GC and B033: a preview and an analysis

By Jim Naughton

The 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church is likely to pick up where the 75th General Convention left off, with attention focused squarely on one particular piece of legislation—Resolution B033. That bill, pushed through on the final day of the 2006 convention under unusual parliamentary circumstances, was meant to ensure the Episcopal Church retained its place within the Anglican Communion, and has been widely interpreted as a de facto moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same sex relationships.

When the legislative committees of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops convene in Anaheim on July 7, they also will consider numerous resolutions on the blessing of same sex relationships and the development of rites for same sex marriage.

Together, these issues are likely to be the most closely watched – and most passionately argued – of the convention, though they constitute a small part of a legislative agenda that includes the church’s 2010-2012 budget, a new initiative on domestic poverty, a possible revision of the church’s disciplinary canons, steps toward full communion with the Moravian Church and conversation about the proposed Anglican Covenant, which has yet to be released in its final form.

Resolution B033 urges diocesan bishops and standing committees not to consent to the election of a bishop “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” The phrase “manner of life” was widely interpreted to include gay and lesbian clergy who lived with a partner of the same sex.

The legislation was written on the night before the convention was to close, amidst rumors of trans-Atlantic arm-twisting by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams was considering whether to invite the bishops of the Episcopal Church to the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Previous attempts to pass similar legislation had failed, but on the final day of the convention, the newly-elected Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, took the unusual step of addressing the House of Deputies. Her popularity, coupled with fears that Williams would recognize parishes and dioceses threatening to break away from the Episcopal Church as the authorized Anglican presence in the United States, led the Deputies to pass legislation that had seemed all but dead the day before.

The bishops of the Episcopal Church, with the notable exception of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church’s first openly gay bishop, were invited to the Lambeth Conference. Williams has not recognized the new church founded last month in Texas by members of the parishes and dioceses that broke away from the Episcopal Church and allied themselves with more theologically conservative Anglican churches in Africa and South America. Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., serve on the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, perhaps the most influential body in the Communion. And the church has deepened its relationships with many dioceses in provinces not sympathetic to its acceptance of gay and lesbian clergy and couples.

At the same time, however, the passage of B033 has been interpreted by Williams and other leaders in the Communion as an “agreed upon” moratorium—a phrase used in the report of the Windsor Continuation Group, which was endorsed at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in May. Williams has argued that B033 should remain in place until the Communion reaches a “new consensus” on same sex relationships, a consensus few see on the horizon. In the meantime, the number of gay candidates being considered for episcopal elections has dwindled. The Diocese of Western New York recently cited B033 in instructing the committee screening candidates to become its next bishop not to interview partnered gay or lesbian candidates.

Three years after its passage, B033 is unpopular, yet many believe it remains necessary. No fewer than a dozen resolutions to repeal, clarify or supersede the legislation have been submitted to the House of Deputies’ and House of Bishops’ Committee on World Mission. The two houses’ cognate (i.e. similarly named) committees typically meet as one at General Convention, but are not bound to do so. The deputies, many of whom are still smarting from the unusual procedures employed to pass B033, have expressed far more interest in revisiting the legislation than the bishops, who know that Williams does not want the legislation repealed. (The archbishop will be able to reinforce that message in person. He will be attending the General Convention July 8-9 to speak at a forum on the global recession and to give a Bible study.)

Legislation from the World Mission Committee is sent first to the House of Deputies. How the bishops will respond to attempts to repeal or soften B033 may depend on how narrowly the legislation is written. Jefferts Schori has said she does not want to repeal B033, preferring to make a statement about where the church stands now.

One approach that has won pre-Convention support is embodied in legislation from the Diocese of Rochester that “affirms that standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction are not bound by any extra-canonical restraints – including but not limited to the restraints set forth in Resolution B033 passed by the 75th General Convention – when considering consents to the ordination of any candidate to the episcopate.”

If such legislation passes, the questions of whether an openly gay bishop-elect would be approved by a majority of diocesan bishops and standing committees, and whether any diocese would be willing to put its future on hold long enough to find out, will remain open.

The convention also will consider a variety of proposals to move the church toward authorizing either the blessing of same sex relationships or the authorization of a rite for same sex marriage. At its 2003 General Convention, the church passed a resolution recognizing “that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same sex unions.”

The language of the legislation, while not precise, was interpreted in most quarters as granting diocesan bishops the right to exercise a “local option” on blessing same sex relationships. However, Williams, the majority of the primates in the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Consultative Council have endorsed a moratorium on “public rites” for the blessing of same sex relationships. This language, even less precise, has been interpreted variously as calling for an outright ban on same sex blessings, an acknowledgment that pastoral necessity might permit low profile private blessings, and as permitting same sex blessings as long as a ritual authorized by a church or a bishop is not used.

Williams has not definitively dispelled this controversy, however, at a press conference at the end of the Lambeth Conference, he said that “ as soon as there is a liturgical form it gives the impression that this has the church’s stamp on it,” and that he was “not very happy” about American attempts to develop rites.

In May, the Anglican Consultative Council affirmed the report of the Windsor Continuation Group, a panel appointed by Williams whose five members were previously on record opposing the blessing of gay relationships. The report calls for as yet unspecified consequences against bishops, dioceses and churches that authorize rite for same sex blessings.

Resolutions on same sex relationships include: an affirmation that there are no restrictions on a diocesan bishop's authorization of same sex blessings, a request that rites for both same sex blessings and same sex marriage be presented to the next convention in 2012, the authorization of a church-wide study of marriage rites, and a proposal to allow bishops in the six states that permit same sex marriage to adopt the church’s existing rite of marriage for use with gay and lesbian couples.

These resolutions will be considered by the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music, whose legislation is considered first by the House of Bishops.

The church has repeatedly sought to play for time in managing the conflict between its desire to bless same sex relationships and its desire to remain within the Anglican Communion. Legislation that would immediately change existing policy, therefore, may not fare as well as a resolution requiring final action at a future convention – even if that resolution is more ambitious in its ultimate effect.

(For coverage of the B033 saga as it unfolded, see these 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 items from Daily Episcopalian, and this wrap-up on pages 1 and 4 of the July/August 2006 Washington Window. In reading these dispatches, it helps to be aware that a special commission appointed before the General Convention had proposed a resolution advising the Church to exercise "very considerable caution" before consecrating another gay bishop. This language is weaker than the language of B033, which appeals for a denial of consent.)

Jim Naughton is editor in chief of Episcopal Cafe This article appears in the July-August issue of Washington Window, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Studying the Sinai Pantocrator:
Part two

This is the second of a two-part article. Read Part One. Our next new essay will appear on Tuesday.

By Luiz Coelho

Symbolism emerges in the use of light. In the Sinai Pantocrator, the light moves from left to right creating a sense of mystery on the right side of the image. In fact, although the figure is pretty much centered in the picture frame, there is a very noticeable asymmetry between the left and right sides of Jesus' face. The left side, bright and shiny, shows relaxed eyebrows and lips. On the right side, Jesus' face is contracted and shadows make it even more mysterious. This duality of a serene and compassionate Jesus, and a dark and severe one are very appropriate at a time when the concept of the dual nature of Jesus Christ was being discussed by the Church. The use of light, and also of different facial expressions, reinforce the human and divine natures orthodox Christians believe exist in Jesus Christ. He is simultaneously Mercy and Judge.

There is also another very interesting feature related to the use of light in this image. Jesus' eyes do not show any kind of reflection, unlike previous Egyptian encaustic paintings. It is feasible to suggest that the painter behind this Pantocrator had enough knowledge of light and shadow in order to know it is necessary to depict the way eyes behave when light is cast on them. One possible explanation for the absence of any reflection is the belief that Jesus is the source of light, and since light comes from him, his eyes are clear of reflections. This became the general practice in later icons, and also came to be applied to a saint, since they were reflecting the light of Christ that emerged from them.

Pantocrator Sinai

Color was also used in order to reinforce the idea of unearthly lights and heavenly environments. Tones are warm and follow a palette that ranges from ocre to brown, centered in golden tones. A circular halo, made of gold leaf, and which possibly had some incrustations, shows very vividly that the one who is represented is “not of this world”. In fact one can link halos to older polytheistic traditions of Sun-god worship. In this case, Jesus is seen as the one who replaced those gods as the new “Sun of Righteousness”.

Graphic elements were also added to the painting in order to emphasize even more that it is not a portrait of a human being. One can see three axes of what could be a cross painted on the halo, with star-like designs in each one of them. Those star-like designs also appear in ochre on the top-right and top-left corners of the image. They would later symbolize purity, and would be a key element in depictions of the Virgin Mary. This is probably their meaning in this case as well, but later icons of the Pantocrator substitute inscriptions in Greek, as an evolution of this style.

It is also important to take further notice of the symbolism behind the pose and gestures of Jesus Christ in this scene. His body takes full control of the scene, showing that it is all about him. The Gospel book in his left hand symbolizes his authority over the Cosmos and also remionds the viewer of his ministry on Earth. His right hand blesses the faithful, but is also raised as a sign of teaching and/or authority – a common feature of Greco-Roman portraits and sculptures. His fingers are tied together in groups of two and three, which is usually interpreted as further reiteration of the belief in the dual natures of Jesus Christ and also in the Holy Trinity. Both doctrines found their formation and articulation in the midst of much debate during the first centuries of Christianity. Representing Christ himself endorsing these new dogmas was a clever way of teaching the faithful about the orthodox Christian faith.

Many of these elements would endure in later depictions of the Christ Pantocrator. A later example of the same icon (link to: http://www.mit.edu:8001/afs/athena.mit.edu/activity/o/ocf/www/images/icnika_icon.gif ), shows a more stable style, which is still used by current iconographers. It is astonishing to notice that many of the features found in the Sinai Pantocrator were retained and consolidated in later icons: the frontal pose, the use of warm colors, dramatic light that “comes from the subject”, hand gestures and golden halo, among many others. Some others evolved from elements found in the Sinai Pantocrator: star-like shapes were substituted on the top of the painting by “IC XC” (which are the initials for the name Jesus Christ in Greek), and by other inscriptions around the halo, usually “I am who I am” in Greek. Strong outlines and background simplification were enhanced, and garments became more stylized with additional symbolism attached to them. For example, red (or purple) represented divinity, and blue represented humanity. Jesus was “God in man's clothes.” Some depictions of the Blessed Mother and saints have an opposite color scheme (red over blue), representing “men attaining union (theosis) with God.”

The Sinai Pantocrator marks a very important change in Western art. It shows visible signs of the end of an art more preoccupied with naturalism and illusion of reality, and the beginning of a style more concerned about symbols and the supernatural. Icons have also proven to be a valuable tool in communicating the teachings of the Christian Church to its members. The symbolism behind them often was a means of embedding doctrine in visual symbols. Its style was a merger of all Christianized regions of the empire, most notably the Eastern ones, and naturally incorporated Hellenistic philosophical and spiritual principles.

Therefore, this icon is a key work of art for the understanding of the ascendance of Byzantine art, which ran parallel to the advance of Christianity in the Roman Empire and the eventual theological disputes that happened within the Christian Church, such as the debates over the existence of God as Trinity, the natures of Christ, and even the iconoclastic controversy. While different from other artistic styles which were used for religious purposes, but not necessarily “as” religion, Byzantine iconography was definitely a key element in Eastern Christian faith, to the point that it has retained and distilled its main characteristics, and preserved its integrity into our own time, despite all sorts of realistic and naturalistic tendencies that affected Western European art at the end of the Middle Ages. The Sinai Pantocrator is one of the most meaningful Byzantine pieces to art gistorians because it gives many hints of how a civilization that for centuries embraced harmony and realism adopted stylized and simplified forms in order to make room for deep symbolism. Again, Christianity is the key for such a mystery, and iconography is the visible proof we have of all those changes.

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.

The Sinai Pantocrator: Iconography 101

This is the first of two articles. Part two will appear on Sunday.

By Luiz Coelho

Most churchgoers have probably seen this representation of Jesus Christ. The icon of Christ Pantocrator located at St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, Egypt (the Sinai Pantocrator) is regarded as one of the earliest examples available of what would be later described as Byzantine Iconography (or painting). Earlier pieces probably existed. In fact some features of the Sinai Pantocrator already were stable enough to conclude that such an icon was developed in the midst of a transitional style of Eastern representations of Christ in Majesty. However, all other pieces either were lost due to lack of preservation, or more likely were destroyed during the iconoclastic controversy. Consequently, this example of the Pantocrator is one of the oldest extant examples of an emerging style, heavily influenced by early Christian spirituality and Hellenistic philosophical thought, that would replace older artistic traditions and become a reference not only to the Eastern Christian world, but also to the West, and to the fringes of the Christian world.

The style expressed in the Sinai Pantocrator is an example of a genre which emerges from the late Roman Empire and from what would be called the Byzantine Empire, or the Roman Empire of the West. This style would survive in most of Eastern Europe, and Christian areas in the Middle East, leading to regional and periodic variations, such as Early, Middle and Late Byzantine, Coptic, Russian, and Armenian. It also would provide important elements upon which later styles would be developed in Western Europe. In fact, some scholars would regard Romanesque and Early Gothic paintings as a “Western” iconographic tradition. The importance behind the Sinai Pantocrator lies in the innumerable sub-products which emerged later and which were continuously used for Christian worship, and remain important for us Christians in our own day.

The image found in St. Catherine's Monastery of Christ as the Pantocrator , which is Greek for “Ruler of all,” is a 33 X 18 cm encaustic painting on wood, probably done during the 6th century A.D. It shows a frontal portrait of Christ holding a Gospel book in one hand, and blessing the viewer with the other hand. Behind him, one can see what seems to be a city. Around his head a gold leaf halo indicates to the viewer that this painting is not the portrait of a mere man, but of a divine figure. In this case, the iconographer wishes to indicate that this is an image of God Incarnate.

Pantocrator Sinai

This emerging iconographic style is characterized by several influences, so that it is impossible to determine with any certainty where it was painted. One influence is Roman portraiture, which flourished during most of the Roman Empire. Paintings were often commissioned by wealthy families and portrayed people in dignifying frontal poses with an austere look. Like them, the Sinai Christ also follows a frontal pose and has an air of nobility. Another visible influence is the Egyptian school of Fayum, Lower Egypt. It is understood that large encaustic paintings started to replace reliefs on sarcophagi lids during the Roman era, and are a clear example of the merger between the Roman and Egyptian portraiture traditions. In fact, the Sinai Pantocrator resembles these paintings in pose, aspect and materials much more than any other work of art from that period. Obviously, the link between depictions of people in the afterlife and the Risen Son of God was very evident, and the evolution of such portraiture is clearly understandable.

Another source of influence for Byzantine iconography was a style of Syrian paintings that emerged during the Roman Empire as a merger of Asian and Hellenistic traditions. This style was essentially symbolic with outlines, isocephaly (all heads on a level), bodies without weight or substance, and space reduced to a minimum. Many of those characteristics are found in the Sinai Pantocrator too, and its further descendants would take them to the edge. The portrait of Christ takes control of the scene, practically hiding the landscape behind him, which still has some elements of the illusionistic decorative Roman tradition of painting. It sends a clear message that the subject of the portrait, and not an elaborate architectural landscape, is what matters in this new style.

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."

Image or presence?

By Leo Campos

My stepfather was one of those larger than life individuals. It was just the way he was. He would walk into a room and commandeer it. I am not sure he would do it on purpose; I used to think it was a natural outgrowth of being used to having his orders obeyed. He was born in Argentina of English parents. In his late teens or early twenties (sometime after World War II) he jumped on a Triumph bike and drove the 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo in search of fame and fortune. Argentina at that time had the highest GDP in the world, while Brazil was barely waking up. On paper this seemed like an unwise move and he told me how often his friends in Argentina laughed at his decision, asking if he was going to Brazil to help the “banana bending” industry. Just think of how Brazil was portrayed in Carmen Miranda movies and you will see that such stereotypes were widespread.

The trip itself would probably make a good movie – there were no reliable roads between Brazil and Argentina in those days. He had to rough it for the 1,000 mile trip. He risked it to reach a country with a language he did not speak and very foreign culture. How different were the countries? Well, he tells me that he was shocked the first time he saw a black person – Argentina simply never had the levels of slavery associated with the rest of the New World.

My stepfather by that time had already developed a level of certainty which enabled him to trust his instincts. This is a man who, while working on the railroad as a young teen (no child labor laws back then!), would risk his earnings in dice games - and frequently double his income. Every successful decision, in turn, gave him greater self-confidence to take further chances. The more success he accumulated the more he developed what I call an expectation of certainty. It was a tangible force. This force enabled him to find the strength to work against pretty phenomenal odds to accomplish what he set his mind to. Certainly the success came with much hard work and many sacrifices, but the hard work almost seemed inconsequential - it was simply inferior to his will.

How much of this commanding presence was really presence and how much of it was self-image? Self-image is how we perceive ourselves as objects of others' attention. For me to be aware of how you see me, requires that I create a fantasy, an abstraction - I have to engineer an artificial “me” so I can become an object to myself – taken to its logical extremes you get the frivolities of high fashion. Presence, on the other hand, is indefensible and independent of external factors. It is a purely, or almost purely, subjective state. “I am this.” I am what I am.

These two poles of self-awareness are not mutually exclusive. A strong presence will probably create a strong self-image. A strong self-image will most likely create a strong presence. But the approach to it is different. If you develop a strong sense of presence, then you will not be too concerned with protecting self-image, but the reverse is not necessarily true.

It is instructive here to look at the encounter between Jesus and the centurion (Luke 7). The centurion is used to authority, and he recognizes it in Jesus. On paper this seems like an unwise move, much like my stepfather’s. Why would a centurion come seeking the help of a Jewish peasant, when he could undoubtedly have chosen some more qualified medical doctor? Just say a word and it will be so. The centurion must have been an excellent leader, for he could see the potential beneath the external appearances. He came to Jesus because, using whatever methods of decision he used, he simply expected to be right.
So here’s the catch: what are you seeing in the world today? Where are you looking? What does this say about you? What potential are you seeing? Do you see potential for good or for ill? Are you expecting to be right, or expecting to be wrong? Most importantly are you leaning more on your presence or your image? What 1,000 mile trip are you embarking on? What will you find at the end?

Brother Leo Campos is the co-founder of the Community of Solitude , a non-canonical, ecumenical contemplative community. He worked as the "tech guy" for the Diocese of Virginia for 6 years before going to the dark side (for-profit world).

Orthodoxy’s Inclusive Embrace

By Donald Schell

Irenaeus and standards of ‘orthodoxy’ have figured significantly in recent public discussion of the bishop elect of Northern Michigan, Kevin Thew Forrester. It now appears (unless some standing committees and perhaps some bishops reconsider their votes) that the public work of a faithful pastor will be used and quoted against him to prevent his consecration as bishop by the people of his diocese who chose him and bishops and clergy of our church who worked closely with them through an extended discernment process. In this process ‘orthodoxy’ has emerged as a line in the sand and Irenaeus has been invoked as a vigilant enforcer of it. I don’t recognize the spirit of Irenaeus in this effort.

Irenaeus comes into the discussion because Fr. Thew Forrester regularly quotes this important early theologian. I’ve enjoyed that in Thew Forrester’s work beginning with I Have Called you Friends: an Invitation to Ministry, which I first read eighteen months or so ago, before the election prompted this controversy. I recognized immediately that this book with its strong, vibrant picture of shared ministry and mission and its vision of our growing into maturity in Christ counted on sources like my old friend Irenaeus and as I read recalled with pleasure my first encounter with Irenaeus’ arguments for Christian orthodoxy against the ‘false Gnostics.’ Irenaeus appealed to the church’s public teaching and the lineage of teacher-bishops who carried that teaching back to Christ. Irenaeus claims apostolic succession in an unbroken lineage of public teaching, in other words, Irenaeus’ generous and inclusive definition of Christian orthodoxy rests on his appeal to the church’s public teaching.

Sometimes people take ‘orthodoxy’ to mean ‘holding the line.’ Irenaeus’ adversaries were teaching (to initiates) that there was a firm line and clear definition of what belonged to God and what did not. Responding to that impulse, Irenaeus boldly claimed that everything that had breath lived by the Spirit of God. For Irenaeus the theological line was incarnational, defending his broadly inclusive understanding of reconciliation (or atonement) through recapitulation - ‘what he [Christ] did not assume, he did not save.’ From Irenaeus it’s a short step to Gregory Nazianzen, ‘He became what we are that we might become what he is.’ Like the major theologians of the several centuries that followed him, Irenaeus was working to keep Christian faith grounded in human experience and open to God’s embrace of all people.

Following St. Paul, and echoing the Gospel of John (in a passage Desmond Tutu quotes enthusiastically) Irenaeus readily insisted that Christ lifted up on the cross drew all people to himself as he had taken all of human life to himself, moment by moment throughout Jesus’ life among us. Irenaeus takes on elitism, secret knowledge. The orthodoxy Irenaeus defends so fiercely proclaims God’s longing to embrace us all. Orthodoxy, in Irenaeus use, holds an opening for universal salvation, union, and knowledge of God. It is quite explicitly a celebration of the Divine Embrace of all of human existence and all of life. The rarefied ‘knowledge’ of the false Gnostics privileged the immutable perfection of God and the limited means of regaining access to knowledge or vision of God. Heresy in Irenaeus’ thinking was this teaching of a partial, exclusivist salvation – only the noetic/spiritual part of who we are and that only for a few, highly select people.

Irenaeus’ theology makes the Spirit very active wherever there is life. John’s Gospel warns us the Spirit, blowing where it will, may take us to some unexpected places. The argument against accepting Northern Michigan’s election has drawn on passages from Kevin Thew Forrester’s sermons. I’ve disagreed with some of the diagnosis and interpretation of possible theological problems critics have found in statements Thew Forrester has made, but more to the point, as a preacher, I believe that we keep an ear open to those outside of church, listen to their longing and questions, weigh the best in our common culture and discourse, and take some risks formulating Good News of God’s work among us. Even Episcopalians who attend church most frequently spend most of their time living outside church working with people who think out-of-church thoughts. Good preachers, faithful preachers DO make mistakes. Lively engaged preachers must make mistakes sometimes. The theological risks we take in public become part of the church’s great conversation. The discovery (or blunder) any one of us happens on (or into) preaching has far more power as it is appropriated, corrected, reshaped, and blessed (or rejected) by the community to which we’re preaching. Our faithful task is to tell the great story of God’s love for us in Jesus and include and bless as much of our people’s experience in it as we can.

From Irenaeus on through the first seven ecumenical councils, the steady impetus of the original definition of orthodoxy was to celebrate how completely and how intimately God has joined God’s self to us, our humanity, and our world and how our genuine knowledge of God is experience of being drawn into God in Christ. Not just in Irenaeus, but throughout the great Christological controversies of the first eight centuries, orthodoxy consistently rejected enlightened, high-minded efforts to narrow, refine, protect, and make wholly consistent the church’s faith and practice. Sometimes (as in the third council designating Mary as Theotokos, bearer or birth-giver of God) they dignified unauthorized local liturgical innovations by allowing the new words to carry the doctrinal weight of demonstrating how completely God had taken on our life and experience.

I DO want to be held accountable for my preaching by Irenaeus’ underlying standard of orthodoxy, one I strive to live into. I ask myself: Am I as a preacher consistently looking for the words, stories, and interpretation of Biblical and other inspired texts that make God’s action among us clearer and more evident to even the most ordinary listener? Am I committed enough to being a guide and catalyst in that search to risk making some serious mistakes? Do I (and the congregation over time) have an unfolding discovery that in our preaching conversation (including its missteps and blunders) ‘we have the mind of Christ’? I’m grateful for the dead-ends that I’ve explored as a preacher, and even for the blunders I’ve made. I’m profoundly grateful that it’s been a real conversation challenged by the real experience and faith of people I’ve had the privilege of preaching with. I’m glad that after thirty-seven years, I can tell a congregation that I and we are still learning, still trying to find words that are sharp enough or evocative enough to point compellingly toward the mystery of perfect Love. I’ve argued elsewhere that such risk-taking is exactly the orthodoxy that the church of the first eight centuries was struggling to protect.

Watching our church, hearing bishops and standing committees across the whole Episcopal Church report that they’ve been poring over the preaching of a missionary theologian, checking the ‘orthodoxy’ of every word and phrase, because this pastor is now bishop-elect of Northern Michigan troubles me. My experience of thirty-seven years of priesthood is that our Episcopal churches preachers have gotten steadily better. We’re trying to preach honestly, to speak to human experience, to read Scripture with love and passion, and to take risks. Why would we subject any preacher who is actively engaged in pastoral and missionary theology to a line by line scrutiny of sermons-once-preached to see if phrases drawn from ancient Christian and contemporary cultural sources might be taken to imply something that deviates from a central ‘core of orthodoxy.’ Irenaeus’ insistent definition of the central core of orthodoxy would have us bend the opposite direction. Christ has taken all things on or into himself.

Are we giving orthodoxy a bad name? Or is it that others - our own schismatics and some Anglicans in the Global South - have already made orthodoxy problematic for us, except that now we know no way to reclaim the word but on their terms? Irenaeus’ orthodoxy isn’t a tight, closed fellowship, but a broad, moving river. He boldly innovates and embellishes to make clear his conviction that the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ is, in Christ, embracing the whole world, that every moment and aspect of Jesus’ living and dying is saturated with God’s presence and has its own power to unite us to God, and that the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.

The Rev. Donald Schell, founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, is President of All Saints Company.

Iran and the hour of decision

By R. William Carroll

Brothers and sisters, we are likely too close to the history unfolding before our eyes in Iran to understand it in all its complexity. I for one do not assume that Moussavi will live up to the high hopes many have for him. Of course, he may not live at all. But, even if he does live, he may well disappoint. Perhaps Moussavi will not turn out to be the leader the Iranians in the streets long for him to be—at least not in every respect. At the same time, the first person testimony of the protestors who have taken to the streets is undeniable. Listen to these urgent and heartfelt words from an anonymous college student, blogging in Farsi:


I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too...All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelor’s degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them…This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…

Who, my friends, could remain unmoved by such words as these? They reveal a self-sacrificing attitude. This young person clearly enjoys life to the fullest and yet is willing to lay all that down—conscious of the cost—to secure a better future for generations to come.

Add to this the following comments from President Obama, which are at once grave and inspiring:


The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
Obama too may not be everything some of us hoped he’d be, but we should be glad that he is calling the world to these high ideals, enshrined in our own Bill of Rights and aspirations as freedom-loving people.

We live in a moment filled with possibilities yet fraught with risk. In such moments, the actions of small people and big people alike have the chance to make a difference for tomorrow’s children. Much depends on our faithfulness in such an “hour of decision.” It would be overwhelming if everything depended on us. Fortunately, it does not. Ultimately, our future lies in God’s hands. We shape that future and mould it by our free decisions. But God directs and perfects it, bringing our history to fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.

Despite our failures of nerve—despite many refusals and denials—God is patiently working out God’s purpose for us. As followers of Christ, we know that more than the world is watching. GOD is watching. And God will not be mocked. It may not seem like it for a time. Evil may indeed triumph for a season. But in the end, all things will be brought to their perfection in Christ. In his remarks, Obama goes on to quote Martin Luther King: “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Last Saturday, I participated in the ordination of four new priests, including Fr. Steve Domienik, who will begin serving alongside me and the people of our parish this summer. In the ordination liturgy, the bishop prays a powerful prayer that speaks both to the events unfolding in Iran and to the very real challenges we ourselves face in this country today. We offer the same prayer in the liturgy of Good Friday. In it, we pray:

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

Now maybe providence, which concerns God’s guidance of the world, its history, and everyone in it, is an idea that’s hard to grasp. Some Christians think about it in ways that are magical and superstitious and fail to give sufficient weight to the role of human freedom.

And yet, trust in God instills quiet confidence when all around us swirls in chaos. As we struggle along on the ground, things may seem hopeless. But with God, we can face the future calmly, because the whole of history is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ—who is both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. In Christ, God has already brought life from death. And so, God is able to overcome; no matter what obstacles we present to the Kingdom.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we do so trusting that God’s Kingdom will come. For we know that, in Jesus, the Kingdom has already drawn near. In Jesus, God has drawn near in mercy, judgment and love. In his ministry, we see God’s Kingdom breaking out among us with sovereign power. And so, no matter how far the arc of the universe bends—no matter how far tyranny distorts it—no matter how far our ways may be from God’s, we keep on trusting in God’s grace—right here and right now—and we know God will prevail.

In Sunday's Epistle, Paul reminds the Corinthians of his sufferings as an apostle. They are for him means of participating in Christ’s resurrection victory. In Paul, we see an icon of our own journeys of faith. The closer we draw to Christ, the nearer we come to the little ones. The closer we draw to Christ, the more we find rejection and defeat in the sight of the world. And yet, we do not lose heart. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

The Christian life is about the kind of trust that lays it all on the line. In light of the Gospel, the values that so often drive us become matters of indifference. We set aside reputation, honor, riches, happiness, and even life itself in order to gain the great pearl of the Kingdom.

As Christians, we believe the last days have come upon us in the Lord Jesus. Behold, says Paul, “Now is the acceptable time; now is the hour of salvation.” Even now, things that are cast down are being raised up. Even now, things that have grown old are being made new.

My brothers and sisters, I ask you: Given the nearness, newness, and now-ness of God’s Kingdom, how will we let it change our lives?

The Rev. Dr. R. William Carroll is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His sermons appear on his parish blog. He also blogs at Living the Gospel. He is a member of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.

Who gets fed

We are now observing summer hours on Daily Episcopalian. Rather than six essays per week, we will be running five, with fresh essays appearing Sunday and then Tuesday through Friday.

By Peter M. Carey

At my family’s cottage on Cape Cod, there is a bird feeder place in the middle of the front yard. It has been there for 20 years or so, made of brown metal, on a black pole. It has a kind of a perch for the birds to sit on which “shuts off” the access to bird seed if an animal larger than the average bird tries to get the food. It is designed so that squirrels and blackbirds will not be able to get to the food. Over the years, this bird feeder has been given new life through a black bungee cord which helps to keep it attached to the pole, and also through several stakes pounded into the ground and fastened to the pole, so that it continues to stand more or less upright.

Recently, I was sitting and watching the bird feeder out of the corner of my eye during a Sunday morning rain shower. The birds came steadily to feed. Sorry to say I am no accomplished birder, but I recognized red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, blue jays, robins, an agile blackbird or two, as well as countless little birds beyond my ability to identify. What was also remarkable were two chipmunks who found a way to climb up the pole, onto the perch, and who filled their cheeks with food and then scurried down and into the woods. The chipmunks took turns, it seemed, to grab the food and then sock it away. At times, the chipmunks shared the perch with a bird or two, and at times the chipmunks startled the birds, and at times a bird startled the chipmunks. But, on that Sunday morning, there was plenty of food to go around. I even saw a courageous and agile squirrel hold onto the top of the feeder and stretch down to eat bird food for several seconds before sliding off the feeder. Luckily for the squirrel, the birds are somewhat messy eaters, and there is plenty of birdseed scattered on the ground.

While not the perfect metaphor or parable, what captured my attention about this old bird feeder is that it gave me a moment to wonder about the internal squabbles of our beloved Episcopal Church. It seems to me that much energy is being spent about who is welcome and who is not (ironic, of course, when you consider our Episcopal Church motto: “the Episcopal Church welcomes you”). I do wonder if we need greater attention to and reflection upon the sacrament of the Eucharist.

On rainy Sunday mornings (and every day), we are fed with the overflowing gifts from God, and we are all welcome and invited to the table. There is plenty of God’s grace to go around, if only we noticed it, if only we refocused our emphasis. I don’t mean to argue for some Pollyanna solution for our very real conflicts; that we only need to say “hey let’s get along.” For I know all to well the hurt, frustration, and anger that has welled up for so many people in the midst of our squabbles. However, I do feel that while we work through present disagreements and infighting we would do well to reconsider the importance of our mutual bonds to one another, at the foot of the Cross and around the Eucharistic Table. There is plenty of food to go around.

The Rev. Peter M. Carey is associate rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood, Virginia. He blogs at Santos Woodcarving Popsicles.

Collects 101

We are now observing summer hours on Daily Episcopalian. Rather than six essays per week, we will be running five, with fresh essays appearing Sunday and then Tuesday through Friday.

By Derek Olsen

For American Episcopalians, the authorized Book of Common Prayer has always been the center of our common spiritual life. The prayer book not only presents us with common texts for worship but also with an implicitly liturgical “rule of life” marking the hinges of the day with prayer, the cycle of the week with Eucharist, the passage of years by the Temporal and Sanctoral cycles, and incorporating the turning points of life: birth, growth, love, penitence, and death. The prayer book doesn’t just show us how to worship or how to order our steps towards Christ, though—it also inculturates us into classical Anglican theology that is heir to both the teachings of the Historic Christian West and the Protestant Reformation. One of the best and most effective vehicles for this theology and spirituality are the short prayers called collects.

Collects have been an important prayer type in the Western Church; our earliest examples are contemporaneous with our earliest Western liturgical books (6th century). Originally referred to simply as orationes—literally “prayers”—they were the first prayers in the Eucharistic liturgy. The clergy would enter, the congregation would pray silently, then the celebrant would offer one of these brief prayers appointed for the day. Our word “collect” comes from the term collectio or collecta from the Gallican liturgical books as the liturgies morphed in what is modern-day France (from the sixth through the eighth centuries). Both the spare Roman collects and the verbose, effusive Gallican prayers were incorporated into the mainstream of the Western liturgy. At the Reformation, Archbishop Cranmer took many collects directly from the English Sarum Rite but also composed new prayers fitting the reforming theology of the English Church. Many new collects have been added in recent years, some of which harken back to the very oldest Roman books, others are thoroughly modern.

Following the ancient pattern, our prayer book appoints a collect for every Sunday and Holy Day—some even receive more than one. They open each Eucharist and are closing prayers for both Morning and Evening Prayer. Generally, the prayer appointed for the Sunday is used at Morning and Evening Prayer throughout the following week (Holy Day or collects for saints may interrupt this for a day based on local use). As a result, Episcopalians who follow the discipline of the Daily Office may pray a single collect as many as sixteen times in one week!

This is how theology gets in our bones—through repetition. Praying these collects over and over during a week, over and over through the yearly cycles forms us and shapes us in their patterns. And, studying them, many of them are gems of succinct theological thought. For instance, whenever the vexing question of the Atonement raises its head, I instinctively go to the collect for Proper 15 as a solid Anglican starting place:

Almighty God, who hast given thy only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life: Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Instead of an “either/or” choice, this prayer, dating from 1549, gives us a healthy “both/and” approach that encompasses substitutionary atonement, Christ as moral exemplar, and uses vocabulary that points us to the Eucharist. There’s a lot packed in here—especially if we take the time to notice.

The collects, short yet meaty, are ideal candidates for memorization. As each Sunday rolls around, I try to take a few minutes and memorize the collect. As I move through the week, I can stop and reflect on it, rolling its words around in my mind. Instead of passively receiving the piety and theology of the prayer book, I can actively engage it as it fits both into my life of prayer and my daily experiences. I’ve found this an enriching way to not just pray but to grow deeper into the Anglican way of following Christ.

Derek Olsen is in the final stretch of completing a Ph.D. in New Testament at Emory University. He has taught seminary courses in biblical studies, preaching, and liturgics; he currently resides in Maryland. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X/Y dad appear at Haligweorc.

Remaining Faithful: Monastic Witness in the Christian Tradition

By Peter Pearson

Introduction

Around the time of the Second World War, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “The renewal of the Church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. It is high time men and women banded together to do this."

In the Acts of the Apostles we read: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…Those who believed shared all things in common…” (NAB- Acts 3: 42-45). Another translation of the same phrase states that they “remained faithful.” Those who gather around and in the name of Jesus strive to remain faithful to his mission and his message, to the way that he lived and died in faithfulness to God. How that fidelity has been lived out by his followers has varied greatly throughout the centuries.

Monastic/Religious Communities and their Origins

Echoing the example of the first Christians, there have always been men and women within the Christian tradition who have sought to live a more radically dedicated Christian life in response to their baptism. During the first several centuries of the Christian era there were many martyrs who sacrificed their lives as witnesses to the Lord Jesus. They died for Christ. After them, other believers chose to live for him in a way that also witnessed to the power of the gospel message. Individuals and groups that came to be known loosely as the virgins and ascetics emerged as they gathered in private homes and the doorways of churches to pray the psalms and to encourage one another in the life of faith. In the third century, not long before Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, hermits like Paul of Thebes headed out into the deserted places of Egypt to focus their lives more completely on prayer and penance. Later, Saint Antony also went into the desert and other seekers gathered around him. Together they began to establish the first Christian “monasteries” in the Egyptian desert. By their common life, these early monks were able to learn from one another and to counter the excesses of penitential practice that sometimes occur among people who are passionate about God.

Saint Basil, one of the Cappadocian fathers in the fifth century created a rule for the ascetic, cenobitic (community) life, as distinguished from the more eremitical (solitary) practice of Saint Antony. He was greatly influenced by his sister Macrina and his friend Gregory of Nanzianzus. Together they began to map out a life of ascetic discipline and gospel witness with one end in mind – union with God. His Rule is still the basis for Orthodox monasticism.

In the sixth century, Benedict of Nursia lived for a while as a hermit and shortly thereafter a community of monks gathered around him. He wrote his Holy Rule, a guide to monastic living in community which quickly became the norm for the Western Christianity. In the north, the Celtic monks and those who lived under the Rule of Benedict were the impetus for the spread of Christianity throughout that part of the world. They have been credited with saving the intellectual treasures of Western culture during the Dark Ages. Over the next several centuries, monastic groups of both men and women flowered and died and were reborn in reform after reform.

The thirteenth century saw a new spirit of religious fervor arise within the church. Holy men and women such as Francis of Assisi, Clare, and Dominic felt called to a radically different form of life, focused on the gospel but outside the confines of the monastic enclosure. Their followers came to be known as mendicants and they took to the streets to serve, to preach, and to pray wherever the Spirit led them. Others like Julian of Norwich and Catherine of Sienna enriched the church as a result of their deep mystical witness which has been an inspiration to believers throughout the centuries. Subsequent generations have seen hundreds of variations of both monastic (cenobitic/eremitic) and mendicant life throughout the church in which the poor were fed, the sick tended, the illiterate taught, vocations were nurtured, truth was explored, the arts flourished, and all of this was supported by the ceaseless prayer of the contemplatives.

The reformations in Europe took a heavy toll on the religious orders of Northern Europe and the British Isles. Monasteries and assets were seized while the monks and nuns were exiled or worse. This left a large geographical area completely devoid of any religious communities for centuries.

Monastic/Religious Communities in the Anglican Tradition

Although the monasteries and religious houses in England were dissolved during the 16th century, Anglicans began to rediscover religious life in the 1840’s as a result of the Catholic Revival and the Oxford Movement in England. Today there are dozens of Anglican religious orders taking their inspiration from Benedictine, Franciscan, Carmelite, as well as other established communities. Along with these are communities which hearken back to Celtic origins or are completely new entities. Throughout the world orders of Anglican monks and nuns, friars and sisters, hermits and consecrated women can be found where ever the Anglican Communion’s presence is known.

The Twentieth Century's Ecumenical Monastic/Religious Communities

Around the globe, the twentieth century saw the rise of some daring, new experiments with religious community and monastic living. In the 1940’s Roger Schutz, a Swiss Protestant man began to live a monastic life in a farm house in a small village in France. Soon others joined him from a variety of Christian churches and the ecumenical Community of Taize was born. Now, seventy years later they number almost one hundred brothers and annually welcome thousands of young people to join them in prayer and conversation. Their unique style of simple sung prayer has gained international popularity and has enriched the lives of many who cannot worship in conventional, institutional ways. In the early 1960’s, other communities sprang up in response to the liturgical renewal and the spirit of openness created by the Roman Catholic Church’s visionary movements articulated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. In that environment of faith-filled creativity many of the “givens” in religious life were re-examined and re-evaluated. As a result, several new ecumenical religious orders and communities have emerged. The Iona Community in Scotland, the Community of Sant’ Egidio, based in Rome, the Bose Monastic Community in northern Italy, and Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont are a few among many which are known for their rich prayer, their emphasis on eco-spirituality, their dedication justice and peace, as well as their invitation to abide with them for a time of rest. More recently, the Benedictine Women of Madison were released from their vows as a Roman Catholic Monastery. They became a non-canonical and ecumenical community so that their welcome could be more genuine. This was a bold move made in the spirit of radical hospitality and one that was not completely understood by some yet applauded by others.

New Forms of Community

Within the recent developments in the Emergent Church in which alternative forms of expression are being tested by people from many different backgrounds, “New Monasticism” is a movement of young people who have committed themselves to a revitalized interpretation and expression of an old way of life in community. They have created this with the joyful passion and energy of youth that just might change the world. These Christians are moving into what they call the “abandoned places of Empire,” the poor neighborhoods in inner-cities, to share a life focused on gospel living based on prayer, service, care for the Earth, reconciliation among Christians, economic equity and justice, as well as providing a contemplative presence. This adventure seeks to glean the very best from monasticism’s long history and to reinvent them in today’s society. Although they admit that they do not know what will come of this, they are happy to know that “God has not abandoned the world” and that something important is happening in their gatherings that speaks a message of hope to a battered world.

Perhaps more than anything else, the New Monastics help us to see that in all of these variations on a theme, being “monastic” or “religious” is not the point of anything we do. The point is simply to be better people and better Christian witnesses to Jesus. We seek to become more loving, more prayerful, and more attentive to God as God comes to us in each moment by participating in these traditions of prayer and work. Using these tools and belonging to these communities helps us to become more present to God and maybe to help others in their quest to go deeper with God as well.

The Community of Solitude

Among the recent and innovative expressions of the monastic tradition within Christianity, the members of the Community of Solitude are finding a place in today’s church. The founders of CoS had been vowed members of a Benedictine community in the Episcopal Church which is itself attempting to live out that tradition in a new way. After a period of discernment, they decided to embark in a new direction that focuses on the eremitical roots of monasticism. Consequently CoS is an ecumenical monastic community in the tradition of Taize or the Benedictine Women of Madison. It is an intentional community sharing a common life of solitary prayer united through a common vision rooted in the Rule of Saint Benedict and the Community’s Constitution. This is lived out through common practice in the daily recitation of the Divine Offices, Lectio Divina, and the study of those teachers and masters who have gone before us, especially the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, as well as the Camaldolese saints. From this flows the apostolic work of service to the world through prayer, silence and solitude. CoS does not restrict admission to the community based on age, gender, clerical or marital status. Any baptized Christian who accepts the traditional Creeds of the Church (Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian) is welcome as Christ. CoS believes that if people are called to this way of life by Jesus, no one can stand in their way. And once called to this way of life by Jesus, they become disciples who cannot stay as they are because they are on a path of irrevocable transformation. The Community of Solitude seeks to echo the witness those who have gone before, our spiritual forbearers, without being locked into the forms of the past. It’s all about remaining faithful.

The Rev. Peter Pearson is priest in charge at Saint Philip’s Church in New Hope, Pa. He is a former Benedictine monk and icon painter.

"Wait" has almost always meant "Never."

On April 16, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote letter from a Birmingham jail cell to a number of clergy men, including the Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, who though that he and his supporters were asking for too much, too soon. As the Episcopal Church looks forward to its General Convention next month, it seems an appropriate time to contemplate the ways in which King's famous letter may be applicable to us and to our Church.

An excerpt from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

Christians and killing

By Joy Caires

The sanctity of life was something that was drilled into me throughout my childhood. Dead was understood as, well, dead and we were very clear that something dead was gone for good. There were only a couple of rules (beyond the obvious bedtimes and being polite to grown-ups) which were sacrosanct. Rule #1: if you kill it you have to eat it. Rule #2: never, ever, point a gun at another human being.

For, in my family, guns were a way of life. We killed our own meat—usually wild goats and pigs. And, we all knew, that if you shot something you had to eat it—guns were to be used to get food. So, pigeons, goats and pigs graced our table and we all knew better than to point guns at something that we wouldn’t want to eat for dinner. Guns in our house were stored in a locked closet and the ammunition in a box beneath my parent’s bed.

I received my own gun as a twelfth birthday present, my dad traded five of his fighting chickens for the gun—a trade that filled me with an awareness of the importance of this gift. So I, my gun and my dad went to hunter’s education courses to learn the ethics of being a gun-toting pre-teen. And, just like at home, rule #2 was repeated again and again.

I don’t know if rule #2’s emphasis in our home started before or after my dad’s best friend was killed in a hunting accident. I was little, maybe 5 or 6 years old. I don’t know whose bullet shot him, or why he stood while the guns were still being fired. The details were not important--what was important was that he died because a gun was inadvertently pointed at him. In the months following the accident his son came to live with us—his grief and what could only have been my dad’s guilt were beyond my imagining.

But, then and now, I can imagine bullets tearing through flesh. And, to this day I recoil at the mere idea of pointing something gun-shaped at another person. When youth groups plead for paint ball warfare, when squirt guns make an appearance during vacation bible school, when video game guns are deemed a harmless, stress relieving pastime—all these things make me cringe. Guns are for killing. Dead is dead. And, mock violence is still violence. Rule #2 still holds…even when the ammunition exists only in cyber space and rainbow splattered t-shirts and equally rainbowed bruises equal kills.

So, I struggle, as a priest in a congregation that will be sending two of our own to warzones. Two sweet and dear young men who have a firm faith and grounding in a loving and peaceful community. Both of them will be missing the summer mission trip because of military obligations and both of them will be missed come fall when war takes them away from us. As their priest, I long to remind them that soldiers had to leave military service to become a Christian and that Jesus’ decried violence (let he who has not sinned…). But, now is not the time and as their priest, it is my role to love and support two young men who have come to the conclusion that the only means to peace might be war. I mourn my ideals and the world’s continued insistence that violence is an appropriate response to fear.

I struggle, as a pacifist, as a Christian and as a priest of a denomination that clearly states, “War is incompatible with the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Lambeth Conference 1930). I struggle that for some young people the only viable means to an education is one funded through military service and I struggle that sometimes war can seem safer than a home.

The day that we prayed for our most recently deployed, one of the congregation’s seven year olds asked me what the prayer was about and why everyone was sad. I explained that we were sad because our friend was going to war. He looked confused for a moment and then he exclaimed, “but that’s awesome, he gets to be a hero!” Yes, a hero—but somehow he forgot rule #2.

The Reverend Joy Caires, a graduate of Episcopal Divinity School, is currently the Associate Rector at Church of Our Saviour in Akron, Ohio. Joy's first call, after ordination, was as the pediatric chaplain at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

Graced unworthiness

By Jared Cramer

I am not always on time. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I am often running behind. This is a bad enough habit to have as a person, but it’s even worse when you are a clergy person. People generally prefer it when their priest is on time to liturgies. Early is even better. My wife is doing a good job of trying to make me more punctual, but she’s not working with the most malleable of people. Bad habits sink in.

This past Wednesday, I was not going to be late. I set my alarm precisely for the time I needed to get up. I told myself there would be no snooze button. I was set to be the celebrant for our parish’s 7:15 AM service of Holy Communion and I was going to be there early, ready to go.

Except that when I set my alarm I was thinking the service was at 7:30 AM.

So, when I came to the doors at the back of our chapel at 7:22 AM, arms laden with Bible, BCP, and alb, I was briefly confused upon seeing a morning prayer service already in action. Then I realized my mistake. I was mortified. I turned away from the door, briefly considering hiding in my office, thinking saying “I forgot” would be better than “I don’t know what time your service is.” But it was too late, someone saw me.

The lay person officiating finished the creed, saw me, and then invited me to come and continue with the prayers and then to move into Holy Eucharist. I apologized profusely and came to the front of the chapel, continuing the liturgy they had already begun, my face likely as red as my stole.

I worked through the rest of the Rite I liturgy they had begun with a constant stream of self-deprecating thoughts in my head. Then, right before the end of the prayer, I came upon the key paragraph:

And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offenses, through Jesus Christ our Lord;

It’s tempting, when you are a new clergy person, to begin to believe that the life of the church rises and falls on you. But that morning, as the newly risen sun streamed through the windows of our chapel, persistent grace reminded me once again that, late or not, I am always unworthy to offer any sacrifice. My heart joined to the words, knowing that, even given my momentary shame, this was still my “bounden duty and service.”

Every day our offering to God begins and ends with God’s grace. Some days, our need for grace is painfully evident. On others, we can begin to think that we are the ones making this thing called the church actually work. And even in that prideful failing, our offering remains wrapped in grace upon grace.

And, reminded of this powerful truth, I did not eat humble pie, but received with gratefulness my risen Lord. I tried to accept that grace, as the wafer dissolved on my tongue. Next time, I’ll double check my calendar. But today, I’ll try to believe what Paul heard God say about his persistent weakness, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The Rev. Jared C. Cramer is a Clergy Resident at Christ Church, in Alexandria, VA and blogs at Scribere Orare Est. He is also the author of the forthcoming book from Lexington, Safeguarded by Glory: The Ecclesiology of Michael Ramsey Applied Today.

General Convention is coming; start praying now

By Marshall Scott

Since I don't have a Sunday service in my hospital, I do a lot of supply work. Indeed, I can go for several months and not be in the same church two Sundays in a row. For one thing, it gives me an opportunity to say thanks. I'm an Episcopal chaplain in an Episcopal hospital, so at each supply service I thank the congregation both for the opportunity to worship with them, and then for the opportunity I have to be a chaplain. I speak of my work as an extension of their ministry, and thank them for their support.

It also gives me the opportunity for my "Second Sermon." That’s how it gets announced during the Announcements: "And now it's time for my Second Sermon.”" Folks laugh; but those who’ve seen me before know I'm serious.

My first "Second Sermon" in any particular congregation (and one that gets repeated if enough time passes between supply visits) is about Advance Directives. After all, there is a rubric in the Prayer Book calling on clergy to remind worshippers that they're going to die (unless the Kingdom comes first; in which case other things will admittedly be more important); and to me it is a small step to suggest that before we die we might be ill enough that others will have to make decisions for us. (I could say more, but I haven't yet done a Second Sermon here at Episcopal Café.)

But I say other things in "Second Sermons," often local and topical. In one local congregation I was both the first supply priest after the departure of one rector, and the last supply priest before the inauguration of the next. So, as they began their discernment process I encouraged them not to look for another person just like the person who'd left ("God only made one of that person. That person is gone, and isn't coming back. Now it’s time to look for the next person;") and when their discernment was done and the call was made, I encouraged them to support and care for their new priest. In both cases I also said, "Your Senior Warden will also say this to you, but you may not listen to him/her; so hear it, too, from the supply priest that you don't have to live with.”

For the next few weeks the "Second Sermon" will have a new topic: "The General Convention meets this summer. Start praying now.”"

Now, my 'Start praying now' comment isn't some ecclesiastical paraphrase of Gideon Tucker's, "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." The fact is that, for all the apparent politics, I am convicted that the Holy Spirit can and does work through General Convention, even if it's not always clear in any specific instance. No, I say that because I'm a Deputy and I want for myself, and for all of us involved in Convention, all the help and all the prayer we can get.

More important, I think Episcopalians don't know enough about General Convention. That's largely because between Convention years, it hardly ever comes up in the local congregation. It doesn't help that in Convention years General Convention largely comes up in responses to whatever is notorious enough to raise the interest of the commercial media. I realize that here at the Café I’m largely preaching to the choir; but beyond the Episcopal and Christian blogosphere (and perhaps to some extent within it), the General Convention is, I fear, imagined like the Czar in "Fiddler on the Roof," inspiring prayers not unlike, "May God bless and keep the Czar – far away from us."

In fact in General Convention our deputies make decisions and pass policies that speak to common concerns right down to the life of the person in the pew. This General Convention is no exception. There will certainly be a lot of attention to the flashier issues – how shall we incorporate all the baptized fully into the life of the Church, and how shall we relate to our Anglican siblings around the world, some of whom disagree with us loudly – along with Anglican siblings and others in our own territories. However, there will be many issues raised that will or should affect the life and worship of every Episcopalian.

- There is the effort under the Church Medical Trust (a subsidiary of the Episcopal Church Pension Group) to develop a single health insurance program for the Episcopal Church that all dioceses, congregations, and other Episcopal institutions must participate in, and that must be available not only to all clergy but also to lay employees working half time or more. If the plan is approved, within three years (and for many within the next year) this will affect the budget of every congregation. Over time it holds great promise to slow the increase in our health insurance costs. At the same time, Church Medical Trust programs have never before been mandatory for all dioceses and congregations.

- There is an extensive revision – really a replacement - of "Lesser Feasts and Fasts," the Church’s publication of information about, and proper lessons and prayers for the feasts and fasts of the Church Year. "Holy Women Holy Men" proposes adding many more observances to the Calendar. For congregations that have daily services this would add many options – indeed, so many as to require some difficult decisions about what to observe and not to observe. There might be disagreement about some of the observances added, and some about the principles used in choosing who to include and who to exclude in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church; but either passage or failure of this revision would affect how we worship.

- There have been a number of resolutions regarding issues of our health, including substance abuse, persons with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and health care at the end of life. Health issues affect all of us, whether directly or indirectly. There are also resolutions on the environment and the economy. There’s even a resolution encouraging dioceses to require candidates for ordination to become conversant in a language other than English.

So, while the hot-button issues will get the most attention from the news media, and will get the most questions from individuals in the pews, there will be many issues addressed that will strike much closer to home. Those of us involved in making the decisions want both to express the best of the Episcopal Church as we know it now, and also the direction the Spirit seems to be leading. We want to succeed in that expression whether we’re considering the ordination of bishops or the health needs of our neighbor in the pew.

So, as I preach this "Second Sermon" from now until the second week of July, I will continue to bring this issue to the congregations, and to make this request. “The General Convention meets this summer. It's important for you and for me and for our lives together as Episcopalians. Start praying now.”

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

Purity and the necessary absense of honesty

By Adrian Worsfold

Episcopal Café has reported that Rev. Kevin Genpo Thew Forrester will not become a bishop. According to Frank Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, on his Bible Belt Blogger blog, 56 standing committees have been counted saying no and Kevin Forrester needs a majority of 110. Bishops have been more coy about their views but the standing committees are crucial anyway. There is still the possibility that some will change their mind before the 120-day voting period ends in July but this seems unlikely.

Kevin Forrester has faced criticism ever since he was elected to be bishop as the only candidate in Northern Michigan. That itself drew criticism. The first actual criticism of the theological and ecclesiastical right was that he was a potential 'Buddhist bishop', whereas his lay ordination within Buddhism and that name Genpo was a reflection of the seriousness of his practice. This itself proved not to be enough to sway opinion. The criticism of more effect centered around his apparent doctrinal changes that were implied or made explicit in baptismal, creedal and Easter liturgical changes.

Basically, Kevin Forrester has been a convenient way to show that The Episcopal Church is still 'orthodox' and one must wonder how many standing committees have taken advantage of the evidence of liturgical changes to prevent his bishop-ing to make the wider point. A priest with the same views as Forrester, but who goes on using the same given materials, is far more likely to be accepted for elevation. The point would be made that the public continues to worship in the same way, and also if a minister is invalid in any sense, the frozen liturgy means that his or her invalidity is not effective.

I have used some of Kevin Forrester's liturgical material, but I can because I did it in a Unitarian church. I was pushing my luck a bit actually in a Christocentric direction to do it, but I could see why it might be awkward in an orthodox setting.

Kevin Forrester is a person of honesty and integrity. He is not alone in his views, but he just makes them more explicit and more open and he wants to use them, not hide them. But unfortunately, people like him (and I would add me) who make our views known before we go towards any selection process will get stopped at some point, whereas those who keep their views to themselves can, of course, be selected. Freedom comes with retirement, for such people. Some people, of course, change in office, so future preferment is prevented if they are open and they either stagnate or go off on some sideline activity.

Some people who hide their true views, or express them within the complexities of theological talk (sounds like one thing but means another) will say they make a necessary compromise, because of a commitment to the wider ideals of their Church and of course there is a collective line to obey, rather like being in cabinet government or in a political party (and look what happens, as at present in the UK, when discipline deserts and different tendencies become far too obvious). The problem is that this encourages duplicity within the very profession where duplicity ought to be absent.

Curiously, my own justification for an Anglican way is more Buddhist than Christian, that the idea of a spiritual discipline via regular sharing liturgically is to build oneself towards a hoped for condition of selflessness and love to the other. I can't tell you about any success in this, and I have no measuring equipment of any accuracy. I bet I am more Buddhist about this dharma approach than Kevin Forrester. I do not have any belief in the supernatural, and get fed up with the bizarreness of a statement about what God might be doing in my life or anyone else’s. I am of course guilty of using texts far more conservative than my own beliefs, though I think to some degree this is an inevitable necessity (even when rewriting takes place: I bet Kevin Forrester has the same difficulty - but the reasoning and precedence for this within a liberal community was set by the English theologian James Martineau). I do not believe that Jesus was God in any particular sense (the best is that he is a useful exemplar) and nor do I believe in a unique objective resurrection. He is crucified because of a Roman regime rather than anything particular that he has done. I'm a thoroughly liberal postmodern, having to dredge texts from the past to be useful spiritual texts, but having pretty much a social anthropological and psychological view on the functioning of religion.

I don't seek to impose my views on anyone, but I express them. It is good that there are a scattering of active priests who hold similar views in the Church of England and other denominations (I know of some of them), but we don't hear from them very often and some arrived at such views as a result of theological training and continued study. There are some retired priests and bishops with views similar and roughly similar to very liberal and postmodern views in the British Isles. It would be good to have one or two active, in employment and open, but it seems not to be so within the Anglican boundary, and seems not to be so in the United States Episcopal Church too. Bishop Spong is retired too, and his manifesto and any changes of effect would prevent him getting consents too.

So I say, you can use this refusal to consent in battles against the so called self-defined orthodox - let's call them ultra-orthodox for clarity and all their web chatter. Purity is now demonstrated, but purity with the pollution of a necessary absense of honesty.

It is my view that creedal religion encourages dishonesty, though not that it is exclusive in having dishonesty. But it does, and here has been a demonstration.

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.

There is no individual salvation, in this world or the next

By Jennifer McKenzie

In a column last week, Paul Krugman of The New York Times, decried the actions of Ronald Reagan as the precursor to our current national economic woes. I agree with his assessment and remember clearly the warnings that my Democratic Aunt and Uncle and Mother and Father doled at that time: “This is NOT good for America. This is NOT good for Americans.” But I’d like to take an even bigger picture look at these economic woes from a religious perspective.

The whole gamut of conservative attitudes on government that I believe have gotten us into this (and other) messes seems to verge on one very dangerous premise – one that is surprising in that it runs contrary to the collective conservative religious views. The premise is, “I know best what I need; therefore, let me decided for myself.“ Now, on the surface that seems to fit the religious viewpoint well: Individual choice, individual decision, individual salvation. But a superficial-only look will not do. At the root of this attitude is a different decision, a choice to ignore the belief that in Judeo-Christian tradition there is no individual salvation. And shame on those conservatives who still buy into a political viewpoint that upends their church- and synagogue-going natures. Community is the nexus for all decision and choice, both rational and emotional. I cannot make any decision without creating an impact on others. The community in which we live, move, and have our being is first our local community and state, then our nation, then the world. And all of those levels of community are governed in their contexts by…wait for it…a government. Just like we need our churches to be strong so that we have both nurture and accountability in our spiritual lives, we also need government to be strong and, yes, accountable.

But beyond that, the real curiosity inherent in D v. R politics is this: The conservatives who tend as a group to be more overtly religious are the very ones who seem to be denying the fact of sin. In other words, if we operate on the premise, “I know best what I need; therefore let me decide for myself” (i.e. small government) then we are eradicating the understanding of and belief in our tendency toward sin – failing to always do what is right where the other (my ‘neighbor’) is concerned; ignoring that every single human being is a beloved child of God; putting ‘me’ first and turning a blind eye to the plight of the poor, outcast, marginalized. Why is it, for example, that the most politically and by assumed extension religiously conservative counties in Virginia are the very ones who oppose again and again to care for Christ (ref. Matthew 25) by denying financial resources to the last and the least: homeless children and adults; mentally ill adults; resident aliens (ref. Leviticus 19:33-34)? Does anyone else find it ironic that the liberals are the ones who seem to operate more concretely under the premise that the individual cannot and therefore should not fully be trusted and that the accountability and therefore shared responsibility lies in the collective?

The clear corollary is that the sinful “me first-ness” has found a way into the political landscape surprisingly under the guise of conservative “family values” doctrine. And so, the rich cows of Bashan get richer, the poor marginalized get poorer, the economy goes sideways and no one wants to take responsibility because there appears to be no collective conscience from which to do so.

The Rev. Jennifer McKenzie has served at St. David's Church, Washington, D. C., and Christ Church, Alexandria, Va. She keeps the blog, The Reverend Mother.

Catch and release

By Amy McCreath

I hate June. Last week, I stood with the other MIT chaplains on the side of the street the Class of 2009 will march along on their way to Killian Courtyard, where they will patiently listen to a string of dignitaries, and even more patiently file one-by-one (all 2,500 of them!) onto the platform to receive their diplomas. We chaplains share a few Dunkin’ Donuts while we wait for the parade, then we wave and cheer for the students we know as they walk past us. “Good job, Kari!” “Way to go, Andre!” I am smiling and waving, joking with my colleagues, tossing back munchkins. But I’ll tell you a secret: it feels like the apocalypse.

I promise you that I am thrilled for the graduates. They have worked so hard, overcome enormous obstacles, grown tremendously as people, set lofty goals and achieved them. They will leave here with amazing skills and most of them will make the world a better place through their vocations as scientists and engineers. Most of those who participated in our ministry here will bless congregations elsewhere with their leadership, their faith, their integrity. It’s all good.

But they are leaving. And I will miss them so very much. I am so thankful for my time in community with them. Those who participated in our ministry here each added a particular gift to it. As they march by this morning, I remember moments, emails, stories, performances. There goes the beautiful, brilliant physicist, who discovered a love for Christian mysticism through a lunch-time discussion for women. There goes the one with whom I co-led a program for lbgt students on how to respond to hate speech, which turned out to be one of the most tender, spiritual conversations I’ve ever experienced. There goes the one who sent me an email after Lessons and Carols one Advent, saying he’d stayed up all night after the service reading the Gospel of Matthew, and for the first time he thought this story might have something to do with his life. There goes the one who anonymously paid for two other students who wanted to go on retreat but couldn’t afford it. Goodbye, everyone.

For campus ministers, the summer feels like an extended version of that period between the Ascension and Pentecost; we stand and watch as the students we knew and loved for several years are taken up in a swirl of black academic gowns. We have the promise of something to come -- the Class of 2013! Now it is for us to spend the whole summer trusting that God will do a new thing, will send souls who will want to learn, pray, share stories, serve others, and be a community in Christ here in this place. It is a very long Ascensiontide.

I’ve been through this cycle seven times already. Every June, there is a moment when I think, “Why don’t I find a ministry that doesn’t require recruiting and training up an entirely new group of leaders every year? Why don’t I find a community where people don’t come and go constantly?” When I was a child, I had a book called “Amy Loves Goodbyes.” It wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now.

But I’m still here. And although it’s emotionally draining, I think it’s actually been a blessing to go through this cycle again and again. I’ve learned something about what ministry is for. We are called to fish for people. We haul them in, not for ourselves, not for the fulfillment of our little projects or the ordering of our fractures lives, but for Christ. And if the New Testament tells us anything about following Christ, it is that it means being on the road constantly. It is on the road where we bless and are blessed.

It’s catch and release, catch and release.

So the Class of 2009 walks out of Killian Court today and into their futures. Those who were part of our ministry here will walk on to be Christ for other people on other shores. And I, too, will be on the road again, waiting and watching for the Holy Spirit to blow together a new community which will be a new blessing in ways I can’t predict or control.

The Rev. Amy McCreath is the Episcopal chaplain and coordinator of the Technology and Culture Forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a member of the Council of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission

Hitting The Wall in your marriage

By Jean Fitzpatrick

A man in his late thirties sits across from me in my office, tapping a nervous drumroll on the coffee table between us with his fingertips. "We used to think we were the world's greatest couple. Our friends would tell us they envied us. But now" -- he sighs and slaps the tabletop -- "this isn't what I signed on for."

June may or may not be the most popular wedding month (a recent web search suggests it's second now to August) but it's a good time for a heads-up to anyone engaged to be married: the beloved person you have promised to spend your life with -- the one who will stand so regally beside you at the altar among the orange-blossoms and peonies, who will hold you so close as you cross the floor to "The Power of Love" or "From This Moment On" -- will one day frustrate you more than you can imagine.

People come to my office every day with the same story: For years they were amazed at how blessed or how lucky they were to have found "The One," a spouse who shared their hopes and dreams and values, who loved scuba diving or the opera or church as much as they do, who finished their sentences. Gone are those fairy-tale days. Mealtimes are strained, date nights have disappeared, sex is a distant memory. "He's changed," they tell me. "This is not the person I fell in love with." "If I had to choose her all over again, I wouldn't." "The One" now seems selfish, dull, annoying or all of the above at the same time. Too wrapped up with the children, too busy going out with friends, too involved with work. Too needy.

When that day comes, you have hit The Wall. You may start coming home late, going to bed early, anything to avoid each other. Hurtful things you never believed you could utter will come out of your mouth. You may be tempted to get involved with someone else, or just to give up.

What if, instead, you were to trust that hitting The Wall means your relationship is on the brink of something wonderful? Change is inevitable. "Like any living organism, a relationship must grow or it dies," I tell people who fear that the best days of their marriage are behind them. Or I offer another metaphor: "You didn't marry a snapshot, you married a movie." When we fall in love, the usual walls that separate us from other people go down. We're all tangled up with one another, like the sheets and blankets around our legs the morning after, and nothing could feel more delicious or amazing It seems as though this blissful time could last forever.

But it's only a moment. In the course of a lifelong relationship, we need to come untangled, to define ourselves as separate individuals while remaining in loving connection. For most of us, that's quite a trick. My partner is not me. We are two different people. Sounds obvious in theory, doesn't it? There's nothing like banging your head against The Wall to learn it in practice. Letting those walls down once felt so good. But The Wall is too high to climb over, too thick to knock down, and so painful we suspect it's guarded with barbed wire. When we finally stop the head-banging we discover that The Wall has its pluses: it gives us privacy and freedom, as well as space to reflect on what's really important to us and on the kind of marriage we wish to create.

Those lessons are the hardest part. Happily -- although wistful single people often believe the stars will need to align before they find "The One" -- fixing a marriage isn't very mysterious or magical. It requires that we learn a few important skills -- or take skills we already have plenty of practice with, at work and with friends, and start to use them with the person who knows our tender spots better than anyone. Listening is one of these skills. Even though it scares us half to death, we need to start paying close attention when our partner talks, without interrupting. (How else will we find out what's happening on the other side of The Wall?) Perspective-taking and negotiating are other essential skills. We need to start looking at our relationship from a broader perspective, moving past our own frustrations and thinking in terms of how to nurture the marriage with time and tenderness and artful negotiation. In using these skills, we create a richer marriage. No longer all tangled up with each other; we're two strong, interdependent people consciously creating a relationship that, in turn, nurtures the two of us.

Now, that's what I call happy ever after.

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

The sacrament of the peanut butter sandwich

By Heidi Shott

My older brother Jimmy, who lives on an island in Southeast Alaska, is a mate and pilot with the state ferry system but he also makes part of his living by hosting fishing charters in the icy, capricious waters west of Ketchikan. The tourists who hire him and his boat hope for the big 200 pound halibut. He tells me that sometimes he has to go farther off-shore than he would like in order to find them. But that’s what his guests pay him to do. And for that reason, since a particularly fateful day, he always packs a couple of peanut butter sandwiches in his cooler.

A few years ago Jimmy took a party of young men in their early twenties on a charter. They were keen to have an Alaskan adventure and with dreams of catching the big fish. After an unsuccessful morning, they finally hauled up some big ones off a point that extends several miles out to sea. The return trip—rounding the point and heading back to the harbor—was rough. The wind came up and the current near the point worked to push them back. As the waves grew so did the uneasiness of his guests. The bravado of the early morning dissolved into seasickness and downright fear.

“I wasn’t so thrilled to be out there myself,” said my brother, one of the most affable, easy-going guys on earth. “I made sure everyone had their life-vests on. I was nervous but, as the skipper, I sure as hell couldn’t show it.”

That’s when he asked one of his guests to reach into his cooler and get him a peanut butter sandwich. Jimmy recalled, “I told him I was hungry, which I wasn’t, but I knew that doing a normal thing like munching a sandwich would calm everyone down. And it did.” After awhile they cleared the point, put the wind behind them and surfed the big swells to the safety of the harbor.

Eating a peanut butter sandwich when you’re not hungry...whistling in the dark when your lips are parched…those are visible things we do for the people who need us to be strong. Jesus, who calmed the seas with a word, was the master, of course – the Chief Whistler of the Faith.

The lives we lead, we Christians, are full of blessings and unexpected moments of grace: illnesses cured, joyful mid-life weddings, children who ride chairlifts down the mountain by mistake and by some miracle don’t fall off. How easy it is to whistle and feast on sandwiches at those times.

But the lives we lead are also fraught with sad news and hard truths - especially in these recent months of recession and uncertainty – lost jobs, troubled marriages, fragile children, tragic diagnoses, and bad choices by people for whom we care and are powerless to change. Those times and the troubled times we live in, can make us justifiably afraid.
But fear need not turn into despair. As that great theologian of children’s literature, Marilla Cuthbert, says to Anne in Anne of Green Gables, “Despair is when you turn your back on God.”

If despair is a choice, then it is one we most often reach for when we are alone. A way to keep fear from slipping into despair lies in choosing to be together as a community centered on hope and faith and by propping open the door to keep watch for others who might find comfort in our company. Our success in battling the despair we see in the world around us will be proved by how well we live together and by how freely we welcome others under the cover of our love.

There will always be some among us who are better and stronger whistlers in the dark, those who lighten our load and make us feel brazen and confident in our life and faith. But I think each of us should be prepared to eat the occasional peanut butter sandwich and hold the wheel steady when the winds of fear and change would drive us back, not only for ourselves but for those who need us to be strong.

Heidi Shott is Canon for Communications and Social Justice in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.

Just War Theory and the House of Bishops' Theology Committee

By George Clifford

General Convention 2003 resolution D068 tasked the House of Bishops (HOB) Theology Committee to study Just War Theory in view of modern warfare developments:


Resolved, That the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops be urged to prepare a study on new warfare situations which may not be adequately addressed by the Just War Theory, such as non-declared wars, asymmetric warfare, pre-emptive strikes, invitations to intervene by legitimate foreign authorities, international terrorism without boundaries, and other forms of military intervention not imagined in past centuries.

The “Blue Book” for General Convention 2009 contains the Report from the HOB’s Theology Committee. The report ably summarizes the Just War tradition. However, the Report fails to address non-declared wars, asymmetric warfare, invitations to intervene by legitimate foreign authorities, and other forms of military intervention; preemptive strikes receive a paragraph.

The report also ignores the question of ethical perspectives germane to military responses to international non-state terrorism, in spite of the word terror appearing in the document at several places. The U.S., for example, has employed its special forces in covert military operations – undeclared wars – in dozens of countries over the last few decades, covert military operations that intentionally receive little public notice. From a Just War Theory perspective, what is a Christian response to those operations? Or, is Just War Theory silent about that type of operation? More broadly, what, if anything, does Just War Theory say about the Global War on Terror that former President Bush declared?

In the report’s presentation of Just War Theory’s jus ad bellum portion (the criterion for deciding whether a potential war is just), the distinction between clear basic principles (legitimate authority, just cause, right intention) and prudential guidelines (last resort, relative justice, proportionality, reasonable hope of success) seems contrived in the twenty-first century. All seven criteria require prudential judgment; historically, a just war must satisfy all seven.

The Just War Theory tradition, in fact, provides a paradigm – a checklist, in the Committee’s dismissive language – for determining when military intervention is morally justifiable from a Christian perspective. Christians in a secular, pluralistic society must speak two languages, one to the Christian community and another in public discourse on policy issues. Just War Theory’s roots in the Christian tradition and its subsequent adoption by western philosophers and international legal scholars facilitate that conversation. Christian citizens, as the Committee rightly argues, have a responsibility to participate in the ongoing public discourse intrinsic to living in a democracy.

Just War Theory, thanks be to God and contrary to what the report implies, is dynamic, not static. For example, the report notes that some momentum is emerging to define legitimate authority in terms of international bodies rather than national leaders. Subsequently, the report largely ignores that observation and focuses on national leaders. (Tangentially, the report reads as though the U.S. Constitution vests war making powers in the President rather than Congress.) Yet as the world becomes more interconnected, the Just War tradition that began with feudal societies and then progressed to nation states, must progress to a global approach. Furthermore, the addition of jus post bellum (just peacemaking) as a third set of criteria complementing jus ad bellum and jus in bello (criteria for waging war justly) represents a major improvement in Just War Theory. Jus post bellum both recognizes ways in which modern war differs from war in previous eras and more assertively moves the paradigm in the direction of building peace.

The platitudes of the report’s Pedagogy for Christian Citizenship fail to address the hard work necessary to keep Just War Theory abreast of changes in the way that wars and violence occur in the twenty-first century. Many military ethicists, for example, would strongly argue that Just War Theory is not helpful in thinking about terrorism; instead, Christians need to develop a new model.

General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff during World War II and later U.S. Secretary of State and then Secretary of Defense, described himself as neither a Republican nor a Democrat but an Episcopalian. Marshall’s motive for making that comment, although he was an active Episcopalian, was almost assuredly to distance himself, as a military officer, from partisan politics.

However, Marshall’s remark captured the essence of the Christian’s involvement in public life. God calls us, first and foremost, to be people of faith. If our faith has nothing of relevance to say about important issues, those issues are either completely irrelevant to Christianity lacking any ethical dimension or the Church’s has failed to develop and to articulate adequate guidance with sufficient clarity and publicity.

Sadly, the Report from the HOB’s Theology Committee falls into this latter category. Debates about torture (it purportedly produces results so use it, versus it’s immoral and ineffective so ban it), holding alleged terrorists apprehended by the military or CIA indefinitely without benefit of trial, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq all raise obvious and significant ethical issues. The Episcopal Church needs to speak out loudly and clearly on those issues.

Few people, Christian or otherwise, have heard a call to live as pacifists. The Church needs to honor those who have heard and responded to that call. The Episcopal Peace Fellowship, (EPF) for example, is an important countervailing force to those who have the temerity to suggest waging war in God's name. The EPF visibly reminds the Church that we are to be people of peace, not violence. The EPF can constructively engage with Just War Theory advocates in constructing a jus post bellum Just War Theory component to reduce the likelihood of further violence and to work actively to build true peace rather than naively equating peace with the absence of hostilities.

Just War Theory has historically provided the moral framework for those who would chart a middle course between pacifism and holy war. Changing times have introduced new forms of war (asymmetric, non-declared, etc.) and seen unprecedented numbers of organizations adopt terrorism as a strategy or tactic. What is the Christian response to those developments? The HOB Theology Committee Report, if carefully emended, has the potential to represent a helpful marker in the process of articulating helpful paradigms to aid in answering those questions.

The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years He taught philosophy at the U. S. Naval Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School. He blogs at Ethical Musings.

Come, Holy Spirit

By R. William Carroll

Few of us will ever experience the Holy Spirit in the same dramatic ways the first disciples did on the Day of Pentecost. Most of us will never exercise the same ecstatic gifts found in the Neo-Pentecostal movement.

Still, the Holy Spirit is the gift of Christ for all who believe. Episcopalians believe that the Spirit is given to each one of us in Holy Baptism, and that the Spirit is always, already present, even before we are baptized, leading us to the waters and preparing us to receive the Gospel.

In the Gospel appointed for Pentecost this year, Jesus says that the Spirit leads us into all truth. The Spirit is also the fullness of love. Romans 5:5, a verse Augustine loved to cite against the Pelagians, states that the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that is given to us. This love heals our wills and makes us whole. In Christianity, love and truth belong together. Christ is the embodiment of God’s love. Not the love that God has, but the love that God IS. Jesus is also, as he says in John 14, “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Jesus also says that the Spirit declares to us the things that belong to him. It is no accident that the Spirit comes on the final day of Eastertide. The paschal candle remains lit on the Day of Pentecost, because the Spirit comes to unite us in the confession of resurrection faith and to equip us to share that faith with others. The candle is extinguished, because the light of Christ now burns in US. We are like the bush at Sinai, burning but not consumed. We share the paschal fire that burns at the heart of the Church by sharing the story, welcoming the stranger, and serving the neighbors God gives us. We share it also by bearing witness to the truth before the rulers of this age.

At the heart of the Church lies this Gift, who is him-/herself divine. The Spirit is another word for grace, what the scholastics called uncreated grace (see Karl Rahner’s brilliant essays on this subject). The Spirit unites us in a single faith, gathers us in a single Body, and sends us on a single mission.

The work of the Spirit is to make us holy. The Spirit is the anointing one. The Spirit is the one who unites us to Christ, the anointed. The Spirit, as Paul tells us in Romans 8, conforms us to the image of God’s Son, and makes us cry out (as he did) “Abba, Father.” The Spirit is the principle of our participation in the Paschal Mystery.

The Spirit is also the principle of freedom in the Church. He/She is God’s left hand, just as the Son is the right hand, the Logos, the principle of reason and order. The two are inseparable. But we ought not to forget that without the breath of the Spirit, the Word cannot be given voice. In the Church, we are given over to a tradition that precedes us (and which will be after us), and yet we are living beings and we ourselves contribute to that which is handed down to us. The Spirit is not safe. One of our beloved hymns (#296) tells us that “the Spirit shakes the Church of God.”

And yet, the Spirit’s mission, at its heart, is to drive us ever deeper into the mystery of Jesus. The Spirit’s presence makes him contemporary and present always (“even unto the end of the age”), just the Spirit was active in his conception, overshadowing Mary and working through her free consent, so that the New Creation might begin as the old one did, with the Spirit hovering over the waters.

Nothing that is ugly, false, or evil can withstand the Spirit’s power. The Spirit is the Lord God, who is all beauty, all truth, all goodness. God is supreme Love, without remainder. Hatred cannot withstand God’s relentless and powerful love. And, in the power of the Spirit, God is transfiguring the world, so that we come to share Christ’s crucified and risen glory. In the Spirit, we know love that endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things. In the Spirit, with Christ, we are “more than conquerors.” For even in dying, we are reborn to eternal life, through the Lord and Lifegiver.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we sigh “Thy Kingdom Come.” When God’s Kingdom does come, this too will be the ministry of the Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, sweet living charity, Lord God. Come, we pray, and fill us with the fire of your love. And lead us now and always into truth.

The Rev. R. William Carroll is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His sermons appear on his parish blog,and he also blogs at Living the Gospel. He is a member of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.

Uncivil tongues

By Lauren R. Stanley

What does it say about the state of dialogue in the Episcopal Church when it takes the president of the United States to remind us how to engage in civil discourse?

President Obama, speaking at the University of Notre Dame, asked, “As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?”

The president spoke about the failure of both sides in the debate over abortion to use “fair-minded words,” and said that he had learned through his own hard experience to “extend the same presumption of good faith to others” that had been extended to him. “Because when we do that,” he said, “that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.”

We in the Episcopal Church, and indeed throughout the Anglican Communion, need to take the president’s words to heart. For in our disagreements – about the proposed Anglican Covenant, about sexuality, about diocesan border crossings, about interpretation of the Scriptures – we have lost the ability to be civil toward each other, or, to put it in theological terms, to give grace just as much as we demand it. We far too often forget – or decide not to – extend the presumption of good faith to others.

And in doing so, we lost the possibility of common ground.

Any scientist, any social scientist, any doctor will admit readily that there are more questions than answers in the universe. We understand so little about the human body, the universe, diseases; we are baffled by economics; we cannot explain the workings of the mind fully. We admit that we do not know so very much, and we pursue greater understanding every single minute of every single day.

In theology, we boldly proclaim the same thing: God, Anselm of Bec taught us, is that which nothing greater can be conceived. The Apostle Paul proclaimed that now we see only dimly. Jesus said we cannot know the mind of God. We know that God is unknowable to us in all of God’s godliness, because God is so much bigger than we are. This is core to our beliefs about God, because to know God fully in this life is to reduce God to our size, which theologically is illogical.

Then one side or the other in a debate turns right around and proclaims to know the mind of Christ. In our eagerness to be more right than someone else, we proclaim that we know – that we KNOW – what God wants of us, what God thinks of us, what God demands of us. And no matter what we are debating, we throw around our beliefs as though they were written in stone, and in doing so demonize those who disagree with us, claiming that they are, quite simply, WRONG!

In listening to various debates on various subjects over the last 17 years, ever since I became an Episcopalian, I have been appalled at the abject level to which much discourse descends on a regular basis. The name-calling, the demonization, the decided lack of grace toward anyone who disagrees … it is shameful, really, how low we will go in order to try to “win.”

On the worst days of our debates, when we truly are demonizing each other, I wait, trembling in fear rather like Job, for God’s thundering response to our arrogance in proclaiming that we have all the answers. I hear God’s voice raging from the whirlwind:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its waddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?’ Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?”

The Lord God thundered on and on at poor Job and his companions, reminding them repeatedly that it was God, not them, who made the universe and everything in it.

“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” God asked. “He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

God alone has all the answers. We, on the other hand, are mere creatures of God, unable to understand all that God plans or all that God wants of us.

And it is clear to me that God, who does have all the answers, is not pleased when we demonize each other. We are all created in the image of God; there are no “us's” and “thems” in God’s very good creation. All of us are God’s beloved children. The only way for us to live into the love in which and for which God created us is to literally do what Jesus commanded us to do, as he stood on the edge of eternity, at the omega of his earthly life so that we could enter the alphas of our eternal lives: Love one another as he loved us. We do not love one another when we denigrate each other simply because we disagree on topics for which we truly do not know the ultimate answers.

As we go into General Convention in July, perhaps it would behoove us to be a tad more humble, a tad more willing to admit that we do not have all the answers, a tad more generous toward those who disagree with us. If we were to give more grace, and be much less boastful of our so-called knowledge of God, particularly on the points where we are most certain (and least knowledgeable), we might find more of the common ground of which President Obama spoke the other day.

Admitting that God alone has all the answers, and that we are but mere creatures stumbling about in the dark, would be a good first step toward a more gracious, a more grace-filled, discussion.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church from the Diocese of Virginia. She is a temporarily serving in the United States.

Refraining from Invitation: Evangelism in Context

By Emily M. D. Scott

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Matthew 28:16-20


Graduating from Divinity School, some friends and I had the bright idea to spell out the word “R-E-P-E-N-T” on the top of our mortar boards. Assembled together (and in the right order!) we poked fun at a stereotype of Christians: the crazed evangelist on the city street corner, wearing his sandwich board and waving his leaflets. Though our act was lighthearted, it pointed out our own discomfort with our religious tradition. We’re not those people, we were saying. And we have enough distance from them that we can make fun of them.

After the street corner-sandwich board image, when I think of “evangelist,” I see John the Baptist staggering from the wilderness in his wild and wooly state, warning the people of Israel to prepare the way. My third connotation with the word is that of the earnest Christian, usually more theologically and politically conservative than me, who speaks in a heartfelt way of the love of Jesus, and warmly invites me to his church. I appreciate his generous desire to bring me into the fold, but, to be honest, am often suspicious of his invitation. His freshly shaven face, crisp shirt and relentlessly cheerful demeanor causes me to wonder if the whole of who I am would be embraced at his church Sunday morning: my sarcasm, my doubt, my ambition, my irreverence. Politics and theology aside, I suspect that he will soon ask me to give up some part of myself (and the culture I both embrace and confront) to be “good.”

I live in New York City and I’m 28 years old. The people I meet at bars or at parties are artists, musicians, designers, and writers. Often, they seem to physically take a step back from me when I tell them I work at a church. Their heads tilt slightly to the side and their brows furrow in suspicion as they try to figure out if I’m suddenly going to spring some Jesus speech on them. They’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to see if I’m just pretending to be a normal human being and if I’m actually here in this bar for some other reason. I’ve learned how to get through these uncomfortable moments with as much ease as possible, explaining quickly that my church is progressive. Often I’ll laughingly say, “But don’t worry, I’m not creepy.” I may be laughing, but I’m not actually joking. For some of the folks I talk to, the disconnect is not easily overcome. They look shocked when I swear or make crass jokes. They seem to think they need to be careful or delicate around me and avoid talking about sex. We could write volumes on the theological implications of this response – the ways in which Christians have come to see themselves as needing to be in some way protected from the realities of the secular world. Reading of Jesus sitting down to eat with prostitutes and tax collectors, I wonder that people should be so shocked to meet a church goer at a bar on the Lower East Side. But this seems to be the expectation. The people I meet seem to think that they need to be “good” when they’re around me … when all I want them to be is honest. Honest, and figuring things out.

And so the question becomes: what does it mean to be an evangelist in our current cultural context? When the simple act of inviting someone to church can be so easily seen as a judgmental deceit, an aggressive attack or a desire to co-opt, how do we live our lives as evangelists, sharing the Good News with all people?

I’m the founder of a congregation in New York City called St. Lydia’s. We’re in the very beginning stages of this thing, and I don’t know that it will be successful. I only know that God is calling me to do this, and I’ve decided to listen. Along the way, I’ve learned something important things about evangelism: in a bar on the Lower East Side in New York City, the most powerful tool of evangelism is not inviting someone to church. In a bar on the Lower East Side of New York City, good evangelism does not have to be about preaching, proclaiming, pamphletting, or proselytizing. It is about relationships.

Return in your mind to that bar stool where I sit talking with some pour soul who doesn’t realize I’m a Christian. He asks me what I do. I drop the bomb. He looks at me suspiciously. I tell him my church is very progressive. I don’t invite him to church. He says, “So you don’t hate gay people?” I say no. I love gay people. I don’t invite him to church. He asks me what it means to be a liturgist. I tell him it’s like being a director and dramaturg in the theatre, but everyone gets to participate. I don’t invite him to church. We get started talking about theatre. I don’t invite him to church.

You get the idea. And though this is a caricature of an interaction I might have on a Friday night, like a caricature, it is an exaggeration of the truth.

What happens next on that bar stool is key to reworking our understanding of evangelism.

1. We wrap up our conversation and go our separate ways. My new friend has a new (and positive) impression of at least one Christian, which, in and of itself, is a work of the Spirit. 2. We wrap up our conversation, but run into each other again – even become friends. Somewhere along the line, my new friend and I start talking about life and how it unfolds, maybe God, maybe community, maybe doubt. It’s not a formal relationship, but one day he begins to joke that I’m his spiritual advisor. I have a number of people like this in my life, and I’ve never once (other than to hear me preach) invited any of them to church. This is not to say that they will never want to come. But I believe that they will tell me if they’d like to. 3. We continue talking. We talk a lot. About faith and doubt and God and relationships. And at some point he opens a door and says something like, “You know, I’ve really been looking for a place to have this conversation.” And then I invite him to church. In context. These are the people who are coming to St. Lydia’s.

Often we think that evangelism is all about converting the unconverted. My experience has been that it’s all about reaching out to people who are looking for something that they can’t find. St. Lydia’s has been designed around filling that need. We’re building our congregation around the idea that there are people out there who are desperately seeking God, and haven’t found a Church to do that with.

In all three cases above, evangelizing – bringing the Good News – is not about convincing someone to believe in Jesus. It’s about bearing witness to what God has done with the whole of our existence, within the context of our cultures and the patterns of our lives. I bear witness to my Good News every time I sit on a bar stool on the Lower East Side and meet some new people, because that’s what I like to do. Through that act, which is fully and wholly natural to me, I’m telling a story of how God doesn’t need me to hide from the world within the confines of the Church, but to be a part of the whole of the world around me. I bear witness to my Good News every time I’m sarcastic, edgy, questioning, breaking the stereotype of a “good Christian girl.” I’m telling a story of a God who gave us brains and guts and bodies so that we could use them to love the world. I bear witness to my Good News every time I refrain from invitation, and try, instead, to listen. I’m telling a story of how God’s love is so deep and so wide that she doesn’t ask me to change people, but to walk with them, trusting that that she will do her work naturally, easily, in the context of relationship.

Emily M. D. Scott is a lay liturgist and an Episcopalian. She is currently the Director of Worship at The Riverside Church in New York City, and the founder of a budding congregation called St. Lydia’s, that meets weekly in Manhattan. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music, and a member of the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission (APLM). She may be reached at emilymdscott@gmail.com.

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