Honoring Evelyn Underhill

By Kathleen Henderson Staudt

For many years now an important spiritual resting-point in my life has been the annual day of quiet reflection in honor of Evelyn Underhill, sponsored by the Evelyn Underhill Association at the Washington National Cathedral. It is always held in mid-June, on a Saturday close to the day when the Episcopal Church calendar observes Evelyn's feast day, June 15. It is a beautiful time of year on the Cathedral close, usually with lovely weather, the roses blooming in the Bishop's Garden, quiet places to walk and pray on the grounds or in the Cathedral. Always the day has included several hours of communal silence, punctuated by a leader's reflections on some theme from the writings of this 20th century mystic, spiritual director and retreat leader.

Evelyn Underhill’s gift to the Church may best be summarized by the title of one of her early books: Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People. The first book of hers that I really read was called Life as Prayer, a volume of occasional talks, now out of print. I keep returning to two essays in this volume. "The Spiritual Life of a Teacher," an address to church school teachers, seems to me to speak equally to the vocations of teacher and parent, two callings that I have always sought to weave together in my own life. “Life as Prayer,” the title essay, speaks to the way that I have experienced the mystery of intercessory prayer, and prayer in community. More widely available is her little book The Spiritual Life, a series of radio addresses offered on the BBC in 1938. There she speaks of the connection between the call to the interior life and the Church’s vocation to serve the needs of a suffering and broken world. Evelyn’s writing invites people to adoration, communion and cooperation with God, and depicts prayer as an immersion in God's love, an activity natural to human beings formed in God's image, and an exciting journey. "The life of prayer," she writes, "is so great and various there is something in it for everyone. Or again, it is like that ocean of God in which St. Gregory said that elephants can swim and lambs can paddle. Even a baby can do something about it. No saint has exhausted its possibilities yet." (“Life as Prayer,” p. 175)

In “The Spiritual Life of the Teacher, her wisdom extends not only to teachers but to mothers and fathers and mentors of all kinds:

In one way or another, you are required to be pupil-teachers, working for love. You must learn all the time, and give all the time; freely you have received, freely give. That is your Charter. Only do see to it that you fulfil the condition in which you can receive. The most up-to-date and efficient tap is useless unless the Living Water can come through and does come through.

Or again, further on:

God is always coming to you in the sacrament of the present moment. Meet and receive Him then with gratitude in that sacrament; however unexpected its outward form may be. (Life as Prayer, 185)

Here and elsewhere in her writing, this voice of quiet, grounded spiritual authority has named my experience. It is a joy to find in Evelyn an apparently "normal" person, an upper middle class, educated, married woman, like myself in some ways, whose work names and invites others into the depths of the life of prayer, grounded in what she describes elsewhere as “that deep place where the soul is at home with God.”

Evelyn Underhill is best known for her fat scholarly book, Mysticism, published in 1911 and continuously in print since then. It has always seemed clear to me that her scholarly work on the mystics grew out of a deep need to integrate her own spiritual experience with an intellectual understanding of human psychology and religious experience. Throughout her writing, she insists that the experience of the great mystics of all traditions is actually an experience available to all human beings in some way or another, that the greatest mystics' experience differs from that of the rest of us "in degree, not in kind." Most important, the life of prayer is never separate from our daily work in the world. Rather, if it is healthy, prayer calls us to participate in some way in God's ongoing effort to heal and redeem all that is broken and hurting in the world. In "Life as Prayer," she writes of prayer as a "mysterious, and yet very practical, work”:

A real man or woman of prayer, then, should be a live wire, a link between God's grace and the world that needs it. In so far as you have given your lives to God, you have offered yourselves, without conditions, as transmitters of his saving and enabling live: and the will and love, the emotional drive, which you thus consecrate to God's purposes, can do actual work on supernatural levels for those for whom you are called upon to pray. One human spirit can, by its prayer and love, touch and change another human spirit; it can take a soul and lift it into the atmosphere of God. This happens, and the fact that it happens is one of the most wonderful things in the Christian life." (55)

I return often to Underhill’s writing, fascinated by this intensely prayerful woman, who wrote articles, books, and letters of direction and led retreats at a time when there was no real category to describe her vocation. The voice that comes through her work reveals a personality that was consecrated, alive, ardent, joyful and very insistent, a strong personality, absorbed in the love of Christ, yet with a homey, conversational style that is engaging. I always feel that strength of personality among us when we gather for this Day of Quiet in Evelyn Underhill’s honor. Though the meditations we hear are based on her work, ultimately the gathering is not only “about” her. Rather, in coming together we accept an invitation to enter the life of prayer in community.

Even though I usually have a leadership position now, that June quiet day has become for me a time of re-rooting, reconnecting to my own deepening experience of God's presence in my life. It is a time to rest with others in what Evelyn somewhere calls "that deep place where the soul is at home with God."

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt (Kathy) keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area, and teaches courses in literature, theology and writing at Virginia Theological Seminary and the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

Only faith

By Barbi Click

While the Anglican/Episcopal world sits all atremble, watching as the Anglican bishops speak out in Jerusalem of their own disenfranchisement and waiting with excitement or trepidation the upcoming Lambeth Conference, life as a lesbian Episcopalian goes on. Funny how that happens in so many aspects of our lives. That which seems earth-stopping for one is just another moment in time for another.

Were I still in the Diocese of Fort Worth, I am sure that the gathering of those at GAFCON and at Lambeth would matter a great deal more. Yet I am not in Fort Worth any longer. I am in St. Louis and in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. That does not mean that I care less, only that the world is different here.

One year ago, monumental things were happening in my life. As a member of the Board of Integrity USA and as a lesbian resident of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, I was invited to share my story with Phil Groves who was to be in New York as part of the Archbishop of Canterbury's "Listening Process". Mr. Groves headed up this endeavor. I was watching the Anglican-Episcopal world with a much greater degree of interest.

Yet at the same time, my partner, Debbie, and I were preparing to move out of our home of 13 years. As a result of our impending move, I was unable to meet with the invited group in New York. For the year past, Debbie and I had actively sought discernment for God's will in our lives. We wanted to live a life according to that will. It was no longer enough to exist within the confines of security. To wit, Debbie quit her job, we sold our home and small acreage, sold or donated a great deal of our material goods, stored that which we deemed irreplaceable, loaded up our eleven-year-old son and two dogs into an old motor home, said goodbye to family and friends and set off to see the Episcopal Church outside of The somewhat-less-than-Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Between July 2007 and February 2008, we traveled by car, by motor home and by airplane from Texas to Wyoming to Ohio to California to Missouri with many stops in between. We visited Episcopal parishes, Integrity and Canterbury groups and a couple of college campuses at their invitation. We heard the same question repeatedly: how did we take the steps that we took to walk in the faith that we walk? They wanted to hear how God called two moms and their child into this Church and this journey.

There can be a great discussion between the ideas of sacrifice and suffering. Some see what we have done as a great sacrifice. We see it, not as a sacrifice; rather, we would have suffered had we not done what we did. We had no choice but to step out and follow, for to have not done so would have resulted in great spiritual angst. We had no idea what God was calling us to do; we knew only that we had to move forward willingly to be able to know more. So, move we did.
Underlying all of this was the acknowledgement that I was being called into the ordination process. It took a great amount of time to understand and accept this. It is no small thing and far from simple to be a woman called into the priesthood in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Many know that hardship. Being a lesbian woman in a long term relationship made it an even more difficult thing. Being in relationship excluded me from the process within all the dioceses in Texas and many dioceses in this Church.

We know more now that we did before. We know that part of this pilgrimage in seeking God's will in our lives is truly about listening. We also know that it is not over. We are in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri at this time, awaiting further discernment. We are practicing our "listening" skills. We know that what happens in both Jerusalem and at Lambeth are important but that, regardless, life goes on.

As the Anglican world turns, we hope that it will step out in faith to listen – not to those who are talking for gays and lesbians in this Church; rather, that it will listen to the Holy Spirit which lies within the voices of the gays and lesbians themselves. Let us tell our every day stories. Let us share our stories of faith and just what these mean to not only us but to the Church at large. Just as we can learn from the journey of straight Anglicans and Episcopalians, so also can these learn from us. We have a story of love to share; we have a story of Good News. There is no sacrifice…only faith.

Barbi Click of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis is vice president of the South Central region for Integrity.

Church-wide healthcare

By John B. Chilton

In the U.S., healthcare insurance is predominantly an employer-based system. In this environment it falls to the church to consider how and whether to provide health insurance to its active clergy and lay employees. At present within the Episcopal Church this is handled at the diocesan level. This legacy may flow from the decentralization of much of the financials in the Episcopal Church. Budget wise each diocese is a boat with its own bottom.

General Convention 2006 endorsed the Church Pension Group's recommendation for a church-wide healthcare feasibility study:

Resolution A147
Title: Church-wide Healthcare Feasibility Study
Topic: Employee Benefits
Committee: Church Pension Fund
House of Initial Action: Bishops
Proposer: Church Pension Fund Board
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Resolved, That the 75th General Convention endorse the Church Pension Group’s proposal to conduct a church-wide study of the costs and issues surrounding the provision of healthcare benefits to all clergy and lay employees serving churches, dioceses and other church institutions and to report their findings to the 76th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That all dioceses, parishes and other church institutions are urged to cooperate with the conduct of this study by responding to requests for data regarding employee census and healthcare costs; and be it further

Resolved, That this study will include an analysis of the potential for a mandated denominational healthcare benefits program and other viable alternatives, culminating in a recommended solution and an actionable implementation plan.


Two key words in this resolution are "mandated denominational" found in the third resolve. If a mandated denominational plan were adopted it would be a significant departure from current procedure where it is the dioceses rather the denomination that determine healthcare benefits. It is instructive that in the second resolve dioceses were urged, not mandated. to respond for data requests.

Health insurance is one of those peculiar products where the cost to the provider depends on the characteristics of the buyer. For insurance providers to cover their costs they must pay careful attention to who is buying the product, and price it accordingly. For the same reason, when premiums are based on the health of the group there is the potential for cost shifting between groups to occur when groups are merged, harming the healthier group. Taking this down to the individual, if you are healthier than average, and you are given the choice to opt out, you might be bettter off going without insurance. Providers take this self selection into account in pricing.

At present, the denomination does offer dioceses elective (as opposed to mandated) healthcare plans priced according to regional costs, and the characteristics of the diocesan membership pool. (The extent to which this service by the denomination has been sought by dioceses has waxed and waned.) But many dioceses prefer to design, acquire and administer their health plan locally. Flexibility is one factor, but my presumption is that cost is the primary reason some dioceses find it is in their interest to go it alone. A mandated plan, by contrast would not allow dioceses to opt out of the denominational plan.

(Readers also may see the parallels between the Roman Catholic Church and the corporate model, and the looser form of hierarchy in The Episcopal Church. In a corporate model the corporation always has the option to decentralize acquisition and administration of employee health insurance to the local level or keep those decisions under central control. But as the Episcopal Church is structured it would take an act of General Convention to mandate the reverse, that is, a centralized clergy and lay employee health plan. Note that a mandate would have the curious effect of disallowing local exemptions from the health plan while the church has allowed local options on other issues such as women in the priesthood.)

The same tension exists within dioceses today where the parish (with few exceptions) is mandated to participate in the diocesan plan. Particularly in parishes with a large staff it may be the case that a parish with a healthy staff can find lower costs (for equivalent coverage) than it would be charged through the diocesan plan. When parishes are free to leave and reenter a diocesan plan, and do so according to the changing health of their staff, a great deal of animosity can result. And insurance companies are loath to deal with you when your eligible population is so ill defined, and self selects on the basis of changing need for health coverage.

GC 2009 is not far off, and the Church Pension Group has commenced its "church-wide study of the costs and issues surrounding the provision of healthcare benefits to all clergy and lay employees serving churches, dioceses and other church institutions" or, in short, Health Benefits For All Church Employees: CPG studies the feasibility. As CPG puts it:

The study will:
  • Evaluate how the Church provides healthcare benefits to active clergy and lay employees

  • Explore viable alternatives, including the potential for a denominational healthcare benefits program

  • Recommend a solution and a plan for implementing it to the next 2009 General Convention

  • The CPG is well into the evaluation stage and has reported the results of its Awareness and Opinion Survey. To come are the results (see resolve 2 of A147) of the Employer Health Benefits Questionnaire and the Employee Health Benefits Questionnaire. Also planned are focus groups around the country in Fall/Winter 2007-08; presentations and conversations with the House of Bishops, Executive Council, provincial caucuses, and other church leadership groups; and regional meetings around the country as GC 2009 nears. Indeed, much of this work is also completed or underway.

    The first resolve of A147 envisions benefits for all clergy and lay employees. This is a justice and equity issue: at present the church has found a way to provide healthcare coverage for active clergy, but not for many (full time) lay employees. The common situation today is for a diocese to mandate that clergy be covered, and to invite lay employees to participate if they or their employer pays the premium.

    The pattern has been that many lay employees are not covered. The reason is that lay employees tend to be younger/healthier than clergy. Unless they themselves have medical problems they find the insurance overpriced because insurance is priced according the health of the participating group, not the individual. The result is that few lay employees participate because they prefer to have the cash to paying the premium (or what is the same thing, they prefer their employer give them cash equivalent rather than give them health insurance).

    There are reasons, however, to hope a church-wide plan might reduce premiums so that clergy and lay employees would both benefit. These are what CPG calls the Driving Issues.

    First, under a unified health plan the denomination might have greater bargaining power than any diocese can muster on its own. For some of our smaller dioceses small numbers is a reason they cannot negotiate good premiums. But what I've been told is that this is not a significant issue once your group is over 150 members or so. A mandate would allow smaller dioceses to join in the negotiating advantage benefit that larger dioceses already enjoy.

    Second, it is anticipated that mandating lay coverage will change the composition of the insured pool. Preliminary survey results indicate that the lay group is comparatively younger and healthier than the clergy group. Thus, it can be true that while a lay person might not want to purchase insurance at a premium based on a clergy-only pool, that same person might benefit from purchasing insurance at a premium based on pooling all clergy and all lay employees.

    A question that arises is, if mandating lay coverage makes so much sense (because it lowers overall costs of salaries and benefits to clergy and lay employees), why haven't dioceses done so on their own initiative? Could it be that no one wants to tell lay employees we're expanding your benefits, but taking the premium out of your salary? If so, then mandating inclusion of lay employees will lower per capita healthcare care costs, but church-wide total healthcare costs will increase as would per capita costs of employing a lay person. The incentive will be to cut employment of lay persons undercutting the benefits of pooling clergy and lay employees.

    Finally, a church-wide plan could reduce the administrative burden by relieving "dioceses, parishes, and other church institutions of the burden of developing and maintaining health benefits programs." This benefit could be significant, particularly for smaller dioceses.

    CPG has done a careful job of communicating its study's progress through its website, and through its periodical Flash devoted to the topic which is mailed to clergy and lay employees of the church. In the May 2008 issue of Flash (PDF) the CPG puts its cards on the table (p. 2):

    After a great deal of research and analysis over the past year, we have come to the conclusion that a denominational health plan has many outstanding advantages for the Church. And various comments offered during conversations, emails, and interactions with the Church at various levels indicate that many clergy and lay employees around the country agree. Through focus groups, presentations, and one-on-one conversations – including the April meeting of the Conference of Diocesan Executives (CODE) and the recent annual Medical Trust meeting with diocesan administrators – the majority of employers, clergy, and lay employees have expressed agreement that a denominational health plan is the best approach to take.

    A Preliminary Denominational Health Plan is laid out on pages 3 to 6 of the May 2008 Flash. A new survey is being disseminated: "All clergy, lay employees, and General Convention deputies will soon be asked to complete a new survey which will solicit feedback on initial concepts for a denominational health plan and help us gauge how well we’re keeping you informed" (p. 6).

    What of the potential for pushback from dioceses that are doing well on their own? To limit tensions between winners and losers from a mandate, the current thinking is that premiums charged to the dioceses will be set based on regional demographics and regional cost of healthcare. The hope is that as a result each diocese would be at least as well off as it is going it alone.

    The plan would require that dioceses treat clergy and ("full time") lay employees with parity. If the diocese requires parishes to pay, say, X percent of the premium for parish clergy, that same cost sharing most hold for full time parish lay employees. I would note that in the end, parity may be more apparent than real. Mandating a benefit might cause a parish to reduce lay employment, or to hold down lay salaries. And could a parish say we treat clergy and lay equally, but we require them both to pay 100 percent of the premium passed to us from the diocese? If so, then a parish might hold lay salaries the same, but increase clergy salaries to keep the latter as well off.

    While the Church Pension Group is not saying that it will recommend a denomination healthcare plan, it is signaling that chances are strong that it will and that so far what it is hearing is a consensus across the church. It is giving us all plenty of notice that we should be thinking hard about whether this serves the best interests of the Church.

    Dr. John B. Chilton is an economist on a busman's holiday in Orkney Springs, Va., home of Shrine Mont Episcopal Conference Center of the Diocese of Virginia. He maintains two personal blogs, The Emirates Economist and New Virginia Church Man.

    Holy ground in cyberspace

    By Ann Fontaine

    Seven years ago the Diocese of Wyoming's Canon for Ministry Development, Lynn Wilson, wondered if we could offer Education for Ministry (EfM) via the internet to our isolated and rural churches and their leaders. I have been a mentor and trainer with EfM since the early days of the program. This was a challenge I could not resist. How could we replicate this small group experience with its transformative theological reflection and study? Dr. Norm Peterson, a mentor and Dean of Education at the University of Wyoming and I recruited our first class of students for a pilot project with Blackboard, the popular distance education program that most colleges use.

    I thought it would be possible to carry out the program but did not believe it would be as good as face-to-face EfM. I could not have been more wrong. Now the online groups are spreading around the country with students from as far away as South Africa, Bahrain and Korea. Originally we thought it would be great for rural isolated students. We have discovered that it is great for those who travel for work, those who live in cities and don’t want one more night out, those who have children at home and snowbirds. The intimacy and depth of sharing is beyond my dreams. When we do find time to see each other in person – we are like old friends.

    Other EfM Online mentors have had similar experiences. Jenifer Gamber, Diocese of Bethlehem, finished her 4th year in an online group then became a mentor. She writes:

    Who could have predicted the impact the decentralized network of the internet would have by connecting individuals separated by thousands of miles, history, culture, and much more? One of the greatest joys of participating in EfM Online for the past three years has been hearing the stories and insights with people from all over the United States who have vastly different experiences. My first year one of the participants joined from her mission work in Brazil. A participant from Mississippi shared first-hand experience of the effects of hurricane Katrina. Even seemingly mundane differences, for example, the weather, (snowing in Casper, WY but 70 degrees in Bethlehem, PA in May) enriched our time together because we came to know how our differences provided both opportunity for seeking commonalities and for treasuring a diversity that deepened our understanding of God's work in the world.

    Paradoxically, our separated-ness has created a kind of intimacy has provided a place for deep sharing. Perhaps it is from a deep yearning for connection or the safety of cyber boundaries. We have shared at deep levels of vulnerability and tenderness.

    Another joy of EfM Online has been sustained conversations about our readings. Because we post reflections to our weekly readings on a discussion board, we have many days to consider one another's contributions before responding ourselves. It's like having a living, yet suspended, conversation. Issues of faith matter deeply; our conversations challenge and confirm; they sometimes present one with new ways of thinking and time to consider how to understand new ideas in light of my experience and positions.

    A student from South Africa, in a group mentored by Kathy Araujo in Oregon, writes:

    I've spent a big chunk of the weekend going back through all our postings in all the various threads this year--a big advantage over the face-to-face format, where all one has to rely on is memory and perhaps some journal entries.

    Two big things jump out at me. First, I am struck by how much my reflections have been shaped by where I am and by my ex-pat experience. This is a distinct difference from the prior three years. …The fact that we were each coming to our EfM year from different places in the world, different places in our lives, and different points on our spiritual journey was probably the single most enriching aspect of this year for me.

    The second thing that just zoomed off the screen for me was that at some point or another, every single one of us said to another one of us some variation on "you made me think" or "I need to give that some thought" or "I had never noticed that before" or "I've never thought of it that way" or "that comment changed me."

    A student living in Korea, who finished the program in a group mentored by Jo Freeman, writes:

    I am humbled and thankful that I could have the opportunity to complete EFM. I began in a TEE (Theological Education by Extension...as Sewanee called it then) class in the early 1980s. When I came to Korea I thought my chance of finishing might never come because there were no live EFM groups in Korea. I was so excited to find EFM online!

    This year EFM has meant so much to me. Because of our studies, our reflections, our sharing, having to do the hard introspective work of writing the Spiritual Autobiography and other explorations of ministry, I now see my purpose, my world, my ministry and relationships in a much different way. There is new meaning and passion...and a heightened sense of how I am already following God's call for me.... and how I can continue to grow into what the next phase might be. I am so grateful to this program and to you for "herding us cats", and for your expert way of leading us into how to do TR.

    Canada is using the program for its long distances and need for connection. The average age of participants in EfM Online is lower than traditional groups. More and more people are becoming familiar with online classes and use of technology to connect with others around the world. One student mentioned she would like to start a group in Second Life. Possibilities for community continue to grow.

    Attention to relationships and guidelines for interaction are even more important in the online environment. Since we cannot see or hear each other we have to take care of what we say and let each other know when we are hurting or joyful. Body language is non-existent so we develop ways to compensate. On the other hand – signs that might create barriers like how people are dressed or how they look do not exist either. I am often asked how we can build community when we are never together in “real” – I say “come and see.”

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

    Communication begins in song

    By Donald Schell

    Two days after walking, singing, and praying with eleven Anglicans and one Lutheran across a hundred and fifty miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, my wife and I flew to Malawi, Africa where we’re driving distances on two lane highways crowded with pedestrians, heavy trucks, and bicycles (often laden with multiple riders or huge loads of charcoal for market) to visit community-based responses to Malawi’s AIDS crisis. When we turn off the pavement, we bounce along dirt tracks to visit village home-based care (HBC) programs, orphan feeding programs, AIDS education programs, ARV (anti-retroviral programs), and other locally generated responses to the AIDS crisis. Our Spanish pilgrimage and African project visits feel like one, and music is part of what makes that so.

    My wife Ellen is the International Programs Director for Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance. Her day-to-day work is communicating with Malawi leadership (typically via email) on project development. Annually she visits to talk with local coordinators who are skilled in program and capacity development and with them she visits as many projects as possible.

    Today our plans have changed, cutting short our last day’s visits in the Lilongwe (central) region. The husband of GAIA’s southern region project officer died last night, so we’re driving down to Blantyre this afternoon for the funeral tomorrow. Sr. Gertrude, GAIA’s central region coordinator will join the wake before the funeral, a whole night of singing to send the deceased man on with blessing, an old African custom that fits well with Christian hope and practice. Gertrude is a Roman Catholic. Alice, whose husband died, is CCAP (Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian). I’ll wear my collar to the funeral tomorrow, as other Anglican clergy will. Baptists and Living Waters (African Pentecostal) Church members will join the singing. African Christians take easily to ecumenism. And tomorrow’s funeral will be full of singing. Mourning or joy, sorrow, or hope – African cultures greet all with singing.

    Prayer and singing have greeted us at nearly every project we’ve visited. Four iterations of All Saints Company’s "Music that Makes Community” workshops – two in San Francisco and two in New York with another coming up in Iowa have me listening carefully for how people make the music we’re hearing.

    Here’s a typical scene: a lead singer makes a quiet opening call and sets up a rhythm with her or his feet, the group responds with feet shuffling in simple step laying down a gentle but steady percussion. The leader then offers a strong call – singing out the central refrain. A couple of other leaders join in harmony and they sing it through to a moment of sung cue when the whole chorus joins in – sometimes forty singers. Leaders continue to improvise. The melodic and harmonic paths are known and give a frame for improvisation. The English words we hear are about our visit, about the work the people are doing together - caring for orphans or doing AIDS education, and they’re nearly always about the grace of God, and giving thanks. The music practices shared authority. Learning and singing are completely continuous. Harmonies weave men and women, boys and girls together.

    In all the fractious debate in our Anglican communion, we have managed, at least sometimes, to remind ourselves that ‘communion’ isn’t something we make or earn. Sometimes, at least, we remember that communion is what we do together that makes us one. I hope bishops at this summer’s Lambeth Conference will remember that communion is neither an enforced human artifact of pure unity nor a reward for agreeing that everyone like us is right and everyone not like us is wrong. But can we find our way without singing together when music is an essential nutrient in the fertile ground from which communion springs? Does this sound like overstatement? I do mean it.

    Walking the Camino we began each day with teaching our group (eight out of twelve of us speaking no Spanish) the Padre Nuestro, The Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. We found this a surprisingly grace-filled exercise in old-fashioned rote memorization. It gave us all a way to pray with our Spanish sisters and brothers when we attended pilgrim masses along the way. And our pilgrims prayed the prayer, phrase by phrase as they walked (and sometimes we sang too, even walking alone).

    Singing (like our day by day memorization of the Padre Nuestro) offered us freedom and trust in a caring relationship growing from learning by imitation. Each morning before our daily Padre Nuestro, our group sang together, exploring treasures of hymnody that recall the way to God as journey and pilgrimage. We also drew daily from Church Publishing’s soon to be released Music By Heart, Songs for Evening Worship. Music by Heart is All Saints Company’s first published contribution to a church-wide and international recovery of music we learn by ear and by heart. In this we gratefully follow John Bell’s lead. From the Iona Community he and others in other settings are also at work building community by singing together.

    In Music that Makes Community (with a conscious nod toward traditional singing and African choral folk music) we’ve worked with a group of musician-liturgists from around the U.S. commissioning, collecting and teaching people to lead congregations in the music that comes to us by hearing and imitation, listening that takes the mind directly to the heart.

    But what has this got to do with communion? In his book Singing Neanderthals Stephen Mithen argues compellingly that melody and ritual gesture were the fertile soil of humanity’s primal communication and community. Speech began in tonal expressions of hope, request, urgency, frustration, command accompanied by demonstrative gestures. Primal sentences expressing desires, fears, requests, warnings, and exhortations were the sea from which living words and powerful abstract ideas emerged. There’s a good summary review of Mithen’s book on-line in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology – Mithen’s book fits beautifully with Louis Weil’s (Liturgy Professor at Church Divinity School of the Pacific) observations, “Our bodies are the instruments of prayer,” and “The meaning of the ritual is learned in the experience itself.”

    Human communication begins in singing together. Language, which began singing, has been our essential means of discovering and describing truth. Our church crisis is the crisis of a “not-listening process,” the opposite of singing together. Our divisions deny the personal and relational quality of truth. We’ve fallen to thinking with the mind in the head rather than in the heart. (“Thinking with the mind in the heart” is Parker Palmer’s insightful appropriation of the Eastern Church’s teaching in the Philokalia that true prayer begins when we pray with the mind in the heart.)

    Music is communal, and making music together builds relationship (and shares authority among all who sing or play). I’ve heard this shared authority and community making in the kitchen at Wendel’s Guest House where we’ve been staying this week in Lilongwe. The guys in the kitchen sing and talk as they work, trading musical phrases, familiar songs, ideas, and gossip back and forth.

    And every project we’ve visited – school, church, or village has greeted us with song (and often song and dance). Women, men, and children’s voices begin in simple response to a refrain, drums support and encourage, bodies move. Words and tunes are modeled by a leader, picked up by the group, and improvised. ‘We sing a song of welcome, welcome our dear vistors, welcome dear GAIA!’

    Singing is a natural and graceful practice of community building and spiritual formation. Imitation and memorization give us a framework of relationship and a means of thinking together.

    Where has music gone in Western and particularly American culture? Why do we imagine that there are people who can’t sing?

    Our technologically shaped, individualized culture has forgotten that truth is ultimately relational. Could this relational (and musical) quality of truth be what makes the Nicene Creed more believable to some people when it’s sung together rather than when it’s said? Singing together enacts what the creed teaches – that God in Trinity is a perichoresis (the Greek word for a circle dance that the drafters of the Nicene Creed used to describe the personal and relational quality of the mystery of God).

    At dinner here in Malawi we were talking with a distinguished Malawian physician who did her advanced training in the Great Britain. ‘People in Europe and America don’t seem to notice how fragmented their societies have become,’ she said. ‘Here in Africa we assume that we are in relationship with everyone. We talk. Your society is framed to minimize person to person contact, to make it all optional or by choice. One week in England I decided to see how little I could talk to people I didn’t know. I bought a weeklong bus pass that I had only to flash to the driver to get on the bus. I used the automated teller. I shopped for my groceries without saying a word.’ She wondered what we are doing when we allow ourselves to choose whom we will be human with.

    So, we argue in written prose (not even using the melody of our face to face speaking voices). Do we actually believe we can enact church union without singing together, without the gestures and movements that make sacraments?

    Unlike today’s church, Jesus didn’t think music was a decorative luxury. When looking for an image for an unresponsive generation, he pointed to the people in the marketplace annoyed with the children playing at ‘weddings and funerals.’ What sort of generation doesn’t welcome the kingdom? A commerce-preoccupied marketplace culture that can hear the prophet weeping and won’t mourn, and can hear the messiah piping and singing and won’t dance. It’s no surprise in Mark and Matthew’s accounts of the Last Supper, to hear Jesus and the disciples singing a hymn together before they went out to the mount of olives, that is, before their teacher went out to face betrayal, imprisonment, torture, and death. Seeing what was coming, Jesus didn’t offer his disciples a last word, after he’d taught and shared the meal again, he sang with them, making a community to gather God’s strength and blessing. Liturgical scholars tell us they probably sang Psalm 136 that night, a hymn of victory to mark the end of the ritual meal with a celebration of God’s unfailing love in the face of adversity.

    Commands or exhortations to sing come up repeatedly (and emphatically) in the epistles – Romans 15:4-14; I Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:11-21; James 5:8-18; and the apocalyptic vision of God’s triumph in Revelation is also punctuated with song (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 15:3). Two of the most powerful theological formulations in the New Testament – John 1 (‘In the beginning was the Word…’) and Philippians 2 (‘Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus…’) claim theological authority for the community’s hymns.

    Music is relational and of the moment. Listening to one another as we sing, our music unfolds in time, in breath, and in rhythm. Timeless ideas, concepts without heart cannot live or build community. Truth that is not relational marginalizes and kills for the sake of ‘consistency.’ Our world came to be in song lines, hearing and imitating, call and response, and improvisation. Singing is humanity’s original listening process, knowing the other in love.

    We can’t make music without sharing authority. Everyone contributes to a consensus of pitch and rhythm. Our primal language counts on my relationship to you and yours to me for us to work together. Any language in which I can be all alone in my right opinion or doctrine has severed itself from the human root of music and gesture. We may suspect the other churches in the communion don’t get our ‘baptismal covenant’ but it looks to me like our grassroots, democratic church, for all the important discoveries it HAS made about relationship and love, needs the nurture of much more African-style singing.

    The Rev. Donald Schell, founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, is Creative Director of All Saints Company, working for community development in congregational life focusing on sharing leadership, welcoming creativity and building community through music. He wrote My Father, My Daughter: Pilgrims on the Road to Santiago.

    Power politics, Anglican style

    By Richard E. Helmer

    Now that GAFCON is under way and the machinations of schism roll forward, the Anglican blogosphere is replete with claims and counterclaims about its rectitude. With the widely publicized failure for archbishops to cross the Jordan on the eve of the conference, GAFCON itself seems to be the latest manifestation of an effort to stay in the news. Watching schism unfold draws reporters and pundits like moths to a light. And with them come the dollars from many with an axe to grind about the Church, theologically or otherwise. From that, in no small measure, GAFCON and its architects draw their power.

    I was personally drawn to reflect when Mark Harris recently reflected on this piece from Pittsburgh’s Bishop, Robert Duncan, in an opening address at the GAFCON conference:

    "Archbishop Williams remarked at the beginning of the Dar es Salaam Primates Meeting: ‘It is all a question of who blinks first.’ Neither the American orthodox, nor the Global South Primates, nor history would blink. Not then, not now. The so-called ‘blink’ has taken place, but it has taken place in the re-definition of the Lambeth Conference as a place of managed conversation, not conciliar decision, and in the recognition that to call the Primates Meeting together ever again would be to confirm that the Communion’s engine has shifted to the South. Re-defining the Lambeth Conference and not calling the Primates Meeting are exercises of colonial control. But the inexorable shift of power from Britain and the West to the Global South cannot be stopped, and some conciliar instrument reflective of the shift is bound to emerge as the Reformation Settlement gives way to a Global (post-colonial) Settlement."

    As Mark Harris observed, these are words about power, plain and simple. Bishop Duncan knows that to appeal in this way to the leadership of the self-declared Global South and their wishes means appealing to wider experience of longstanding suffering. This suffering carries in it all the weight of centuries of the slave trade, racism, exploitation, imperial hubris, the shattering of community identity, and the degradation of perpetual violence bought through political oppression and economic ruin. I can’t help but wonder if he feels, by these words, he is following the Gospel imperative of helping empower the powerless – offering power to those who hitherto have had the back seat on the Anglican bus, along with the far back seat of the Global bus. As an added bonus, he can claim his own seeming powerlessness as a victim offered up on the horns of ecclesiastical presentment, portions of his diocese on the brink of following him over the brink into the chasm of schism.

    The language of power seems to have become commonplace when The Episcopal Church’s harshest critics talk about the Anglican Communion these days. Bishop Martyn Minns said in a New York Times article about the upcoming Lambeth Conference that:

    “It’s unfortunate, at a time the church needs clear and strong leadership, it gets two weeks of conversation.”

    Are these just sour grapes from an uninvited bishop? Whether they are or aren’t matters less than this: these are really words about power. The leadership that Minns wants to see is about wielding power to reign in the heresies as he sees them -- heresies that he believes are undermining the Church so much so that he’s willing to risk his own irregular consecration and the properties of his former parish in a lengthy legal and ecclesiastical battle for control. Even though Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Lambeth design team, in their intentional decision to keep Communion legislation -- a form of creating and wielding power -- out of the upcoming Lambeth Conference, actually are helping return Lambeth to its original non-legislative purpose: “To enable the Bishops of the Anglican Communion to discern and share more deeply their Anglican identity and become even better equipped for their Christ-given task of being leaders in God's mission.”

    But this is not merely to single out Bishop Minns, Bishop Duncan, or any other organizers of GAFCON. The truth is we all pine after the same thing: control over our own lives and ends. We worry sometimes that our powerlessness is a sign that we have been abandoned or at least challenged by God. That we are empty. That we have lost control. And that therefore we have been broken and betrayed. A statement of feeling abandoned given the House of Bishops shortly after Gene Robinson was narrowly approved for consecration says it all. It was made by Bishop Robinson’s seminary classmate, Bishop Duncan:

    “This body has denied the plain teaching of Scripture and the moral consensus of the church throughout the ages.… I will stand against the actions of this Convention with everything I have and everything I am. I have not left, and will not leave, the Episcopal Church or my apostolic role as Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh. It is this Seventy-fourth General Convention that has left us, betrayed us, undone us. May our merciful Lord Jesus have pity on us, His broken bride.”

    The challenge faced by those most discontented with the recent actions of The Episcopal Church and determined to wrest it back by any means necessary is in a large sense an articulation of a desperate sense of losing power, of losing control over their Church, or at least their own faith, if nothing else. There was a time when the Church either tacitly or overtly affirmed the faith they felt they had received. Now that a significant portion feels called to discern anew, in the light of fresh understanding from our tradition, scripture, and reason, a relatively small portion of this faith, the very foundations of what some of us have held are perceived as questioned, “revised” as the current lingo has us squarely pegged (labeling is yet another source of control, of power): “revisionists.” We shouldn’t wonder that a number of our brothers and sisters in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada run headlong towards Anglican provinces that, by simple majority, support their “reasserter” claims and wish to consolidate power and authority around them.

    Ironically enough, those of us who are supportive of the full inclusion of our LGBT sisters and brothers and their covenanted relationships in the sacramental life of the Church are seeking ways to help empower the historically powerless, the “least of these” who have suffered a long oppression and frequently a deadly silence. But in doing so, we have placed the source of personal and relational, if not simply faith power of some of our other sisters and brothers under threat. And, to our own peril, we have frequently in writing, speech, and action, attempted to capitalize on this threat and puffed up our own sense of self righteousness, our own sense of power by seeing ourselves on the right side of God’s grace.

    Yet all of these questions of power as we continue to spiral around them, sometimes like sharks in a feeding frenzy, assume a basic premise that demands this question:

    Is the Gospel fundamentally about power?

    The theme of the narratives themselves seem from the very beginning to place Jesus outside the realms of earthly power, at once crowning him as king while simultaneously placing him amongst the “least of these.” Matthew’s family tree for Jesus, for instance, is filled with biblical reprobates and anti-heroes. He is conceived out of wedlock and born at the edge of the civilized world in a stable while the outcasts, marginalized, and foreigners come to worship him and herald his arrival. He follows in the footsteps of an executed prophetic cousin, preaches hope and brings healing to the forgotten poor, shirks invitations to be made a populist and powerful political ruler, and ultimately faces his own demise by giving himself up – weaponless and abandoned by his friends – to a cold and calculating authority wielded by the greatest power of the time, manifested as empire.

    Ours is hardly the Gospel of power. In fact, the theme of the Gospel seems to warn us over and over again that the pursuit of power is the root of a great deal of evil in our lives and the lives of others. The Pharisees are repeatedly chastised for power gained through an obsession with pious acts and behavior. The Sadducees and elders are contradicted for their appeal to the powers found in carefully guarded textual analysis and protecting a religious and political economic system that continues to damn the least powerful to an unholy poverty.

    Jesus collects to himself the least powerful, the outcasts, the sinners, the ne’er-do-wells in every sense, the pariahs of his day. And even the later theologizing about him in the oft-persecuted world of the early Church will opine of a God who relinquished power to become one of us, who gave up glory to become Christ for the sake of our salvation. It seems to me that this is the most that can be said about power in the New Testament: that to be allied with the coming Reign of God, power is best shared and even given up, especially to those who have none. And, ultimately, the journey into the heart of God has little to do at all with power, and a great deal more to do with that holy mystery called love: a love which demands that power be relinquished. Ironically enough, this with all of its missing manifestations seems to be close to the heart of the present malaise in the Communion. And yet we talk about it so little. Power by itself is a much more exciting study and practice.

    So why all this talk of power at GAFCON? Indeed, what will the Global South do with it as they receive it, grab it, or simply isolate themselves from the rest of us and generate it for themselves? Will they do any better with power held tight than the North and West in our collective ages of empire, exploitation, and oppression? Will they stay at the table and wield a benevolent power if the Provinces of the Anglican Communion pass the vaunted provisions of the proposed St. Andrew’s Draft that give the power to declare Anglican provinces in our out? Will they declare rightly, in God’s eyes, that theologies of a particular kind may be disempowered to keep the powerful of the Church in control, cleansed and pure of the heretical? As many have already deserved, we Anglicans started trying to wrestle ourselves free of that notion, for better or for worse, nearly five hundred years ago.

    “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” Jesus said about power to a people in a culture and a time that dealt and conversed in terms of power just as much as we do in the present time. It’s an easy conclusion to draw: Jesus speaks to us with these words now.

    It would behoove us all to truly listen.

    The Rev. Richard E. Helmer serves as rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, Calif. He has served in interfaith, ecumenical, diocesan, and national church organizations, including Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries , stewardship, and ethnic and multicultural church settings. He blogs regularly about spirituality, ministry, Anglicanism, and church politics at Caught by the Light.

    An Episco-free World

    By Kit Carlson

    I have been eavesdropping lately on conversations going on around me in public spaces. Not out of some prurient interest (although I still play Harriet the Spy’s ‘diner game’ from time to time, listening to people behind me and trying to imagine what they look like, then turning around to see if I guessed right.), but out of another kind of curiosity.

    Simply this: What ARE people talking about these days anyway?

    Well, let me tell you, people are NOT talking about the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson or Rowan Williams. The names Jack Iker or Robert Duncan do not pass their lips. Nor does the name of Katharine Jefferts Schori.

    Despite the furor on the blogosphere, or in our Parish Halls, or in our diocesan gatherings, the things that are of such deep and obsessive interest to us are simply not on the radar of the general public.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. While we may be generally known as “the church that’s fighting over gay bishops,” it’s not really at people’s top-of-mind awareness. Which leads me to believe that there is room for us to work, room for us to create an awareness of our denomination that would go beyond the bickering and legal annihilation we practice so enthusiastically.

    What if we really COULD get people talking about the Episcopal Church? What if we could overhear folks in coffee shops and supermarkets, on line in the airport or riding on the bus, saying things like:

    “You know that school was built by the Episcopal Church for our children … not the rich children, but our children, right here in the barrio.”

    “I went on a mission trip to Haiti, and you should see all the things the Episcopal Church is doing in that country … the feeding programs, the sustainability projects, the schools, they even started an orchestra.”

    “Well, I know the Episcopal Church will speak up for us against these developers.”

    “I have a whole new sense of my purpose in life. I have to tell you about my church and how God has changed me … yes, my church. It’s that Episcopal Church on the corner.”

    It’s something to hope for, and something new to strive for. In the meantime, I think it’s helpful to listen. To hear what people care about, are curious about, are enraged about, are tickled about. To hear the voices of people going about their everyday business, chatting about their everyday concerns. That business, those concerns are of deep and abiding interest to the God we serve. Perhaps they are even of more interest to God than the internecine battles of our tiny denomination.

    The Rev. Kit Carlson, is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich., where she blogs at Saints Alive!

    The spirituality of sweet tea

    By Luiz Coelho

    Fifty years ago, in most of Brazil, it was still common to see people watch the sunset sitting on a comfortable rocking chair on the porch of their houses. Families and neighbors were usually invited over, and food and refreshments were widely available. In more urban scenarios, people would bring tables and chairs to the sidewalks, and chat before dinner. After the Second World War, these moments had an important effect: they helped build communities, often composed of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, and offered hope for a better future.

    On colder days, if the weather allowed it, hot coffee or black tea, accompanied by a few slices of carrot, orange or corn cake, was just enough to bring families around the outdoor table, and soon neighbors and friends would join them. They would eventually bring more snacks, and conversation would go on until it was time to go inside and have dinner. On hot summer days, hot coffee was replaced by cold juices and mate, a special Brazilian tea cherished by many in its cold and sweet form. Sometimes, this happy encounter would be followed by a garden dinner, which could go on for hours and hours.

    As a Southerner “by adoption”, I soon learned that some traditions are ubiquitous everywhere, especially when it comes to “Pan-American late afternoon environments”. Some of the foods were probably slightly different, and mate was surely replaced by intese doses of freshly brewed sweet tea on the rocks. However, the feelings and bonds of affection were the same, and long nights of laughs and conversations helped foster the sense of community here and there, especially at a time when the future seemed to be uncertain.

    In churches, similar events also happened. From “dinners on the grounds” to Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers, food, community and conversations have always been part of our Church life. The rich noise of children running around the parish hall and vivid conversations between parishioners of different sorts still can be heard in many of our Churches across the world. In many places, however, this community life centered around food and conversation is dying, often substituted by an innovative “consumer Gospel”, which produces short term growth, but in the long run has increasingly contributed to empty houses of worship.

    Sadly, I do not belong to the slow sweet tea generation. Raised in a middle class apartment, I did not have the possibility of playing with neighbors on the street and hearing my mother's call to come inside for dinner. To be true, I barely knew my neighbors' names. Only in the summer, when I would spend some free time at my grandparents' cottage, did I have the opportunity to enjoy the slow life of “the good old times”: playing with their pet (a dog named Perigoso - “Dangerous” in English – who was anything but dangerous), helping my grandfather harvest fresh vegetables, playing with the neighbors' kids, jumping in trees and getting dirty. And, at the end of the afternoon, we would always drink refreshments and chat for a while in front of their house. The neighbors were always invited to join the conversation, after all, everybody was part of a “big family.”

    That's how Churches are supposed to be: a big family. However, the “community” aspect of church life is emphasized in our “modern” world less and less. Many search committees now expect priests to be much more like business administrators who are able to celebrate a quick liturgy rather than spiritual leaders called by God to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, with a schedule filled with committee meetings, there is little time for visiting the sick, talking on the phone with parishioners or even enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea at the end of the afternoon.

    Parishioners also have less and less time for Church affairs. Sunday school is rarely heard of in some places. Coffee and refreshments, usually served after the main service of the day, are taken “to go” as people run to their cars, ready to drive to the nearest restaurant. There is little time for weekday activities, including longtime parish programs and traditions, which risk being extinguished within a couple of generations.

    It is necessary to reclaim the “spirituality of sweet tea” in our world: the long talks, the hugs, the common meals and warm conversations. Yes, the world has changed, and the Church inevitably has to adapt to a fast-paced society. However, the essence of Christian community life cannot change. Some regard it as the strongest aspect as the early Christians' most impressible aspect and wherever it still persists, the Church is strong and active.

    Maybe it is time, then, to use community life as a tool for church growth and evangelism. Younger generations, often so technologically savvy, lack the “people” aspect of daily life. If the Church will provide a warm and welcoming environment, where all are known and cherished by their brothers and sisters in Christ, it surely will be able to reach the unchurched. Our Episcopal/Anglican identity provides a solid and traditional liturgy, complemented with a comprehensive and inclusive theology. When allied with intentional Christian community, which naturally flows from our liturgy centered around the Eucharist, Christ is made truly present among us and a conduit is created that enables people to find wholeness in God in Christ.

    Luiz Coelho, a seminarian from the Diocese of Rio de Janero, spends part of the year in the BFA program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His Web site includes his art and his blog, Wandering Christian, on which he examines "Christianity in the third millennium, from a progressive, Latin American and Anglican point of view."

    The Overwork Ethic

    By Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick

    It's three-thirty in the afternoon and as I sit down to a late lunch in my favorite midtown Manhattan coffee shop the man at the next table pulls a ringing cell phone out of his jacket pocket. "Hi, Brittany," he says, staring down at his lentil soup. "Can I call you back in fifteen minutes? I really wanted to take your call but I'm in a meeting right now."

    We've all done it, right?

    Still, digging into my chicken avocado salad, I was struck that it isn't professional or acceptable to admit that one is engaged in the simple human act of eating a meal. Dare mention that you'd rather eat your soup while it's hot instead of talking to a colleague? You're sure to come across as a slacker.

    I imagined how a caller might respond to a few other replies.

    "I'm in Downward-Facing Dog."

    "I'm on the other line with my child's teacher."

    "I'm praying."

    "I'm sipping Scotch from the flask I keep in my desk drawer."

    Okay, so the last one really is unacceptable. And yet why is it that we think of all of them the same way? Nobody wants to be that person in the office who always has a sob story and never gets the job done, but we've collectively gone overboard in the other direction. With workers chained to their cubicles as they compete in the 24/7 global marketplace, no wonder solitaire is the "most-used program in the Windows universe," according to Slate's Josh Levin, pointing out an interesting correlation: "Consider that the rise of FreeCell coincided with the erosion of coffee breaks, cigarette breaks, and lunch breaks." After all, nobody can work all the time. How did it happen that every human activity except working -- or at least appearing to work -- has turned into a source of embarrassment?

    Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, the authors of Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, blame it on Sludge. Sludge is their word for the outdated beliefs about time and work dating back to the Industrial Revolution -- the daily judgments, spoken or unspoken, that label us as slackers or failures if we do anything other than devote all our energy to putting in time on the job. (Isn't Sludge a vivid name for the familiar old Protestant work ethic?) When we hide our real lives from the people at work, say Ressler and Thompson, it's because we're expecting to get Sludge hurled at us.

    When we shift our focus from avoiding the dreaded Sludge to producing results, the authors say, we free ourselves up for rest and recreation and family and fun. Instead of doing time, we shape our day around specific goals and make it our business to bring energy and creativity to accomplishing them. In the process we recover our dignity and allow ourselves to be human.

    A grace-filled approach, if you ask me. Imagine the day when each of us stops covering up and starts mentioning now and then that we do ordinary things like meditate and rest and eat lentil soup. Sounds like a recipe for cultural change.

    Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick, L.P., a New York-licensed psychoanalyst and a member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, sees couples and individuals in her private practice. A layreader in the Diocese of New York, she is the author of numerous books and articles on the spirituality of relationships, and has a website at www.pastoralcounseling.net.

    The Bible, and other tales of violence and redemption

    By R. William Carroll

    "Then promise me, if you should become queen, to GIVE ME YOUR FIRSTBORN CHILD. “

    “Who knows whether that will ever happen,” thought the miller's daughter, and, not knowing how else to help herself in this strait, she promised the little man what he wanted, and for that he once more spun the straw into gold.

    And when the king came in the morning, and found all as he had wished, he took her in marriage, and the pretty miller's daughter became a queen.

    A year later, she brought a beautiful child into the world, and she never gave a thought to the little man. But suddenly he came into her room, and said, “Now, give me what you promised.”

    The queen was horror-struck, and offered the little man all the riches of the kingdom if he would leave her the child. But the little man said, “NO, something alive is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.”

    (For this translation, I’ve adapted a little.)

    That’s not how the story ends, of course. The young woman gets out of this horrible deal by guessing that the little man’s name is Rumpelstiltskin. Not all the Grimm’s fairy tales end so happily. It is, in fact, amazing to me that we share some of these stories with children. Perhaps it’s a way to talk with them about the violence that pervades our world. Our world, after all, is one in which children are still bought and sold. In any case, these stories are no more violent than the popular entertainments that charm us today.

    Bible stories can be similarly horrifying. Just look at a few from Genesis. Abraham offers his wife Sarah to a foreign king. Lot’s daughters seduce their father. Jacob steals Esau’s birthright, so Esau tries to kill him. Even stories like Noah’s Ark are hardly G-rated. Who can really dwell on the way it begins? Who could share that with a child? And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.” In the flood story, God proposes to kill’em all and start over.

    Perhaps we have told this story to a child—even if we do race through it to get to the good parts. There are churches that relish the horror in this kind of story, and which are not afraid to use it to scare the hell out of kids, as well as adults. But we Episcopalians don’t tend to dwell on it. And properly so. We prefer the smelly menagerie, the bird with an olive branch, and the rainbow.

    And yet, if the problematic beginning of this myth remains unspoken or repressed, the story is robbed of its power. We also fail to come to an adult understanding of it, since it is ripped out of its context in Genesis—a saga of creation, fall, and decline, as well as God’s unbreakable commitment to save the world. Repressing the story’s beginning also allows us to forget which particular sin it is that calls down God’s displeasure. It is the VIOLENCE of humankind that provokes the flood. We need to know that our violence is offensive to God. That it reeks in God’s nostrils. And that God is offended enough by our violence that, but for God’s goodness, God could be tempted to wipe the slate clean.

    If we don’t hear this, the promise at the end makes little sense. Why else does God make a covenant with all flesh and set the rainbow in the sky as a sign of this relationship? Except to show us that God will never abandon us to the ways of sin and death. The remarkable thing in the story, which is like other flood myths of the ancient Near East in many respects, is this: God finds a way out of the cycle of violence, and promises never again to respond to our violence by destroying the world.

    If we’re honest, we know that even a child is aware of violence. Unless of course we romanticize that child to the point of dangerous denial. In the schoolyard if not the family, the child is initiated into our rituals of domination, soul-murder, and exclusion. Even a child needs to hear that this violence is offensive to God. That God rejects this violence. And that God is not powerless to act.

    Is there a danger in speaking thus of God? Does not the story project our own revenge fantasies on to God and involve God in the very violence it is trying to confront? Are we not in fact portraying God in an unworthy manner? Yes, of course. But there is an even greater danger in not speaking. All our words are inadequate. But it is only through stories—broken, human stories—that we can we convey something of the Holy One who creates and saves the world. And the realism of these stories draws us in and offers us new possibilities. The overall Biblical story, for all its contradictions and problems, testifies to God’s faithfulness, even when we have gone astray. We return to it again and again, so that we may wrestle with the loving God who meets us there.

    I’ve dwelt a bit on the dark underbelly of Noah’s Ark, because I think an adult grappling with this story sheds some light on Paul’s theology of the atonement. The doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice is often presented, especially by evangelical Christians, as a kind of war between God’s justice and mercy. God wants to condemn the world and everyone in it, but saves a few, because Christ was punished in their place on the cross. The worst of the lot are the “five point Calvinists,” who believe that God died only for the chosen, the elect. The rest of humanity will burn in hell forever, just as surely as the untold multitudes whom God drowned in the days of Noah.

    I believe this is blasphemy—which is untrue to Paul’s Gospel and fails to account for the point of the flood story. The problem with many so-called evangelicals is that they are not evangelical enough. The evangel is the Gospel, and it is good news for fallen humanity.

    As in Genesis, Paul believes that God has found a better way out of the predicament of human violence and sin. Rather than purging the world of evildoers, God has chosen to make sinners holy through the death and resurrection of Jesus. God has chosen the one man Jesus, rejected and despised by others, so that in him, God might choose us all. As Rene Girard and James Alison have taught us, Jesus is the sacrifice who brings the whole system of sacrifice and victimization to an end. The message of Romans is about God’s righteousness and mercy, which restores fallen sinners to fellowship with God. It is a direct corollary of the “covenant with all flesh” that God makes with Noah and his descendents. God has always desired, as the prophet Ezekiel teaches, “not the death of a sinner, but rather that the sinner turn from wickedness and live.”

    Jesus Christ is God’s human offer of mercy, in a world in which we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no conflict between God’s mercy and justice. They are one and the same, and they come together in the righteousness of God, which operates not by revenge but by forgiveness. The same forgiveness which Jesus lived out throughout his ministry. Could we choose to reject this offer and forever exclude ourselves from God’s presence? I suppose maybe we could. But I believe that, in the end, NO ONE ACTUALLY DOES.

    There is Good News hidden in the doctrine of sin. Sin is the great equalizer. Sin levels the playing field and throws us back on God’s loving kindness. In Paul’s vision, Jews are no better and certainly no worse than Gentiles. In other words, insiders are neither better nor worse than outsiders. We have been called but not because we deserve it. We have been chosen—not for privilege but for service.

    “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.”

    The Rev. R. William Carroll serves as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio (Diocese of Southern Ohio). He received his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He co-edits The Covenant Journal with Lane Denson.

    Is today's clergyperson
    a professional?

    By Adrian Worsfold

    Recent ongoing stories about church decline in the United Kingdom have raised questions again about deployment of human resources. Much of this is based around what the clergy is for and what it does, how it fits into society, and what it can do differently from other people.

    The status of clergy has risen and fallen over time. At one time many a family of some land would put a son or two into the clergy, rather as others had a career in the military. What the clergyman did not get as a reward, he received in status. This was also a visible connection between class and clergy, and one reason why the Church of England found itself at some distance from the urban poor and indeed even the urban middle class.

    One solution to the decline of religion regarding changing society and the decline of the status of the clergyman was to connect the clergyman with professionalism. By calling him a professional, the clergy hitched itself to a method in modern society of raising status.

    In general, the professional receives specialist training that follows on from having achieved a necessary level of education. To some extent, the professional possesses a secret knowledge not available to others. That knowledge gives a surplus value that shields the professional from the changeable weather of market and labour economics. In order to enact that knowledge upon others, with either fees or no fees to the public (as in the National Health Service), the professional needs to be trusted. It is a key relationship. Professionals have clients not customers. This means the professional has a code of ethics. So important is trust, that the professional comes under a regime of self-regulation via the special participatory and regulatory group he or she is obliged to join. Indeed, joining such a group and being accepted as a member is a clear piece of evidence that the individual professional is to be trusted. The salary may or may not relate to the work; nevertheless there is a responsibility in the work and a reward that comes from the work in itself. The professional is a specialist, of course, whereas under the watchful eye of the professional association, it is up to managers to run the mundane aspects of the organisation within which the professional works. The professional may work alone or in teams, but they are always separated off.

    Sometimes the professional nature of a group is under doubt. Do they really have knowledge that is unavailable elsewhere? Whatever, a profession creates entry-barriers and looks after its status. It creates restricted areas of practice, and seeks support in the wider legal system for such protection. It attempts to maintain at least a pretence that there is a distant connection with market forces, even though in reality such a claim to profession may be an attempt simply to skew a more beneficial market position.

    Is today's clergyperson a professional? The connection has always been tenuous. One reason why a clergyperson might be is the relationship of trust and a client basis of an approach to him or her. This is why Roman Catholic Church scandals of clergymen and abuse have been so damaging. Nowadays in the UK clergypeople and churchpeople as much as anyone else need to be checked through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) before coming near children. It is no longer so unusual to see a clergyperson end up on the sex offenders' register.

    The next question is whether they have specialist knowledge. What is it that they have? Well it used to be theological training, as comparatively few laypeople had the university education and then years in a theological college for both specialist knowledge and practice. Nowadays many go to university, and quite a number will do some or even all the topics an ordinand might cover. On top of this, theological training and education is being given more to lay people as lay people simply do more of the work.

    Some activities are reserved for clergy. Anglicans have rules and licences about who can do what in church, and the clergyperson is the one who does the Eucharistic service. There may be theological reasons for this, but from the point of view of professionalism it looks like protection for the sake of it. I come via a tradition where the layperson could do anything that the clergyperson did, and indeed they stopped ordaining clerics as a matter of course. I continue to see no reason why lay people properly prepared cannot do all the functions of a clergyperson. This might join my radical liberalism with Sydney fundamentalism, but there we are. Report after report about clergy and laypeople in the Church of England have envisaged more and more lay involvement with some radical solutions; in terms of money, it seems that the radical solution is to make people clerics but not to pay them. They may or may not have been to university; they may have a secular job or even profession, but they do some reduced training (more and more is distant training, not formation in a college) and then they are ordained and can do what other paid clerics do. They join the profession.

    I take the view that this professionalism-chasing is all a red herring. A clerical person surely needs to act according to trust, but there is no profession in terms of a speciality. He or she is a generality, a viewpoint over all specialities, a worker among workers, and yet hopefully one who can find time (less so if unpaid) for the other. Such is a person for others.

    However, increasingly such a person, not a professional, is a manager. This person does have to be the key paid person, even among the unpaid clerics. There is a special responsibility to carry the plant, equipment and people into some co-ordinated whole in any locality. This person should be the communicator and information conduit above and yet among all others (as well as the person who, pastorally, knows when to shut up and keep confidences - the two actually go hand in hand).

    The reason for this is decline. I have noticed, since being in the Church of England again, just how often things that could be managed and co-ordinated are left to drift. Parishes that get joined together are often done so in order that some will close, by some sort of Darwinian process of the death of the weakest.

    One may say, "What about bishops?" Of course, these too must be managers. But they are a supervisory management. They should indeed initiate and enact overall purposes and goals. However, increasingly in the UK we have "Minster Church" models of a central church where the staff congregate with oversight for other churches of an area, and here is where "management" must take place. Here is where the education and skills training can take place of local people, of setting up systems of qualitative evaluation, and of having the formal and informal meetings that set up those all important loops of planning and information.

    The idea of the cleric as a professional, as a somewhat even lonely practitioner in one place and separated off, should be killed off. In a situation where five per cent of people attend church with any regularity, the team that does attend should be empowered, communicating and sharing. Whatever the diversity of personnel, and whatever variable theologies they have, when it comes to co-ordinated and practical output, good management should be able to produce a situation where, as the saying goes, they are all 'singing from the same hymn sheet'.

    Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

    Spreading the Gospel on the cheap

    By Lauren R. Stanley

    Quick: How many missionaries does the Episcopal Church have serving full-time overseas?

    If you don’t know the answer to that question, don’t worry: Most Episcopalians aren’t even aware that the Episcopal Church has full-time overseas missionaries. Not because they aren’t paying attention, but because, sad to say, we don’t tell the story well enough (and by “we,” I mean the entire Church, top to bottom).

    The fact is, the Episcopal Church has 70 missionaries serving full-time around the world in more than 30 countries. Each missionary is sent forth by the Episcopal Church of the United States, and thus represents not just his or her sending diocese, but the entire church.

    The issue is not how many missionaries we as a Church have; there are far too few laborers in this field. The issue is how they are supported, or not supported, by the very same Church that is sending them forth.

    (Full disclosure: I am one of those 70 missionaries, serving in the Diocese of Renk in South Sudan. This is not a letter from an unbiased observer, but from one who is affected deeply by the issues here.)

    Each missionary gets some financial support from the Episcopal Church. Appointed Missionaries, who are commissioned directly by the Presiding Bishop, receive more than others, including stipends (which are small), transportation, visa fees, language training, and full participation in the Pension Fund, which depends on whether that missionary is lay or ordained. Volunteers for Mission receive health benefits only. Any shortfalls in expenses are covered by the missionaries themselves, who have to raise the rest.

    The brutal truth is this: The Episcopal Church, which says that mission is its heart and soul, and both proclaims and encourages mission constantly, does not provide enough funding for the missionaries it has.

    No missionary gives up everything the United States has to offer – jobs, security, safety and job benefits, not to mention such niceties as clean, running water, decent food, health care that you can trust, etc. – to make money, to live high on the hog, or to pump up the résumé. Being a full-time missionary overseas means living closely with the people of God as one of them, often in circumstances that would appall most Americans.

    It is not easy to be a missionary overseas. It means leaving behind family and friends and jobs and security and sometimes safety. It means brushing your teeth using bottled water because the water you have will kill you, or cooking over charcoal stoves, or having electricity at most just a few hours per day, or bathing out of buckets, and then washing your clothes in those same buckets. It means setting aside the taken-for-granted privileges of the Global North to live as the majority of people do in the Global South.

    Admittedly, few missionaries live on less than $1 per day, which is the truth for so many Global Southerners, but all live on considerably less than they would in the United States, and many missionaries live very close to the bone financially.

    And yet, while the Episcopal Church proclaims that mission is at the very heart of our ministry, that same Church is not supporting those willing to go the farthest for the longest period of time.

    Once again, by “Church,” I do not mean the “national Church” or “those folks at 815 in New York.” I mean the whole Church, the 2 million-plus members of this portion of the Anglican Communion. I mean all of us.

    Earlier this year, the Mission Personnel Office in New York, looking at the budget that was set for missionaries, tried to figure out a way to make the pay system more equitable. In an effort to ensure that lay missionaries had access to the Pension Fund, it proposed that henceforth, all missionaries would receive full benefits and Pension Fund benefits, and that’s it. No longer would there be a differentiation between Volunteers for Mission and Appointed Missionaries; all would be treated equally in the financial realm. All other money – for stipends, living expenses, travel, visas, language training, etc. – had to be raised by the missionaries themselves. In essence, the Mission Personnel Office was trying to make the best of a bad situation. That plan, thankfully, has been removed from the table. The Standing Commission on World Mission now is seeking a different way to fund the missionaries more fully.

    The question is, why was the Mission Personnel Office put in that position in the first place? Why isn’t the Episcopal Church more willing to fully fund missionaries, so that they don’t have to raise money to go off and answer the call God has issued to them? The Church allocates less than $1million per year for these 70 people. To fully fund them all – so that missionaries would receive full health and pension benefits, a stipend (which hasn’t changed in years, despite the constantly rising costs in living expenses), support, travel, visa fees, language training, etc. – would cost approximately another $1.8 million per year.

    That sounds like a lot of money, and in overall scheme of the Church’s budget, it is. But if instead of looking at the “Church” as just those folks in New York, we looked at the “Church” as all of us, it would mean, literally, pennies per year per person. Really. Raising that amount of money would mean asking each Episcopalian in this country to give eighty cents per year just for missionaries.

    The theology for sending forth full-time missionaries to labor in the fields is sound: Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel.” That wasn’t a suggestion; it was a command. He also was clear that the laborers deserve to be paid. And he did say that there aren’t enough laborers to begin with.

    In these days of such great difficulties in the Anglican Communion, where we don’t always understand our sisters and brothers in Christ overseas, and our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas don’t always understand us, we need these missionaries more than ever. They are, in most places, the very face of the Episcopal Church. They are the ones who not only build the relationships with people in the pews around the world, they transform those relationships, and in turn are transformed by them. People living overseas, who may have heard that Americans are arrogant, or who have been told that the American church is the embodiment of (fill in the blank to your own satisfaction), discover, upon not only meeting but living with missionaries, that Americans are the same as them: beloved children of God. And that Americans, and by extension the American church, care about them enough to come be with them, work with them, worship with them, and if necessary, suffer with them. You want to change how Anglicans around the world see us? Send a missionary. There are many who are willing to go, if only the support existed.

    So here’s what we need to do:

    First, we need to make it known to one and all that the Episcopal Church has missionaries, and they are doing good work in all the world. Jesus calls all of us to tell the story, so let’s start doing that.

    Second, we need to put our money where our mouths are. If we are going to proclaim that mission is who and what we are, we need to pay for it. We missionaries aren’t asking for the world; we simply would like enough money to live on, and to have our basic expenses covered so that we don’t have to spend all our time acting like members of Congress, constantly raising money just so that we can continue to do that which the Lord has called us to do.

    And third, we need to send more people. Is it too radical an idea to ask each diocese to support, financially, one missionary overseas, perhaps just paying the stipend and expenses, while the national Church paid the health care and pension benefits? (That would cost approximately $20,000 per diocese per year – a lot for some dioceses, I know, but then again, aren’t we supposed to be all about mission?) A commitment to that alone would put another 30 (thirty!) missionaries in the field! Each missionary would then be assigned to a diocese, either his or her sending one, or another one, and would be in close contact with the people of that diocese on a regular basis.

    Our mission as Christians is to go into all the world to preach the Gospel, and if necessary, to use words. If we are going to live most fully into this mission, shouldn’t we at least be willing to pay for it?

    The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

    Accepting our fallibility

    Excerpted from The Episcopal Call to Love
    (Apocryphile Press)

    By Rob Gieselmann

    The Darkness

    There is such a thing as Original Sin, only it isn’t what you think. Original Sin is the pall of darkness covering our world.

    We live in a room shrink-wrapped by time and space, enshrouded and governed by darkness (see Jn. 1:5). We breathe evil as oxygen in this dark place. It isn’t a choice. We are born into it. Division, hate, bitterness, war, sectarianism, racism, sexism, fear, doubt, even pessimism. Humanity cannot escape the evil. There is no health in us.

    Indeed, there is beauty and wonder and love here, joy and family and closeness. But this Eden-earth is canopied as a rainforest. We see the beauty of Eden darkly.

    God unbounded by time and space, God as ubiquitous, God living simultaneously in all places and at all times: that God as infinite light entered into the room of this world through the doorway of a virgin. God as the absolute of good and love and light voluntarily subjected herself (or himself, if you prefer) to, in Scripture’s words, the shroud of darkness, the prince of this world, the darkness personified.

    God by incarnation submitted to the devil, breathed deeply the devil’s oxygen, was tempted in the wilderness to become one with the devil, and was, at the end of it all, murdered by the devil. Death strangled life; evil trumped love and entombed God.

    The Christian message is stark, compelling, and horrifying. Absolute, perfect, and infinite good and love and light submitted by passive non-resistance to absolute, perfect, and finite evil and hate and darkness. To death. Good Friday became the devil’s holy day.

    The Light

    But Good Friday is not the endgame. Easter is. The expression of nuclear power as at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WWII is exactly God’s plan, only darkness and not people is the target. It isn’t just that Jesus rises from the dead on Easter morning, death itself replaces Jesus in the tomb. As Paul writes, death is the ultimate enemy to suffer defeat (1 Cor. 15:26).

    The power of the Christian promise is not that God is compassionate, nor that God is our companion when life gets tough—no matter how accurate both truisms might be. The power of Christianity is this: the darkness has been rendered a mere illusionist, acting by slight of hand. Fear is the only power darkness has left. Life and light and eternity bested darkness long ago; we are victors already. Life is ours now. Life through death. Easter through Good Friday.

    And therein lies the horror: we live because we first die. I have been crucified with Christ, Paul writes, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith... (para. Gal. 2:20). Jesus, too, understands that we gain life only through death: take up your cross and follow me (see, e.g., Lk. 9:23, 24). In union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection (Rom. 6:5).

    The ancient rite of Baptism incorporates this theology of symbiosis:

    We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.. . . of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit (BCP 306).

    Baptism is not some arcane rite by which otherwise innocent babies cursed with actual sin are cleansed and, as my seminary professor liked to quip, slapped into the Kingdom, saved from hell in the nick-o-time. Baptism isn’t a fire insurance policy, nor is baptism primarily about forgiveness.

    Baptism is about darkness and light, death and life. It is about Original Sin, and its defeat as a power in our lives. But it is also about submitting first to death. We identify fully with and accede to the power of death at the cross exactly because we trust in God as Son submitting completely on the cross: Into your hands I commend my spirit. We give up the ghost, the sky turns dark.

    Which may be why the priest marks the baptismal candidate on the forehead with the sign of the cross, Christ’s own forever. The cross is the mark of your death. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s own forever—a dead man walking.

    Following Jesus always leads to the cross, for God and good and others in the defeat of evil. He who will save his life will lose it; he who will lose his life for my sake will find it (Lk. 9:24). Every stitch of Christian ethic originates at the foot of self-sacrifice. Not self-preservation.

    But the cross at baptism becomes the mark of life. My life, the one that is hidden with God in Christ. (Col. 3:3) I am alive because I have died!

    Note the severe poignancy of Ash Wednesday. The priest marks the forehead with the same cross and oil as at baptism, marking the penitent simultaneously with death and life: You are dust, and to dust you shall return, and the unspoken reminder, you are Christ’s own forever. Again, death is life’s womb.

    Original Sin. Original Sin isn’t some stain on the soul inherited from parents. Original Sin isn’t about what one has done or left undone. Original Sin is about the state of affairs—the condition of the world, the air we breathe. The air is polluted, and the condition of the world is dark. That Original Sin is sin with a capital “S,” and is about us—all of us, and not any one of us. Original Sin is collective darkness, the hardness of the heart of a humanity that long ago rejected its God. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in Eden literally or metaphorically, the result is the same. Humanity preferred, and most often still prefers, evil over good, the devil over God. War over peace. Death over life.

    God as Son breathed evil as oxygen when born into this world, and so do we. From the minute we are born, we become polluted with the oxygen of evil that we breathe. We become estranged from love, estranged from life, estranged from good, estranged from God, and estranged from others. Our estrangement is also Original Sin, the state of affairs requiring the saving act of Christ. We need to be saved from the evil of isolation.

    Baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21). Born again into Christ, into community, we are fitted and joined with others, into a living organism of love and acceptance. What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.

    Love. Paul doesn’t write about the power of self-sacrificial love for the poetry of the words, but for a power-filled reason. The power of life is found in a love that does not insist on its own way; ...that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Love submits to the Other, as Jesus at the Cross.

    This love is the ultimate, and perhaps only, Scriptural imperative: [L]ove the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.... [L]ove your neighbor as yourself (Jer. Bible, Mt. 22:37). All of the law and the prophets hang, depend upon, and are interpreted by a love that becomes at least equal to, if not greater than, love of self.

    The exotic beauty of love is rather simple. Love as light dispels darkness. Love is a positive force that overcomes. Love casts out fear. Love keeps Original Sin at bay.

    The issue facing us, then, is this: what happens when we stop loving, when we stop being a community of love? What good is salt that has lost its saltiness? (Matt. 5:13). It is fit only to be trampled underfoot.

    Rather than self-sacrifice forming our ethic, rather than love binding us, we in both the Episcopal Church and the broader Anglican Communion have formed ethic by argument, by besting one another, by being right rather than by loving.

    It doesn’t matter whether the position one holds on the issue of Gene Robinson’s ordination and on homosexuality is technically and morally correct. It really does not matter. The reason it doesn’t matter is because we are asked by God to trust in Jesus as the Christ to be and act as the head of the Body, the head of the Church. We trust Jesus to take care of things, to bring things around to a right theology, and we trust Jesus because we are deeply aware of our own fallibility, our own humanity, that we’ve been wrong before, we’ll be wrong again, and in all likelihood, each of us is wrong now—at least in part. In fact, I guarantee it.

    Even if, perchance, there is one of us who is not wrong technically on the issue, he or she is still wrong. As my parents used to tell me, you can be right as rain and still wrong. Remember, Jesus pointed to the sinner beating his chest for mercy as the one who received mercy, not the righteous Pharisee. It was the prodigal who received the Father’s love, not the good son. The good son couldn’t—he was self-consumed.

    Which is why we yield. Which is why we trust. Which is why we submit as Jesus to evil, because yielding yields life. Death is life’s womb—we die to our own choices and opinions, in favor of others’.\28 Remember, he who saves his life will lose it. But he who loses his life for my sake, and for the kingdom, will find it—dead man walking.

    If we don’t sacrifice self, we can’t call ourselves the Body of Christ. We have become mere table salt that has lost its flavor.

    Jesus as Christ in love with a world enshrouded by evil came to destroy the shroud, to open the door to eternity and life and love. The Gospels aren’t wrong just because they are dualistic. The battle is still one of evil against good, of Satan against God, of death against life. The promise is that we are already victors. The curse is that we still see as in a glass dimly. The hope is that we don’t have to.

    The Rev. Rob Gieselmann, a lawyer, has served at St. Luke's in Cleveland, Tennessee and St. Paul's near Chestertown, Maryland. He is rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Sausalito, Calif., and author of The Episcopal Call to Love.

    A sermon in stone

    By Kathy Staudt

    In 1965 I visited Washington DC with my girl scout troop, and was taken on a tour of the Washington “National Cathedral, which was then a work in progress. I don’t actually have a visual memory of what we saw – except a sense that it was confusing and hard to picture. I was from a New England Presbyterian background where not much emphasis was placed on aesthetics, so at that time I didn’t see the point of putting so much energy and labor into a church building. But I remember hearing that it might be completed by the 1990’s, and thinking that sounded like ages away. I could not know then that by 1990, when the cathedral was completed, we would be living in Washington, and that later in the 1990’s that cathedral and its schools and choral program would become a central part of our family’s life, and the beauty of that space would be formative to my life of worship and prayer. I thought of this recently when I had the opportunity to visit the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) temple in Barcelona this past month, and walked through a nave under construction, watching stonecutters at work on massive columns in a space still open to the sky.

    Officially called the “Temple Expiatiri de la Sagrada Familia,” this fascinating building is a work in progress whose history and architecture embodies the vision of a generations of deeply committed Christians, both artists and donors, The project began in the late 1800’s, in an era of rising industrial prosperity and cultural burgeoning in Barcelona. (“Expiatory, ” I understand, means funded by the alms of the faithful: the project is entirely privately funded). The architect, Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was a brilliantly original artist and a devout Roman Catholic with a deeply mystical sensibility and unique vision. He worked on this building over most of his career, making it the focus of his work during the last four or five years of his life. Gaudi died suddenly in 1926, run over by a streetcar, and work on the building was interrupted and thwarted again by upheavals in Spanish politics and the suppression of Catalonian culture at various times in the 20th century. But his plans and vision for the Sagrada familia were the focus of his life throughout a brilliant architectural career, and the artchitects of succeeding generations have taken up that vision, shaping it with their own voices and styles and with a continuing faithfulness.

    Jacques Maritain said somewhere that if you want to be a Christian artist, you should be a Christian, live your faith, and then put all your energy into the perfection of your art work. The artists involved over generations in completing the Sagrada Familia have been faithful to the vision that Maritain describes . The result is a work with many distinct artistic voices, speaking of a common faith. It is something hard to put into words, but you experience it in the space, the stone carving and the architecture.

    Over the century and more that it has been in progress, the Sagrada Familia temple has come to reflect a Christian vision uniquely suited to the 21st century, the century in which it is expected to be completed. The Nativity Façade depicts with great gentleness and humanity the story of the nativity and the mystery of Incarnation. It celebrates the virtues of faith, hope, and love in its 3 porticos. The stone carvings on this façade are lush and lavish and baroque, the human figures reflecting a gentle and beautiful humanity, amid depictions of nature – flowers, animals, and trees, which are Gaudi’s hallmark. Looking at this portal, which is now on the UN list of World landmarks, one experiences the connection between the Mystery of the Incarnation and our Creator-God’s love for the beautiful, material, bodily world where we live and the. Contrasted to this, the facade of the Passion, sculpted in the 1970’s by Josep Maria Subirachs, conveys the stories of Passion Week in carvings that are stark, linear and impressionistic, conveying the stripping-down of everything. The Resurrection portal and window bring this all together, and the projected towers that will top this building when it is finished will focus on the risen Jesus. So it is, as the guidebooks say, a “sermon in stone.” Like the medieval cathedrals, it re-tells the core of the Christian story. There are also details everywhere that speak to our time. We noticed a gargoyle on one capital in the cloister that depicted the devil handing a bomb to a terrorist! Elements of the creed and of church governance are also incorporated into the building, but the representations of the life of Christ, the focus on Jesus as the heart of the story, and the interweaving of all of this with natural imagery, remain striking to anyone who visits this building. In a post-Christian Europe, where people still appreciate beauty but are increasingly secular in orientation, this temple will preserve the story, and the artists’ belief in the truth of the story comes through, somehow, in the quality of their work.

    Gaudi is known for the colorful ceramic tile work and the organic, non-linear shapes on his most famous buildings – especially the Casa Battlio, the Casa Mila and the Park Guell in Barcelona, and the turrets and roof ornaments of the Sagrada Familiia are among his most striking works in this medium. The colorful parts of the building are almost entirely reflections of natural objects – fruits, birds, trees. Inside the building, the huge, 5-part nave is now under construction. In keeping with Gaudi’s original vision, the huge columns that hold up the vaults of the nave are shaped like trees, and it really does feel as if one is walking through what one guidebook called a “mystical forest” inside that nave, -- which is still open to the sky but will one day be a high-vaulted space, illuminated by both natural light and stained glass.

    This is the part that struck me as so contemporary. The Sagrada Familia tells the Christian story in a building that also celebrates the beauty and strength of the earth, and our connection to Creation. In the century that will have to address global warming and our stewardship of the earth, Gaudi’s vision is even more compelling than it was in his time – when natural images were a more or less standard part of the “modernista”/ art nouveau vision. I do not know if I will get to see the completed Temple of the Sagrada familia in my lifetime – it looks as if they still have years of work to do. But remembering my first visit to the National Cathedral, I believe it will be finished one day, and I’m glad that this vision is being carried forward, embodying in space and stone the faith of generations of Christian artists.

    Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph and teaches courses in literature, theology and writing at Virginia Theological Seminary and the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

    Mourning Diamond

    By Deirdre Good

    We put Diamond to sleep yesterday. She was with us for thirteen years. How do you let go a part of your life for that long?

    At the vet, we brought our other dog Reuben into the airless room to say goodbye. We lay with her on the floor and we told her all the things we loved about her and would remember for ever: the way her fur smelled like jasmine, her fierce independent spirit and leadership, the way she loved and brought up Reuben. We told her she would be free of pain and spoke of our hope that she would soon be with Angus, our shepherd who had known and welcomed her into our family.

    And when she was gone and lay lifeless on the floor, we agonized over whether we had made the right treatment choices: to amputate her leg after the diagnosis of OS six months ago or to put her to sleep right then and there; to gauge almost on a daily basis how much pain she was in, and how much medication to give her; to assess when to live and when to die. Is not the power of life and death even over family pets an awful responsibility?

    Death itself is the first rift. Who can say that it is not agony to look at the lifeless body of a loved one and know that they will never rise again in this life? To know that only memories now spin out threads of connection and to feel her absence as a physical ache echoing in the silences of the house to which we returned.

    But separation takes many forms. Here's another chasm over which we try to jump daily. Since mutual communication between dogs and humans is non-verbal, how can we ever tell what she is thinking and feeling? And this is all the more acute when trying to treat a dog in pain. After all, isn't communication with animals a projection of our own imaginations?

    The only thing we can do is pay attention so as to perceive what is going on in the animal's reality. She did feel better with that course of pain medication. But heavy panting shows that she's in pain. When I encounter an animal's reality that is utterly different from my own, maybe, just maybe, I begin to understand. I am not projecting. I am trying to bridge that divide. Temple Grandin describes this in her book, Animals in Translation.

    Diamond, like most dogs, lived in the present. She accepted each day for what it was. And each day meant another day in the life of her pack-the one that she was in charge of. Unlike most dogs, however, Diamond could and did weigh up options, for example, in responding to commands. Obedience was something to be considered. It took longer and must be deliberated. We ended up in something more like a negotiation. Probably the British owner who beat her before we adopted her had something to do with this. She had reasons for this behavior, and we attributed many of her more difficult personality traits to the abandonments and abuses she experienced in her first eight months, or to her dominant temperament, invaluable to the wild dog pack but a little out of place in a New York apartment.

    We got into the habit of thinking of her as "difficult," and perhaps because of this we didn't pay the proper kind of attention to her frequent unwillingness to go for walks. When she finally started to limp heavily and we discovered the bone cancer, as soon as she was on good strong pain medication she was eager to go for long walks. Then we remembered how she chewed on and licked that leg, for no apparent reason, for two years, and then stopped for just as opaque a reason a few months before the limping began. She was telling us something was wrong, both with the reluctance to walk and with the persistent licking - and we saw it and knew it and still didn't get it. We were biased towards our own beliefs about her behavior to pay attention to the evidence.

    Early one morning we took a walk around the block where we live in New York City. As we walked towards 10th Avenue, we could see a squirrel at the end of the street. Its erratic behavior consisted of attempting to climb a lamppost or running up a wall and falling off. This behavior became more frenzied as we drew closer. Diamond was very interested. Rather than running in the opposite direction, the squirrel suddenly, and to our astonishment, flew into Diamond's mouth. "Drop it!" I yelled futilely. "Are you kidding?" I imagined her reply, although she did eventually. And thereafter, I could sense her optimism that other squirrels on city streets might also practice the same anomalous behavior.

    After we left the vet yesterday morning, we drove to Diamond's favorite state park where we walked in a pine forest at the water's edge. She only managed a few yards on her last visit, but she seemed content to be there. Now, the resonance of her absence was tangible. That'll be true of every place we shared from now on.

    We decided to plant a rhododendron for her in our garden. At the nursery, the assistant pointed out that deer like rhododendron buds. We indicated our deterrent Reuben in the car. She told us that local deer herds had had a hard winter and many died of starvation. There was simply not enough food. That morning, coyotes had attacked a pregnant female while giving birth.

    This year, ten million children will die in low- and middle-income countries. Death is in fact all around us every day. We'd know this if we lived in a war zone or a place of diminishing food supplies. We just filter death out of our minds because we cannot bear too much reality. And reality might lead to care for others, which is the only thing that matters in this life, as Elie Wiesel tells us. Who can bear the thought of so many unlived children's lives? We distance ourselves by using statistics rather than names and stories. But we don't just avoid reality: we encourage its avoidance. Much of our culture gives us the illusion that we can reverse ageing and prolong life in various ways. In truth, to be alive every day and to awaken every morning is to receive the gift of precious life. Diamond's gift to us is just that: the daily presence of her wild and precious life and the caring for each other that might make a difference. And if there's a heaven without Diamond, count me out.

    Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. She blogs at On Not Being a Sausage.

    Thy neighbors' trash

    By George Clifford

    Each Tuesday, the city of Raleigh collects trash and recyclable items in my neighborhood. People place their rubbish and recycling bins curbside Monday evening or early Tuesday morning. After a windy Monday night or on a windy Tuesday, material blown from open recycling bins and from overstuffed trash bins litters the neighborhood. On my Tuesday jogs – with advancing age and declining speed I no longer presume to call my daily four miles a run – I frequently stop to pick up litter, depositing it in a convenient bin. Nobody has yet asked me what I am doing, what gives me the right to put litter in their bin. More surprisingly, nobody else whom I see on my Tuesday excursions picks up litter. Dog walkers, runners, people in their yards, lawn care service employees, children waiting for a ride – all seem equally oblivious to the litter. As the neighborhood stays relatively litter free, either homeowners eventually pick up the litter or wind patterns carry most of the litter elsewhere.

    Perhaps another sign of my age is that I jog without an IPOD, phone, or other electronic device. Through decades of busy days in which my run often provided me with my only private time and, on many days, was a much needed stress reliever, I cultivated the habit of using the time for reflection and prayer. On a recent Tuesday, I reflected about litter, why it bothers me, and why I interrupt my jog to pick up somebody else’s trash.

    Although the Bible speaks of humans receiving dominion over the earth from God, that dominion has never struck me as authorizing humans to destroy the earth. The Navy gave me authority over sailors. My commission – like that of all Navy leaders – was to help those sailors develop, not destroy them. The Navy is generally very clear that its sailors, no matter how eccentric or troublesome, are not the nation’s enemies against whom the Navy may one day have to wage war. In this day of joint warfare operations, the Navy even acknowledges that soldiers and airmen are friends, not foes (Marines have always been part of the Department of the Navy, a fact both sailors and Marines are sometimes loathe to admit it!). Parents have dominion over children. Again, the intent is to develop the child, not to destroy. The same principle – to develop not destroy – seems to express the intent of human dominion over the earth.

    The analogy of sailor (or child) and earth seems particularly apt when one considers that both are composite, living entities. A human being has approximately one trillion cells. Over the years, new cells replace many of those that die; some cells malfunction (e.g., a cell that becomes cancerous); other cells are sacrificed for the greater good (e.g., removal of an appendix about to burst or cells that would form webbing between toes). The body can withstand much use and abuse but that has definite limits. For example, most of us survive multiple falls with little or no permanent damage but could not survive a truck hitting us at 55 mph as we walk across a street.

    No analogy is perfect. A person is his/her body. The earth is not a person. Yet the earth is like a living organism with parts too numerous to count. Change, as with a human, is endemic to the earth. The earth’s geology, weather, flora, fauna, etc., all constantly evolve. The earth is amazingly resilient. It endures and overcomes a remarkable amount of use and abuse, whether from humans cultivating food, building shelter, dumping waste in the ocean, or conducting atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the last century. But we are approaching – some would say we have even passed – the earth’s ability to absorb our unthinking abuse. Like a human, the earth has only a finite capacity to absorb abuse. The signs of our surpassing that capacity are manifold: climate change, persistent smog, once fertile fields stripped bare of their topsoil, once potable watersheds from which we now pump only toxic water, etc.

    What awoke me to the problem of the abused earth was seeing a June 22, 1969 morning newspaper photograph of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, OH, burning. Although I was still in high school at the time and my education far from complete, I knew enough science to know that rivers do not burn naturally. Something was grievously wrong. My awakening continued with reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and discovering that I, who thought I lived in an idyllic, friendly wilderness –Maine – in fact lived near one of the nation’s most polluted rivers. The river’s water was so toxic that fish no longer lived in it; a person who accidentally fell into the river often required medical attention. My environmental awareness has given me an abiding and deep appreciation for the phrase in Rite II Eucharistic Prayer C, “this fragile earth, our island home.”

    Too many people continue to act as if human “dominion” authorizes the use, abuse, or even destruction of the earth. As a Christian and as a priest, I understand the transformative power of words. One way to change the attitude underlying those actions is to change our words, to identify earth as “Mother Earth.” This affirms earth’s living dimension, associates a nurturing yet powerful metaphor with earth, and recognizes the absolute truth that without the earth, human life as we know would be impossible. “Mother Earth” connotes the totality of this planet and avoids the more limited images some associate with the older, emotionally laden “Mother Nature.” Instead of asking people to be environmentally responsible, we should ask people to treat their Mother well and with love. Christians steeped in ecclesiastical history know that in centuries past, Christians have on occasion referred to the Church as their Mother. In our secular culture with generally ill-formed Christians, the metaphor of Mother Earth probably speaks more powerfully than Mother Church. Objectors do well to remember that a child having more than one mother is no bad thing – unless the child wants to get into mischief! (I’m not advocating polygamy, simply affirming the great benefit that comes from having more than one woman fill a mother-like role in a child’s life.)

    Another way to move people away from attempting to exercise dominion over the earth is for those of us committed to caring for Mother Earth to lead by example. Following the leader – adopting a moral exemplar upon whom to base one’s life – is a time-honored approach to the Christian moral life popularized in the question, “What would Jesus do?” I admittedly lack the wisdom to know what type of vehicle, if any, Jesus would drive. I am confident, however, that Jesus would stoop once, or perhaps even several times, per day to pick up litter that disfigures, even temporarily, Mother Earth. A person committed to leading the way towards more fully and completely caring for Mother Earth would do well to audit his or her life for ways to reduce destructive impact and to enhance caring. Maybe one day somebody will ask me why I pick up litter, affording me an opportunity to explain that individual acts done by large groups can collectively make a huge impact (and perhaps to feel a trifle self-righteous!).

    Collective action is yet another way to move people away from dominion toward respecting Mother Earth. When Maine enacted a law mandating a deposit on all beverage containers, the state within a matter of months became much cleaner. Non-profit groups and individuals picked up litter and earned money simultaneously. Retailers, bottlers, and others opposed the proposed law. Today, Maine people still consume beverages in bottles and cans, retailers collect and refund deposits, a cottage recycling industry has developed, and Mother Earth is looking better and a little healthier for it. Surely a nation that can send humans to walk on the moon and bring them home safely can find more ways, large and small, to help preserve restore our fragile island home to health.

    The Rev. George Clifford, a retired priest in the Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years.

    A love which does not protect itself

    By Greg Jones

    I saw an article about an interesting group. Brothers Together is a group working to help poor Muslim children get the special surgeries they need in Israeli hospitals, the best in the Middle East by far. Brothers Together has sent more than 80 Muslim children from Arab countries all over the Middle East to Israel for life-saving surgeries in the past few years.

    Their motivation? A spokesman says: "Our work is motivated by faith and obedience to Jesus... We believe that the love of God is freely offered unconditionally to all people." He says a Muslim child dying from a heart condition should have the same access to medical care as Jewish or Christian kids.

    Sounds so good. But there's a glitch. In the news lately there's been a focus on some 14 Muslim children who were on their way to Israel thanks to Brothers Together - who were ultimately not permitted to go -- by their own parents and nations. One mother of a six-year old Iraqi boy with a hole in his heart that needs repair said she couldn't let him enter Israel to receive the healing he was offered -- because she just hates Israel too much. She says she has an innate, inbred hatred of Israel -- she cannot let her enemy heal her son.

    But, before we judge this mother, hear me - this is not an Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern story. No this is an all too human story. This is a story of the World, that Jesus came into for its own sake. We live in a world, we are the people of a world, where the mother of a son with a hole in his heart holds him back from care, freely given, because of the spiritual hole in hers - nursed there by a world which wants to keep hearts broken.

    For we all have these spiritual holes in our hearts that keep us from trusting, forgiving, mercy and courage.

    Before we judge her - the Lord would show us that we are all holding back from entering the Holy Land of healing in Christ. We are all holding back out of self-guided, inbred drives - which we think are self-protecting.

    For some reason, the promise of free care, free healing, the free repair of our broken hearts is not something we leap at in this world. For some reason, the gracious love of God is not MAKING us be different. For some reason, the Love of Christ as poured out in a manger, at a table, and above all on a cross, is not FORCING us to be better.

    The reason is simple. The free love of God which does not protect itself and holds nothing back is free, gentle and pure - and it's our choice to accept it or not.* God won't make us let him fix the hole in our hearts. God won't make us love each other. God won't make us love in a way that does not protect ourselves and holds nothing back.

    He can't make us follow the teachings of Jesus, or the Law of Moses, with intentions of love and obedience. But that is all he wants. God loves us this way - and all he wants is for us to know him, to share in his life, so that God may not be forcedly but graciously one in all. He wants this, but he won't make it be. He sends his love - as Christ has shown - in a manger, at a table, on a cross - and if we choose to join him we can. If we choose to return his gracious love, sending it back and forth, and without fear of what it might cost us, without holding back - then God rejoices.

    Is this what you want? Do you want to know God, and to have him know you and not just see you there doing your thing? I do. And I know that I can't - by myself. I know that I can't generate the grace that God gives on my own. I know that the only way to heal the hole where grace slips away is to say, "God, I choose you, your ways, your life - help me to choose and receive your gifts."

    The Gospel and Miracle is that when we do this -- we are changed. Little by little, when we allow the free love of God unconditionally given to help us heal our broken hearts - it works.

    *Thanks to Rowan Williams for this phrase, "a love which does not protect itself...and holds nothing back."

    The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ("Greg") became a member of Christ's Body at St. Columba's in Washington, D.C., and he was educated at the University of North Carolina and the General Theological Seminary, where he is on the Board. He blogs at fatherjones.com.

    Who has time to pray?

    By Martin L. Smith

    Recently, I had a visit from an old friend who had been at seminary with me in the late 60s, and as always our reminiscences caused us rueful laughter, especially about how far off target our training had sometimes been. We recalled how a visiting lecturer in religious sociology, full of the latest academic ‘futurology,’ earnestly warned us that we would be responsible for guiding people through a tremendous cultural revolution—the onset of an era of leisure! Cybernetics, the replacement of human labor with robots, and a host of new technological developments were bound to bring about within a few decades, we were told, the halving of the work week and widespread earlier retirement. Our challenge would be to guide people spiritually to deal with all this newfound time, as technology released us for creativity and play and community building, or for ennui and frustration.

    No such development occurred. What an irony that the much vaunted technology of American society is dictating a harried pace of life where work has made deeper inroads into people’s lives, reducing vacations, fostering 24/7 work availability. Priests are hardly in demand as resources for interpreting the meaning of leisure! They feel just as pressured as the rest of us to keep up the pace, cram the schedule, put in the hours. Who has time to pray these days? Most of us have really good excuses for not praying. To find time for it seems so unrealistic that we can safely leave it unexplored. We complain, but our sincerity is questionable. Addictions and patterns of conformity are effective means of fending off challenges that intimidate us, challenges that would demand time if were to meet them.

    To have a prayer life at all now is usually a symptom of considerable courage, the chutzpah to swim against the tide. And perhaps that is how it should be, since Jesus’ teaching, is about learning to swim against the tide of conformity. And prayer itself is a paradoxical activity. It requires leisure to be opened up by unplugging from the pressures of everyday demands. But it isn’t itself leisurely; it isn’t a pious version of stress management that temporarily recharges the batteries for a return to the fray. It is itself a kind of inner work.

    Jesus’ teaching about prayer often appears to be simple, but in fact he gave people the outlines of a practice that is very searching. Take the seemingly simplistic injunction, “Ask, seek, knock.”

    Think what we would be doing if we actually took that seriously. These three verbs goad us to explore three areas of vulnerability to which most of us can get access only by what we properly call soul-searching. To do what Jesus commends means to explore three areas of desire. What do I lack that I really want? What am I searching for that I haven’t yet found? What do I feel shut out from that I want to be let into? If most of us don’t in fact pray much, it might be because we are in some way appalled at the prospect of opening up these cans of worms. If we did we would be face to face with the reality that deep down there is a lot that is missing from our lives, that there is some experience we haven’t yet attained, and that we feel excluded from some kind of belonging we can hardly name.

    Now our busyness provides us with daily alibis for not praying. But if we ceased to be busy, we would probably try to bring other avoidance mechanisms into play to let ourselves off the hook so that we wouldn’t have to open up these very sensitive areas. Jesus’ words, though, are literally en-couraging. Apparently, the secret of God’s reign lies in the paradox that it is precisely by leaning into our feelings of lack, lost-ness, and exclusion that we can begin to connect with God’s overflowing fullness. By learning (laboriously at first) to spell out what we desire, what we want to find, how we want to be welcomed, we open ourselves up to first-hand experience of God, (as opposed to religious chatter about God or second-hand ideas about God).

    Overwork and stress inhibit desire. Period. (Picking up hints, one gets the impression that the sex-lives of conformist over-workers are being as damped down as our prayer-lives.) We might even start to pray again if we realized that God in fact wants to kindle our heart’s desiring, not repress it. The church should be a school of de-repression, which trains us to be men and women who reclaim these currents of desire for themselves, with freedom to use passionate words like longing, yearning, desiring, thirsting, hungering, seeking, knocking…

    Martin Smith is well-known in the Episcopal Church and beyond as a priest, writer, preacher and leader of retreats. Through such popular works as A Season for the Spirit and The Word is Very Near You and in numerous workshops, lectures and retreats, he continues to explore a contemporary spirituality that encourages a lively conversation between new knowledge and the riches of tradition.

    Another look at the appendix of the Covenant

    Read previous essays on the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. (Sections 1, 2, 3, the appendix and the future of the covenant.)

    By W. Nicholas Knisely

    In this essay, as my title suggests, I consider the Appendix to the St. Andrew's Draft of the Proposed Anglican Covenant. What I have said in other places, I repeat here. I am truly open, as an Episcopalian, to doing what might be difficult for us as Episcopalians so that we might be able to be partners with other Anglican Provinces. I am willing to give up some of our autonomy if such a gift of submission to the larger body will allow it to continue to grow into the full stature of Christ that God intends for us.

    That said, I am also aware that I can only speak for myself and that what I might be willing to do others in the Episcopal Church would be unwilling to do or unable to do. I am aware of the fact that I speak as a person of position within the structure of the Episcopal Church and as a person of privilege within American society. As such what seems of little import to me, is of critical importance to my brothers and sisters in the Church. If they cannot follow where I might think we should go, I would be very very reluctant to strike off without them.

    I say all this because it is in the Appendix of the St. Andrew draft of the Covenant where the details and suggested machinery of the Communion are to be found. And it is here that a sifting of Provinces within the Anglican Communion and individuals within the Episcopal Church would happen. We are no longer in the realm of the hypothetical when we analyze the Appendix, we are looking at specific events and rulings that will create a Communion with insiders and former insiders. The Appendix is ultimately concerned with the methods of division. We are treading on very rocky ground here and I think it is important that we recognize this as we carry out our examination.

    Before we examine the Appendix, it seems to me that there is a basic question that needs to be answered. Does the Appendix function like the Historical Documents section of the Book of Common Prayer or is it seen, flow charts and all, as an integral part of the Covenant? If the second statement is true then must the Appendix be fully acceded to when a Province ratifies the Covenant? If the first, then is this just a suggestion of what a process might look like? By definition an Appendix is supplemental material and not considered a core component. Yet in this draft of the Covenant, the Appendix actually explicates the steps to which the third section of the Covenant only alludes and seems to be rather critically connected to the rest as a result.

    If the material is really just supplementary, and the proposed process in the Appendix is not set in stone, then I’m a little concerned about its inclusion without clear statements to this effect. There’s been a great deal of energy already expended on this document as it has been read and commented upon by various groups around the Communion. Much of the critique has centered around the Appendix. If it is just a possible structure and not the required structure, then it has served, probably unintentionally, as a stalking horse which has drawn most of the vitriol of those opposed to the Covenant while perhaps diverting us away for a more careful examination of what is implied to Anglican practice in the other sections.

    But, this is not the first Appendix that the Communion has been offered. There was additional material attached to the Windsor Report which contained the first pieces of what has since become the full blown Covenant process. If the prior experience of the Communion with the Windsor Report is a guide, this Appendix is not just for discussion purposes, but is a glimpse into the forms that are being envisioned. According to this way of thinking, the Appendix may not represent the final form of the adjudication process when disputes arise in the Communion, but we would expect that the Appendix represents substantially what the final form would look like.

    For my part, speaking as a deputy to General Convention and therefore one who would reasonably expect to participate in the Episcopal Church’s decision making process vis-à-vis the Covenant, I would very much first like to know what is the relationship of the Appendix to the rest of the St. Andrew’s Draft.

    Once that relationship is determined, then it is right to turn our focus to the broad details of the Appendix. I don’t think it’s helpful frankly to focus too carefully on the details, given that these may change in subsequent drafts and as the Provinces of the Communion weigh in with their feedback on this draft.

    My primary impression of the draft, with its complicated flowchart and multiple branching procedures, is that there’s not a great deal of room for God in the envisioned process of working through our present and future conflicts. This proposed structure of conflict referral, decision branch points and resolution bears the marks of a bureaucratic mind. Such a mark is not in of itself reason to reject the Covenant because the issues it seeks to decide upon are necessarily raised and being decided by bureaucratic structures. But still, I’m aware of little room, other than perhaps in the deliberations of a special commission should one be warranted by a decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the three “Assessors”, for the voice of the Holy Spirit to be heard. This may strike many as a good thing given that there a number of people within the Communion who believe that revelation from the Holy Spirit is not an ongoing process or must never be seen to contradict an earlier revelation. Yet, it is a curious gap in a document that is addressed to a Communion in the process of listening to the voice of God as it seeks to determine its course.

    Next, I’m struck as well by the specificity of the proposed timelines in the Appendix. The shortness of these timelines seems unrealistic. How often do we seriously expect a situation to arise that will have created a controversy that is too complicated for parties within the life of the Communion to decide without adjudication? If a decision about a situation could be made as quickly and as efficiently as the Appendix envisions than the issue would seem to me either to be either one with a broadly obvious answer, or would represent only a small symptom of a much larger and more complicated theological question. I suppose the framers of the Appendix had in mind the question of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson as a test example as they created this structure. Yet the controversy in the Communion surrounding Bishop Robinson’s election and ratification are an expression of a much deeper theological question about human sexuality and the sources and norms of moral theology. Simply issuing a ruling on his election would do little to respond to the underlying questions of the full inclusion of GLBT Christians.

    If the issue that presents itself to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his team of Assessors is serious enough to require action, it seems obvious to me that the issue will require careful and deliberative thought, inviting participation from as many members of the Communion and all orders of ministry as possible. Such a process is going to take a great deal of time. Given that, are the suggested deadlines of the Appendix realistic? If not, why then should they be specified?

    I do have some additional specific concerns that I do not see being addressed in the Appendix.

    First, how are the rights of minority viewpoints within the Communion to be protected? One of the great weaknesses of democratic government is that it can quickly lead to a tyranny of the majority imposed on the minority or powerless. Here in the United States our Founders attempted to create a Republic with explicit checks and balances between the government’s branches in an attempt to avoid this issue. Additionally the rule of the Senate of the federal government are so structured as to make it difficult for anything but a supermajority to be able to impose its will on others. Where are the mechanisms of such protection in the details of Appendix? The decision branch points are controlled by four people at most, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the three Assessors. It isn’t until the end of the process when the decisions are being made by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) that a broadly based body enters the picture. But even then, I’m not clear about how the rules of the ACC would function to address the issue of the protection of minority views. I’m not sure that this was a concern of the drafting team. I think it should be, and I’d hope that future revisions might address it.

    Secondly, the Appendix in its present form does not seem to allow for a process of reception within the body of the faithful. What happens when a new understanding begins to arise among the faithful? One would expect that any new understanding would engender controversy. Certainly this has been the historical experience of the Church. Yet the Appendix would only allow for a Commission to study a question as its singular method of allowing a process of reception to unfold. Of course the Archbishop of Canterbury might, acting on his own, decide not to take action on a question in an attempt to allow a process time to come to fruition, but that would be hardly different from the present controversy surrounding human sexuality. And Rowan Williams willingness to go slowly in this situation is part of the cause of the calls for the creation of this Covenant and Appendix. Why would a future reluctance to act quickly be seen any differently?

    Thirdly, who exactly are envisioned as possible mediators, should mediation be deemed a solution? (The Appendix envisions a request for resolution of a situation to be either routed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, one of the other Instruments of Communion—most likely the Primates Meeting—or to a determined by need mediation process.) Would the mediators be appointed by the Archbishop after approval and/or nomination by the aggrieved parties or would they be at the discretion of the Archbishop alone? Would the mediators be expected to come to a swift decision or would they be asked to work through a process of reconciliation between the parties? The latter seems most agreeable to biblical and prayerbook teachings yet the former is more in keeping with the specific deadlines laid out in the rest of the Appendix.

    My final broad concern about the Covenant, specifically as it is expressed in the details of the Appendix, is that it represents a paradigm shift within the governance and polity of the Anglican Communion that has not been fully thought out. The detailed decision making envisioned in the Appendix would move us from a relationship that has more of the feel of a club governed by relationship, tradition and consensus to a new model for Anglicanism that is based on a winner-take-all up and down vote on matters of our common life. Speaking as an American, I have seen the end result of life that is governed in such a manner. I suppose it’s the best form of secular government given the fatal flaws of all the other alternatives. But the Church is meant to be a new creation and the sign of the Kingdom of God. I would hope that she would be able to manage her life in a more elevated way.

    To me, we as Anglicans would be in danger of losing something precious should we move to adopt this new paradigm. I’d even go so far as to suggest that such a loss would be an inevitable consequence of adopting the present form. I’d be willing to do this though, but I do want to ask us to consider what we would be gaining by such action. As best I can tell, we would gain a clarity of teaching and the ability to cull the makers of difficult situations from our community. Is this gain of more value than the loss? Is there a way that might allow us to fortify our conciliar governance that would not require us to lose or radically reconstitute our relationships to each other? That seems to me to be the fundamental question we should be asking of the Appendix.

    The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, is a deputy to the 2009 General Convention from the Diocese of Arizona. He is chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication, and blogs at Entangled States.

    Looking back at a life well lived

    By Margaret Treadwell

    The Rev. Craig Eder, 87, has been a beloved priest in the Diocese of Washington since 1945, when he graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary after studying biology and pre-med at Harvard. He has served at a number of churches as an associate, interim or volunteer, was chaplain at St. Albans School from 1953-1973 and has been an associate at St. Columba’s from 1975 until the present. His only time away was from 1947-53 when he served rural churches around White Sulpher Springs, W.Va.

    Recently we enjoyed an afternoon in the garden at The Methodist Home in Northwest Washington, where he talked about his life.

    How did you know when the time was right to move from your longtime home to a retirement community?

    Our children told us and we listened to them. My wife Edie was having heart trouble and my 85 wonderful healthy years had changed in the last three years with four hospitalizations.

    What is your best advice about adjusting to this big change and challenge?

    I think of the refrain of a hymn, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” (*) We were fortunate to find a place in our community where I can stay connected to my church and younger people. Now, I’ve become involved here by loving older people too. Our dog Dilly was the best icebreaker with these new friends. They talked to the dog, and only then to me.

    What drew you away from pre-med to the ministry?

    Harvard was a time of soul-searching when Darwin and evolution were great issues. I was in the class of 1942 and there was a belief in inevitable progress despite the oncoming war. I greatly admired my father, an Episcopal priest, who wanted me to become a priest. A few short statements summed up the intellectual struggle that ended in a decision to offer myself to the ministry. One found in a Forward Movement publication was the idea that although I can’t do everything, I’m not going to let that get in the way of things I can do. Another was that life has a real meaning if all things that religion claims are true; if not true, life has no real meaning. Another powerful thought came from the scientific method I’d been involved in; it teaches one to postulate a theory and then test it. I thought, “I’ll live by the belief that religion is true. Since there’s no proof, I’ll choose the one I want, given the alternative.” Looking back, I’m sure I made the right choice.

    What are the highlights of your life in ministry?

    Times when I took some leadership in conflict and reconciliation come to mind, such as the ordination of women, the 1979 prayer book, and interim positions where I loved both sides in disputes and refused to become polarized. In one historic church this led to reconciliation between parish members and also between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. In a magnificent ecumenical service on July 4, 1976 on the lawn in front of Trinity, St. Mary’s City, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of our country.

    Recently, I had a powerful religious experience. I knew a woman named Gracie, a fellow patient in the nursing part of the Methodist Home here, who cried out constantly, “Help me! Somebody help me!” Once I rolled my wheelchair over and asked her how I could help. “Take me home,” she said.

    I explained that I couldn’t because that was her nurse’s job. But from then on we greeted each other whenever we met, she with the plea, “Help me. Help me.” I was deeply moved when I learned that she had died the very evening of a pleasant visit with her family from California. When I went to her service, I introduced myself and asked her son if I could speak. He said, “Yes! She was a distant Episcopalian.” So I told her story observing that her cry, “Help me,” is an elemental call of all human beings. She had been loved in her home growing up and wanted to return, representing all of us who yearn for God. Just like breathing while repeating the Jesus prayer, “Jesus Christ have mercy on me,” her cry repeated with each breath was a prayer of the heart deeply longing for home where she had known love, the meaning of it all.

    It occurred to me that an angel passing by heard her prayer, took her by the hand and brought her to God who would give her the love that all of us need, that she so desperately needed.

    “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

    (*) The hymn, “We are one in the Spirit,” by Peter Schotes, can be found in a supplemental hymnal, “Songs for Liturgy and More Hymns and Spiritual Songs” published in 1970 by the Join Commission on Church Music of the Episcopal Church.

    Margaret M. (“Peggy”) Treadwell, LCSW -C, has been active in the fields of education and counseling for thirty-five years. Following a long association with Dr. Edwin H. Friedman, during which she served on his faculty, she co-edited and helped posthumously publish his book, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. She creates and leads conferences across the country for bishops, clergy and church lay leaders, helping them to apply family systems concepts to their leadership in diocesan and parish ministry.

    Covenant Week
    The future: Process without promise

    This is the fifth of five articles examining the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. A study guide from The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is also available. This article considers the future of the covenant process. Previous articles considered Sections One, Two, Three and the Appendix.

    By Mark Harris

    The Anglican Covenant Idea:

    The Anglican Covenant “idea” arose from the rather arcane arguments put forward in a variety of settings about the time of the centenary of the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888-1988), in which first world Anglican theologians and historians took on the question of Anglican identity. Events and movements that in one way or another were inclusive were found often to be at odds with one another. The ordination of women, the advancement of new or novel theological ideas and biblical interpretation (particularly by bishops), the emergence of new voices of Anglicanism in theological centers in what we now call the Global South, and the greater inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the life and governance of some of the Anglican Provinces were neither uniformly present or viewed positively across the communion. The search for some sort of Anglican identity was on.

    From the beginning the notion of a common “marker” or set of tenets and a skeletal Anglican Communion-wide canon law formed the core of the search for Anglican identity. The Lambeth Quadrilateral quickly became a candidate as an identifying marker. The Quadrilateral was widely recognized as a useful measure for what was needed for reunion. It was not so easily useful as a statement of what Anglicans understood themselves to be. Members of The Episcopal Church could find the Quadrilateral in both its forms in the historical section of the Book of Common Prayer, but little was said about how it might be used as a measure of self-identification.

    In the run up to the 1998 Lambeth Conference it was clear that “the Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called by God into the Unity of His Church” was not serving well as a marker of Anglican Identity. Rather local adaptation was leading to divergence of practice that could bring to an end the organizational experiment called the Anglican Communion. At Lambeth 1998 Bishop Spong articulated a form of Episcopal teaching and pastoral ministry that stood at a great distance from some of the members of his own church, and of course from bishops elsewhere in the world. The women bishops present were clearly bishops in local contexts tolerated only. The range of issues concerning human sexuality and practice were a cold lump on the table.

    The earliest Global South reaction to the seeming Anglican Communion disarray was directed at the need to discipline bishops who misused scripture and the process of interpreting scripture in order to follow what seemed to be the lead of their cultures. The primary examples of this misuse were, in their eyes, the statements of Bishop Spong, the reality of the ordination of gay and lesbian persons and the blessing of same sex relationships. Why was not Bishop Spong disciplined? Why did Provinces allow blessings and ordinations of gay and lesbian persons to take place?

    At the same time Anglicans from the North found the cautions of the Global South reactive, unhearing, and lacking in sensitivity to the local situations to which they were responding. The adaption to local and varying needs was seen as giving away the faith in order to stand with the culture. Bishops on all sides made these accusations and the form of final resolutions of Lambeth 1998 pit the accusers against one another. It was the end of the slow march to Lambeth as a “resolving” conference. There were Resolutions passed, but no resolution to the emerging disarray.

    The Emerging Anglican Covenant:

    Out of that Conference a renewed effort on two fronts emerged to further the quest for Anglican identity. First, the structures of the Anglican Communion were strengthened, with the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury enhanced and the roles of three regular meetings – the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meetings and the Anglican Consultative Council – more clearly developed. These became the de facto markers of an Anglican Communion voice and a primary element in answering the question, “Who speaks for the Communion.” Together they were considered “instruments of communion.” Second, the provisions for same sex blessings, the ordination of gay and lesbian persons to ministry, and the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson, were considered by the Lambeth Commission on Communion who issued The Windsor Report.

    The Windsor Report recommended that the Instruments of Communion, and in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates Meeting, seek compliance with expressions of regret and repentance and moratoria from blessing or ordaining gay and lesbian persons and from invasive actions by bishops in jurisdictions not their own. The Windsor Report recommended that some form of Anglican Communion covenant – a sort of charter with a minimal set of directives concerning inclusion in the Communion – be developed. Appended to the Windsor Report was a mock up of a possible Anglican Covenant. It died a mercifully quick death.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury took the recommendation seriously, however, and appointed a Covenant Drafting Group to develop a covenant statement with that set of directives about how to include or exclude member churches. Their first effort, now called the Nassau Draft, and their second effort, the St. Andrew’s Draft, include in various forms both concerns: a covenant proper and a set of directives (we may read them as preliminary international canons). Further drafts will arise after Lambeth and there is a process of engagement which it is assumed will lead to a formal Anglican Covenant to which subscription will be required if a church is to be part of the Anglican Communion.

    I have little doubt that the covenant will be accompanied by some means of addressing membership and issues of inclusion and exclusion. The stunning failure of past drafts to produce a widely acceptable section or appendix on canonical provisions concerning inclusion or exclusion does not mean that that effort will not go on or that it will not be part of the final product.

    The Final Form of the Anglican Covenant:

    What will the presentation copy of the Covenant include?

    Some predictions - The Covenant itself will, I believe, be a very brief document inclusive of the first three elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral – Scripture, Creed and Sacrament. The fourth element – the Historic Episcopate – will be expressed in an expanded form, probably including some reference to bishops in synods and therefore to Primates. It will include in some form the “Five Marks of Mission” that were the product of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism (IASCOME).

    When the Anglican Covenant is presented to the churches in final form it will in all likelihood include a form of an accession clause that stipulates that inclusion in the Anglican Communion is dependent on acting in ways that do not aggrieve other member churches or sufficient numbers of bishops of various churches.

    The Anglican Covenant will attempt to solve the matter of Anglican identity by providing a greater sense of inter-Provincial order and some way of exercising discipline. It will of course have to be tried, or else its force as a determining marker for Anglican Identity will be lost. The Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church will be prime candidates for testing the discipline implied in the accession clause, assuming that we subscribe to the Covenant at all.

    What will be lost forever is (i) the notion that the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches – a koinonia – and not a church – an ekklesia, and (ii) the notion that the Historic Episcopate is capable of adaptation to the varying needs of peoples and nations.

    The promise of the Anglican Covenant is a greater sense of Anglican identity. The process is almost certainly leading to an identity that we will find hard to recognize as Anglican. The end result of the Anglican Covenant idea will not be a greater sense of who we are, but a greater sense of what we have become – the Patriarchy of Canterbury (located who knows where).

    In all likelihood The Episcopal Church will not be party to the signing. We will not be alone.

    The Rev. Dr. Mark Harris is a deputy to the 2009 General Convention from the Diocese of Delaware. He is a member of Executive Council and keeps the blog Preludium.

    Covenant Week
    The Appendix: Devil and details

    This is the fourth of five articles examining the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. A study guide from The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is also available. This article considers the Appendix of the covenant. Previous articles considered Sections One, Two and Three. Tomorrow, Mark Harris considers the future of the Covenant process.

    By Sally Johnson

    From a lawyer’s point of view especially, the procedures in the Appendix to the Covenant for resolving disagreements raise very serious issues about the real purpose of the procedures, whether the procedures are “fair,” and whether they would be workable and appropriate in light of the polity and governance structure of The Episcopal Church.

    The Commentary states that the Covenant “limits the commitments made by the Churches to ones of care and receptivity with respect to Communion relations” involving:
    • Consultation
    • Communion wide evaluation
    • Mediation
    • Readiness to consider a request on the controversial matter from the Instruments of Communion

    Although it states there is “no intention to erect a centralized jurisdiction,” or to give “juridical force” to the decisions of the Instruments of Communion, the proposed procedures certainly look like a juridical process.

    • An “Offense” is specified:

    “Disagreements which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission”

    • An ultimate consequence for committing the “Offense” is specified:

    “Relinquishment by a Church of the force and meaning of the Covenant purposes”

    • Who can cause the process to begin is specified:

    Any Church (Province of the Communion)
    The Church taking or proposing an action
    An Instrument of Communion other than the ACC

    • Multiple steps and procedures for resolution of the matter are specified including informal conversation, mediation, evaluation by Assessors, issuance of requested courses of action, and determination of whether the “Offense” has been committed

    • Appeals are provided for at several junctures


    Major Issues:

    Definitions. There are no definitions, explanations, or descriptions of critical terms and phrases such as “disagreements which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission” and “relinquishment by a Church of the force and meaning of the Covenant purposes.” The “Offense” and ultimate consequence are vague and subject to vastly different interpretations especially in an international setting. Given the context out of which the Covenant arose, it may well be that the “relinquishment” consequence is intended to mean that a Church can choose to leave or be forced out of the Communion, whatever that means.

    Role of Archbishop and Primates. The Appendix provides that “the Instruments of Communion” have several roles in the process. However, since the ACC is the body with the ultimate authority to decide that a Church has “relinquished the force and meaning of the Covenant purposes,” it is not allowed to participate in other steps of the process. Given that the entire process must be completed within five years and many steps happen within a matter of months, it will be rare for the Lambeth Conference to have any role. That means the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates are actually the primary players in the process despite the use of “Instruments of Communion” throughout the Appendix.

    Lack of Due Process. When the matter is given to an Instrument of Communion for a recommendation or decision, the subject Church has no due process protections: No provision for a trial of any kind, no right to be heard or present evidence, no burden of proof, no standard of proof, no right to confront and cross examine the accusers, and no limit on the scope of the requests that an Instrument can make of the subject Church.

    Ease of initiating and continuing the process. The only threshold that must be met in order for the process to begin is that a Church or Instrument of Communion claims an act has or will threaten the unity of the Communion. There is no one who can look at the situation initially and decide that the matter should not go forward. There is no point in the process where someone can say that that the process should end. If informal conversation does not resolve the situation, the Church whose action is claimed to be threatening the unity (not the party making the claim) MUST consult with the Archbishop who MUST take the next steps in the process. Even if the Archbishop refers the matter to Assessors and they determine the unity is NOT threatened (no “Offense” committed), the matter must still be referred to mediation.

    Implications for TEC polity. The Church whose acts are the subject of the disagreement must make crucial decisions at several points in the process. The first is for it to determine whether its own action or proposed action may threaten the unity thereby giving rise to the duty to consult. If an Instrument of Communion makes a request of a Church, the Church has six months to accept or reject it. Similarly, the Church has three months to appeal the request to the Joint Standing Committee. General Convention meets once every three years so it likely couldn’t make any of the decisions. The Executive Council meets three times a year so it could make this initial consultation decision and the decision to accept or reject a request from an Instrument of Communion. It would be difficult for it to make a decision that had to be made within three months. However, serious consideration should be given to the question of whether or not the Executive Council has the canonical authority to make such momentous decisions on behalf of the Church. In recent years we’ve seen requests to TEC from the Communion directed to the House of Bishops or the Presiding Bishop rather than to General Convention despite it being the only body with the authority to make decisions or speak for the Church on such matters. There have also been instances in which the House of Bishops or the Presiding Bishop have responded on behalf of the Church, perhaps because a response was due before General Convention could meet or because they thought it was within their authority to respond. The proposed procedures and timelines do not allow for General Convention to exercise its authority as the body that decides and speaks for the whole Church and thus threatens to undermine our polity and governance structure.

    Sally Johnson, a deputy to the 2009 General Convention from the Diocese of Minnesota, is former Chair of the Convention's Canons Committee, and Chancellor to the President of the House of Deputies.

    Covenant Week
    Section Three: Birthrights and pottage

    This is the third of five articles examining the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. A study guide from The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is also available. This article considers Section Three of the covenant. Future articles will consider the appendix, and the future of the covenant process. Read the articles on Section One and Section Two.

    By W. Nicholas Knisely

    The Anglican Communion in its present form is something that I believe to be of surpassing value both to the Episcopal Church and to Christendom as a whole. We have a developing understanding of what it means to be a Church wherein the body of the gathered People of God is as widely diverse as possible, as democratic as possible and focused on the development of true conciliar decision making. There have been other ways of trying to “do” church that have had these characteristics as their goals, but I believe that Anglicanism has come closer than any so far. Given that, the Anglican Church, as yet still in process of coming to the full maturity of its expression, is precious and valuable. Precious enough that it is worth carefully considering any step that will allow the process to continue to unfold.

    I’ve been asked to reflect on the details of the Section 3 of the most recent draft of the Proposed Anglican Covenant in this paper. It’s only fair for me to begin by putting my cards on the table. I am sympathetic to the goals of the Covenant though somewhat suspicious of calls to rush to embrace it in any form in a desire to respond to the present level of conflict in the Communion. I’m not yet convinced that we fully understand the ramifications of a Covenant’s adoption for the theological and practical details of Anglicanism and I’m comfortable moving slowly and carefully.

    Yet this is not to say that the Anglican Communion must be preserved at all costs; especially if its preservation, by actions taken to cajole or remove members or groups of people in a naive attempt to preserve it, would result in fundamentally altering that which makes it worthy of preservation. Given competing claims of justice within the Communion at this time, and the competing theological expressions that underlie them, making rash changes to the way that the Communion governs itself, its polity, would most likely be done reactively rather than deliberatively. It is said that when we “act in haste, we often repent at leisure”. This more than anything else is the danger that moving too quickly to decide to adopt a Covenant; leaving aside, for the moment, the question of the final details of its design, represents to us.

    As I have been thinking about the question of the Episcopal Church’s decision to continue in the Covenant design process, whatever form that decision might take at the next General Convention in 2009, I find myself returning again and again to the story of Essau’s selling his birthright to his brother Jacob for a mess of pottage. Sometimes we don’t realize what is truly valuable and what is merely transitory. My hope for our church is that we would carefully and prayerfully ask ourselves what in our polity must be preserved if we are to be true to ourselves and what can be changed without too much danger to our identity.

    Initial disclaimers now laid aside, and turning to Section 3 of the draft, of all the parts of the Covenant, this is the section that I find most appealing. I believe that St. Paul’s teaching about the Body of Christ and his focus on community rather than on individuals is a key piece of evidence about how he and the Apostles expected the Church to make decisions and discern God’s will. Their process is described in the Book of Acts when the first great controversy of the Church arises with regard to the inclusion and role of Gentile believers as followers of the Way. The Church decides by having representatives of the Community gather who take council with each other and then issue a teaching to the wider Church.

    This is the first and primary scriptural example of a conciliar model for making decisions that effect the whole body of believers. The expectation is created from this point on that we must recognize that what one part of the body does will effect the rest of the body. Humility and love for one another undergird our mutual submission within the body.

    What happened in the first Council, the Council of Jerusalem was repeated as best possible again and again in the life of the Church until the Great Schism. After the Schism you see the fragmented pieces of the Church still modeling this conciliar decision making even though the different parts of the Church adapt the model in various (and sometime unrecognizable) ways.

    But in addition to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the long traditions of the undivided (and even the divided Church!), it is the reasonableness of discernment within community that I find most compelling about the idea of a conciliar form of church governance. We discern within community at all levels of the Episcopal Church. We discern calls to ordination in the parish and in the diocese rather than simply allowing a person to claim ordination because of their own self perception. We order our common life according to the decisions of General Convention, believing that the broader and more diverse the community that can be gathered to consider a question, the better the answer will be, and the less likely the answer will be to represent the interests of a few imposed for self-serving purposes.

    Thus, because of my desire to see Anglicanism follow in and continue to develop along the lines of this model of church ordering, I find the opening paragraphs of the third section of the most attractive parts of the entire Covenant.

    Yet, I still have some specific concerns about this section of the document, and a larger one that speaks to an underlying theme of this part of the Covenant.

    Firstly, does sections 3.1.3's mention of our Bishop's special role reflect a change in our polity? A careful reading of the section does not lead one to think so. It is a description of the role of the Bishop, or the role of the bishop as it is found in most of the Communion. If it seems inaccurate to us, or to place too strong a focus on bishops apart from the other orders of ministry in the Church, then is it an issue for the Episcopal Church alone? Is our Episcopal Polity significantly different than that of the rest of the Communion? This sectoin will cause us to do some deep thinking I expect. For if we have a different polity than the rest of the Communion in the specifics of the way the oversight ministry of a bishop is expressed, should we necessarily give way to the more common understanding, or should we invite the larger community to discern with us whether our view might be worth their adoption? My specific concern about section 3.1.3 is that adopting it in its present form would close the discussion on the question of role of bishops within Anglican polity prematurely (at least from our viewpoint).

    The next specific issue (for us as Episcopalians) is in section 3.1.4. It enumerates the four instruments of Communion as were first suggested at a conference in Virginia in 1997. These were originally offered as descriptive items that laid out the practical de-facto ways that the Anglican Communion maintained the relationships between its branches. There is nothing actually new in this section of the Covenant. But our ratification of the Covenant would seem to me to change these instruments from de-facto descriptions into de-jure ones. The very idea that the Instruments exist and are four in number has only been in common use now for slightly more than a decade. My particular concern here is whether or not we fully understand the ramifications that this specific list of four would have. I’m particularly concerned about the inclusion of the Primate’s meeting. It’s the youngest of the four Instruments and the least representative. Would the creation of a council of “super” bishops really be consonant with Anglican tradition?

    It’s section 3.2 as a whole that I find the most interesting and the most challenging. Most of the points made in section 3.2 as a whole speak to the autonomy of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. 3.2.2 makes explicitly clear that each Province of the Communion is independent, many by either law of the land or specific clauses of their constitutions. 3.2.3-5 asks the various Provinces to recognize that there are some questions of faith which touch all the Provinces and further asks that the Provinces will forebear taking actions in these area if possible. (Though interestingly enough such unilateral action is not forbidden in spite of being strongly discouraged.)

    As I read through this section I had the curious sensation that I was being led down a pleasant path, nodding my head at each statement, until I suddenly arrived at the end of the section and looked about in some surprise at where I had come to stand. The gist of this section is the agreement that various Provinces will agree to willingly submit their actions to various bodies of the Communion before they take controversial actions. There’s nothing particularly surprising here. It’s material that’s been covered and discussed in other places. There’s a lack of specificity about the actual processes envisioned that might be concerning, but most of these proposed specifics are found in the Appendix section of the draft. (And I'll address the Appendix in a separate essay.)

    It’s here in the details of section of 3.2 where I suddenly find myself returning to the biblical scene of Essau and Jacob and their discussion over the sale of birthrights. Details aside, what is being put forth in this section, is that the Provinces of the Communion submit to the authority of the instruments of the Communion. In other words the Episcopal Church, which has existed for the past 200 plus years as an independent church with historic ties and bonds of affection to the other parts of the Communion, would become instead an organic but subsidiary part of a centralized Anglican Communion. Actually, put Jacob and Essau aside for second. I’m thinking more of St. Hilda at the Synod of Whitby. The Church in England, at the Synod of Whitby, agreed to accept the Roman Church’s way of calculating the date of Easter rather than continuing to use the traditional way it had been determined in England. The decision was a seemingly small thing, but St. Hilda and others recognized the implications that it had. By accepting the authority of Rome to be the final judge in such matters, the Church in England entered a materially different period in its life and governance.

    The Episcopal Church, and the other Provinces of the Communion are being asked to do something very much akin to what was asked of the Synod of Whitby. We are asked to acknowledge that there are de-facto (according to this section of the document) limits to a Province’s ability to govern its own life. The reward is the hope that Anglicanism will grow into a more deeply connected web of relationships around the world. The danger is that we may be changing Anglicanism forever in ways which we don’t fully understand today.

    And this is now where the Jacob and Essau story comes fully into focus. Essau sold his birthright and his ability to inherit to his younger brother Jacob for a mess of pottage. Essau did this because he was hungry, and as an impetuous sort of person, he was not willing or perhaps able to sit and carefully count the cost before he came to his decision. Certainly, in hindsight he regretted his actions and would not have taken them if he had just been willing to think them through. It seems to me that Anglicanism and her children stand in a very similar place today. We are being asked to give up something that many of us hadn’t thought too much of until recently, but something which was ours at our founding. The reward is that this may bring peace to the Communion, and in the long term perhaps a new form of Christian church governance. It’s certainly much greater than a full stomach that would lost only a day or so. Yet I wonder if we fully recognize the cost of what we are being asked to offer up. Would giving up our autonomy take us down a path that would allow the Anglican experiment to continue? Or would such a change redirect our trajectory so greatly that we would soon cease to be recognizably Anglican; at least according to our eyes of today.

    This is the key question of the Covenant. And I’m not convinced we have the answer yet. We may never have the full answer, but I think the question is of such fundamental importance, that it would be best if took the time necessary to find as much of the answer as possible.

    So finally, what are we, as the Episcopal Church, to do with the Covenant? As I wrote above, the Anglican Communion is precious enough that we should be expected to do what we can to help it to thrive. Yet we cannot be expected to sell our birthright or the Communion’s to preserve peace at any price. Thankfully such a choice is not before us today. It seems to me that the most loving thing we can do is to receive the work of the design team, raise our specific concerns, perhaps suggest modifications that would respond to our concerns and submit them back to the team asking them to continue the process of revision. I believe the concerns that I have pointed out above are serious enough that it would be a mistake to ratify it in its present form. Yet these concerns do not rise to a level that would justify rejecting the whole of the Covenant or even the idea of the Covenant Process all together. Rather we should enthusiastically participate, adding our voices and experience to those of other cultures and other Provinces this summer during the Lambeth Conference and in the events and discussions which will follow.

    The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, is a deputy to the 2009 General Convention from the Diocese of Arizona. He is chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication, and blogs at Entangled States.

    Covenant Week
    Section Two: Common ground

    This is the second of five articles examining the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. A study guide from The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is also available. This article considers Section Two of the covenant. Future articles will consider Section 3, the appendix, and the future of the covenant process. Read the article on Section One.

    By Marshall Scott

    In this series of posts by deputies looking at the St. Andrew's Draft of a proposed Anglican Covenant, I've been asked to consider "Section Two: The Life We Share With Others: Our Anglican Vocation." While I appreciated the invitation, I did have some concern. I had written a good bit elsewhere about the "Nassau Draft," the first draft from the Covenant Design Group, and I didn't want to rehash old stuff. But, we were all spared: the corresponding section (section 4) of the "Nassau Draft" was one I never got to. So, I was able to come to the process with fresh eyes.

    What struck me is that this section has been brought from the Nassau Draft with very little change. That suggests that there was broad acceptance for this from the first draft. In fact that’s confirmed in the Commentary attached to the St. Andrew’s Draft. The only substantive comment regarding Section 2 is an explanation for retaining from the Nassau Draft to the St. Andrew’s Draft of the same five “marks of mission.”

    That said, there are some changes, and they are interesting. Let’s begin with the Affirmations:

    2.1 Each Church of the Communion affirms:

    (2.1.1) that communion is a gift of God: that His people from east and west, north and south, may together declare his glory and be a sign of God’s Reign. We gratefully acknowledge God’s gracious providence extended to us down the ages, our origins in the Church of the Apostles, the ancient common traditions, the rich history of the Church in Britain and Ireland shaped by the Reformation, and our growth into a global communion through the expanding missionary work of the Church.

    (2.1.2) the ongoing mission work of the Communion. As the Communion continues to develop into a worldwide family of interdependent churches, we embrace challenges and opportunities for mission at local, regional, and international levels. In this, we cherish our faith and mission heritage as offering Anglicans distinctive opportunities for mission collaboration.

    (2.1.3) that our common mission is a mission shared with other churches and traditions beyond this covenant. We embrace opportunities for the discovery of the life of the whole gospel and for reconciliation and shared mission with the Church throughout the world. It is with all the saints that we will comprehend the fuller dimensions of Christ’s redemptive and immeasurable love.

    The first change that struck me was in paragraph 2.1.1 in the description of what we might call “the faith as this Church has received it.” In discussing our shared history the Nassau Draft spoke of “our origins in the undivided Church;” while the St. Andrew’s Draft speaks of, “our origins in the Church of the Apostles, [and] the ancient common traditions.” This pushes back a significant point in our history. The “undivided Church” continued in some sense, however tenuous, until 1054, although the issues in the division were present for some time before. The Church of the Apostles would be quite early; and while “the ancient common traditions” is vague in content, it would seem to precede the divisive issues, and not just the excommunications in 1054.

    So where would we start? We might focus on our common acceptance of the first four Ecumenical Councils, and consider “the ancient common traditions” to end with the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Even if we embrace Gregory’s mission of Augustine of Canterbury (part of “the rich history of the Church in Britain and Ireland”), should we ignore the liturgical work of Gregory and of Benedict of Nursia, each important for the development of the Prayer Book? Would we ignore the Christological work in the latter three Ecumenical Councils? We might argue how important any of these historical issues might be. My point is that events between “the ancient common traditions” and the end of “the undivided Church” are also important for who we are as Anglicans now.

    Again, the St. Andrew’s Draft speaks of “the rich history of the Church in Britain and Ireland shaped by the Reformation;” while the Nassau Draft described that rich history as “particularly shaped by the Reformation.” (Emphasis mine) The rich history of the Church in Britain and Ireland certainly was shaped by the Reformation, but hardly by the Reformation alone. The word “particularly” emphasizes our Reformation tradition, while acknowledging that other traditions shaped that history as well. The wording in the St. Andrew’s Draft would seem especially to ignore aspects of the catholic tradition recovered in the Oxford Movement. Retaining the word “particularly” would be helpful in acknowledging that the Anglican tradition is both reformed and catholic.

    A second interesting, and more hopeful, change came in moving one clause. The clause, “We embrace opportunities for the discovery of the life of the whole gospel and for reconciliation and shared mission with the Church throughout the world,” appears in both Drafts. However, in the Nassau Draft it appears as part of our “unique [Anglican] opportunities for mission collaboration” in the second paragraph. In the St. Andrew’s Draft it appears instead in the third paragraph, as part of “our common mission… shared with other churches and traditions beyond this covenant.” Thus, “discovery of the life of the whole gospel…, reconciliation and shared mission,” are not only aspects of our vocation as Anglicans, but rather of our vocation as Christians.

    So far, I have looked at the changes from the Nassau to the St. Andrew's Draft. I want to return, however, to how little actual change there has been. Again, that suggests that there was wide acceptance of the original, both in the committee and in solicited comments. That shows again in the Commitments addressed in paragraph 2.2:

    2.2 In recognition of these affirmations, each Church of the Communion commits itself:

    (2.2.1) to answer God’s call to evangelisation and to share in his healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken, hurting and fallen world, and, with mutual accountability, to share our God-given spiritual and material resources in this task.

    (2.2.2) In this mission, which is the Mission of Christ, each Church undertakes:

    (2.2.2.a) to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God;
    (2.2.2.b) to teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
    (2.2.2.c) to respond to human need by loving service;
    (2.2.2.d) to seek to transform unjust structures of society; and
    (2.2.2.e) to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

    The only change in this wording from the Nassau Draft is the addition of “evangelisation” (sic) as a commitment. As evangelism in some form is a call given by Christ, it is a reasonable addition to these commitments. Moreover, the five “marks of mission,” have been brought into the new draft unchanged.

    That consistency, especially on mission, raised an interesting thought for me: what if we were to consider this by itself as the content of an Anglican Covenant? What if Section 2 were what we considered - and all we considered? I realize I'm not the only person who has had a similar thought; but I also think it's worth consideration.

    First, it considers our history and, once again, "the faith as this Church " - or better, "as this Communion - has received it." It focuses on our specific Anglican heritage. Second, it acknowledges our current circumstance as “a worldwide family of interdependent churches,” and acknowledges that this circumstance “continues to develop.” While it does not describe our "unique Anglican charism," it does describe the unique aspects of our history in which we would discern it. It is focused on vocation rather than on content or structures, allowing for freedom of thought within the tradition while agreeing on a call to mission for all Christians. Important in our current discussions, there was broad agreement on this section, requiring only slight changes from the Nassau Draft. To focus on this section by itself as the Draft Covenant would be to focus on shared Anglican distinctives, more specific than the Christian basics of the Quadrilateral expressed in Section One, without fixing permanently our current understanding of the structures of the Communion. It would allow for continued exchange, and for continued growth, as we continue to discern how the Holy Spirit is leading us.

    Section 2 of the St. Andrew's Draft has much to commend it. It focuses on aspects of "the faith as this Church has received it" on which there is broad agreement, and on our specific Anglican heritage and our shared vocation, without freezing current structures or inhibiting further discernment and growth in the Spirit. As part of an Anglican Covenant, it comes as close as anything in either draft to actually addressing a "unique Anglican charism." As the substance of an Anglican Covenant, it would focus on agreed values rather than divisive issues, and allow for continuing growth in ministry and fellowship, and “in the knowledge and love of the Lord.”

    The Rev. Marshall Scott, a deputy to the 2009 General Convention from the Diocese of West Missouri, is 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.

    Covenant Week
    Section One: Claiming our inheritance

    This is the first of five articles examining the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. A study guide from The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is also available. This article considers Section One of the covenant. Future articles will consider Sections 2-3, the appendix, and the future of the covenant process.

    By Tobias S. Haller

    Section One of the Saint Andrew’s Draft Anglican Covenant begins with a series of affirmations. These should be familiar to Episcopalians, as they echo the language of the Creeds and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. The creedal phrases in the first clause remind us that our unity with each other stems from our unity in Christ, who prayed that the disciples would be one even as he and the Father are one. Our unity is a reflection of the unity of the Trinity, the inner relationship of the Father with the Son in the Holy Spirit. God in Christ confers a share in the divine unity upon us as a gift and an inheritance.

    The Quadrilateral is an important focal point in Anglicanism. It was first conceived by an Episcopal priest (and deputy to thirteen consecutive General Conventions!) William Reed Huntington. He intended it to mark out the four secure boundaries within which he hoped churches from outside Anglicanism’s fold would be able to find ample pasture to share — as a means toward the reunion of Christian traditions divided since the Reformation. So it is fitting to see the four articles of the Quadrilateral — Scripture, creeds, sacraments and the episcopate — reappear in a new context, as a way to affirm unity within Anglicanism. The healing of breaches that have arisen within our family of churches, in affirming the unity we have inherited, will make our common witness as a communion of churches — and our apostolic mission together — more effective, as we continue to work with those of other traditions and communions outside our own.

    The closing articles of this first part remind us of the importance of that common mission and common worship, which are both means to and signs of unity, in spite of differing contexts and traditions within a global communion, and as shared beyond that communion with the wider church. The old Benedictine motto: ora et labora — pray and work — is a means of keeping peace and promoting harmony in the household, even the household of God.

    The second part of this section turns to the implementation, and shows how the inheritance might best be put to work. We, in this Episcopal corner of the Anglican pasture, have been given a share of our inheritance, and charged with wise stewardship in its employment. It is no talent to be buried in a field, no treasure to be wasted in prodigal excess, but rather invested and put to work towards the common good.

    This inheritance also comes with conditions: we commit to make use of it together with the rest of the large family of which we are members; for it is an inheritance we share. It is in this part of the draft that we agree to commit to covenant promises made to one another, to our brothers and sisters in this Anglican family.

    The commitments grow out of the articles of the Quadrilateral, and flesh them out in practical ways. We are to read the Scripture faithfully within the context of the church’s historic tradition and creeds, but also to employ all of the tools of scholarship and reason at our disposal, always in keeping with the principle that Scripture’s purpose is to reveal and teach salvation, and that it is sufficient to that end. We are to maintain and share in the sacramental fellowship which is both our privilege and our duty, both the sign of unity and the means to nourish it. We are, as faithful people of God, to take counsel together with our bishops in study and prayer, as we engage with each other in our common life. We are also to be open to the prophetic voices that challenge us to meet the needs of a suffering world, in mission and outreach. Finally we are committed to journey together with our fellow pilgrims within the Anglican Communion, as we live out our call to fulfill the reality with which this Covenant began: that all may be One, even as God is One. This places our task upon a firm foundation — ultimately the only foundation on which a secure churchly enterprise can be built, the sure and firm foundation of Jesus Christ himself.

    Tobias S. Haller, Vicar of Saint James Episcopal Church, Fordham in Bronx, N. Y, is a life professed member of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory and a clerical deputy to the 2009 General Convention. He blogs at In a Godward Direction.

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