Communion without Baptism?

By Derek Olsen

So—what is the connection between the foregoing discussion about salvation and sacraments and the current issue upon the table—Communion without Baptism (CWOB)? The issue is about liturgical practice and how we greet strangers and seekers in our midst, not theology, right?

Well, I’m not so sure… I’m fond of telling my students that there are no such things as liturgical changes; rather, there are theological changes with liturgical implications. While there is more than a bit of hyperbole in that statement it captures an essential truth: our rites communicate our theology. When we change our rites, very often there is a change in the theology we are expressing whether we recognize it at the time or not. Thus, when faced with a decision about our liturgical practice (i.e., whether or not we should invite the unbaptized to receive the sacrament of the altar) we must first remember what we believe and why we believe it.

You see, Anglican—Christian—sacramental theology is the logic and theology of intimacy. Even the metaphors Scripture uses for the relationship between God and believers bespeak this intimacy: to abide, to dwell with, to remain within. The prophets and poets of sacred page have used time and again the figure of bride and groom in scandalous and sometimes shocking ways to communicate both the depths of intimacy (Revelation and the incomparable Song of Songs) and intimacy’s betrayal (Ezekiel and Hosea). Remembering the logic of intimacy, remaining faithful to its vision of life in relationship grounds our ritual ways, our liturgical practice, in a theology that honors the God who has chosen to be in relationship with us.

At the heart of intimacy is commitment. Nothing more—and nothing less. Intimacy is not instant; it grows over time. Intimacy is a process of growing into knowledge, love, and trust gradually—and its gradual nature demands that those growing remain committed to the process and to each other. It grows through hearing promises, then seeing those promises come true; through sharing truths, then recognizing and confirming those truths embodied in the patterns and rhythms of everyday life.

In our sacramental life, the moment of commitment is baptism. Like promises exchanged between lovers, like the promises made before the altar in marriage, baptism is a covenant relationship. God is constantly inviting us into relationship, simultaneously presenting and fulfilling the promise to be in relationship with the whole creation and with each individual member of it. In Baptism, individuals—or those presenting them—both recognize the call of God and return the commitment, recognizing the identity of God as it has been revealed to us in the baptismal creed and promising to be faithful to the relationship with God. This, we believe, is an everlasting covenant. Even if we fail, even if we fall away and betray the promises made or refuse their claim on us, God continues to love and call us again to the fullness of a life hid with Christ in God.

When we accept this call, however, God’s ongoing commitment and revelation of his deepest self to us comes through the Holy Eucharist: Christ’s own flesh and blood, given to us as a true sharing of body and essence, true intimacy. In the Blessed Sacrament we receive Christ into ourselves to abide, remain, and dwell so that we likewise may abide, remain, and dwell in him.

Furthermore, this intimacy to which we are called is not just about individual gratification or knowledge. For as we are baptized, we are baptized into the whole company of faithful people, into the company of all those also joined to Christ and most especially those embodied in our local communities. As we approach the altar we never do so alone; rather we participate—in the most literal sense—in the Communion of all the saints without regard to time or space or the limits of the flesh. For this too is part and parcel of the mystery of the life hid with Christ in God: as we grow in love, trust, and intimacy with God, we grow too towards one another and to the whole of humanity, indeed God’s whole creation, as we learn to love as God loves. This is the logic of Communion with Baptism; this is the theology of intimacy.

Coming from this perspective, Communion without Baptism misreads the logic of the liturgy. It demands intimacy without commitment, relationship without responsibility. To apply this same logic to another sphere of human relationship, this is the logic of the one night stand—the logic of the “meaningless” fling. Is this the relationship that we wish to have with the God who knows us each by name and who calls that name in the night, yearning for our return to the Triune embrace? But then again—who is this “we”? Exactly whose relationship are we talking about? Is this “we” the clergy, the members of the vestry, those who populate our pews day in and day out? Are those the ones invited to receive communion without baptism? No. The seekers, the strangers, the wanderers in our midst—they are the ones in view here. And here is my question; this is what we must answer to the satisfaction of our own consciences: Do we have the right to choose for the stranger and the seeker a relationship contradicting the logic of intimacy without offering them a yet more excellent way? Do we who make decisions for the church uphold our own baptismal commitment and covenant by offering the strangers and seekers less than what has been offered to and received by us?

The call of God is to all. God’s radical hospitality is for all. Truly Christ stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of his saving embrace. Truly the Spirit moves over the waters of renewal and new life, beckoning and inviting. To the stranger, to the seeker, through our mouths we offer and issue God’s words of invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…” inviting them through the waters of Baptism into the household of God. And in doing so we fulfill Christ’s commission to baptize those of all nations and teaching them his words and ways, the depths of his love, the depths of a life hid with Christ in God.


Derek Olsen blogs at Haligweorc. This essay is part of a continuing reflection on the place of the sacraments in the life of the Episcopal Church. A future essay will focus on Scriptural issues. For a differing view, read Deirdre Good's essay on hospitality, and visit the Cafe on Monday for an interview with the leaders of a church that practices open communion.

The face of the poor is my face, too

By Helen Thompson

I just turned down a job offer. I didn't have to turn this one down, and part of me will always wonder what would have happened if I hadn't. It's sort of like that old saying about "When God closes a door..." except this time God opened one, and I sat there feeling dumb and not knowing what to do. Why? I want to see what other doors there might be beyond the horizon. I felt like I was playing Let's Make a Deal, short of wearing a silly costume, and having to choose between one door with a known and many other doors with unknowns. I chose the unknown.

"Lead us not into temptation," however, didn't work. I was tempted by more money, a shorter commute—and a blinding vision of something else, yet to come, that was more in line with my vocation. After all; I didn't "need" to take this job. I'm employed, and very good at what I do, if my evaluations and occasional awards are any indication. And I make a respectable living—although in this part of the country, it doesn't go as far as I'd like it to. But I've been singing that sad song for years now, and honestly, it's nothing compared to what I've been through.

You see, sometimes I know I'm lucky to be employed at all. When you look at the first ten years of my Social Security Statement, your first thought might be how on earth I managed to feed myself (and, by 1992, a family of three) on less than $10,000 a year. In 1996, I managed to break $6 per hour for the first time. Later that year, I got my first white-collar job, right before my 26th birthday, making $18,000 a year managing charter transportation projects for the University of Virginia.

So now you know how old I am. Another ten and change years later, I'm turning down positions that pay more than my Dad was making at retirement. He's so proud of me, but then my mortgage payment is six times what his was. I'm a successful, award-winning writer, an accomplished editor, a Web 2.0 jockey and a DJ. On my way to a second, loving marriage. But sometimes, I still feel poor.

Poor. Even though the money I make could feed a village in many parts of the world.

You see, I have lived through the American incarnation of poverty. Sometimes it's weird, seeing my present middle-class world through that lens. And I didn't start there, having been raised in a middle-class family in an entirely average American neighborhood. But in 1991, I dropped out of college to marry a guy I'd had a crush on when I was 14 and didn't know much more about him than I'd had a crush on him when I was 14.

And because he now works for a government agency and has a security clearance, I sometimes wonder if his biggest fear might be that I might write an honest memoir of that time period. Suffice it to say, that for the four years he and I were married, we lived off food stamps and WIC checks, my pregnancy was covered by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia (thank you), and I tried very, very hard to find a path to productivity rather than get trapped in the system. I worked overnight shifts at a local nursing home while trying to get back to school, taking evening classes at the local community college while paying all the bills for our little family.

If you'd told me then that someday I'd be turning down jobs like the one I just turned down, I'd likely have laughed. But I've realized now that jobs aren't about work, and aren't even about career. They're about calling. Even when I was at my poorest, I followed a call out of poverty, one that would later help me connect with people from a wide range of socioeconomic circumstances. Now I'm a homeowner with car payments and any struggle I ever have, I'm thankful for.

But to this day, when I look into the face of American poverty, I see myself staring into a dark mirror. I made it out because I had the cultural language to navigate my way out. On the one hand, I see people with privilege who never know want, dispensing charity with a pat on the head and a tut, tut of pity. On the other hand, I see the faces of a million other moms like the me of a decade ago, too proud to snatch that coin from the fingertips of the condescending.

For it is more blessed to give than to receive, true, but… what do you package with that "give?" To this day, I still wonder if people are looking at me like I have "Medicaid" stamped across my medical file. Heaven knows that most people with kids my son's age are at least ten years older than I am. My peers are having kids now that they're established in their careers, and they already know how they're paying for junior's college. I don't, because, in spite of every blasted thing, I'm still poor. But that's OK.

I know wealth and abundance in how it comes from the love of friends. I'll wear my thrift-shop threads to the country club with pride. And I don't worry about what next great opportunity will cross my threshold. And most importantly, I know there are other doors waiting for me—ones that when they open, I'll know I'm supposed to walk through them. And I'll be able to say, "Here I am. Send me."

That's faith, and it's priceless.

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.

Christian burial

By Micah Jackson

A couple of weeks ago, Ruth Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, died after a long illness. As an admirer of Billy Graham, I was sad that his wife had passed away, but I will confess that one of the first questions that came into my head when I heard the news was "where will she be buried?"

This was not a random question. For the last several months of her life, there had been some controversy about plans for her gravesite. Last December, The Washington Post reported that Ruth and Billy's son, Franklin, wanted them to be buried at the now open Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. Ruth, according to the story, didn't like the Library, and wanted to be buried at The Cove, the Graham's rural home near Asheville. She felt that the Library was too commercial, and wasn't the kind of place she'd like to have her body. Novelist, family friend, and Ruth Graham biographer, Patricia Cornwell, also opposed the Charlotte site. "I was horrified by what I saw," she told Billy after touring the library. Ultimately, the leaders of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association prevailed. When Ruth Graham was laid to rest, it was at the place Franklin favored, a garden at the end of a cross-shaped stone walkway, at the end of the Billy Graham Library and Museum tour.

It reminded me of another recent controversy about the burial site of a celebrity. When Rosa Parks died in 2005, her body was laid at the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel in Woodlawn Cemetery, in Detroit. Though she and some of her family members received their plots for free, prices to be buried at the chapel skyrocketed, especially after her death. Reports indicated that the cost rose to more than $65,000 for plots near the woman who many say touched off the civil rights movement.

This is nothing new, really. Early in Christian history, many people wanted to be buried ad sanctos, near the martyrs. At first there was competition for actual burial plots near those whose faith was officially recognized. When that became impossible due to the large number of Christians (and the comparatively few saints), people began scattering the ashes of the faithful near the graves of the saints, and then finally near any site associated with them in life.

Why this human fascination with the final resting place of a person's body? Should it matter to a Christian how their mortal remains are treated or where they are laid to rest? After all, the body is just a shell. After death the soul is released from this world and makes its way to the next. But, (if you read 1 Cor 3:16 this way) the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and should be treated with the utmost respect. Jesus had a body, just like ours, and we confess in the Apostles' Creed that we believe in "the resurrection of the body."

The Book of Common Prayer is clear, "Baptized Christians are properly buried from the church." (BCP 468, 490) The burial rite assumes that a coffin with the body normally will be present at the funeral, though Episcopalians are choosing cremation in increasingly greater numbers. And this makes sense. Because the Spirit of God resides in our bodies, and because we have been marked with the cross of Christ at our baptism, our bodies are holy, and should be disposed of as any holy object when its useful life is over—by burial in the earth, or by reverent burning. During the funeral, the body is censed with three swings, the same honor paid to a cross, a gospel book, or any other symbol of Christ and his Resurrection.

Christians have always honored the mortal remains of the faithful dead as the former home of a member of Christ's body. And this is as it should be. But our true home is in Heaven with our God. Disputes over the disposition of our bodies aren't worth a family splitting argument, or a $65,000 price tag.

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.

When it comes to hospitality, we lack practice

By Deirdre Good

I participated recently in a talk on hospitality at St. Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London. I thank them for their gracious welcome. That talk and the subsequent discussion got me thinking about ways in which we speak about and practice hospitality.

Any discussion about hospitality needs to be hospitable. How is a space welcoming? This particular discussion was conducted in a circle, which for many indicates inclusion. But people may choose to participate from beyond the circle for various reasons and we need to provide for that. We need to focus on the people to whom a welcome is shown, anticipating and facilitating their degrees of involvement in the event.

We can all agree that hospitality is a Christian virtue. But why are we thinking about hospitality at all? Hospitality is central to other religious traditions. Abraham's offering of food and protection to the three messengers of the Lord in Gen 18 becomes the paradigm for ancient Israelite, Jewish, and early Christian hospitality. In fact, hospitality to strangers is a mandate in most non-Western societies. I've been welcomed into the houses of complete strangers in Matere Valley, Nairobi and in the favellas of San Paulo in ways that I would never be welcomed into the apartments of strangers in Manhattan.

Openness to strangers reflects a mindset most of us who are Western don't intrinsically possess. Is this why our discussions of hospitality can dwindle to stories of our hosting (non-Western) strangers in our homes? But if our discussions and practice of hospitality become questions of whom we welcome into our homes (and for how long under what conditions), then we have lost the dynamic of exchange that hospitality presupposes. Hospitality has become a one-way street. We determine who is invited and who is excluded because it is our home, our castle. Such an interpretation is not about welcoming anyone-it is about control. Welcoming someone has become secondary to an assessment-a judgment by me as host about the kind of stranger that is welcome and the type of welcome that is appropriate. If we reduce hospitality to an arbitration of who is and who is not welcomed by us as hosts into our homes, and under what conditions, is this not a diminution of God's hospitality to the point of distortion?

I believe this is also true of debates about conditions and circumstances under which people may approach the communion table. If we enter into such debates, we have already decided that there is such a debate about who is welcome and who is not. I myself believe that on this question, the evidence of the gospels is univocal: Jesus practiced open table fellowship with respect to God's hospitality. It wasn't his table. He was received as a stranger, welcomed as a guest, and gave hospitality at the tables of strangers or acquaintances. Sometimes he learnt from others about brokering God's limitless inclusion.

The practice of hospitality is not about being a good host: it is about participating in a continual exchange of the roles of stranger, guest and host. It presupposes a network of relationships-an awareness of interdependence. We can see this best in the story of the two disciples encountering a stranger on the road to Emmaus. That stranger walks and talks along the road with them about recent events in Jerusalem. They offer him hospitality at the end of the day whereupon, invited to stay as a guest, he assumes the position of host and is identified by them as he breaks bread. On the road to Emmaus and in a place that is not his, a homeless, resurrected Jesus moves fluidly between roles of stranger, host and guest. Luke's Jesus offers Westerners the challenge of receiving and giving hospitality "to go." In Luke's gospel, journeys characterize and shape ministry; Jesus journeys to Jerusalem for most of the gospel while in Acts, disciples and apostles travel from Jerusalem to Samaria, to Europe, and eventually to Rome. Hospitality facilitates and defines Jesus' journey to Jerusalem; it identifies followers and disciples who listen and extend welcome (Mary and Martha, the mission of the Seventy, the Good Samaritan, Zacchaeus) and solidifies opposition (some Pharisees and scribes).

When we relocate the practice of Christian hospitality from who is and who is not welcome in our homes to the recognition that hospitality is offered and received in other places along the way, a different more permeable dynamic opens up. But changing the location of the welcome is only half the solution. Offering someone food in a soup kitchen, while it is a good thing in itself, is not actually hospitality because it is not rooted in an exchange of roles.

In post-biblical tradition, Abraham, the paradigm of hospitality, moves out of the familiarity of his house. He pitches a tent at the crossroads so as to welcome more strangers, according to the Testament of Abraham. Philo says Abraham ran out of his house and begged the strangers who were passing by his home to stay with him because he was so eager to extend hospitality to them. Abraham and Jesus confront our restrictive notions of hospitality, encouraging us to think about our human interdependence in giving and receiving hospitality on the way.

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


Be fruitful and teach your children well

Episcopalians do not do evangelization by reproduction. We also don’t do a terribly good job at retaining the offspring we do produce.
- Katharine Jefferts Schori, Hays Daily News, June 18, 2007

By John B. Chilton

The mainline denominations – Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian – didn’t pay much attention to competition for members from conservative denominations until the early 1970s when the number of conservatives passed the mainline denominations in total membership. Since then conservatives have continued to grow relative to the mainline churches. In the 1950s mainline denominations constituted 60% of Protestants; by the 1990s it was the conservative denominations that held 60%. Is this because the mainline denominations are soft and the upstart evangelicals do a better a job of evangelism? Many have supposed this to be the case, and I echoed those views in my essay in the Daily Episcopalian last month.

A friendly commenter suggested that the reasons had to do more with lower rates of fertility in mainline denominations. Indeed, several times our Presiding Bishop has made much the same point – that the fertility rate of Episcopalian women is lower than the rate for women in the United States as a whole. Whenever she has made that point conservative bloggers (or their followers) have been quick to headline her words and brand them as excuses. But numbers on family size are facts. I conjecture that mainline couples have fewer children for standard economic reasons; mainline families do tend to have higher incomes and those higher incomes are due to higher wages, for both spouses. Children take time to rear so children are more expensive for families with higher wages. Higher price of children, fewer children demanded.

The relative decline of mainline denominations could of course be due both to differences in fertility and in evangelism. My commenter pointed me to what he admitted was a somewhat dated paper here. From that tip I was able to find a more recent paper, “The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change in the United States” by Michael Hout, Andrew Greeley and Melissa J. Wilde, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 107, No. 2. (Sep., 2001), pp. 468-500 [JSTOR, subscription only].

Hout et al. have individual records on religious affiliation at birth, change in affiliation and fertility rates of women through 1998 via the General Social Survey. The data is recent enough to include the rise of the Religious Right in public awareness, but not to capture developments after 2003, the year that Gene Robinson was confirmed as the Bishop of New Hampshire. This is just as well because they do not report on denominations separately. The 139 Protestant denominations are classified and grouped as either mainline or conservative.

Grow your own

Besides, Hout and his co-authors report, conservatives have succeeded in evangelism because they have conformed to the edict, “be fruitful and multiply.” From the GSS records they were able to tease out fertility rates for women in the cohorts born between 1903 and 1973. Using only the fertility data they then project the implied growth in membership from 1903 to 1998 – in the following categories: mainline, conservative, other religion, and no religion. Their result:

Evidence from the General Social Survey indicates that higher fertility and earlier childbearing among women from conservative denominations explains 76% of the observed trend for cohorts born between 1903 and 1973: conservative denominations have grown their own.

Again: “conservative denominations have grown their own.” Hence the “demographic imperative” – a smaller group will eventually become the larger group if its growth rate is larger. For much of the 20th century the mainline fertility by age cohort was just over two, barely enough for zero growth. In contrast, conservative fertility in the early part of the century was almost one more child per woman; more recently it remains above but is nearly equal to mainline fertility.

Teach your children well: don't grow up to be mainline

Why has conservative fertility declined? Socioeconomically the conservatives have become more like the mainline denominations. They have climbed the economic ladder, but unlike in the past, they are less likely to switch to a mainline denomination.

Herein lies the other substantial part of the reason the conservatives have had more success in evangelism. They not only grow more of their own, they “teach their children well” so that they do not convert to a mainline denomination in their adulthood. This is not to say that conservatives have improved on "backdoor evangelism," i.e. the rate at which members leave. Rather, most of those who leave don't join mainline denominations; they grow up to be unaffiliated with any faith. It's a great irony that after differential birthrates, the second most important fact in explaining the rise of conservative membership relative to the mainline is that a portion of conservative youth that in the past would have converted to mainline in their adulthood now drop out of Christianity altogether.

Two final findings: (1) “a recent rise in apostasy added a few percentage points to mainline decline” and (2) “conversions from mainline to conservative denominations have not changed, so they played no role in the restructuring.” The bad news for the mainline denominations is that they are losing more of their young people. (But this is only a small part of the explanation of the decline, and it could have to do with recent trends in delay of marriage, and delay in childbearing.) The surprising thing about conservative denominations is that their growth is not due to work in the mission field. It has to do with reproduction and rearing. Reports of their success in evangelism are greatly overstated.

Conclusion

The economist Steve Levitt argues that the drop in crime can be traced back to the legalization of abortion several decades earlier; that the drop had little or nothing to do with changes in police tactics or spending. Perhaps the fortunes of the mainline denominations can be traced not to a rejection of liberal theology, but to differential changes in family planning practices dating back a century.

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.

The economics of life-saving research

By Marshall Scott

I'm paying attention to the thimerosal trial that began last week. The issue is the alleged causative relation between thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once used in vaccines, and autism in children. Some parents of autistic children believe profoundly that their children's symptoms began with and were caused by childhood vaccinations.

This has come, after some years in process, to the U. S. Vaccine Court. If you're like me, you didn't know there even was a Vaccine Court. It is, it turns out, a division of the U. S. Court of Federal Claims.Congress established the Vaccine Program “as a no-fault compensation scheme whereby persons allegedly suffering injury or death as a result of the administration of certain compulsory childhood vaccines may petition the federal government for monetary damages.” Congress intended that the Vaccine Program provide individuals a swift, flexible, and less adversarial alternative to the often costly and lengthy civil arena of traditional tort litigation.” Of course, in addition to offering possible victims monetary damages in “a swift, flexible, and less adversarial” context, the Vaccine Program also offers some protection to the pharmaceutical companies by virtue of being “not fault.”

For the families involved, of course, this case and the issue of alleged harm caused by a vaccine preservative is very important in and of itself. However, it also brings up a corollary issue: whether a health care system based primarily in private industry can adequately provide for us.

My point is not a general condemnation of free market capitalism. But we need to recognize the limits of the free market in providing for general welfare. While no company or corporation can survive unscathed by knowingly mistreating customers, the first responsibility of the company or corporation is to the owners and investors. We acknowledge that in a meaningful way when we distinguish in law and ethics between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. The not-for-profit needs to come out ahead at the end of the year just as badly as the for-profit; but we allow some tax benefits and social approval for a not-for-profit because it reinvests all of its surplus in maintaining and perhaps expanding the work of the organization. The for-profit organization will return some surplus to reinvestment, but a significant portion is distributed to the owner or owners. That’s not a bad thing; but we need to remember that it’s integral to their nature.

And in health care that can be a problem. The pharmaceutical industry is a case in point. There are a number of areas in which we would benefit from more pharmaceutical research. New and safer vaccines, and new processes for delivering them faster is one. We have yet to see a vaccine for HIV, for example; and public health officials around the world worry about how long it would take to develop a vaccine for a rising pandemic influenza. Another area is development of new antibiotics. The recent story of the American traveler with extreme drug resistant tuberculosis (XDRTB) has raised again that concern. Finally, there are orphan drugs for orphan diseases. Orphan diseases are those that affect statistically small numbers of people. Orphan drugs are those that might treat them, but aren’t available, or are only available at very high prices, to treat those diseases.

These are all areas where many if not most of us face real risks, and where some experience severe suffering. However, they are not the major areas of research for pharmaceutical companies because they won’t be major sources of profit. Orphan drugs serve too few people to be financially viable. Vaccines prevent disease, and it’s been well documented that preventing disease is much cheaper than treating disease – the flip side of which is, of course, that is also generates much less cash flow. Antibiotics are prescribed ad hoc, as needed for a specific infection and only for a limited period of time. All of those are, if you will, natural limiters of profitability.

On the other hand, we all know some drugs can be quite profitable. They tend to have two characteristics. First, they are chronic medications for chronic concerns. For example, while you might take an antibiotic for a week or two, if you’re on cholesterol medication you’ll probably be on it for the rest of your life. Some folks will successfully change their lives sufficiently to eliminate the need for blood pressure medicine, but probably not that many. A company can make a lot for a long time, or at least for the life of the patent, with a drug taken daily for life.

The second characteristic is that the medications treat concerns that affect a lot of us, or that we fear will affect a lot of us. As we age as a society, that becomes even more of an issue. We baby boomers, wanting to fight off our own perception of our age as long as possible, are driving a lot of that. It’s no accident that there are so many advertisements these days for medications, both prescription, and “natural” (over-the-counter) for “erectile dysfunction.” Many of us men aren’t aging well, at least in our own minds, and we’re willing to pay a lot for the drugs that will help us, and for the research that will produce them.

Unfortunately, that leaves the small but significant gaps – and how small they are depends on whether or not you’re in one of them – that I’ve described. The benefits of new and safer vaccines, and new antibiotics, and specialized drugs are clear. The economic feasibility of the research to produce them is not clear at all.

Again, this is not to say that corporations, including pharmaceutical corporations, are evil for needing to make a profit. However, it is to raise a question for us as consumers (and investors), and as members of the body politic, and as Christians. Jesus has called us to be in the world but not of the world (as in John 17); and to be "wise as serpents and innocent at doves" (Matthew 10:16). As Episcopalians and as Anglicans we have long understood that to mean being engaged in the world, actively participating in God's compassion (as in Matthew 25). The Millennium Development Goals are one expression of this. Our own advocacy as individuals and as a Church for a health care system, including pharmaceuticals, that serves all people is another.

That’s why, you know, the Episcopal Church maintains the Office of Government Relations. It is, to put it simply, a lobbying office, working to bring the moral statements of the General Convention to the attention of our elected and appointed officials. By lobbying themselves, and by involving individual Episcopalians through the Episcopal Public Policy Network , they make known the positions that we have taken in Convention on social concerns.

General Convention has not spoken to these specific pharmaceutical concerns. We have, however, spoken repeatedly of a need for “appropriate levels of cost-effective health care for all persons,” (1988-D108) and of “the right of all persons to medically necessary health care... to include... prescription drugs” (1991-A010). We have called for a system for universal access to health care (1991-A099), and have articulated principles for “quality health care” (1994-A057). In our last General Convention we adopted a Comprehensive Children’s Policy that includes the assertion that “Every child and family has a right to guaranteed quality, comprehensive health care” (2006-B018). All of these are based in the Baptismal Covenant, where we commit to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving neighbor as self.

So, while we have not spoken explicitly about vaccines or antibiotics or orphan drugs, we have spoken consistently about appropriate health care, including pharmaceutical care, for all, including those who won’t generate a profit. For us as Episcopalians, these are opportunities for us to show our faith in the world in concrete ways. What do we expect of the officials we vote for, both in terms of programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and in terms of paying for basic research? With most health insurance provided through employers, what do we call for in the health plans of the companies we work for – of the companies we lead? How do we support health care institutions, whether with money or volunteer hours? All of these are ways that can directly or indirectly affect the availability and affordability of health care, including appropriate drugs, for all people.

And they’re all ways that are in our hands. Our free market, for-profit health care and pharmaceutical industries have indeed brought us significant benefits, but we can’t consider them sufficient to meet all needs. We have to act ourselves, both as individuals and as active, voting citizens, if we want a health care system that serves “the least of these” – including those who will never generate a profit.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains. He keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

The Fourth Commandment

By Liz Zivanov

I’m in the final two weeks of a four-month sabbatical. It’s been a journey of surprises, joys, challenges, changes, rest, adventure, and much reflection. I’ve discovered family in Romania and made new friends there; I’ve spent unstructured time at home with my cats, Hooker and Cranmer; I was welcomed into a religious community for six weeks; I learned about the art of fine furniture making and about the gift of humility; and I’ve vicariously enjoyed the Hawaii vacations of the many friends who cared for Cranmer and Hooker and enjoyed some down time in Paradise.

When I left the parish on March 10, I thought I knew what the four months would look like but I was also ready to be flexible and allow events and travels to happen, even if they weren’t scheduled. And I was and continue to be so grateful for the gift of this sabbatical from my parish.

There is one issue, though, that has continued with me from the beginning of my preparations: The comment that was sometimes said in jest, sometimes in appreciation, sometimes in anger: “I wish I got a sabbatical!” Or in semi-private conversation: “How come she gets a sabbatical and the rest of us don’t?”

Sabbaticals used to be known only in the academic community. They were seen as a time for writing, for study, for research. Sabbaticals in the clerical community are still somewhat of a novelty, and are often misunderstood.

This misunderstanding is not surprising, though, considering the difficulty our society has with the concept of sabbath. When we think about Sabbath, we think about God resting on the seventh day after the work of creation. For many centuries, Christians have observed the Sabbath on Sundays by going to church, having family time, and generally resting from the rest of the week. This Sabbath time rarely happens any more. Various sports and performing arts and other enrichment activities keep children busy on Sundays, even in the morning. Parents have opted to allow secular organizations to determine family schedules because they don’t want their children to miss out on an opportunity. Adults work on the Sabbath. They go into their offices, they work at home; they are too busy to take time to relax.

Most parish clergy are all too aware of the competition that Sunday School and church are in with secular activities. The importance placed on these activities is such that they are seen as crucial to a young person’s success in their adult life. (I did serve in one community where the churches came together and put pressure on the local sports leagues to stop scheduling events on Sunday mornings. They succeeded.)

Parents and other adults have difficulty stepping off the treadmill for any length of time; children and young people watch the behavior of their elders and buy into it as well, scheduling every day with meetings, practices, and other school and extra-curricular activity.

There is no Sabbath any longer for so many Christians and Christian families. This is not about taking vacations. This is about taking time for rest, for stopping, for day dreaming, for worshipping God. It’s about taking time for silence and for listening to God.

What I knew intellectually before my sabbatical and have learned since being in the midst of sabbatical is that we people of God actually do have control of our lives. The problem is that we have passively turned that control over to secular institutions. We talk about how we “can’t” take time off or come home for dinner or get the family together without great efforts at planning ahead and synchronizing calendars. We do this to the extent that we will not step back and take control of our own time and our family’s time for emotional and spiritual health. To put it bluntly, even God needed the seventh day for rest, but we seem to have more important tasks to take care of than God.

We have scheduled our own lives and our children’s lives out to the maximum so that we and they don’t miss any “opportunities” that might – just might – play a significant role in the directions of their lives. We’re afraid that we and they will somehow fail if we don’t keep up with the rest of the rat race.

When someone – like a member of the clergy – takes time for spiritual and emotional renewal, we get angry because that individual has dared to stop working. The real question though is why the rest of us will not reclaim control of our own lives and that of our children and provide for a regular time of Sabbath. Sundays, perhaps. Or maybe we could imitate the Mormons, who pledge each Monday evening for a family gathering, or the more conservative Jews, who actually observe the Sabbath and insist that their children observe it too, regardless of what else is happening on Saturdays. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a child who didn’t make it into college because he or she observed the Sabbath rather than play soccer. There have even been Olympic level athletes who have refused to compete on the Sabbath, and their observance has been honored.

It is a sign of strength, a sign of integrity, a sign of wisdom, a sign of faith to insist on a balanced life that includes regular Sabbath periods. Rather than insist that we “can’t,” we must instead have the courage to take back control of our lives and teach our children the importance of balance and rest. Those of us who claim to be Christians must focus again on the fourth commandment for our own wholeness and holiness. We cheat ourselves, we cheat our children, and we cheat our Creator by turning our lives over to the world instead.

There’s absolutely no reason to covet the sabbaticals of clergy or the Sabbath-taking of others. Each one of us has the power to claim a Sabbath for ourselves. God expects it of us, and God knows we are fully capable of honoring a holy time in our lives and the lives of our families. But each one of us must have the courage and faith to take that first step toward our own Sabbaths and sabbaticals.

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.

Churching alone

By Missy Morain

I hate going to church alone. No, actually I despise going to church alone. I skip going to church on Sunday morning sometimes just so I will not have to go alone. Going alone and sitting there among people makes me fell even more alone than when I am at home all by myself.

Growing up church was always about family for me. I went with my family every Sunday, and skipping was not an option. I sat in the front pew with my mom, sisters, and brother while my father sat in the choir stalls. We always went to church school and came upstairs at the offertory and sat together as a family. The only time when it was different was when I was an acolyte. Then I would sit in the stalls with the rest of the acolytes. Conscious of the fact that I was supposed to be setting a good example, I tried to make faces at my sisters only when no one else was looking. Along the way church became very locked in as a place that I went with family.

When I left home for college I tried going to the local Episcopal Church but felt uncomfortable going alone and eventually stopped going. I am a natural introvert and felt uncomfortable walking in alone, sitting alone and then standing in the narthex watching while everyone around me carried on conversations but no one really looked at me. I compounded the problem by beginning to slip out quickly after the service so I wouldn't feel so strange. A few years later I went back to that parish as a youth leader and began to form friendships that kept the feeling of isolation at bay, but I was always conscious of the family groups that surrounded me. I also began to develop a new and much less traditional family composed of other single people who were following less traditional paths themselves.

I wonder if this is part of the reason why young adults don't go to church. We have noticed that young people come to church when they are beginning families but that there is a hole between when they graduate from high school and when they return to church. I wonder if part of the reason that young people stop going to church is because it can be lonely, and because the parish experience is generally geared to families. So that even surrounded by people in the adjoining pews, one can still feel intensely alone.

Eighteen months ago I moved to Washington, D. C., and began the process of finding a new parish. I had never lived anywhere where there was a choice of more than one or two Episcopal parishes and figured that this was my time to explore the ways that parishes differed from each other. Some places were very welcoming; at others it was hard not to feel intensely alone again. I know that eventually I will again build up that community but until I do, going to church is one of the hardest things that I do.

Missy Morain, Program Coordinator for the Cathedral College Center for Christian Formation at Washington National Cathedral, is keeper of the blog Episcopal Princess.

Intervening in the lives of goats

By Heidi Shott

Fifteen years ago this week five friends enjoyed a picnic on the west coast of Ireland just north of Galway. We had ham and cheese, good bread and a tube of spicy mustard perfect for a cutlery-free, wayside lunch. I suspect there were cookies and cherries and probably pickles. We ate perched on a jumble of rocks – not unlike the coast of Maine – high above that side of the Atlantic. It was a wonderful lunch, full of happy banter. It was the kind of lunch I would have remembered years later even if what happened next hadn’t happened.

After lunch, my friend Denise and I decided to pick our way along the rocks. We hadn’t gone far before we heard the insistent, unmistakable bleat of goats. We walked toward the sound and looked over a precipitous edge. Twenty feet below three goats – two grownups and a kid – balanced on a narrow ledge. Bleating, panting and standing amid clumps of goat poop, these were not happy goats. The drop facing the sea was much greater than the 20 feet above.

Oh dear. A goat crisis.

Denise, a physician, is used to fixing things and immediately started to make suggestions about how to effect a rescue. We tossed a few implausible ideas around but after a moment we yelled, “Scott!” My husband, the best kind of troubleshooter, ambled over with our other companions, Chris and Mo, whose turn it was to pack up the lunch things.

“They’re goats. They’ll figure it out. That’s what goats do,” he said dismissively. “They leap up and down rocks and ledges.”

“But they look hot and panicky,” I moaned.

“There’s a lot of goat shit down there and they appear to be dehydrated,” said Denise. “They’ve been stuck down there a long time.” She looked around to a couple of cottages a quarter-mile in either direction along the coast. “Maybe we should tell a farmer.”

Scott howled and his native West Virginian accent suddenly shifted to Irish: “Now, Jimmy, do you remember the time when we were kids and the daft Americans stopped by to inquire as to the welfare of the goats?” He looked at Denise and me. “They’ll be telling that story 50 years from now.”

After another ten minutes of heated goat debate, we conceded defeat and piled into our rental car. We stopped for the night in Galway where, at the modern Cathedral, I looked around for my friends before dropping an Irish punt into a tin and lighting three candles for the you-know-whats.

The goat affair wasn’t the first time I’d been tempted to intervene in matters outside my sphere of responsibility. About four years earlier, just a few weeks before we moved to Maine from West Virginia, I sat down in a colleague’s office at the newspaper and told him that there was something I thought he should know. I thought he should know that there were rumors floating around town that he was having an affair with a church secretary. I said I knew the rumors would be hurtful to his wife and daughter. I admired this man.

“I don’t know how these things get started,” he said with a wave of his hand. “I appreciate you telling me, but there’s nothing to it.” He deftly shifted the conversation to some loose ends with a story I was working on. He walked me back to the stairs.

“You did what?” Scott asked me when I told him I’d talked to Keith. “It’s not your place to intervene.” Months later we learned that Keith and the church lady had run off to North Carolina. It hadn’t lasted. After a month he slouched back to his wife.

Despite my acute embarrassment, I wondered if I still hadn’t done the right and caring thing by talking to him. I had intervened with a good heart and loving intentions. But feeling burned, I also decided to never put myself in that position again. I’d mind my own business in the future. Later, when it came to the goats, I didn’t insist on intervening and it’s haunted me ever since. My good friend Denise knows this and every few years, after we’ve had a few glasses of wine, she’ll lean back in her chair, look to the ceiling, and muse, “I wonder what happened to those goats?”

I was pondering this fine line between saint and busybody one morning last week while driving Colin, one of my 13 year-old twin sons, to school. For someone who considers himself an agnostic with deistic leanings, Colin has an awful lot of questions about religion. We’d been cruising along in pleasurable silence when Colin asked me to buy him a copy of the Koran. “I need to know more about Islam,” he said.

“You need to know more about Christianity,” I countered. By the time we crossed the bridge over Great Salt Bay, we’d moved onto the central theme of Christianity. As in, “So, Mom, what is it?”

Easily nailed! “Matthew chapter 20-something: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” (I realized, however, such imprecision would not impress my high school Bible quiz team coach.)

“So if you do those two you’ll automatically keep the ten commandments?” Colin asked as we turned into his school’s driveway. “They sort of take care of all the wrong things you might otherwise do?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” I said, the ever-deficient carpool theologian.

But as he leaned his head in the rear passenger door to grab his backpack, he delivered the zinger: “Well, I don’t need to be a Christian to love my neighbor.” And then with a cluck of his tongue – our schoolyard signal that means ‘I love you but I don’t want to say it in front of the whole world’ – he turned and was gone.

He’s right, of course. Some of the most wonderful, selfless, appropriate interveners I know would not characterize themselves as Christian.

The problem is that I’m not one of them. I’m not at all selfless but I am a Christian. After all these years of trying to live this stuff, I am yet to figure out where the line should be drawn between loving involvement and benign indifference to the people I walk this world among.

Amid the ridiculous busyness of two jobs, two kids, two school boards, many friends, one house, one garden and one husband who is lobbying to host a lobster feed for 60 people on the fourth of July – amid all this – I can’t quite figure out whom to love first or in whose life I should intervene.

Jesus commands me to love my neighbor, which, according to the www.one.org wristband I’m wearing, means everybody in the whole wide world. It also means enforcing a consistent computer policy with Colin. It also means visiting my 84 year-old mom more than once a year and supporting my brother in his care of her. It also means checking in more regularly with my friend who’s going through a hard divorce. It also means making time to go to town with my sons to choose goodies to send to the four children of our friend Alex who are living on their own in Ghana while he works to support them in England. It means everything in between.

In this world where it’s possible to know so much about so many, how can we possibly manage to do what Jesus asks?

In the Galway Cathedral, I lighted three candles and prayed for the goats. If we’d jumped down onto the ledge to try to hoist them up, we would have failed and irredeemably soiled our shoes. If we’d gone to the nearest cottage to report the goat situation, we would have been the worst sort of tourists. So I prayed, dropped a coin in the box – such good work as had been prepared for me to walk in. That was June 1992. Four years before I’d sat trembling in a chair just before I told a good and kind man something I thought he needed to know, something I thought no one else would tell him.

Last Christmas morning, I opened a package from Denise. In recent years we’ve tried to scale back on the gift-giving and have taken to donating to good causes in our families’ names. Inside the box was a card with the Heifer Project logo. “In honor of the Shott Family: Three Goats.” Below, in her hand, I read, “They’re not Irish goats, but I did the best I could.”

Heifer International www.heifer.org

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.

Hid with Christ in God

By Derek Olsen*

One of my friends was recently writing about the end of a ninth-month chaplaincy placement. During an online discussion of worship practices, he stated that he had prayed and sat and wept with a lot of suffering people over that time; what then, he asked, does a lengthy document on sacramental theology have to do with the suffering of a common person?

My response—perhaps a bit flippant—was to suggest that if it wasn’t immediately obvious how the sacraments connected with the suffering, then either the lengthy document was bad theology, or the caregiver needed reeducation in basic Christian theology. In his case I was preaching to the choir. Just a few posts earlier, he had treated us to a moving meditation on a request for baptism from an inmate of the psych unit, one whose endless rounds from the ward to the streets and back again left him at the literal margins of Christian community.

Conversations about the sacraments are not—or should not be—esoteric arguments about essences and obscurities several frames of reference removed from our daily realities. No, the sacraments stand right next to our daily experience because they stand at the heart of what we understand Christianity to be; they are part and parcel of the mystery of salvation.

The whole issue of Christian salvation is fraught with difficulties and confusion: Who gets saved? Do I get saved? Does that guy get saved? How do I get saved? As we all well know, different Christian groups have answered and debated these questions in different ways, a debate that has accelerated since the Reformation and caused innumerable divisions between Christians. More effective than arguing “who,” I find, is contemplating “what.” What, as far as the Scriptures are concerned, is salvation? The answer to which I return again and again—an answer which seems to contain both so many other answers and possibilities—comes from one of the those books towards the middlish-end of the New Testament, one of those books we hear about too little and pass over too often: “…your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3b).

Your life is hid with Christ in God… There is no other promise in Scripture as open or deep as this, for what Scripture teaches is not simply metaphor but the ontology of the new creation—to be a Christian, to be saved, is not about getting wings and a halo when you die, nor having your consciousness expanded by a great teacher who died long ago. Rather, it is to participate in the very life of God through what Christ has done for us—and to us.

And, as Colossians tells it, the path to this life is through death; indeed, that’s the first part of the verse…: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” This death of which Scripture speaks is mentioned but a few verses before:

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses…” (Col 2:12–13).

Death, Christ’s death, is our path to life through the waters of Baptism. Again—as Paul writes in Romans:

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3–4).

There—that’s the key… We in our baptism are buried into death; we are drowned beneath the waters: the waters of the Flood, the waters of the Red Sea, the waters of the womb of the Spirit. As they close over our heads our breath is stripped from us and replaced with a new breath, a new Spirit, a Holy Spirit, and we rise from the waters new people of a new people, rising from death to resurrection life, a life invigorated by the power of the Spirit, a life hid with Christ in God.

Now, you may be thinking that all this is very mystical sounding—and it is. This may be all well and good for meditation in a cloistered nook—but what about reality: a poopy toddler in one hand, a frozen chicken in the other, and twenty minutes to get dinner done? The truth is simple—this too is the resurrection life. It is incarnate, and therefore messy. But it is in these moments, in that split second when trying to wipe and re-diaper before the wriggling infant can stab her foot into the filth of the recently removed diaper, that I have the potential to realize I am doing more than just one more chore; rather, I am performing an act of service to the very image of God, to a member of Christ. This is to live the life hid in God—but all too often, the diaper remains a diaper; the chore, a chore. The message, the truth of resurrection life is simple, so simple—but the remembering is hard.

This is one of the functions of the Eucharist. To recall us, to remind us, to bring us once again to an awareness of our place in the narrative of what God has done, what God is doing for the world through Jesus Christ. We gather to discern the Body, in broken bread, in gathered bodies, to find the presence of Christ made real and true and tangible in the words of the Gospel and in the wine. The relationship begun in Baptism—the life hid in God—is nourished, not by bread alone but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord, and when those words and bread are joined and the bread becomes bread alone no longer, then we truly receive the bread that satisfies, the bread of life. This bread, this wine, they lead us deeper into the relationship begun in baptism, changing us, converting us, not through a conversion of mind alone, but into the literal conversion of the nature of our being: as we take the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ into our body and blood we are changed more and more into his likeness—and another small piece of creation is invited into the redemption wrought by Christ.

Furthermore, as we receive this bread-which-is-Body we, in turn, become Body-which-is-bread to feed a world hungry and thirty for love, for knowledge of God and—indeed—for basic bread itself. The conversion is proofed, is completed when the Body of Christ moves like a Body, the limbs and members caring for one another, extending itself with arms outstretched to welcome the world, to invite the whole of the groaning creation into a life hid with Christ in God. And not just in the abstract either but with hands washing dishes, with arms enfolding those who weep, with bodies that labor on behalf of others, with voices that bring forth songs to praise and delight, and—yes—even in the changing of diapers.

* Derek Olsen blogs at Haligweorc.

About this article he writes: This post is in response to a string of comments from a while back concerning Communion without Baptism—sometimes referred to as “Open Communion.” (Because I find the latter term a bit ambiguous, I prefer the former language.) This is the first of a three-part consideration of the Eucharist in our Episcopal communities, especially in reference to the place of Holy Baptism. The current post considers the sacraments in the context of Christian life, the next will examine the issues of Scriptural interpretation connected with this debate, and in the third I hope to clarify conceptions and misconceptions about the relation between Baptism and Eucharist.

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Looking the Other Way

by The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston

Here are three names to remember: Genarlow Wilson, Stepha Henry, and Edith Isabel Rodriguez.

Each of these names has been in the news recently. Each tells a different story but with a very familiar theme. I invite us to remember them now because each name will probably disappear soon as other stories emerge with other names. And yet, if we forget these three persons we may be failing to hear a wake up call that rings clearly in all of their experiences.

Genarlow Wilson was the young Black man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for committing a consensual sex act with a 15 year old girl when he was 17. Stepha Henry was the young Black woman whose disappearance was largely eclipsed in the media by the frenzy over Paris Hilton’s court appearances. Edith Isabel Rodriguez was the Hispanic lady who died on the floor of the hospital emergency room while her family made desperate calls to 911.

In each case, the implications of racism are unmistakable.

Would Mr. Wilson have been so harshly sentenced if he were not Black? Is our justice system fair or is it compromised?

Are white abductions and disappearances treated more thoroughly in the press than those of other racial groups? Do we have a free and equal press, or only a corporate media outlet?

Is access to quality medical care really available to every citizen in our country? Are substandard medical facilities for the urban poor a double standard for health care where those who can afford it live and those who can’t die?

These are the questions behind the names. They are the questions behind the experiences of people of color in the United States. And they point to some of the core values of our society in some of the most critical areas of that society: the public media, the justice system, the health care system. These are not trivial concerns, but deeply embedded outcomes that are the direct result of systemic American racism. They challenge us not to look the other way.

In the days to come, as our attention is refocused onto other names and stories, we should remember these three names. We should remember the stories of three of our neighbors who never knew one another, but whose lives strangely illuminated our shared reality, even if only for a moment. In a graphic way, they spotlighted the shadowy role that race continues to play in preventing our nation from ever becoming what it proclaims to be, a community where every citizen is treated fairly and given equal access to the basic rights of any human being. They embodied in a physical way what most of us already know. Young men of color going to court are constant reminders of our flawed culture and its broken system of administering the law. The extent of media coverage in America is in direct proportion to your skin color and your mailing address. Health care in the United States is a scandal, especially for those who have long ago fallen between its huge cracks of indifference. These are the foundational crises we confront and they all have the fault lines of racism running through them for any who would want to see. Genarlow, Stepha and Edith showed us those cracks. Their witness calls us to name what we see and to face the reality we have created.

We may forget the individual names, but we must never forget the story they tell.

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. A citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Bishop Charleston is widely recognized as a leading proponent for justice issues and for spiritual renewal in the church. He has been called "one of the best preachers in the Episcopal Church" and has written many articles on both Native American concerns and spirituality.

Church v. Soccer

By Jennifer McKenzie

There’s a bullet that we’ve somehow managed to dodge for lo these many years as a family. And we knew it would hit us soon enough. Well, this week it hit. We got the word from our all-star soccer team coach via email that our big tournament games had been scheduled: Game 1 would be played on Saturday at 9:15 a.m. Game 2 would be later that day at 2:15 p.m. Ah, but Game 3 would be played….yep, here it comes: Sunday morning at 8 a.m. And, on Father’s Day no less!

I really had to think hard about the email reply: send just to the coach or hit “reply to all?” I decided to broadcast. Not to be snippy, but to be a witness. As someone who has led youth groups in the church for the past 20 years and understands the value of teamwork; as someone who is a soccer mom who roots HARD for the home team; as someone who is a priest, albeit on a mini-sabbatical between calls…I am just plain sick and tired of the level to which our kids’ organized sports has risen and the unrealistic demands that these leagues and teams place on families. So I braced myself and began to type:

“Hi coach:

We will see you on Saturday. However, Sunday is a no-go for us before noon – we’re just not willing to bend to the cult of sports on this one! (I can’t believe they would schedule a Father’s day tournament so early on a Sunday morning in the first place…). If there is an afternoon game on Sunday, let us know and we’ll get the guys there.

See you at practice tonight, barring more bad weather.”

(Can’t you just hear the “Chariots of Fire” theme song playing in the background?)

Our 12-year-old twins, who have played a heck of a season both on offense and defense – their team placed 1st in the league for the regular season and 2nd in the league play-offs – were chagrined at best when we broke the news to them. “Mooooo-oooommmm!” “Yes, guys, I know it’s disappointing, but you’ll get to play in the first two games. And, besides, soccer is just a sport; Christianity is our way of life.” Well that one went over like a fart in church.

Is it just me? I don’t think it is. Soccer, hockey, lacrosse, basketball, travel tiddly-winks – you name the sport, and there are kids staying away from church in droves because of it. “It’s just for a season,” their parents will say. “We really hate that this takes them away from youth group/Sunday School/children’s choir – but we just don’t know what to do. We’ve made a commitment to the team.” Uh-huh. Hmmph. Interesting.

Recently, I read a brilliant take on something seemingly tangential, but I think really at the heart of this hostile takeover by the junior sporting industry. Someone in an article or book somewhere smartly said something like this: (if anyone recognizes this thought, please let me know so I can give proper credit) “Parents seem to take a different approach to the faith lives of their children than to any other aspect of their development. ‘I don’t think it’s healthy to make them to go to church. I think they should make up their own minds about what they believe - but I do want to expose them to it, so we encourage them to go when we can,’ they say. But what if we took this approach with other areas of their lives? ‘I was forced to attend school as a kid and thought it was pretty boring – sometimes torturous. So, I don’t want to make my kid go to school – that would be unhealthy. We’ll take him the first couple of times to expose him to it, and then let him decide.’ Or maybe, ‘I think sports and fitness is a good thing, so I’m taking my daughter to the pool. But I don’t want to force her to swim– I just want to expose her to swimming. So I won’t make her wear a suit. I’ll just have her look at the water, maybe stick her toes in, and watch some other folks swim a bit – see what she thinks.”

This notion of “exposing” kids to faith – with a fragile level of commitment and a lack of determination and diligence on the part of parents – just seems ludicrous to me. If you don’t practice your faith, you’ll never really get the hang of it, or even know if it’s something you want to get the hang of. When you’re a member of a church, you make a commitment to the team (a.k.a. ‘the Body of Christ’) to be there – not just when you feel like it – but pretty much every darned Sunday for worship and at least occasionally during the week for ministry.

Look, I love sports. I love what sports has taught my kids. Sports are good for physical fitness, emotional development, and self-discipline. And sports can provide a good analogy for a life of faith. But playing sports is not a substitute for that life of faith. When we as parents allow sports to encroach and even supersede the practice of faith – which for Christians happens primarily on Sunday mornings – then we are compromising the most important facet of their development as responsible, compassionate, beloved children of God: an inner life of faith lived out robustly in a committed community of embrace and nurture.

The Rev. Jennifer McKenzie, keeps the blog The Reverend Mother. She is the author of “Benedictine Spirituality and Congregational Life: Living Out St. Benedict’s Rule in the Parish” from the Winter 2004 issue of Congregations Magazine.

Reading those Anglican tea leaves

By W. Nicholas Knisely

This week has turned out to be much “newsier” than your humble news team at Episcopal Cafe expected. The first hint that something big was developing came late on Monday with a story in the Telegraph by Jonathan Petre about a broad-based, conservative primate led rejection of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership. Over the next twelve hours or so the blog-sphere was lit up with speculation about what Petre meant, what sorts of sources he had and, since pretty much everyone dismissed the story as inaccurate, what the “leakers” that had approached Petre were hoping to gain by planting the story.

By the time I woke up out in the Pacific time-zone the next morning, the rest of the story had broken. The Archbishop of Kenya announced his plans to consecrate the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood as a suffragan bishop of the Anglican Province of Kenya to serve the needs of what he would refers to as the orthodox Anglican remnant in the North American Anglican Provinces. This move was met with a bit of head scratching at first and with serious concerns about the implications. Yet, within hours the announcement from Kenya was welcomed by the Archbishop of Nigeria and his associated CANA network. Over the next day or so announcements were made by the various groups around the Communion who have decided that the North American Anglicans were in need of serious reform and pastoral care.

I followed the developments as closely as you’d expect. (I got to be a member of the news team here at Episcopal Cafe because of my, um... obsessive interest in Anglican news.) Once the story’s outlines began to become clear, I spent more than a few hours wondering what was really going on behind the scenes. Mostly I’ve been trying to think what can be intuited by the way the story was greeted when it first broke and then how it was later spun during the rise and fall of the news cycle. I shared my ponderings with the folks here on the news team, and our esteemed editor-in-chief has asked me to share them with y’all.

First a disclaimer. I have *no* inside knowledge of what’s going on. I have been blessed to know people on both sides of the debate over the Communion in the American church and I count many of them as friends and mentors. But because I am a self-proclaimed centrist, nobody trusts me enough to take me into their private councils. (And now that I’m a “member of the press”, I’m often viewed with even more suspicion.) So what I’m about to suggest is really just my own speculation. It may or may not have any real basis in fact. But still...

What has really struck me was the way that the conservative side of the Anglican blog-sphere reacted to the news of the Telegraph story. The reaction was uniformly negative and dismissive. The team here at Episcopal Cafe agreed with the other bloggers in saying that there has been a track record of secular reporters misunderstanding the implications of Anglican rumors and we cautioned taking the news too seriously. One blogger who is part of a CANA congregation was more than dismissive of the intial report and went so far as to question the motives of the people “leaking”. Other major conservative sites like Stand Firm treated the news the same way - saying in essence that it made no sense to them, and that they didn’t think it was accurate.

When the story was fully revealed by the announcement made on the Church of Kenya’s website, the conversational tone turned to confusion and concern. The concern was mostly that this unexpected move by Kenya was going to further fracture what tenuous unity there was on the “conservative” side. The movement was in danger of becoming the 2007 version of what happened to the Continuing Anglican Churches in the USA following the 1979 General Convention. Later in the day the announcements began to flow in welcoming the development. First came the pronouncement by CANA, which was followed by announcements from around the Communion and the Anglican Networks in the US welcoming the news. What had at first seemed unexpected became over the next day according to news releases and blog reactions part of a coordinated strategy.

So, is it actually part of a coordinated strategy? My first thought was “no”. The announcements had a feeling of people making lemonade of the lemons they had been given. There was the lack of any apparent advance knowledge by the American allies of the CAPA Primates. But as I looked more carefully at the wording in the announcements, especially the ones from the African provinces, I was struck that they were more nuanced than I first thought - and didn’t seem like they were thrown together.

Perhaps the African primates have decided to take coordinated action and this development is part of that decision. But what then should we make of the fact that their American allies seemed surprised at the news story? Could it be that the Primates have decided to take action on their own, an African plan if you will, rather than a Communion-wide response?

It also occurred to me that the fact that there were now three or four Primates who had created personal prelatures amongst the conservatives in North America means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the other primates to bring pressure on their brothers to stop these initiatives. Each seemingly independent initiative would have to be dealt with individually, and given the other pressing business of the Communion, expending that sort of time and energy is not likely. Perhaps what is apparently uncoordinated is being done that way by design.

I have also noticed that the African Primates seem to be more than a little impatient with their American allies. They have been made promises that whatever money they turned down for relief and development from the American church would be replaced by gifts by those separating from the Episcopal Church. This has not happened. In addition it appears that the American folks are looking for a solution that is Canterbury centered, and that is becoming less a concern for the sub-saharan African Primates. The tone of the last couple of CAPA conferences has been that African Anglicans should work together to find an African based solution to the present crisis. Perhaps that is what is happening? And perhaps Jonathan Petre wasn’t so far off base in his reporting?

In other words, we could be seeing the first signs of a totally sub-saharan African based response to the present stresses in the Anglican Communion. It appears now that this group of Primates is working to have the broadly based invitations to the North American bishops withdrawn. And if the Archbishop of Canterbury won’t do that, then they are willing to walk on their own away from an England-dominated Communion.

What new implications would a strong and coordinated, completely non-western based strategy bring? Philip Jenkins talks about the rise of African Christianity and how it is fast becoming the leading voice of a global Church. Could we be seeing a thread of this tapestry in these very events?

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely is Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Ariz. He serves as Chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication and was originally trained as an astronomer. His blog is Entangled States.

A priest's wife buys underwear

By Sara McGinley

“I’m just buying socks.” she said.

“I’m going to a wedding today. And it’s so cold I need a pair of socks.”

She is a parishioner at the church.

My husband, Aron, is her priest.

She has just paid for her new black socks she’ll wear to a wedding later today.

She not only bought the new socks and showed them to me but she showed me her old socks and the shoes she’ll wear with the new ones.

Our conversation would be of no consequence, except that for the first time in my life I have just purchased underwear that doesn’t come packaged together. Pairs of underwear that aren’t white or cotton. Underwear that might get someone’s attention. I’m a bit shy about these fancy little panties, and so I have put them at the bottom of my cart and piled the cart with several things that I know I’ll return. I don’t want to flaunt these fun little invitations by purchasing them as if they have a purpose.

And now, one of Aron’s parishioners is talking to me while the woman at the check out is removing the panties from their tiny, tiny clothes hangers. Clothes hangers so small I’m not sure infant’s clothing would fit on them. Hangers so tiny that I think a man would have a hard time returning the panties in the proper fashion. Yes these are panties. Panties I tried to purchase discreetly.

And Aron’s parishioner is telling me about her wedding socks, I feel her notice the tiny, bright, sexy things on the counter.

I feel her notice them and I decide that I’ll pretend she doesn’t see. We go into an insane time warp where I’m noticing her notice. I’m deciding not to comment, but then her arm stretches to the little well-folded pile of underwear in front of me. Horror of horrors she picks up one pair of underwear – the brightest, most stringy pair. Her fingers rub the material almost as if to test out its strength and then she comments. Yes she not only notices my new underwear, she touches my new underwear and then she comments on my new underwear.

“Oh I see you’ve made much more exciting purchases here. Oh my how fun.”

I smile. And try to look calm. I mean honestly, it’s not like buying exciting underwear is a sin. I try to look calm, as if I don’t have some bizarre issue with spending extra money on something that I’m the only one likely to see. Well me and my husband. Yes me and her priest.

I smile and try to mask what I’m thinking in my head. I feel grateful those thought bubbles they have in cartoons don’t exist in real life because mine would be screaming: “Woman you’re touching my underwear!”

I decide while time is moving along as if each second is an entire minute to make a joke.

I don’t have one.

I just keep smiling.

While Aron’s parishioner just stands there with my underwear in her hand as if I’m going to tell her where I’ll be wearing my purchase tonight.

Then time comes back to normal. And she wishes me a good day and walks away. I watch as she leaves and think I can see my red underwear stuck to her shoe like a rogue piece of toilet paper trailing after her. I imagine the woman coming in the door telling her there is porn-star colored underwear on her shoe and her laughing and saying: “Oh this. This little thing. That’s not mine. That belongs to my priest’s wife. That’s her over there.”

I have to look twice to realize that the underwear are not on her shoe. Of course they aren’t. My red underwear are here on the counter safely out of her grasp.

I take my large bag to the car. I go grocery shopping and on the way home I stop and return the pair she held in her hand. I keep the rest.

The next Sunday, sitting in my usual pew, in my usual, boring underwear I think I detect knowing looks from a few women who are well connected to the church grapevine. I'm pretty sure my new purchases have become public knowledge. Suddenly, they see me as something more than the priest’s boring, comfortable wife. Maybe they aren’t comfortable with that.

I am.

Sara McGinley, irreverent priest's wife and mother of two, writes the blog subtly named, Sara McGinley. She is a lay person from Minnesota who thinks the term 'lay person' is unnecessarily suggestive.

Community, intentionally

By Will Scott

According to the Fellowship for Intentional Community, “Intentional Community is an inclusive term for ecovillages, cohousing, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives, and other projects where people strive together with a common vision.” I’ve been wondering whether one helpful way to describe the church is as an intentional community striving together toward the vision of Jesus, the reign of God, the beloved community. Whether you work in corporate America, are a missionary in Brazil, or are a social worker on the streets of Philadelphia, being a Christian in today’s world requires intentionality and community. While I don’t currently live in a residential community, below you¹ll see I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

Early in my childhood, my extended family would spend a week in a rented cabin near my maternal grandmother’s hometown, a primarily Mennonite and Amish community in Pennsylvania. I was captivated by the unique dress and practices of the Anabaptists. Something inside me ached for the apparent simplicity, communalism, purpose, and salt-of-the-earthiness these people exuded. Everything about their lives seemed to have reason, faith and intentionality behind it. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by intentional community.

When I was about 10 years old my grandmother and aunt took me for a brief visit to an ashram in western Massachusetts. As in Pennsylvania, I was moved by this community’s distinctive ways and patterns of life that seemed so obviously hospitable to the holy. I remember how in the lobby of this large center two people ran from one end to the other in the middle embracing one another saying loudly “Let’s bond.” I yearned for what these people had.

It was not that my everyday life was completely devoid of community, but for some reason the distinctive patterns and practices were less noticeable in our parish church or neighborhood because they were so familiar. Later, after spending time away from the church and studying abroad in south Asia, I returned to the church of my youth and discovered communal intentional practices. After college I spent some time in a non-religious intentional community in the Midwest made up of artists, musicians, gardeners, and activists. In seminary, I explored the communities of the ecumenical Church of the Savior and found spiritual support in a weekly small group of diverse people that went a long way toward fulfilling this yearning for community. Now in the Bay Area I have discovered a variety of manifestations of communal living from co-housing, to “new monastic” and more traditional religious orders like the Episcopal/Anglican Franciscans.

But throughout my exploration of community I have struggled with the role of change. My grandmother and other women of her generation fled the Anabaptistism of their youth because they yearned for something they saw elsewhere: growing equality for women. My grandmother has since returned to the church of her youth and found that much of the church has evolved and now many Mennonite churches have female ministers. The ashram I visited in western Massachusetts, I later discovered, had been led by a guru who was accused of abusing power and engaging in sexual impropriety. The ashram, though once closely united, split up and became a non-profit yoga center. For me these particular changes reflect justice, progress and maturity --- in a theological sense, the Holy Spirit moved these communities forward together into healthier, more just practices.

Yet not everyone in these communities was of like mind. People suffered and still ache about decisions some viewed as progress and others as heresy. For the changes to happen people had to risk something, others had to compromise, and those who bitterly disagreed had to move on. While some argue that those pushing for change in our contemporary church (blessing same-sex relationships and gay leadership especially) are advocating an “anything goes” approach, I would say we’re discerning together the call of the Holy Spirit toward justice, progress and maturity. The changes we are striving for are for the health, progress and maturing of the church, not its destruction as some suggest.

I still yearn for intentional community but I have lots of questions. My hunch is that communities that are flexible and open to change with the help of discernment are able to endure while those that are rigid on the surface may appear stronger yet in the end are more likely to break. As one person in my Bible study class said the other day, “the people in this book are just as screwed up as you and me.” The people in any community are screwed up but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something by opening up, having a conversation, struggling together for lives of simplicity, holiness, purpose, and salt-of-the-earthiness.

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

Anglican Equilibrium

By Andrew Gerns

Four years ago, even one year ago, did you ever think we would hear these words?

“We are facing something that we never thought we would face. We thought we would prevail. We thought that what we believed and what the majority of the Communion believed would be provided for.”

This is what Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network told the Standing Committee, Board of Trustees and Diocesan Council of his diocese last May 21st.

This is a startling admission from a man who is at the center of the organized resistance to the authority of the Episcopal Church. Not so much a statement of surrender, it signals a risky moment for the bishops, clergy, laity and congregations who have hitched their wagons to the idea of a new separate or parallel American Anglican Province who suddenly find themselves on a different landscape than a year ago.

Last month, the leaders of the diocese weighed four options which accurately reflect the choices ahead for the conservative/reasserter movement. A news release from the Diocese says that Pittsburgh could:

1. “... simply keep doing what it has been doing, remaining on the periphery of The Episcopal Church, but not attempting to reach a concluding moment in the conflict.

2. “... submit to the will of the Episcopal Church in its majority, reversing the diocesan convention’s actions over the last four years.

3. “... attempt to separate as a diocese from The Episcopal Church, an option a number of Anglican Communion Network dioceses are considering.

4. “... attempt to create space for conserving parishes to negotiate an exit from the diocese.”

After the retreat, Bishop Duncan called for a meeting to take place after the House of Bishops meeting with the Most Rev. Rowan Williams in September. This so-called Common Cause meeting will be a gathering of Bishops from Anglican Communion Network, the Anglican Mission in the Americas (including the Anglican Coalition in Canada), the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the Anglican Network in Canada, the Anglican Province of America, Forward in Faith North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church. The meeting will take place in Pittsburgh on September 25-28. The groups are expecting an outright rejection of the entire Dar es Salaam communiqué from last February including the supplemental “Schedule” by the House of Bishops, and some sort of compromise to be struck when Archbishop Williams and the American bishops finally meet face-to-face.

It looks for all the world as if the heart of the conservative/reasserter movement is getting ready to leave the Episcopal Church with or without the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The action could be the creation of an Anglican-heritage coalition in the USA or the precursor of a separate, smaller, Anglican-related gathering of provinces who will stay away from the 2008 Lambeth conference.

In the meantime, other important leaders of the reasserter movement have urged caution and are making the case for staying within the Episcopal Church.

The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc., cautions conservatives not to act too harshly. The Rev. Dr. Ephrahim Radner writes:

There are clearly those who want to declare the Lambeth Conference conciliarly ineffective, and to depose it from (or deny it) any conciliar role, even before it convenes. A question to be asked of these people is whether they want to declare themselves, before the fact, as letting go of the charismatic calling of the Church. For, in the context of the Christian faith and the Church’s life, they need not do so. “Talking down” the Conference or deliberately absenting oneself from it may or may not undermine the authority of Lambeth (indeed, depending on how it is done, it may in fact enhance it!). But if it so undermines it, it also may well undermine the authority of those who deliberately reject the Conference itself. For such preemptive rejection will cloud the eagerness, trouble the faith, dampen the fire, quench the Spirit.

Radner advocates a conciliar model that is strong on episcopal authority, but does not see synods where laity and clergy have a strong voice as necessarily conciliar in nature. His latest essay is a caution against those who would out of hand dismiss Lambeth because the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has been invited, even though Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire won't be among the regular guests. He seems to be warning particularly Global South primates not to adhere too closely to their Road to Lambeth documents because they may, inadvertantly, grant more authority to Lambeth by their absence and lose their ability to influence the future direction of the Communion.

As Mark Harris has pointed out:

Radner is quite right to point out that there are no guarantees that any meeting of bishops will be anything more than just a meeting. What gives councils their authority is not their membership, not their words alone, and certainly not the political use to which the words are put, but something more, the acceptance of this or that statement it makes as increasingly informative by the whole church. (Think, for example about how the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral has taken on added value over the years.)

Still, Radner is so sympathetic to and passionate about the notion that the Episcopal Church has erred so egregiously that it ought not to be invited to pan-Anglican gathering that many assume he invented that stand. That isn’t the case, nor is this exclusion likely in the wake of Williams’ decision to invite all Episcopal bishops, except Robinson, to the Lambeth Conference. ACI, Inc. understands this and wants conservative/reasserters to hang on and stick together. Radner's caution is very significant but it remains to be seen if it will be heeded.

So what happened? After more than four years of wrangling, what has caused the reasserters’ movement to come to this crossroad?

The relationships are so complex and the issues so nuanced that it is hard to pin down one cause, and I do not believe that the Communion is out of the woods on this matter by any stretch. Moderates in search of peace and progressives in hopes of victory, both of whom may be seeing glimmers of some kind of resolution, could still be surprised. This movement still has legs and could coalesce seemingly without notice. Still, I want to highlight some changes to the landscape that suggest that we are on different ground than we were a year or even six months ago.

News of the invitations to Lambeth was certainly a shock to the reasserters’ movement. For CANA, AMIA and a similar set-up in Brazil to be ignored deprived these groups of Anglican legitimacy. They have in one stroke been reduced to splinter groups or hangers-on. Pervious attempts to set up para-Anglican jurisdictions in the United States have either failed or had minimal success because they are not in communion with Canterbury. The heart of this latest movement was to capture or at least retain Anglican bona-fides in the U.S. and Canada. The initial invitations to Lambeth have scuttled that.

There is no energy from either Lambeth nor the bulk of the Primates to impose a structure on a member of the communion against its will. Christopher Seitz, Philip Turner and Radner, who make up ACI, Inc., asked why the Primates and Canterbury haven't simply carried out what was tasked to them?

1. The Primates still have warrant to make their appointments to the Pastoral Council. Why have they not done so?

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury still has the authority to make his appointment to the Pastoral
Council. Why has he not done so?

3. The Presiding Bishop of TEC still has authority to make her appointment to the Pastoral Council. Why has she not done so?

4. The Windsor Bishops still have warrant to make their nominations for Primatial Vicar. Why have they not done so?

We believe that the credibility of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Meeting of the Primates, the Presiding Bishop of TEC, and the Windsor Bishops depends upon a speedy answer to these four questions.

Some hint may be found in part in the statement of Latin American Bishops including three Primates who met at the same time at the diocesan leadership in Pittsburgh. Calling themselves the Global Center, and building on a statement written in Panama in 2005, the group acknowledges theological differences within the group and within the communion. They indicate that they also were less than thrilled with developments in the U.S. and Canada in 2002 and 03; on the other hand, they say "we have also experienced that the plurality and diversity we represent has become a rich source for growth, rather than a cause for controversy and division."

This group of bishops and primates criticize “the polarization regarding the biblical and theological positions manifested in the Anglican Communion, during the last years; positions known as Global North and Global South, non reconcilable in their character and putting the unity in the Communion at risk."

And so, these Bishops refuse to play. They want to be identified as neither Global South or North but “as disciples of Jesus, called to live out the mandate of love (St. John 15:17), we declare our commitment to be together and with all our strength, struggle for unity, as an act of obedience to His will expressed in the Holy Scriptures." It is telling that the Church Times, which might have received this document a few years ago with a yawn, now sees it a breath of fresh air.

The Spanish-speaking Global Center shows that indeed “the church is flat,” as Bishop Minns and others have been saying, just not in the way they thought.

There are many answers to ACI, Inc.'s four questions, including polity and diplomatic answers but this document may be the most telling. No one has acted on these “warrants” because no one has a heart to. And if Primates don't want to impose on others what might be imposed someday on themselves, if it feels to most Bishops and Primates that they are being drawn into a fight that is not theirs and is a distraction to boot, then it's no wonder that there has been no action on the Key Recommendations of the Communiqué.

Recent court actions may have taken some of the romance out of the movement as well. The original plan was to bleed the Episcopal Church dry one expensive legal cut at a time. The reverse may be true. Recent rulings in South Carolina and Florida have shown that to simply build a new Anglican province on the property and assets of the old may not work. Bishops, Standing Committees and their chancellors have discovered that the responsibilites imposed on them by their respective states, let alone the constitution, canons and oaths at ordination, don't simply go away because dissidents want them to.

Some reasserters resent the fact that the Episcopal Church had defended its polity and property in court, but just as earlier ideas of “just letting them go” on the part of progressives was deemed unhelpful, so are notions of simply ignoring civil and church law just to make peace. Both ideas are destructive to common life and future mission.

Another development that has hampered the movement to realign the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is improved communications by those who support the actions of our General Convention. For a long time, it seemed as if the only people talking about the Episcopal Church were people who were angry at it. Our Church was very slow in discovering and then acting on the revolution in communication via the Internet, and resistant to the idea that one has to be organized in the face of organized opposition. The growing number of Episcopal blogs on every side of the aisle, and the advent of epiScope, Episcopal Life OnLine and the Episcopal Café, means that the Internet table has grown. There is a nearly instantaneous response to every development and every claim from every side and this has both leveled and moderated the playing field considerably.

Finally, how long can a movement sing a one-note chant? Since the turn of this century, these groups have coalesced around human sexuality, particularly the blessing of same-sex relationships and the consecration of Gene Robinson. But how long will these groups be able to put aside their own theological diversity in the name of anger over a bishop? How long can a movement of Anglicans with differing views of worship, discipline, the ordination of women, and with different cultures hold together around one issue and ignore other issues that affect their future together? Either the groups will fly apart along cultural, doctrinal and jurisdictional lines or else they will have to find their unity in their diversity.

Looking back over their history, I think the reasserter/conservative movement had a vision which drove them to set big goals but, of necessity, they looked past the fact that it is in the nature of systems to resist change and yet maintain their own momentum. Any system will work towards equilibrium. Very seldom is this equilibrium ideal; rather it is sustained by compromise. Any system big or small, has to come to terms with the fact that injuries exist in the system, and in fact become part of the system.

One can make the case that the Elizabethan Settlement froze a conflict in time and we have been paying the price ever since. Attempts to undo the compromise, from violent revolution--the Puritan Commonwealth-- to renewal movements, such as the Evangelical Revival and the Oxford Movement, have failed to dislodge the basic elements of the compromise. The elements of common worship, a sense of being in communion even in our diversity, and an understanding that our oneness in Christ transcends human notions of unity are at the heart of what might be called Anglican Equilibrium.

Anglicanism is important not just because it is the third largest Christian body in the world, but also because of the style of Christian unity Anglicanism models: it is based neither on doctrine nor on central authority but on communion.

We cannot get away from the question that was the heart of the Windsor Report, how can a body that understands itself as a communion hold itself together if individual member churches do things that the rest of the Churches disapprove of. Attempts to answer that question strictly on a structural basis have proved wanting. Attempts to tinker with the structure to solve a momentary crisis or to somehow bludgeon the Communion into submission also seem likely to fail.

The movement has, at least for this moment, run out of steam because of the hard lessons of communion over many centuries. Either we choose to come together in the name of Jesus Christ, or we choose to stay apart. What we are learning is that not only is Communion a gift from God, it is an act of the will. Whether these groups stay at the table or leave will depend on each one's tolerance for ambiguity as we all try to live the Gospel together in a complex world.

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.

Confessing the sin of an unjust war

By George Clifford

Is confession necessary for healing and reconciliation? If not, then much of Christian theology is wrong and Anglican liturgy desperately needs revision.

However, if confession is the essential first step for healing and reconciliation, then the United States needs to confess that it was wrong to invade Iraq. In plain theological language, the invasion was sinful. Christian ethicists since St. Augustine have used Just War Theory to measure a war’s morality. Analyzing the Iraq invasion against that benchmark illuminates the invasion’s immorality.

First, Just War Theory requires protagonists to have a just cause. U. S. leaders advanced three justifications for a preemptive strike: Iraq had or would soon have weapons of mass destruction (WMD); Iraq supported al Qaeda terrorists; and Iraqis wanted help replacing their brutal dictator with democratic freedoms.

Events have proven that no just cause existed. New York Times correspondent Michael Gordon and retired general Bernard Trainor in their book Cobra II have carefully documented the doubtful intelligence and politically motivated analysis that produced the claim that Iraq had or would soon have WMD. Extensive searching for evidence of a viable WMD program in post-invasion Iraq discovered nothing. Iraqi government files revealed that initial contacts between Saddam and Osama bin Laden went nowhere, a foregone conclusion given that bin Laden is an Islamic extremist and Saddam was a secular Muslim. Pre-invasion Iraq met none of the well-established conditions required for democracy to thrive. A majority of Iraqis prefer an Islamic state to a secular democracy, an easily predicted preference since Shiites comprise 60 percent of Iraq’s population, and Islam does not distinguish between sacred and secular spheres of communal life.

Second, Just War Theory requires that legitimate authority wage war only when a reasonable chance of success exists. Leaders in the U. S. displayed an arrogant “we know best” attitude, confident they could solve any problem. This hubris quickly became a single-minded commitment, especially in the Bush administration, to finish what they perceived as the unfinished business of the first Gulf War. Officials regarded regime change as the only solution to Saddam Hussein’s brutality, his incessant saber rattling, and the regional instability he caused. They desired international advice, authority, and assistance only if supportive of U. S. policies.

A study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University estimated that approximately 650,000 more Iraqis have died since the invasion than if it had not occurred. More than 3400 members of the US armed forces and hundreds of coalition contractor employees have also died in Iraq. The financial cost of US operations in Iraq now exceeds $300 billion ($2 billion per week). Those deaths and monies have not reduced the terrorist threat or brought peace. Instead, al Qaeda terrorists seized the opportunity in the invasion’s ill-planned aftermath to ignite a self-sustaining spiral of increasing sectarian violence in Iraq. Consequently, chaos now reigns in Iraq, Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds are further polarized, animosity towards the West has dramatically increased, and Middle East stability is more elusive than ever. Iraq’s swift, certain, and reasonably easy defeat by U. K. and U. S. forces cannot mask the fact that the long term prognosis according to knowledgeable experts for the invasion’s aftermath was always poor, a prognosis exacerbated by the lack of widespread international support.

Finally, Just War Theory requires that nations fight with the intent of establishing peace. Some contend that the primary reason for the Iraq invasion was to secure access to Iraq’s petroleum. These critics observe that the U. S. has not intervened in nations ravaged by genocide that lack substantial petroleum reserves. Ironically, U. S. government figures show that Iraq today produces less oil than prior to the invasion, a production level insufficient to pay, contrary to pre-invasion anticipations, for rebuilding of Iraq or the cost of the military occupation.

Christianity teaches that those who make wrong choices should acknowledge – confess – their mistake. That holds for nations, not just individuals. Jesus’ message has profound social and political aspects. Similarly, the Old Testament prophets repeatedly spoke God's word of judgment to nations, both to the Jewish nation and to its pagan neighbors.

President Bush publicly identifies himself as a Christian. He should therefore appreciate confession as a necessary first step in setting a wrong right. Christian citizens of secular democracies appropriately encourage their leaders to act courageously in taking responsibility for national mistakes. In response to efforts by Christians and others, U. S. leaders have taken steps towards national healing and reconciliation by apologizing for slavery and the detention of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

Arguing that the U. S. publicly acknowledges the immorality of invading Iraq does not imply a lack of support for personnel in their armed forces. Armed forces in a democratic society implement policy not make it. Personnel in Iraq need and deserve our prayers, our ongoing concern for their families at home, assistance in reintegrating into society when they return, and our bold, vigorous advocacy of moral policies that have a reasonable chance of success.

Defeating the Iraqi insurgency can succeed only by winning the hearts and minds of the people, an expensive lesson learned from multiple failures elsewhere. The current occupation alienates Iraqis and consequently represents a failing policy. Even as can happen in relations between individuals, the U. S. confessing its sin has the potential to introduce a helpful and healthy humility and honesty into their relationships with Middle Eastern nations. Those nations, Islamic and Jewish, share common teachings with Christianity: only God is without sin; sin results from failing to submit to God; sin causes brokenness; healing and reconciliation can only begin with confession. Humility and honesty provide an essential foundation for trust, allowing reconciliation and healing to develop.

If the gospel message is true, then healing and reconciliation in Iraq can begin only with the necessary first step of confession. Defeat and confessing to sin are not synonymous by any stretch of the imagination. Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists have not defeated the U. S. President Bush clearly has the resolve to continue his current policies for the remainder of his tenure in office. The U. S. has the resources to continue occupying Iraq indefinitely. However, as evidenced by the results of the ongoing troop surge, pursuing an immoral, failed policy to avoid creating any false appearance of defeat is at best foolish and at worst criminal.

Truly wise leaders will recognize that confession necessarily precedes any possibility for healing and reconciliation in Iraq. They will dare to name the invasion of Iraq as sin and will admit their nation’s hubris. With humility and honesty, these leaders can then responsively and supportively dialogue with Iraq’s people, beginning the journey towards healing and reconciliation.

The Rev. George Clifford of the diocese of North Carolina, 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, on exchange with the Royal Navy in London, as the senior Protestant chaplain at the Naval Academy, and as the senior chaplain at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Post-everything

By Richard Helmer

A couple in the congregation where I serve recently told me that they considered themselves post gay. They are parents. They are supportive spouses for each other. They are friends of many. They are seekers after a spiritual path. They are devoted members of the community. And they will not be defined simply by their sexuality any more than I will.

My immediate response was an intuitive nod of “that makes sense.” But what they said has me mulling over the implications of what it means to be post anything.

On a recent vacation in Japan, I was further struck by a conversation I had with a friend who leads an English-speaking ministry for the Nippon Sei Ko Kai in Nagoya. What would the ministry call itself on its new website appealing to English speakers? Would the featured worship service in English be called Anglican or Episcopal, or some combination of the two? When the people the community is hoping to attract come from Canada, Australia, India, the United States, and England (and that’s just for starters) what is the most appropriate description for the faith community they will become together?

In our conversation, I found myself reflecting that “Anglican” is almost a dirty word now for some of us Episcopalians. It has become saddled with a great deal of recent unpleasantness and is the staked claim for everyone from belligerent archbishops to a controversial draft covenant to the so-called “continuing churches” that are no longer part of the Communion. In his recent critique of the proposed Anglican Covenant, Frank Turner writes that Anglicanism is becoming one of the “isms” we have learned to mistrust:

A way of defining who’s in and who’s out, who’s at table and belongs and who doesn’t, and a rallying point around which we battle for an identity that is under constant siege from those we most deplore.

Likewise, I imagine “Episcopal” also is sticking in the throats of some of our most vociferous detractors. But, then, polemic has always worked this way. The Anglican landscape is overrun with a host of slippery and divisive labels. The well-worn monikers of conservative and liberal have been dressed up as “reasserter” and “reappraiser.” “Evangelicals” square off against “progressives,” and many of assume that our audience knows what we mean when we use these words. They describe our favorite straw people to knock down. They describe us over and against those we least like.

Perhaps we all suffer a universal disease that might be described as labelism. Labels are ways we control and define others, if not ourselves. The quickest way to objectify another human being is to twist a descriptive label into a slur, and then we join the long dark history littered with bodies, bloody wars, and self- and other-loathing theologies. We put labels in scare quotes and live into their narrow meanings at great peril.

We must constantly be on our guard that the myths we set up with our labels are always threatening to become idols; and if idols, then demons for both ourselves and others. This is the ancient wisdom of our spiritual ancestors, who believed that to name something – to coin a label – was to take control of the object in question.

The struggle is to live into the new life the Spirit has given us, a life defined not by labels but by embodied, relational experience that explodes definitions and objectification. The radical life after Pentecost into which we are now called is about the break down of identity around division, and a new, rough-and-tumble, almost impossible-to-define community in Christ where all the distinctions between male and female, rich and poor, sinners and righteous, black and white, gay and straight, and friends and strangers are subsumed in God’s abundance grace.

The haunting implication of this call is that we must learn to even carry the label Christian lightly. It is not the be-all and end-all of who we are to become. If anything, our labels and self-definitions must be ultimately shed if we are to live fully into God in Christ – that God who has too many names to count. . . or no names at all. . . and for good reason.

Perhaps we are not a people called merely to be post modern, post straight, post gay, or post Christian, but to live into a life-long journey towards God’s radical grace; of becoming, quite simply, post everything.

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer, is rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, Calif. He has served in interfaith, ecumenical, diocesan, and national church organizations. He blogs regularly about spirituality, ministry, Anglicanism, and church politics at Caught by the Light.

It’s real, it’s urgent and it’s time to act!

The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church testified before the Senate’s Environment and Public Work Committee June 7 bringing to bare her credentials as both a religious leader and a former oceanographer. The hearing entitled “An Examination of the Views of Religious Organizations Regarding Global Warming,” met on June 7 with an interfaith panel of witnesses including the Presiding Bishop.

“As one who has been formed both through a deep faith and as a scientist I believe science has revealed to us without equivocation that climate change and global warming are real, and caused in significant part by human activities. They are a threat not only to God’s good creation but to all of humanity,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said.

The Presiding Bishop joined other panelists in recognizing that the science of climate change is real and that urgent national action to respond to climate change is needed. In her testimony Bishop Jefferts Schori urged that reducing carbon emissions by 15-20 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050 should be a national priority noting that inaction now is the most costly of all courses of action for those living in poverty and vulnerable communities.

“We cannot triumph over global poverty, however, unless we also address climate change, as the two phenomena are intimately related. Climate change exacerbates global poverty, and global poverty propels climate change,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said.

Joining the Presiding Bishop on the panel were John Carr of the department of social development and world peace at the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops; the Rev. Jim Ball, director of the Evangelical Environmental Network; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center.

Testifying at the invitation for the minority side of the committee were Jim Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy; David Barton, author, historian and founder/president of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization; and Dr. Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Concern for those living in poverty was used both as an argument for climate change legislation and against. The minority witnesses and panelists argued that any legislation developed could hurt those living in poverty and vulnerable communities here in the United States and around the world. Bishop Jefferts Schori and her fellow majority witnesses made a clear case that inaction would inevitably hurt those living in poverty.

Congress is expected to begin work this summer on climate change legislation and a number of bills have already been introduced. Designed correctly, a number of measures could be set in place that direct funding to help those living in poverty and other vulnerable communities adapt to potentially higher energy prices or appliances as a result of carbon emission reductions.

A capacity crowd filled the hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The Committee’s chair and ranking member Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) joined by other members of the committee in questioning all the panelists on a variety of issues and concerns. Several interesting exchanges occurred between committee members and panelists.

Senator Inhofe challenged the Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network for his organization having received funding from the Hewlett foundation. Inhofe complained that members of the Evangelical Environmental Network might find it difficult to receive money from a foundation that also supports organizations committed to pro-choice advocacy.

Ball responded, "We figure that every dollar that goes to us goes to a pro-life group and not a pro-choice group.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), an Episcopalian himself, used the opportunity to then question Jim Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy on their funding. Tonkowich said that he would not reveal the names of individual contributors adding that the foundations that give IRD funding require them to sign a release saying that IRD will not release the name of their organization to the public

Near the end of the hearing Senator Inhofe declared that of the past 12 hearings the Committee had convened on the issue of global warming, this hearing was the most interesting.

(This special article was submitted by John B. Johnson, IV of the The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations)

Jim Kelsey: A voice that will not be stilled

By Howard Anderson

When I heard of the tragic death of Jim Kelsey, Bishop of Northern Michigan, I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. He was to do his daughter Lydia’s wedding this coming weekend. It just seemed like an impossibly tragic event. He was a strong voice for justice in the world, and radical inclusion in the Church. As I tried to take in what I had heard, I began to hear his voice, clear and articulate in my head saying things which schooled me in mutual ministry, and doing justice. His friend and my bishop, John Chane, has spoken of Jim as a true leader in the Church’s search for a more just and peaceful world.

I first met him in the mid 80’s when he was working with a cluster of four congregations in the Diocese of Oklahoma. He was a rising star in the ministry development world, and it came as no surprise when Bishop Tom Ray of Northern Michigan called Jim to be his ministry development staff person. These were heady times in ministry development, and people like Bishop Wes Frensdorff, of Nevada, Bishop George Harris of Alaska, ministry developers like Lynne Davenport Wilson, Chuck Wilson and Deacon Phina Borgeson were crafting a revolution in our understanding of the Church that has forever changed the face of much of the Episcopal Church in dioceses with sparse populations spread over great distances. Jim was a very young priest, who had grown up at General Seminary where his priest father worked, and with his twin brother Steven became a priest himself.

I remember being very impressed with Jim’s creativity, his energy, his ability to stand firm even when others were trying to press him back into the old patterns of ministry. Jim strove to create a Church that was like Wes Frensdorff’s dream of “a Church which was a ministering community, rather than a community gathered around a minister.” Tom Ray and Jim, after Wes Frensdorff’s death, carried on the legacy of these pioneer ministry developers and the Diocese of Northern Michigan began to break new ground in living out the dream of a Church where all of the baptized are equal in their ministries. They embraced a practice of ministry that harkened back, as does much of what is best in Anglicanism, to the early church. Under Jim’s leadership the Diocese of Northern Michigan went “back to the future.” In the Diocese of Northern Michigan there is no clerical status, no classes of Christians. Rather, all know themselves to be a part of the Body of Christ. All know that they are in ministry by virtue of their baptism. Clergy, whether paid or unpaid, seminary trained or locally trained and affirmed, have to be elected delegates to the Diocesan Convention. Under Jim’s leadership the Diocese of Northern Michigan has shown that mutual ministry in not a maintenance or survival ministry, but the way the entire Church can empower the ministry of each and every member.

After Wes Frensdorff died, Chuck Wilson and some of other ministry development friends pulled out excerpts from Wes’s sermons and talks. It is called “The Dream,” and because I know of no one, Wes included, who lived more fully into the reality of the this dream for The Episcopal Church than Jim Kelsey, I will recall a few of these dreams which say better than I ever could, what Jim Kelsey stood for.

Jim stood for a Church in which all members know surely and simply God’s great love, and each is certain that in the divine heart we are all known by name--a Church in which Jesus is very Word, our window into the heart of God, the sign of God’s hope and God’s design for all humankind. In this church the Holy Spirit is wind and fire in everyone, gracing the Church with a kaleidoscope of gifts and constant renewal for all. Jim knew how to help worship be lively and fun as well as reverent and holy; and we might be moved to dance and laugh; to be solemn, cry or beat the breast. In Northern Michigan people know that the Eucharist is the center of life and servanthood the center of mission; the servant Lord truly known in the breaking of the bread, with service flowing from worship, and everyone clear about why a worship is called a service.

Jim helped Northern Michigan move beyond its sense of being a struggling little diocese with too few clergy, to become a diocese in which the sacraments, free from captivity by a professional elite, are available in every congregation regardless of size, culture, location or budget. It is a place where every congregation is free to call forth from its midst, priests and deacons, sure in the knowledge that training and support services are there to back them up. It is a place where all the sheep share in the shepherding.

Jim dreamed of the Church being a place that strives to affirm the beauty of diversity, abhorring the imprisonment of uniformity a place where people are as concerned about love in all relationships as they are about chastity, and where we freely admit that we do not have all the answers but are asking the right questions. Jim dreamed of the Church becoming so deeply rooted in gospel and tradition that, like a living tree, it can bend in the wind and continually surprise us with new blossoms. That is what the Church is becoming in Northern Michigan.

Jim, as a bishop, was a sign and animator of the Church’s unity, catholicity and apostolic mission, and not a prelate. He was electrically brilliant, but always humble about what one can know about the mystery that we call God. And he was helping to create in Northern Michigan a model of the Church that is so salty and so yeasty that it would really be missed if no longer around; where there is a wild sowing of seeds and much rejoicing when they take root, but little concern for success, comparative statistics, growth or even survival. It is a Church becoming so evangelical that its worship, its quality of caring, its eagerness to reach out to those in need cannot be contained.

As I continue to hear Jim’s voice in my head, I realize that each one of us can embrace this dream, because as the prophet Joel reminds us in our Pentecost lessons that God will pour out the Spirit on all flesh and that our sons and daughters shall prophesy, the old shall dream dreams and the young shall see visions. Jim Kelsey dared to dream of the Church that Christ calls each one of us to help create. He did justice, loved mercy and walked humbly with his God. He will be dreadfully missed, but he inspired others by the dozens to be partners in carrying out God’s dream for the Church. His voice will not be silenced. We must not let it be silenced.

The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral.

A network-centric world

By Ann Fontaine

Just when the Anglican Communion is struggling to find a way for the varieties of churches to develop a centralized way of living together the world is going in the opposite direction. From the Defense Department to Howard Dean’s presidential campaign to Al Qaeda, everyone is learning the lessons of the network centric world. The Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church are perfectly set up to take advantage of this way of being but seem determined to abandon it at this critical moment in time.

From its earliest days the Christian adventure developed through everyone running out into the streets speaking all sorts of languages at Pentecost: Peter, Paul, Thecla, Phoebe, the Roman church, the Eastern church, the Celtic Church – all with differing visions of telling the story but out in the field sharing the Good News.

The Anglican Church has operated as network centric for most of its history. Early on missionaries were sent from a variety of theological perspectives with no real top down supervision. Although there are some difficulties with that when we reconnect with each other, it was an efficient way of getting out the word.

Periodically, bloody, physical and verbal, battles are fought to try to bring it all under one system. One group or one person attempts to impose one set of standards on the project. This is doomed to failure especially in this era of world history.

Jed Miller and Rob Stuart of Planet Network describe the differences between ego-centric and network centric organization in: “Network-Centric Thinking: The Internet's Challenge to Ego-Centric Institutions”

The tools of digital democracy enable us to become activists with a new flexibility and independence. Email lists, online petitions, meet-ups and blogs have altered citizens' expectations for how advocacy groups should engage their members. MoveOn.org and the Howard Dean campaign have pioneered new models for democratic, flexible, "network-centric" approaches, but many organizations stick resolutely to traditional "ego-centric" methods. There's a simmering tension between ego-centric thinking and network-centric thinking – the tension between the institutional power that emanates from an organization and the transactional power that inheres in its members' myriad interactions.

Driven by top-down hierarchies, cultures of personality, and an ingrained resistance to knowledge-sharing, ego-centric organizations remain unready, unwilling, or unable to embrace network-centric organizational models. They cling instead to its opposite, the "ego-centric" model for organizations and organizing.

Ego-centric institutions are hardly dysfunctional, but the world is changing, and traditional models for organizing, fund-raising, management, marketing, and warfare are all slipping into ineffectuality.

The Pentagon has recognized, in a post 9/11 world, the power of this concept in warfare. John J. Gartska writes in “Network Centric Warfare: An Overview of Emerging Theory:

Network-centric warfare enables warfighters to leverage this information advantage to dramatically increase combat power through self-synchronization and other network-centric operations.

Across a broad spectrum of mission areas, evidence for the power of network-centric warfare is emerging from experiments and exercises. Evidence collected to date supports a strong correlation between information sharing, improved situational awareness, and significantly increased combat power.

In the face of these trends and modes of functioning why is the Anglican Communion trying to develop a more ego-centric system? Is it a death wish? Is it because most of our leaders were formed in a way of being an institution that has become outdated by rapid communication and the spread of knowledge? Let's hope they will wake up to reality before they destroy the gift we have been given by our messy ancestors of the faith.

The Global Center understands how we must tap the gift of our diversity as expressed in their latest communication to the Communion and not lose it in talk of centralization and conformity.

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, Diocese of Wyoming, keeps the blogs Green Lent and what the tide brings in. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.


Of monuments and memory

By Roger Ferlo

I spend a lot of time in my seminary chapel reading memorial plaques.

The fact that I do this says less about the quality of seminary worship than the quality of my attention span. But then, the plaques in this old seminary chapel are really splendid things. The building dates from the 1880s, and its architecture reflects the quaintly Gothic tastes of an otherwise staunchly evangelical set of founders. To be fair, the plaques are not the first thing you see when you walk in. They were intended to be relatively inconspicuous. The most striking feature of the place—besides the fact that the wood stain on the pulpit doesn’t match the wood stain on the choir stalls, and the wood stain on the pews seems to be of a third shade altogether, and the door to the sacristy looks like it was purchased at Home Depot—is the painted inscription that arches somewhat menacingly over the massive east window: Go Ye Into All the World and Preach the Gospel. That fiercely evangelical injunction tends to focus the attention. So much for Gothic choir stalls—no aesthetic lingering here. The mission fields await you. You feel a little ashamed to be caught thinking about Home Depot.

But still, once you’ve settled into the daily round of prayer and praise and scripture reading, morning, noon and evening, day in and day out, when your mind begins to drift a little, and you even have begun to take that inscription for granted, you notice the plaques. They are mostly memorials to nineteenth-century seminary professors. Although many of their students would go far afield as missionaries, these men (and they were all men in those days) led touchingly stable, unsung and sedentary lives. Not all of them, to be sure. There is after all Philips Brooks (a seminary entry in the Episcopal calendar of saints) to whom that shambling Richardsonian pile known as Trinity Church Copley Square in Boston is itself a massive memorial. The sheer size of that building matches the notorious girth of the man himself. Here on campus, there is an appropriately largish plaque in his honor to be seen in a shadowy corner of the narthex, just to your right as you walk in the side door opposite the seminary’s old administration building (but not so old as to predate Philips Brooks). “Philips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, Harvard 1855, Virginia Theological Seminary 1859.” It is telling that Harvard takes precedence here. The plaque was erected by grateful Harvard graduates and undergraduates in 1906, bearing the inscription “He bound Harvard to Alexandria.” One wonders what the resident faculty thought about this odd gift from that Yankee citadel.

It’s the resident faculty who haunt my days as I sit in chapel, contemplating my own work as professor and priest in a school and a church that would now seem as foreign to them as that great art nouveaux church in Boston must have seemed at the time. Their plaques are less pretentious. Near where I tend to sit, there is an eloquent memorial to W.Cosby Bell, “professor of theology in this seminary”:

A Man Who Loved the
Mountain Streams, the
Hearts of Men, the
Christ of God.
A Thinker who Sensed the
Wonder of Life and
Interpreted its Fulness to a
Bewildered Age.

You seldom hear the word apologetics any more (or you mistake it for apology, which Episcopalians find themselves spending all too much time doing). But Cosby Bell must have been an eloquent apologist for the hope that was in him. Our bewildered church could use a Cosby Bell in these contentious days.

I speculate a lot about the Kinloch Nelsons, (were they father and son? the official school history makes no mention). Their plaques hang side by side to the left of Professor Bell’s. Kinloch Nelson the elder graduated in 1868, having fought in the Confederate army. Just three years before, Union troops had evacuated the administration building next door, which they had used as a military hospital. These were bitter days. There was no chapel yet; built three years later, it must have provided these embattled alumni their first taste of recovery from the devastation of the war. Bell studied here for only a term. Did he carry with him, like the men and women returning from Iraq, traumatic memories of carnage? Did those memories cut short his time here, or haunt his priesthood? He returned to the seminary in 1876, and taught until the day he died in 1894, “Christ’s faithful soldier and servant to his life’s end.”

The other Nelson, Thomas Kinloch, was born in 1879, perhaps here on campus:

Strong and simple in his faith in God,
Generous in his sympathy for men,
He brought to his chosen task of teaching
A wise and understanding heart.

By the time he died in 1940, a different kind of war was looming, and the manly white Protestant world to which these monuments attest was beginning to shake from its moorings.

It’s still shaking. It’s important not to get too sentimental about all these inscriptions. De mortuis nil nisi bonum, as Cosby Bell himself might have said—about the dead say nothing but good. But there’s a back story to every one of these plaques, some of the stories well known, and included in our official history, some of them subject to more critical speculation. For one thing, there is much too much talk of men in all these monuments. And of course, this being Virginia, the most haunting back story remains the fact of slavery. Unnamed enslaved people haunt our family histories here, as no doubt they do elsewhere, even in Boston. What we used to call integration we now call diversity. For all their charm and eloquence, there is not much diversity in these chapel memorials. Until John Walker graduated from here in the early 1950s, our black students were kept safely away on a remote campus, remembered now only in faded photographs and the name of our library building. There is no plaque in Bishop Walker’s honor, although his portrait hangs outside the seminary refectory. We don’t seem to want to make plaques any more—life is too complicated, perhaps, memories too problematic, tenures too short. After all, in these conflicted days, who is it who would decide whose plaque goes where?


The Rev. Dr. Roger A. Ferlo is Director of the Center for Lifetime Theological Education at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, where he also directs the Evening School of Theology. His books include Opening the Bible (Cowley 1997), Sensing God (Cowley 2001) and Heaven (Seabury 2007).

Our coming-out party

This article was released last night by Episcopal News Service. You can read it there, or read it here.

By Patricia McCaughan

What do Fenway Park, a blue and gold oil rendering of Our Lady of Good Counsel's sacred spaces, international reaction to the Lambeth guest list, and reflections on William Countryman's "Living on the Border of the Holy" have in common?

They're all on the "menu" at Episcopal Café, a nexus that links the "Church of Baseball," Heidi Shott's reflections about the faithful in baseball and congregational venues, with Erin McGee Ferrell's sacred art, spiritual commentary, and breaking news. It presents, hopefully, a broader view of the Episcopal Church and conversation about all of the above, says Canon Jim Naughton, the café's founder.

A ministry of the Diocese of Washington in partnership with the Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts (ECVA), the café, http://www.episcopalcafe.com/, is the church's latest effort at offering the faithful and seekers alike a cyber presence.

Naughton, canon for communications and advancement in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said the café is a four-blogs-in-one site, inspired by the diocesan blog Daily Episcopalian and a desire to tell the church's entire story.

The "meat-and-potatoes" of the Daily Episcopalian was the news and commentary on the Anglican Communion, "for which there's a pretty sizeable audience," Naughton recalled recently. "At the same time, in my role as a media strategist I was trying to say there's more to our church than this endless bickering over homosexuality. It occurred to me that what we needed was a site that gave a more comprehensive sense of what our church is all about."

Naughton partnered with Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts (ECVA), and recruited more than two dozen bishops, priests, General Convention deputies, chaplains and bloggers as writers, editors and contributors, from the United Arab Emirates to Hawaii. The café, which officially debuted April 19, is linked to a number of diocesan websites across the country, and has logged about 5,000 unique visitors on an especially active day. Daily Episcopalian, meanwhile, had as many 8,000 visitors during its coverage of the February Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Naughton said.

Visitors interested in commenting on the site may do so directly by e-mail to feedback@episcopalcafe.com. Those offering comments are required to register and sign all posts using a full name. "We think it is important that people take responsibility for their words, and we think that requiring people to own their words improves the tone of the conversation," Naughton said.

Online text is complemented by artful illustrations and photographs, and a growing list of visual artists whose work reflects the mission and ministry of the church are included through ECVA. "Contemporary art and contemporary artists have an extraordinarily important role to play in how we proclaim ourselves as church in the coming decade," said Mel Ahlborn, ECVA's board president. "We are a visual society and so it's essential that we as the Episcopal Church begin to proclaim ourselves visually," she said, adding that contributing artists range from teen-agers to "deeply sage" years.

"This creative collaboration is a model of what can be achieved when Episcopalians work together," said Canon Robert Williams, communication director for the Episcopal Church. "The café reflects the Episcopal Church at its best, and it is a place I like to visit again and again."

Now, the Rest of the Story

The Episcopal Café's four blog sites include: "the Lead," which is devoted to breaking news about the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion; "Daily Episcopalian," a blog of commentary; "Speaking to the Soul," which features reflections, multimedia meditations, and excerpts from books on spirituality; and the "Art Blog."

One photo, for example, reflects the church's outreach to the poor and suffering, through agencies like Episcopal Relief and Development, and offers a more balanced view of the church, said Ahlborn, who started ECVA seven years ago with a vision to return the visual arts to a central role in church worship and community.

She also hopes to educate. "A lot of people don't know what ECVA is, and the general impression is 'what do artists have to do with the church'? But, if they visit the art blog a few times a week, they'll be exposed to a wide variety of fine art that has a well-integrated relevance to our life as Christian community." ECVA's Visual Preludes were featured at General Convention.

The café offers a balanced view of the church, says board member Carol E. Barnwell, communications director of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. "It's a place for new people to learn about the Episcopal Church and to see the best of it online. It's wonderful for people outside the church to experience the openness, the diversity of opinion and the news in an objective manner instead of hearing one side or the other of an issue."

Its content allows "for vigorous debate, which is healthy," says contributor, news blogger and board member Dr. John B. Chilton, an economist at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

Initial feedback has been mission-focused rather than issue-driven, he said. "What appears to resonate most are our reports on innovations in evangelism, the small ways in which parishes make a difference in their community, or the reflection pieces, be they on individual piety or living in community."

Those are just the kinds of stories the Rev. Ann Fontaine, a General Convention deputy from Wyoming and café contributor, seeks during her weekly stint as news blogger, "things that might build up the body, the good things happening and ministry opportunities."

At the same time, Fontaine and others say the café offers "a great collaboration of people who really love the church and yet are not uncritical about it, who are not afraid to say these are areas that we wonder about."

Other regular contributors to the site include Bishop Steven Charleston, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Very Rev. Sam Candler, dean of St. Philip's Cathedral in Atlanta; Professor Deirdre Good of the General Theological Seminary in New York City, and Canon Howard Anderson, warden of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral.

Washington Bishop John Bryson Chane also provides strategic support to the site, having been among its strongest advocates during the development and launch stages. "We'd be nowhere without his support," Naughton said.

Cyber-Evangelism: the New Frontier

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona, who serves as technical advisor, board member and contributor, believes the church needs to maximize increasing opportunities in the online world.

"Unfortunately, there's not yet developed a strong consensus among the elected and ordained leadership that the cyber voice of the Church is important," said Knisely, chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication. "But I think we're starting to have the tools in place, and there's beginning to be the recognition that doing work in the cyber world brings great challenges, but also brings great rewards, allowing us to reach out to people who we normally wouldn't be able to reach."

Knisely added his concern about the elimination of churchwide advertising funding by General Convention 2006 in Columbus, Ohio. "I continue to be concerned that we don't recognize the value of evangelism in the mass media -- having cut off all funding for advertising at the last General Convention," he said. "I think our problems in cyber-space grow out of the same inability to be willing to take seriously our need to be evangelists in the places where people are gathering."

What distinguishes the Café from other Episcopal blogs is a broad collection of contributors and artistic and spiritual content. "We want seekers who are looking for more info on our church to get a sense of who we really are, and what sort of ethos and aesthetic we strive to live into," Knisely said. "Hopefully we'll continue to see the best and the most articulate voices of the Episcopal Church publishing their thinking on the site. I'd love it if we could attract some conservative voices as well, and that may happen over time as we are able to show that we're serious about trying to present the whole of the Episcopal Church to the larger world."

Insider and Outsider Cyber Space: Where the Church Needs to Be

Although the café is still "in its early days," Naughton foresees eventual inclusion of podcasts, video, and other multimedia to appeal to both tech-savvy youthful and more traditional audiences. "We are in very earnest conversations with a potential video partner," he added.

"We're trying to hold one audience while reaching out to the second one," Naughton said. "We want people who are interested in fighting the fight on behalf of the inclusive church to feel this is a place they can find aid and comfort and, at the same time, we're trying to reach out to a younger tech-savvy audience that might not yet be willing to step through the door of a church but is more than willing to explore the world of religion on the internet. So, it's a bit of a trick, trying to reach the insider and outsider audiences at the same time."

In some ways it is still unexplored territory, says contributor Heidi Shott, communications director of the Genesis Fund, a revolving loan fund in Maine that provides expertise and low-interest loans to nonprofits engaged in community development.

Shott's recent post, "The Church of Baseball," was inspired by a Fenway Park outing with her family. She compared love of the game with keeping the faith because, "the future of the church doesn't depend on individual superstars or villains, any more than in baseball," she said. "It depends on us just showing up every week and going out every week and doing our best to move our neighbor and live the Gospel."

The café offers accessibility, Shott believes, like "a youth baseball game where people gather and talk about the real events in their lives, about what to do about an aging parent, or surgery, or some pressing deep consideration. I can't tell you how many of these conversations I've had. I look around the group and say 'boy, they don't know anything about the Episcopal Church, where are we?' This is where the church needs to be."

The Rev. Patricia McCaughan is senior associate for parish life at St. George's Church in Laguna Hills, California and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

"Unchurched" is not a swear word

By Susan Fawcett

In a recent article, Sam Candler wrote about the issue he sees as the most pressing in our time: interfaith relations. “The best ‘interfaith dialogues,’” he wrote, “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.” His point about being both passionately Christian and compassionately interfaith is a breath of fresh air on a topic that probably needs a lot more discussion.

I’d like to put another card on the table, though: the issue of how Christians talk about and talk to those who identify as agnostic, atheist, or ‘unchurched.’ As our anxiety about the shrinking of mainline Christianity in America rises, statistics on growing numbers of unchurched folk abound. We spend some serious energy talking about how to evangelize the unchurched. And, as in Sam Candler’s point, well we should. If we have some good news, let’s share it, by all means.

I suppose my issue lies with the condescension involved in how we talk about the unchurched, and all those who do not profess any faith at all. Let me explain: when I was in grade school, and a very devout evangelical Christian, I remember being told by a camp counselor that it just wasn’t possible to be friends with a Jewish person or a ‘non-Christian.’ “You can be acquaintances,” she said, probably underlining John 14:6 in my study bible. “You can really care about them. But you just can’t really share life with someone who doesn’t know God the way you do, and you should probably be trying to save them. Then you can really be friends.”

It did not take me long to realize that the camp counselor was full of hooey. My grandmother is Jewish, I thought. She shares life with me pretty well. My friend Natalie is Jewish and I think she’s wise. God speaks to them. Why should I think less of them?

It took me a little longer to abandon the idea that my faith in God put me on a higher level of life experience than all my unreligious friends—the ones who didn’t know what they believed about God, or hadn’t been to church, or had been to church and hated it. As I began to question my evangelical community’s assumptions, I grew closer and closer to those who professed no faith at all—perhaps because they were willing to ask harder questions.

What I found in those particular people was not apathy or ignorance or even a sense of being victimized by the church. Rather, I found in them a set of very apt criticisms: Why do Christians say they follow Jesus, but spend all their energy on looking holy instead of helping the poor? Why do churches argue all the time instead of being kind to each other? Why does the church tend to exclude the very people Jesus welcomed? Why does the church seem so UN-like Jesus Christ? Moreover, I often found people whose lives looked significantly more Christlike than mine did.

Since then, it has been important to me to cultivate close relationships with friends whose spirituality manifests itself in arenas other than the church, and who are ready to offer critique and criticism of my own ministry goals and Christianese at the drop of a hat. Whether they call themselves atheist or agnostic or unchurched or post-church, I have found that I need these people not only as companions and true friends, but that they do me a great service: they help to keep me from being a hypocrite. They hold me accountable to the standards that the Church sometimes forgets it has. Thanks be to God.

So I am offering a word of humility for the Church: as we talk with those of other religions, and as we talk about those whom we think lack religious faith, let us remember that we might learn just as much from them as we can impart. And, that our characterization of the unchurched/agnostic/atheist as apathetic, ignorant, or pitiable can often just as well be turned upon our own kind.

For a much more academic discussion of this issue, see Archbishop Rowan Williams's article: "Analysing Atheism; Unbelief and the world of Faiths."

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

Before Windsor,
there was Virginia

By Kit Carlson

Almost a decade ago, when the enormous threat to the fabric of the Anglican Communion was the consecration of a female bishop, the 1988 Lambeth Conference called for a way "to describe how the Anglican Communion makes authoritative decisions while maintaining unity and interdependence in the light of the many theological issues that arise from its diversity."

A group of theologians and church leaders that eventually became the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission met several times at Virginia Theological Seminary during the early '90s, issuing in 1997 The Virginia Report, which explored what it meant to be in communion, how that communion reflects the essential nature of God as Trinity, and what particularly Anglican approaches and instruments of unity might be helpful in maintaining that koinonia amongst the members of an increasingly diverse and divided communion.

The core of the report is that the Anglican Communion, like God in God's very Triune nature, is an interdependent community, guided and bound together by instruments of unity (The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meetings) that are in themselves relational and interdependent. That the very authority of these instruments of unity lies in their interdependent, relational nature.

"Lambeth focuses the relation of bishops to bishops and therefore dioceses to dioceses. The Primates' Meeting focuses the relation of Primates to Primates, and therefore Provinces to Provinces. The ACC, which is the most comprehensive gathering, represents the voice of the inner life of the Provinces, with representatives of laity, clergy and bishops. These three instruments of interdependence are presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, thus focusing the unity and diversity of the Communion," the report states near its close.

And in its conclusion, the report sums it up, "A deeper understanding of the instruments of communion at a world-level, their relationship one to another and to the other levels of the Church's life should lead to a more coherent and inclusive functioning of oversight in the service of the koinonia of the Church. When the ministry of oversight is exercised in a personal, collegial and communal way, imbued with the principles of subsidiarity, accountability and interdependence then the community is protected from authoritarianism, structures serve the personal and relational life of the Church and the diverse gift of all is encouraged in the service of all. The Church is thus opened up to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry and enabled to serve more effectively the unity and community of humanity."

I wonder why we have roared on past the thoughtful, balanced, relational and wise reflections of the Virginia Report, to make the Windsor Report a club with which to beat up on some members of the Communion. I wonder why we have abandoned discussion of koinonia and the doctrine of the Trinity to craft a Covenant that is neither interdependent nor relational. I wonder why bishops of every political bent are refusing to come to Lambeth and work in a "personal, collegial and communal way."

How can we work through Windsor without understanding and living out the vision of Virginia? How can we craft a Covenant when we have yet to strive for koinonia?

The Rev. Kit Carlson is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich. In 2003, she played the apostle Paul on the world's first internet reality series, The Ark, a project of the Christian humor website Ship of Fools.

Worshipping with the faithful remnant

By Jennifer McKenzie

This morning at 11:15, a band of about 50 faithful men, women, and children gathered in a borrowed upper room – a loft, to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Greeting us as we entered the room was vestry member Dail Turner who was handing out nametags and service bulletins from behind a folding table set just inside the door at the top of the stairs. He in turn introduced us to Bill Fetsch, the senior warden. Both wore generous smiles and extended their hands enthusiastically for a sincere handshake.

“Welcome to the Party!” came the greeting from The Rev. Michael Pipkin as he appeared seemingly from nowhere out of the crowd. “It’s good to see you here. Thanks for coming.” The ‘party’ is the regular Sunday gathering of the members of The Falls Church – Episcopal, a remnant of former members of the several-hundred-member break-away church now affiliated with CANA, who have placed themselves under the authority of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. This smaller group is made up of the approximately 10% from the original church who voted to remain in the Episcopal Church plus newcomers and occasional visitors who come for a Sunday or two to give visible support to the gathered church. They are meeting in the loft at the Falls Church Presbyterian, generously supported by that congregation and their pastor, The Rev. Dr. Thomas Schmid, who says, “We are so happy to have them here with us.”

The service was a celebration of the Eucharist with special prayers for Pentecost, the day remembered for the occasion of the followers of Jesus being empowered by the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus’ Resurrection. In his sermon, The Rev. Pipkin explained how like so many, this holy day was taken from a Jewish festival commanded by God through Moses – in this case, the Festival of Weeks. The Jewish tradition is one where, at the beginning of the harvest, the ‘first fruits’ are given as a thank offering, waved by the high priest before God. In other words, The Rev. Pipkin said, the offering of thanks is made ‘not knowing what the rest of the growing season will be like.’ He suggested that making such an offering in our day would be akin to paying taxes on January 1st of the year in advance of securing our income for that year – a practice that would probably be fraught with anxiety and fear. But, he reminded the congregation as he had been told in his youth, “anxiety and fear are not of God.” Instead, he suggested, just like in the Pentecost story in the Gospel reading from John appointed for this day, Jesus approaches us saying “Peace be with you…in all our anxiety about what will happen next, of not knowing what the next steps will be, God tells us to not fear.”

Not knowing what will happened next is the present reality for this congregation as they strive to stay “centered on the hopeful promises of Jesus Christ, love for one another and [offer] service to the community” as printed on the cover of their newly produced welcome flyer. Admittedly, keeping such a focus can be a challenge when court battles are waging. Parishioner Lee Roussel noted this challenge – she works in a government office with three members of the CANA group – and she believes that “this [property dispute] will only be really settled out of court.” “We have to keep the relationships open with the folks across the street,” she said, “if we ever hope to resolve our differences.” For Jesse Thackrey, a decades-long member of The Falls Church, this day has been particularly poignant. Thackrey was senior warden at the time The Rev. John Yates was called as rector of The Falls Church. As he led the congregation out of the Episcopal church, Mrs. Thackrey became deeply troubled and felt a level of responsibility for the way things had changed since his arrival several years ago. She had really hoped that those who wanted to remain in the Episcopal Church would be allowed to continue worshipping in the historic church building on the property. While she still wistfully remembers that desire, her outlook has changed. “I’ve learned that the church is about the people coming together to worship God. It’s not about a particular building.” She looked up from her wheelchair and smiled, a twinkle in her moist eyes, “I haven’t been this happy in church for a really long time.”

The Rev. Jennier McKenzie recently accepted a call to be associate rector for evangelism, mission/outreach, and adult discipleship at Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia. She keeps the blog The Reverend Mother.

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