A varied liturgical portfolio

By Margret Hjalmarson

At St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Reston, Va., we are pretty proud of being a welcoming, inclusive community. To that end, we’ve created a diverse portfolio of services to accommodate a variety of tastes, generations, and time slots. We have a 7:45 a. m. Rite I with no music service, a 9:00 a. m. Rite II service, and a 5:00 p. m. contemporary, Come as You Are service.

Sunday School for the kids happens around the 9:00 a. m. and the service includes a mix of
traditional hymns, gospel and contemporary music. We have just been re-vamping our 11:15 a. m. service to add more traditional Anglican music (think chanting, a professional
organist, and choir robes). All this diversity means we have a wide range of age groups
and people represented on any given Sunday.

For a few years, the 11:15 didn’t have much music. Attendance was waning. Energy was
lacking. But, we noticed that we got a lot of newcomers at 11:15 and then they moved to
9:00 (where the all the action was in the morning). So, we struggled for a long time
about what to do. We talked about reggae, jazz, theme services, and folk services.

The rector wrestled with what to do with 11:15 and the need for an identity for the service. I began to call it “7:45 for people who like to read the newspaper and drink a cappuccino on Sunday before church.” It was definitely quieter than 9:00 where all the kids were. It was filling a need, but we had some trouble pinning down how to capitalize on what people wanted from 11:15 to keep them coming to it. We also know that we are an exciting, dynamic church and the service was not giving that impression to newcomers.

Then, the music director got energized at a conference over the summer about doing
traditional Anglican music. When the rector first told me this was the plan, I said
something like “we’ve been hearing that people think 11:15 is boring so we’re adding stuffy music and chanting?” with a quizzical raise of the eyebrows.

However, I’m now convinced this was the right choice because it rounds out the portfolio. A few people have said to me, “You know we got started in a coffee house in the 1970s and people would have left the church a few years ago if we had purchased choir robes.” I then quote Bob Dylan and say “the times they are a-changin.’” The 11:15 has been re-energized. This is particularly important since it is the entry point for many of our newcomers including folks who want something a little more peaceful and reflective with music. By going back to our Anglican roots, we are going forward. If we believe that diversity is good in terms of the people who come in the door, then we need diverse ways for those people to worship.

Can we keep what was good about the coffee house and still have choir robes? Yes. We can. Inclusion means not just welcoming all people, but welcoming new ways of doing things. We’ve welcomed a new way of worship (for us) back into the Sunday line-up. We still have a coffee house feel at 5:00 where the sermon is a dialogue, communion happens in a circle around the altar, and the jazz trio plays after the service during wine and cheese hour. But, we can also be a church that has Rite I and Anglican chanting. These are all ways we encounter God and worship together on a Sunday. More importantly, we are expanding our opportunities for inclusion and recognizing the opportunities that diversity brings.

Margret Hjalmarson is senior warden at St. Anne’s, Reston. She is an assistant professor in mathematics education at George Mason University, and blogs at Progressive Pragmatist.

Conservative Anglicanism splitting

By Greg Jones

I do not gloat in saying this, but it appears to be true: 'Conservative Anglicanism is splitting before the Communion or any of its constituent provinces.' It may come as no surprise, but in the past six months or so we have begun to witness a divide emerge in what is usually called 'conservative' Anglicanism. To be sure, the word 'conservative' may not even be the right word here. But, in short-hand, we are seeing a divide among those Anglicans opposed to the 'liberal' innovations in the Episcopal Church/Canada and elsewhere vis a vis gay Christians. There is a clear division among those who are theologically 'conservative' on the gay issue – between those who are working actively to split the Communion as soon as possible, and those working to keep it together.

Of course there are differences among 'liberals' as well – i.e. some are traditional in most things except for the desire to include the maximum number of human beings regardless of how they were made (as we see it), and those who are basically 'Liberal Protestants' or 'New Age' or 'Modernists' or 'Spong-Pagels-Crossan-Types' who seem to have little love for the faith presented in the Quadrilateral at all.

The departure of Ephraim Radner from the Anglican Communion Network was heartening – in that he left that group when it became clear that the Separatists had full control over its agenda. We have likewise seen movement away from the Separatists in a number of otherwise 'conservative' dioceses – like Central Florida, South Carolina, Dallas, and elsewhere. As well, the Fulcrum group of evangelical 'moderates' in the Church of England, or the Anglican Communion Institute, or the Covenant blog collective have all made moves distinguishing themselves from the radical right or Anglican Separatist movement.

I say all this to applaud Dr. Michael Poon – heretofore a leading voice of conservative Global South Anglicanism. He has recently distanced himself from the latest phase of the Separatist movement – the so-called GAFCON – or 'alternative Lambeth' that is being planned by the leading anti-gay forces in the Communion.

Completely on cue, the Separatist blog-shills at Stand Firm have panned Poon.

What I wish more liberal Episcopalians would acknowledge is that many theologically conservative Anglicans/Episcopalians are taking a great deal of heat for standing up for unity, reconciliation and a comprehensive vision of Anglicanism – and they are not getting much credit for standing against the extremist Separatist powers busily at work attempting to render the Communion. The good news, to my mind, is that there are many Communion minded people who seek comprehensiveness and unity for true – and they are not all on the same theological page, as regards the inclusion of women, gays or on other questions challenging the wider body at present. They are not of one mind, but they are of one desire to remain in communion by virtue of baptism and a common identity as Anglicans.

As with Dr. Radner, I would argue that Dr. Poon deserves a great deal of respect for speaking the truth with integrity, and in a way that will cause him grief among folks he had been formerly allied with. It is interesting that he composed his letter on the feast of the holy blissful martyr Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who found himself murdered by errant goons.

It occurs to me that in a most clever Chaucerian way, Dr. Poon has just insinuated that the Separatist leaders (Akinola, et al.) are little more than the same sort who then as now are prepared to bring the sword to Canterbury.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ("Greg") is rector of St. Michael's Raleigh, and author of Beyond Da Vinci (Seabury Books, 2004). He blogs at fatherjones.com.

Read Dr. Michael Poon's remarks below:

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7 steps in discipleship

By Greg Jones

In the Diocese of North Carolina, our diocesan motto is “Making Disciples and Making a Difference.” We are encouraged by Bishop Michael Curry to follow an intentional program of “Gospel Based Discipleship,” at every level of our ministry here. Thanks to Bishop Curry's spiritual leadership, our parish has also adopted a new parish motto – in lieu of a highly detailed mission statement. We believe we are called to be 'Following Christ in Discipleship and Mission.'

So what is discipleship all about? For me, I believe there are many steps on that walk with the Lord, but I have found seven to be very important ones.

Step 1 – Deciding to Follow Christ

Discipleship begins with surrendering one's life to Christ. Dying to self, taking up one's cross, and following Jesus – this is the place where all disciples of Jesus Christ begin. The old hymn that comes to my mind here is: “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me.” The choice to follow Jesus is not the strange fixation of fundamentalists, but is the key to being a Christian disciple at all.

Step 2 – Trusting Christ

Submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a whopper! Especially to those of us individualistic Americans living in a consumer society where the customer is always right. “Who are we gonna follow for very long?” It is just so hard for us to submit to anyone at all, willingly, let alone to a mystical Christ. Or maybe it's not hard – maybe it's just that we won't do it. Maybe we won't do it because we're afraid it's gonna hurt. How can we trust that following Jesus is a good idea – a sane idea – a true idea? How can we be assured? Can we believe we've been given a living relationship with God? Can we really believe that what ails us is in fact that we live sinfully in a broken world – but that there is help and hope and life in Christ? Can we really trust and hope in something that good?

Yes we can. But we'll only begin to trust, by giving it a try, by taking a leap of faith, and actively seeking a relationship with Christ – humbly, obediently, expectantly. We will begin to trust, after we've leapt forward in faith -- and after we've tasted some spiritual fruit-- had some kind of experience that following Christ is good. And we will.

Step 3 – Listening to Christ

Indeed, as we walk with Christ as disciples, we must continue to seek his mind, and we must believe there is a way to do this. We must believe we can listen to Christ, and that Christ has something to say. Listening to Christ is possible and fruitful, and it’s a major step in the path of discipleship. Moreover, while many of us have mystical moments in prayer or amazing coincidences where we believe God is talking to us – disciples first believe that in coming together at the holy table, and in prayer, and in listening to God's Word in the Bible – we will hear from Christ.

Simple as that. No one's left out – all may hear the same voice in sacrament, prayer and scripture. Nobody's got secret access. Trusting that God speaks through the sacrament, scripture and fellow Christians – this is essential for Christians. Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh – which means he is all about talking, and speaking, and inspiring, and connecting with us.

Step 4 – Talking with Christ

Disciples pray. Christ listens. Those who follow Christ speak to Christ. Just as Christ prayed and prayed, he invites us to do the same.

Step 5 – Joining with Christ

Christians cannot live alone – for long. We are one kingdom, one people – not an archipelago of islands.

We are called by Jesus himself into being, and he has called us his Body – and that Body of Christ – that Assembly of People Following Jesus – that Gathering of Jesus People is called the Church. We cannot be a Christian outside the Body of Christ. It's not possible. And as the Body of Christ, we belong therefore to Christ, and to each other. This is essential folks.

Disciples are called to give themselves, their souls and bodies unto God and each other “In Christ.”

Step 6 – Imitating Christ

Followers of Jesus are called to live according to his commandments to love God, neighbor, self and enemy. Are we doing that? Are we seeking to imitate Christ – whose teachings are so clear today in the sermon on the plain? Or, are we yielding to temptation, abiding more in our own will than God's? Walking with Jesus – seeking his mind – requires an honest assessment of one's own failings and shortcomings. And an honest assessment of how we might follow Jesus better.

Step 7 – Serving Christ

But our lives are not just about resisting temptation. No, temptation and sin are the distractions from our purpose. But each of us has a calling to serve Christ - what might you be called to do with your life if it weren't for all the sinful distractions? What might you be called to do as a follower of Jesus? Isn't your life supposed to be different in some way?
Friends – there is much work to do in this world – but we cannot make a difference in it – we cannot do a thing for it – on our own. We can only make a difference in this world – if we follow the Master – the Lord and Giver of Life.

Episcopal Church -- let's follow Christ in discipleship and mission.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ("Greg") is rector of St. Michael's Raleigh, and author of Beyond Da Vinci (Seabury Books, 2004). He blogs at fatherjones.com.

Joseph's dream

By Roger Ferlo

In the big Catholic church I attended when I was young, there were two larger than life statues of Mary and Joseph opposite each other on walls flanking the sanctuary, each presiding benevolently over its own side altar. Although the two statues were the same size, and given equal prominence (the church’s designers paid ample homage to the gods of symmetry), Mary’s statue was where the action was. She always had more candles lit in front of her than Joseph did. Brides left their bouquets on her altar before departing down the aisle. And to top things off, every year on the first of May someone built steps high enough for a little girl in a white communion dress to climb up and crown Our Lady with a wreath of plastic roses. Joseph never turned his head during any of this, staring straight ahead, holding a very intelligent-looking toddler Jesus in the crook of his arm.

Given how little attention anyone paid to him, you had to wonder what Joseph was doing there at all. The sculptor depicted him as relatively young, a thirty-something or so. An unusual choice, as most artists through the centuries (perhaps as a way of coping with the strange notion of a virgin birth) have depicted him as old enough to be Mary’s grandfather. In most nativity scenes I’ve seen he’s usually two steps back from the action, sometimes even asleep at his post. And even when awake, you most often see him holding on to his staff for dear life, perhaps still wondering what hit him.

Years later, living in New York City, I encountered an image of this neglected Joseph more complicated than the one that quietly presided over my catholic childhood. Around Christmastime I took the long subway ride uptown to the Cloisters to visit Robert Campin’s fifteenth-century master painting of the Annunciation—Gabriel’s unlikely announcement to Mary that she would bear a son without Joseph, so to speak, anywhere in the picture. The work consists of three panels The large central one depicts the main event as Luke describes it and this fifteenth-century Flemish painter imagined it—a ravishing angel, his wings shimmering in the exquisite layers of color of which the Netherlandish painters were masters, invading the quiet space of a courtly lady’s bedroom. Campin paints Mary at just the moment before she turns to face the angel (in effect, Campin allows us to see Gabriel before Mary does). In an instant, in the next breath, she will turn and see God’s ravishing messenger face to face, the way Moses saw God on the mountain. But where Moses comes away from the mountain bearing God’s word carved on tablets of stone, Mary would quietly leave this cloistered chamber bearing the silent Word encrypted in her very womb.

Once again, in this painting as in the church of my childhood, Mary is where the action is, in the full and shining Technicolor of this central panel. The panel to the left is much drabber, depicting the artist’s patrons looking in from the outside, as well a mysterious figure that may be a portrait of the artist himself, hovering at the courtyard gate. And, in the panel on the right, there is yet another clueless Joseph, hard at work in his carpenter shop, busily crafting mousetraps to catch Satan in. As usual, he is slightly out-of-it, painted facing away from the action in the central panel, totally absorbed in his task, oblivious to the great scene unfolding in the panel to his right.

I find myself again sympathizing with Joseph. Compared to Mary’s, Joseph’s encounters with God in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew is the only gospel writer who takes any interest in him) are played out in a minor key, more like our own. As Luke tells the story, Mary encounters the angel of God when she is fully awake, fully aware, in the broad daylight of a thrilling revelation. But Matthew’s Joseph encounters the angel only in the dark of night, deep in a dream, that ancient, shadowy passageway connecting divine wisdom to human understanding.

Dreams are a form of chaos, most of the time, and one would think that Joseph’s dream would reflect in some distorted and frightening way the chaos of his own life—a young woman pregnant, and not by him; the fear of public disgrace; a need to keep everything quiet; the urge to hide his shame in a darkened room, devising paltry mousetraps to ward off the Evil One. And yet, in the midst of chaos comes this startling dream—startling because it clarifies rather than confuses, but clarifies the chaos by paradoxically deepening it. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid…” The writer of this gospel must have known that this was not the first time someone named Joseph would be forced to trace his way through a landscape of dreams. That first Joseph, Jacob’s son, dreamed his way out of exile in Egypt to lead his undeserving brothers into a world reconciled and restored. And so too this second Joseph will dream his way into exile in Egypt and back (“Go, take the child and his mother, and flee into Egypt”) carrying with him in the crook of his arm a second Moses, a second Joshua, a second Adam to redeem our chaos and make our pathways straight.

We latter-day Josephs, men and women both, know a lot about chaos these days. Endless wars and bombing and fears of dying; melt-downs of public conversation; a politics poisoned by bigotry and xenophobia; God’s own earth poisoned by our own greed and unmindfulness. But it is not just the outer world’s chaos that haunts us in this Christmas season. It is also the chaos of what an artist like Campin would understand as our inner worlds—our deepest desires at cross-purposes with each other. We feel it when we want at the same time to embrace our families and to escape them; when we harbor private griefs or grievances in the midst of public joy; when in spite of the holiday, or because of it, we seek to escape to a darkened room, to banish all semblance of dreams, to sleep in blankness. And yet, as with Joseph, the dream will come however much we try to block it, making of our mixed desires and the world’s distress the stuff of revelation. If there is any hope left in a season so bedeviled by endless consumption and endless desire, it lies in Joseph’s dream: that deep in Mary’s womb is buried not the sign of our shame and guilt but the sign of our salvation.

The Rev. Dr. Roger Felo is Professor of Religion and Culture, Associate Dean and director of the Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Merry Christmas

By Ann Fontaine

Christmas has officially arrived at our house with the ritual of the breaking of the ornament. Bearcat, one of our 2 cats, performed the rite this year. We have had many cats, all strays left by people who think that it is a good thing to leave their unwanted kittens a half mile from town. I think our gate must have a sign that says "good food, warm beds, nice man" - like those codes left by hobos in The Depression. My husband is a softy when it comes to these orphans - we currently have 2 indoor cats. But that is a different story - back to Christmas.

Every year while our kids were still home we would try to provide the imagined perfect Christmas and desire-of-the-heart presents (of course that desire seemed to change up to the moment of unwrapping). This drama would find its peak when one of the children would drop a glass ornament, yet another piece of family history would shatter on the floor and I would break down into the screaming mother.

I remember the years of my childhood Christmases as dinners at a rich relative's home with more silverware (and it was sterling!) than we knew what to do with and terror at using the wrong fork. Every Christmas morning I awoke hoping for that pair of cowboy boots, but received another doll or doll accessory. Now, as an adult, I know that the relatives were just trying to give us a lovely party and my parents were trying to figure out what to give the alien who had been left on their doorstep.

Ordination freed me from the Christmas nightmare. Now I am excused from all the family duties so that I can be attentive to my work! Sinking into the preparations and rituals of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, I began to look forward to Christmas. All our kids have now moved into their own homes and hopefully into their own less dysfunctional Christmas celebrations.

Last week Jim and I hiked up the nearby canyon and cut a tree, I decorated it with the lights that flash in 8 different patterns. The ornaments consist of everything from a Santa that was given to my husband in 1940 to gifts through the years to ones made by the kids in school and church. I put the old glass ones up high, but obviously not high enough. As I heard the smash of glass scattering into the mix of fir needles and dust bunnies, I thought, “Ahhh - now it is Christmas.” Sweeping up the fuchsia colored shards and needles so we don't have to give the vacuum cleaner hose one more tracheotomy (duct tape is your friend), I found that I had come to a new place about Christmas.

The Holy comes to birth in the midst of the chaos of life, telling us that life is worth living. Much like finding the Holy Family in the middle of those wildly overdone yard displays with Rudolph, the Grinch, Disney-fied classics and the latest cartoon favorites, the Christ child comes into our lives once again.

Recently, I presided at funeral for a man who carried this anonymous quote in his wallet - "It starts at a time called birth and continues until a time called death. It is called life. It comes with no guarantees of 60 years or 60,000 miles whichever comes first, and somehow they've even left out instructions. All we get is life itself and it's up to us to do the living.”

So DO the living - it's about love and presence (not presents). Give thanks for gifts as signs you are loved not as judgment on the givers or on your essential being. Don’t worry about using the wrong fork. Enjoy the food.

Merry Christmas!

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.

Hurrying Christmas

By John Bryson Chane

Whatever happened to Christmas? Once Halloween is over it seems as if every shopping mall and airport concourse are decorated with the politically correct “Happy Holidays” message.

And what’s with the demise of Christmas trees? Now they’re called Holiday trees. My brother lives in a small Massachusetts town where public commons predate the Revolutionary War. Last year he phoned me, ready to power up a chain saw and march down to the common to defoliate what, for the first time in the history of that town, was called the “holiday tree.” I entreated him to write a letter to the editor at the local paper instead, and to save his chain saw for something less physically taxing. It worked! The letter provoked an outcry from the old timers in town who said: “Enough of this foolishness. We’ll have a Christmas tree and a Menorah on the common, and that’s that.” No doubt someone will sue the town, if not this year then next, about the use of public property for religious purposes, but “come on now, get a life.”

And Santa Claus, that veritable survivor, now appears on television shilling Coke products, and handcrafting Mercedes Benz automobiles with his own personal welding torch. Santa and his elves still hang out in big department stores like they did when I was a boy, but now son or daughter can get a personalized, digitalized photo with the “big guy” for $5. I even heard rumors that the Actors Guild was thinking of unionizing department store and mall Santas.

Whatever happened to Christmas? I’d like to try and answer that. We have been at war in Iraq and in Afghanistan for too long. Some say the total cost will eventually come out to more than a trillion dollars. Too many of our young servicemen and women and our older guardsmen have paid the ultimate price with their lives, and others will forever wear the scars of their sacrifices for all of us to see.

Stateside, the cost of living continues to increase, with prices for heating oil, gasoline and natural gas hitting all-time highs. Forty-eight million Americans live with no health insurance. Economists debate whether we are in stagflation or inflation. And the dollar is tanking faster than a falling barometer before an approaching hurricane. Public confidence in key elements of our American democracy – namely the U.S. Congress and the White House – are polling at near all-time lows.

The mortgage and foreclosure disaster produced by the unbridled greed of lenders and the hope of many to live the American dream of owning their own home has created a massive financial crisis. No one really knows how much of this iceberg is still hidden from view, but what is for sure is that lots of good folks have lost their homes and others struggle each month to hang on to them.

The Middle East continues to dominate our world view, and beyond Iraq and Afghanistan lies an emerging political crisis in Pakistan. Iran continues to present itself as a potential threat and a Persian puzzle our country has yet to decipher. Syria was recently caught “red handed” developing a nuclear enrichment facility with the apparent support of North Korean technology. And as we gather on Christmas Eve to sing O Little Town of Bethlehem, the truth is that Palestinian Christians and other Christian pilgrims are an endangered species in the Holy Land. On this Christmas, as on so many other Christmases past, many are not able to enter Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, because of a terribly flawed Israel/Palestine policy supported by the United States.

As I think about what happened to Christmas, I have one possible answer. All the commercial hype, the earlier timetable for decorating and the passion to engage with that “jolly old elf” is rooted in our understanding that regardless of how well we seem to have our life together, we are being buffeted by changes. Whether we are looking at the draining of the American treasury because of the war, the falling dollar, foreclosures, global warming or the horribly complex instability of the Middle East, there is, I believe, a question on everyone’s mind. What will the future look like? Will we ever again be what we once were, or thought we were, as a people and nation? Will our children have a harder time than we had growing up? Will they have the resources to survive a rapidly changing world and economy?

I believe this triggers the need for folks to rally around a time of the year when the expectation of giving and receiving gifts becomes something more than just a commercial enterprise. There is the caring for another, the cementing of a relationship, the expression of affection and love, and the hope that what one gives will be received with the spirit and meaning for which it was given.

I think we are jumping so much faster into getting our Christmas decorations up, our department stores stocked with Christmas “must haves,” because we are now in greater need than ever of seeking the hopeful in what seem to be almost hopeless times. Fear and the loss of what used to be have rapidly bred a deep human yearning for security and the assurance of the known.

At the very heart of the Christmas story is the annual retelling of a miracle, the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God living and breathing among us in human form. And Jesus taught that no one has to be held captive by the unknown or imprisoned by fear. Christmas is the promise that through the miracle of Jesus’ birth, all things can be made new. And right now more than ever, the world and each one of us needs to be reminded of this great truth.

And so, “Whatever happened to Christmas?” Nothing, other than that we desperately want to be reminded of the power of its message and that we want it to become a greater part of our lives – more so than just on Dec. 25. We want to be reminded that miracles do happen, that the powerful message of Christmas needs to become a much larger part of our lives and that with God, all things are possible. Who knows, maybe decorations will go up after Labor Day next year!

The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane is bishop of the Diocese of Washington (D. C.).

Blue Christmas

By Ann Fontaine

Cries of “Merry Christmas!” and non-stop caroling contrast with the feelings of many people at this time of year. For those suffering from the recent or impending death of loved ones and for those whose families are in crisis, it can be a very isolated and dreary time. Every greeting and every song reminds the grief-stricken of how unhappy life is at this moment.

Many churches have begun to recognize that Festivals of Lessons and Carols, celebrations of Christmas, and children’s pageants do not meet everyone’s needs. To fill this gap churches offer a Blue Christmas service, a Service of Solace or Longest Night. People who are not having a very merry Christmas and friends who support them are invited to come and sit with one another in a liturgy that speaks of the love of God for the grieving.

Many of the worshipers who gathered for our Service of Solace at St. John’s in Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the week before Christmas did not have a church home. Christmas vacationers who came to ski or snowmobile were attracted to the silence and space apart from their days on the mountain. We offered a variety of music and silence interspersed with readings from Scripture and prayers of solace and hope. Each person was encouraged to bring readings to share, photos or objects of remembrance

Sitting together in the warm log church in the midst of the deep star spangled dark of the Rocky Mountains we gained a greater knowledge of the One who loves us in sorrow and joy. We learned that even strangers can share life and love. We discovered we are not alone.

A closing prayer from Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace:

O God of all seasons and senses, grant us the sense of your timing to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

Liturgies for a Service of Solace, Longest Night or Blue Christmas can be found at The Text This Week.

Compassionate Friends is a resource for those whose children (of any age) have died.

Many hospice organizations offer bereavement groups at all times of the year.

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.

"The historic episcopate, locally adapted"

By Marshall Scott

Several Saturdays ago, I attended the diocesan service in which transitional deacons were ordained priests. I like to think that I’ve had some small part in the education of three of them. It was a great honor, and a great thrill, to participate in laying hands on them.

I think we are in a sort of “season” of ordinations – especially, the elections and ordinations of bishops. It seems to me that in just the last few months there have been elections or ordinations of new bishops in ten or eleven dioceses, with another three or four in process. With all these new bishops, it’s worth thinking about our understanding of what they’re committing to.

Not long ago I wrote a chapter – really, more an encyclopedia article - for a new book. It is being compiled by a colleague of mine, another chaplain, to provide information specifically for physicians on the spiritual traditions of patients, and how those traditions address issues of health care. I wrote, as you might expect, about the Episcopal Church.

The editor also requested of each author a brief statement representative of the tradition taken from Scripture or tradition. That wasn’t as easy as it sounded at first. The editor, himself a faithful Baptist, assumed for us writers that one or another passage of Scripture would be submitted. I thought of several, but none seemed quite right. It wasn’t because Scripture isn’t important in the Episcopal Church. Contrary to some current strident voices, it certainly is. But it seemed to me that no one passage of Scripture was more meaningfully “Episcopal” than any other. After all, there isn’t some distinctively “Episcopal” Bible. We read all of it, even if we wrestle with some parts more than others (and who doesn’t?). And, we share all of it with other Christians of the Western Church and, by and large, with the Eastern Churches. No single passage stood out for me as more “Episcopal” than “Catholic” or “Orthodox” or simply “Christian.”

Something from the Book of Common Prayer, then: that’s where any Episcopalian would go next. I looked through the 1979 Book (it is, after all, the Prayer Book we use, and in which I was ordained), including the “Preface to the First Book of Common Prayer,” and the section of Historical Documents, and through the Rites of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (both Rites, and all six Eucharistic prayers). Finally, one prayer stood out for me. It is an ancient prayer, taken from the Gelasian Sacramentary (per Hatchett), but it has not been used in earlier Episcopal or Anglican Prayer Books.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Now, I will admit that this collect is a personal favorite of mine. At the same time, I was struck once again by how important this collect is in the life of the Episcopal Church. It is the last of the Solemn Collects in the liturgy for Good Friday. It is also the Collect after the ninth lesson in the Great Vigil of Easter. For each of these important rites of the Church, the collect is, as it were, a summary of what we believe God is doing. In the death and resurrection of Christ, we believe God is indeed restoring - or perhaps, re-creating – all of creation, so as to bring creation to perfection.

With that in mind, I was also struck by the third place in which this collect is used. This collect is the summation of the Litany for Ordinations in the Episcopal Church – all ordinations. Whether for bishop, priest, or deacon, this collect is read in every ordination in the Episcopal Church.

Now, this is a change from previous prayer books. The 1928 American book had this collect at the end of the litany:

Almighty God, giver of all good things, who by thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers Orders of Ministers in thy Church; Mercifully behold this thy servant, now called to the Work and Ministry of a Bishop; and so replenish him with the truth of thy Doctrine, and adorn him with innocency of life, that, both by word and deed, he may faithfully serve thee in this Office, to the glory of thy Name, and the edifying and well-governing of thy Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen

This collect dates to the 1550 Ordinal of the Church of England, published then in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, where it is used, again at the end of the litany, for consecration of bishops and priests, and in adapted form for deacons. It was used this way in the 1928 Book.

Now, I am convinced that one of the things that current Anglican arguments are about is bishops. Granted, I think over all it’s about what it means to be Anglican; and within that, then, how we interpret Scripture and how we do or do not accept human sexual lives. But, a critical event was the election of a bishop, and many of the subsequent actions and reactions have been either statements of, actions of, or ordinations of bishops. We continue to speak about ordination of bishops for “the whole Church,” even if we argue about what we mean when we say that.

It that’s the case, it seems these collects, once again in position to summarize the Litany for Ordinations, do describe a different understanding of what ordination is about, and not just the ordination of bishops, but all ordinations. The 1550 collect is, if you will, about one person, and that one person’s place in the structure and discipline of the Church. It is about one servant, the vocation to which he is called, his fitness for it, and his functions in it.

The 1979 collect has a much wider focus. In the 1979 rite ordination is not solely about one individual or one individual vocation. Rather, it places ordination in the context of God’s process of re-creating the world. The ordinand is not called simply to “serve in this office” of bishop (or priest or deacon), but to participate in raising up what had been cast down, and making new what had grown old, and so participating in God’s work of “bringing all things to their perfection.” The fact that this collect is also in some sense the summary collect for both the Good Friday liturgy and the Easter Vigil only seems to confirm this view. And, of course, this is not just the work of the ordinand, but of the “whole church, that wonderful and sacred mystery.” And so in that sense ordination is hardly about the ordinand at all, but rather about the participation of the whole Church in God’s work of salvation.

In these controversies, when the statements of bishops as individuals, as groups, and as “first among equals” have so much currency, and are attributed so much authority, I am struck by the differences in these collects used roughly in parallel in the different ordination rites. Looking at them, I can see both how we come to speak so often of God doing a new thing, and how others speak of us altering the Anglican tradition. The differences in these prayers will, to some extent, distinguish Episcopal bishops from bishops ordained in and for other provinces. At the same time, if we are to appreciate the “historic episcopate, locally adapted,” perhaps we can consider these understandings, not as mutually exclusive, but as complementary and mutually informative. Yes, we ordain each person to a particular office in a particular time and place. But in our sacramental theology we see each office and each person as a part of God’s mission of reconciliation and restoration. So, perhaps we can go beyond claiming one or another as “right,” and see the truth and the blessing in both.

I would hope we could. I think it’s something that we Anglicans used to do.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

A few words on authority in the Episcopal Church

Editor's note: In February, the Dar es Salaam Communique from the Primates of the Anglican Communion created uncertainty in the Episcopal Church about what individuals or bodies had the authority to respond to the Primates' recommendations. The Episcopal Church's response has been made, but the nature of authority in our Church remains poorly understood. Below, Sally Johnson, chancellor to Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, lays out her opinion in the summary of a more detailed memo tht can be found here.

Summary of Authority in The Episcopal Church as it Relates to the Demands of the February 2007 Primates Communiqué

Prepared March 2007. Following review and comments, released for wider distribution, December, 2007.

Following is a summary of document “Discussion of Authority in the Episcopal Church and the Dar es Salaam Primates Communiqué of February 2007”. This summary is prepared by Sally Johnson, Chancellor, at the request of the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson. In analyzing the “role, responsibilities and potential response of the Executive Council” to the Communiqué, and especially in light of the House of Bishops Resolution to the Executive Council on the Pastoral Scheme, it was necessary to carefully review and consider Executive Council’s authority, role and responsibilities in relationship to the authority of the Presiding Bishop and the House of Bishops.

The Communiqué

The Communiqué asked the House of Bishops to take two actions prior to
September 30, 2007:

make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, Para. 143, 144)

confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General
Convention means that a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent …unless “some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion (cf TWR, Para 134).

The Communiqué also purports to establish a “Pastoral Scheme,” consisting of a Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar, to work with congregations and dioceses in The Episcopal Church who do not agree with the actions of General Convention regarding the consecration of Bishop Robinson and the blessing of same-sex unions. This portion of the Communiqué is lengthy, complicated, and stated in generalities rather than specifics.

Some of the aspects of the Pastoral Scheme include:

A Pastoral Council that would act on behalf of the Primates made up of two persons nominated by the Primates, two appointed by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council;

The Council would work “in cooperation with The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of the bishops participating in the scheme proposed below” to negotiate structures for pastoral care complying with the Windsor Report and the Primates’ requests in the Lambeth Statement of October 2003, authorize protocols for the functioning of such a scheme, including the criteria for participation of bishops, dioceses and congregations and take whatever reasonable action is needed to give effect to this scheme and report to the Primates;

The Pastoral Council and the Presiding Bishop would invite bishops expressing a commitment to “the Camp Allen principles” to participate in the Pastoral Scheme;

The participating bishops, in consultation with the Pastoral Council and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop, would nominate a Primatial Vicar responsible to the Council. The Presiding Bishop in consultation with the Pastoral Council would delegate specific powers and duties to the Primatial Vicar.

The Communiqué also urged that all litigation over property in The Episcopal Church be suspended, subject to several conditions.

The House of Bishops March 2007 Response

The House of Bishops took three actions in response to the Communiqué.

It adopted the statement, “To the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates’ Standing Committee” stating that “[a]lthough we are unable to accept the proposed Pastoral Scheme, we declare our passionate desire to remain in full constituent membership in both the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church and inviting the Archbishop and members of the Primates’ Standing Committee to join the House of Bishops for three days of prayer and conversation at the earliest possible opportunity.

It adopted “A Statement from the House of Bishops- March 20, 2007” which gave five reasons the Pastoral Scheme would be injurious to the Church. It would violate our church law in that it calls for a delegation of primatial authority not permitted under our Canons and compromises our autonomy not permitted under the Constitution, it would change the character of the Windsor process and the covenant design process, it would violate our founding principles after our liberation from colonialism and it would depart from our English Reformation heritage in abandoning the generous orthodoxy of our Prayer Book tradition and sacrifice “the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking Bishops;”

It adopted a “Mind of the House of Bishops Resolution Addressed to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church” urging the Executive Council decline to participate in the Pastoral Scheme.

Authority in the Episcopal Church

Authority of the General Convention

The General Convention holds all authority in The Episcopal Church other than the limitation that it cannot change the Core Doctrine of the Church. It has delegated various responsibilities and authority to a number of bodies and offices in the Church. The General Convention is the only body authorized to amend the Constitution, Canons and Book of Common Prayer. No other body or office holder in the Church can take action that binds the Church on a subject covered by the Constitution, Canons, or Book of Common Prayer. Only General Convention can pass resolutions that bind the Church. No other body or office holder in the Church can make a binding interpretation of the Constitution, Canons, Book of Common Prayer or General Convention resolutions. The General Convention can amend the Canons, set policy or otherwise direct whether and in what ways the Church’s interest in the property of dioceses and congregations should be protected.

Authority of the Executive Council

The Executive Council’s primary duty is to “carry out the program and policies adopted by the General Convention. The Executive Council shall have charge of the coordination, development and implementation of the ministry and mission of the Church.” In its capacity as the Board of Directors of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society it has the power to direct the disposition of the moneys and other property of said Society in accordance with the provisions of the Canons and the orders and budgets adopted or approved by the General Convention. The Executive Council is granted extensive authority to act for the Church between General Conventions but it is not vested with all of the powers of General Convention.

In terms of the Primates’ requests the Executive Council does not have the authority to prohibit the blessing of same sex unions. Bishops Diocesan have the authority under the Constitution and Book of Common Prayer to authorize forms of worship in their own dioceses. The Constitution and Book of Common Prayer would have to be amended to take that authority away from Bishops Diocesan. General Convention has the authority to authorize other forms of worship and the Constitution would have to be amended to take that authority away from it.

The Executive Council does not have any authority to make, change or issue a binding interpretation of a General Convention resolution such as B033. The Constitution and Canons would have to be amended to prohibit persons living in same sex unions from becoming bishops because the requirements and limitations on who may hold that office are in the Constitution and Canons.

The Executive Council does not have the authority to authorize any portions of the Pastoral Scheme. The Constitution and Canons would have to be amended to authorize the structures and delegation of authority contemplated by the Pastoral Scheme.

In the absence of action by General Convention the Executive Council can set policy or otherwise direct whether or in what ways the Church’s interest in the property of dioceses and congregations should be protected.

Authority of the Presiding Bishop

The responsibilities and authority of the Presiding Bishop can generally be divided into several broad categories. The Presiding Bishop makes appointments to various Church bodies and positions and fills vacancies, has responsibilities regarding bishops in the Church including overseeing the election of bishops, deciding who will consecrate them, overseeing the resignation or removal of bishops for non-disciplinary reasons, and taking certain actions in the ecclesiastical discipline process of bishops. The Presiding Bishop has responsibilities for unusual congregations and ministries, reports annually to the Church, speaks God’s Word to the Church and to the world as the representative of The Episcopal Church and has responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing the policy and strategy of the Church. She presides over the House of Bishops and Joint Sessions of General Convention, is the President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and the President, Chair and chief executive officer of the Executive Council.

“The office of Presiding Bishop is a constitutional office, the tenure and duties of which are prescribed by canons, and he has no duties or powers save as so prescribed.” Annotated Constitution and Canons for the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (“Annotated Constitution and Canons”, p. 203.)

The Presiding Bishop’s authority to delegate her responsibilities to others is limited to choosing a bishop of The Episcopal Church to act in her stead as one of the three bishops of The Episcopal Church to act as chief consecrators at the consecration of a bishop and to delegating some functions “prescribed in these Canons” to persons in “positions established by the Executive Council.”

In terms of the Primates’ requests the Presiding Bishop does not have the authority to prohibit Bishops Diocesan from authorizing the blessing of same sex unions in their dioceses nor can she prohibit future General Conventions from authorizing such blessings.

The Presiding Bishop cannot change or make a binding interpretation of a General Convention resolution such as B033.

The Presiding Bishop does not have the authority to approve any parts of the Pastoral Scheme because the Constitution and Canons would have to be amended to implement it. Although she could appoint two persons to the Pastoral Council, she should decline to do so because she does not have the authority to delegate any of her duties or responsibilities to the proposed Pastoral Council.

In the absence of action by General Convention or the Executive Council the Presiding Bishop can set policy or otherwise direct whether or in what ways the Church’s interest in the property of dioceses and congregations should be protected.

Authority of the House of Bishops

The authority of the House of Bishops to take actions that bind the Church at meetings between General Conventions or at General Convention without the concurrence of the House of Deputies is quite limited. It may, for example, consent to bishops’ resignations, elect bishops for non-diocesan ministries, including the Presiding Bishop, and for dioceses upon request of the diocese, establish Missions within the boundaries of The Episcopal Church but outside diocesan boundaries, call special meetings of General Convention, and take some actions in the ecclesiastical disciplinary process of bishops.

In terms of the Primates’ requests the House of Bishops does not have the authority to prohibit the authorization of blessings of same sex unions by Bishops Diocesan within their own dioceses nor can it prohibit future General Conventions from authorizing such Rites.

It cannot change or make a binding interpretation of a General Convention resolution such as B033.

The House of Bishops does not have the authority to approve any parts of the Pastoral Scheme or to amend any parts of the Constitution or Canons that would need to be changed to implement it.

The House of Bishops has no authority to set policy or otherwise direct whether or in what ways the Church’s interest in the property of dioceses and congregations should be protected other than as a bishop may have authority to set policy or make decisions within his or her own diocese.

Sally Johnson is the chancellor to Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies.

As we await a decision

By Robert L. McCan

Two trials occurred in Rooms 5-E and 5-D of the Fairfax County Circuit Court of Virginia building and ran for five days, ending on Tuesday, November 20, 2007. The court judge, Randy I. Bellows, insisted that theological issues be excluded, not wanting to enter the “thicket” of differences at that level but preferring to focus on the legal question of whether former Diocese of Virginia congregations now composing part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) “divided” from The Episcopal Church or was alienated and withdrew.

The stakes are high. Over $30,000,000 in property will be awarded the winning side, or divided in a manner determined by the judge. Perhaps even larger issues are being sorted out for The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Can parishes and/or dioceses break away or “separate” from The Episcopal Church and keep the keys and the chalice? By what logic can CANA, composed of former Episcopal parishes, or other similar splinter groups, legally affiliate with an Anglican Church in another part of the world? Is the principle of geographic integrity of a diocese to be upheld or are unsupervised church plantings and competitive Anglican structures to be approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury in an ecclesiastical “free market” environment?

Eleven parishes are involved in the two trials which followed each other and which are to be merged into a single verdict. In fact, the two trials are a consolidation of 22 separate court cases.

CANA brought the first trial at the urging of the breakaway Falls Church Anglican congregation. The parish faced a financing problem. They made plans to build a large complex of facilities on a strip mall they had purchased across the street from the historic building, additions and grounds. The purchase was made several years ago when they were still a functioning parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The price tag for new facilities is $14 million. The parish is reported to have $5 million in the bank, carefully excluded from operating church funds, in case The Episcopal Church should be awarded the assets. But when the parish explored the financing of $9 million they learned that mortgage money was not available until a decision was reached on property ownership. Hence the immediate occasion for their lawsuit.

The first trial asks the judge to require The Episcopal Church to relinquish ownership of the property at each of the eleven parishes if by majority vote each decided to “separate” from its historic roots and join the Anglican Communion.

Testimony focused on an obscure law passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1867, known as the “Virginia Religious Freedom Act.” That law stated that when there is a denominational “division” local congregations may decide by majority vote with which side to affiliate. CANA’s case hinges on whether their interpretation of that law applies to the current situation. They claim the word “division” is key and they submitted 174 documents to buttress their case.

In the second trial The Episcopal Church brought a counter suit against CANA. Its purpose is to recover the property, which it alleges, belongs to The Episcopal Church and is being unlawfully occupied by CANA congregations.

A bit of history is needed to better understand the case for CANA. The 1867 statute is known as “57-9” because the Virginia Code, Section 57-9 contains the law in question. John Baldwin of Augusta County was Speaker of the Virginia House. He was also an attorney and a Methodist. There were 18 Methodist congregations in Augusta County that wanted to “separate” from one side of a divided Methodist Church following the Civil War and join the other side. After pushing the law through the state legislature Baldwin brought the case that gave congregations the right to keep their property when a majority of members voted to “divide,” leaving one branch for the other. In the end, 29 Methodist congregations in Virginia took advantage of the law in that era.

CANA called two experts, reputable scholars, one being Professor Mark Valeri of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Most of his testimony related to Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians, the three largest Protestant denominations in the nineteenth century in the south, with emphasis on the Presbyterians, his own denomination. To the writer it appeared that he did a computer search in the church history books, in newspapers and in church periodicals, using the word “divided” to pull up references. The word was used often to describe multiple “splits” in each denomination, the most obvious being the separations caused by the Civil War.

Then came the question as to whether The Episcopal Church had endured such “divisions.” The scholar pointed to a “division” within The Episcopal Church during the Civil War. He testified that no bishops or dioceses in the south attended General Convention. Indeed, dioceses in the south formed their own constitution and canons and even consecrated a new bishop.

Dr. Ian Douglas, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., was an expert witness for The Episcopal Church. He explained that The Episcopal Church has never had a hostile “division.” For him, there are two meanings of the word “division,” one popular and the other technical or legal. Any dispute leading to alienation and separation is often called a “division” in popular parlance. However, technically, according to the constitution and canons of the Church, a “division” can only occur when voted by General Convention, according to rules set forth in governing structures.

CANA tried to show that the Diocese of Virginia had divided into three dioceses within the state. However, Professor Douglas explained this was a proper division because the Church approved. Likewise, several countries divided from the national church. For example, Mexico divided and became a national church known as a Province. Again, this was decided in an orderly fashion with the consent of the entire Church.

Dr. Douglas responded to the claim that The Episcopal Church “divided” during the Civil War. He pointed out that it was physically impossible for church people in the south to travel north for General Convention during the war. He agreed that sentiment in the church of the south favored separation at that time. However, The Episcopal Church in the north never approved a division and the south was welcomed back to General Convention when the war ended.

Dr. Douglas sought to make the case that it is impossible for CANA churches to “divide” by separating. The moment they declare their independence, the clergy violate their ordination vows; the moment the vestries vote to leave The Episcopal Church they violate their vows as members of vestries to be faithful to The Episcopal Church. Likewise a bishop and a diocese violate their prescribed commitment to the national church the moment they attempt to revise their constitution to separate. It is not possible for them to “separate” because the law that governs vestries, clergy and bishops requires approval of the Church before a division can be legal.

Professor Douglas characterized the Anglican Communion, on the other hand, as “a family of Churches.” He contended that members of a family may be alienated for a time but they are always members of the family at the deepest level. An attorney for CANA tried to establish a link between CANA and the Anglican Communion and suggested that the “Instruments of Communion” could be used to expel the American Church from the Communion. Professor Douglas conceded that there has been an alienation that may lead to a temporary formal separation for some members of “the family.” He pointed out, however, that within The Episcopal Church there is a formal legal link of one body to another—the parish to the diocese and the diocese to The Episcopal Church at the national level. However, there is no such linkage to the Anglican Communion but only informal ties based on tradition, shared history and liturgy. CANA hinted that the Anglican Communion is a global confessional church with established “orthodox” doctrinal positions that the Instruments of Communion have a right to enforce.

CANA was asked about its place in the Anglican Communion. The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, formerly rector at Truro parish in Fairfax City, explained that they are now attached by his consecration and by a formal affiliation of the parishes to the Anglican Church in Nigeria. Their participation in the Anglican Communion is by way of their linkage with Nigeria. When asked by counsel for The Episcopal Church, Bishop Minns acknowledged that he has not yet been invited to The Lambeth Conference, held every ten years and scheduled for 2008.

Attorneys for The Episcopal Church contended that Judge Bellows should take into account the hierarchy of the parish, the diocese and the national church. CANA denied that this linkage is essential as ultimately binding if for sufficient reason they feel a gospel imperative to separate.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori testified by way of a televised deposition that lasted some 54 minutes. She was courteous yet clear in her conviction that CANA congregations had no right to leave the Church and take the property. When pressed to offer some negotiated settlement on property she was clear that The Episcopal Church would not negotiate with a church from another country coming into a diocese and competing with that established diocese. Asked to explain, she stated this violated current and ancient practice. Polity in all parts of the Anglican world has been for a bishop in one area to get permission from the bishop in another before going there to perform any type of ministerial function. She saw the establishment of parallel parishes and their vocal criticism of The Episcopal Church as confusing to the public and harmful to the church.

Bishop Jefferts Schori was reminded that she had signed the statement of the Primates at the Dar es Salaam meeting. It required The Episcopal Church to repent and pledge to renounce the practice of consecrating homosexual bishops and blessing same-gender “unions” or marriages. She responded that she signed to indicate that the statement represented what transpired. She indicated that she had no authority to bind the bishops or The Episcopal Church to such a statement.

Finally, when asked how she could support legal action against CANA churches when the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury had urged the church to settle disputes over church property within the church rather than through the courts, she responded, “I have a duty to protect the assets and the integrity of The Episcopal Church.”

Judge Bellows indicated on several occasions that he would go to great lengths not to give any indication as to how he would decide the case. He was determined, he said, to give latitude to each side in order for each to fully present its case. However, he was also eager, he indicated, to keep testimony relevant; he wanted to complete the case within a reasonable time period. On two occasions the lead attorney for The Episcopal Church, Bradfute W. Davenport surprised the court by his brevity. An hour was allotted before lunch on the first day for his opening statement. He took seven minutes, laid out the case in simple, direct terms and sat down. We had an early lunch the first day.

The other occasion was on the last day when Bishop Peter James Lee of the Diocese of Virginia took the stand. He had attended the prior day, waiting to testify. When he finally took the stand the excitement and tension reached a crescendo. CANA members filled the courtroom. Many of the CANA attorneys, it could be observed, had notebooks filled with questions for the cross-examination. The CANA leaders had threatened legal action against Bishop Lee if he or any officer of the diocese “set foot on or trespassed on the property occupied by CANA congregations.”

Davenport asked Bishop Lee his name, age, where he attended college, then seminary. He asked when Bishop Lee was ordained, where he served as a priest, when he was consecrated as a bishop and how many General Conventions he has attended. After a few more “housekeeping” questions including clarification of various designations for bishop and the function of each type, he suddenly declared, “No more questions.”

CANA was confused. All of their cross-examination preparation was predicated on Davenport delving into the host of issues and events that led to the separation and the declaration that the priests are no longer recognized in The Episcopal Church. There was virtually nothing to cross-examine. The CANA attorneys attempted to raise issues but they were over-ruled because they had not been raised in the initial examination.

The Episcopal Church called one more witness, David Beers, Chancellor to The Episcopal Church. His testimony largely paralleled that of other witnesses. Other witnesses that were to testify the last day were released by agreement of the two sides and the trial ended a day early.

At the conclusion of the trial Judge Bellows stated that should he decide in favor of CANA, based on the 1867 Virginia statute, he would be prepared to hold another trial to examine the constitutionality of that statute. The Episcopal Church attorneys stated they would enter challenges under three constitutional headings: the contract clause, the free exercise clause and the establishment clause. He indicated a willingness to set a new court date within the next month, if necessary, so that a final decision could be rendered by mid-January, 2008. At that time another hearing will be required to determine the precise nature and procedure for distribution of church property.

The writer represents only himself in presenting these observations and reflections. He is one of no more than two or three persons, other that official representatives, who attended the entire trial and whose bias was toward The Episcopal Church. He recently moved from Alexandria to Falls Church, and with his wife, has moved his membership from Christ Church to The Falls Church Episcopal, continuing congregation.

On the Saturday night during the trial the entire congregation of The Falls Church Anglican was called together for a prayer vigil that God’s church might prevail. A spokesman for CANA, Jim Oaks, issued a press release after the trial ended which said, “We remain confident in the success of our legal position. The decision of the Episcopal Church and the diocese to reinterpret scripture caused the 11 Anglican churches to sever their ties.” And in comments in the weekly bulletin at The Falls Church Anglican rector John Yates noted how much has changed for the better in the past year since they left The Episcopal Church. He wrote, “We are out of a dying denomination…I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.”

Robert L. McCan holds a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. His last position prior to retirement was Associate Professor of Political Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary. He is author of "Justice For Gays and Lesbians: Crisis and Challenge in the Episcopal Church." Bob recently moved his church membership to The Falls Church Episcopal.

A new way in the wilderness

A New Way in the Wilderness, a sermon on the Chicago Consultation, among other things, delivered on the Second Sunday of Advent, 2002, by the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio.

By Tracey Lind

What did they go out to the wilderness to see: a man in camel’s hair? What did they go out to the wilderness to hear: a voice crying: Prepare the way of the Lord? What did they go out to the wilderness to taste: locusts dipped in wild honey? What did they go out the wilderness to smell: sweet dusty earth? What did they go out to the wilderness to feel: the sun, the wind, and the dry desert air? Why do any of us go to the wilderness? What do we hope to find? I suppose we go to the wilderness to find ourselves, and hopefully, to find and be found by God.

And often when we get there, we are, in the words of Alfred Delp, “shaken and brought to the reality of ourselves.” No wonder, the scriptures take us to the wilderness in Advent, and then again in Lent. God wants to shake and awaken us to the reality of ourselves, and then fill us with hope and expectation for an uncertain but emerging future.

This morning, we hear from two great spiritual guides of the wilderness: Isaiah and John the Baptist. Isaiah, the prophet of the eighth century BCE, spoke of “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” upon which the Spirit of God would rest. He wrote of that branch growing out of a chopped down tree, a remnant people full of hope and promise for the future who would wear the girdle of righteousness and the belt of faithfulness. Some eight hundred years later, the gospels recall another prophet, a righteous and faithful man who lived in the wilderness and wore such a girdle and belt. He spoke of an axe lying at the very root of the tree, cutting it down and throwing its bad fruit into the fire.

Might the shoot of Jesse grow from the stump of this tree? And what message of good news would this shoot bring to those brave souls who venture into the wilderness hoping to find and be found by God?

The message proclaimed in the wilderness is the good news of Shalom: God’s amazing, marvelous, unbelievable, utopian promise of the peaceable kingdom where domestic animals (the lamb, the kid, the calf and the cow) lie together in community with their natural predators (the wolf, the leopard, the lion and the bear). And in the midst of them, a baby is at play and a young child is the leader.

What are we to make of this vision? It’s really quite simple, says the prophet of old. “In the day, the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples.” He shall be an emblem, a sign, a flag that shows whose kingdom this really is – this wonderful realm of God! It is nothing less than God, reconciling all creation to the hopes and dreams of the Eternal One.

This prophecy envisions a new creation and a new way of being in the world. It proposes a new community that is diverse, inclusive and welcoming – a circle of friends who were once strangers and perhaps even once enemies. This prophecy portrays a new realm of peace: creation reorganizing itself around common expectations, hopes and dreams into something wonderfully and radically different where everybody and everything is rooted in the way of justice, love and mercy and kindness. In the darkest of days, this counter-cultural vision of God’s reign proclaimed in the wilderness offered and still offers hope for those who have eyes to see it, ears to hear it, a nose to smell it, a tongue to taste it, a heart to feel it, hands to embrace it, arms to carry it, and feet to walk it around the world.

In the past few weeks, wandering about in the wilderness, hoping to find and be found by God, I have had two glimpses of God’s new realm becoming that I want to briefly share with you this morning. As many of you know, I am one of the conveners of We Believe Ohio, a movement uniting diverse religious voices to achieve justice. At our last Greater Cleveland Steering Committee, we were talking about “Declare Ohio a Political Sleaze-Free Zone” – a petition that I hope every member of Trinity Cathedral will sign and urge their friends and family to sign. This now state-wide (and hopefully national) effort calls for clean, instructive political campaigns that promote democracy and keep the focus on the critical issues of the day, rather than slinging mud at fellow candidates attacking minority groups, and polarizing voters for the purposes political gain. To learn more about this effort and sign the petition, go to the web site www.webelieveohio.org.

During our discussion, a Muslim member of our steering committee spoke passionately about the anti-Muslim sentiments being expressed by some presidential candidates, and about the hateful, anti-Muslim tirade of radio talk show host Michael Savage. It was an emotional conversation that made some in the room feel uncomfortable and anxious. However, her honesty and passion resulted in what one might say was remarkable action, but what I know is becoming typical of these companions in faith.

Following our meeting, a Jewish member of the Steering Committee convened a conversation with a variety of religious and civil rights leaders that now is organizing itself into an ad hoc coalition to speak out against bigotry in broadcasting. Our Muslim colleague wrote to us about how much it meant to have a rabbi leading this effort. She later told me, that now she had a better understanding of how the LGBT community must have felt in the 2004 presidential campaign when gay marriage was the divisive issue of the day.

Through We Believe, interfaith leaders are being challenged, changed and comforted by one another. And that change – this movement – is contagious. The interfaith landscape of Greater Cleveland is changing. We have been offered a glimpse of the community God intends for us to become, an ensign for the always-emerging realm of shalom-salaam – a new community of peace and reconciliation organized around common expectations, hopes and dreams.

This past week, I returned to the windy city of Chicago to participate in an amazing consultation of Anglicans from around the world: bishops, priests, deacons and laypeople; academics, pastors, and activists; gay and straight; black, white, and Hispanic; Global southerners and northerners.

We came together, in the words of, Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa (an indigenous, New Zealand, Anglican scholar and activist) to reclaim who we are as “relatives in the Anglican family” and to work toward “a global Anglican communion recovery plan.” We gathered, as what Dr. Te Paa called: “a small portion of the global tribe of God’s imperfect, vulnerable, ambitious, generous spirited, self-serving, sacrificial, complex, contradictory, faith-filled, and to a large extent, indecently obedient Anglicans” to articulate a path through the wilderness crisis in our beloved and broken church. We came together as members in the communion of saints to develop a strategy for moving forward toward the gospel promise of God’s justice, love and mercy for all people with a commitment to nonviolence, story telling and active listening, repentance and restorative justice.

On the first snowy day of winter in Chicago, a group of Anglicans took the first steps of making common cause: setting our hope on Christ, rejecting the theology and practice of scapegoating and pitting one group of oppressed people and concerns against other, and embracing instead a theology and practice of full inclusion and justice for all God’s people.

What will become known as the Chicago Consultation gives me hope for our church. What has become known as We Believe Ohio gives me hope for our state. The conversations, consultations, and gatherings of faithful women, men and children around the globe in what Dr. Te Paa calls the small “c” of communion give me for hope for world, and with that hope expectation for the good news that we can once again proclaim to the world. Perhaps we will become a new voice of the Holy One crying in the wilderness.

In the name of the God who loves us, the Son who gave his life for that love, and the Spirit who breathes that love into the weary and wounded wilderness of our lives. Amen!

Sapientia-tide: The Great O Antiphons

By Derek Olsen

I doubt you've heard of Sapientia-tide—but I'll bet you know “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The liturgical obscurity and the popular hymn are both vestiges of an ancient tradition that celebrates the Incarnation of Christ: The Great “O” Antiphons. The intentional liturgical communities of the Middle Ages—the monastic houses and cathedrals—always sang the Song of Mary, the Magnificat, as part of their Evening Prayer (Vespers). To further their meditation upon the various mysteries of Christ made present in the liturgical cycles, one-line antiphons drawn from biblical or traditional sources were interwoven with Mary's canticle. The verses we now know as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are versions of the antiphons traditionally sung on the seven nights leading up to Christmas Eve. These antiphons are worthy of our attention as we enter this time before Christmas for both their spiritual riches and for their place in our Anglican heritage.

(Meditations on the O Antiphons will be featured on the Speaking to the Soul blog, December 16-24.)

A curious entry appears in the December liturgical calendar of English Books of Common Prayer. The year 1561 brought an influx of minor saints from the Roman cycle back into the calendar of the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer by way of the Latin Book of Common Prayer used in college chapels—places where Latin was expected to be “a tongue understanded of the people.” But among this number came an entry that was not the name of a saint or martyr. December 16th bears the legend: O Sapienta—O Wisdom. Formally ratified by its inclusion in the calendar of the 1662 Prayer Book—still the official prayer-book of the Church of England and often considered the liturgical norm for the Anglican Communion—this entry holds an indisputable place in our history grounding the “O” Antiphons in the Anglican tradition although they have never yet appeared in an authorized prayer book. The Roman Catholic Church has retained these antiphons as well, but their course begins on December 17th—meaning that the Anglican tradition retains an antiphon no longer used by Rome. Ironically, the missing antiphon is the one addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Jumping back a thousand years, the deep roots of the antiphons in the English tradition may be seen in the leaves of the Exeter Book, a collection of poetic texts and riddles from the tenth century written in Old English. The opening lines—only partially preserved—are poetic paraphrases of not seven but twelve “O” antiphons that ponder the Advent, the time of waiting, the Incarnation, and its implications for fallen humanity. The choice of these antiphons is not happenstance—rather these texts are rich with spiritual and doctrinal content that beg for further expansion, explanation, and appreciation. I feel this urge today as surely as it was felt over a millennium ago.

The antiphons are a mosaic of Scriptural citations and allusions. As Advent privileges the writings of the prophets, so the central image of each antiphon is drawn from a prophet nugget. Since the Book of Revelation was composed in a similar fashion—always in conversation with the prophets and the psalms—many of the antiphons have multiple Scriptural sources. We hear the words of the prophets not only from their own time and place but through the lens of New Testament's use of them as well. In the scriptural cloud that surrounds each core image, some links are obvious—others are less so, drawing on the interpretive methods and decisions of the Church Fathers.

Each antiphon begins with a metaphor, a title for Christ, most evoking not just a passage but whole swathes of Scripture. This metaphor is expanded by ancillary images and references that add depth and dimension to the Scriptural stories. Last, an imperative beseeches Christ to come and liberate us from sin, death, and darkness. As we take the words and images of the prophets in our mouths, we join their cry for the coming of the babe of Bethlehem. And speaking our own future, we call for the Coming King who will consummate the redemption of all creation. And—furthermore—we cry Christ into our own hearts, asking that the birth of the divine child be not only in history of distant days or future consummation but that we see, we experience, his redemptive resurrection power in our own flesh.

Dec 17th:* O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end [of the heavens] to another, and dost mightily and sweetly order all things: come to teach us the way of prudence!

Dec 18th: O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai: come to redeem us with outstretched arm!

Dec 19th: O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom the kings shall shut their mouths, unto whom the Gentiles shall seek: come to deliver us, make no tarrying!

Dec 20th: O Key of Davd and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth; and shuttest and no man openeth: come to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death!

Dec 21st: O Day-spring Brightness of the everlasting Light, Sun of Righteousness: come to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death!

Dec 22nd: O King of the Gentiles, yea, and Desire thereof, O Cornerstone that makest of twain [two] one: come to save man, whom Thou hast made of the dust of the earth!

Dec 23rd: O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and Salvation thereof: come to save us, O Lord our God!

(If the missing optional antiphon is used, it should be used on the 23rd and the others moved back one day: O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? That which ye behold is a divine mystery.)

* English texts from the public domain The Roman Breviary, translated by John, Marquis of Bute (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1908), p. 244.

Derek Olsen is completing a Ph.D. in New Testament (with a healthy side of Homiletics) at Emory University. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X dad appear at Haligweorc.

The grace of communion, spelled with a small "c"

Some thoughts about Communion was presented by Dean Jenny Te Paa at the Chicago Consultation at Seabury-Western Seminary, December 5, 2007.

By Jenny Te Paa

My friends let me firstly bring you all very warm greetings from the ‘true’ global south! Greetings therefore from those of us who are even more ‘south’ than Sydney and the Southern Cone!!

Seriously though, I am profoundly honoured to be with you all at this timely and significant event. Thank you most sincerely for your very kind invitation.

I am not big on using quotes to reinforce my own voice but by way of demonstrable cultural sensitivity, here is one from Abraham Lincoln which does seem quite apt in the current circumstance.

‘The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate in the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves . . . We cannot escape history . . . We shall nobly save or meanly lose, the last best hope of the earth . . . The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.’

Over the past few months I have been with global Anglicans at various meetings and gatherings to do with, the role of the Church in the South Pacific (Sydney, Australia) the future of the Communion; to do with preparing Lambeth Bible Studies material (in London); the Doctrine Commission, (in Malaysia); the Peace and Justice Network (Rwanda, Burundi and in North & South Korea); developing a model for ‘doing hermeneutics the Anglican way’ New Zealand); I have met with Women’s Studies representatives; farewelled a much loved Archbishop (South Africa); and just last week I was with an extraordinary first ever national gathering of Inclusive Church members in Derbyshire in England.

There I participated with so many of God’s good people in sharing and listening, in speaking, in praying, in laughing and weeping, in seeking with urgency and deep sincerity for ways of being even better disciples, for ways of being ever more readily present and attentive to those whom we are called to serve. The theme of the gathering was ‘drenched in grace’ – I continue to find that imagery so evocative, so compelling, so utterly magical in its possibilities? The conference was a stunning success and its parallels with this one are not merely coincidental – they are I believe entirely prophetic.

As I gazed about me at the Derbyshire gathering, I began to think again about communion - I saw men and women who reminded me so much of my own Anglican relatives at home in New Zealand – a people intensely committed to, ‘the church and in particular to advancing God’s mission in and through the Church’; a people somewhat rigidly ordered in their sense of ecclesial propriety; a people utterly devotional, (transported by the sacraments, the hymns, liturgical rituals, by the unique sanctity of Eucharistic worship); a people likely ferociously controlling of their Priest in charge and even more likely, a people ridiculously submissive to their Bishop!

The week before Derbyshire, I was in Seoul, Korea (together with a large peace delegation from the Presiding Bishop’s office) and there in the small inner city house church to which I was taken for Sunday worship were those same Anglican relatives of mine and of yours.

Actually you know, these ‘relatives’ of ours are there in South Africa, in California, in Sri Lanka, in Samoa, in Derbyshire and in Kigali. One of the most precious and privileged insights that one gains from being able to move across the global communion is that no matter the continent, the language, the socio-political or cultural context there is at a profoundly important level, actually very little that really matters, which radically differentiates the ways in which the ordinary, every day Anglican people of God gather in abiding faith and witness.

Actually it occurs to me that if we were capable on any given Sunday of undertaking to do one of those google earth satellite type snapshots of global Anglicans, what we would inevitably see is ourselves as the great earthly cloud of witnesses at our local incarnational best; what we would see at work and at prayer is deeply, profoundly, indissolubly, communion.

Here too are we now gathered, as a small portion of the global tribe of God’s imperfect, vulnerable, ambitious, generous spirited, self-serving, sacrificial, complex, contradictory, faith filled and to the largest extent, indecently obedient Anglicans.

Communion, as I witness it and as I have experienced it throughout my lifetime, is us, embodied in and for each other across the endless chasms of distance and difference. Communion is both noun and verb – it names both who we are and what we do. Communion is thus simultaneously the recognition of our common humanity, and the relationality that that presupposes – it is about us all being created equally of God, equally as it is our responsive embrace of God in each other. It is therefore our way of loving and our responsibility for loving, just as we ourselves are loved so unconditionally by God. Communion is thus us living out in the deepest and most intimate forms of Christlike relationality what we say, even as we pray, that we deeply, truly believe in one God, in one Lord Jesus Christ, in one holy and apostolic church.

Well what then are we to make of all that with which we are currently confronted and which comes to us inscribed beneath the word Communion, capital C if you please?? And to what extent then, if at all, do the current tensions, fights and flights, claims and counter claims, bruising and blaming, petulance and pettiness, bullying and bribing have to do with the other gloriously precious small ‘c’, communion of saints in waiting??

Big C Communion (which is usually the one we talk about and fret over) is rapidly assuming a nebulous and elusive form – even as it purports to be the macro-institutional framework within which all the micro-Provinces reside.

But is there really any difference between the two? Is the distinction I am endeavouring to draw that easily made? Does it even matter? Or is it that big C Communion has been subtly elided with little c communion, thus deftly, but for the purposes of some, very conveniently rendering invisible the cloud of witnesses, readily depersonalizing, in fact, sort of perversely dis-embodying the actual body of Christ.

Now as I followed my own impeccable logic, I began to see how much easier it becomes therefore in a depersonalised context, for some in institutional leadership to speak agressively, to act punitively, and to invoke disciplinary exclusions. In the absence of deep and intimate Christlike relationality, it does become not only possible, but also highly likely that human opportunism with all it’s failings and unfettered ambitions will inevitably arise.

I began then to think of the doom filled schismatic rhetoric and of those who use it most frequently, around, ‘breaking Communion’, about ‘tearing the fabric of Communion’, about ‘the Communion falling apart’, about ‘the irreparable divisions in the Communion’, about ‘breaching Communion’.

Notice how none of this is directly humanized, none of this is language popularly or commonly used to describe people, after all we are not fabric to be torn, anymore than we are irreparable.

We are human beings, those created in the image and likeness of God. This rhetoric is surely all big ‘C’ stuff. None of this is to do with us ordinary Anglicans, loving as we are loved by God. None of this is about ‘us’, it is about ‘it’, the ‘inanimate’ institutional form. It is all abstracted away from my relatives and yours, from men and women, girls and boys, old and young, rich and poor, black and white, pretty and perhaps not so, handsome and wishful, but people nevertheless, Anglican people, me and you, people of God, devoted, committed, controlling and submissive, and yet people who are undeniably at our heart of hearts simply yearning always for that state of God’s grace, that portion given freely to each one of us . . .

Friends we have to recover with real urgency the images, the names and the smiles of those known to us all whose dedication, sacrifice, service and commitment to God’s mission has not altered and will not ever be altered one tiny bit no matter how many threats, no matter how many tantrums are being undertaken at the level of male church leadership struggles.

I am being constantly reminded by these exemplars of witness and mission that none of this bitter infighting can possibly disrupt or compromise their truly servanthood lives given over freely, unquestioningly to the care of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the release of the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind.

And so from now on when we each speak of ‘communion’ will we have in mind the capital ‘C’ depersonalized institution or will we have in mind the small ‘c’ communion of saints to be - your relatives and mine, people with faces and names, people with hopes and with doubts, people with histories, lives and loves?

None of this is to say that I haven’t listened with profound sadness to so many Anglicans drawn from virtually every autonomous Province and from the Church of England express feelings of powerlessness and despair at the apparently insurmountable odds against the survival of ‘the Communion’.

There is indeed an all-pervasive malaise readily apparent across the entire Communion but I do think there needs also to be a far more realistic sense of proportion developed.

I happen to believe that the vast majority of small ‘c’ Anglicans – our relations drawn from all over God’s world (and coincidentally who happen to comprise the vast majority of global Anglicans by anyone’s calculations) are not in any significant way either directly involved in and nor are they especially willing to become involved in the current tensions/controversies affecting our beloved Church.

It isn’t because they are not interested or indeed because they are unaffected, they are, we all are but it is also true that by far the vast majority of global Anglicans are simply getting on with addressing what they see as their prior call to respond to the myriad demands for God’s mission in the towns and cities, in rural villages, in war zones and in places of poverty and natural disaster, indeed wherever there are God’s people in need.

You too must also have heard the plaintive cry of the women of the Communion, the indigenous people of the Communion, the young people of the Communion, all of whom have at some stage expressed their collective sense of outrage at the way in which mission has been and is now the first casualty of the political struggles swirling around us all.

The cries of these groups are of course less easy to discern for they are not among the Primates, they are not among the powerful moneyed lobby groups at work within the Communion, they are not able to bring to bear critical influence at leadership levels of the global Communion. It is to our collective shame that we fail to hear their cries for priority attention to be paid to the suffering of those who are the least among us all.

As I have listened to the grief, the outrage, the sadness, the bewilderment, the fears being expressed, yet still I have been challenged to think about just who is involved and just what exactly is at stake. It isn’t simple. If for example this were simply a matter of fundamental difference over scriptural interpretation and that therefore the so called precipitate action in New Hampshire could indeed be construed as being of such a profoundly, irrevocably, irreconcilably doctrinally, morally horrific nature (and I do not believe for a moment that it can be), then why is only one gay Bishop being singled out and not all the others? Is his ‘sin’ to be that he told the truth at all or just too publicly?

In a related manner, why single out one so-called ‘moral’ question and not any number of others known to be irrefutably spiritually and physically damaging?

Speaking of hypocrisy why are two Provinces continually being singled out and held to a ‘higher standard’ of accountability than any other member of the ecclesial family by bodies who do not actually even possess the mandated authority to demand such accountabilities in the first place and secondly why is it that some Provinces continue to be able to mask their own practices regarding matters now deemed to be in the realm adiaphora?

And so unavoidably I am being challenged to think beyond the presenting circumstances and to ask about just who or just what exactly is at stake here especially in terms of prevailing power and authority. Who stands to benefit and who is set to lose in the current circumstance?

Even as I acknowledge the political agenda so clearly indicated I do not for a moment want to assert that as a priority for our attention – that would be in so many ways, theologically unfortunate.

As I said last week in Derbyshire, “I like many of you can’t help myself at times when I want so much to cry out in rage, about anyone who dares to ‘fuss’ about who is worthy of participation in the orders and offices of the Church while so many in our shared family are suffering and dying needlessly. I want to rage on about what a travesty of faith this kind of attitude and behaviour represents, about what an abuse of the gift of God’s grace all of this is and then I am reminded that the more I focus upon blaming and judging, anticipating and reacting, the less I am present and able instead to give witness to what Thomas Cahill describes as the narratives of grace, ‘the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by the circumstance.’

And this I realize is what being ‘drenched in grace’ is calling me into – is calling us all into. We are being challenged to find within ourselves renewed appreciation of all that is good and true and kind, of all that is life-giving and life-sustaining, of all that is merciful and humbling.

We are I believe being challenged in the current circumstance not so much to focus too intently and singularly on the bad behaviour of the few, but rather to focus anew the very good behaviour of the many whose exemplary regard for the sacredness of all others whom God has created points us all toward that way in which God would probably say that grace is to be truly expressed.

This is not to say we ignore the political struggles swirling all around us, not for a moment, but rather it is to say we need always to pause and to consider whether or not our approach to these matters is primarily one of self-righteous admonition or one of transcendent grace?

If it is true that our new identity in Christ is one utterly transformative of our relationships with one another then it follows that to the largest extent our speaking and our behaving must also be radically reinscribed firstly in our hearts and then and only then, in our minds.
Transcendent grace enables us to hold both to the necessary project of pursuing God’s justice in the face of any and all injustice even as it simultaneously enables us to participate in the immediate and desperately urgent pastoral work of healing and of reconciling.

And so my sisters and brothers what is it that we are to do? Are we to continue to draw our lines in the shifting sands of ecclesial aggression and of blaming, of accusing and judging? Or are we to shift our emphasis to embrace simultaneously and in sufficient measure, grace filled mutual affection and uplift of one another, together with boldly reconciling behaviour?

Can we exemplify the very best of God’s grace even as we continue to name decisively and to act boldly and courageously against all of those things, which we know to be unacceptable in God’s sight?”

Can we begin as global Anglicans to imagine and to discuss ways in which we might stand more confidently together as diverse members of the family of Christ, on the common ground of God’s world, on the basis of a newly apprehended model of unconditionally inclusive relationality?

Now it occurs to me that maybe there are a number of imaginative possibilities, which emerge. Big ‘C’ is clearly in need of radical transformation, it requires to be re-humanized, it requires re-imaging, restoring. It my friends, is nevertheless also us.

If we are to recover our sense of perspective and our mutual confidence we need somehow to firstly pause and refocus.

I am suggesting with greatest humility just the smallest and simplest of steps, first things first.

So how best to recover perspective? Well this has of necessity to do with how we now see, understand and appreciate ourselves both as global Anglicans and local Anglicans, as small ‘c’ communion, as sisters and brothers, as relatives in Christ, inextricably connected across the oceans and homelands which make for space between us, and simultaneously therefore how we see ourselves as God’s people – each created in the divine image, each equally precious, deserving and worthy.

Firstly, I believe we need to invoke a global Anglicanism recovery plan. We need with great urgency to return once again to our ecclesiological roots and to acquaint ourselves far more intimately with the beauty and goodness inherent in so much of our deep shared histories and traditions. Look at what happened yesterday when Stacy Saul’s paper was read and we were all collectively touched by the ‘recall effect’ it had when he made mention of the ‘fundamentals’ of autonomy, toleration and lay participation.

We do have a shared Church history of which we can and should all be mightily proud even as we can continue to delight in the different approaches and regard we each have toward certain resources in common – e.g. the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Discovering something of the reasoning and embedding of these benign differences can yet prove mutually enriching for us all especially in the current circumstances.

We must with urgency strategise ways of intentionally creating and supporting a small cadre of internationally representative scholars of Anglicanism – those who can trace for us with unerring accuracy and sensitive insight the complex trajectories along which the global churches of the Communion have in fact emerged.

These scholars need also to bring to bear the kind of theological critique of so much that is being claimed in the name of Anglicanism and yet which carries little or no resonance with the sacred inclusive ecclesial traditions grounded in the, the Prayer Book, the Sacraments, the Creeds and the historic Episcopate, let alone being grounded in scripture, tradition and reason. I don’t believe we are according our shared ecclesiological history the priority it is due and thus in the current clamour for ascendancy we too, have often turned to ‘street fighting’ as a first line of defense.

It is my contention that Anglican ecclesiology has been the greatest inadvertent casualty, intellectually and spiritually, of the post-colonial era in theological education. And in this I believe both TEC and the CofE have to accept a large measure of culpable responsibility, leading and controlling as you have done for the longest time the best of Anglican theological educational resources seen anywhere in the world.

Fortunately I do see signs that you are both learning that ‘cultural cringe’ is not the most helpful response for you to be making in the current circumstance. You must however learn to see that those of us from the ‘underside’ have a valuable, timely and willing contribution to make to the redemptive project before us all. What is required is increased mutual respect and recognition of the legitimacy of differing ways of knowing but without in any way capitulating to an essentialist paradigm.

Very early on in my time in theological education as an indigenous scholar I saw the warning signs of diminished and or very uneven teaching of ecclesiology and thus missiology, within the academy but I never fully appreciated the global danger it represented. We must now salvage the situation with dignity and with grace so that the integrity of teaching and learning and speaking of what it is to be Anglican can once again be undertaken with confidence and clarity across all of the humanly constructed zones of cultural difference.

So let’s once again across the global Communion find ways of giving radical support to those who we will in future entrust the sacred responsibility of teaching and honouring the genius of Anglicanism; let us teach and celebrate ‘generous orthodoxy’ in our understanding and practice of mission; and let us with courage and honesty take up the unavoidable challenge of interrogating all ‘culturally based’ claims purporting to be Anglican but which are in fact often proving to be nothing more than dangerously destabilizing and personally violent dogmas.

Secondly, just as hermeneutics has recently risen appropriately to the fore as a necessarily urgent collective project, I think as we approach that task there needs also for attention to be given to reclaiming and living out a creation theology which apprehends God’s unconditional delight at all who were and are and all that was and is created, as being not just good, but very, very good.

It is only in this way that I believe we can first gain a necessarily expansive worldview of just how spectacularly diverse we all are across the entire spectrum of God’s beautifully created human difference – geographically, ethnically, sexually, every which way imaginable. Following on from this it would be so good if we could simultaneously begin to explore ways of gaining deeper understanding of who we are as God’s Anglican people across the entire spectrum of global ecclesiological development. Across the Communion I do encounter the most extraordinary naiveté about differences on both counts, from expansive creation theology to global positioning!

It is only in this way that I believe we can begin to confront the current unspeakably cruel inferences being drawn that somehow gay and lesbian people are a less worthy aspect of God’s very good creation. The blatant and indefensible theological contradiction in terms here is simply stunning in its persistence, (as of course are the enduring twin evils of racism and sexism).

Mine may well be an utterly naïve theology. But in my limited understanding, there simply is no lesser category of human being in God’s creation. I am concerned that if the hermeneutics project proceeds from a point of understanding an already differentiated common humanity then it cannot possibly succeed.

I do think we need to make a little more theological fuss about that fact but to do so not as politicians determined to make or worse to score points, but to do so as God’s people in all things with grace filled clarity, with patience and with abundantly dignified charity – remember it is after all, the small ‘c’ we have to keep in mind for it is they/we who look also to those in leadership, for example at every turn.

Inherent in all of this is as I alluded earlier, is the need to participate also in the very contemporary politics of both race and identity. These twin projects have at once boldly and rightly endeavoured to address historic injustice but I suspect they are now both stuck in the secular quagmire of purely intellectual analysis.

Single identity, indeed any identity politics needs theology for its ultimately transcendent solutions and yet our own academy has not ever really taken seriously its responsibility in this regard.

We have only to consider how little attention has been paid to addressing let alone redeeming the complex and enduring systemic issues arising from institutionalised sexism and racism within our own ecclesial environment. Let’s not extend the list endlessly by simply adding sexual identity issues, but instead let us get back to Galatians 3:28 and begin to think critically and afresh about what achieving, appreciating and sustaining this idealised but undeniably prophetic body of Christ will require of us all.

In case you think part of this is simply an opportunistic dig on my part at past colonial imperialism, it is not. Many of those of us unduly affected by that ambivalent past are now all grown up and quite capable of engaging with confidence and charm across virtually any sphere of academic discourse, including theology and we do so now by way of hoping always to redeem that inglorious past which irrefutably, reduced us both.

One of the critical contributions now emerging albeit very tentatively among those of us who happen to be indigenous (and a whole lot of other ‘identities’ besides!) and who are proud to call ourselves theologians, is our insistence that the new and perverse tribalisms emerging across our beloved Church are also seriously in need of ‘outing’ and of solid critique. One of the more obvious and alarming examples of this is ironically the factions and subsequent behaviours emerging within the Primates meetings.

Thirdly, even though I probably would rate this one of the highest priorities, could we please all stop and reconsider the extent to which we are relying on electronic media for so called information and also the ways in which we are now tending also to use this as our first means of so called ‘communicating’ with or about one another. I am not saying desist altogether because that would be impossible and besides, used well and with proper integrity, the internet can be and will continue to prove an invaluable means of transferring data and information.

What I am pleading for is simply a cautionary re-consideration of the extent to which we are allowing it’s unconstrained power to unduly affect our hearts and minds and thus to delimit our previous preference for tangible, tactile relationality instead!

Could we for a start re-consider the places from where we are sourcing our information and what information we are giving high priority to. Following on from the experience of the Lambeth Commission where internet communications became so problematic, so vile actually,

I want to re-urge us all to no longer allow that hideously, spiritually bereft and too often anonymous technological medium to bombard us with predominantly negative, often vitriolic, depressing, sometimes personally violent and often wildly inaccurate material – it isn’t information if it doesn’t better form us for God’s mission and it isn’t critical information if it doesn’t inform us truthfully and yet with appropriate human courtesies such as we expect and enjoy in face to face contact.

I know it is the communication tool of preferred choice and often of professional necessity but we do also have individual control over the keyboards and ‘mice’ before us . . .

Fourthly, I also believe many of the Bishops and Primates need our help and our direction in all of these matters. They are after all – of us and for us – they are not single-handedly, or mindedly, aloof or detached from small ‘c’ communion. Certainly they are needed and they deserve to be treasured within our global communion in a very special way.

I suspect that in the current circumstance we need to assist some in either overcoming or resisting the inevitable and at times crushing institutional pressure many feel as they are either forced or heavily persuaded to conform, to mask, or to act in uncritical solidarity with each other rather than feeling free to act in critically prophetic ways always on the side of justice.

Fifthly, and with the greatest respect, I want to remind us all of the tireless and truly selfless work which is being done on behalf of us all by the only group which does indeed work on behalf of us all across the entire Communion. While their institutional context may well be the ‘macro’ Communion, their professional approach and their pastoral practice is without exception most definitely within a profoundly humble small ‘c’ communion framework.

I am speaking of the staff of the Anglican Communion Office in London, those currently working with such consummate professionalism and dedication under the most extraordinarily difficult of conditions. I am speaking of a group of individuals whose endeavouring is always to be the welcoming, co-coordinating and resourcing base for the entire global Communion even as they are very much often undeservedly caught in the impossible crossfire of the prevailing tensions. I believe the entire ACO office merits far more global appreciation and indeed support than is often currently shown.

These then are just some immediate thoughts. The entire recovery of perspective project is doubtless far more vast and unpredictable than I can begin to imagine but my friends, we are I believe a people of hope and of loving capacity and this is not a time for resiling from the significant and complex challenges before us all. Either we are committed to recovering and upholding the full humanity of each other or we are not and if indeed God’s justice and mercy are to be a feature, let alone to characterise our shared future google earth landscape then I have no doubt we will do what we know we must.

Together right now we are all observing Advent – the time when we come again to the realisation that God is not just at the end, nor simply in the beginning, but is with us for all eternity. If Advent is about living fully in the present and about being active at the edge of expectation of what is yet to come, it is therefore a time for us to reevaluate our commitments to reading the signs of our times particularly those of injustice. It is a time for us to get to work in the tasks of advocacy and compassion for those who are the lesser among us.

In the darker moments of our fears about what to do, who with, what for, surely we must trust in God (and not the internet) to break in with messages of special concern. We can I believe only do this if we can bear to think beyond our own interests, our own selfish needs. We can only do this if we have embedded in our hearts and imprinted in our imaginations an expansive and breathtaking vision of the small ‘c’ communion – a vision at once of incomprehensibly diverse beauty and tradition, and yet simultaneously a vision of mysterious common aspiration and commitment to simply be as God’s good and unconditionally inclusive Anglican people.

It may well be timely for us to be reminded of just who we Anglicans are and as I did last week in Derbyshire I offer this sublime and yet appropriately humorous piece from former Archbishop Richard Holloway, ‘The Anglican Church is a tolerant, faintly detached and amused mother of lazily permissive standards. But she is a real mother nevertheless. She does not hector or bully her children. She expects them to be mature and independent. There are certain house rules she likes observed in her home, a sort of minimal but important standard, but if her children break them she doesn’t go into an operatic tantrum. She merely raises her eyebrows and wishes they had better manners. Anglicans are not persecutors or excommunicators. We tend to agree with Montaigne, that is rating our conjectures too highly to roast people alive for them’.

In Archbishop Rowan’s Christmas sermon from 1999 he quoted Frederick Buechner: ‘Where will our following take us? God only knows, and we can be sure only that it will take us not where we want to go necessarily, but where we are wanted, until by a kind of alchemy, where we are wanted becomes where we want to go and that will be a place of wonder’.

So in all of this I am wondering at the possibilities of us all recommitting not only to imagining the seemingly elusive place of wonder, but to beginning this day in our own spheres of influence to seeing, understanding, living and celebrating communion as being the sum total of all of us as faith filled ordinary Anglican men and women whose lives and whose loves are prescribed by a prior sense of sacred belonging to God and thus to one another. In this we share therefore in an unbreakable commitment to the indisputably inclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Can we do all of this then as people connected as adversaries and as friends, across the villages, towns, cities and nations into which we are blessed to be born – a people who know and are known by the ancestors; who know the rivers and lakes and mountains which shelter and nurture us all; a people committed to the full participation and flourishing of all in God’s world; a people unafraid of simplicity or of suffering, a people instinctively attuned to heartfelt wisdom, to forgiveness, to unconditional belonging, to God’s grace and peace with and for us all? I am confident that we will, we can and we must . . . in Christ’s name. Amen.

Dr. Jenny Te Paa is dean of St. John's College, Auckland, New Zealand.

The wisdom of the Constitution

"Our Constitutional Heritage: Why Polity and Canon Law Matter" by the Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, was presented at the Chicago Consultation at Seabury-Western Seminary, December 5, 2007. To read the footnotes of this paper, go to the end of the article and click on Read More

By Stacy F. Sauls

I am pleased beyond measure that this conference has elected to include a consideration of polity along with that most dreaded fifth horseman of the Apocalypse, canon law. Neither is really as mysterious, and certainly not as malevolent, as some would suggest. Neither is arcane nor, despite the fact that they are legal, legalistic. Both are simply applied ecclesiology, which means they are entirely theological in nature. Both are disciplines that may well help us think through our current challenges. Both are relationally and spiritually healthy, as they express the agreed-upon boundaries of our community life. Both are important to our life together because the alternative to the rule of law on this side of the kingdom of heaven is not grace, but the rule of men (and I use the gender-exclusive term quite intentionally), men who equate their prejudices with God’s word, their ambitions with God’s will, and their agendas with the tradition of God’s Church. Polity and canon law are the security of God’s people against the wrongful exercise of power.

With that conviction, I will turn some attention in this paper to our constitutional nature. I will deal more with the “big picture” and less with the written laws, which vary to some extent from Province to Province of the Anglican Communion, because who we are as a constitutional reality is something larger than a legal document. Some attention will be paid to the peculiar, and perhaps unique, constitutional reality of The Episcopal Church (TEC). Finally, I will turn some attention to a few of the constitutional challenges we face in the time leading up to Lambeth 2008 and General Convention 2009.

The constitutional nature of the Church of England, to which all Anglican churches are linked, is traceable to a series of English statutes we know collectively as the Elizabethan Settlement. The constitutional identity of Anglicanism is not in the violent course of the English Reformation itself but in the Elizabethan Settlement that brought that violence to an end by charting a middle way. That Settlement has three key aspects: (1) the principle of autonomy, (2) the principle of toleration, and (3) the principle of lay participation in the governance of the Church.

The Principle of Autonomy

The English Church’s separation from the jurisdiction of the See of Rome was accomplished over time by a series of statutes passed during the reign of Henry VIII. These included most significantly the 1532 Appeals Act, the 1533 Submission of the Clergy Act, and the 1533 Appointment of Bishops Act. The Henrican legislation culminated in the 1534 Supremacy Act, which declared the King the Supreme Head of the English Church. The result was to vest the King with the same power to govern the Church previously vested in the Pope and therefore resting outside the emerging modern English state.(1) The idea of supremacy in Anglicanism has less to do with the inherent rights of royalty than with the inherent importance of nationality.

Henry’s Supremacy Act was repealed at the ascension of Mary but restored under Elizabeth in 1558, although with some modifications of a mostly non-substantive compromise nature. It nevertheless left Elizabeth with all the spiritual and ecclesiastical power that had been previously exercised by her father,(2) and it remains part of English law today.(3)

In a broader context, the supremacy has found expression in Anglican canon law, not so much vesting authority in a hereditary monarch, even a constitutional one, as vesting authority for the government of national churches in national communities. It is a principle we have come to recognize as local autonomy, and it has been considered fundamental to the identity of Anglicanism.(4)

According to Anglican canonist Norman Doe, the principle of local autonomy has been repeatedly affirmed as relating to the very “nature of the Anglican Communion and the nature and location of authority within it.”(5) Thus, the Anglican Communion has traditionally understood its member churches to enjoy full autonomy as to governing themselves within their own canonical systems.(6) That autonomy is recognized (so far) by all the individual institutions of the whole Communion, and (so far) there is no body within the Anglican Communion with the competence to create law for the Communion as a whole,(7) however interdependent we may all be relationally and missionally.

The Principle of Toleration

It is perhaps odd to use the words uniformity and toleration in a way that relates them. Nevertheless, such is the cumulative effect of the 1558 Act of Uniformity together with the publication of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer. It is this tension that yields the Anglican approach to living in communion sacramentally rather than doctrinally.

The compromises of the 1559 Prayer Book, which modified some of the most extreme protestant provisions of its immediate predecessor, are instructive. The words of administration are most revealing. The first Prayer Book in 1549 expressed its catholic theology of the presence of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine (“The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee” and “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee”).(8) The second Prayer Book in 1552 expressed a quite different Zwinglian theology of the Eucharist (“Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee” and “Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for thee”).(9) The Elizabethan Prayer Book in 1559 combined the two, doctrinal inconsistency notwithstanding.

The standardization of worship with a toleration of theological diversity has been constitutionally characteristic of Anglicanism ever since. It finds expression, for example, in the recently revised Prayer Books of TEC,(10) New Zealand,(11) and Australia.(12)

The Principle of Lay Participation in Governance

Unlike the principles of autonomy and toleration, which are rooted in particular Acts of Parliament, the principle of the participation of the laity derives from the cumulative effect of several statutes. The Act of Supremacy itself points in this direction, making as it does, the Supreme Governor of the Church a lay office in the person of the monarch. The principle found elaboration and strengthening in other ways in the course and conclusion of the English Reformation. The House of Governors, which exercised authority in cooperation with the monarch, was composed entirely of laypeople. A royal commission composed of 32 persons, half of whom were lay, reviewed church legislation. Church courts were replaced for some purposes by civil courts. The laity thus assumed a very powerful role in the life and governance of the Church of England from the beginning.

The role of the laity remains a fundamental characteristic of Anglicanism. Indeed, there have been successive calls in the instruments of the Anglican Communion for enhancing the role of the laity in the life of the Church,(13) and at all levels of the Church’s life.(14)

The TEC Experience

The experience of TEC deserves some special attention in a consideration of polity. First, TEC is one of the two major venues of controversy in the consideration of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons along with the Anglican Church of Canada. Second, it is only with the formation of TEC, that there existed for the first time a Church sharing a common heritage with the Church of England choosing to be related in a cooperative way while still maintaining its independence. The formation of TEC is thus constitutionally important to the existence of the Anglican Communion. Third, to my knowledge, TEC is the only Church in the Anglican Communion that took shape in its formation entirely without the involvement of bishops.
There are consequences of these realities. For one thing, in the emergence of TEC from the crucible of post-revolutionary America, the Anglican constitutional principle of lay participation was amplified by the American revolutionary principle of democratization. For another, in TEC’s origin, securing the historic succession in the former colonies was secondary in importance to uniting the isolated and scattered congregations formerly a part of the Church of England.

The agenda for a unified national church in America, with or without bishops, was set by the Rev. William White, the rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia, the former chaplain to the revolutionary Continental Congress, and the future first Bishop of Pennsylvania, in a pamphlet called “The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered,”(15) which was published in 1782, a year before the Treaty of Paris formally ended the Revolution. The “Case” is in part a product of its author’s revolutionary principles inspired by John Locke’s contract theory of government.(16) White began with the premise that the Revolution had broken the former ties that bound the colonial churches through the Bishop of London so that “their future continuance can be provided for only by voluntary associations for union and good government.” (17)

The division of power in the Constitution of TEC is not a matter of independent and sovereign entities delegating powers to a central authority, which may in turn be removed from the central authority, which would be a confederal system, like that of the Articles of Confederation. Nor is it a matter of a division of power between a central government and associated governments, which would be a federal system like that found in the United States Constitution. All power and authority, though it may have once resided, if only briefly and accidentally, at the most local level, was voluntarily ceded to a national governmental structure through the 1789 Constitution. The polity of TEC, like most if not all other Anglican Provinces, is a unitary form of government in which the national government holds legal supremacy over other subordinate levels of government.

The sole expression of the national government in TEC is the General Convention. In this regard the Constitution of TEC resembles the Constitution of England, which vests supreme authority in Parliament. As a unitary system, TEC has chosen to distribute governmental powers to subordinate levels of government as a matter of canon. It remains, however, constitutionally unitary with all of its powers residing originally in the General Convention and subject to recall by it.(18)

For example, the exercise of episcopacy was one area in which the central authority initially delegated power to the states. Each state was to choose its own bishop according to its own rules.(19) Some dioceses even limited their bishops to a seat in their state conventions without the right to preside, and some allowed a bishop to be tried for offenses without the presence of another bishop.(20) The General Convention has reclaimed a great deal of this authority over the years, as is its right.

The Constitutional Challenges We Face

We now face something of a constitutional crisis, both in TEC and in the Anglican Communion, just as Bishop Robert Duncan promised his colleagues he intended to create at the 2002 fall meeting of the House of Bishops in Cleveland. Happily, the antidote is not complicated. It is simply to follow our own rules and be true to our own constitutional principles.

The Anglican Covenant

Last year the present Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his concern that the Anglican Communion might, in its current tensions, degenerate into no more than a federation.(21) I was immediately alarmed, as a federation is already a great deal more than I think we are now. According to political scientist James Allen Dator, whose unpublished doctoral dissertation is the most comprehensive analysis of the governmental structure of TEC, a federation is a governmental system manifesting a division of powers between a central government and two or more regional, constituent, or associated governments.(22) To be more than a federation, which the Archbishop seems to desire, is to be a unitary form of government, i.e., having a structure in which all power to govern rests in a central organ. Perhaps what the Archbishop meant when he said federation is confederation. A confederation, according to Dator, is

an association of governments which have agreed to delegate to a common governmental authority the exercise of certain of their governmental powers. The association . . . is characterized by the retention in the associated governments of the right to nullify acts of the common governmental agency, and to secede from the association at will.(23)

In the Anglican Communion, however, no one has much delegated anything to anyone. Confederation does not describe us very well either.

There are proposals, of course, to make us either a federation or a confederation, or God forbid, a unitary governmental structure such as the Roman Catholic Church has. The draft Anglican Covenant is a serious concern in this regard, particularly because it abrogates the constitutional principles that make us Anglicans. It abrogates the principle of lay participation in the governance of the Church by placing disproportionate emphasis on the views of the highest ranking bishops. It abrogates the principle of toleration by imposing a standard, and more frighteningly a mechanism, for judging orthodoxy other than the idea of common worship. Most dangerously of all, it appears merely to compromise the principle of autonomy when, if fact, it virtually destroys it by vesting the right to determine what is a matter of common concern, what the common mind of the Communion is, and what punishment is appropriate for violations of the common mind in the Primates Meeting. It is as if the English Reformation, to say nothing either of the Elizabethan Settlement or the constitutional development over time of independent churches voluntarily cooperating on the basis of a shared heritage, never happened.

I do not believe it is impossible to create an Anglican covenant that is constitutionally consistent with existing Anglican polity. The Inter-Anglican Commission on Mission and Evangelism has proposed one.(24) I do believe the current draft being considered, rather than being an expression of our constitutional identity, would be a complete replacement of it with something far less significant as an experiment in being the Church than is the Elizabethan Settlement.

In truth, the Anglican Communion does not exist with a governmental structure at all. It is, rather, a voluntary association of autonomous churches bound together by a shared heritage from the Church of England and enjoying cooperative relationships for the purpose of mission, nothing more. It is not at all unlike the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches in that regard, and they somehow manage to function reasonably well without a central government.
The term Anglican Communion arose, after all, not from an international constitutional convention but from the usage of Horatio Southgate, the American missionary bishop to Turkey in 1847.(25) Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as the Anglican Communion at all in an institutional sense. There are, instead, ways in which Anglican Christians affirm their heritage and further their missional ends by mutual respect for the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and participation in the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates Meeting, as well as, probably more importantly, countless informal relationships that bring them together across racial, cultural, and geographic barriers for a common purpose in the service of the Gospel of Christ. What the Anglican Communion already is, I would suggest, is quite enough.

Property Disputes

The primary manifestation of our constitutional crisis at the moment within TEC is probably the disputes we are facing regarding church property. The principle of the national church’s trust interest in diocesan and congregational property does not depend on the so-called Dennis Canon. It was, indeed, already the law of TEC prior to the enactment of the Dennis Canon, and it derives from the unitary nature of our church structure. It has always been the law of TEC, and to my knowledge, it is the generally prevailing law of any church that traces its legal heritage to the Church of England. What the Dennis Canon did was to restate existing canon law in a way that it would be recognized by the secular law as being protected by the First Amendment as set out by the Supreme Court in Jones v. Wolfe.(26) It will, for the most part, be controlling in the property disputes before us.

There are many pleas coming from secessionist congregations and dioceses to end the recourse to secular law, a plea that has been adopted recently by the Joint Standing Committee.(27) Since the secessionist case is so weak in secular as well as canon law, the plea, while understandable, is also hollow. The most appropriate, and absolutely effective, way to end all property litigation immediately is for the secessionists and uninvited bishops to stop trying to steal the property.

Shared Fiduciary Responsibilities

The obligation to protect property rights flow from fiduciary responsibilities, but carrying out those responsibilities reveals a polity and governance issue within TEC. A fiduciary duty exists in secular law for an organization’s leadership to guard its property for the good of the whole. It is a duty imposed additionally by vow in the case of the ordained and by canon in the case of others.(28) In TEC, that fiduciary duty rests in particular on the Presiding Bishop as the organization’s chief executive officer, but not solely on the Presiding Bishop. It rests equally on the Executive Council, which is by canon the Church’s board of directors,(29) and as such, has exactly the same fiduciary responsibility as the Presiding Bishop. In other words, the Executive Council cannot discharge the duty it owes the people of the Church by relying on the Presiding Bishop to exercise her judgment just as the Presiding Bishop cannot discharge her duty to the people of the Church by relying on the Executive Council to exercise its judgment. At law, canon and civil, each must exercise judgment, not one or the other.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. To carry out its fiduciary responsibility, the Executive Council must balance protecting property rights against a set of other considerations, including its canonical responsibility to carry out the programs of General Convention and the cost of protecting those property rights. The Presiding Bishop must balance protecting property rights against a different set of considerations, including the pastoral discipline of bishops and our relations with others in the Anglican Communion. It is quite possible, and should be, that the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council could balance their respective portfolios of interests and reach different conclusions as to the protection of property interests. There is no reason that any difference could not be resolved collaboratively and canonically. In the case of conflict otherwise irresolvable, a vote of the Executive Council, of which the Presiding Bishop is ex officio the Chair and President, would prevail.(30)

The only problem is that those who equally share a fiduciary duty do not equally share an ability to discharge their duties independently, as they must for our polity to work as intended. The job of the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor is appropriately to advise the Presiding Bishop on what the law is and then, within the law, to advocate his or her position—advise and advocate on behalf of the Presiding Bishop. The Chancellor owes no duty to advise and advocate on behalf of the Executive Council, the General Convention, or the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor cannot ethically both advocate the position of his one and only client, the Presiding Bishop, and advise the Executive Council at the same time because the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council do not have, and should not have, precisely the same set of interests to consider in exercising their respective legal duties. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, as the only canonically authorized lawyer at the national level, is de facto seen as the general counsel to the Church as a whole including the Executive Council, even though David Beers, the current Chancellor, frequently reminds various persons that this is not his role.

The expanded role of the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor has developed understandably, but not canonically. The canons were amended in 1976 to provide that the Presiding Bishop shall have the right to appoint a Chancellor.(31) The intention, however, was more modest than the current reality. “The chancellor appointed under this section deals with the needs of the Presiding Bishop only, not with those of the whole Church or in connection with secular legal matters with which the Presiding Bishop and Executive Council are involved in the course of their work.”(32) Some structural reform to check this unintended development may be necessary in the interest of underlying polity, the need for which is heightened and more apparent in times of controversy.

Foreign Oversight

Another issue that threatens to seduce us into being untrue to the identity we have claimed for ourselves in our constitutional principles is the persistent call to submit TEC to some sort of foreign oversight, jurisdiction, or consultation, not as to matters of interdependence, but as to matters of autonomy. The Windsor Report, the Panel of Reference, and the Anglican Covenant in its current draft are examples. Most recently, the Primates have purported to impose on TEC something called a Pastoral Council to oversee intra-church relations within TEC. The idea was unequivocally rejected by the House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen in March of this year.(33) The rejection was affirmed by the Executive Council meeting in Parsippany, New Jersey in June of this year.(34) To the horror of at least some, it resurfaced at the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans in September.

Several in the House argued strongly against such a proposal both because it was not true to our own constitutional identity and because it held the danger of weakening the Church’s position in pending property litigation. I am only one observer, but my read is that any such language had very little support. After a great deal of effort to remove more pernicious versions of the language, the final statement of the House contained this language:

[W]e recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.(35)

I find myself deeply concerned about that statement, although relieved that it is not as bad as it might have been. Its saving grace may be 1) that the word consultation, if we have the will, can be a sufficient limitation on the intent to cede anything resembling jurisdiction, and 2) the explicit requirement that any such consultation be consistent with our own Constitution and Canons. Anything else would be a very dangerous abrogation of our constitutional identity. In my opinion, every other Anglican Province should have the same grave concerns about even participating in such an unprecedented consultation out of concern for its own Anglican constitutional integrity in theory and out of concern that it could be next in practice.

Authorizing the Blessings of Same Sex Relationships

Finally, and at the considerable risk of saying something that may be decidedly unpopular in this gathering, let me say a word about the legality of liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships at the current time. First let me say that I believe General Convention, as the legitimate voice of the whole Church, should begin a process to move toward authorizing such liturgies sooner rather than later. In the meantime, though, I think it is incumbent upon the rest of us, particularly bishops—individually and collectively, as something less than the General Convention, to wait on General Convention to act because it is crucial to maintaining our polity that we do.

The only provision possibly authorizing a bishop to provide such liturgies is found in a rubric on page 13 of the Prayer Book: “For special days of fasting or thanksgiving, appointed by civil or church authority, and for other special occasions for which no service or prayer has been provided in this Book, the bishop may set forth such forms as are fitting to the occasion.”(36) The question is whether that rubric gives bishops the required authority.

The most common and straightforward meaning of the word special in the a rubric, however, which has explicit legal ramifications, would suggest an objective understanding of the term, along the lines of exceptional, rare, unusual.(37) The fact that the Church has not left it to the device of bishops acting alone to create appropriate liturgies for marriage, which serve an analogous pastoral purpose and are similar in terms of whether or not they should be considered “special,” suggests that liturgies to bless same-sex relationships do not fall within the grant of authority of the episcopal authorization rubric in any good faith reading of the same.

As tempting as it may be, bishops should be extremely reticent about authorizing liturgies they have not been granted the authority to promulgate by General Convention as a matter of constitutional self-respect. Nor should they relieve General Convention of the pressure to do the right thing for the full inclusion and pastoral care of gay and lesbian persons by providing a surreptitious way to circumvent Convention’s legitimate authority. For now, though, a bishop’s use of his or her power to set forth a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions is, in my judgment, an abuse of power within the understanding of TEC’s polity. As supportive as I am of the conviction that such liturgies are something God’s people need and that God wants done, I am also aware that “what God wants done,” untempered by the rule of the community’s law and its principles, becomes the justification for rule by individuals without any principles at all.


Either we have constitutional principles or we do not. Either we are accountable or we are not. Either the rules apply to everyone or they apply to no one. I hope we will choose to be governed by our rules and by Anglican principles. It might be possible to make an inclusive Church sooner perhaps if we do not, but it will be a Church with an identity different from the Anglican and constitutionally-governed Church we now so value. In the long run, our constitutional principles will serve us all, the goal of inclusion, and the Gospel of justice admirably. Our identity as a constitutionally-governed Church based as the principles of autonomy, toleration, and lay participation is well worth preserving, and it is well worth including others in.

Stacy F. Sauls, a laywer and doctoral student in canon law, is Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington.

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Homophobia is a sin whose end time is now

"Shaking the Foundations: LGBT Bishops and Blessings in the Fullness of Time," a paper delivered by the Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams at the Chicago Consultation, Seabury-Western Seminary, December 5, 2007.

By Marilyn McCord Adams

I. Two-Faced Church!

The Church is a school for Kingdom-heralds. The Church is charged with responsibility for Christian education that grows us up in the knowledge and love of God and sends us out for word-and-deed proclamation of God’s love for a broken and divided world.

The Church is human as well as Divine. At the deepest level, God organizes church and cosmos into Christ’s organic body-politic, whose members are interdependent and united under the direction of Christ their head. The real unity and eventual functional harmony of the Church are not in jeopardy, because they are guaranteed by God. By contrast, visible church institutions--the ways we organize ourselves--are human constructions that have no intrinsic authority. They gain credibility and earn our allegiance only insofar as they prove to be skillful means to Kingdom-ends.

The stark truth is that humans are socially ‘challenged’. That is, we are not very skilled in social organization. Generally speaking, we have a poor understanding of how what we do as a group of individuals gives rise to group propensities and dynamics that we neither aim for nor anticipate. Good intentions regularly spawn systemic evils that are deeply rooted and take on a life of their own.

The human side of the Church--like the text of the bible--cannot escape human fallibility. Her calling--like that of individual members’--is not to boast of being ‘holier than thou’, all the while claiming Divine sanction for her institutional policies. The human side of the Church is no more 99 and 44/100 percent pure than her individual members are. Rather the Church is summoned to vigilance, to institutional circumspection which is ever on the lookout to identify the systemic evils to which it gives rise; to repentance and works meet for repentance that seek to uproot them. Nor is this a temporary and passing assignment. When it comes to social and political arrangements, our institutions will always be riddled with systemic evils. Because it proves so difficult to uproot any one of them, because we can’t dig out all of them at once, we are everywhere-and-always tempted to status-quo acquiescence. Our calling is to the exact opposite: to discern which ones are ripe for uprooting and to take the lead eradicating them, beginning in the garden behind our own house!

II. Homophobia, Individual and Institutional

Homophobia is a sin, whose end-time is now! The trouble is, not everybody thinks so. Many deny that it exists. Others stand prepared to defend it. Conflict presses us to be precise about what we mean.

Psychological Pathology, or Social Formation? On its psycho-spiritual interpretation, ‘homophobia’ refers to a psychological pathology, to an irrational fear of same-gendered relationships, a fear that is itself traceable to an unstable or fluid sense of gender identity. Jung’s doctrine--that sexual orientation does not come in polar opposites but arranges itself along a spectrum between them--stirs the fear that while I have built my life around one understanding of my sexuality, it may well be false to my truest self. Other people’s claiming homosexual identities on the outside disturbs my peace on the inside. Because ‘acting out’ inchoate urges could easily prove ruinous, the stronger my impulses are the more strident my need to shove them (both my feelings and LGBT people) back into the closet--out of sight, out of mind. The suggestion is that fear of public homosexual coupling signals inner terror that I, too, am LGBT.

When ‘homophobia’ is taken this way, the charge of homophobia has become a politically incorrect pejorative to which sex-and-gender conservatives protest: their convictions are not pathological, but conscientious and theological!

This reaction should not be enough to put the word out of circulation, however. For one thing, ‘pathological versus conscientious’ is not an exclusive dichotomy. We do not have to go all the way with Freud to recognize that our fallen conscience is shaped by pathologies. How often do conservatives warn liberals: just because something (e.g., the genocides in Judges) offends your moral sensibilities doesn’t mean it isn’t normative. ‘Who are we,’ they ask, ‘to say what God will command or do?’ By their own admission, conservatives also participate in ‘fallen’ human fallibility. They cannot consistently claim certainty for their own conscientious promptings instead.

In any event, ‘homophobia’ is no mere expletive, as if a loaded emotive term with no cognitive content. I use it advisedly, with a rather precise meaning: homophobia is the fear that I cannot exist and flourish as who I really am if others come out of the closet about being LGBT. So understood, homophobia is an instance of the false conviction that I cannot be as big as I really am (cannot stand up to full stature) unless others pretend to be smaller than they really are--a thesis that is ancient, dishonorable, and directly counter to the Gospel!

What I mainly want to urge at the moment is that homophobia is a socially constructed sin, one that is built into us as part of our socialization. Part of what makes human beings socially ‘challenged’ is our limited imagination. We feel that we can mount and manage only a limited number of social roles. We are schooled to fill a selection of these from earliest childhood. In how many ways did the powers that be, the adults in charge of us send the message: we will be allowed a share of the common good, if and only if we are perceived to pull our oar. Societies reasonably feel that they have a desperate interest in institutionalizing ‘the means of reproduction’. In Jewish law, commandments orbit around the desideratum of maximizing reproductive potential to secure the perpetuation of Jewish tribes. Bestiality and male homosexual intercourse waste valuable seed. Rape and adultery undermine the common good by stealing fields in which other tribal males are entitled to sow.

Two forms of social implementation may be distinguished. Institutions define and publicize socially useful patterns of relationship, and provide social support for entering into them--both in the form of education and in the form of sanctions and honors. Thus, during the twentieth century, marriage and the ‘religious’ life were ‘institutionalized’--recognized and reinforced by secular and canon law as well as by public opinion and reactions. Children were encouraged imaginatively to ‘try on’ the roles of husband or wife, priest or nun. Their real and story-book worlds were populated by many and various ‘role models’. Social structures were at work to rear them up into these roles. By contrast, homosexual partnerships have only begun to be institutionalized, recognized in civil law and supported by the public. Before that, LGBTs were ‘on their own’, left to invent directions or find guidance in subcultures whose existence and mores remained hidden from public view. Prostitution was different from either and even more ambiguous. In a way, prostitution is and always was entrenched and institutionalized to supply male demand for extra-marital sexual activity (for sexual activity that floats free of more complicated relationship commitments). Because such sexual activity transgresses received social norms, society compensates by denying prostitution and prostitutes the usual social benefits. In many places, prostitution is still illegal, so that prostitutes de facto face dangers without any protection under the law. Whether or not prostitution is legalized, prostitutes cannot expect public honors for contributing to the common good through excellent and heroic job performance. On the contrary, society scapegoats them for its own lack of imagination in providing sexual outlets, and with consummate hypocrisy demands that some enter roles for which they ‘don’t get no respect’!

Taboos are social structures erected to wall out behaviors and conditions that attack the social foundations. Because they aim to make the excluded behaviors or lifestyles unthinkable, they tend not to be rationalized or explained. To ask why, is already to reach the brink of violation. Threats to society may be concrete: e.g., refusal to respect private property or physical safety. But they may also be symbolic. Insofar as the sexual purity of women is a metaphor for social integrity, failure to wear the veil may be seen as a serious violation of the sacred even though it may pose little concrete threat. Conditions that are not seriously disruptive, whether concretely or symbolically, may be set right through fines and rituals. But there is no remedy for taboo violations: such behaviors and conditions make one unfit for polite society. Taboos are readily translated into Divine sanctions. What most societies covertly regard as sacred is their own survival. The job-description for a deity is one who secures the survival and well-being of the group that worships him/her.

For how many centuries has homosexual activity been consigned to the outer darkness of taboo? Not only has it not been institutionalized by the dominant society. It has usually been criminalized. The evolution of mores, the initiation into recognized lifestyle patterns, has had to go subcultural. Homophobia is thus not in the first instance a private neurosis signalling defective sexual integration. Rather homophobia is a psycho-spiritual instrument of taboo-enforcement. It has been schooled into us from earliest childhood as part of our social formation, so that all of us over twenty--LGBT included--are willy nilly homophobic. We have all been taught and--at deep levels--we have learned that homosexual activity is socially traitorous. It symbolizes the shaking of social foundations. Hence the rhetorical effectiveness of the concretely ridiculous accusation: that homosexual activity (by the 10%) is responsible for rising divorce rates (as much as 50% in California) and the instability of heterosexual marriage!

The Church as Homophobic: God alone is able to organize people and cosmos in ways that do not spawn systemic evils. The Spirit of God has enough imagination to be all-inclusive, to ‘organize in’ all of the sorts and conditions of things that God has made. The Spirit of God also has the power and resourcefulness to make good on the worst that we can suffer be or do. Known even as it knows, the Spirit of God casts out fear and so does not guarantee the functional unity and harmony of the Body of Christ with taboos.

By contrast, the human side of the Church, the institutions that we socially construct bear the marks of our fallibility. Willy nilly, her members have been schooled into the systemic evils of the wider society. Entering Church doors, they bring these unconscious habits with them. The result is that--everywhere and always--humanly constructed Church institutions also spawn systemic evils. Willy nilly, the Church always participates in the “spirit of this present age.” What’s worse, because religion is inherently conservative, it participates in the “spirits of past ages” also. Holy scriptures are human as well as Divine. The human authors of the bible bring to their task a variety of cultural presuppositions spanning 1700 years. The sins of the fathers descend to the children beyond the third and fourth generations and get perpetuated by borrowing the authority of Scripture. Like slavery, homophobia and misogyny number among the systemic evils handed down. Current crises in the Anglican communion are exacerbated by this bad use of the bible to appeal to the sins of the fathers to justify repeating them.

These observations bring me to the heart of my diagnosis. In the current controversies over sex and gender, the Church is not primarily called to bring individuals to repentance--whether to convert the homophobic into LGBT-friendly or to subject LGBT Christians to orientation-changing schemes. The Church is always called to the pastoral care and spiritual formation of her individual members. But most parties to the conflict agree, the pastoral care of individual Christians is not what the current crisis is primarily about. At the moment, the Church is called as an institution to recognize and repent of the sin of institutional homophobia, and to do works meet for repentance by overturning her taboos and instigating institutional reforms.

III. ‘The Liberal Agenda’: Paradox and Confusion

I might as well own up to it. My diagnosis overlaps the Gospel agenda with the so-called liberal agenda. The cliché contrast is that liberals focus on what the bible has to say about systemic evils and social injustice, while conservatives focus on individual piety and morality. Liberals point to how Jesus preached the Kingdom of God, a new world order. Jesus was not merely trying to inspire individual devotion. He was trying to ‘change the system’ and to call disciples to such a rooting and grounding in God as would allow us to weather the upheavals of institutional change and work towards the radical reconfiguration of the social frame. Current events prove the cliché misleading, insofar as--inter alia--the Windsor Report, the Windsor Process, and the Gomez draft covenant expose conservatives also as having a political agenda.

Toleration and Inclusion: Ecclesiologically, the ‘L’ label has been a source of confusion for liberals and a manipulative opportunity for conservatives. Politically, so far as institutional structures are concerned, liberals prize tolerance and freedom of conscience. Doubtless, for some liberals, these values are underwritten by an optimistic view of human nature and an exalted view of human capacities. Historically and theologically, however, tolerance and freedom of conscience have been commended by a low estimate of human agency. Thus, pessimistic liberals oppose authoritarian governments because they believe that humans are neither smart enough nor good enough to organize utopia. From this negative estimate, pessimistic liberals conclude that there are limits on the amount of control government should try to exercize and on the kinds of sanctions they should impose on the conscientious beliefs of citizens.

Such reasoning is taken to support toleration for individual conscientious beliefs and an agreement to differ, not simply about matters of indifference, but about issues of deep importance. So far as the state is concerned, people’s conscientious beliefs qua beliefs should not be a bar to individual inclusion in the body politic or to participation in its decision-making procedures. What the state appropriately limits is scope for ‘acting out’ conscientious beliefs when they affect the life or liberty or property of others. Thus, the Ku Klux Klan is allowed to exist, to organize and to foster racist beliefs in its members. But they will be legally prevented from the lynchings, cross-burnings, and fire-bombings that the early and mid-twentieth century saw. Within the Church, liberal estimates of the human condition sponsor loose institutional definition, minimalist membership requirements, and lenient enforcement policies. Liberal polity in state and Church de-emphasizes gate-keeping and fosters inclusiveness where individual members are concerned.

Individual versus Institutional Toleration: Liberal emphasis on tolerance and inclusion sets liberals up for paradox, however, a paradox which pits the liberal’s conscientious procedural beliefs against the liberal’s conscientious content beliefs about the nature of Kingdom-coming. To dissolve it, liberals will have to make and observe an important distinction between toleration that makes conscientious disagreement about important matters no bar to individual participation, and toleration that allows the opponents’ conscientious beliefs to set institutional policy.

Within TEC and the Church of England, liberals and conservatives hold contrasting and incompatible conscientious beliefs about sex and gender issues. Until the mid-twentieth century, sex-and-gender conservatives held a firm majority which allowed their conscientious beliefs to set institutional policies about sex and gender within the Church. They were mostly prepared to tolerate individual difference of opinion, because liberal viewpoints were not able--by the agreed decision-making procedures of TEC/CoE polity--to set institutional policies. (To be sure, some sex-and-gender conservatives would have been happier with stricter membership criteria and tighter enforcement policies. But most conservatives felt no urgent need to do anything about it.)

In the mid-twentieth century, sex-and-gender conservatives in TEC/CoE began to lose their majority, and sex-and-gender liberals were increasingly in a position to give their conscientious beliefs institutional expression instead. This forced conservatives to ‘come out of the closet’ to themselves and others about their commitment to (what I shall call) the ‘Institutional Purity Principle’ [IPP]:

It is contrary to our conscientious beliefs to live within an institution whose institutional policies are incompatible with our conscientious beliefs.

It did not take them very long to turn this exposure into a challenge to liberals with the following arguments:

Arg. 1: Given [IPP], tolerance for our conscientious beliefs requires you to let us set institutional policy whether or not we hold a majority; and/or requires you to complicate the polity of the institution in such a way as to insulate us from close encounters with parts of the institution in which your conscientious beliefs prevail.

Arg. 2: Given [IPP], your commitment to being inclusive requires you to allow our conscientious beliefs to set institutional polity and/or to complicate it whether or not we hold a majority.

In other words, the conservatives have played on liberal propensities for tolerance and inclusiveness to insist that liberals tolerate not only individual beliefs but institutional policies contrary to liberal conscientious beliefs, and to do so no matter who holds the majority.

Instruments of Mischief: Over the last decade and a half, sex-and-gender liberals in TEC/CoE have shown themselves vulnerable to this sort of reasoning. They have conceded sex-and-gender conservatives’ construals of what liberal tolerance and inclusiveness entails, and they have responded by handing sex-and-gender conservatives two (what I shall call) instruments of mischief. The CoE led the way with the Act of Synod which complicated the polity of the CoE to allow for flying bishops: a plan which allowed sex-and-gender conservative parishes to refuse to welcome geographical diocesans who had ordained women, and to request the episcopal offices of another bishop with clean hands. Candidates for ordination are also allowed to request a ‘clean hands’ flying bishop to ordain them. This model has been twice adapted and applied in TEC, with the institution of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) and now the presiding bishop's scheme for Episcopal Visitors. Once the concept of individual congregations or dioceses not being bound to their duly elected geographical diocesan or PB is introduced and legitimized, it is an easy leap to appealing to bishops and primates of other Anglican provinces as well. The trajectory of +Duncan shows how slippery the slide from parallel ecclesial units within TEC (his diagnosis at the end of General Convention 2006) to schism (the move to form a separate North American Anglican church entirely, and/or to affiliate with some other ‘orthodox’ Anglican province).

The second instrument of mischief is the The Windsor Report-proposed and Archbishop Drexel Gomez-interpreted Anglican covenant, which constructs a wider Anglican body politic in which a conservative majority would be guaranteed for the foreseeable future. Like the PB-sponsored House of Bishops’ ‘pause’ (its resolve to withhold consents to non-celibate LGBT candidates for the episcopacy, and to refrain from authorising rites for the blessing of homosexual partnerships), consent to a Gomez-style Anglican covenant would represent a liberal concession not to implement their conscientious sex-and-gender beliefs at an institutional level. Talk about pastoral care defines the maximum scope within which conscientious liberal sex-and-gender convictions would be allowed to hold sway: to the private sphere, to what goes on individual to individuals, perhaps counter-culturally and covertly. And some Anglican communion primates are insisting on their right to invade privacy and put an end to the blessing of same-sex couples under the rubric of pastoral care.

Liberal concessions and sponsorship of these instruments of mischief represent not only a major political victory, but also a rhetorical triumph for conservatives. If tolerance and inclusiveness always trump, then liberals will never be in a position to press their conscientious content-beliefs about Kingdom-coming in the face of clever ([IPP]-invoking) conservative opposition. No wonder liberals are regularly caricatured as making idols of tolerance and inclusiveness, while betraying the Gospel!

The Limits of Tolerance: Contradiction forces rational choice: one or the other, not both; or some qualification of one or both. So far, liberal Anglicans have acted as if their commitments to tolerance and inclusiveness were unqualified, and have back-pedalled on their conscientious content-commitments (most recently, the PB’s and the New Orleans' Bishops' meeting ‘pause’ in consents to LGBT episcopal candidates and rites for blessing LGBT couples). Contradiction is a teeter-totter. What goes up can come down! My argument is that liberals need to reverse their choice, to ‘teeter’ conscientious content-commitments back up and to recognize limits to liberal tolerance thereby ‘tottering’ it back down.

Put otherwise, confusion about tolerance and inclusiveness has driven us liberals to make fools of ourselves and brought us to the brink of betraying the Gospel. To see what liberal limits to tolerance might look like, let us review the fundamentals once again. Pessimistic liberals have a low estimate of human social competence. Both experience and traditional theology combine to show [IPP] the conservative demand for institutional purity to be irrational and contrary to sound theology. Pessimistic liberals are willing to live within institutions that embody policies to which they do and/or should conscientiously object, because pessimistic liberals don’t believe humans are capable of constructing institutions of any other kind. All humanly constructed institutions spawn systemic evils. Pessimistic liberals see themselves obliged--not to the creation of pure institutions--but to a continuing process of identifying and uprooting systemic evils. In this sense, pessimistic liberals can enthusiastically endorse the evangelical slogan: ecclesia est reformata et semper reformanda!

Liberals do have a disposition to tolerance. Like Locke, liberals are and should be unwilling to coerce individual conservatives into giving up their conscientious beliefs. Liberals have a penchant for inclusiveness. They do not and should not have an interest in gate-keeping that excludes individuals from membership merely on the basis of their controversial conscientious beliefs. Liberals set a high value on democratic procedure. For liberals the end does not justify the means to let content goals overturn democratic process.

Yet, none of this implies that liberals should not take their turn in the majority to let their own conscientious content beliefs set institutional policy. Liberals think conservative embrace of [IPP] is false and irrational. Liberals find the content of many world views false and irrational, if not also immoral. Tolerance of individual beliefs qua beliefs and refusal to excommunicate individuals because of their beliefs does not by itself entail toleration that lets conservative conscientious beliefs set institutional policy, no matter who holds the majority. Liberals are willing to include individuals whose conscientious beliefs liberals find false, irrational, immoral and untheological--include in the sense of not wishing to cancel their memberships or rule them out of the participation accorded to members generally. But this is different from liberal willingness to do whatever it takes to keep conservatives from leaving voluntarily: e.g., in the present crisis, to accede to [IPP] and agree to let conservative content beliefs establish institutional policy, no matter what.

Concrete analogies may help to persuade us. In the United States today, we tolerate people who believe that the earth is flat. The constitution allows them freedom of assembly. Being a member of the Flat Earth Society does not jeopardize a citizen’s voting or property-holding rights. But most Americans find the flat-earthers’ views false and irrational. We would not think of tolerating them to the extent of cancelling the space program. Likewise, individuals are free to hold racist beliefs. The Ku Klux Klan is free to hold meetings to inculcate them. But post-’60’s we would not dream of supposing that tolerance required us to re-segregate schools and public institutions. Thus, liberal tolerance for flat-earther’s and the Ku Klux Klan is and ought to be limited.

Likewise, sex-and-gender liberals have no interest in excommunicating sex-and-gender conservatives or in denying them the institutional access that all members of TEC/CoE enjoy. But in the name of faithfulness to the Gospel, sex-and-gender liberals cannot extend toleration to allowing sex-and-gender conservatives to set institutional policy no matter what. Liberals should not be so desperately committed to inclusiveness as to let themselves be held hostage by conservative threats to leave unless they get their way. Nor should liberals barter conscientious content-commitments away in a panic to be included in the pan-Anglican polity that conservatives are constructing. Time to teeter-totter! Sex-and-gender liberals should repent of the ‘flying bishops’ scheme, of DEPO and EV. Liberals should also refuse to sign a Gomez-style (as opposed to a Lambeth-Quadrilateral-style) covenant. Liberals should work within the established polity of TEC/CoE and use their majority to uproot homophobia. The reason is straight-forward: homophobia is a sin, and its end-time is now!

IV. Institutional Policy: Change and Implementation

When I was first invited to this conference, the topic proposed was summarized in the question, why gay bishops? We might expand to ask, why LGBT bishops and blessings? My answer is that LGBT bishops and blessed couples are participating symbols--in the Tillichian sense, sacraments--of Kingdom-coming. They herald the Gospel in at least three important ways.

First, they are part and parcel of the uprooting process. Systemic evils are by nature deeply rooted. They send out runners that branch out and infiltrate every level of institutional practice. By the same token, they form and shape the individual personalities of members, consciously but--far more effectively and dangerously--unconsciously, in thousands of ways that escape recognition and elude self-control. Systemic evils cannot be eradicated by one swift tug any more than dandelions can be eliminated by surface plucking of leaves and flowers. Clearing our institutions of racism, sexism, and homophobia is a process in which their contradictory opposites have to be ‘acted out’ again and again.

Twentieth-century American bouts with racism furnish us an instructive example, which illustrates the persistent long-term efforts required. Up against the demon racism, Supreme Court rulings and Congressional civil rights legislation were small steps--for mid-twentieth century White America, giant steps--in the right direction. But they were first steps. Rulings and laws had to be implemented. African Americans had to become pupils in formerly white schools. They had to be protected from harrassment enough to be able to study and graduate. Voter registration campaigns had to be mounted and voters accompanied to the polls. Affirmative action had to widen access to colleges and government jobs. Fifty years later, we expect to have an African American postmaster, we are only a little startled to have an African American doctor, we can accept African American secretaries of state if they have privileged pedigrees, but are we ready for an African American president? Up against the demon racism, we are still mini-stepping. But it has taken thousands of African Americans ‘transgressing’, daring to enter previously forbidden roles, not to mention persistent government enforcement, to get this far.

Few would now dare to deny that racism was ‘ripe for uprooting’ in mid-twentieth century White America. African Americans weren’t prepared to put up with it any longer. Enough white Americans were ‘cut to the heart’ when the case was put to them, so that even a not reliably high-minded President from Texas was prepared to spend considerable political capital to push civil rights legislation through. But it is helpful now to notice what ‘ripe for uprooting’ did not mean. It did not mean that southern states were reliably ready for it (remember the showdown between George Wallace and the National Guard on the steps of the University of Alabama). It did not mean that all of the many truly devout Christians who took segregation for granted, suddenly repented of it. Violent resistance met many steps, and many American segregationists were terrified and/or bewildered as enforced desegregation rearranged when it didn’t shatter their lived worlds.

‘Ripe for uprooting’ doesn’t and couldn’t mean--what the CoE would like it to mean--’it won’t upset anyone very much’ or ‘we are now able to get everyone on board in advance’. Uprooting systemic evils tears up the ground and shakes the foundations. Human societies and psyches are inertial. They exert considerable resistance to fundamental restructuring. This means that for many, conversion cannot come in advance, but only after the fact. What brings most of people around eventually is the lived experience that having previously ostracized people in the contested roles doesn’t call down fire from heaven and isn’t medium-run disruptive, that mirabile dictu it sometimes has unmistakeably good effects. Like adolescence, the transition is a storm that is costly but can be weathered, and new faces around the table are enriching as well as challenging. The weeded garden grows more beautiful than before.

So also with sex and gender controversies within our Church. Passing the non-descrimination clause in Title III, Canon 1, Sec.2, was a significant step. But people are prepared to go along with paper changes, so long as they have no impact on what happens day to day. Implementing the canon, not only with diocesan ordinations of ‘out’ LGBT deacons and priests, but with General Convention 2003’s consent to the election of +Gene Robinson was a further significant step. The furor of resistance to it shows just how entrenched systemic homophobia is within the Anglican Communion generally and TEC in particular. For its part, TEC has been intimidated from getting on with the weeding. Despite TEC’s non-discrimination canon, TEC’s PB-elect urged the passage of resolution B033, which seems prima facie incompatible with it. The Diocese of CT has argued that B033 is therefore null and void, while the Executive Committee at least wonders whether B033 doesn’t add to the qualifications for ordination. The PB’s talk of a ‘pause’ in paying our institutional respects to LGBT and the HoB’s seeming acquiescence in it at New Orleans, shows TEC to be inconstant of purpose and lacking in nerve to persevere to the end.

What the Gospel mandate to uproot systemic evils calls for is not a moratorium on consents to the episcopal election of non-celibate LGBT’s and a promise not to authorise rites for blessing LGBT unions, but just the opposite. Eradicating institutional homophobia requires the consecration of more non-celibate LGBT bishops. It demands not only the authorisation of rites but widespread public blessing of LGBT partnerships. Each ordination and each blessing asserts and insists upon the legitimacy of the new policy, and thereby brings to judgment our residual institutional and individual resistance to reform. ‘Repetition teaches donkeys’--in any event, alters our social expectations and gradually converts our sensibilities about the way things should be. Ordaining and blessing LGBT persons and partnerships until it seems obviously normal and normative is the way we uproot institutional homophobia within our Church.

Second, not only are LGBT bishops and blessed couples key to the institutional weeding process, they are essential to outward mission and institutional reconstruction. Every LGBT bishop and blessed partnership is a living, breathing advertisement of what should always have been obvious: that God our Creator loves LGBT’s. Up to now, we have had to plead with LGBTs not to make God guilty by association with the Church. (Yes, I’m afraid to many LGBTs New Orleans continued to ‘speak with forked tongue’.) Every LGBT bishop and blessed partnership at least tentatively suggests what is not at all obvious: that the Church loves LGBTs, too.

Moreover, bringing LGBT partnerships out of the closet, blessing until the publicly exampled variety of LGBT relationships approaches that of heterosexual marriages, will put us all in a better place theologically to rethink what is essential and wholesome in sexual unions. The Church has inherited an institution of marriage that involved buying and selling women--like reproductive livestock--from domination by one male into subservience to another (remember, ‘love, honor, and obey’?). Despite a couple of decades of dialoguing, the Church still joins society in treating marriage as a ‘sacred cow’ that cannot be touched (witness the dogmatic insistence that homosexual marriage is a category mistake), when the whole idea of godly partnership needs radical revision. Modern heterosexual couples involving ‘liberated’ women are left to their own devices to transmogrify the institution from the inside. My suspicion is that uncloseting same-sex partnerships will help us to distinguish dimensions of intimacy--for example, to explore the relationship between friendship and sexual activity. They might also furnish models of equality and illustrate different divisions of labor. Honest reflection on varieties of ‘transgression’--heterosexual and homosexual--would not only move us towards marriage reform but also lead us to fresh conceptions of godly unions that might help the wider society as it evolves new norms.

Third, institutionalizing LGBT bishops and LGBT partnerships will free up our theological thinking about who God is and how God loves. The bible shows, the history of theology proves, liturgical texts testify, human beings conceive of God by mapping social models onto the heavens. The Hebrew bible sometimes imagines God as the bedouin-style abusive husband of an unfaithful wife; other times as a severe but faithful and resourceful patron-king. Some epistles forward God as the pater-familias of a Roman household. John 15, patristic and medieval trinitarian theology conceive of the Trinity using ancient ideals of male friendship. Non-celibate LGBT bishops and partnerships are sacraments that bring out of the closet what is old and what is new. The more we unlearn our homophobia, the more they will remind us of subtle and startling things about God.

V. Concluding Pragmatic Reflections

Some will doubtless think that my reactions to the PB’s pause and HoB’s acquiescence in it are too harsh. Sex-and-gender conservatives have manuveured TEC into a difficult position. These responses were political moves that were meant to signal that we do not wish to break fellowship with the Anglican communion or withdraw our commitments to (what are now labelled) Millenium Development Goals. Our leaders were merely practicing the ‘art of the possible’. Our willingness to compromise was offered as a measure of our commitment to pan-Anglican well-being.

Less involved observers might imagine that they are witnessing an institutional game of ‘chicken’: TWR and primatial pronouncements challenge, ‘whether or not you walk apart is your decision!’; to which TEC responds, ‘we won’t pull out; you’ll have to throw us out!’ Each side wants to shift blame for any potential break-up to the other side.

My response is simple and predictable. TEC is a humanly constructed institution whose only reason for being is word-and-deed Gospel proclamation. The message--that American Anglicans desire to maintain connection with Anglicans world-wide--is good. But the medium--the demanded moratoria, however hedged and qualified--is inappropriate because it accedes to a Gospel-falsehood: that non-celibate LGBT persons are not first class citizens, that ipso facto their manners of life cannot holy before God, that homophobia is not all that bad, that its end-time is later. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is not right to sacrifice the spiritual dignity and well-being of real and present human beings on the altar of institutional expediency. And it is not right for privileged insiders to pit the interests of one oppressed group (LGBTs) against those of others (the suffering millions around the world), especially when we are not in a position to pay like costs.

Perhaps the Principle of Double Effect will help here. Breaking with our global Anglican partners has not been and should not be TEC’s end or chosen means. Whether or not others make it an unintended side-effect of TEC’s faithfulness to its Gospel mandate is not something for which TEC is primarily responsible and not anything that TEC can control.

I will close with one further observation. Not theologically, but socio-politically, TEC and the CoE are in very different positions. The CoE is an established church, which may still hold itself responsible for the survival of Christianity in England. The CoE is also the colonial mother of most other Anglican churches. The ABC is ex officio colonial god-father, who feels the burden of keeping the Anglican communion together. In the USA, however, TEC should not have such delusions of grandeur. TEC is only a small protestant denomination, whose only reason for being is to proclaim the Gospel. If TEC were not here, the Roman Catholics and the Baptists would keep Christianity going in America for some time to come. To me, this suggests that TEC has a distinctive niche in Kingdom-economy: to be a crucible of Gospel ferment and experimentation, to be a Church that takes risks to celebrate God’s new-fangled sacraments, to hold them up and present them as Kingdom-heralds to our broken and divided world.

The Reverend Canon Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius Professor of Divinity, Christ Church, Oxford.

Affluent beggars

By Jean Fitzpatrick

Leafing through this week's classifieds in New York magazine, I came across the following ad in the real estate section:

WE NEED HELP BUYING AN APT on the UWS (editor's note: that's Upper West Side), 3bd2bath. YOU are a philanthropic, wealthy person who would not miss a million bucks and would be interested in donating (or even investing) in a highly targeted manner: to my family. WE are a wonderful, hard working middle class family who contributes to our UWS community, is entrenched, happy and desperately wants to remain on the UWS (lest the city lose yet another wonderful family to the burbs). We can afford 600-700k, so you see the predicament. Can you help us??

Well, I thought, here are some grown-ups who believe in Santa Claus. So this is what Manhattan real estate prices have come to, that people who can afford to pay more than half a million for an apartment are looking for handouts. There's an absurd Little Match Girl tone to the whole ad: urban Mom, Dad, and kids standing on the sidewalk outside the Upper West Side's elegant prewar buildings, filled with longing, fingers numb in the cold. In a borough where many pay exorbitant sums to live in apartments not much bigger than a sectional sofa, the ad's Manhattan real estate envy is familiar to most of us, writ large. Now, there's something to be said for the idea that not every condo and coop in the city should end up owned by Wall Street people or international real estate investors. And with the richest two percent of people on earth owning more than half of the household wealth, maybe it's inevitable these days that middle-class people will feel poor. Maybe soon we'll be seeing similar requests from people asking for a Sub Zero kitchen ("WE are fabulous cooks!") or a Bose stereo ("WE only listen to classical music played on authentic period instruments!") or a $4,000 Capresso cappuccino maker ("WE only brew coffee with whole, fair-trade beans!").

I couldn't help noticing the theology here. In explaining their "predicament," the ad's writers appeal to the good old Protestant work ethic: they are a "wonderful, hard working middle class family who contributes to our UWS community." It's the word "wonderful" that got to me. Here's a chance, during this Advent season, to consider the difference between Santa Claus and Jesus. We are brought up to believe that if we're good boys and girls, we'll get everything on our Christmas list. Most of us recognize, by the time we reach adulthood, that life just doesn't add up that way. "Wonderful" people, we discover, experience suffering, disappointment, and loss. There are "wonderful" people living in cities and suburbs -- in New York and all over the world -- who who go to bed hungry, lack basic health care, and have no roof at all over their heads, let alone a home with two bathrooms. Talk about predicaments.

No wonder the story of a holy child born in a filthy manger touches us so deeply. We are invited to imagine, in the midst of so much hardship, the presence of joy. We're reminded that we can avoid experiencing a kind of envy that is not only unappealing, but painful, if we turn our gaze to people who have less than we do and focus on reaching out with prayers and help. And in doing so we feel blessed -- no matter where we live.

Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick, L.P., a New York-licensed psychoanalyst, is a member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. A layreader in the Diocese of New York, she is the author of numerous books and articles on the spirituality of relationships, including Something More: Nurturing Your Child's Spiritual Growth and has a website at www.pastoralcounseling.net.

The Personal Pew Movement

By John B. Chilton

Paper or plastic? Booth or table? Pew or chair?

Two historic Episcopal Churches have done something that caught my eye. They each made the decision to switch from pews to chairs. In one case it was to improve the quality of worship. In another case, it was to make the nave a multipurpose space for mission. At least one of them faced resistance and conflict with the change. For reasons that will become be obvious below, I emailed these news items to my friend at St. Swithen’s by the Exit Ramp.

My earliest memories of church are of the family sitting in the pew. The pew is a bit like a booth at a restaurant. Few of us have booths at home, but when we go out to eat we favor snuggling up in a booth. It’s different. It’s more private. It better defines your space. It’s your home away from home. But a booth at home isn’t necessary for those purposes.

It’s the same with a church pew. Your family can sit together. A child can squirm or lay his head on dad’s lap. As you get older you and your friends can scrunch up together on a pew. There’s an intimacy. I didn’t meet my first girlfriend on a church pew, but it was kind of similar. The church youth group went on a field trip and we were crowded together in the backseat of the youth leader’s car. I doubt that I would have had the courage to ask her, or anyone, to the Senior Prom if it hadn’t been for that incident.

But, getting back to pews. Our church burned down when I was a teenager. Mom and I saw the violent lightening strike and heard the siren of the fire trucks. From a distance of half a mile we could see the flames of the wood structure shooting up in the sky. The only thing that was left was the speakers from the electric organ. They’d been stolen the week before and were later recovered. The old building had pews and a choir loft. When the church rebuilt there were choices to make. They decided to stay with a choir loft but to switch to chairs. Both seemed like a good idea to save space.

The loft might have been used initially – I don’t know, I was off to college by then. But it turned out the spiral staircase was impractical so the choir now sits on ground level with the congregation. The idea of the chairs, I presume, was to make the worship space more flexible and multipurpose. But on my return visits the chairs have always been in the same place. Except to accommodate the relocation of the choir. I heard recently the congregation decided to turn the entire orientation of the church around by moving the altar to the other end. Now you don’t face the empty choir loft and the latecomers as they enter. Having chairs made the reorientation easier.

Not so long ago, I was a member at St. Swithen’s by the Exit Ramp. The church has a square nave. The orientation is on the diagonal with the narthex (such as it was – that’s a long story) in one corner and the altar towards the opposite corner. The main aisle follows this diagonal. If you are still with me in imagining this configuration, you might be able to imagine that arranging the seating is tricky. As you move along the aisle from altar to narthex your pews have to get shorter. In the longest rows a single pew would be impractically long.

On top of all this St. Swithen’s did not have a parish hall. We were often moving the pews aside in order to hold parish dinners. (We liked to eat.) Restoring the pews to their proper location for Sunday service was not easy.

There’s more. The pews were donated by another church. I still remember us driving up to the warehouse with a 13 foot U-Haul. And then scrambling to rent an additional 30 foot U-Haul when we found the 13 footer was laughably small for the task. A sainted Junior Warden with some carpentry skill had made them work in the worship space.

When the time came that the parish budget allowed us to replace those pews we faced the choice. Pews or chairs? Did I once write that apparently any kind of conflict causes some people to leave the church? I’m not sure anyone did on this occasion, but the choice did create conflict. People had strong preferences. Some people are just attached to pews. I admit, I’m one of them. But I also see the advantages of chairs. In fact, I wanted to split the difference and have a mix of both. In the end, those who wanted chairs only were the stronger willed and won the day.

But we decided not to call them chairs. They’re not chairs, they’re just personal pews. Who knew we were pioneering a personal pew movement?

Dr. John B. Chilton is an economist specializing in applied game theory. In January he will conclude six years of service at the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) and return home to Orkney Springs, the location of Shrine Mont Episcopal Conference Center of the Diocese of Virginia.

Vision and authenticity

By Margaret M. Treadwell

Annabella Santos-Wisniewski stood on her favorite Boracay Island beach in her native Philippines and had a vision. Looking behind her into a forest of palm trees, she said, “I see something white like a jewel sparkling at night. It connects inside and out to the environment such that nature is inseparable from the whole.”

Four years later we are standing in the same spot, surrounded by Annabella’s recently completed dream. Discovery Shores, where we’ll be spending a few days with the Cornell Hotel Society, Asia–Pacific conference, is extraordinary for its natural beauty, superb taste and an easygoing spirit first manifest as school children welcomed us with delightful Filipino songs and dances.

When I asked Annabella to describe herself as a visionary leader of her industry, she
told me three things: “First, I was born with vision and accept it as a great gift not to be taken lightly. I have to share it for others to multiply the enjoyment; second, I was blessed with parents who encouraged me to develop the left part of my brain – education and other tools for grounding my right brain and building teams to implement my ideas; and last, my lucky star gave me the optimism that all would work out, and this helps me risk adventure.”

Annabella’s journey began after she graduated from a Catholic girls’ school in Manila where she decided she wanted to be an architect. Her mother, a successful restaurateur who had turned a three-table coffee shop into 28 cafeterias, three restaurants, a catering service and 750 employees said, “Make that your hobby, and go study business so you can support it! By reputation the Cornell Hotel School is the best place for you and they’ll accept foreign students.” In 1965, Annabella was the first Filipino to graduate from the Cornell Hotel School, where she later completed academic requirements for a master’s degree and met and married her husband, Thomas Wisniewski.

“Education is not purely academic,” she says. “Experiences make you stronger, especially if you fail once in a while.” Even while raising their three sons, she and Tom were willing to move to where the best opportunities arose – Manila, both coasts of the United States, Hawaii and Singapore. In 1990, at the peak of their productivity in California, their lives changed dramatically when Annabella suffered an abscess in her cerebellum and doctors said she would either die or become a vegetable unless she had an immediate operation. Drawing on her considerable strengths and a deepening spirituality, she healed within three months.

“I learned that God has a design if I’ll just let go and let God,” she said. “Having lived, I decided that I must have a mission in life and that my job was to listen and feel out what that might be over time.” After several years she knew that her life’s work was to return to the Philippines to make a difference in her own community.

Businesses had begun to move from an autocratic toward a more democratic model, and Annabella decided to create a standard that promoted the dignity of her staff despite the rigid class structure. Her focus became growing her organization and the people in it through their niche – developing luxury hotels and food parks. Her son explains how the latter works: “We conceptualize and build food courts inside office buildings, and then we sublease the space. We also operate our own stalls to keep us grounded in operations.”

Raintree Partners is changing the food and hotel business in the Philippines, and in 2003 won a highly prestigious “Best Employer in Asia” award from Hewitt Associates with the Asian Wall Street Journal. “You give them roots and you give them wings and it’s wonderful to see them fly,” Annabella says of her employees.

Observing Annabella during our time in the Philippines, I see that she functions in absolutely the same way in business and with her family. She is a leader who is respected for her tough love because she has such a big heart. What you see is what you get and it’s spelled “authenticity.” When I ask this visionary woman so at home in the world how she would like to be described, she says: “By being there she helped a life. She made a difference. She opened doors and lived for others, not herself.”

Margaret M. (Peggy) Treadwell, LICSW, is a family, individual and couples therapist and teacher in private practice. She writes a monthly column for Washington Window
and teaches a course, "Congregational Leadership: Family Systems Theory for Clergy" at Virginia Theological Seminary's Center for Lifetime Theological Education.

My back pages

By Roger Ferlo

For years I have thought about rifling through old sermon files to see whether there is a book lurking there somewhere. I suppose that publishing a book of sermons is every priest’s fantasy, after preaching week in and week out year after year. Surely there must be something valuable and permanent to make up for all that Saturday night angst and sweat. But sermons are by their nature ephemeral, or at least they ought to be. Permanence and preaching have always seemed to me contradictions in terms. Besides, it’s hard to imagine a vast reading public out there waiting to snap up a full volume of published sermons. For most people outside the churches (and not a few in them), the very word “sermon” smacks of pedantry and sanctimoniousness. Hey, don’t preach to me!

Preaching is by its nature of the moment. That’s perhaps its saving grace. When a sermon is good, it’s closely attached to a specific text, a specific time, a specific place, and most of all to a specific and particular group of people with whom the preacher is in some kind of continuing relationship, rocky as that relationship sometimes can be. It’s been years since I wrote out my sermons word for word. I am always a little shamefaced to admit that I preach from notes, and sometimes even without them. I tend to be at a loss about how to respond to requests for printed copies of a sermon I’ve preached, or even worse, requests for a tape. It usually means I have to go home and reconstruct what I said, which sometimes varies considerably from the notes I’d prepared in advance. It’s what my wife calls chewing your cabbage twice. I’m daunted by that character in Marilynn Robinson’s novel Gilead, old Reverend Ames, who estimates that in a lifetime of preaching to people week after week in the same little country church, he has accumulated thousands of sermon manuscripts, now stowed away in crates in the attic. What I’ve got is three thick manila files stuffed with piles of notes, carefully sorted into Year A, Year B and Year C—that odd preaching calendar of scripture readings that Episcopalians and like-minded liturgical Christians have long held dear. Not a very promising start for assembling a best-selling book.

Nonetheless, now that I no longer preach regularly, having left parish ministry after almost twenty years to teach in an Episcopal seminary, I’ve decided it’s time to take a second look. There won’t be any sort of systematic theology emerging from this material any time soon, which should come as a relief to a worried public. If there is a book submerged in this stuff, it won’t be the book I imagined when—earnest and naïve—I started preaching two decades ago, writing out every paragraph, reading the manuscript aloud word for word. Thank God that obsessive behavior didn’t last. But the upshot is that my surviving notes provide less a well-worked out theology or a consistent scriptural hermeneutic (a word I would try never to use in a sermon), than an oddly inadvertent and sometimes comic record of my life as a parish priest, and of the three or four congregations that have patiently put up with me.

That’s what happens when you preach in the moment—the moments come back to haunt you. There are the baptism sermons, where I seem to have taken great pains to incorporate the names of the about-to-be-baptized-babies into the text, only to discover that now, twenty years later, I have only the vaguest memory of who those children are or what their parents looked like. Then there’s the sermons about money—I know they’re about money because the notes tend never to mention the topic directly, an occupational hazard for Episcopal clergy in my generation. I served for several years in a tiny progressive parish in Pittsburgh, a diocese both then and now notorious as a hotbed of evangelical schism. There’s some censorious attention paid in these sermon notes to Episcopal church fights, again mentioned obliquely, but I suppose the message was clear as day to those who knew the score. And I find more than a few sermons that begin by describing incidents from my Italian Catholic working class childhood—memories of candles burning in grottoes in front of a whole line of life-size plaster statues, or of that cleverly wired confessional box where a green light over the door signaled that the coast was clear to enter. The light turned red when you knelt down inside, and then turned green again when you got up to leave—shriven, forgiven, green light good to go. My memory is that people enjoyed stories like these, which crop up often in my notes, but to listeners who had not grown up Catholic themselves I must have come across like a messenger from an alien planet.

The notes I am most interested in are the most recent ones, though, the notes of sermons I preached in New York in the months and years following the attacks on the World Trade Center, just twenty short blocks from the parish where I served. Like many of my colleagues in New York, in the immediate aftermath I found it hard to find words equal to my own deep sense of loss and fear and anger, and then, in the months that followed, equal to the mounting sense of frustration at the growing vindictiveness and xenophobia that have since proved so toxic in our public culture. I was out of the country, on a long sabbatical, on the day of the attacks. For complicated reasons, my wife and I didn’t return to New York until Halloween. My first sermon was at a parish baptism on the feast of All Saints. As I look at these notes, I realize that I was functioning in two worlds at once. In the pulpit, I was trying to shape the complexities of people’s pain to the promise of the Gospel; in my own inner life, I was trying to make the Gospel somehow answer to my sense of loss and fear. I suppose that any energy that preaching had derived from the struggle between my preacher’s vocation to let the Gospel speak to people’s hearts and my own heart’s deep sense of anger at my own inadequacies.

I always meant to reconstruct those notes, but discovered one Sunday morning, while I was browsing in a Washington bookstore, that someone else had beat me to it. It turns out that one of the authors of Killing the Buddha, a kind of po-mo anthology of post-Christian writing, had been in my church that All Saints Day in New York. Without identifying the preacher, he had reported my sermon almost verbatim in the first chapter of the book. Coming across the book by chance, I felt angry and violated, as if someone had eavesdropped on an intimate family occasion and blabbed about it to the world. I’ve calmed down since then, and am even grateful to that writer (whose account of the sermon, I had to admit, was both accurate and sympathetic) for doing what I never really have had the wit or courage to do—to share with others that remarkable moment of grace that allowed me to reconnect to my parish in those dark days in late 2001, a moment of grace that offered room to those of us gathered there on Hudson Street to reconnect, however tentatively and skeptically, to the hope of Christ that was in us.

Maybe reconstructing those twenty years of sermons is not such a bad idea after all.

The Rev. Dr. Roger Felo is Professor of Religion and Culture, Associate Dean and director of the Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Look to your mother

By Derek Olsen

Every few years, I take my “epic tour.” Never leaving my armchair, I travel miles and centuries and states of mind by re-immersing myself in the great epics of former days, the Aeneid, Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, and even that recent vernacular upstart, Beowulf. I find this tour grounds my spirit and placates the shade of my departed grandmother, the Latin teacher who never understood why I chose a major in Japanese rather than Classics.

When last I read the Aeneid, I was struck—hard—by the presence of a theme I’d never noted before. After the frenetic escape from burning Troy, the homeless prince Aeneas and his ships of salvaged companions make landfall on the holy island of Delos—birthplace in classical mythology of Apollo, god of music and divination. The ancient shrine of Apollo was tended by the priest-king Anius, a friend of Aeneas’s father. When the hero consults the oracle of the shrine, asking where he and his band should turn and make their new life, they receive this reply:

Tough sons of Dardanus, the self-same land That bore you from your primal parent stock Will take you to her fertile breast again. Look for your mother of old. Aeneas’ house In her will rule the world’s shores down the years, Through generations of his children’s children. (3.130-135)*

The Aeneid and its quest for a new home is—at root—a quest for origins. The new land is the primal land. Look for your mother of old. This is one of the deep stories of humanity—an archetype coded deep in our understanding that resonates at a subconscious, an unconscious, level. Look for your mother of old. And, lifting my eyes from my armchair Aeneid, I find it again in books dotting my shelves—from Asimov’s Foundation series to the Holy Scriptures themselves.

The oracle’s message to Aeneas becomes the prophet’s cry to Israel as Isaiah’s second portion (Isa 40-55) exhorts the people from their place of exile, beguiling them from their slothful security to a vision of the beckoning arms of Mother Zion; no longer the shamed and shattered woman of Lamentations but clothed in clean and costly garments Zion awaits her children (Isa 54): Look for your mother of old. Creation itself will be sundered in the Almighty’s eagerness to guide the wayward children home (Isa 42:15–16) and the elements themselves shall lose their nature least they hinder the people’s return (Isa 43:2).

Psalm 107 borrowing and condensing the theme of Isaiah begins and ends with a glorious city rising where once was waste, a home for exiles, a refuge for the weary. The first vignette (Ps 107:3–9)—the wanderers in the waste, lost in alien lands—finds consummation in the bounty of the last (Ps 107:33–43) where the new city rises above the fruited plains. But no name is given. Look for your mother of old. But the city is never identified and transcending name and physical place points to something beyond the earthly dwelling. Further, the path from first vignette to last traverses curious ground, with images oddly resonate. A people sitting in darkness—upon them a light is shone, bounteous food given to the hungry, a tempest tamed by divine word at sea…and I am reminded of the old tradition linking the shattered doors of bronze and iron bars to the now-sundered gates of hell itself. A path of liberation, a path of redemption, presented as if pioneered by a God who has felt hunger, pain, and darkness in his own flesh…

And finally Hebrews, an enigmatic book of eloquently literary Greek, sees Isaiah and the Psalter as signposts pointing into the fullness of the truth. It speaks of Abraham, father of the faithful, leaving his home by strength of faith and “sojourning in the land of promise as in a strange country…For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:9, 10). And the litany of “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13) wends its way through patriarchs, prophets, and martyrs, all making their way to the heavenly country, for God “hath prepared for them a city” (Heb 11:16). But the one who leads the way, the one who goes before—in truth if not in time—is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, he who shatters the gates of bronze and throws open the doors of paradise: even Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the way, the gate, the door of our heavenly home.

Look for your mother of old. Look—press on—for the land that gave you birth. No, not in your flesh but in the root of your being.

But the metaphor twists and bends on the point of a paradox for the place is not a place and the wandering people wander towards the place where they already dwell. For the city, our ancient home, is near to us. It hangs—just a moment’s breath away from us, closer indeed than our hands and our feet. The carpet—the tile—the hardwood—under my feet is shaded and shadowed by its glistening pavers. For the place is not a place but a people. And the people is not a people but a Body. And the city is not a city but a bride. Look for your mother of old. Washed in clearest water, fed on finest wheat, our Scriptures, songs, and stories urge us to realize what has already been attained for us. The heavenly country lies not only in heaven; the heavenly country lies where its citizens may be found, where they proclaim its light and its truth, yes, even in the midst of hurried and exhausted lives that feel decidedly less than spiritual.

We are citizens of a different homeland, of another place. The land of promise. Our ancient home and source. Though we forget ourselves in our exile here, its call recalls us to who and what we are—to whose business we are to be about. While we obey the laws of this land there is a higher law, another legislation, a yet more excellent way that commands our words, our deeds, our actions. For the law of our homeland is the law of love—love of God, love of neighbor. Isaiah recalls and reminds; the Psalter recalls and reminds, Hebrews recalls and reminds: Live into the land of promise; look for your mother of old.

* The quotation is from Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid (Vintage, 1990) which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Derek Olsen is completing a Ph.D. in New Testament (with a healthy side of Homiletics) at Emory University where he teaches in homiletics, liturgics, and New Testament. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X dad appear at Haligweorc.

A weekend in Sydney

By George Clifford

The last weekend of this October found me in Sydney, Australia, as a tourist. A Saturday visit to St. Andrew’s Cathedral left me feeling incredulous. It was my first visit to an Anglican church anywhere or of any size that did not have at least one altar. Where the Cathedral’s high altar had once been located, a row of unused clergy chairs now lined the center of the east wall beneath a rose window. A glass-topped stand prominently displayed an historic Bible in front of those handsomely carved but obviously unused wooden chairs. The Cathedral’s rood screen had been removed and the choir stalls angled together to face the nave’s central section. A lectern, used as a pulpit, stood in front of the choir pews. The Cathedral no longer had any side chapels, a Lady Chapel, or even a chapel in the undercroft. As an amateur student of church architecture, I felt as if I had stumbled upon a contemporary evangelical congregation from the free-church tradition worshipping in what had once been an Anglican cathedral.

My curiosity piqued, I asked the kindly looking lady on duty what had become of the altar. She gently corrected my terminology, emphatically stating that Anglicans have and have always had holy tables rather than altars. Then she said that the current Dean had directed the Cathedral’s interior rearrangement to eliminate all suggestions of idolatry. All of the holy tables had been removed, the choir stalls angled, all statuary taken away, etc. In response to my question about reserved Sacrament, she said that the Cathedral did not reserve the Sacrament because that was a form of idolatry. When the Cathedral held its once monthly Sunday Holy Communion service, a free standing, portable holy table was rolled into place.

When I informed her that I was a priest on holiday, she freely admitted that she did not like the changes. A life long member of the Cathedral community, she felt that the changes greatly diminished the Cathedral’s interior beauty, a beauty that had invited reverence, worship, and a sense of the holy. She also found other changes troubling, such as the clergy no longer wearing clerical collars or vestments and the elimination of all processions and recessions from all worship services. Servers with trays of bread and small cups of wine now distribute Holy Communion to people sitting in the pews. She missed going to the altar, kneeling to receive the host from a vested cleric, and sharing in a common cup. She had had the unnerving and troubling experience of serving Communion to the current Archbishop of Sydney on his first Sunday while he sat in a pew wearing an open neck shirt and sports jacket. She felt that the Archbishop, spiritual leader of the Diocese, should have celebrated the Eucharist at the Cathedral’s holy table on Easter, Christianity’s central feast. As vacancies occur in diocesan parishes, the Archbishop appoints like-minded clergy who make similar changes. However, no matter how much she disagreed with the changes she was fiercely loyal to the Dean because he and the other Cathedral staff taught the Bible so well.

Her comments and loyalty prompted three thoughts about the disputes currently tearing apart the Anglican Communion. First, many Anglicans want substantive Christian education that the Church has too often failed to provide. The adjective many may connote a minority, but that minority is numerically, financially, and in terms of involvement a significant minority for the Church’s future. Emphases on pastoral care and social justice, both of which I hope characterize my own ministry, have in recent years too often eclipsed substantive Christian education. Clergy uncertainty and discomfort with discerning God in daily life, hearing God speak through scripture, and interpreting the faith in ways compatible with twentieth and twenty-first century worldviews have all contributed to the neglect of Christian education. Sound teaching by prior deans at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney might have educated laity about altars, sacraments, worship, beauty, etc., in an a way that was explicitly biblical and faithful to the Anglican tradition. I suspect there are some strong parallels between what happened at St. Andrew’s in Sydney and what is happening in the Episcopal Church today.

Second, she reminded me that incarnational theology is a vital Anglican distinctive. An incarnational understanding of Christianity necessitates a dynamic rather than static theology because all creation is dynamic not static. For those desiring a static expression of Christianity (e.g., the one expressed in the 39 Articles of Religion or that of the Dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney), the appellation Anglican denotes something very different than for those who hold to Anglicanism’s historic theological dynamism. The proliferation of groups and Churches whose name includes Anglican reflects a sad splintering of the Anglican tradition as demands for theological unanimity erode the historic Anglican theological emphasis on individual interpretation. Once sufficiently broad to embrace altars, holy tables, and the disparate theological understandings those terms signify, this tradition now, at least at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, mandates mobile holy tables and excludes altars. Discarding the common chalice graphically symbolizes this sad departure from the historically inclusive although admittedly messy diversity of Anglican unity. The body of Christ has many members; I am thankful that we Anglicans make no claim to exclusivity or even to superiority. I hope that those unable to live inclusively with the dynamism of Anglican incarnational theology will find another branch of the Church more compatible with their understanding of Christianity rather than attempt to rigidify Anglicanism. Any who do leave should do so with our blessing, even though their departure diminishes the Anglican Communion and us.

Third, the scant notice the wider Anglican Communion has given to the radical departures from important Anglican distinctives in Sydney confirmed my longstanding suspicion: the current Anglican controversies about homosexuality have little to do with sex and much to do with other, more basic issues. Neither the word sex in any form nor homosexuality appears in the Book of Common Prayer. But, both sex and homosexuality evoke much more interest, depth of feeling, and media attention than do questions about biblical authority, discerning God's presence, and Anglican identity. Other issues may upset people, yet not trigger the fight or flight response that hot button issues like sex and homosexuality do. I have been happily married for over three decades. The prospect of homosexual marriage, far from threatening my marriage or marriage in general, seems more likely to reinforce respect for the institution and sanctity of marriage. Careful Bible and historical study highlights a developing rather than static understanding of marriage, one that moves from viewing women as possessions (the more the better; no consent required) to one that values an equal and faithful partnership between two consenting adults. Rereading this paragraph, I uncomfortably note the unconscious ease with which I slipped into discussing sexual issues; I have left my thoughts unchanged to underscore why sex today occupies such a dominant place on Anglican Communion agendas.

My helpful informant at St. Andrew’s Cathedral suggested that I would probably prefer to worship on Sunday at St. James, a nearby Sydney parish. Thinking that likely to be good advice, I took it. Sunday morning, upon arriving on at St. James, I learned with pleasure that their guest preacher was Canon Kenneth Kearon, Executive Secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council. During the service, the celebrant announced an afternoon forum led by Canon Kearon and that the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, on sabbatical from New Hampshire and present in the congregation, would attend. Part II of this essay offers some reflections about that rather interesting day.

The Rev. George Clifford, 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.

Matters of life and death

By Martin L. Smith

I was walking along P Street in Washington, D. C., the other day pondering a phrase our Presiding Bishop used in a recent webcast, when she spoke of the need for the church to move on from the controversies surrounding sexuality to “refocus on matters of life and death like starvation, education, medical care.” I know she was using “life and death” to mean “of the highest priority.” But for gay people it’s hard to hear straight folks using language that, even inadvertently, seems to imply that the struggles we must undergo are not matters of life and death. In fact they are—sometimes in the most literal way. Ironically, I found myself halting outside the paint store on the corner of 15th Street NW. It was here that my partner and I experienced the second of two attempted gay-bashing assaults.

It happens so quickly, as any victim of a street crime will tell you. Thugs suddenly came pouring out of a huge SUV. They screamed for our blood using anti-gay curses that left their motive in no doubt. As we ran for our lives, with the pounding of their boots on the sidewalk drumming in our ears, we never thought we could outrun them. But we eventually shook them off when we reached an area perhaps too brightly lit for them. This nightmare repeated a similar incident several months earlier that began outside the fire station on 13th Street, as we were walking home after supper. We also managed to escape that time, ending up in an alley retching from the effort, just glad to be alive.

Perhaps you’re thinking murder is an exaggeration. Well, no. A priest friend of mine was the victim of a gay-bashing in Logan Circle so violent that he would almost certainly have died had not a horrified passerby made a 911 call that brought a police car quickly to the scene. I also think of a seminarian friend, who was so brutally smashed up by a homophobic assailant wielding a tire iron that five operations on his head and brain were required. He was too disabled to be ordained and died two years later in an accident caused by the side effects of his medications.

Life and death. I hope we will find other language that can unite us around a cause that our Presiding Bishop is perfectly right to emphasize—global claims of mission and justice. However, I hope we’ll never imply that the claims of gay and lesbian folk to equality, respect and security lie outside the realm of life and death matters. We must be careful what we say.

What will we say when we are trying to comfort two parents, friends, whose teenage son, an acolyte, has committed suicide, leaving a note about his despair in the face of bullying and his lack of faith in the possibility of happiness? They know that issues of sexual orientation are matters of life and death, not merely an irritating distraction from nobler causes. What do we say when a priest friend who has moved into a neighboring parish finds herself being trailed for by a stalker, whom she discovers to be an agent of an anti-gay organization notorious for its tactics of defamation? Not an issue of life and death?

As I paused outside the paint store, I realized I had never told the story of the two attempted assaults from which I had narrowly escaped to more than a few friends. I didn’t want to worry my family, and these are grotesque stories for a middle-aged clergyman to recount. Yet the real reason is that most gay folk are trained to take their vulnerability for granted. We suck it in. But maybe we must change that. Straight people enjoy innumerable unearned privileges denied to gays, just as white folk have unearned privileges denied to people of color. We shouldn’t add another one to the list, the privilege of being spared the pain of hearing about our wearying and incessant experiences of being attacked, condescended to, marginalized, insulted and patronized.

No one looks forward more eagerly than gay folk to the day when issues like the eligibility of partnered gay and lesbian priests for the office of bishop will sink to a lower place in our order of priorities. But in the painful meantime, while the progress of equality in the ministry is temporarily halted, the task of making sure that the life and death stories of gay and lesbian people are heard grows in urgency. And gay and lesbian Christians will have to become more outspoken, not less, even in the face of pressure from those who seem to be signaling that it is high time we fell silent again.

Martin L. Smith is a well-known spiritual writer and priest. He is the senior associate rector at St. Columba’s in Washington, D.C.

Christmas, Christian style

By Peter Pearson

The Mother of God of Peace, by Peter Pearson.
For years now, people have been complaining that Christmas is too commercial, too hectic, too expensive, and too secular. The carols and decorations appear some-time near Halloween and the television commercials now urge us to give diamonds and Cadillac SUV’s instead of embroidered handkerchiefs and home-made fudge. It’s just out of control. Unfortunately not many folks have gotten around to doing something about it.

Living in a Benedictine monastery taught me many valuable lessons. One of those was how to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ in a way that does not insult the homeless Child of Bethlehem nor supports the lie that our lives have meaning only in terms of the national economy. The only real excess at Christmas need be the recognition of God’s extravagant love for us in giving Jesus to a broken world so that it might be made whole again.

So what do you and yours want? I mean REALLY want from one another. It’s entirely possible that the gift of time and attention is the very thing that we all long for the most. Stuff is nice, but it’s a shabby substitute for love. Besides, most of us have more things than we need and then some. It’s amazing that we can still find items we can’t live without considering that each of us owns more stuff than almost any village in the third world.

So remember the old adage that says: “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.” It’s time to try something different. Here are some suggestions:

• Give the gift of your time and attention to one another: call someone and just chat for an hour or so, pop in for a visit, or invite someone to tea.
• Buy children’s books and donate them to the local public library or plant a tree in honor of those you love.
• Give dog food and treats to the local SPCA or Humane Society.
• Spend the evening at home in front of the fire playing board games---NO cell phones, no TV, and no excuses.
• Donate to the Vicar’s Discretionary Fund so that your parish can make a difference in the lives of others in your area.
• Buy and give fair trade items or shop at places like Ten Thousand Villages so that others might benefit from your spending too.

Or try any of these ideas which are offered by Marty Seligman in his work Good Consumerism:
• Give a bridge line (an inexpensive telephone conference call) for a once a month call for the next six months to your widely scattered family.
• Fund a visit for a friend to see someone she loves but has not seen in years.
• Adopt a family you know to be in need and give them Safeway and Target gift certificates.
• Donate bees, goats, llamas to friends through the Heifer Project or Episcopal Relief and Development's Gifts for Life catalog.
• Make a “treasure chest” for your child, with coupons redeemable for one reading hour with you, one trip to a ball game with Dad, two games of Monopoly with Mom.
• Give a bird feeder to a friend and mount it in a place that will brighten her day every day. Giving pots of herbs and berries or hundreds of daffodil bulbs works well also.
• Give your child a complex Lego set that requires building over weeks with you.
• Give dance lessons or musical instrument lessons to people you love who do not dance or play music.
• Tape a Harry Potter volume in your own voice and give it to a young child to listen to (or tape a radio show from a 1940’s script for someone who loves drama).
• Make the gifts yourself (e.g., cookies) and make the cards yourself. It’s time consuming, personal, and it gives the people you care about the most precious gift of all—your time.

As Christians, we are called to give OURSELVES away in love to make a better world. This Christmas might be a good place and time to begin. Whatever you decide, I hope your decisions about how to celebrate Christmas will be ones that feed your soul and those of your loved ones.

The Rev. Peter Pearson is priest in charge at Saint Philip’s Church in New Hope, Pa. He is a former Benedictine monk and icon painter, whose work is featured at www.nb.net/~pearson.com.

The limits of our knowledge

By Greg Jones

A tad over a century ago, the great British scientist Lord Kelvin (a 'father' of the science of thermodynamics) made some very hasty prophecies. In the 1890's, Kelvin said variously that "radio has no future" and "heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." In his most famous line, he told fellow scientists in 1900 that there remain only "a couple of small clouds" obscuring our understanding of the physical universe. As it would turn out, those two "small clouds" or "gaps" in the extent of human understanding were the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics – the two most important developments in science in the 20th century.

One lifetime after Kelvin's gaffe, a radical new understanding of the Universe had evolved. By the early 1960's, the Big Bang theory had been put forth and partially verified by radio-telescopes.

Furthermore, in 1979, the contemporary physicist Alan Guth told the world what he thought happened in a fraction of a second after the Universe began – in the split second before the Big Bang banged. He proposed the theory that 14 billion years ago, the entire universe existed in a point a billion billion billion times smaller than a proton. All of a sudden, within a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, that tiny speck grew to the size of a grapefruit while maintaining all of its density. In other words, a universe of mass and energy appeared out of nowhere, instantly. Or, in what most of us would call no time at all, everything began out of nothing. Guth's famous line is "the Universe might be the ultimate free lunch." It just began. It just started. Out of nothing. And, it seems, that recent discoveries by the telescopes in space are confirming Guth's theories to a tee.

The fool is the person who thinks he knows more than he does. The fool is the person who thinks he is wise. Conversely, the wise person is the one who knows he knows little. Why do I bring this up? Because the Bible tells us primarily that God is the source of truth and wisdom, not us. God's word is light – not ours. We may know more than we did a century ago – but the more we know, the more we know we don't know much.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ("Greg") is rector of St. Michael's Raleigh, and author of Beyond Da Vinci (Seabury Books, 2004). He blogs at fatherjones.com.

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