Cowboy poker and
the Anglican Communion

Daily Episcopalian will publish every other day this week.

By Marshall Scott

Several years ago I began describing our Anglican struggles as “cowboy poker.” For those who have never heard of it, cowboy poker is a unique game. It’s a competition held in some rodeos in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere (yes, there are rodeos elsewhere). A card table and chair are set in the middle of the arena. Contestants sit around it playing poker. There is money on the table, but it isn’t won by playing cards. In fact, the cards aren’t the game. Instead, a fighting bull is released into the arena, looking for something to attack. The expectation is that the bull will charge the table, and the pot will go, winner-take-all, to the last person seated at the table.

I’ve had that thought again and again through the past few years. There have been many ways of looking at our struggles – differences over the limits of welcome and inclusion, over the interpretation of Scripture, over theological anthropology. However, it has also been a family argument over patrimony. That has included arguments over who would be the “true heirs” of the Anglican tradition; but also who would be recognized as Anglican by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The difference would fall between those who measured it by official recognition by the Church of England and the Anglican Consultative Council; and those who measured it by invitations to the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meetings, and “representative bodies.” Granted, there have been, as I said, disagreements about interpretation, but those have been in the context of remarkable agreement, included even in the draft Covenant, that Scripture and the Prayer Book tradition are fundamental to the Anglican tradition. So, I think there’s something to be said for the thought that this is about being recognized – being accepted, officially if grudgingly – by Canterbury (and if possible by the current incumbent).

Which has allowed Archbishop Williams to play cowboy poker. For the past few years, and in fact arguably until his recent Pentecost letter, he has actually done very little. He’s said quite a bit, but he’s actually done very little; and much of what he has said and written has clarified nothing and satisfied no one. The one thing he has accomplished is getting attention focused more and more on the office of Canterbury. He has allowed others to speak of an “enhanced role” for Canterbury, whether to love it or hate it. He has repeated understandings of “unity” and “catholicity” that have emphasized the episcopate and implicitly his role as primus inter pares. He has held out a Covenant draft that, really, only he has found essential. He has called the game – he has made himself the game – and has waited to see who would hang in there.

If you’ve never seen cowboy poker played, you can see it here. Even if you haven’t seen it, you can well imagine the result. Yes, there is a winner, at least in that someone will certainly be the last unseated. However, in the meantime a good deal of mayhem will take place. The table and chair will be upset. The cards will be scattered. The participants – ultimately, even the last one seated – will be running to where they see safety. True, there will be some people working to provide safety – cowboys on horseback to rope in the bull if needed, and safety personnel (these days calling themselves “bull fighters” and not “clowns,” and dressed to reflect the change) to distract the bull away from players – but only at great risks of their own; and even they can’t prevent the destruction. Yes, there will be “winner,” and great entertainment for the gallery, but the original set pieces will be destroyed.

Like all metaphors, this one has its limitations. It strains quickly if we try to identify too specifically all the players. At the same time, I find myself making some effort. Specifically, I wonder where Archbishop Williams is in all this. I think at first he thought himself some combination of the rodeo manager and bullfighter – able to call the game and set the rules, and to prevent injury to the players. However, all too quickly he became the prize (or at least his office), with the Communion as the table. When the bull was loosed, he was not in the position he thought to prevent the mayhem. Now he is discovering something most of us discovered some time ago: that he was not in control either of the bull or the players. And we are watching as he discovers that his “chair,” the Church of England, is no more secure than that of any other player.

And who is the bull? We need not think too long to realize each of the players will identify the bull differently. Some will say the headstrong Episcopal Church. Others will say the over-reaction of conservative Anglicans in opposition. Some might say Archbishop Williams himself, with his desire, as becomes ever clearer, for a more “church-like” Communion, speaking with one voice and settled authority. And, of course, some will identify the bull with the “spirit of this world,” and/or the Great Deceiver himself.

I don’t automatically discount any of those identifications (including the last). However, I find myself wondering if the bull isn’t the Holy Spirit, going where he will and beyond our control. I wonder whether this isn’t a challenge, not to any one position within the Communion, but to our conviction that the Communion is so important, so integral in itself to God’s plan, that it becomes a prize to be claimed, whether in its structures or in the representative patrimony of Canterbury. If we have come to see the Communion as that “precious,” than perhaps it has become an idol; and as we have seen again in Scripture and in the stories of the Saints, God breaks idols down. That is a painful experience, for it can indeed be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. At the same time, it’s more painful the more attached we are to the idol being taken down.

Perhaps even this stretches the metaphor too much. Still, the thought intrigues me. Certainly, it challenges our convictions on a number of topics. It especially challenges not only our ideas about God’s purposes in the Communion, but our beliefs about what being one as Christ and the Father are one might look like. At the same time, it offers the corrective that this is God’s plan, and not ours, no matter how much we might want to participate in it. And it offers promise: promise that if we find our idol swept away, it is removed so that we might focus once again on God’s plan, and not our own. We might start looking for the Spirit in our lives, instead of looking at the prize we seek and at one another as competitors, challengers in a winner-take-all contest.

Indeed, we might return to the task of seeking God together, to discern the direction God is taking. After all, if all the players were to look out, to cooperate in discovering the direction of the bull and sharing that information with one another, all would be less likely to be hurt. Of course, if we would embrace that model, we’d have no prize, no winner, no game. On the other hand, we would once again have our focus where it should be: not on ourselves and our own issues, but on how the Spirit is moving in the world. We would also once again be working in concert, not on lock-step, but in meaningful unity even in our diversity.

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.

Second thoughts about forgiveness

Daily Episcopalian will publish every other day this week.

By Ann Fontaine

What purpose can “not forgiving” serve?

Forgiveness is a highly recommended spiritual practice. The benefits of forgiveness are supposedly less stress and better health. Forgiveness is recommended by the church as a way to wholeness.

I wonder, however, if this is always a good idea. In cases of sexual and physical abuse, I believe offering quick forgiveness can continue the wounding rather than offering healing. It encourages people to “be nice” rather than find the wholeness of accepting the depth of one’s rage. When might it be good not to forgive?

I was reading the Daily Office the other day and this line stood out for me:

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22

The passage made wonder about the process of forgiveness. This verse says to me that forgiveness does not always help the process of healing or result in restoration and reconciliation. It says something has to happen before sins are forgiven and relationship returned.

Two stories:

1. A man was sexually abused as a child by his priest, with the tacit consent of his mother. Once he was grown enough to resist and speak out they had him committed to an institution for incorrigible teens. He could never get the church to act against the abuser. He was shuffled off from one office to another. The canons of the church designed to prevent this were not in place. By the time they were – the bishop said the statute of limitations had run out. Forgiveness for him would have been the last straw – one that took away his dignity and the rage that kept him alive to battle a cold uncaring institution and help to change things bit by bit.

2. A priest was often observed crossing boundaries with women – touching them in ways that made them uncomfortable. Some said, “Oh he is just friendly and does not mean anything by it.” For many who were the victims of his touching, it evoked memories of rape and powerlessness. One day he was hit by a car and broke both arms. Some victims felt their wounds had been assuaged and they were able to forgive.

In each of these cases there was an offense or offenses. People dealt with the issues of forgiveness in the ways each felt was best for them.

The church’s demand to forgive can make victims feel guilty and blame themselves for what happened to them. Persons unable to offer forgiveness feel shut out and re-victimized.

I believe we should be offering wholeness that comes from acknowledging the wounding and sitting with that woundedness for as long as it takes for the victim to come to the right place. Instead of demanding instant forgiveness of a perpetrator by a victim, offer to listen and find ways to make amends for what has happened. Help the victim become a survivor by discovering what he or she desires for his or her own life.

Listening shows the person that he or she has a right to be heard. I believe no movement to wholeness can occur until the story is told from the point of view of the victim and the victim receives assurance that it was terrible and should not have happened no matter what else was going on. Acceptance of the event and the knowledge that no amount of revisiting it will change the terrible nature of what happened is the first step to choosing the future one desires. It may or may not involve forgiveness but gives power back to the one who has suffered.

A reflection on the reading from the book of Hebrews

withholding forgiveness from those who have offended may be a time of waiting to see the blood

What sort of blood is needed?

As our daughter, a wise woman, says:

The most important thing I've learned about forgiveness is that it can't be forced. It must flow naturally from where the victim is in their healing process and frequently marks the point at which one has decided not to let the event be a distorting effect on one's life. Justice is a part of forgiveness. If someone did something wrong that was under their control and they show no remorse, then it is very difficult to forgive. If remorse is shown (not just said)-- or one feels that 'fate' has provided justice (as in the broken armed abuser story)-- then it is easier to let go of the protective anger and move on. Anger can a protective shield-- perhaps it is like a cold-frame for seedlings -- protecting a vulnerable person until they are strong enough to live on their own, but confining if left in place too long.

Withholding forgiveness may be a way to retain one’s power in a situation of powerlessness. I believe it can be a first step to regaining a sense of self that has been destroyed by abuse and exploitation.

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

Tackling the charge of Gnosticism

By Richard E. Helmer

There is little more bracing for a priest than to be publicly accused of heresy – even if it is only the casual remarks of the angry and anonymous on the internet these days. So I have been pondering the charge of heresy – and, specifically, Gnosticism – leveled at me for an online reflection on chastity that was posted recently at Daily Episcopalian.

While leaving it to others to draw their own conclusions about whether the charges of Gnosticism should stick, I want to revisit this episode a bit more deeply, because in our prayer life, the daily office lectionary has been moving through the book of Proverbs in recent weeks. And in the heat of going back and forth over whether or not my reflection had me indulging in the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, a good friend and mentor quoted to me this wise verse from our daily readings: “A rebuke goes deeper into a discerning person than a hundred blows into a fool.”

So, I had to wonder, was I being rightly rebuked by a handful of our more conservative sisters and brothers, or was I simply being unfairly excoriated, or – in the more likely mixed-up nature of our world – a bit of both? Understanding demanded more of me than simply rejecting my opponents’ arguments as emotional outburst. There was some substance behind their umbrage, and it was incumbent upon me to dig a little to find out what that substance was.
It never hurts to read what one’s self-styled theological opponents are reading. So I turned this week to some writing by N. T. Wright, the New Testament scholar and soon-to-retire Bishop of Durham. Wright continues to be widely read and respected by the more conservative and evangelical wings of the Church and the wider Anglican Communion. Yet he falls into the great tradition of Anglicanism: his writing is insightful, grounded in our Christian tension of reason, tradition, and scripture, and it is filled with his own distinctive blend of charm and wit. In the best Anglican fashion, he commands respect from all quarters, while not full agreement, to be sure.

In an address I stumbled upon this week – one N. T. Wright delivered at the last Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops – he speaks about Gnosticism and its contemporary manifestations in the West, and as I read his words, they struck home for me and started to make some sense of what I was hearing from my most vociferous critics.

It is easy to dismiss Gnosticism as an artifact of history. Wright notes that when, as a student, he was studying about the Gnostics, they seemed like a distinctly second-century phenomenon, strange relics of a diverse Christian antiquity only to be pondered these days by intellectuals sitting today in their academic towers. But in fact, Gnosticism has two key features that remain very much alive with us today. The first is what Wright calls “radical dualism” -- the idea that the spirit and body are at odds with one another, or in our individualistic and profit-driven society, that the we can exploit the physical world and our bodies for whatever ends we deem appropriate, and that includes the physical exploitation of others and of nature. Though N. T. Wright’s essay is two years old, we only have to look to the mess in the Gulf to see exactly what he means – unreflective Gnosticism of this sort at work in millions of gallons of sweet crude fouling beaches, poisoning the ecosystem beneath the waves and above, destroying livelihoods of our neighbors, and our withering national faith in engineering ingenuity and technology to save us.

A second feature, he says, is that Gnosticism is a religion not of redemption, but of self-discovery. Ours is an age indeed of continuing Gnostic self-help and “I’m OK, you’re OK” – that ubiquitous American cliché that one anonymous commentator, interestingly, saw rightly or wrongly in my writing. “There is even a danger,” N. T. Wright further says, “that we Anglicans spend time discussing ‘who we really are’, as though there were some inner thing, the Anglican spark, and if only we could identify that then we’d be all right. And in some of our most crucial ethical debates people have assumed for a long time that ‘being true to myself’ was all that really mattered.”

Viewed this way, Gnosticism is indeed the generic spiritualism that surrounds us in many forms – the notion that my spirituality is self-crafted and self-fulfilling, that “my own path” is sufficient for me. The spirituality of “self improvement” is a form of Gnosticism, when the reality -- at least as we Christians reckon it -- is that self is meaningless without others, without accountability, without rough-and-tumble relationship and the knocks of shared experience. We find community is the crucible of our redemption, of our renewal, not closing off the world and “finding ourselves.” I think Wright's on to a profound truth here, although I might respond differently than he does to this character of the contemporary, individualistic West.
Is his address, N. T. Wright prefers to contrast this contemporary, self-realizing Gnosticism with some traditionally evangelical language about God’s “rescuing” us, which, frankly, is a way of describing redemption I’m not all that keen on. There’s more to Christian redemption than merely being pulled out of a world burning with hellfire and brimstone, or of our being washed clean of the sticky crude like a rescued pelican in the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, it’s also a bit Gnostic to talk of being “rescued” from this world, as it suggests another kind of dualism that is foreign to an incarnational faith. As we are fond of saying, we may not be “of the world,” but we are most certainly in it, just as Jesus was and the Spirit is. Our redemption is not about simply the salvation of individuated souls divorced from the world, but of the salvation our full being in the world. Put another way, our redemption must be about the world’s redemption, or our redemption is selfish, disconnected, and effectively meaningless.

"I'm OK, you're OK" is indeed that bland, Gnostic, hands-off tolerance our pluralistic society often professes. But we don't need simply to be "rescued," pulled from the stagnant, tepid waters of tolerance. Rather we need the Gospel to stir and heat them with Christ's life-giving radical engagement, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing of our full humanity. The Gospel, the good news of God in Christ, the message we take from the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is most certainly not "I'm OK, you're OK." But nor is it the ubiquitously old-fashioned American evangelical "I'm a sinner, and you're a sinner, too." Rather, we could say the Gospel message this way: “God is loving you and me together out of death into new community, into new life."

Our Christian faith embeds us in the relational challenges and hardships of community, it embraces and transforms the realities of pain and suffering, which are made divinely real and prescient in the cross and passion of Jesus Christ, and it gives tangible reality to our confession of what we have done and left undone; our call to set aside selfish ambition that exploits – to embrace instead the service that attends to the pressing needs in the world around us: in our neighbors, in our homes, in our selves, and, yes, very much in our bodies. This was a point I was trying to make about the practice of chastity.

In our recent Sunday lectionary readings, we heard the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath and her son. This story about the great prophet begins not with some “out there” spiritualism, but with the very hollow-in-the-gut, physical hunger of a widow and her child preparing for their last meal, and that most poignant line – amongst my personal favorites in all of Scripture: "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." Is that not the song of our most pressing needs? Of our deepest unfulfilled hungers? The song of a suffering Gulf coast, the unarticulated cry of the struggling wildlife, of our exploited planet? Is this not the refrain of the teeming hungry and the marginalized confronting their invisibility and facing extinction?
Elijah does not suggest she merely offer a prayer to God, or go off by herself and meditate to escape her suffering, but rather that she tangibly and painfully offer him a portion of her last meal, the very thing that sustains her and her son’s physical lives. It is in that offering that she discovers God’s power to sustain their life. And this kind of physical, tangible offering continues almost immediately in the story when she gives her dying, if not already lifeless son to Elijah. She is commanded to give him that which is most precious to her –more so than even her own life. The language of offering is so explicitly clear: Elijah takes her son from her bosom and carries him away. It is only when he brings her son back to her that he is alive . . . and so, therefore, is she.

For our spiritual ancestors and us, God’s acts of power are not worked out in the abstracted “spiritual”, but in the real and tangible, the physical. As Christians, we do not merely meditate on the Word, we engage with it: in our worship, we listen to story together, shoulder to shoulder, bringing our physical selves with all of our imperfections and edges into community. In study and in teaching our children, we wrestle with our story in speech and craft, making it part of our physical selves and preparing to pass it to a new generation. We work it “into our bones,” which is why our engagement with scripture is so critical, and why it must happen regularly not in the comfort of our armchairs, but in the edginess and discomfort of our communities. We splash in water in our baptism, we eat bread we call Jesus’ body and wine we call Christ’s blood – that is, God’s life incarnate amongst us. Ours is indeed an incarnational, embodied faith, not a Gnostic, abstracted spiritual one.

Our service to the wider world is about raising the dead, of responding to the pleas of widows preparing for their final meal. We consider our sisters and brothers on the front lines of the worst oil spill in American history: whether they are operating robots a mile beneath the sea or shoveling contaminated sand or scrubbing oil from the fragile feathers and skins of God’s creatures. How can we tangibly help them this day? Prayer is only the beginning.

And most of all, we are reminded that our Christian life with God is about offering ourselves, and not just as spiritual abstracts, but as physical, incarnate beings. The widow at Zarephath offers Elijah her final meal. And she gives him her son, that which is most precious to her. Gnosticism might have us offering mere acknowledgment or simple intellectual assent, or resting comfortably in our beautiful Anglican prayers. That’s not what God wants of us. That’s not what God needs to truly transform us. God needs everything we are – body, mind, and spirit – that kind of full self-offering that Jesus makes upon the cross, and that we re-member, that is, we enter into and then take into ourselves in each Eucharist.

Our embodied faith, after all, means more than words on a page (or online!); it means more than mere “spirituality” in the contemporary Western sense. Our faith involves our full selves in the Gospel work of transforming a world very much in need of healing, in need of resurrection, in need of God's Spirit that makes God's dream real. . . So that we and all creation may not only touch, but become again the fully embodied work of the divine.

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer is rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, Calif. His sermons and reflections have been published widely online, and he blogs about spirituality, ministry, Anglicanism, church politics, music, and the misadventures of young parenthood at Caught by the Light.

Should Christians have second helpings?

By Ellen Painter Dollar

Some years ago, I made a spinach and bacon quiche to serve for New Year’s Day breakfast. It was loaded with butter and cheese (not to mention salty pork fat—yum), and boy, was it good. Some friends were visiting from out of town, and as one contemplated whether to go for seconds, he wondered aloud which is the proper way to approach dietary indulgence as Christians. Should we exercise tight control, understanding that our body is a temple and that one does not smear temples with butter, cheese, and bacon? Or should we go for the gusto, knowing that this earthly life, the one we navigate from within these mortal bodies, is neither the whole story nor even the most important part of the story? If we’re all going to die and be with Jesus anyway, what does a few more grams of fat matter?

My friend’s question of how we are to view and treat our bodies in light of our Christian faith has stuck with me. It has stuck with me as I, who have a genetic bone disorder that has led to significant pain and limitation, figure out how best to care for my body and parent my three kids (one of whom also has the disorder) in a culture that celebrates athleticism and a narrow definition of beauty. It has stuck with me as I navigate the judgment-fueled arena of modern suburban parenthood, where some fellow parents view Capri Sun juice pouches as nearly equivalent to cocaine in their poisonous tendencies, and our schools subject parents to annual lectures on the evils of birthday cupcakes.

I’ve decided that, as with most significant questions of the Christian life, the answer is not this way or that way, not either/or. The answer is both/and. We are to honor our bodies as God’s gifts. Honoring our bodies means taking good care of them, fighting our tendencies toward sloth and gluttony. And honoring our bodies means recognizing them as imperfect and limited, and therefore as inappropriate objects for worship or an overly intense focus that considers everything in light of how it will make us healthier, thinner, or stronger.

Our culture has an odd relationship to food these days. On one side is the obesity epidemic, fueled by reliance on industrialized, portable, chemical-laden food requiring minimal cooking time or skill—or none at all. On the other extreme are those who see food as something to be feared and tightly controlled, who believe that non-organic produce, white flour, and sugar are evils to be avoided at all costs.

These two extremes have something in common. In both cases, food is simply a means to an end. It is fuel—something to be inserted into one’s body to achieve a particular goal, whether that goal is hunger relief or good health. America’s growing waistlines are in part the result of people eating on the go, at their desks, in their cars, and in front of the TV, grabbing food out of take-out bags or plastic packages and consuming the food quickly, alone, so they can move on to the next thing. Super health-conscious folks begin to see food as medicine, something we consume solely for its nutrients and health benefits, to stave off not only those dreaded extra pounds, but also cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even death itself. (Several years ago, I read about people who severely restrict their caloric intake because such diets have been shown to slow aging. The wife and daughter of one man reported that his diet made him flatulent and irritable. Sounds like just the kind of guy I want to have around for an extra 20 years.)

Food is more than fuel, and our bodies are more than machines that we manipulate to give us what we want, whether that be a caffeine boost to get through the afternoon’s work or a few extra years of life. When it comes to healthy eating that honors our bodies as both God’s gifts and mortal flesh, nutrients matter, but other things matter too. Context matters. Intention matters. Place matters. The same goes for all the other ways that we daily choose how to treat our bodies—our sleep, our exercise, our response to pain and illness. We can honor our bodies with both discipline and indulgence, with work and rest, with decisions to pursue experimental treatments and decisions to let illness take its course. The tricky part, of course, is figuring out which path honors God and our bodies most in the daily mix of temptations, opportunities, blessings, and burdens. This both/and stuff does not lend itself to neat decision-making flowcharts—if this, then do that; if that, then do this.

My friend decided to have seconds that New Year’s morning, which seemed the right decision for a holiday morning in the company of friends. There is a big difference between having a second piece of quiche on New Year’s Day and scarfing down a bag of Oreos while watching Law and Order reruns. I’m still working out the balance, particularly as a mother. We belong to a community-supported agriculture farm, so my kids are familiar with all kinds of greens and squash and fresh-picked berries (not that they’ll eat them all, except for the berries). And alongside the organic produce in my fridge you’ll also find superhero popsicles, bright blue and green yogurt and, yes, Capri Sun juice pouches.

We’re still figuring it out. But I am clear on one thing: Our bodies matter. And, thank God, they are not all that matter.

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer whose work focuses on faith, parenthood and disability. She is writing a book on the ethics and theology of reproductive technology, genetic screening and disability, and she blogs at Choices That Matter and Five Dollars and Some Common Sense.

A faith not rooted in supernaturalism

By George Clifford

In March 2010, philosopher Daniel Dennett and social worker Linda LaScola published “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” first in Evolutionary Psychology and subsequently on the web. The article attracted considerable attention, including at the Episcopal Café. “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” reports on their study of five Protestant pastors who self-identify as having lost their religious faith. The one woman who was originally part of the study, an Episcopal priest, withdrew shortly before the study ended.

What, if anything, does “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” say to the Church?

Prima facie, the study says little to the Church. Five anecdotal stories provide interesting narratives but without any quantitative data about the prevalence of clergy who perceive themselves as hypocrites indicate nothing about the magnitude of this purported problem. Some percentage of every vocation become disillusioned with that vocation’s prevailing ethos or purpose while concurrently feeling vocationally trapped by extenuating factors (family, finances, etc). Furthermore, the Church in its early centuries wisely decided that an individual cleric’s belief did not determine the validity of the sacraments at which that cleric officiated. By extension, the same is true for sacramental acts such as preaching, teaching, and other forms of ministry.

Ministry, unlike most other callings, has no objective standards by which to determine efficacy or content. I, like the five interviewed clergy, have ministered to people who relied upon a literal interpretation of Christianity as a crutch that helped the person to cope with life. Many of these people, in my estimation, would have floundered, perhaps drowned, had I or another cleric attempted to introduce them to a less literal faith perspective. Judiciously employing multiple faith perspectives to help people live more abundantly coheres well with a theology that emphasizes respecting the dignity and worth of every person and that presupposes human language can only speak of ultimate reality through words as metaphor, symbol, and icon.

The study does highlight an important conceptual chasm that separates many twenty-first century Christians and adherents of other religions from some of the most vocal, high profile critics of religion. Contrary to the profoundly mistaken presumption of Dennett, LaScola, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, et al. – as well as the five clergy in their study – religious belief does not inherently entail supernaturalism. The guilt that some of the study’s participants feel from abandoning supernaturalism says more about study participants than about the possible viability of non-supernatural theology.

Anglican Bishops John A.T. Robinson and John Shelby Spong have both worked to deconstruct theological concepts of a supernatural God while adamantly affirming their continuing belief in God. The ancient tradition of the via negativa (God lies beyond all words; words at best function as metaphors, symbols, or icons and at worst construct an idol) certainly does not necessitate supernaturalism. More recently, process theologians, Tillichians, and others such as Episcopal priest John Keenan (The Meaning of Christ: A Mahayana Theology) have sought to speak of God in non-supernatural language. These projects have admittedly struggled to gain widespread traction, failing to articulate icons, symbols, or metaphors that capture modern imaginations. Theological reconstruction is obviously a far more difficult task than is theological deconstruction. However, critics apparently prefer to pillory the supernatural straw man rather than to engage non-supernatural theologians in meaningful dialogue about premises, possibilities, etc.

Finally, Dennett and LaScola’s study illuminates one often-ignored cause of the current Anglican Communion conflicts over sexual ethics. Admittedly, those sadly vicious disputes have several roots. One important root is the issue of authority: will the Anglican Communion continue as a voluntary association of Churches in communion with Canterbury or will the Anglican Communion adopt a more authoritarian, tightly bonded organizational structure consonant with Archbishop Williams’ recent actions? Another important root of the conflict is the opportunity that non-Anglican conservatives saw to use this controversy to advance their own anti-GLBT agenda. Contributions from these conservatives have substantially funded cross-border incursions, disaffections from the Episcopal Church (TEC), and the media attention the resultant conflict has received.

But another, less visible yet significant cause of the deep conflict within the Anglican Communion is the divergent Christian worldviews represented among Anglicans. In a sweeping generalization with numerous exceptions, the many Anglicans who subscribe to a supernatural theology tend to believe that scripture communicates propositional truths that include definitive teachings about human sexuality. This position is more common among people who do not engage in critical study of the Bible but by no means unique to them. Conversely, the many Anglicans who reject supernatural theology, explicitly (they have given the subject conscious thought) or implicitly (they use the language of supernaturalism but hold a worldview that de facto excludes supernaturalism), tend to disbelieve that scripture communicates propositional truths about human sexuality.

Theological deconstructions of supernaturalism have usually emphasized clashes between science and supernaturalism. Fewer deconstructions recognize globalization’s important consequences for diminishing the attractiveness of supernaturalism. Globalization often increases a person’s awareness of: our common humanity that transcends cultural differences; the theological, ethical, functional, and social commonalities Christianity shares with other world religions; and the exclusive truth claims found in the scriptures of various religions. Analogous to the way in which science pushes theology to abandon comfortable, time-honored images of a supernatural God for a deeper, less easily articulated but more immediate awareness of the holy, globalization pushes theology to broaden its perspective, freeing itself from culturally situated language. In a development unimaginable in prior centuries, some contemporary Christians (clergy and laity) find ideas or praxis from another religion sufficiently insightful or helpful that the person incorporates the material into her or his Christian theology and praxis. Some, but not all, of these Christians have difficulty with that integration, adopting positions that seem oddly incongruous or incompatible. Others, like Episcopal priest John Keenan, manage the integration with a fidelity to their Christian identity.

Following the American Revolution, colonial Anglicans distanced themselves from the Church of England. This was an existential necessity: continued allegiance to the British crown would have effectively sounded Anglican’s death knell in the nascent United States; continuing as Anglicans required the post-colonial Church to obtain bishops who could administer confirmation and ordain clergy.

TEC’s current struggle within the Anglican Communion is also existential. Denying full inclusion to all people, GLBT as well as heterosexual, puts TEC on the right side of history, something each passing year makes more obvious. Insisting that all faithful Christians tenaciously cling to an anachronistic supernaturalism with its attendant claim to discern propositional truths about sexuality and sexual ethics in scripture will surely sound Anglican Christianity’s death knell. Similarly, moderns with scientific educations or global perspectives increasingly find themselves choosing between the atheism of Dennett and company, agnosticism, or trying to chart new theological understandings in light of the deconstructions of Robinson and company. Not surprisingly, these struggles occasion much conflict in the Church.

Anglican’s traditional “big tent” genius allowed people to pray together in spite of sharply opposing views. Preserving “big tent” Anglicanism represents a better future for the Anglican Communion than does adopting a more authoritarian structure. Trying to enforce homogeneity stifles creativity, unhelpfully masks dissent as assent, fosters schism, and eventually leads to institutional ill health, as glaringly evidenced in the Roman Catholic Church’s history and problems. TEC does well to stay its present course faithfully of practicing a radical hospitality that welcomes everyone and of commending that practice to the Anglican Communion.

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 serves as priest in charge at the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh and blogs at Ethical Musings (

The slow-motion car crash

By Adrian Worsfold

Max Weber (1864-1920), the sociologist, was a pessimist. All he could see, as the process of modernisation, was the continual disenchantment of life. Understanding authority as moving from the magical charismatic power of personality, through to sacredness and on to bureaucracy (the latter a rational pyramidal process of top down authority through career in office appointments), meant that life would become dull and mechanical. Allowing as he did for ideas to shape institutions, he nevertheless conceded that, in the end, the institution would shape ideas. At least Karl Marx was an optimist: there would be liberation at the end of all the strife, but not for Weber: whereas for Marx, the human would be liberated when the institutions became dissolved, for Weber the human was to face impersonal power for evermore, almost as though original sin was irredeemable.

How else then to understand the latest machinations of an Archbishop of Canterbury and his appropriately named Secretary General other than to first suggest that his documents based actions are the workings out of a bureaucratic ethic towards sacred Churches?

Despite the apparent timing, of Pentecost, the Pentecost Letter was actually utterly joyless. Its use of biblical quotes seemed mechanical and formulaic (appropriate for a bureaucratic approach), as indeed they had to be given the task of beginning a process of exclusions all based around a document given high and mighty justification (The Windsor Report) and another approaching inviable status, the Covenant - and just as it is, without any further change or reservation. Here is the ultimate menu of rules from the top that are to be followed if the label Anglican is to be applied, inviable because it is already being given a role of acceptance before it is even accepted, on the apparent basis of necessity.

The bureaucratic form of authority was seen as the arrival at modernist organised rationality after a history of charismatic and sacred forms of authority.

The previous forms of authority are both inherently religious, even though the charismatic can be the force of any human personality. The Roman Catholic Holy Father has acquired pyramidal power and authority through a sacred period of time, but its sheer organisation and physical self-support points to something further to come elsewhere - where life becomes secular. Furthermore, the argument a pope gives is because there is a recognition about the role of reason in theology, especially since Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, the reasoning given is always secondary to the fact that a pope has sacred power. You shouldn't engage in an argument to contradict the pope; he is "right" because he is the pope and represents the sacredness of the Church and its orders.

Now the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot as such claim such a heady position, in that his sacredness at best is more diffused and shared, and so the whole effort he is making in producing an Anglicanism based on a singular policy identity, rather than a diversity of Christian Churches in cultural settings with historic patterned connections, seems to have this current bureaucratic air of document pushing and delivery.

Indeed the problem (should be a 'gift') for any Anglican Archbishop is that the Reformation, of which Anglicanism is a peculiar part, was tied up with the development of principalities and nationalities, as opposed to the Roman and then Holy Roman Empire of Roman Catholicism. Thus national Churches are autonomous because they are also Reformed.

So my further suggestion is that the Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to claw backwards to some sacredness of the past, and one that surely pre-dates Anglicanism as a particularity. Despite the dullness, then, of bureaucracy, despite the present Covenant having all the disenchantment of a bureaucratic diktat, the Archbishop sees himself as standing at the peak of a set of bishops and then himself, bypassing the national boundaries - much less Protestant, much more Catholic, and going backwards in time before even Anglicanism and the Reformation. In the end, the Covenant, the exclusions, will be based not on a bureaucratic ethic, but on trying to re-envision sacred power.

And he goes backwards despite the fact that we now know that Weber's pessimism was misplaced. Weber's 'classical' view is somewhat superseded by both a systemic view and human relations view of organising. The pessimism in McGregor's (1960) Theory X is here replaced by his Theory Y of relative optimism, and furthermore that a bureaucracy depends increasingly on expertise within its ranks. Peter Rudge (1968, 1976), following on from Paul S. Minear (1961), has argued that the systemic organisational method, where knowledge and responsibility is spread throughout the organisation, as is necessary for innovation today, is consistent with a Pauline view of the dispersal of specialities within the Church body. The systemic view allows the sacred within it organisationally, whereas the human relations view is, according to this argument, valuable but too humanistic in basis, too thoroughly liberal and democratic.

I would disagree, and would do so on the basis of the sacred in the secular, an argument similar to the one put by Andrew Linzey in 1988 and one I have brought into use as a counter-argument to that of Christopher Seitz's campaign against the Presiding Bishop (Worsfold, 2010). For me, the sacred is diffused into the human cultural and the wider evolved and chaotic order of complexity. However, there is a good argument that the Anglican model for each Church is that of systemic authority, and even if this is to be applied across the Anglican Communion it is one that requires and relies upon theological and cultural sensitivity and expertise on the ground. It most definitely does not promote a singular view, even if 'the management' promoted a singular international mission-statement, a vision as a whole. The organisation is far too organic for that, and they are indeed organisations.

It seems to me that the present Archbishop of Canterbury is bringing Anglicanism to a deep crisis. It was already in difficulty, but his solution is worse than the problem, bringing the issues to one focused head. The difficulty is that he can be in office a very long time still, and is now completely attached to his policy. To stop the policy means stopping him, and probably means his removal (the alternative being him becoming a lame duck Archbishop, who says and does nothing, except carries on doing his personal lectures - which, these days, utterly contradict his bureaucratic ethos - his treatment of other Anglicans is considerably less generous than his treatment of other faiths).

What is the focus? The focus is, in of itself, a Report and a document, Windsor and the Covenant respectively, neither of which must succeed if Anglicanism as has been is to survive in any shape. However, behind these documents is a long time deeper issue of a truce between the Catholic and the Reformed, and 'Reformed' means not one fellowship of believers but a number of geographically State based Protestant derived Episcopal Churches. The Archbishop, once he grew up more Catholic, became increasingly Catholic, and now pushes his personal stance on to everyone else, assisted by those who would have one confessing style fellowship of believers, one Protestant identity with the high level authoritarianism to match - indeed very close to the bureaucratic in its centralised modernisation.

Once again, and to be clear: if you don't want the consequences, don't vote for the document. To remove the Covenant is to finish Windsor too. This applies far wider than for The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada, the latter of which is dragging its feet somewhat in its aching movement from its desire to be agreeable in the Communion and its realisation that this document is a disaster.

The Archbishop of Canterbury believes in the bishops as people of a body, as in traditional authority, so policies are in the end sacred and personal. He is attached to this road, the only road, and in detail. I see him as a person, let's say, in the passenger seat of a rally car with all the maps, the details and the documents, handed to him by the bureaucrats on the back seat according to tasks he set them. And then he's the one who gives the instructions to his Secretary General, whose foot is slammed on the accelerator and whose hands are held fast on the steering wheel. They are in a rally and they are deciding the route for all the following Anglican cars. The fact that everyone sees this in slow motion should not alter the reality that there is an almighty car crash about to take place, with the lead car, and every other car following behind, generating a pile up for which ambulances are to be needed in numbers. Some rally driver, somewhere behind, needs to apply the brakes and radio the others.

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.

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Tending the diaconal garden

By Marshall Scott

I’ve been taking some vacation. Well, at least I haven’t been going into the hospital. I haven’t been off doing anything dramatic or exciting. Being relatively new in her current position, my wife has less vacation time than I do, so I’ve been taking some days away while she still has to work. I’m not really good at vacating, and so, having not gone out of town, I’ve found myself as busy as if I’d gone to the office, if not more.

So, I’ve been spending my time at the parish garden - putting up rabbit fence, breaking sod. We’ve expanded this year by 50%. That has meant more fencing and new ground to break. A parishioner donated portable fencing, movable panels, more than enough for the expanded garden. However, it was designed to keep horses. It’s good for keeping the deer out, but not much good against anything smaller. So, I had to cut and fit lengths of garden fence, bent out at the bottom (it discourages critters from burrowing in) and fastened with zip ties. I went after the new ground with a heavy tiller, donated by the same parishioner. The heavy machine did an awful lot of the work, but it still took its toll on me – hard work in the hot sun.

There’s something very diaconal about working in the garden. Things diaconal have been on my mind, because I’m preaching an ordination of deacons soon. It’s a privilege, and I’m honored that the ordinands would request me. And it certainly has my attention.

As I said, there’s something very diaconal about working in the garden, not least the parallel with the first seven appointed by the apostles. This garden is one of a number supporting the feeding ministries in Kansas City, recently reported here at the Café. At its inception, the ministry of those first seven deacons was also a feeding ministry. “Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task.…’” (Acts 6:1-3) While the fencing and the tilling weren’t as direct or immediate as serving at the tables, the food we produce will be served in its time.

More broadly, working in the garden also reflects for me something of the deacon’s vocation as described in the Prayer Book. The Outline of the Faith, the Prayer Book catechism, says, “The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need….” In the Ordination Rite, the new deacons are told, “You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” (BCP p. 543) I have written before of my own sense that gardening gives me a glimpse into the work that many in the world have to do simply to feed themselves and their families. In this case, the work goes toward feeding the homeless and hungry closer to home.

In another personal reflection, this work is diaconal for me because I’m not in charge. Both the Ordination Rite and the Outline of the Faith emphasize that the deacon’s work is about assisting. I’ve already noted the role in assisting those in need. However, the vocation is also about assisting those in charge – both their bishops, and also the priests to whom the bishops assign them. In this garden, I am not the one in charge. I’m one taking directions. I certainly support the work, not least because the leader in the garden is my wife; but in this work I’m absolutely a dutiful follower.

At the same time, what I’ve been doing really enables what others will do. Paul said, “One plants, another waters, but God gives the growth.” Well and good: but, if the ground is not tilled, the planting cannot happen. If the rabbits aren’t kept out, the harvest will not be what it could be, and some crops won’t come to harvest at all (after all, even rabbits have favorites). As the diaconate has grown over the past generation, deacons have often been asked to enable the work of others, both by leading specific ministries and by educating to help people find their own vocations.

I will admit that I am acutely aware of diaconal themes in ministry. The fact is that as a hospital chaplain most of my work has to do with showing the compassion of the church by assisting those in need, serving in a setting where I’m not in charge. Much of my own chaplaincy involves administrative activities that are intended to guide and enable the ministries of others. It is true that my work also includes celebrating the Eucharist in the hospital chapel and anointing the sick, and that I have the opportunities to help many colleagues by supplying in their parishes. However, when most of the work is considered, I believe (and have shared with bishops) that healthcare chaplaincy can be an appropriate ministry for a deacon.

I’m also clear that many of the activities I’ve cited, and certainly my work in the garden, don’t require ordination at all. I’ve heard over the years the complaints from some priests that the resurgence of the diaconate has simply taken a number of very effective lay ministers and added them to the ranks of the ordained. I would certainly agree that some priests simply don’t take advantage of the deacons who serve with them.

I still think we can call these ministries diaconal, whoever might carry them out; and we can appreciate the vocations of the deacons in our midst. They lead and model these ministries for our edification, and for the edification of the Church – literally, the building up of the Body.

Perhaps we can go a step further. We have long held in the Episcopal Church that we share in the priesthood of all believers. We have also long held that the Christian faith and life is not simply about what we believe, but also about how we demonstrate our belief in service in the world. Certainly, we emphasize in the Baptismal Covenant proclaiming by example, and seeking and serving Christ in all persons. Perhaps we need to think about the diaconal ministries in which we all might serve, and in which ordained deacons can lead us. Perhaps we need to think about “the diaconate of all believers.”

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.

What scares you?

By Greg Jones

What scares you? Except for heights, waves, snakes, car accidents, and all sorts of things I never used to think about before I had three kids and turned 40, I'm not scared of anything.

But what about you? What terrors you? What scares you? What freaks you out and makes your blood run cold? Can you think of anything?

In the stories of Elijah and the widow, or Jesus and the widow whose only son has died, we see some very scary circumstances. Stories of fragile households suffering from hunger, defeat, grief, distress, death and isolation.

In Paul's story there is something scary also - he tells us of a different sort of terror. Of how he used to be a religious terrorist, killing folks in the name of God. How in his zeal for his faith, he was willing to murder. A terrifying and confusing disposition to say the least.

Yet, one not strange to religion. For fear is real, is a powerful motivator, and the power-hungry of the world know it.

Has anybody ever tried to motivate you to do or accept something with scare tactics? Of course. And I'm not talking about life insurance, having a will, or driving a car with air bags. No, I'm talking about the intentional exploitation of what scares you for the purpose of getting you to do or buy into something.

Believe, me, its tempting to say this is what American Politics has come to. To this place where we hear a chorus of nattering nabobs on internet, tv and radio trying to scare everybody into adopting their interests; and the folk in government either leading or following waves of anxiety and self-interest. It's tempting to say this, but clearly this is nothing new or particular to America.

No, even Christians have and do this sort of thing; using fear to motivate, and claiming God's glory all the while.

Have you ever felt threatened by Christians? Or their message? Or approach? I hope not, but plenty do. In my family, we have many refugees from abusive religion.

Which is tragic because when spreading the faith of God in Christ, the use of scare tactics is just not the way to go. How could it be? Yet, there it is. Scaring people into believing in Christ, threatening, cajoling, browbeating; this just can't be what the Spirit wants. Terrifying and putting down those who we already don't like and justifying it from Scripture, perhaps those who are gay, or those who are foreign, or those who are simply 'different' -- obviously this is absolutely anathema to the Gospel. And yet, how many times has it been presented as if it were the Gospel?

No, I believe in the fear of God -- but the fear of God is a different kind of fear than the fears exploited by those deceived by powers and principalities.

I believe the fear of God is a fear utterly unlike all other fears, and is entirely seeking to gather, to invite, to attract people to God, not out of terror but awe, not anxiety but wonder.

The fear of God is not about being scared, but being amazed; the trembling that comes from hope. It's the fear which causes folks to stop, to pause, to gape, to marvel, and to want to make a change in how we're living. This fear of God must be experienced to be trusted, I think, and it can't be forced -- or passed on by threat.

And in my life, most frequently, I have experienced this sort of godly fear among those who have chosen to live with Jesus as their Lord. Folks who care about the weak, the oppressed, the forgotten, the widowed, the orphaned, the poor in spirit - and the low on cash.

I have experienced this fear of God in those whove been to hell and back in this life, from loss, or suffering, or anguish, who changed from closing to opening hearts, and who are looking to give love to those around. I sensed this fear of God in those who can say, "I know Jesus, he loves me, I love him, and we love you, no matter what". That's the Gospel the world needs to hear.

There's lots to be afraid of friends, and I can worry myself into a tizzy if I try -- but I am convinced that Christ is an eternal wellspring of hope in a big bad world. I believe God raises the dead, cherishes the humble, and pours out grace enough that we needn't truly fear anything but separation from God.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ('Greg') is rector of St. Michael's in Raleigh, N.C., a trustee of General Seminary and the bass player in indie-rock band The Balsa Gliders — whose fourth studio release is available on iTunes. He blogs at Anglican Centrist.

Best theological writing of our time?

By Todd Donatelli

The occasion was the ordination of four Episcopal transitional deacons. I had been asked to preach. What to say that could describe the times, the terrain of their ministry over the next 30 years? To whom might I steer them? Who understands and has something pragmatic to say about what they will encounter?

Should I direct them to William Countryman or Eugene Peterson? Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren and Diana Butler-Bass? Perhaps Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day? Julian of Norwich? Paul Tillich? If I were to offer one book (other than their Bibles), what would it be?
I settled on a book none of them had read at Seminary. You will likely not find it in any seminary bookstores, and that is a shame. Its content is not overtly theological, yet it may have the best theology of any book they will read.

The book is Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. It is the story of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, “Lewis and Clark.” If there is any one book that describes our time and how we are called to live, this may be it. Room must certainly be made for the context of their times. When reading about past generations, I allow generosity, for I often wonder how we will be judged by those living 200 years from now. What they faced at their particular time in history, and what it required them to learn continue to be exactly right for us in 2010.

Some context: The year is 1803. President Thomas Jefferson had just transacted the Louisiana Purchase and no one knew the exact boundaries of the area or what all it contained. Lewis was commissioned by Jefferson to find out. He was to report on the topography, the animal and horticultural life, as well as who all resided there.

Lewis was not formally trained in any disciplines that would help him know what they would be encountering. He was not a botanist, geologist, veterinarian, sociologist, anthropologist, or scientist of any kind. You could say he lacked all the qualities needed save one: he had an undauntedly adventurous spirit.

He did receive training in several of the above disciplines that were taught in order to recognize intricacies of leaf patterns, animal structure, rock appearance, and the like. While not possessing these gifts himself, he was supported by those who did. His job was to allow them to impart their gifts, then to observe and report what he saw.

Of the twelve soldiers made available for their journey, only two met their desired qualifications. They knew their supplies would run out before the halfway point of the journey. They understood their well-being was dependent upon the land and the people encountered along the way.

They spent much time and many resources constructing a boat deemed substantial enough for the journey. In time it proved an encumbrance, something they had to carry over dry land as much as it carried them over water. It finally was abandoned.

They were consistently threatened: by the elements, by wildlife, and by those who did not wish them well.

Lewis and Clark lacked critical qualifications and resources, yet were surrounded by those who possessed them. They learned to trust that what was needed to make this pilgrimage awaited them “out there.” They learned to trust that within themselves was the capacity to recognize what was needed and what was not. At times they would have to let go of the very things that had served them well in the past. The journey held periods of intense heat and intense cold. There were moments of rich banquet and days upon days of deep hunger. At times they were forced to split up in the service of seeking the best passage for them all. It was their engagement and participation with those they encountered that saved them.

Theirs is a story of risk-taking, many mistakes and missteps, and hard-won learned self-regulation. It is about relationships gained and lost. They made incredible discoveries about the land, the people, and about themselves. It is the rich story of what they discovered along the way that I believe makes it a vital read not only for deacons, but for us all. They sought to see, understand, and report what they were observing as faithfully as they knew how.

Today many are trying to describe what is before us as a community of faith. Yet, who can say they know fully this terrain?

We do know that of the 20,000-plus Christian denominations in American, only a handful have grown over the past decade. It may be possible to say that in terms of “sales,” General Motors has had a better decade than the Episcopal Church.

We do know many of the issues the church is “struggling with” are not major issues for persons 20-30 years of age. We do know that—on one hand—the Anglican Communion is formally embroiled in determining what makes one a faithful member, while—on the other hand—dioceses around the globe are engaged in creating vibrant relationships of mutual mission that defy that embroilment.

We are in a time Paul Tillich would call, “The Shaking of the Foundations.” There is free-flowing anxiety in the culture and in our denomination. Some wonder if and how the church will survive. I hear younger clergy wondering if they will have jobs in the not-too-distant future. There is much anxiety around funding for the church.

Yet, there is something else we also know. Historically, every period of great human imagination was birthed out of tumult, disorder, and chaos. The roots of The Renaissance plow deep into centuries of wars and plague. Catherine of Siena emerged from a city that had lost over half its population to plague. Julian of Norwich emerged from the same context.

We should not be surprised by the times. We start every liturgical year with the same message: “There will be signs in the sun and moon, days when no stone will be left upon another, distress among nations; people melting from fear, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken … Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

It is time to stand up and raise our heads. This is a great time to be a part of the church. For we are having to ask what really feeds. We are having to ask what stands when all around us is being shaken. This is a time of tectonic plate shifts and, as the church, we either can do the work of plate-shifting, or we can simply grab some caulk, paste over the gaping cracks, and pretend they have been fixed. Like Lewis and Clark we can let go of encumbrances and discover what we need is all around us, what will feed will emerge as we go forth. There will be significant loss and immense discovery.

This is a great time to be the church. Lewis and Clark would tell us so. Catherine and Julian would tell us so. For this is a time of adventure; it is a time of discovery. Bring on the tumults.

The Very Rev. Todd Donatelli is dean of the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, N. C.

Depart in peace

By John B. Chilton

As guests leave Shrine Mont Episcopal Camp and Conference Center they pass under a sign. On the front of the sign it says “Shrine Mont”. But as you leave you see the obverse that reads “Depart in Peace”. After your mountaintop experience away from everyday life it’s easy to say to yourself, yes I do feel more at peace than when I arrived.

But upon further reflection a good Episcopalian will realize that’s not merely Depart in Peace, Period. It’s “depart in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We have been fed with the spiritual food -- your respite in the mountains. And you have been given an assignment. Not an assignment merely of works, but an assignment to live a whole life, a life of integrity and gratitude.

The people remain standing.

That is the instruction to the people at the outset of The Great Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer.

Following the Sanctus the instruction is:

The people stand or kneel.

My personal preference is to continue to stand. I became accustomed to standing throughout the Eucharistic Prayer at a church that with no kneelers. (See my earlier Daily Episcopalian on The Personal Pew Movement.)

When it says, “The people stand or kneel” what if anything is implied? Should the people all do the same thing?

I have noticed that at diocesan services you see some standing and some knelling at the Eucharist. People stand or kneel depending on the practice at their parish, except that some clearly yo yo and are influenced to kneel when many others have chosen to kneel. The uncertainty creates some distraction from worship, but setting that aside I celebrate the diversity. I wish more individuals would feel comfortable making the choice rather than following the crowd.

Again, when it says, “The people stand or kneel” what is meant? Must you stick with your choice until the end of the service?

Returning to their seats after taking Communion most people kneel or bow their heads for a moment of silent prayer in penitence and thanksgiving before sitting. This is an unwritten custom – often the best kind.

And after Communion, but before the post communion prayer? It’s not clear from the prayer book what the people should do. Most revert to what they were doing before the Breaking of the Bread.

I advocate an insertion (shown in bold):

After Communion, the Celebrant says

Let us stand and pray.

(The same hitch that presents itself that already exists; the Celebrant needs to say which of the two post communion prayers to use.)

The post communion prayers are a sending forth. Through the Word and the Eucharist we have been prepared once more to go into the world. We ought to be standing as a sign through our posture of our eadiness to take on the assignment.

Depart in peace…

…Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love you and serve you

…And now, Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love you and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord….

And the final hymn? Don’t get me started. It’s not the Recessional. It’s the Procession into the World.
Go forth into the world to love and serve the Lord.

People. Thanks be to God.


Oh, and Morning Prayer doesn't let you off the hook. The people's last prayer is the General Thanksgiving in which we pray,
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days....

John B. Chilton holds a doctorate in economics from Brown University. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of South Carolina, and the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates). He keeps several blogs.
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Communion before Baptism: one parish's experience

By Donald Schell

We began making explicit invitation to everyone present to receive communion at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco in 1981. After the Eucharistic Prayer and breaking of the bread and immediately before communion, we began saying something like this - ‘Jesus welcomes everyone to his Table, so we offer the bread and wine which are his body and blood to everyone, and to everyone by name. If we need help with your name, please help us out.’ We knew we’d chosen to step across a line, going beyond the canons of the Episcopal Church and the rubrics of the Prayer Book, and beyond that, remaking longstanding Christian tradition.

My colleague Rick Fabian and I have both offered theological and scriptural defense of the practice elsewhere and we’ll continue to engage the ongoing conversation in our church now, when many others have also written to raise theological questions and argue for or against the practice. I’m writing this today as a practice narrative, to tell the mix of circumstances, discoveries, accident, and theory that moved us to make a change we didn’t expect to be making.

When Rick and I first worked together at Episcopal Church at Yale (Rick 1970-1976 and me as his associate in 1972-1976), our church was in the early stages of Trial Use. For the generation who’ve known no other Prayer Book, Trial Use was the church’s official process for exploring how the new liturgy would go beyond the 1928 Prayer Book we all knew.

Six nights a week for six years at Yale’s Dwight Chapel 25-45 students completed our liturgy surrounding the altar table for the Eucharistic prayer, and then offering communion student-to-student around the circle. One of our regulars was a Jewish undergraduate who had converted to Christianity in his religious studies major. He received communion for well over a year before deciding to seek baptism. There were other unbatpized students we knew were receiving. Generally we had a sense of who and why, so perhaps pastorally we were practicing open communion, but we made no liturgical invitation or announcement of it.

After the Yale chaplaincy, my work as mission vicar at St. David’s, Caldwell, Idaho gave me the opportunity to introduce that congregation to now familiar Episcopal church practices like communion every Sunday at the main liturgy and offering communion to baptized but not confirmed children. In fact the latter practice was new to our church in 1970 and was unknown (and almost unthinkable) to the people of St. David’s when I arrived.

Rick, meanwhile, was working for Bishop Kilmer Myers of California. His title of ‘chaplain to the bishop’ included driving the night-blind bishop long distances for parish visits, helping the bishop prepare for highly conflicted meetings with parishes poised to withdraw over the ordination of women, discussing theological issues on the road, and drafting responses to the bishop’s correspondence.

So after our work together at Yale, Rick and I in quite different settings both saw a lot of parish conflict and theological pain. And both found ourselves asking questions about evangelism and parish structure and how practice might empower or limit evangelism.

The year after he completed his assignment as bishop’s chaplain, with then diocesan executive George Hunt’s strong encouragement Rick wrote a proposal to the diocese to found an experimental mission dedicated to Gregory of Nyssa. The mission church would try innovative liturgical practices to further evangelism, Christian formation, and service, and it would draw on organizational and group research to order governance and common life in ways that would bring conflict to the surface more quickly and work with it creatively.

For the mission’s founding liturgy on St. Gregory’s day, March 9th, 1978, I flew down to preside, and Rick served as deacon and preacher. In October that year the new congregation was admitted as a specialized mission and given seat and vote in California’s diocesan convention.

After his consecration in September of 1979, California’s new bishop, Bill Swing generously accepted oversight of St. Gregory's, the tiny specialized mission he inherited from Bishop Kilmer Myers.

In July of 1980 my wife Ellen and I moved from Idaho to join the project of founding St. Gregory’s. As planned Rick and I worked as founding vicars from that point. Ellen and my arrival increased St. Gregory’s membership from 10 to 12 people, and our two children doubled the size of the Sunday School.

Shortly after I arrived, Rick and I went to talk with Bishop Swing about St. Gregory's purposes, about innovation, and our declared commitment to testing innovation beyond the limits of canons and rubrics (all this had been in the mission proposal and was begun with the blessing of his predecessor and diocesan convention).

Bishop Swing told us what he would expect of us as we continued to experiment beyond the new 1979 Book of Common Prayer and canons of the Episcopal Church. His one firm rule was that we were not to invite lay people preside at the Eucharist. For all other innovation or experiment he asked us to keep him well informed of what we were doing and the reasons we were doing it so he could always say, “Yes, I know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.” We were careful and deliberate to keep him informed.

Meanwhile, in clergy gatherings around the diocese our new bishop repeatedly said, "If you don't have a valid missionary reason, you must obey the rubrics. If you have a valid missionary reason, you must disobey the rubrics."

From 1978 through 1980, though we were not making an explicit to all to receive communion, nor had we planned to. But we had no printed or spoken announcement like 'all baptized Christians are welcome to receive.' People simply received if they put their hands out or passed the bread and wine on to the next person, and we quickly realized that our efforts to attract unchurched people to our Eucharist-every-Sunday community were paying off well enough that our regulars were frequently giving communion to an unbaptized visitor, the stranger standing next in the circle. Some of those visitors would return regularly and began to ask about membership. We’d seen that pattern before in the Yale chaplaincy.

Concurrently, as part of our teaching work, we began offering an eight week course called "Jesus and Paul, the Christian Source." It was our introduction to Jesus’ teaching and practice concluding with some Paul's more intriguing and caring interpretation of Jesus’ work. The course was based on our distillation of the best New Testament scholarship we could find. Norman Perrin’s Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (1967) significantly shaped “Jesus and Paul,” particularly his critical method, and argument and conclusions about realized eschatology and the prophetic/messianic sign of Jesus’ meals.

Perrin argued that it was Jesus’ enactment of Isaiah’s feast for all people’s, the divine banquet where God welcomed all, including the unworthy, the unprepared, the unfit, in sum all the ‘wrong’ people prompted some Jewish religious leaders and local Roman authority (for different reasons and different understanding of the threat Jesus posed) to work together in a conspiracy to stop and eventually kill him. “This guy welcomes sinners and eats with them,” Perrin concluded from language and other evidence was likely an accusation Jesus’ adversaries had hurled against him. Perrin’s conclusion has become a central consensus among Gospel scholars.

In our teaching of Jesus class we began to notice that our communion practice of getting all the lay people present to administer consecrated bread and wine to one another kept prompting all of us, clergy and lay participants to wonder what we should do with Perrin’s conclusion that the meal was Jesus’ crucial practice, literally what he did that took him to the cross. By 1981, what we were seeing in practice and hearing ourselves say in teaching finally provoked a conscious decision to make our communion invitation consistent with what we were reading in the Gospels and teaching in 'Jesus and Paul.'

We were quite aware of the rubrical and canonical boundary we were crossing. We were open about what we were doing. And to steady ourselves we looked to others in the tradition who crossed official, received sacramental boundaries like John Wesley instituting presbyteral ordination when he couldn’t get his bishop to give him the clergy he needed for his mission to England’s industrial poor, and like John Mason Neale brought up on court charges for rubrical and civil law violations introducing ritual richness, hymnody, colors in church, cross and candle on the table, etc., and like Bishop Ronald Hall ordaining Li Tim Oi's a priest, and finally like Li Tim Oi herself disappearing into communist China where she was needed to function as a priest, simply ignoring Canterbury’s insistence that she stop.

We were acting, as each of these before us had, publicly, offering our rationale for what we were doing, and still taking certain risks for the sake of what appeared (and yes, still does appear) to us to be faithful leadership.

Other early witnesses to the practice may have more stories to tell. So far as we know, the explicit invitation we began to make in 1981 at St. Gregory's, San Francisco was the first time in our Episcopal church that we made a deliberate, explicit invitation to all to communion. But others may have begun independently and perhaps before us. I’d welcome hearing those stories and expect the ‘how’ of those decisions will be significant too.

We’re all still forging the theology of communion and baptism (not to mention the confusing separate work on confirmation). Much of the theology must rest on interpretation or reinterpretation of scripture and tradition. But practice and the stories of practice belong too. Sara Miles’ telling the story of her first communion, conversion, beginning the St. Gregory’s food pantry and subsequent baptism has meant touched many and inspired other story telling.

As we continue to work, and talk and sometimes argue theology, I hope this account of a beginning - almost twenty years before Sara came to St. Gregory’s as an unbaptized stranger, received communion, and was converted - may inspire others to tell stories of when and how their practice of communion changed.

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

Read the Psalms. Write a psalm

By Leo Campos

What do we use language for? In a church setting how is language used? On Sundays what is th elanguage you use, and how does it compare to your Monday language? We tend to think of language as this “thing” that points to an experience. The experience (“Look at this tree”) is “out there” and language points us to it (“looking”, “tree”). But language itself is an experience. If you are trying to be fully present to this moment you should get lost in the experience of language itself.

Church language, BIble language is also a vaccine. It contains some agent (words) that resembles the disease (divorcing ourselves from God’s Reality, the Fall, Babel as well) . Vaccines are made from weakened or killed forms of the disease. So good word-vaccines are made of neutralized strong emotional statements (“dash the babies against the rock”). Strong vaccine! But it is neutral in the sense that it is not my experience or my actions which are described, so it gives me an “out” a way to not get too involved. And yet these are all actions I could (and probably would) commit in the right circumstances.

So through skillful use of language we can overcome the poison which is language. Thus a common exercise is to read the psalms over and over. They are a vaccine against our crass use of language. They refine and purify our own language until all we say and all we hear is psalm.

For example here is a vestry psalm (no resemblance to my wonderful colleagues at my vestry):

Have been having some issues with the leaders The vestry is full of barking dogs They prowl around growling, keeping everyone in line They bite with their teeth, they hit everyone with their rules They prod the people with their regulatory spears What are your “job duties” they ask? We will tell you what God says! O God I dislike interlopers who say “You are not godly unless...” Lord come quickly and rid us of all these rule-mongers Why can’t people just trust in your love? They email me harsh words, make demands But I want only to have space to be with you In the silence of the evening I want to sit Content as a chick waiting for you

And here's a psalm about looking forward to a massage:

After the work of days and days After the tending of data, planting of reports, the cycle of meetings Today O Lord I get to be tended. Please Lord God of Life do not let me be disappointed. Let their hands be skillful who will tend your servant Lord, I cry out to you let their hands be supple With a stronger body O lord I will sing for joy and give you praise!

You will find much in your own life which is psalmody, if you listen carefully to language, and become a prayerful presence to your own life.

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).

Slugs and suffering

By Richard Helmer

It's uncanny how the most casual of parenting errors can lead to the most profound lessons of life.

On the eve of Pentecost in gorgeous Northern Californian spring weather, we were in the midst of dinner when my wife noticed a small slug munching silently on a potted succulent outside on our apartment deck. Before we had thought things through, we were encouraging our six-year-old son in the age-old biology experiment involving slugs and salt.

In a much-beloved scene of the Harry Potter stories, Ron suffers the consequences of a broken wand when his spell back-fires. He ends up spending the better part of a chapter throwing up slugs. The half-giant Hagrid offers him a bucket, remarking the only way forward is to bring up every last slimy beast. We are captivated by the comic value, never wondering what becomes of the slugs. Slugs are icky, spineless, and alien to us. They are among the simplest and most dispensable of life forms on the planet, surely.

But following the deed involving salt and the little unwelcome garden pest, we were surprised when our son burst into tears. Daniel had not shed a single tear for his ant farm when the ants quite naturally died after several weeks. Nor did he cry over Ginger, our aged Chihuahua, when she at last passed on. But somehow the deliberate extermination of this slug, amongst the least of God's creatures, was qualitatively different.

As I tried to comfort our six-year-old, I remembered Jesus' words about salt and the awful distortion of that teaching we had just inadvertently shown our son by using the stuff of earthy goodness to inflict suffering on an unsuspecting mollusk. I recalled the cruel acts other children and I committed against spiders and pill bugs growing up in The Midwest. I remembered my long unlearned squeamishness about threading fishing hooks with wriggling earthworms. I recounted the shock I felt in the accidental drowning of my box turtle, Sid (I thought he could swim).

We briefly attempted the rather lame "adult" explanations about death being part of life. Yet no words but "I'm sorry" and a long, tearful hug would do over the pained death of this slug. Ladling irony upon irony was our reverently washing the remains of the creature away with a little green watering can - it bore the logo of the 2006 General Convention: Come and Grow.

Each day we exterminate millions of pests so millions of people can make a living and millions more may eat. But truly there was no harm in this single tiny slug doing what it was meant to: chewing unobtrusively on a single leaf of a healthy plant a hundred times its size. How easily we teach our children to be desensitized to suffering and cruelty.

True to resilient form, our six-year-old bounced back after about half an hour, though he shared with me just before his bedtime that he still felt sorry for the slug. That blessed, most holy of slugs! Long may it rest in the merciful hands of our loving Creator.

My wife and I spent the rest of the evening quite sobered by the experience. After all, if even half of us had the heart of our six-year-old, God knows the world would be a far more peaceful place.

Now we know, too.

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer is rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, Calif. His sermons and reflections have been published widely online, and he blogs about spirituality, ministry, Anglicanism, church politics, music, and the misadventures of young parenthood at Caught by the Light.

More noxious mail from England

By Jim Stockton

These letters from Lambeth are ticking time-bombs that threaten the life of the Communion. Yet, despite appearances to the contrary, it is not too late to rescue ourselves. We will, however, need to do the hard work ourselves. No 'Holy Father' is going to do this for us. And, as protestants and Anglicans, we would have it no other way.

The so-titled 'Secretary General of the Anglican Communion' has now announced his own letters, and the bizarre paradigm that Rowan Williams is attempting to create amongst the Churches of the Anglican Communion comes into greater focus. Canon Kearon's remarks are uncharacteristically brief, so one wonders if he himself is a bit dubious of the ABC's new affection for autocracy. However, inasmuch as Kearon bears the sweeping title of Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, and despite the fact that he serves merely as a bureaucrat in the hierarchy of the Church of England, he is compliant. Whether he will remain happily complicit is another question. Is it a divine paradox, one wonders, that this Archbishop who has been terribly preoccupied with fears of the dissolution of the Anglican Communion is now himself the greatest threat to his own Office?

Following the ABC's orders, Kearon notes that he 'has informed' the TEC representatives to ecumenical dialogs and to the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order that their continued participation has been denied. Specifically, Kearon describes that their membership 'has been discontinued' or 'has been withdrawn.' In line with Williams' ironically infamous Pentecost letter, the actions that Kearon describes are wholly unilateral. It is important to note here that this unilateralism is not enacted officially by or on behalf of the Church of England. These attempted actions are those entirely of Williams himself, attempting to use the titular responsibilities of his Office as actual powers of privilege. Williams' declarations, now reiterated through Kearon, are entirely outside any structure, formal or informal, that has ever been associated with Anglicanism. His attempts toward enforcement will surely prove to be bizarre.

For folks here in TEC who will now become agitated and distressed (and for those who will be delighted), it bears keeping in mind that in the real world, the ABC's declarations mean exactly nothing. The ABC has only limited authority in his own Church, the Church of England. Given his bizarre new behavior, it is now all the more important to remember that he has even less authority when it comes to inter-Anglican agencies. TEC may indeed elect not to send her representatives to these ecumenical dialogs and to IASCUFO. However, this would be mere recognition that these agencies are less Anglican and more exclusively Church of England. It will be recognition that the hierarchy of the Church of England is increasingly irrelevant to the wider Anglican world and much more so to the wider world of ecumenical and inter-faith conversation and ministry. It is important to note that it is Williams that is bringing about these stinging revelations; not TEC. If the Church of England, in the person of Rowan Williams, truly wishes to reject her partnership in mission and ministry with TEC, TEC will not be the party to suffer for it.

TEC will continue with its inter-faith and ecumenical dialogs, and its inter-Anglican ministries. Our Presiding Bishop makes this clear in her richly Anglican response to the ABC's pathetic Pentecost address. If TEC does elect not to send its representatives, it will not be because Williams has declared that thus and so it shall be. It will be because the ABC's attempts to foist upon us and upon the wider Anglican Communion a new and un-Anglican autocracy are growing hindrances and distractions to our Christian witness, obstacles to our ecumenical integrity. One hopes, though, that TEC will send her representatives anyway, reminding Williams that he has no authority, nor does the Church of England, to 'withdraw' memberships that do not belong to them. This approach would compel Williams' own Lambeth hierarchy to choose either to act in accord with Williams' efforts toward a bizarre new paradigm or to respect the true limits of both their own authority and his. Williams is implementing a strategy of trying to divide the Churches of the Communion against one another and so to conquer us all doctrinally and organizationally. By responding with respectful refusal to defer to his imperialistic whimsy, we may successfully turn this strategy around upon him and his Church of England bureaucracy and so, defeat his efforts. Williams won't like it; that's obvious. But whether he stays in Office, resigns, or is removed, even he will be the better for our rejection of his imperialistic impulses.

It is important that every Church now respond to Williams in a way that reminds him that the Office of the ABC has no authority unilaterally to define or to limit the membership of agencies that are Inter-Anglican, and that a remedy for his confusion may well be the constitutionalization of each such agency and committee. This approach would preserve the strengths of diversity on each committee, make each agency truly inter-Anglican and less predominantly Church of England, and relieve the beleaguered Williams of the paternal burden of having to continue to act unilaterally. It seems clear, though, that this ABC perceives nothing else about Anglicanism to be so of value as the illusory creation of a Roman-style hierarchy fit to his tastes and political convenience. Sadly, if the agencies of the Communion are in fact to be rescued from this attempt at autocracy, it seems apparent that they will need to be wrestled free from Williams' grip upon them. It seems unlikely that he will turn them over graciously to the custody of the wider Communion.

In any case, it is important that TEC, that Canada, and that all Churches of the Anglican Communion, whether they agree with TEC or with this particular ABC, speak up immediately and reject soundly this attempted new paradigm of autocracy. Perhaps some will look favorably upon Williams' efforts because at this time these efforts seem to serve their own homophobic or misogynist ideology. So, let everyone please recognize that, if permitted to stand, if accepted as valid, this new autocracy now being claimed by this Archbishop of Canterbury would be embraced by every one of his successors; every Church of the Communion would become the subject of this new autocracy; every Church would become its target sooner or later.

This is particularly important, I think, for those on the self-proclaimed 'conservative' side of those matters upon which Williams and the homophobic community are capitalizing for their play for power. For TEC to consider withholding its funding of the administrative expenses of those very agencies of the Church of England that are now attempting to restrain us is quite different from the consideration of a parish or diocese to withhold its funding of the Church of which it is a member constitutionally and canonically. There is no violation of vow or canon in a decision by TEC to withdraw its funding from foreign agencies who are attempting to withdraw our membership therein. There is no comparison between the violation of vows, whether sacred or constitutional or both, and the decision to respond in kind to a foreign organization that is trying to claim affiliation while simultaneously trying to silence our witness. Quite to the contrary, in Williams' original terms, TEC would simply accept Williams' "proposal" to withdraw from participation. To suppose that this withdrawal would not include withdrawal of funding would be amazingly foolish and arrogant on his part.

Under such an autocracy as Williams is now attempting to enforce, the ecumenical and global prestige of the Office of ABC would be diminished, the Church of England would become more artifact than actor on the world stage, and the Anglican Communion would become a closed chapter in history. And the behavior of Rowan Williams would be to blame; not that of TEC and not even that of the border-crossers. Neither TEC nor the homophobic community of Primates and bishops can compare to the threat to the Anglican Communion that is the increasingly bizarre and predatory behavior of the current Archbishop of Canterbury.

But it is not too late. In order to preserve autocephaly and autonomy as characteristic strengths of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, in order to preserve even the Office of Archbishop of Canterbury itself, every Primate and bishop, every member and friend, of every Church and diocese needs to speak up against the anomalous autocracy that this current ABC is seeking to impose upon us all. We must reject the propaganda inherent to these letters from Lambeth. We have only to refuse to react to them as though they are valid, and instead to act upon the virtues of Anglicanism that continue to challenge us all, and so to strengthen us all. Vocally, we need to reject his claims to such authority as is not his and to remind him and the Church of England that our funding of their bureaucracy can be withdrawn as quickly as he can put pen to paper. Practically, we need to act in ways that reflect this reality and so that simply ignore his claims and decrees as the sad and bizarre phenomena that they are. Williams has surrendered effectively his credible responsibility for the Anglican Communion. It belongs to the rest of us, as it always has. It's now incumbent upon us to behave accordingly.

The Rev. Jim Stockton is the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin, Texas.

Pentecost, young adult ministry, and the journey through adulthood

By Kathy Staudt

I celebrated Pentecost this year at the church where I was confirmed 35 years ago, St. John’s, Northampton. I was back in town for my 35th reunion at Smith College, and so very available to thoughts of “then and now” and continuities and changes in myself. Their rector, relatively new, is a woman -- something that was just over the horizon when I was at Smith in the early 1970’s.

I do remember well the dedication and yearning of one woman in that group, a few years ahead of me, who aspired to be ordained an Episcopal priest - Cynthia Plum. (It’s a small church - so if there are readers out there who know her you can send her this.) I was an awkward dancer in the liturgical dance group she led, and we performed at St. John’s and elsewhere. Raised a Presbyterian, exploring Quaker practice and Transcendentalist walks around the pond on Sunday mornings, I was drawn into the Episcopal church by friends who invited me to come play the guitar, and by clergy who wondered whether I’d be willing to direct a youth choir there. When I think of myself then, I realize that I was beginning on the same journey that I’m still on: at Smith I awoke to the love of learning, and the desire for God -- and my life’s work has continued to center on bringing those yearnings together. But I think I grew most at that time, not only through study, but by watching how other adults, a little older than I, were putting it together. That was where my formation began.

The Episcopalians, it seemed to me at the time, had language that described my experience and my longings - and it was the language of liturgy, newly embodied in green and striped “trial service” books that the cradle Episcopalians around me had mixed feelings about. But I was right there: YES, Eucharist centered: Yes: “again and again, you called us to return,” and “open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world around us.” Some of the hymns were familiar, some of the prayers -- and I learned the whole of Rite I by learning to sing it as a Folk Mass.

There were liturgical controversies whose point I couldn’t even understand. But what I was mostly doing was watching adults using those words, apparently serious about their faith, and I was being invited, without yet really knowing what I believed, to be one of those adults, leading the children’s choir. Being invited, with others my age, to share stories, often in the context of a Bible study group, helped me see that the questions I had weren’t the only questions -- that we all had questions and it was good to ask them. We showed up -- sporadically perhaps, but as regularly as we could -- because this seemed important and we were trying to explain to ourselves why. But equally important was participating in the life of the congregation and seeing how “real” adults lived their faith -- participating in church life, raising their kids, serving at the altar, caring about this because it was important. Sunday mornings, church suppers, for someone away from home but raised in a church, made the place feel like “home.” I’m interested to hear that now St. John’s serves pancakes to Smith students in their undercroft during exam week -- They served almost 500 students this past year.-- continuing that tradition of offering hospitality first, but probably also quietly continuing to bring students into contact with ordinary, “normal” people who are trying to work out church life and lives of faith, whether the students are actively interested in that or not.

Thirty five years later, the parish looks healthy and alive. The Pentecost service blended old and new -- “Hail thee Festival Day” and “Every time I feel the spirit.” Rood screen and choir pews were gone, the sanctuary opened up, and green carpet removed to expose beautiful hardwood floors. So the space was a little different, but it still felt like a place that had been “home. “ Still a pipe organ and a vested choir, but also a hominess and informality -- “then” and “now” nicely connected. In keeping with the rubrics of the 1979 prayer book, the day featured a child’s and an adult baptism and also a service welcoming 13-year olds on the “Journey to Adulthood.”

This got me thinking: We invite the middle-schoolers on the “Journey to Adulthood.” But in our 20’s and 30’s, we are beginning, have begun, our journey through adulthood. In curriculum development, I think we tend to see Young Adult Ministry as a kind of extension of Youth Ministry. Usually the younger clergy member is put in charge of “Youth and Young Adult Ministry.” But in our twenties and thirties, aren’t we already beginning the process of adult formation that we hope will continue throughout our lives? I wonder whether it makes a difference to think of Young Adult ministry this way. I’d be interested in what Café readers think.

Who I am now, worshiping at St. John’s on Pentecost 2010, was very much continuous with who I was in the 1970’s when I was awakening to so much that the church helped me understand. My formation happened as much through the life and liturgy of the church, and interaction with older Christians, as it did through interaction with people my age. ( The same was true, actually, at the Episcopal Church at Yale when I was there -- where the lives and explorations of older grad students and our clergy were a source of insight for me-- an opening to the way ahead. This may have been “just me,” but I don’t think so.) The mentoring and the example of older adults involved in church life was really important; and it seems to me that argues for inviting people in their 20’s and 30’s to participate in the existing church structure in every way we can, even as we also try to assemble groups in the same age and stage of life for fellowship and study. The mentoring is as important as the peer group. But we have to treat our “twentysomethings” like fellow adults - not as oversize “young people.”

There’s also a piece here about ritual and sacrament, which is what drew me to the Episcopal Church, and what I think we still offer, perhaps uniquely, to seekers in their 20s and 30s. Getting confirmed at age 22 was certainly “on target” developmentally for me: it was my way of claiming something about my identity and my path in life, of saying: “This is one part of the way I want to do life. This is the tradition I want to turn to for help in answering life’s big questions.” The ritual of confirmation was important to me. It was a way of launching my adult life of faith, claiming a path publicly, and saying: "Here I have found something real. Call it God, call it the voice of my truest self, call it koinonia/community." I was glad I hadn’t been confirmed at 14 in the Episcopal church because this rite remained available to me..

I had of course already been baptized as an infant, in an active Presbyterian family. In this generation, far fewer young adults have been baptized -- and as we renewed our baptismal covenant, at St. John’s on Pentecost this year, I found myself wondering whether there is an opportunity in the fact that Baptism is a rite available to those who have not been baptized as infants. Could adult Baptism could become a more widespread way of claiming faith identity, and the intention to try living this Way? The language of the Baptismal Covenant does reflect the kinds of decisions we are exploring, as we begin the journey through adulthood . But how often do we present it that way, to young adults? What if Baptism, or a renewal of Baptismal covenant, were to become a new and identifiable step available to people choosing an “adult” life of faith, without having been raised in a community that would have baptized them? Perhaps this is already happening: perhaps there will be a resurgence of “believers’ baptisms” in Episcopal churches in the next generation. That could be interesting.

In any case, I’m beginning to think that Young Adult ministry, and the claiming of Christian identity that has been part of it, is actually more properly thought of as the beginning of adult formation, the first unit, perhaps, in the “Journey Through Adulthood” that is lifelong formation. I wonder what difference it would make to think about Young Adult ministry in this way?

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.

But what about tradition?

By Emily M. D. Scott

The word “tradition” gets thrown around a lot, especially among folks who hang out at church. Sometimes people like to talk about “traditional” versus “contemporary” worship, or “traditional” versus “emergent” or “creative” worship.

The words can function as helpful shorthand, but they also create dichotomies. “Traditional” is a tricky word. Sometimes when we say “traditional,” what we really mean is “it looks like what I’m used to,” or, “it looks like what I’m expecting.” At St. Lydia’s, the church where I serve, we gather each week to share a sacred meal that we cook together and bless with an early Eucharistic prayer. We sing and pray and eat together. Every once in a while someone will refer to our practice as “non traditional” worship. I’ll remind them that our rituals are rooted in the earliest traditions of the Church. What we’re doing may not look like Sunday morning in most of the United States, but it’s a practice that dates back to the second century. It’s really traditional.

On top of our traditions around worship, there are also traditions around church culture: how we make decisions, how we’re structured, how our year is patterned. There are vestries and councils and synods and conferences and pastors and rectors and elders and deacons and youth ministers and altar guilds and committees and all the different ways we’ve come up with to function as a body. This too is part of “The Tradition,” and sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s weighty.

I’m invested in St. Lydia’s doing something new that draws on something ancient. And I’m invested in our congregation doing this with freedom and grace while taking part in a deep and sustaining relationship with the larger church. A new-ish congregant and I were discussing all of this over a beer in an outdoor café near Grand Central recently, and we came up with some imagery that I’ve found helpful:

Tradition is not a ball and chain that we’re trying to loose ourselves of. It is not a trap that we’re stuck in or garbage that we’re trying to throw away.

Tradition is not a net that’s pinning us down,
or a weight that’s holding us back.
It’s also not necessarily a foundation that we’ve decided to build on.

It’s not an object that we’re here to replicate.
We’re not building a factory where tradition will be produced or fabricated.
It’s not an heirloom we’d like to pass down to a future generation.

Rather, tradition is an ocean we are floating in.
We are held up by it, sustained by it,
effected by its nature and character,
drawn into its tides and currents.
Our job is to be buoyant,
to allow ourselves to float weightlessly in a vast sea of heritage.

Emily M. D. Scott is a candidate for ordination in the ELCA and the founder and Pastoral Minister of St. Lydia’s, a Dinner Church in Manhattan. She blogs at

The end of sex as we know it?

By Ellen Painter Dollar

A research team headed by an Australian veterinarian is predicting that, within a decade, human in vitro fertilization (IVF) success rates will near 100 percent, and that couples will choose IVF as their preferred method of reproducing, rendering sex a purely recreational activity. The predictions are based on assisted reproduction in cattle, which has achieved a nearly 100 percent success rate in producing viable embryos. Do these predictions about near-universal IVF usage, near-perfect IVF success rates, and the demise of natural conception (which the researchers deem highly inefficient) have merit?

A fertility expert quoted in the articles linked above is skeptical that human IVF could become efficient enough to replace natural conception. One hallmark of fertility medicine—despite the millions of dollars invested in procedures and the increasing numbers of patients accessing them—is how much of the IVF process remains a mystery even to experts. What leads to IVF success? Why do some eggs fertilize and some embryos implant, while others don’t? Such questions are far from having clear answers.

Besides the limits of fertility science, some experts argue that the grueling nature of IVF will prevent its widespread use. Last year, Mark Henderson, a science writer for the Times of London, named this reason, among others, in an article arguing that fears about becoming a culture in which parents can order up “designer babies” are overblown. In a response to Henderson’s article on my Choices That Matter blog, I argued that there are plenty of grueling, expensive endeavors that people willingly pursue because they perceive the desired outcome as worth short-term hardship. I don’t believe that the demanding nature of IVF is a strong enough deterrent to prevent its widespread use—especially when the intended result is a much-desired child.

It’s worth noting that many dystopian novels take place in societies where the connection between sex and procreation has been completely severed. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, for example, sex is encouraged, even for the young, as a social activity, and children are manufactured in a process designed for efficiency (there’s that word again) and the propagation of traits that support a consumer society. Lois Lowry’s young adult novel The Giver portrays a culture in which women possessing certain qualities (namely, a robust body and relatively low intelligence) are housed separately from everyone else and given the job of bearing children. The children are then matched with parents and raised in what appear to be traditional nuclear families—except that parents have no biological ties to the children they raise, and infants who do not meet cultural standards are euthanized (even for problems as basic as difficulty sleeping through the night). These are fictional worlds, but the power of art lies in artists' ability to uncover truths that are obscured by the daily minutiae of human life.

The foundation of Roman Catholic opposition to contraception and assisted reproduction is the belief that God designed sex and procreation to go together. Even if you believe (as I do) that God intended sex to be about more than making babies, the fact that sex can make babies, and that until recently, sex has been the only way to make babies, hints at God's intentions for parents, children and communities.

As Protestant bioethicist Gilbert Meilaender wrote in his classic Bioethics: A Primer for Christians, "That the sexual union of a man and a woman is naturally ordered toward the birth of children is, in itself, simple biological fact, but we may see in that fact a lesson to be learned…A child who is thus begotten, not made, embodies the union of his father and mother. They have not simply reproduced themselves, nor are they merely a cause of which the child is an effect. Rather, the power of their mutual love has given rise to another…Their love-giving has been life-giving; it is truly procreation." Of assisted reproduction, which separates the process of uniting sperm and egg from the act of love, Meilaender asserts that, "In our world there are countless ways to ‘have’ a child, but the fact that the end ‘product’ is the same does not mean that we have done the same thing."

I'm skeptical of the prediction that we'll all be using IVF to conceive babies in 10 years' time. But I think the question of whether such a development would be a benefit or a disaster for humankind is worth pondering—now, before technology makes it possible. Reproductive technology has been progressing faster than our ability or willingness to consider the moral questions it raises. When faced with provocative predictions about where fertility medicine might take us, let’s take the opportunity for our ethical reflection to catch up with technological developments.

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer whose work focuses on faith, parenthood and disability. She is writing a book on the ethics and theology of reproductive technology, genetic screening and disability, and she blogs at Choices That Matter and Five Dollars and Some Common Sense.

On not going to Arizona

By Lauren R. Stanley

For the past several weeks, I’ve been watching the debate and the reactions over the new immigration law in Arizona that basically makes it illegal to be a stranger in a strange land.

I know well what it is like for immigrants in that state, and I know the fears they face, because for nigh on five years, I have been a stranger in strange lands. I know what it is like to not fully belong, to stand out, to be easily tagged as “other.”

I know what is it like to be viewed with suspicion.

I know the fear of having police stop me and demand my papers, and the terrors that descended upon me when those same police told me that my papers were no good, despite the fact that they were.

I know what it means to be somewhere illegally, even though it was the right thing to do.

The Arizona laws touch me personally because I was supposed to go to there in September for a clergy conference. I wanted to go to Arizona, I really did, but then the immigration law was signed, and I thought to myself, “I just can’t go there.”

How could I – how can I – go to an eight-day clergy conference for my own respite, focusing on myself and my needs, my desires, when so many of my sisters and brothers are living in the same fear that I experienced for so long as a stranger in a strange land?

Once I made the decision, I notified the conference sponsor and was gratified to find out that I could move my conference to another time, another place, no questions asked. That made me feel better, but then I began to wonder: Had I done the right thing? The House of Bishops has decided to go ahead with its meeting in September in Arizona, in part to be a witness to what is happening there. Perhaps going to Arizona would have been the better thing to do, I thought.

And then I heard a preacher who opened the Scriptures for me in a new way, and I knew I had made the right decision. This preacher explained the significance of Jesus’ statement to his disciples, “A new commandment I give you, that you love on another as I have loved you.” This new commandment further refined the Double Commandment, the preacher said. The latter, to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” is hard to obey, she said, because we don’t always love ourselves. But this new commandment – to love one another as Jesus loved (and loves) us – well, that’s a whole new ballgame.

Listening to this preacher, I was struck to the core. I can’t go to Arizona, I thought. If I do, I’m not loving one another as Jesus loves me. Jesus’ command calls us to work toward bringing God’s kingdom – a kingdom of love – into being in this world, at this time.

I will not participate in a law that forces some of God’s beloved children to live in fear, that punishes people because of how God created them.

Basically, what it comes down to for me is this: There are no “us’s” and “thems” is God’s very good creation. Going to Arizona while this immigration law is in effect would make me an accomplice to the idea that indeed we can divide out the people, and declare some to be lesser human beings.

And I simply cannot do that.

My protest is very small, I know, and in the greater scheme of things will not affect a single thing in Arizona, except to deny the state some money. I know that Arizona is not going to change its draconian law based on what I do or not do.

But that’s not the important thing.

What is important is that I listen – very hard – and work – even harder – to love my neighbors as Jesus loves me. Not going to Arizona is the best way I know to live out that love.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary serving in the Diocese of Haiti.

Of the Trinity

By Bill Carroll

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.

We have just celebrated Trinity Sunday, and in the Gospel, we encountered some of the basic grammar of our faith. That day, of all days, it was important that we not get lost in abstractions, as easy as that would be. Doctrine is important, because it preserves the Church from certain fundamental distortions of the Gospel. But the purpose of doctrine is to illuminate the Gospel story—and not the other way around.

And so, let me note where the day's Gospel passage occurs in the overall narrative. It is taken from the lengthy farewell discourse in John. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem, where he will be crucified. He is preparing his disciples for his death and return to the bosom of the Father. He is preparing them for his reconciling work, by which he will make his enemies into friends, but which will come at first as a traumatic loss. There is no gateway back to God, except the narrow door of the cross—that is, the self-emptying and dispossessive love of Christ.

And he is promising them, in spite of what they are about to experience, that he will never leave them orphaned or alone. He will send them another Comforter, or Advocate. This Spirit, the Holy Spirit, will lead them into all Truth. Indeed, in John, the Spirit is the One through whom Jesus continues to dwell within us and among us, keeping his promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age.

The Spirit's ministry is described in nearly the same terms as that of Jesus himself, who is sent by the Father to declare the things he has seen and heard. Like Jesus, the Spirit is a faithful witness, who speaks only what belongs to Another. As Jesus puts it, he will take what is mine and declare it to you. Moreover, Jesus has been given everything (and only those things) that belong to the Father. As he notes in the passage, All that the Father has is mine.

Now, on one level, this points us to the fundamental achievement of the First Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, held in 325 and 381 respectively. Jesus is "of one Being" with the Father. He is homoousios or consubstantial with the Father. Against the Arian heresy, the Church maintains that Jesus is not an angel or God's highest creature--not even a demigod--but God's only Son our Lord, eternally begotten of the Father, different in person but not in substance with the One who sent him.

The passage also points us also to the fundamental equality of the Spirit, who is the Lord and Giver of Life. The Spirit is worshiped and glorified equally with the Father and the Son. The Spirit is no mere creature—but is instead God's own Spirit, the very love of God poured into our hearts to make us holy—to lead us into Truth. According to John, Jesus himself is that Truth. And it is for this reason that the Spirit is said to take the things that belong to Jesus and declare them to us. The Spirit is the One by Whom the precepts and promises of Christ are conveyed to us. But more fundamentally, the Spirit is the One by Whom we are united in faith and love with the Lord Jesus, so that in him, we might give glory to the Father.

Again, it all comes back to a story. The story that is told in many conflicting and sometimes contradictory voices in the Scriptures, summed up in the Creeds, and retold at each and every celebration of the Eucharist. Here it is in outline:

For all eternity, God is love. God is pure, abundant, self-giving love, perfectly shared among the Three. Out of goodness and love, God made the world and everything in it. God made it good, and God made us human beings very good, in and through the Word. And when we sinned and fell short of God's good and loving purpose, when we lost our freedom and sold ourselves to other masters, out of love, God sought us out and set us free. Again and again, God sent prophets to call us back to love. And finally, in these last days, God sent God's very own Son, Jesus the Christ, to live and die as one of us--to rise again as one of us—to reconcile us to the one God and Father of all. While await his return in glory, the Lord Jesus has sent his very own Spirit to live within us, to strengthen us to continue his work in the world, to purify us and form us ever more deeply into his likeness, a kind of first fruits of God’s Kingdom.

The Church remains highly imperfect. If you don’t believe it, look around you. Or better, look not to others, but engage in the more difficult work of self-examination. Look to the unfinished story of your own life and to the frustrations of life in human society. In the light of the Spirit, by whom God searches us and knows us, we come to know our open depravity and secret shames. We see the truth of our broken promises, our pride, our lust, our greed. We see our rapacious appetite disfigure earth and sky and sea. We see our rivalry and violence—our fear and hatred of our fellow human beings—our participation in the long, dark legacy of Cain.

Indeed, it can be painful work for us as the Spirit guides and stretches us—as the Spirit forms us into vessels fit for God’s abundant goodness. So far have we strayed from our created goodness. We do not easily withstand the gift of mercy—so rare it is in the world. We are threatened by the purity of God’s truth. And yet, in the Spirit, we share in Christ’s own life—in his very own relationship with the Father. In the Spirit, we share in Christ’s own love—for the neighbor, the sinner, the stranger, and the enemy—even for ourselves. And we are made joint heirs with him of all God’s promises, which exceed all we could ever ask or imagine.

In the Word and the Spirit, God holds nothing back. These are no creatures, but God’s own hands, present and active in the world. The Spirit takes the things that belong to Christ and gives them to us, just as Jesus shares with us the mystery of his Father’s ineffable mercy and love. Jesus is God from God, light from light, true God from true God. As much as we can—often more than we can—we receive from his hands as a gift—until at last his Spirit leads us into ALL TRUTH.

In that day, the living God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will be all in all.

And the earth shall be filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.

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.

The power hungry Rowan Williams

By Jim Stockton

One expects that it is abundantly clear now for even the most generously optimistic that the Archbishop of Canterbury has gone well beyond the jurisdiction of his Office in his pursuit of ecclesiastical authority. Rowan Williams' Pentecost Letter represents his first unilateral attempts to reduce punitively the participation of those Churches who have dared to ignore the recommendations of the 'Windsor Report' and have instead chosen to follow the governing Constitution and Canons of their respective Churches. This shows his continued disdain for and impatience with the fact that the Churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous and autocephalous. He demonstrates very clearly here his desire and intention to punish those Churches who dare to honor the limitations of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the boundaries of the English Church.

Williams rightly acknowledges that moratoria on consecration of 'persons whose manner of life might be offensive to others' (i.e. queer bishops), and on 'border crossings' by one Church into another are merely recommendations from 'consultative organs of the Communion.' He also couches his attempt to punish and restrain the participation of representatives of said Churches in terms of 'proposals' that he is merely suggesting. However, it is clear, and I think he intends it to be so, that he means these proposals to be regarded as rooted in some sort of para-papal power. He warns the offenders that the "particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future." Thus, there is no sense in his communication that these proposals shall be open to reflective consideration and debate. His point seems to be that when an autonomous and autocephalous member Church of the Communion dares to "decline to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion," that Church shall be punished through a reduction in the participatory status of its representation on inter-Anglican Commissions, Boards, and ministries.

Williams makes a facetious case that members of such Churches are somehow unable to represent 'the Communion.' He deliberately obfuscates the fact that no individual member of any such Commission represents the Anglican Communion. He ignores the fact that, to the contrary, the participation of diverse views around controversial concerns is precisely what makes Anglicanism a unique gift to the wider world. Instead, it appears that he would prefer to shrink and whither this Anglican virtue in favor of an enforced greater unanimity through a silencing of dissenting voices. How very sad. How very un-Anglican.

Further, it is not merely the case that the Archbishop is seeking to reduce the presence of dissenting Churches on Committees related to ecumenical dialog. More significantly, he is attempting to remove the determinative presence of Churches whose actions he disapproves from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO). Quite in line with his earlier proposal of a two-tiered structure for the Communion, he now 'proposes' that the disapproved Churches have their representatives reduced to 'consultant status.'

For those who inevitably will claim that the Archbishop is not playing for power, please note his acknowledgment of the fact, "other bodies [that] have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee"... "are governed by constitutional provisions" and so "cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and [so] there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected." His presumption and assertion ring quite clearly here: one person's opinions do and should govern just who is 'allowed' to participate on IASCUFO and on other non-constitutional groups, and those are the opinions of one person, the Archbishop himself. Again he warns, with regard to these other bodies still protected from his opinions by their constitutions, that he "shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011." In other words, he will seek some sort of declaration from the Primature that the representation of these Churches on the ACC and the Standing Committee have been reduced. Again, how sad, and how very un-Anglican.

All of this makes clear, I suggest, that Rowan Williams rejects the premises that led to the birth of the very Church that he now serves. The Church of England came into being through a rejection of foreign influence upon the governance of the Church in England. The Church in practice and in decree declared itself independent of the interference of Rome. Ironically, sadly, and paradoxically, the Archbishop of Canterbury now further seeks to secure for himself the role of 'Anglican Pope.' His capitulation to the homophobic community is the operative cause behind all this, of course. Had he chosen in 2004 to stand for the Anglican and protestant principles of autonomy and autocephaly, he would never have painted himself so thoroughly into this shrinking corner as he now finds himself. Once regarded as a person of principle, he again demonstrates his political prostitution. All other adverbs aside, the ABC's grab for power is shockingly un-Anglican.

Someone may note that Williams at least appears to be penalizing the 'other side' as well, in that the Churches with homophobic Primates and Houses of Bishops are also being proposed for reduction in status. I respond first with skepticism that these Churches will ever actually suffer reduction in the status of their representation. The ABC likely fully expects TEC and the Church of Canada to be obedient compliant children Churches of Mother England. He likely also knows that the homophobic Churches will simply ignore the ABC here as they have in the past whenever his declarations have been inconvenient to them (and how rare indeed that has been!). So the likelihood is very slim that under Williams' 'proposals' the homophobic Churches will suffer any real or sustained reduction in participation. This is simply because acceptance of Williams' proposals is, for now, voluntary. This betrays yet further evidence that the ABC is determined to ram through the proposed 'Anglican Covenant,' especially section four, so that he and the proposed Standing Committee can enforce unanimity, limit diversity, and end dissent. Second, to equate the violation of jurisdictional boundaries (i.e. border crossing by other Churches into America and Canada) with the rejection by TEC and the Church of Canada of discrimination against LGBT persons is profoundly myopic. Such distortion is possible only because Williams chooses to perceive only the inconvenience to his legacy presented by the witness of TEC and Canada; he chooses to focus on the institution and organization; he chooses to ignore Christ in those persons who continue to be forbidden by this same institution their rightful full participation in the life and ministry of the organism that is the Church. Shame on him. It is not just un-Anglican; it is un-Christian.

Williams is taking the Office of ABC into territory that it has never occupied. One almost expects him soon to depart for Rome, attempting to take as many purported ’Anglicans’ as he may persuade to follow. He is leaving himself very little option. Short of profound metanoia or resignation of his Office, it will not surprise me that this ABC will soon be subject to some form of vote of no confidence, either by his own Church or by the Primates. His silly example of infant baptism as a comparative controversy shows his utter loss of perspective. No Church of the Anglican Communion has been reduced in participatory stature because of minority belief around infant versus adult baptism. Quite the opposite, continuing and fully mutual conversation among anyone interested in the topic has enabled them to continue the discussion and to serve alongside one another with no threat of reduction in status. It bears noting and oft repeating that, even as much as many of us rightly object to the failure of some African Churches to respect the jurisdictional integrity of TEC, we have never, ever, asked for the silencing of their voices. To the contrary, TEC has sought instead simply to find an ear for our own defense that might rival the ear that the ABC has quite generously provided for the homophobic Churches. I urge TEC and Canada to rise up and reject these absurd proposals from Williams, not only for our sake but also for the sake of those with whose opinions and practices we most disagree. There is nothing Anglican, nothing Christian, about silencing dissent and punishing disagreement. Our own silence on this new set of proposals from Williams will be dangerous to all. Therefore, I pray our House of Bishops and House of Deputies will speak out soon on the absurdity and truly bizarre ecclesiology represented in the ABC's latest diatribe. Somebody needs to speak up for those voices of Christ being threatened with enforced silence. We need to speak up while we still can.

The Rev. Jim Stockton is rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Austin, Texas.

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