is a tightrope drawn between acceptance and rejection, exaggerated rhetoric is a strong wind. Falwell undercut his own credibility (much like his counterpart, Pat Robertson) with outlandish statements that brought him censure and ridicule. There is a moral gyroscope at the center of culture and it can tilt quickly if any leader steps over the line of reason.

Lesson Number Four: personal power is ephemeral while shared values are enduring. The great preachers of the age come and go, but the message they deliver can be forever if it is embedded in the commitments of a community. Falwell’s community remains a potent and resilient force in both religion and politics. His true legacy will not be in how well he is remembered fifty years from now, but in how many people continue to self-identify with the values (or lack of them) for which he stood.

These four simple lessons, among the many that we may identify, are an integral part of the religious landscape of this century. As both conservative and progressive factions contend for social impact, political power, and moral persuasion in the United States and beyond, these lessons from Jerry Falwell will be acted out over and over again. Certainly Falwell’s constituency will be continuing to press for an agenda of values that embodies their political and social agenda. With just as much certainty, they will be confronted by others whose value system is radically different. Both sides will attempt to unify and focus a community. Both will seek to use the media and technology to expand their base. Both will search for language that invites people to believe and to act. But in the end, both will be measured by how well they can transcend images in order to influence reality.

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska, is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, and keeper of the podcasting blog EDS's Stepping Stones.

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Two Christianities

By Deryl Davis

Do we need to be re-educated about Christianity? That was religion scholar and Jesus Seminar participant Marcus Borg’s contention in his address before the recent Church for the 21st Century conference at Washington National Cathedral. In his address, entitled “A Tale of Two Christianities Today,” Borg argued that the common understanding of Christianity of a generation or two ago has become “hugely unpersuasive” in our time and that adult theological re-education in local congregations is now one of our most pressing needs.

Drawing from his recent popular book The Heart of Christianity, Borg set forth two “paradigms” for understanding Christianity, the common “belief-centered paradigm,” which he said was passing away, and a “transformation-centered paradigm,” which he argued has emerged as a major movement in mainline Christian denominations. In essence, the belief-centered paradigm is based on assent to a set of specific beliefs, while the transformation-centered paradigm, which Borg holds to be the more authentic, “is primarily about a path, a way [of being], for the individual and the world.”

Borg contended that the belief-centered paradigm, heretofore dominant in the modern era, is largely a product of the “collision” of Christianity and the scientific rationalism of the Enlightenment, rather than a product of early Christianity and the pivotal church councils of the first centuries. The transformation-centered paradigm is also only about 300 years old, Borg asserted, a product of a narrow circle of Enlightenment-era elites that has grown into “a major grassroots movement” in recent years.

Borg drew a number of important distinctions which he saw between the two paradigms. He asserted that the belief-centered paradigm focused on the afterlife and personal salvation, and was therefore “centered in one’s own well-being,” while the transformation-centered paradigm focused on spiritual transformation in the present life and was “at its best centered in God.” While the belief-centered paradigm turned religious faith into a “system of requirements and rewards,” the transformation-centered paradigm acknowledged that only a personal relationship with God and the sacred can change an individual. Not least among these differences, Borg argued, was that the first paradigm affirmed Christianity as the only way to God, while the second affirmed religious pluralism “out of a deep conviction that the God who created the universe has been known in all enduring religions.”

Examining the role of the Bible in both paradigms, Borg drew distinctions on matters of scriptural origin, authority, and interpretation. While the belief-centered paradigm views scripture as inerrant, infallible, and directly from God’s hand, the transformation-centered paradigm assumes a “historical-metaphorical approach” that understands scripture as a human product and a social construction representative of a particular people or peoples, place, and time. “What we have in the Bible,” Borg said, “is how our spiritual ancestors saw things, not how God sees them.” Borg argued that, rather than a reduction of scriptural meaning, the historical-metaphorical approach looked beyond the literal meaning of words for what they tell us about the generations of readers transformed by them. The approach is not dependent upon factuality, as is the literalist, Borg said; therefore, it is open to nuance and imaginative construction.

While strongly asserting his preference for the transformation-centered paradigm, Borg acknowledged that the spirit of God can and does work through the older, belief-centered model. The problem, he asserted, is that in recent years, adherents of the latter, literal scripture approach “have become aggressive and judgmental in the use of this paradigm” using it “to beat up on others.” Thus, the belief-centered paradigm has become “an obstacle and a stumbling block” for many Christians. By way of contrast, Borg offered the transformation-centered paradigm as a “neo-traditional view” of Christianity, recovering and retrieving what was most central to the faith before the collision with modernity occasioned by the Enlightenment.

Borg concluded his prepared remarks by noting commonalities between the two paradigms and pointing out the history of the words “faith” and “belief.” Both paradigms hold Jesus and the Bible as primary sources of revelation, both the Word of God, making Christianity distinct from all other religions, Borg said. Christians see Jesus as the “decisive” Word of God, Borg asserted, and understand Christianity as a transformative journey undertaken by means of a relationship with God in Jesus.

Borg contended that, before 1600, the word “believe” as used in Christian parlance did not refer to consent to a set of truths but rather to a commitment or loyalty to a path, as illustrated by Jesus. “The word ‘believe’ never had a set of statements as its direct object,” Borg asserted. “Faith is not about [that],” Borg argued, “but about a deepening trust in God in Jesus.”

Borg’s provocative remarks elicited a number of audience questions on the supposed decline of mainline denominations (it’s reflective of a former cultural expectation of churchgoing, Borg said); on literal interpretation of the ancient Christian creeds, especially statements about the resurrection (whether the tomb was empty or not doesn’t really matter, Borg said; what matters is that Jesus continues to be known as a figure in the present); and on the criteria for discerning the meaning of scripture (there are no objective criteria, Borg asserted; discernment is best done in the context of the Christian community and in relation to “progressive revelation” – understanding that specific meaning may change and grow over time). Borg concluded this segment of his address with a reference to Martin Luther, to the effect that “what is authoritative about the Bible is what is consistent with Christ. We know him through the gospels, we know the spirit of Christ as discerned through scripture.”

Deryl Davis is producer of the Sunday Forum at Washington National Cathedral and an associate faculty member in religion and drama at Wesley Theological Seminary.

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Fragile, tattered unity

By George M. Clifford, III

The gospel reading on the seventh Sunday of Easter depicts Jesus praying for unity not only among those disciples physically present with him at that moment but also for unity among those who, like us, who became his disciples through the witness of others (John 17:20-21). That prayer expresses a theme prominent in John’s gospel, a theme echoed elsewhere in the New Testament, a theme to which we in the Anglican Communion would do well to listen.

The theme of a unity among Christians that embraces all generations provides one of the major scriptural foundations for our Anglican emphasis on tradition as a source of authority within the Church. At the most basic level, Jesus’ prayer recognizes that none of us alive today knew or can know the historical Jesus. We must rely upon others for our knowledge of Jesus and Christianity.

First and second century Christians wrote the words that comprise the New Testament. Second through fifth century Christians edited those words and selected the twenty-seven specific books as the New Testament canon. Through the efforts of nineteenth and twentieth century Christians, we can read excellent English translations such as the New Revised Standard Version.

More specifically, each of us, perhaps with some thought, can identify those individual disciples who told us about Jesus, who taught us how to read the scriptures as windows through which God's light shines, and who helped us frame our religious ideas logically and coherently. These people may include your parents or other relatives, Sunday school or other Christian education teachers, priests, and perhaps some college professors.

For whom are you part of a similar lineage? That really is what evangelism, sharing the good news of Jesus, is all about. Tragically, too many Christians consider evangelism as something analogous to scalp counting. According to that approach, evangelists count souls won for Christ just as some Native Americans counted the number of scalps or coup they had collected. I can count no souls won. I can point to lives changed, reshaped, or redirected through my sharing aspects of the Christian tradition with people.

We Anglicans believe that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation. We do not believe that the Scriptures contain all spiritual truth or everything spiritually helpful. From generation to generation, the Church accumulates and passes along spiritual wisdom exactly as we transmit the knowledge of Jesus, anticipating that each generation will further refine and expand spiritual wisdom.

On the one hand, therefore, we should not lightly accept innovations in Church teaching or practice. In the 1950’s, Episcopal priest and ethicist Joseph Fletcher believed that he could summarize Christian ethics in one utilitarian precept: do whatever is most loving. When I first read Fletcher in college, I thought he had captured the essence of the Christian lifestyle. Over the years with more study and reflection, I have come to appreciate why other ethicists lampooned Fletcher’s idea of situational ethics. Without a moral minimum and no helpful guidelines drawn from the Christian Scriptures and tradition, situational ethics quickly deteriorates into what feels good or right or even easy in the moment. One can justify almost anything, including lying, promiscuity, theft, and killing.

On the other hand, we Anglicans embrace a living tradition, a tradition that continues to incorporate new spiritual insights and wisdom while uniting across generations. Although the Christian tradition for nineteen centuries condemned homosexual behavior, we now know that homosexual behavior is generally not a matter of choice but determined by factors beyond an individual’s control. That emerging consensus requires us to reexamine our tradition and to update that tradition, harmonizing this new knowledge with the foundational principle that God intends all of God's children to have as full and fulfilling a life as possible. Thanks be to God that the Church has already updated its tradition with respect to people of different nationalities, people of color, the physically and mentally handicapped, and women. That living tradition, not a static, unchanging tradition, sustains the Church’s unity across the generations.

Our Christian unity that stretches across the generations is an important reason why we Anglicans pray for the dead. I cannot prove that praying for the dead helps them. Sometimes it helps people grieve. Certainly, praying for the dead does no harm and affirms the Church’s continuity and unity through time.

Finally, the theme of Christian unity underscores the importance of preserving what fragile, tattered unity remains among Christians and within the Anglican Communion. Sadly, the bonds of unity within the Communion are already torn asunder. Two weeks ago, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, installed Bishop Martyn Minns, former rector of Truro parish in the Diocese of Virginia, as Bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Archbishop Akinola proceeded with that action over the objections of both our Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury; both protested that the Anglican Communion functions geographically and that the proposed action represented a significant departure from Anglican tradition. Archbishop Akinola regards Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s ministry as invalid. In theory, he does recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as head of the Anglican Communion. However, his actions speak louder than his words; Archbishop Akinola’s act clearly signifies that he too considers the bonds of the Anglican Communion broken.

Beyond continuing to pray for those who choose to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church, we can do little about the shattered Anglican Communion in the immediate present. Healing that fractured unity at the cost of abandoning our precious heritage of a living tradition would compromise our faithfulness to God and our identity within the mainstream of Anglicanism.

In the interim, we can take steps towards healing multiple other rifts within the Church. Too many Episcopal parishes and missions live in near isolation from neighboring parishes and missions, sending a message – intentional or not – to others of disunity within the Episcopal Church.

The twentieth century ecumenical movement largely failed to achieve organic unity among the various divisions of the body of Christ. Some of those unbridged differences persist because of varied theologies and praxis. Almost a quarter of a century as a Naval chaplain suggests to me that local congregations and judicatories could, if they truly emphasized Christian unity, undertake in cooperation with one another more and larger ministries than on their own. Those who hurt, who thirst, or who hunger rarely care what if any denominational or congregational label we attach to the healing, living water, or bread of life that they seek. Perhaps the path that leads toward Christian unity is the path that the military chaplaincy treads, the path of caring for all in Christ's holy name. That path is the path of common prayer, the path we Anglicans have traditionally tread, not the path of common belief down which some would mistakenly push us.

The Rev. George M. Clifford, III, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, with tours at sea, with the Marine Corps, on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains, as the senior Protestant chaplain at the Naval Academy, and as the senior chaplain at the Naval Postgraduate School.

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Don't just do something

By Sara McGinley

In a twenty minute drive the other day I heard at least three advertisements that claimed to offer people rest, for a price.

America doesn’t need any more things to keep them awake. What we really need is something to help us sleep better. Buy a mattress.

Buy this condo and spend more time doing what you want to do – even if what you want to do is nothing.

Get mom what she really wants. A day of relaxation.

These are not self-help things. There is nothing inherently spiritual about a condo or a mattress or a pedicure, although I have several friends who would disagree certainly about the pedicure and perhaps about the condo and the mattress.

People are aching for rest. For a break. For a time out.

Large companies are selling a break. They’re selling a rest. They’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to figure out what will sell their product and their answer is rest.

The beginning of our bible starts with God doing a whole lot of work and then resting.

Jesus was known to even annoy people by resting when he needed it.

Despite that fact, many of us still over-work. Many of us schedule one day off a week which we rarely take. Many of us are given vacation every year that we don’t use.

I’m getting more and more accustomed to hearing people brag about how long it has been since their last day off.

I’ve heard and read sermons in which clergy talk about how long its been since they had a break as if this is normal, healthy, expected and something that should earn them a badge of honor.

Why are we doing this?

What is stopping us from scheduling and taking two days off every week?

What is stopping us from scheduling vacations? Why aren’t we scheduling actual vacations that last at least five days during which we don’t check our email or voice-mail.

I’m sure the answer to those questions are good, important, valid things.

So many good, important valid things that we’re all tired.

It seems that tiredness has been around so long we think we invited it to our party.

It doesn’t have to be here. It really doesn’t have to be here. We were made for good hard work. We were also made for rest. Rest with integrity and regularity.

Amazingly, rest has become something that is hard to come by and hard to admit to.

A colleague recently apologized for not coming to a meeting because he was going on a much needed weekend away with his new wife.

Since when to we apologize for making our families more important than meetings?

There is a way to invite rest back into our lives and to encourage it to stay.

It means pulling out our planners and that good old ‘just say no’ skill Nancy Reagan encouraged us all to propagate back in the 80s.

It means sticking to it even when other people get annoyed, when you’re tempted to schedule just that one little, tiny meeting, or when everything feels absolutely weird.

In the last five years of working with people as a life coach I’ve seen people make significant and life-giving changes in their lives.

Many of these changes are simple things that change the whole way in which they order their lives.

Finding rest by taking time away from work is one of the most profound I’ve seen.

When you’ve had enough rest your mind will work better, your body will feel better, your ideas will be more clear, you will be more inspired and inspirational.

Here is the challenge:

Find two days a week, preferably in a row and schedule them as days off. Meetings, email and voice mail are off limits.

Experts say it takes 60 days to create a habit. I say giving a whole 3 months to a new habit means it’s really there.

The summer is a perfect time for this new habit. Others will have less resistance to your new, free-er schedule and you can hopefully enjoy those days off outside.

After committing to this for the three months of summer it will be part of your life by the fall and you can continue it more easily than if you started this in September.

When you’ve had enough rest and it’s a part of your life again others will catch the bug. They’ll get what mattress companies, and spas and real estate developers are trying to sell them for hundreds and thousands of dollars.


Sara McGinley, irreverent priest's wife and mother of two, writes the blog subtly named, Sara McGinley.

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The potato salad school of conflict resolution

By Nick Knisely

At certain point, when you get involved in enough diocesan and national church programs, you become a connoisseur of meetings and agendas.

Lately, as costs have risen and free time decreased, church meetings and conventions have been shortened by a few days. The result is that meetings start early in the day, and business sessions run well into the night. (I guess if you’re spending all that money to bring people to a meeting, you want to make sure that it’s going be produce a lot of material.)

So I was shocked when I attended my first meeting of the ecumenical dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Moravian Church. At the time, I was a priest of the Diocese of Bethlehem, living in a city founded by Moravians, and one in which they still maintain a strong presence. I had been asked to participate in this dialogue with the idea that my special duty would be to coordinate local initiatives in the Diocese of Bethlehem between Episcopal and Moravian congregations. I had prepared for this by bringing along a copy of the master diocesan calendar, parish calendars, notebooks full of information and as many sheets of paper as I could cram into my suitcase.

But the meeting that I attended was very different than the one I expected. We spent pretty much the entire first day “checking in” with each other about what had been going on in our lives. I’m familiar with “checking in” as a process tool, and have experienced it before in Episcopal Church settings; but generally when we do it, it’s over in about half an hour and we get down to the business at hand. But here, the business at hand *was* the checking in. We adjourned late in the afternoon and drove across town to the home of one of our hosts, and spent the evening sitting in lawn chairs, eating chicken and potato salad and watching the sun set. The whole evening consisted of telling stories about our families and our friends, and discovering with delight how many of the latter we all had in common.

By the second day of the three day meeting I had the sense that something very different was happening and that this meeting had a radically different agenda than other church meetings that I had attended. I finally asked some of the folks about it. (I think I wondered out loud if we were going to get any work done, or something nearly as polite.)

My hosts explained to me that the Moravian Church was not a confessional church - it was, like the Episcopal Church can sometime be, an intentionally relational church. The structures of the church are best understood as serving to builds the bonds of common love between the members of the Church which then show forth the love of Christ to the larger world. The Moravians took this part seriously, and unlike the Episcopal Church with its need to generate voluminous reports, position papers and long action lists, they seem to focus on leaving a meeting with better relationships than they had arrived with.

There’s a real and valuable payoff for them in this. The Moravian Church is struggling with the same issues that the Episcopal Church is at the moment. They have groups and congregations breaking away over the same concerns, and they have to manage the same sorts of resolutions that we do at our national meetings. But the tenor of their conversation is remarkably different than ours. They simply won’t fight and insult each other in the manner in which some Episcopalians revel. They’ve grown up with each other, often attending the same schools, and their families have been connected with each other for years. More importantly they have done the basic spade work of maintaining their friendships and their community in a way we Episcopalians have neglected, and we can see their benefit and our loss. Their strong personal relationships and deep ties to each other have inoculated them to the rancor and bile that we are experiencing.

I may be the one person in the Episcopal Church who would consider making General Convention a longer and larger event if it meant there would be more time for shared dinners with each other, for chance conversations in the hallways and for more opportunities to renew friendships. I feel the same way about diocesan events and other national events as well. I may get frustrated by not accomplishing as many tasks as we might have, but if I can keep my sense that the building of relationships is at least as important as taking positions, then I think I’ll be able to quiet my inner work-a-holic. And if we could do this, I truly believe our conversations would be radically different - and that people might actually know our Lord because of the love we have for each other.

Bless the Moravian Church, and their missional focus on being the yeast for the dough, that has taught me this truth.

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely is Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Ariz., and chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication. His blog is Entangled States.

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Family feud

By Kit Carlson

So I was meeting with a family prior to a funeral and someone in the group pipes up out of nowhere and asks, “What is an Anglican, anyway?”

The wheels ran ‘round in my brain like the fruits in a slot machine. Ka-ching! Does he mean like the breakaway “Anglican” church here in town? Ka-ching! Does he mean like Peter Akinola? Ka-ching! Does he mean like Anglican like it used to mean … a member of the Church of England? Ka-ching! Could this actually be someone who knows what the Anglican Communion is?

So where to begin … well, at the beginning. So I did, starting with Henry VIII. We took a quick spin through the American Revolution, the re-name to Episcopal, the British Empire, the Anglican Communion, what it means to be “in communion” with the Archbishop of Canterbury …

“But what is this African guy doing in our country? What’s all THAT about?” he pressed.

And you know what? I was just embarrassed. I was embarrassed that our family troubles are being fought in the pages of the press. I was embarrassed that we have not figured out a way to sit down together at the same table and work through this stuff. I was embarrassed about the entire Peter Akinola visit and how silly Rowan Williams looked after the whole letter-exchange business. I was embarrassed that the word “Anglican,” which once meant so much to me, which connected me to people around the world in a great web of religious practice and fellowship, has become so debased, so tied to conflict and reactionary politics.

Did any of my explanation help? More than anything else it made him smirk. I could see the image in his eyes: Just more Christians behaving badly, not living like their words proclaim, biting and tearing at each other, ready to throw out “little children, love one another,” just to try to win an argument.

I was not sorry about being an Episcopalian. I was not sorry about Gene Robinson. I was not sorry about our House of Bishops or Katharine Jefferts Schori or General Convention.

I was sorry though, that when people think about us now, they think about our controversies and our schisms and our bitterness What’s an Anglican? Someone who can’t make peace in his or her own family, apparently.

The Rev. Kit Carlson, is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich.

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By Will Scott

About six months ago, I moved to California to start a new job at Grace Cathedral. We are a large, vibrant and growing church in the midst of what often gets described as a “hyper secularized” environment. But having grown up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (not quite the Bible Belt, but pretty darn close), I was formed in the faith by two interconnected communities: a small parish church and a large summer camp in the mountains. I have learned there are many differences between the East and the West Coasts of the United States. I have also found that the Church’s mission of reconciling the world to Christ remains the same in San Francisco, California and in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

The small church where I grew up was on the edge of town and was dwarfed by much larger churches. However, St. Paul’s on-the-Hill was unlike any other place in my life because it connected little me with the whole world. Our parish priest at that time was passionate about Jesus and was a champion for global human rights. People of all ages were taught about our faith’s moral obligation to stand up against injustice and violence. There in that tiny parish church, I learned about the anti-apartheid movement going on in South Africa and the issues facing the Middle East. Few other places in my relatively rural community talked as regularly and sincerely about global matters.

This small church taught me that faith communities help build bridges across great differences, whatever their size or location. Even on a global scale, our small faith communities can have a significant impact. I recently read a posting on a social networking website in which a young man who described himself as an "emergent Christian," said he was having a difficult time finding ways to “do the gospel.” My hunch is that if Episcopal Churches of all sizes and locations were more intentional about communicating our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and other global causes, this young person and many others would have no problem finding ways to express their faith. “Doing the gospel” can include helping the church and its members become more energy efficient, supporting fair trade, raising funds to fight HIV/AIDS, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, or attending a rally or vigil. The Episcopal Church Communications office has put together an excellent website sharing ideas, resources and information about “doing the gospel” called Global Good.

I will never forget one closing ceremony at my large Episcopal summer camp, Shrine Mont. Amidst campers crying about leaving behind their new friends, one of the counselors took the whole group out of the chapel and down to a large pond. She asked all of us to circle around that body of water. Picking up a pebble, she tossed it in the water and we all watched the lone ripple on the surface created by her pebble. The counselor talked about how this was like one person speaking up on behalf of God’s love and peace in the world: it made one beautiful ripple. Then she invited all of us to pick up pebbles and throw them in the water. As we watched the overlapping ripples, each with a different point of origin, moving together across the pond, my counselor told us that this was what happens when we all speak up on behalf of God’s justice and peace. Together, we create many ripples and have much effect.

What we as a church do and say about global matters in our rural parishes, suburban churches, and summer camps is as important as what goes on in big and urban places. Responding to injustice and violence is about living God’s mission and practicing our faith. Addressing the hopes, needs and concerns of the world is not an option — it is Christ’s call to each of us.

The Rev. Will Scott is associate pastor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. He blogs occasionally at Yearns and Groans.

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Healthcare for children: a moral imperative

By George Clifford

Last week I attended a meeting in Raleigh where those gathered brainstormed about ways to provide healthcare coverage to all North Carolina children. About 87,000 North Carolina children currently lack healthcare coverage. (Nationally, 8.7 million children lack healthcare coverage.) Children without healthcare coverage receive less medical attention, suffer, in comparison to children with healthcare coverage, from a greater number of serious health problems that early intervention could have averted, and cost taxpayers more.

A member of the NC State House of Representatives, Verla Insko, has sponsored a bill in the current legislative session to provide subsidized coverage to parents of the 38,000 uncovered children when family income falls between 200% and 300% of the federal poverty guideline. Children in families below the 200% level are already eligible for healthcare coverage through Medicaid and North Carolina Health Choice.

Someone in the brainstorming session inquired which would cost taxpayers the least, the state directly funding healthcare for all children whose family income is less than 300% of the federal poverty guideline or administering the subsidy program and then directly paying for the approximately 50% of the children – some 19,000 – whose parents would choose to not participate in the program. Surprisingly, the least expensive option is the former, having the state directly provide healthcare for all children from families whose incomes fall between 200% and 300% of the federal poverty guideline.

Then one of the state’s foremost healthcare advocates spoke. He said that option made sense and would benefit taxpayers. However, the option was a political non-starter. For a North Carolina family of four, 300% of the federal poverty guideline is over $40,000 per year. The legislature, declared this experienced and dedicated advocate of healthcare for all, would never adopt a program of free care for children in families of four with an income of $40,000. The consensus among those present was that the advocate was correct.

As I traveled home after the meeting, I thought about that discussion from a gospel perspective. First, I remembered Jesus instructing his disciples to “Let the children come to me.” Surely, Jesus loves children. Our children, all children, are precious. The Episcopal Church rightly takes steps, such as background checks and ensuring adequate supervision, to guarantee the safety of children while they are at church or involved in church programs.

Second, Jesus healed the sick. Theologians, biblical scholars, and Christians debate how Jesus healed. Yet even the most radical scholars acknowledge that Jesus healed the sick. Since Jesus loved the children and healed the sick, then surely we who are Christ's feet, hands, and voice can do nothing less.

Third, I remembered Jesus’ saying “You cannot serve God and wealth.” I am amazed that making healthcare coverage free for all North Carolina children whose family income falls between 200% and 300% of the federal poverty guideline saves the taxpayers money but is nevertheless politically a non-starter. The only explanation of that anomaly which makes sense to me is that some legislators and voters love wealth more than they love God. Idolatry has so warped their judgment that the idea of paying for children’s healthcare without requiring parental contributions is unacceptable even when to the taxpayers’ financial advantage. In other words, the legislature does not want to create the appearance of these children getting a free ride. I cannot believe that many families would voluntarily limit their income to 300% of the federal poverty guideline in order to obtain free healthcare coverage for their children.

My reflections on those three points caused me to rethink what I as a Christian believe are government’s proper functions. Libertarians argue that the best government is the government that does the bare minimum. Libertarianism does not cohere well with Christianity. Christianity teaches that God created humans to live in community with one another; our concept of the Triune God models that community for us. At the other end of the spectrum, some communitarians contend that government should manage most aspects of life. Extreme communitarians fail to take sin and evil seriously; primitive Christianity’s early experiment with socialism, recorded in the book of Acts, teaches the need to balance community with individual initiative.

Like the Christian tradition’s mainstream, I found my thoughts gravitating toward a philosophy of government that falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between extreme libertarianism and communitarianism. Government is the clear provider of choice for certain services, such as national defense, law enforcement, fire protection, and most transportation infrastructure. We may not enjoy paying taxes but know that funding those basic services is important. Conversely, the majority of agricultural, industrial, and commercial activities function more effectively and efficiently when shaped by market forces within broad legal parameters.

Healthcare, it seems to me, falls into an ambiguous middle ground, partly an individual and partly a communal responsibility. Individuals who have to pay something for their healthcare coverage have an added incentive to adopt healthy lifestyles (as if anyone should need an added incentive!). Healthcare providers exercise more initiative, creativity, and responsibility within a system that allows some market forces to function. Conversely, all people, especially children, should have equal access to healthcare.

What does any of this – talk of healthcare and one’s philosophy of government – have to do with Easter? After thirty plus years of ministry, hearing hundreds of sermons and reading thousands of pages of Christian materials, I well understand why Karl Marx wrote that religion is the opiate of the masses. Too often, Christianity focuses on matters ethereal rather than earthy. Christianity offers the watery gruel of stoic counsel, grin and bear your problems, instead of the living water of real help. Jesus the healer becomes Jesus who promises of paradise.

The gospel reading for the fifth Sunday of Easter seeks to plant our feet firmly back on the ground. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) The reading on the sixth Sunday of Easter reinforces that message. Jesus’ commands those who love him to follow his teachings (John 14:23). The Church does not need to propose a panacea for the nation’s healthcare woes. Living in London for two years and multiple conversations with people on both sides of the Atlantic leave me firmly convinced that no nation has yet implemented anything near an optimal system for ensuring everyone receives quality healthcare. What we as the Christian Church can do, must do, is insist that our politicians keep working at the problem and that in the interim, as a minimum, every child has guaranteed healthcare coverage.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention adopted resolutions in 1991 (A099) and 1994 (A057) calling for universal access to quality healthcare coverage. This Eastertide as numerous states begin to address the healthcare system’s failure to provide quality care for all Episcopalians would do well to restore this topic to their primary agenda and to spend less time in futile efforts to preserve church unity.

The Rev. George Clifford served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, with tours at sea, with the Marine Corps, on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains and as the senior Protestant chaplain at the U. S. Naval Academy.

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Dean Sam Lloyd:
practice reconciliation

By Deryl Davis

Can human beings live with a healing spirit that makes room for the “outsider” in our midst? That was the central question posed by Washington National Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III in his plenary address on reconciliation at this week’s Church for the 21st Century conference. Citing examples of division in American society and within Christian traditions, including the Episcopal Church, Lloyd pointed to Jesus’ acts of inclusion and ministry of reconciliation as models for a world “crying out for the spirit of healing, where there is room for the stranger, and plenty of room at the banquet table.”

Lloyd asserted that it was important to recognize that forgiveness and reconciliation have not been part of every religious tradition, and he recalled philosopher Hannah Arendt’s contention that it was Jesus who introduced forgiveness and reconciliation into world affairs. Lloyd told conference participants that the clearest call to such reconciliation is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:17-18, New Revised Standard Version). Lloyd asserted that Paul was teaching two specific things: first, that reconciliation is an act of God working through us, that we cannot begin it ourselves; and second, that God has given us reconciliation as a specific Christian ministry within and beyond the church.

Lloyd told participants that reconciliation is not “a strategy or problem-solving approach, but a spirituality of how God has accepted us back again and again.” He cited theologian Gregory Jones, who has written that reconciliation is something we discover, a set of practices that arise out of our relationship with God.

Recent history offers remarkable stories of reconciliation, Lloyd noted, in which people of faith were able to love the “other” even when the other had badly wounded them. The Amish community’s ability to love and show concern for the wife of the man who killed five Amish girls in the town of Paradise, Pennsylvania last year was one example; another was the remarkable work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which offered amnesty for crimes committed under apartheid if the offender confessed and asked for forgiveness. Lloyd noted that the model was specifically scriptural.

Importantly, reconciliation does not mean agreement, Lloyd said. “It means struggling to honor and make space for the other in our world and hearts, sometimes to have to walk apart,” but hopefully to find a way to walk together again in the future.

In conclusion, Lloyd asserted that the work of the 21st century church, whatever form it takes, is reconciliation, “honoring the ‘other’ in our churches, our communities, and across the world.” Lloyd said that Christians should be about “building communities where people can be in touch with themselves, even their own sin,” while reaching across boundaries of race, gender, and social and ideological distinctions. “We have an urgent call,” Lloyd said, “in this work which has a truly global dimension.”

Deryl Davis is covering The Church for the 21st Century Conference at Washington National Cathedral for Episcopal Cafe. He will have additional reports next week.

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Phyllis Tickle kicks off Cathedral conference

Dispatches from The Church for the 21st Century Conference at Washington National Cathedral, May 10-12, 2007

By Deryl Davis

Is it possible to envision a new direction for the church in the 21st century? Perhaps even a reformation? Author, editor, and Episcopal laywoman Phyllis Tickle (The Divine Hours, The Shaping of a Life) answered both questions with a resounding yes in her opening plenary address at this conference yesterday. Tickle challenged the 150 or so lay and ordained participants to envision this meeting as a new council of the church universal, seeking to divine the way forward in a world where many traditional assumptions about the nature, role, and relevance of the church are being re-examined. “We talk about post-modern, post-Reformation, post-Protestant,” Tickle said, “but what we are really saying is that the institutionalized presentation of Christianity, and of Protestantism specifically, is no longer sufficiently viable to sustain the whole of the living church now or in the next five centuries ahead.”

In fact, Tickle suggested that we are now transitioning from one age of Christian history to another, each age roughly equivalent to a 500-year period. She deconstructed Christian history for conference participants in terms of these half-millennial cycles: Go back 500 years (1517 is a convenient date) and you get the Reformation; another 500 years and you encounter the Great Schism (1054), when Christianity split into Eastern and Western branches; 500 years further on, and you arrive at the great church councils, such as Chalcedon (451), when many of our creeds were hammered out; 500 more years, and you come to the birth of Christ. The paradigm has been noted with other world religions, as well, in books such as Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation. These illustrations serve Tickle’s argument that the church, and perhaps Western society in general, is at a unique turning point; it’s time, Tickle said, to meet as the early church did and wrestle with the great questions of who we are as a people of faith, why we are here, and what we are called to do.

The title of Tickle’s address is significant: “The Great Emergence: Reformation in our Time.” Like the other plenary speakers yesterday and today (Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd, III, theologian and Bible scholar Marcus Borg, and religion scholar Diana Butler Bass among them), Tickle sees the mainline denominations at a catalytic moment, when new voices and practices are emerging, even as ancient traditions are being recovered and re-valued. In tracing the paradigm shifts of Christian history, Tickle sees each transformation leading to something larger and more encompassing than what came before.

“Our current reformation fits the pattern of those that came before,” Tickle asserted, and in each transformation “there is always one central question: Where now is the authority? In what, and where, does authority now exist? This determines what the truth is for us.” Tickle argued that, for many of today’s Christians, scriptural authority is no longer enough (Luther’s famous sola scriptura). However, she said it was too soon to determine where authority will rest for the church of the next half-millennium. “Our times call out for no more arrogant individualism,” asserting one point of view above all others, Tickle declared. “But whatever we name as the source of authority must render up a religiously satisfying definition of humanity and of religion.” Tickle noted that, in addition to questions about religious authority, contemporary Westerners (whether religious or not) struggle with notions of what it means to be human, now that science has challenged Cartesian assumptions of the relationship between consciousness, identity, and existence. Tickle said it was important to consider the ways that technology impacts our relationships, human and otherwise, and that the internet is already providing new ways of thinking about faith practice.

Tickle noted that Western culture has been irrevocably shaped by the ideas of the Enlightenment, science, and reason, but that Christianity is now a global (and not simply a Western) phenomenon. While Western Christianity has tended to dominate other forms of the faith over the past millennia, that may not be the case in the future. “There could be a second Christianity emerging that may not be able to be absorbed by our North American . . . Western version,” Tickle said. “In past times, forms of reformation in the West drummed out non-Western forms [of Christianity]. This time it may be the West forced to wait out its time.”

Tickle concluded her address by noting that, for the first time in Christian history, a new configuration or understanding of what it means to be Christian can be disseminated through the means of mass communication – allowing almost instant transmission and sharing of ideas as well as differences. “Unlike our forebears, we can discern together in an intentional, unified way,” Tickle said. “We must decide how together we want to be. That’s what we’re here to see.”

Deryl Davis is producer of the Sunday Forum at Washington National Cathedral and an associate faculty member in religion and drama at Wesley Theological Seminary. This is the first of several reports on The Church for the 21st Century Conference at the Cathedral.

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The Lord Loveth a Cheerful...

By Derek Olsen

During my time in and around churches I’ve noticed two general strategies when it comes to stewardship time. The first strategy is outright begging. The clergy and vestry make a pitch for money to keep the lights on, the building heated, and to generally keep the place running. The main motivator here seems to be guilt.

The second strategy is the notion of giving as a Scriptural command/spiritual discipline. We get it from both directions: from one side, Scripture tells us to give our first-fruits to God, ten percent being the suggested donation; on the other, giving is a way of liberating ourselves from bondage to our possessions and engenders a spirit of gratitude towards God and neighbors by redistributing the good things we have received from them. Personally, I like this one better than the first. Still, being a Gen-X/Y guy I always get a little suspicious when some dude stands up and tells me to give to God—but it just happens to be heading for his bank account… The first way seems demeaning, the second—while the message is true—comes across as being self-seeking. Were someone to stand up, tell me to give to God and suggest other ministries who should receive it, I’d probably take the call more seriously…but that won’t help the parish budget, will it? Is there a better way to do this? Is there a way to talk about, to do, stewardship that moves beyond these complications?

I certainly hope so.

During my time in grad school, I’ve kept bread on the table by working in non-profit development—the industry euphemism for fundraising. I’ve written grants, drafted mass mailings, and have spent countless hours glued to various kinds of databases supporting my development colleagues. In that time, I’ve gained an appreciation for some different strategies of fundraising than the usual two that church-folk tend to use. Here are some things to get you thinking about your church’s stewardship campaign—whether you’re putting it together or not.

Effective philanthropy isn’t about asking for money, it’s about linking passions. The man who taught me the business was fond of repeating a line he attributed to Laurence Rockefeller: “In good philanthropy, everybody wins.” To understand this proverb and apply it to the church we need to break it down: first—who’s “everybody”?

The non-profit world tends to talk in terms of three spheres: donors, the organization, and the service population. That is, those who give the money, those who use the money, and those who receive the services. For each of these three to “win,” they all have to be receiving the maximum benefit of the gift. The service population has to receive the full benefit whether that’s having their needs met or having their horizons expanded or stretched in some way. The organization wins when it makes an active contribution to its field whether that’s healing, education, art appreciation or a hundred other possibilities. Donors win when they don’t feel like they’ve been manipulated or extorted. Donors win when they don’t feel like they’ve pitched a shovel full of money into a big black hole. Donors win when they can see the tangible results of investing in their passion.

Because that’s what it’s about: investing in a passion. Good philanthropy happens when an organization provides an opportunity for donors to invest in something that they are passionate about—and to see that they’ve made a difference. Thus, our job in the development business is connecting people with common passions. I learned early on that it’s no use spending staff time and resources to convince someone with a passion for curing the cancer that killed their mother to make a major gift in support of postmodern sculpture, or to extract a gift for healthcare services from someone focused on global warming. It’s not that all of these aren’t worthy causes or that some connection couldn’t eventually be made, rather, it’s about the synergistic effect when passions meet and match to make a difference.

So—how does this connect to the church? In a sense we’ve got an unusual situation because we’re the donors, the organization, and—to a degree—the service population as well. And we need to keep all three pieces in focus. Stewardship is not about the clergy and the vestry against the congregation—though it sometimes feels that way. The clergy and the vestry really aren’t the organization—we all are. Are you owning that and claiming that?

So what is the purpose of the organization—where’s the passion? On one level this question ought to have a very easy answer: To transform its members according to the mind of Christ through worship, education, and action, spurring them to invite the whole world into the Good News of what God has done for us in Christ. But practically—what does this look like on the ground, on your ground? Take a minute to think through these questions:
1. What is your particular local congregation’s passion(s) as it relates to the overall picture sketched above?
2. Can you see the tangible evidence of your congregation’s passions?
3. Can others—both inside and outside the congregation—see that evidence too?
Now—here’s the kicker…
4. In light of these reflections, is this congregation a good investment of time and money for those who want to see those passions change the world around them?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a priest, a vestry member or a regular person in the pew, these are the questions to be thinking about—now. Not in September or October when “stewardship season” is around the corner. They’re the questions to think about now. Is your congregation currently not a good investment? Now’s the time to do something about it! Does it do good work, but it’s still the best-kept secret on the block? Now’s the time to spread the word! When stewardship season rolls around will you find them begging for money again, or inviting investments in an organization that pays spiritual dividends? When the passion is vibrant and alive, when it’s visibly at work changing lives, feeding the poor, comforting the disconsolate, that’s when good philanthropy is happening. When disciples are being formed, when the year of God’s favor is being enacted, that’s when the Gospel is happening.

Derek Olsen is a database programmer and an adjunct professor at Emory’s Candler School of Theology where he teaches in homiletics, liturgics, and New Testament. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X dad appear at Haligweorc.

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Anglican sublime, Anglican ridiculous

By Richard Helmer

This has certainly been one of the strangest weeks in the Episcopal Church I can remember. Whether it was a pie thrown at a priest, letters ostensibly missed in the mail between Primates, or public flailing to find reasons for and against schismatic acts, the universe, fate, or perhaps even God seemed to be whimsically poking fun at our games of polity, power, and control.

We Anglicans all ended up looking a bit silly.

Nothing, it seems to me, could be more appropriate.

Years into entrenched positions and angry rhetoric, The Episcopal Church as a whole wrestles to move forward with mission, while some leadership in the Anglican Communion tries to obsess over human sexuality and notions of orthodoxy. It is all too damned serious.

We must all learn to laugh more at what is unimportant. And even more critically to laugh even at that which we seriously regard as important.

Martin Luther, amongst his stranger writing, quips: "The best way to get rid of the Devil, if you cannot kill it with the words of Holy Scripture, is to rail at and mock him.”

Do we see the devil in each other in the current mess? Or perhaps the devils in ourselves reflected in each other? Or a bit of both?

Take it from Luther, someone who spent part of his life taking his faith and salvation much too seriously: laugh at the devil.

The insults, abuse, and hard words we have delivered and endured these past few years are a result of taking one another much too seriously. Even worse, ourselves. And that is borne, it seems to me, of the sin of pride.

And we too often take the Church much too seriously. However divinely inspired, like most institutions, it is often hamstrung by human hubris. God’s grace is surely greater than that. The true Church has yet to be fully revealed, and Anglicans of whatever stripe have no monopoly in it.

One psalmist wrote: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision.” The second psalm is overtly political in tone, as it refers to powers and principalities who stand against the People of God. But our foolishness is in assuming we know who the People of God are. Or even worse assuming we are they, when we behave too often like the peoples who “plot in vain against God and the anointed,” trying to break relationship with each other when relationships in God’s universe can at most only be changed, never truly severed. God has us in derision if anyone at all. And of all the laughter, God’s is the hardest for us to bear, because it the greatest salvific gift for our prideful, overly serious lives.

It is Eastertide. We must remember what that means. The bonds of death have been broken. The maw of hell has been shattered. The gates of heaven have opened like a flower. Love has won already. The People of God have been freed. God has had the last laugh.

We best learn from God again to laugh at death in each other and in ourselves. It is passing away. God is indeed making all things new. Our souls are not our own. They belong to God in Christ. And so we have nothing and no one, in the end, to truly fear.

This little episode in Anglican and Episcopal history, flying pies and archbishops included, ridiculous and sublime, will pass. And the real work of the Church will continue with the fruits of the Spirit – laughter included – that laughter that is part of the language of grace.

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer, is rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, Calif. He writes about spirituality, ministry, Anglicanism, and church politics at Caught by the Light.

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Untapped power

By Howard Anderson

For years now, the bishops of the Anglican Communion Network and their various allies have avoided celebrating the Eucharist with fellow Episcopalians at our Church’s General Convention and other venues. They are smart! As Christians, they know more than most the power of the sacraments to transform us, to move us beyond our own selfish desires and private agendas, and to shape us to God’s will. So they stay away. They avoid the possibility that in celebrating the Eucharist with those with whom they disagree, their hearts might be softened toward those they deem apostate. They avoid the possibility that in looking into the eyes of the celebrant or chalice bearer, they will see the eyes of the Holy One and be transformed.

I have seen this melting of hearts happen. Before the General Convention in Phoenix in 1991, Bishop Rusty Kimsey and I were dispatched to work with the city and state officials on an agreement that would allow the Convention to be held in Phoenix despite the state of Arizona’s refusal to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The short form of the story is, the city made a special effort to celebrate the King holiday and the General Convention went on. But Rusty, myself and others decided that one way to bridge the separation between Episcopalians of differing viewpoints at the Convention, was to use the “African Bible Study” method that had been used effectively at the Lambeth Conference in 1988.

We decided to mix and match the deputies, so that there would be, around each table, a variety of people—bishops, priests, laity—from presumably conservative dioceses, and from liberal ones as well. I watched a gay deputy and a deputy deeply troubled by the presence of gay and lesbian people in leadership roles in the church eye each other warily at first. Then, as we turned the Gospel loose around the table, they began to speak, to share their stories. At the end of convention, on the last meeting day of the Bible study groups, these two embraced, and tearfully spoke words of true Christian agape to one another. The transforming power of the Gospel, the unifying power of the Eucharist, should never be underestimated.

I have seen it happen! I was sent by then Presiding Bishop Ed Browning to the organizing meeting of the Episcopal Synod of America, a conservative group of a former era. To make a long story short, at the Eucharist I stood in line behind a very large man as we were going to the rail. I encountered him again in the coffee hour, giving a stern, finger shaking lecture to Bishop Browning. I was actually worried that this huge man might push or otherwise harm the Presiding Bishop, so I stepped between them. The large man said with some vehemence to Bishop Browning and me, “I am not in communion with you. You have abandoned the true teachings of scripture and the Church in order to ordain women!” Rather than getting defensive, I simply said, “Oh, we’re not out of communion. I received the Body and Blood of Jesus right next to you at the Eucharist. We are very much in communion.”

The large man paused, then said, as his face broke into a beatific smile, “Why, you are right. We did receive together. Maybe we don’t need to agree on everything to be in communion. What separates us is not as important as how Christ brings us together in the sacrament.” Then he gave me a bear hug I did not soon forget, and shook the Presiding Bishop’s hand.
I like to imagine what would happen if the Archbishops of Canterbury and Nigeria, Bishop Martyn Minns and his company of believers joined with members of the Episcopal Church for a big Eucharist. Maybe we could hold it outdoors, on the lawn at Truro. What would happen? Would the enmity be reduced? Would the schismatic folks turn and leave rather than share Christ’s Body and Blood with those they deem not “orthodox” enough? I would like to see what happens.

What harm could be done? And what a wonder and model it would be to the world. They would know we are Christians by our love, not our fights.

Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral. The college’s latest conference, Church for the 21st Century, begins tomorrow at the Cathedral.

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy. Commenters who were registered under nicknames or pseudonyms at the old Daily Episcopalian site must reregister. Thanks.

Report of the House of Bishops' Task Force on Property Disputes

"In reality, it is the church “homes” of countless loyal Episcopalians, the legacy of countless Episcopalians, past and present, and the spiritual well-being of those who always have found immeasurable comfort in their church homes, that are at issue as well as the nature of TEC and Anglicanism. The strategy at play must be revealed and understood if we are to protect the faithful from having their places of worship, and the assets accumulated by generations of Episcopalians, removed from them and removed from their use in the mission of TEC."

The House of Bishops Task Force on Property Disputes has issued it report.

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Public mourning

By Susan Fawcett

For good or ill, the parish I serve is becoming skilled in a particular kind of hospitality: high-profile funerals. A few years ago, before I began working here, the parish opened its doors to hold a funeral for a young woman whose kidnap and brutal murder got top billing on every major news network. With television-news trucks, reporters, and cameras swarming the perimeter, a church that seats 350 on a good day welcomed swarms of people who came to mourn an untimely (and much publicized) death. I doubt the parish realized how that funeral was preparing them for another.

The recent tragedy at Virginia Tech hit hard four hours away in Northern Virginia. Many of our parishioners had only one or two degrees of separation from the victims. And indeed, one young woman who died was from our town. She was a vibrant young woman, a student who was only weeks away from graduating. Through various connections—a family friend who also happened to be an Episcopal priest, and neighbors who comforted them in the first hours after they got the awful news—her family was led to our parish, and the rector offered to officiate at the service.

In the days that followed, it became clear that this would be no ‘normal’ funeral. Significant crowds were expected, various protesters [] threatened to picket, and the press was already on patrol. In a Sunday sermon, the rector asked for volunteers to help with the preparations, and by Tuesday so many calls came in that we had to start turning people away. By the afternoon before the service, there were more cookies and brownies in our parish hall than you could have fed to an army of middle-schoolers. The ‘simple reception’ we had offered began to turn into a luncheon as people brought sandwiches, cheese, meat trays, crackers, and finger foods, so much that it barely fit in the parish kitchen. We turned away offers from local restaurants to cater the event, because there was simply no more room for food.

There was no lack of human help, either. Volunteers swarmed the church for two full days, coordinating the offerings of food, the arrangement of extra chairs, setting up a tent for overflow seating, checking the sound system, preparing for the police, rescue, and press corps. Parishioners in orange vests arranged the parking on our front lawn, and parishioners in suits served as ushers. We were ready, or as ready as we were going to be.

And the people came. Over a thousand of them, including several buses full of students from Virginia Tech. They found their seats. The funeral unfolded, the way liturgies do, and it was both poignant and beautiful.

The parish provided this family a fine funeral.

That is not my point.

My point is that after the funeral, when most of the attendees had spoken to the family and had eaten and had done what people do after funerals (which is often strangely similar to what people do at family reunions), I saw parishioners still working. They packed up boxes of leftover brownies to send with the college students. They sent leftover bottled water and sandwiches and cookies to a local soup kitchen. They put away the chairs and picked up dropped bulletins. A young man vacuumed the sanctuary. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary; the same kinds of things that happen after any Sunday morning or parish supper. Just bigger, and more.

Being the church for a family that had none, assuaging our own grief and fear with the liturgies and rituals we’ve done over and over again: these people were not making heroic efforts. They did what they do every week, every month, in the regular routine of being a church. And yet the effect of their work was overwhelming, an incredible statement of compassion and hospitality to our grieving neighbors.

This is where God shows up, people. This is the church at its best. At this funeral, no one debated about sex or property disputes. At this funeral, I’m guessing that none of the parishioners, nor any of the family members of the deceased, would have cared whether or not the Anglican Communion existed as a formal structure or as a network of relationships. At this funeral, this parish was God’s people, the body of Christ: the Church.

Thanks be to God.

The Reverend Susan Daughtry Fawcett keeps the blog This Passage. She serves a parish in the Diocese of Virginia, and supports the work of the General Convention publication The Center Aisle.

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Who's watching?

By Jim Naughton

Who are the intended audiences for Archbishop Peter Akinola's visit to Virginia today?


That seems unlikely. Almost four years after the General Convention which confirmed V. Gene Robinson’s election as the Bishop of New Hampshire, Akinola has managed to win the loyalty of fewer than one third of one percent of the Church's congregations, despite a well-funded, high profile campaign. And the more the media sees of him, the worse he looks. It is hard to live down interviews like the one he gave to The New York Times last December in which he told a reporter he had recoiled on the one instance he was informed that he was shaking hands with a gay man. Even Time magazine, once his principal American cheerleader, has turned a more critical eye on him. Compare last year's tribute to him in the Time 100 with this year's more neutral piece.

Rowan Williams? Perhaps. If Akinola thought the Archbishop of Canterbury's approved of his visit, he obviously miscalculated. But if he were expecting Williams to disapprove, either privately or publicly, and decided to go ahead anyway, he may have decided either that he didn't think Williams would dare to try to discipline him in any way, or that he didn't care whether he was disciplined or not.

Akinola's visit certainly makes it harder for Williams to justify excluding Episcopal bishops from next summer's Lambeth Conference if he invites the Nigerian church. But if he doesn't invite either province, the conference becomes notable primarily for who is absent. So Williams, despite registering his disapproval, is left with a poor choice of either challenging Akinola, who is ready to split the Communion, or acknowledging, through the lack of any further statement, that Akinola is leading the Anglican dance. Williams may be hoping that Akinola is overplaying his hand in a way that will alienate all but a handful of his closest allies within the Anglican Primates Meeting, and that this will make it easier to isolate him in the future, but it isn't clear that Akinola cares.

(Tobias Haller and Martin Reynolds also believe Akinola may have overplayed his hand. See their comments on Thinking Anglicans.)

The third potential audience for today’s installation is Akinola's various rivals for influence on the Anglican right in this country. For reasons that aren't obvious to outsiders, the Nigerian initiative (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America) and the Rwandan initiative in the United States, (the Anglican Mission in America) have not joined forces. Several leaders of the AMiA have expressed discomfort about Akinola's visit to Virginia today. Leaders of the Anglican Communion Network (Episcopal bishops who wants their organization to be declared the true Anglican presence in the United States and the 14 other countries in which the Episcopal Church is active) are also keeping their distance. Only Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh is making the trip, and he doesn’t seem entirely enthusiastic about doing so. As leader of the Network, Duncan is an unenviable position. If he joins forces with Akinola, he not only loses control of his movement, but opens himself to presentment in the Episcopal Church. If he doesn’t follow the archbishop’s lead, he loses a patron and will find his role diminished within Communion politics.

While all of this plays out, Episcopalians will get up tomorrow morning and go to church, most without giving today's events a second thought--or perhaps even a first. What may be most remarkable about today’s installation, is that it creates few additional difficulties for the Episcopal Church—its ostensible target—and many for the various parties who have been Archbishop Akinola’s allies and enablers all along.

Jim Naughton is editor in chief of Episcopal Cafe.

Sauce for the goose

By Andrew Gerns

Do you know the old saying: What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? The ruling handed down by a South Carolina judge in the cases of a breakaway parish versus the Diocese of South Carolina is most certainly sauce for somebody.

Episcopal News Service presents the facts of the matter. But the “takeaway” as editors like to say, is that if you want the Episcopal Church to violate its constitution and canons to advance your agenda, don’t be offended when the offer is refused, and don’t expect civil authorities to back you up.

The significant parts of the South Carolina ruling are these:

  • In a hierarchical church such as ours, Diocesan and Episcopal Church canons concerning of membership supersede parochial by-laws.
  • A judge may determine if a congregation is departing from the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of this church by how the congregation adheres to the constitution and canons of the church. Judge Thomas W. Cooper, Jr., wrote that a "quintessentially religious question is left up to the church authorities" and defined that authority in terms of the constitution and canons of the church.
  • He said it "constitute(s) a fraud" to take a parish into a new denomination when all of the current members freely chose to enter the existing Church.

The judge may have tried to avoid knotty theological questions, but his ruling reiterates a fundamental element of what it means to be the Church. Entering the Church means not only enjoying the style of worship and teaching, but entering into the common life of the whole Church, a life that includes adherence to the Church’s constitution and canons.

If the ruling in South Carolina is embraced by other states, the strategy of those trying to break up the Episcopal Church will collapse under its own weight.

The Anglican Mission in America (an initiative of the Church of Rwanda) and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (an initiative of the Church of Nigeria) could have built brand new facilities. Had they moved in that direction, they would face only ecclesiastical discipline that could not have been enforced from a church they no longer recognized. They could have left their former dioceses with empty churches, and demonstrated the vitality of their ministry by comparison. Loyal Episcopalians could have complained about invading, interfering Bishops, but not done much about it.

Instead they chose to build on the material resources of the Church they want to leave, and then affected surprise when that Church (and the members who did not vote their way) opposed their efforts.

Why is gaining control of Episcopal Church property so important to the Rwandan and Nigerian initiatives? If simply forming a new denomination were their goal, the task would be relatively simple: incorporate, write up ones own constitution and canons, set out into the free-market of religious ideas and see what develops.

The problem is that it has been tried before with less than stellar results. While it does offer refuge and shelter from the offending mother church, it has serious drawbacks. For one thing, the new church steps outside the Anglican sphere. It may contain many of the outward trappings of prayer book, bishops, and liturgy but the new group has cut itself loose. The other drawback is that striking out alone means that one can do a lot less mission because without shared resources a much greater proportion of what one has is spent just to stay open. A third liability is that groups that define themselves by what they are against, and deal with that by leaving what offends them, have a hard time working with other groups because the troublesome details of right doctrine tend to matter more than the details of common life.

The Rwandan and Nigerian strategies address one of those issues. Instead of going it alone, the former Episcopal parishes that joined the AMiA and CANA become part of an already standing, already legitimatized Anglican Province. While these initiatives have never been explicitly endorsed by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Anglican Consultative Council, they haven’t been denounced either. Hence, they can’t be conclusively refuted when they claim to be an Anglican presence in the United States.

Still, without property, the breakaway parishes would lose visibility, and perhaps some legitimacy in the minds of potential new members. They’d also have far fewer assets, and run the risk of fading from the scene.

I believe that CANA chose Virginia as the place to gain a foothold because it had a significant number of sympathetic congregations which were already acting apart from the Episcopal Church with the size, the money and the people who would support them. I think they also believed that south of the Potomac they were in a legal environment that favored them. Now that is uncertain.

The CANA strategy depends on proving that they are the rightful heirs of the tradition of the denomination, in other words that the Episcopal Church left the parishes not the other way round. It also hangs on the idea that a parish in a structure like ours can unilaterally change the public record of its incorporation, title, deed, etc., and finally that the fiduciary responsibilities of the clergy and lay leaders take second place to their notions of maintaining doctrine and practice. The South Carolina ruling rejects all three of these contentions.

It has not gone unnoticed that these particular suits were initiated by an "orthodox," "reasserting" congregation against Bishop Edward Salmon, who is also considered also to be an "orthodox" "reasserter." The difference is that Bishop Salmon was willing to fulfill his canonical and fiduciary responsibilities and the clergy and lay leaders of the departing church were not.

Theological dissent, in other words, does not entitle you to take what is not yours.

The Rev. Andrew Gerns is the rector of Trinity Church, Easton, Pa. and chair of the Evangelism Commission of the Diocese of Bethlehem. He keeps the blog Andrew Plus.

Barbara Kingsolver at the National Cathedral

By Helen Thompson

Barbara Kingsolver isn't one to give advice, she says. She's more the sort to listen to a problem for a while and reply with, "Well, I don't know, what do you think you should do?" On Tuesday night, she greeted a crowd of hundreds who had come to Washington National Cathedral to hear her discuss her family's new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Her challenge to the audience was for them to hear out her story—for she is quite a storyteller—and then decide what they should do.

Kingsolver and her family had moved from Tuscon, Arizona, to Southwestern Virginia for the typical reasons: work and family. But there was another reason: food. They wanted to eat deliberately, Kingsolver said, in "the promised land, where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all around—and to begin the adventure of realigning our lives with our food chain."

The irony of leaving Tuscon via a pit stop for "junk food and fossil fuel" was heightened when a store clerk started to complain about ominous storm clouds outside. Kingsolver noted how much the desert area needed it, but to no avail: Rain was going to ruin the young lady's plans—to wash her car. Even though Kingsolver has now lived in a world where rain is looked for, even prayed for, she noted the disconnect. "What are the just desserts for a species too selfish or preoccupied to hope for rain when the land is dying?"

Over the course of two generations, America's population has dramatically shifted from rural to urban. Along with that shift has come an increasing abstraction in the nation’s attitude toward its food. This stems in part from the correlation Americans perceive between getting an education and "moving away from dirt and manual labor," Kingsolver said. This isn't exactly a good thing, she explained. "Isn't ignorance about our food causing problems as diverse and serious as our overdependence on petroleum?" Obesity, and the likelihood that today's youth may actually have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, are just two of the indicators.

By eating "out of season" and depending heavily on shrink-wrapped, precut meats from supermarkets, Americans are purchasing produce bred for shelf life over flavor and meats from animals bred exclusively for rapid weight gain. "A fair definition of American food is that it travels farther than most Americans do," Kingsolver said. "An average food item covers 1,500 miles to reach us. Because of industrial farming and food transport we are now putting almost as much gasoline into our diets as into our cars." Adding to the problem is the U.S. Government, which superficially touts eating fruits and vegetables while subsidizing agribusinesses that produce prolific amounts of high fructose corn syrup and "feed lot grain for cheap burgers."

Each anecdote from the book is interspersed with fascinating commentary on the monolithic approach to eating that many of us take for granted—for instance, the difference between a Butterball turkey and one of the heritage breeds (yes, like heirloom tomatoes), or determining the number of seeds to plant to feed a family or just what's in that Farm Bill our legislators happily sign off on every few years (hint: it's Pork Plus). She explains the complete that the disconnect between country folks and city folks is not political so much as it is a subtle distrust of outsiders, born of past days of exploitative carpetbagging.

And nothing could be worse, she added, than watching her farmer neighbors who had gone through three years of certification and training to become organic farmers—because that's what the city consumers wanted, they were told—only to watch consumers scoop up the cheaper produce brought from distant lands (the foodway with "a double yellow line down the middle"). Appalachian Harvest, the co-op behind the initiative to get these folks growing green, found a way to donate the un-purchased food to area food banks, but, as Kingsolver observed, these farmers were barely getting by. "It always seems like the people who have the least, give the most," she said.

Ultimately, however, her book is not so much political as domestic—the story of how her family's lives were transformed. Joined by her husband, Steven, and her daughter Camille, Kingsolver journeys back and forth between memoirist and investigative reporter as she unfolds a year of mindful eating. "Plenty of consumers are trying to get off the petroleum-driven industrial food wagon," Kingsolver said. "This book is about how our family joined that small revolution, trying to integrate our food choices with our family values, which include both 'Love your neighbor' and 'Try not to wreck every bloomin' thing on your planet while you're here.'"

Helen Thompson, known on the faithblogging circuit as Gallycat, is a writer living in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.Visit her on the web at Gallycat's Lounge.

For additional reading visit the book's site, Kingsolver's site. Appalachian Harvest Foods, Slow Food, Fair Trade Certified and Sustainable Table.

Coming attraction

In the coming weeks, we will be discussing Miranda K. Hassett's book Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism, and interviewing the author.

The book is due out in July from Princeton University Press, but you can order it now. Ms. Hassett, who has a doctorate in anthropology, attends the Episcopal Divinity School, and is a candidate for ordination in the Diocese of North Carolina.

Her publisher describes the book this way:

"Based on wide research, interviews with key participants and observers, and months Hassett spent in a southern U.S. parish of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda and in Anglican communities in Uganda, Anglican Communion in Crisis is the first anthropological examination of the coalition between American Episcopalians and African Anglicans. The book challenges common views--that the relationship between the Americans and Africans is merely one of convenience or even that the Americans bought the support of the Africans. Instead, Hassett argues that their partnership is a deliberate and committed movement that has tapped the power and language of globalization in an effort to move both the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion to the right."

Stay tuned.

7 + ? =

By Jim Naughton

Seven Episcopal bishops have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury pledging their support for the Windsor process, whatever that much-misused phrase now means, and alerting him that they will be meeting twice this summer.

The seven style themselves a “steering committee,” making one wonder how many passengers are on this particular bus. At one point, the group that endorsed the Camp Allen principles, numbered in the mid-20s, depending on when you were doing the counting. But their ranks have been reduced by retirements and defections occasioned by the harsh recommendations made to the Episcopal Church by the Primates of the Anglican Communion at their February meeting in Dar es Salaam.

And that was before the group’s leaders and its high profile consultants began shooting themselves in as many feet as they had amongst them.

Remember that these bishops were advised during their last meeting at Camp Allen, in Navasota, Texas, by the Rev. Don Armstrong, then the executive director of the Anglican Communion Institute. Just days before that meeting, Armstrong had been suspended from his duties as rector of Grace Church and Saint Stephen’s in Colorado Springs by the bishop of Colorado, the Rt. Rev. Rob O’Neill.

In the five months since then, the diocese has announced its intention to try Armstrong in an ecclesiastical court for financial wrongdoing, and Armstrong and much of his congregation have decamped for the Church of Nigeria. Armstrong’s supporters have said his prosecution is politically motivated, but the publication of extensive research by a forensic accountant, a letter to the editor from 19 of Armstrong’s former vestry members questioning his leadership, the rector’s self-aggrandizing Easter sermon, and his vitriolic comments about the Episcopal Church have given the original Windsor bishops reason to doubt whether Armstrong and the ACI are useful allies.

Those doubts were fueled by the news that the Rev. Ephraim Radner, another key figure in the ACI, was a member of the board of directors of the Institute for Religion and Democracy. The IRD is a Washington-based organization sustained by conservative donors to undermine the mainline Protestant churches.

While on the board, Radner worked on the international team developing a covenant for the Anglican Communion. Endorsing this covenant might one day be the price of admission to the Anglican Communion. Yet, after his affiliation with the IRD was publicized, Radner denied there was anything amiss in helping to write a covenant for the Communion while serving on the of an organization dedicated to destabilizing one of its member provinces. He did not persuade the bishops, and he antagonized supporters of the covenant who understood the damage his affiliation had done to the document.

Radner has since made a poorly-received presentation on the covenant to the House of Bishops. Immediately after his tepid reception, he began arguing that the primatial vicar scheme suggested by the Primates in Dar es Salaam—under which a board including Primates from other provinces would supervise a vicar working within the Episcopal Church—should be imposed upon the Episcopal Church. Several of his subsequent writings have been informed by a sense of personal grievance which has served to diminish their influence.

The ACI further undermined itself by mishandling the Armstrong case, which is still unfolding in Colorado. As executive director of the ACI, Armstrong had mingled the bank accounts of his parish with those of the institute, which was not a legal entity, but rather, as its president the Rev. Christopher Seitz admitted—adopting the characterization of one of the group’s critics—just “six guys with a Web site.” Faced with the possibility that Armstrong’s trial would further tarnish its reputation, Seitz, Radner and their colleagues had to sever their ties with the man who was not only their executive director, but the owner of their web domain.

So it came to pass that a five-man organization that presumed to tell the 77-million member Anglican Communion how to resolve its internal difficulties had to disassociate itself from its own Web site. The ACI now has a new Web site, but credibility, unlike domain names, can’t be bought.

The steering committee’s cause has also been damaged by one of its own members. News of what transpires inside the Primates Meeting filters slowly through the Anglican system, so descriptions of Bishop Bruce MacPherson’s pointed personal attack on Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the meeting in Tanzania is just beginning to achieve wide circulation. Observers present at the time say that MacPherson, who had been invited to the meeting to speak on behalf of the bishops who had endorsed the Camp Allen principles, characterized Bishop Jefferts Schori as the embodiment of everything that was wrong with the Episcopal Church. The comments, these observers said, went well beyond the issues under consideration at the meeting and included a general condemnation of her beliefs and her ministry. MacPherson’s remarks made those of Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who spoke on behalf of the Anglican Communion Network, seem mild by comparison, the observers said. (Editor's note: Initial reaction to this piece on other blogs seemed to indicate that I wasn't clear about whether the observers mentioned above were present during MacPherson's presentation. They were. I have edited this paragraph to make that clear. My apologies for any confusion..)

MacPherson, who is bishop of Western Louisiana, is entitled to his opinion of the Presiding Bishop; his fellow bishops are entitled to their opinion of him. After his performance in Tanzania, he may no longer be able to lead the coalition of moderate and conservative bishops that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACI, and Bishops N. T. Wright and Michael Scott-Joynt of the Church of England, were attempting to will into existence before the meeting in Dar es Salaam.

The success of the Primates’ communiqué hinges on the existence of such a coalition. If it doesn’t exist, the fiction that a large minority of Episcopalians is crying out for the Communion to intervene in their Church’s affairs cannot be sustained. And what was once a clever plan to undercut the authority of the Episcopal Church’s elected leadership, empower a counter-establishment, and preserve the notion that the Communion will return to health as soon as Americans give up on the gay issue, unravels.

The supporters of this plan—which include the Archbishop of Canterbury and, it would seem, at least several key members of the Anglican Communion Office—have invested much in it. For reasons best known to themselves, they have been willing to pretend that the theological opposition in the Episcopal Church is much greater than it is. But there is no Plan B, so they are unlikely to abandon their delusions—if they are deluded, and not knowingly distorting the truth—lightly.

Yet they must be somewhat dismayed at the composition of this steering committee. One of the seven members of the steering committee is retired. None has a constituency that extends beyond their diocese, except for those with links to the Anglican Communion Network. And there would be no need for a collation, if a critical mass of key players was already willing to ride to the aid of the Network.

So the question of how many passengers are on this bus remains, and will remain until we learn whether there are bishops crouching away from the windows, or whether the bus is empty.

In either case, liberals in the House of Bishops should recognize that they will have few better opportunities to reach out to moderate and moderately conservative members of the House. Under Bishop Jefferts Schori’s leadership, they could pass an alternative oversight plan that is not as legalistic as the existing arrangement, and that had enough teeth to compel compliance from reluctant members of their own ideological party. That may not impress the most antagonistic of the Primates, but it will give the Archbishop of Canterbury a little something to chew on. More importantly, it will demonstrate what the Church’s opponents deny: that Episcopalians are moving forward together.

Jim Naughton is the editor in chief of Episcopal Cafe.

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