Tiwwadi: Between Inertia and Incarnation

By Derek Olsen

Though some may not be familiar with the term, everyone who has spent much time with a Christian congregation of any stripe is familiar with the concept of “Tiwwadi.” No, it’s not a term from an African language like “Ubuntu” or “Indaba” (though to my untrained eyes it could be…). Rather it’s an acronym for an English phrase which I have no doubt is uttered just as frequently in other languages by tongues across the world. Usually preceded by a “But…” it lives on the lips of church matriarchs and patriarchs, altar guilds, flower guilds, vestries, you name it: “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

Now—let’s be honest. Clergy and church leadership types usually invoke this line with a snicker recognizing it as a delaying tactic that someone has deployed in an attempt to not do something we want them to. But I’d like to move beyond the snicker for a moment. Indeed, I’ll even suggest that tiwwadi has some lessons embedded in it that we’d do well to acknowledge.

The first lesson is that tiwwadi isn’t just an excuse—it’s is an evolved defense mechanism, a protective mechanism, that we would do well to heed. Of the things that the Episcopal Church believes about the faith, one of them is that it was, in fact, “delivered” to us. The quotes here aren’t scare quotes but are translation quotes. In his discussion with the Corinthians about the Eucharist, St. Paul appeals to what they learned about the faith which was based on what he learned about the faith: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed…” (1 Cor 11:23). The Greek word for “delivered” here is paradidomi; Jerome, when he translated St Paul’s words into Latin uses tradidi which is the precise root from which we get “Tradition.” We believe that we stand in direct and organic continuity with a line of teachers and preachers of the faith that stretch back through Cranmer, Jerome, and Paul to Jesus. We didn’t make it up—the faith has been delivered to us. For this line of delivery to function effectively over two thousand years, it requires a certain healthy conservatism, a stasis, an inertia, that resists easy and idle changes. Snicker as you will, tiwwadi is one of the ways that our tradition preserves itself.

Now, not all inertia is good inertia. (And let’s not cram the comment box pretending that’s what I’m saying either.) There have been plenty of clarifications to what has been handed down that have enabled us to better proclaim the Gospel. All I have to do is look at my ordained wife to remember that. We’d do well to remember that paradidomi, the verb Paul uses to “deliver” his teaching is the same verb that Judas does to Jesus, “delivering” him to those who will judge and kill him. (Sobering reminder isn’t it: sometimes a “delivery” can be the life-blood of a movement, while in other contexts it can be its betrayal…)

That having been said, if we had a penny for every dumb idea by a bishop, priest, deacon, or lay leader that had died a silent death due to tiwwadi we’d likely be able to pay off the national debt. A lot of things that “seemed like a good idea at the time” have been smothered by this inertial force and, looking back at some of the things that I’ve suggested in congregations, that’s not a bad thing by a long stretch. Indeed, it’s by suppressing those spontaneous, hare-brained notions arising from transient inspirations or fads that tiwwadi does much of its best work. There is a logic of the ages embodied in tiwwadi that inhibits careless tampering.

So, here’s my first major point: if someone calls “Tiwwadi” on you, take a step back and think carefully. What inertia are you trying to overcome—an inertia born of stagnation, or an inertia that is preserving our Gospel proclamation? When we starting looking from this perspective, we begin to recognize that a systematic dismantling of a congregation’s tiwwadi mechanism may accomplish more harm than good in the long run.

The second lesson that tiwwadi can teach us is that it plays an important role in the endless, inevitable, and necessary negotiation between the catholic and the incarnate. Let me explain this by way of a classical case of tiwwadi. St Augustine’s Letter 54 to Januarius recounts a discussion that he had between his sainted mother, St Ambrose, and himself. Upon moving from Africa to Milan, St Monnica was quite troubled at what she perceived as a departure from proper piety—the Milanese church did not fast on Saturdays as her African Church had. They didn’t do things the way she’d always seen them done.To help his mother out, St Augustine asked St Ambrose which was correct: to fast or not fast? The response from St Ambrose wisely avoids the simple either/or and moves to the underlying principles:

“When I visit Rome, I fast on Saturday; when I am here, I do not fast. On the same principle, do you observe the custom prevailing in whatever Church you come to, if you desire neither to give offense by your conduct, nor to find cause of offense in another's.” (Ep 54.3)

As the letter unfolds, Augustine states the principle that if neither Scripture nor the Universal Church command or condemn something—thinking particularly of pious practices—then Christians should observe the customs as they find them. To do otherwise is to stir up unnecessary trouble that harms the faith through matters that are peripheral to it. (See in particular section 5/Chapter 4.)

That is, at the heart of the faith stands its catholic basis: those things that are believed and done by all. However, Christian communities are inherently local: we live, believe, work and love in particular times and places. The faith incarnates itself in different ways in different local communities—and this is just fine as long as those ways do not threaten our catholic identity. In its best forms, tiwwadi preserves this principle of incarnation, the universal made comprehensible and accessible in its particularity.

Speaking from my own experience, I’ve been worshipping in my current congregation for about a year. Some things are common and familiar to me. Others are part of the common Anglo-Catholic heritage that both the church and I claim. Still others I find just plain odd. I could rail and protest. I could keep doggedly doing my own thing, supporting it by the fact that this is how I learned it at Smokey Mary’s or Phil-on-the-Hill or one of the other many churches I’ve worshipped in my life. But I don’t. When I dig deeper, I find something of the particularity of this parish, of its foundations in South Baltimore’s working class, of its ministry to the Polish and Slavic immigrants who filled its pews in the early 20th century. I learn too of my own priest’s formation in a related parish in central Baltimore. Other echoes point to the Missal tradition which flourished among the Anglo-Catholics of this region. Still others are silent reminders of a long-tenured alcoholic priest who left the parish scarred. In this place, tiwwadi functions as a vehicle for our own history, our own incarnate experiences of not just the faith, but the journey this faith community has traveled.

Tiwwadi isn’t always a cop-out or a simple appeal to the past for the past’s sake. Sometimes it’s a rehearsal of who we are now because of where we’ve been together. And this recounting can leave its marks in the strangest places—where water is kept during the service, an acolyte’s extra trip to the altar to return the deacon’s glasses, why we lay out the green French vestments after Epiphany rather than the English ones. You may not know who left the oddly disturbing candlesticks for the Lady Chapel in Lent, but Marge may well remember and tell you the story that goes along with them. Efforts to change these relics and recollections may be efforts to move the story forward—or to erase it altogether. Some customs are healthy to release, but others carry key clues to who we are in this time, this space, this place of grace.
Again, this defense of locality shouldn’t be misread as a license for anything goes.

Anyone who knows the Anglo-Catholic movement with any depth knows that one of its chief trials is rampant idiosyncrasy. There are things that all of us do need to hold and do together. As Episcopalians, we hold the catholic faith as written and prayed in our authorized Books of Common Prayer and our customs ought to be in line with that theological system.

Beyond that, though, we do well to remember the advice that St Ambrose gave to Sts Monnica and Augustine: observe the prevailing customs. Do it the way we’ve always done it. Sure, sometimes it’s stagnation and an unwillingness to change, but sometimes it’s wisdom, identity, and corporate memory.

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

Anglican Covenant Week: The covenant before us is not the covenant we need

During Anglican Covenant Week at Episcopal Café, we are featuring three essays from The Genius of Anglicanism, a study guide produced by the Chicago Consultation. This is the third of three articles. The full study guide, which includes eight essays, each followed by study questions, is available here Daily Episcopalian will resume after the Memorial Day Weekend.


By Winnie Varghese

I believe in a high, expansive and dreamy ecclesiology. We Anglicans are nothing less than the church of God in the tradition of the ancient Celts and Syrians, less dreamily but importantly--the fragments of the British Empire and all of the continuing national churches in their local expression of God among us. The church stands on earth as a holding place of a glimpse of the eternal city. The institution should be magnificent, egalitarian, lavish with care and justice, sweet smelling, enlivening to the senses, proving to every mortal who encounters it that the kingdom of God is for her or him. Our communion should be the statements of our most extravagant dreams of the holy city and nothing less, this generation’s attempt at building cathedrals. The gift of communion to us is relationships, across borders we might not otherwise cross: I believe that it is in these holy places of unexpected, unnecessary, frivolous, ambitious—difficult to believe we have anything real to offer but awe —conversations that God at work in us, locally, begins to be God at work in the world, globally.

A few years ago, while serving as chaplain at Columbia University, I was asked to entertain the bishop of Madras of the Church of South India (CSI) one Monday morning. I showed the bishop around campus, Union Seminary and Morningside Heights. Over lunch he asked who would be coming to their diocesan convention the following year from New York. He asked because he said he was interested in how we in the Episcopal Church in New York worked with young people to develop self-confidence and self-esteem. He thought we might send some people to offer trainings for teachers at the diocesan schools in Madras. There are wonderful educators in India, but he was interested in bringing people in from far away, people who had no pre-conceived notions about the “place” or opportunities available to certain children, and who therefore might be able to generate a different kind of conversation altogether.

The young people that the bishop was talking about were Dalits, children from what used to be known as the untouchable community, who despite some opportunities for education and economic mobility, still found, particularly in rural communities, that they were subject to prejudice, abuse and violence. The bishop said rates of unemployment, alcoholism and suicide remained high in these areas. Children com- ing to diocesan schools still lived in a society in which their lives had little or no value to those outside of their own communities. These schools gave special priority to educating Dalit children. In some cases, they were the best schools available, and because Dalit students were admitted, those from other groups who enrolled their children were making a public commitment to equality. It sounded quite revolutionary and prophetic to me. Of course, we in New York would be radically changed ourselves if we were able to participate in such a process.

My parents are from South India, far from Madras, yet from a similar kind of community, so this issue had special resonance for me. Madras is a diocese known for stepping boldly forward in support of Dalit people. It has its troubles like any diocese, but, just as the Church in South Africa became known for its leadership in the anti-apartheid movement even without the support of its entire membership, so the Diocese of Madras is famous in India for electing the first Dalit bishop and for its outspoken advocacy for Dalit education and equality. As with race in the U.S., some in India would say it’s an old- fashioned issue, one resolved decades ago, and that in speaking of prejudice against Dalits, one is speaking to old stereotypes of India. That has not been my experience.

For me, conversations such as the one the bishop and I were having that morning are at the heart of what we mean when we speak of an Anglican Communion. The only reason the bishop and I were in conversation was that I was a chaplain at a university under the authority of the Episcopal Bishop of New York, who is the obvious primary relationship in New York for the bishop of Madras of the Church of South India. The conversation would not have happened otherwise.

As the bishop and I had been talking that morning, I remembered that one of the horrors of caste prejudice was that a person who is a Dalit would have no reason to believe that another Indian would not hold caste prejudices. I have friends who have told me stories of being asked to drink water outside, or eat on disposable plates away from the central table in “mixed” company—even in church settings. The bishop had taken a risk, or might have been watching to see what I as a clueless Indian American would do as we came to the time for tea and lunch. I invited him and the priest with him to my apartment for tea; that was when he invited us to Madras. I was granted the privilege of treating my brothers in Christ with dignity, casually, and in doing so illustrated a way of being that the bishop thought might be illustrative in his diocese.
Later that morning, I asked the bishop what he thought of Gene Robinson’s consecration, what the implications had been in Tamil Nadu. I found it hard to ask. I did not want to offend him. Maybe I was inviting him to treat me with the same dignity I was trying to offer him. Even though we were just talking, and he had only been gracious, I was scared.

I must have looked nervous, because he smiled and asked me what I thought. I said that I thought it was a step towards greater justice in the church. He smiled and said, “Why should it matter what I think about how the church in America selects its leaders?”

The conversation in my apartment that morning supported my belief that there is unrealized potential in transformative relationships within our Anglican Communion. It would be quite something if we generated a document that strengthened or organized some of that potential, but I don’t think we’ve seen that document yet.

The proposed covenant we have in front of us does seek to be a foundational document for Anglicans across national borders, specifically the British Commonwealth and the Episcopal Churches in the Americas and Europe. The timing of the covenant project is in conjunction with the Windsor Process and the election and consent to the election of Bishop Robinson in New Hampshire. The idea of a covenant has been around for awhile, but the document we have was created in response to these specific ten- sions. It has been clear for some time that as the new, primarily nationally defined, churches of the former British Empire come into their own, the diversity of practice and polity raised the question of what we hold in common.

In some provinces the Anglican church is the national church, in others it essentially a Protestant denomination or a part of an ecumenical national church. The church in the United States is one of the most developed for the simple reason that the Revolution happened in 1776 and most of the other churches achieved autonomy in relation to independence movements in the 20th Century. In some nations, the Anglican church is a serious player in national politics and holds significant property: schools and hospitals as well as historic buildings, in some places it is associated with those who might claim to miss the good old days of Empire, in some places it is a tiny community of ex pats, in others it is a haven for unmarried mothers, indigenous persons, refugees and others rejected by the Catholic and Evangelical churches. It is this diversity we are attempting to define in the proposed covenant.

A good reason to have a covenant would be to define our communion as something other than the church that trailed the British East India Company’s engorgement of the Queen’s purse. We are, of course, much more than that. The Church in Southern Africa models for the rest of us civic engagement and social transformation from a place of profound spirituality and conviction. The churches in the Americas raise the voice of indigenous people and refugees. The Church in India stands with Dalits, slum dwellers and indigenous people. The churches in Africa raise the spectre of national indebtedness, the under-valuing and stripping of national resources, the implications of international aid tied to transnational corporations and the faces and families of those dying of hunger, thirst and disease as the cost of corporate profit. The church throughout the world, at times, stands with the poorest, those dispossessed of land or identity. The poorest of the poor. I think it is exactly this standing on the side of the least, everywhere, that leads us to the breaking point. But these conflicts are the essence of who we are. They call us to greater honesty and compassion in our personal living. We need a covenant that helps us to stand in those places in which it costs us personally to hear our brothers and sisters and guides us through ways to understand one another.

I have a lot of respect for the difficulty of the task of those who had to generate this document, but I think it has failed to capture, honestly or aspirationally, who we are or hope to become. As troubling as some of our origins are, I don’t think we can afford to lie about them. Truth telling would be step one in creating real relationships. The covenant glosses the truth in claiming that “we claim our heritage” in the UK and Ireland, acknowledging our origins honestly and creating language that moves us towards covenanted relationships could be quite powerful. The Anglican Communion is a legacy of imperialism that decimated the natural resources of a significant portion of what is now the third world where people remain mired in economic slavery to London and New York (and increasingly China) until Jesus returns. A covenant that acknowledged these international realities and worked to generate relationships or structures to overcome, not ignore, these histories would be a document radical and gospel-truth-telling enough to be worthy of calling a covenant.

On the other hand, things being what they are, those living in extreme poverty directly related to patterns of theft and aid are very often served by the local church. As self-serving as it sometimes seems, this is what we often call mission. It would be the work of God to begin to understand that most of our “mission” is about restorative justice. That kind of work would require covenanted relationship.

Standing alongside the poor on the Indian subcontinent or in Africa a good Christian must wonder how and why such profound suffering exists in a world where so many—such as us—live so well. The history of how this came to be is fairly straightforward. The crippling international order of debt, aid and relief remain rooted in the fallacy that developing countries must pay for their freedom from empire. Haiti is a prime example. Haiti’s independence treaty was written as a loss of “property” from France, a property loss the Haitians have been forced to repay. The legacy of empire—our legacy as the Anglican Communion—is filled with contracts like that, private and public that have crippled church, state and civil society internationally creating dependencies through which we can both pity the weakness and corruption of the developing state and build enormous agencies to placate the most pressing current need. Yes, there has always been disparity and suffering on this planet, but isn’t one of our gifts as a communion to open eyes to the effects of historic bigotry, now that we have the distance to consider it as the legacy of a generation past? That seems difficult and worthy enough to require a covenant.

But such a covenant is not on the table.

The Anglican Church in those countries in which the church is closely allied with government wishes for a powerful, testosterone- addled ecclesiology that can compete with Rome or the megachurch movements. The church in those places where it is in opposition to government or is sidelined or insignificant and stands with the poor couldn’t be bothered with this business and seems to sign whatever document appears, assuming the best and understanding the utter impossibility of enforcement locally. We in the U.S. are indignant that anyone would try to tell us what to do, and the chiefs of the Church in England fail to understand that we in the U.S. experience their preferred mode of governance as hypocritical. To most of us, this covenant appears to be an obvious attempt to appease those who see how weak our system is. It is weak. Nostalgia is not holding us together. Yet, those who are attempting to strengthen it by this document, I think, will destroy what little is left in their attempt to create a conformity and a unity where there is none.

We must be very careful. In the North and West we support institutions that crush our brothers and sisters in the South. Some of the corporations that employ our faithful members are stripping away local autonomy and resources in other parts of the world. The list is almost every corporation you can name: Nestle, big oil, Cargill, Monsanto, Dow. We make our money as hard-working Americans and keep our endowments in good shape as faithful vestry and board members in the U.S., but these same corporations are the agents of the defeat of local economies around the world, driving people to refugee camps and urban slums, where we might create an outreach program to serve them or send our children on a mission trip. What the covenant process gets very right is that we are already living in these webs of relationship internationally, and it would be great to figure out how to do it as Jesus might.

So, how do we do this? I’ve missed every deadline on this essay, because I don’t have an alternative proposal, but I can say that I don’t think the answer lies in stating the obvious: the creeds, scripture, the approved interpretation of texts, and governance. We already have these things in place, all of us. These are our least common denominators. If you divide us by them, you’ll get a whole number, we all already agree upon, and it does not make any difference to where we find ourselves today. While essential, these structures and documents offer a defi- nition of communion so minimal as to be almost cynical. They accomplish the purpose of unity, while all but encouraging provinces to seek discipline against one another when they take a prophetic stance on behalf of the least among us. For example, under this covenant, the Episcopal Church could argue for discipline of the Church in Nigeria because Texaco is a well-respected and essential institution in the U.S., and protests by Nigerian Anglicans in response to Texaco oil spills contaminating their rivers and destroying their livelihood is an improperly po- litical use of church authority that threatens the stability of an important U.S.-based institution.

I thought, when I began this essay, that I was going to write something about prayer as the thing that holds us together, but in my experience we actually pray very differently and often mean very different things, even when our words are the same. Prayer, like everything else is local. Though tied to the same foundational texts and creeds, prayer is a profoundly local experience influenced by local imagination, local history, the memory of ancient religious prac- tices and the nuances of language. In prayer I am an American person. The breviary of Episcopal monastic communities does it for me. I was raised on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and I love it enough to enjoy experimenting with it to further its imaginative possibilities, but I do not think that it is what holds us together, even in the United States.

The gospels are about so much more than nostalgia and familiarity. I believe the hope in us that these sort of “common” experiences of prayer develop is realized when we stand with the least among us—whether least is defined by mental illness, addiction, poverty, race, hunger, accent, sexual orientation, thoughtfulness, or immigration status. It is in opposing whatever sort of oppression flourishes in our local context, that we are most truly the church in the world. This work unavoidably brings us into conflict with those who believe that the marginalized and their ways of being are not the ways of God. That is the nature of the gospel. The good news, especially when it is good news for those who need a word of liberation, will not be such good news to those who hadn’t yet thought those people should be free. If standing in the place in the world that our prayer calls us to stand as witnesses to God at work among us is a punishable offense by Section Four of the Anglican covenant, I suspect this covenant gets something wrong. And I can guarantee, that we will all find ourselves there, camped out in Section Four, as long as the Spirit is alive in the church.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese is priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s-Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City. She serves on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and the board of directors of the Episcopal Service Corps and was the voting secretary of General Convention in 2009.

Anglican Covenant Week: We are ignoring the covenant we've already got

During Anglican Covenant Week at Episcopal Café, we are featuring three essays from The Genius of Anglicanism, a study guide produced by the Chicago Consultation. This is the second of three articles. The full study guide, which includes eight essays, each followed by study questions, is available here.

By Gay Jennings

So, it appears the Anglican Communion already has a covenant!

Resolution D027
The 77th General Convention meeting in Anaheim, California in 2009 adopted Resolution D027 titled “Five Marks of Mission.” 1 (to see the footnotes and appendices, click Read more at the conclusion of this essay)

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention adopt the following “Five Marks of Mission” as articulated by the Anglican Consultative Council and addressed to the Anglican Communion:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust strutures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recommend the Five Marks of Mission as the five top strategic priorities for the Episcopal Church, and request Program, Bud- get, and Finance and the Executive Council to center the budget for the 2013-2015
triennium around these strategic priorities; and be it further

Resolved, That Convention recommits The Episcopal Church to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ with the provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion in keeping with “A Covenant for a Communion in Mission” commended by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC13-2005); and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the General Convention communicate the substance of this resolution to: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates, and the leadership of the churches and provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Resolution D027 adopted the Five Marks of Mission for The Episcopal Church and recommitted The Episcopal Church to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion in keeping with the Covenant for Communion in Mission.
So where did this covenant, which seems to have hidden in plain sight, come from, and what would it mean if the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion truly embraced the Five Marks of Mission as their top priorities?

The Five Marks of Mission were developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990 and promulgated to the Anglican Communion. 2 The five marks are intended to lay a foundation and promote a common understanding of what it means to participate in God’s mission to a world desperately in need of Good News.

Shortly after the Five Marks of Mission were distributed to the Anglican Communion, MISSIO, the Standing Commission for Mission of the Anglican Communion, which met between 1994 and 1999, reviewed the marks as part of its work. Its report, Anglicans in Mission, urges provinces and dioceses to develop or revise their own scriptural understandings of mission:

“Whatever words or ideas each local expression of our Church uses, MISSIO hopes that they will be informed by three convictions:

• We are united by our commitment to serving the transforming mission of God.
• Mission is the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people of God.
• Our faithfulness in mission will be expressed in a great diversity of mission models, strategies and practices.” 3

Several years later, in preparation for the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-13), the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism4 (IASCOME) developed the Covenant for Communion in Mission to build on the Five Marks of Mission. The covenant was commended to the provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting5.

The text of the Covenant for Communion in Mission is printed below in bold with IASCOME’s commentary in plain text.

A Covenant for Communion In Mission6 This Covenant signifies our common call to share in God’s healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken and hurting world.

In our relationships as Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, we live in the hope of the unity that God has brought about through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The preamble recognises that the world is one that has been graced by God but that God’s work through Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to seek to heal its hurts and reconcile its brokenness. The preamble reminds us that as Christians we are called to share our relationships in the mission of God to the wider world, bearing witness to the kingdom of love, justice and joy that Jesus inaugurated.

The nine points of the covenant are predicated on Scripture and the Sacraments providing the nourishment, guidance and strength for the journey of the covenant partners together.

Nourished by Scripture and Sacrament, we pledge ourselves to: 1) Recognise Jesus in each other’s contexts and lives

The nine points begin with Jesus Christ, the source and inspiration of our faith and calls for those covenanting for mission to look for, recognise, learn from and rejoice in the presence of Christ at work in the lives and situations of the other.

2) Support one another in our participation in God’s mission

Point two acknowledges that we cannot serve God’s mission in isolation and calls for mutual support and encouragement in our efforts.

3) Encourage expressions of our new life in Christ

Point three asks those who enter into the covenant to encourage one another as we develop new understandings of our identities in Christ.

4) Meet to share common purpose and explore differences and disagreements

Point four provides for face-to-face meetings at which insights and learnings can be shared and difficulties worked through.

5) Be willing to change in response to critique and challenge from others

Point five recognises that as challenges arise changes will be needed as discipleship in Christ is deepened as a result of both experience in mission and encounters with those with whom we are in covenant.

6) Celebrate our strengths and mourn over our failures

Point six calls for honouring and celebrating our successes and acknowledging and naming our sadness and failures in the hopes of restitution and reconciliation.

7) Share equitably our God-given resources

Point seven emphasizes that there are resources to share--not just money and people, but ideas, prayers, excitement, challenge, enthusiasm. It calls for a move to an equitable sharing of such resources particularly when one participant in the covenant has more than the other.

8) Work together for the sustainability of God’s creation

Point eight underscores that God’s concern is for the whole of life--not just people, but the whole created order--and so we are called to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

9) Live into the promise of God’s reconciliation for ourselves and for the world

This last point speaks of the future hope towards which we are living, the hope of a reconciled universe--in which ‘God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ for which Jesus taught us to pray.

We make this covenant in the promise of our mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ.

The conclusion provides a strong reminder that we need each other. We are responsible for each other and we are mutually interdependent in the Body of Christ.

Thus, the five marks are not intended to be static, but rather to provide each church of the Anglican Communion with a framework for “developing or revising its own understanding of mission which is faithful to Scripture.”7

In keeping with the Covenant for Communion in Mission, The Anglican Church of Canada did a masterful job in using the Five Marks of Mission as the foundation for its church wide strategic plan, "Dream the Church Vision 2019: A Plan for the Anglican Church of Canada." The Most Rev. Fredrick J. Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, stated “These marks speak to our true vocation as evangelists, storytellers, caregivers, advocates for peace and justice, and good stewards of God’s creation.” 8

The Anglican Church of Canada’s explication of the marks is found in its entirety at the end of this essay, and is offered as an example of how to use the Five Marks of Mission as a frame work for understanding mission that is informed both by the Anglican Communion’s common understanding and the cultural context of a particular church and its people. Congregations, dioceses and provinces can particularly profit from the way in which the Canadian church customized the marks to define mission in a way that encompasses evangelism and service, as well as work for systemic social justice and environmental sustainability.

So, if the Anglican Communion already has a covenant, what are the differences between the existing Covenant for Communion in Mission and the proposed Anglican Covenant currently circulating among the various provinces and churches? First, while the proposed Anglican Covenant has an internal focus, the Covenant for Communion in Mission looks outward to the world:

“We believe that a Covenant enshrining the values of common mission that could be used as a basis for outward-looking relationships among the churches, mission organisations and societies, and networks of the Communion would provide a significant focus of unity in mission for the Anglican Communion.”9

Second, the Covenant for Communion in Mission in based in mutual relationships. In developing the covenant, IASCOME spent significant time deliberating about the nature and characteristics of covenants and contracts. When introducing the covenant, the committee wrote:

IASCOME considered in depth the nature of covenant. We recognised that within our cultures a covenant is a serious and significant agreement. Covenants are fundamentally about relationships to which one gives oneself voluntarily, while contracts can be seen as a legally binding document under a body of governing principle. Covenants are free-will voluntary offerings from one to another while contracts are binding entities whose locus of authority is external to oneself. Covenants are relational: relational between those who are making the covenant and relational with and before God.10

Indeed, IASCOME was bold enough to say, “We believe the Covenant for Communion in Mission can provide a focus for binding the Communion together in a way rather different from that envisaged by the Windsor Report.”11

While the proposed Anglican Covenant formalizes relationships among Anglican
provinces according to tiers of membership and consequences for deviating from rules, the Covenant for Communion in Mission urges Anglican provinces to form relationships through mission partnerships and collaborations. This covenant calls provinces and churches to be equal covenant partners and to have their common life in Christ shaped by joint participation in God’s mission. By recognizing that God’s work in one province may be radically different from God’s work in another, this covenant honors new understandings of our lives in Christ. Most importantly, the Covenant for Communion in Mission eschews uniformity, punitive action and centralized authority in favor of our love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and belief that we are all called to do God’s work in the world.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, associate director of CREDO, is the Episcopal Church’s clergy representative to the Anglican Consultative Council, a eight-time General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Ohio, and a member
of the church’s Executive Council.

Read more »

Anglican Covenant Week: The holy mess that is Section Four

During Anglican Covenant Week at Episcopal Café, we are featuring three essays from The Genius of Anglicanism, a study guide produced by the Chicago Consultation. This is the first of three articles. The full study guide, which includes eight essays, each followed by study questions, is available here.


By Sally Johnson

In an article titled “Devil and Details” about the Appendix to the St. Andrew’s Draft (February 2008) of the proposed Anglican Covenant, published on Episcopal Café, I raised concerns about the process set out for dealing with disagreements in the Anglican Communion. While the commentary on the proposed covenant that accompanied this draft stated that there was “no intention to erect a centralized jurisdiction” or to give “juridical force” to the decisions of the Instruments of Communion, the proposed procedures looked like a juridical process lacking, however, both adequate due process protections and means of summary resolutions. Additionally, the timelines for resolving disputes were inconsistent with the polity of the Episcopal Church.

Serious concerns were raised around the Communion about the juridical nature of the Appendix and its inclusion in a “covenant” meant to support “bonds of affection.” The Ridley Cambridge Draft (April 2009) replaced the Appendix with Section Four, “Our Covenanted Life Together,” a more general statement of how the covenant would be overseen and how questions about a Church’s actions would be handled. At its May 2009 meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council requested that Section Four of the Ridley Cambridge Covenant be reviewed and revised. That was done by a group appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The final version of the covenant was released in December 2009.

The focus of this article is on the procedures and processes for handling disputes articulated in this final draft. Unfortunately, the deletion of the Appendix and its replacement with Section Four does not resolve any of the issues previously raised. In fact, it may have made matters worse instead of better. The Appendix attempted, if inadequately, to create a justice system in which the outcome could be respected based on the process used to reach it (often referred to as “the rule of law”). Section Four, however, proposes a justice system in which the outcome is supposed to be respected based on the nature of the group that makes the decision, rather than on how the decision is made. In doing so, the new system gives significant power and great discretion to a group that previously did not exist.

In the final draft of the proposed covenant, references to the “Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting” have been changed to the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.” While this might appear to be an insignificant change, it may be a highly significant one. The language itself suggests that there is a body, “the Anglican Communion,” that has a “Standing Committee” with independent authority and governance powers separate from the meetings (Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meeting), the office (Archbishop of Canterbury) and the body (Anglican Consultative Council) referred to in recent years as “Instruments of Communion.”

Overview of Section Four Process
The Appendix to the previous draft of the covenant specified, in some detail, procedures, decision makers and time frames for the processes of handling conflicts under the covenant. In contrast, Section Four of the current covenant provides generally that the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, responsible to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, monitors the functioning of the covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion on behalf of the Instruments” and advises on questions relating to the meaning of the covenant. The Standing Committee is empowered to: make every effort to facilitate agreement;

• take advice from such bodies as it deems appropriate to determine a view on the nature of the matter at question and those relational consequences which may result;

• refer the question to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting;

• request the acting Church to defer a controversial action;

• make recommendations for “relational consequences” to any Instrument of Communion including provisional limitation of participation in or suspension from, that Instrument until completion of the cov- enant processes when a Church declines to defer its action;

• make a declaration as to whether an ac- tion or decision of a Church “is or would be incompatible with the covenant;” and

• make recommendations of relational consequences to the Churches of the Communion or the Instruments of Communion including whether communion is impaired or limited with the acting Church and the practical consequences of such.

While the deletion of the Appendix and reworking of Section Four may have addressed concerns about the overly juridical tone of the Appendix, the changes did not resolve the essential question of what process will be used to exercise the authority given to the Standing Committee and the Instruments of Communion.

With the exception of information about which bodies can raise an objection to a Church’s actions, nothing more is specified about the conflict resolution process than what is summarized above. Other than that, nothing ... nothing... is specified about the processes, procedures or timing of the outlined process. In essence, the Standing Committee receives a question, receives assistance from unspecified “committees or commissions” mandated by unspecified authority, takes advice from any body or anybody it deems appropriate and decides whether to refer the question to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. The Standing Committee then decides whether to request a Church to “defer” a decision or action and what relational consequences should result if it does not. It then moves on to a determination of whether or not a Church’s action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant.” The Standing Committee does this “on the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting,” not on the basis of a process or procedure in which the Church whose action is in question participates in any way, other than to the extent it has representatives on the ACC (from which it could already be barred) and a primate at the Primates’ Meeting (from which its primate could have been excluded). (See “Consequences Prior to Decision” below.)

Agreeing to an undefined, unspecified process in which the decision-making bodies have full discretion to act in any manner they deem best–not only as to the process but as to the standard and burden of proof, information considered, and all other aspects of the dispute resolution system–is what the covenant contemplates. In the words of the rule of law, there is no procedural due process and no substantive due process guaranteed by the covenant. The out- come is to be trusted and respected based on the persons/bodies making the decisions rather than a system based on how the decision is made.

Ease of initiating and continuing the process
As with the Appendix, the only threshold that must be met in order for the dispute resolution process to begin is that a Church or Instrument of Communion claims that a Church’s action or decision may be “incompatible with the Covenant.” The covenant says “where a shared mind has not been reached” the matter “shall” be referred to the Standing Committee. The covenant doesn’t say who decides whether there is a “shared mind” such that referral to the Standing Committee is mandated. The covenant does suggest the Standing Committee can decide to take no action on the matter other than to “make every effort to facilitate agreement.” That is one area in which Section Four constitutes an improvement over the procedures of the Appendix.

Consequences prior to decision
The potential consequences for the Church whose actions are being questioned are severe even before the process is completed. The Standing Committee may request the Church to defer a controversial action and if it does not, the Standing Committee can recommend to any Instrument of Communion that the Church be suspended or its participation limited in an Instrument until the completion of the process. Thus, prior to any determination on the merits, a Church could be prohibited from participating in the Anglican Consultative Council, its bishops could be excluded from a Lambeth Conference or its Primate barred from participating in the Primates’ Meeting. There is no requirement that the Church in question be consulted on this issue, and it has no right to be heard.

Time Line and Implications for the polity of the Episcopal Church
Unlike the Appendix, the final covenant contains no time line for the dispute resolution process. It does contemplate that the Primates’ Meeting and Anglican Consultative Council would take action based on the recommendations of the Standing Committee. A Primates’ Meeting can be called at any time. The Anglican Consultative Council meets about once every three years. General Convention meets every three years. Executive Council meets every three months. It is likely that any controversial decision taken by the Episcopal Church would have been taken by our General Convention, and that only the General Convention could respond. We have already seen examples of the Instruments of Communion requesting bodies of the Episcopal Church, specifically the House of Bishops, to take actions in response to Anglican Communion concerns that the body is not authorized to take.

Conclusion
Serious attention needs to be paid to the enforcement provisions of the covenant because they are based not on procedural and substantive due process—the rule of law—but on the discretion, one is tempted to say whim, of the Standing Committee.

Sally Johnson is chancellor to the President of the House of Deputies and a member of her Council of Advice. She is an eight-time deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Minnesota.

Revisiting Evelyn Underhill: the Centennial Year of Mysticism

By Kathleen Staudt

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Evelyn Underhill’s groundbreaking book, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Human Spiritual Consciousness. This book has been remarkable in that it has appealed both to scholars and to seekers, and it has been continuously in print for 100 years -- a miracle in itself, as anyone familiar with publishing knows. Even though Mysticism is not my favorite among Underhill’s writings, I have welcomed the invitation this centennial year brings to read more widely in her work, and to appreciate again how vividly she speaks to our own time. (Most recently I’ve been involved in organizing a conference on her work, to be held at Washington National Cathedral June 3 and 4 -- more information about this here.)

Mysticism is the product of the Edwardian era, when the more affluent classes, as well as clerics and academics, were interested in various aspects of the life of the spirit. Underhill herself was the author of several spiritual novels with neoplatonic world views, and spent some time with a spiritualist group known as the Golden Dawn. The interest in personal spiritual experience in her era mirrors the New Age spirituality of the 1980’s and 90’s, and also speaks to the popularity in our own time of being “spiritual but not religious.” To this audience, Underhill, largely self-educated in the area of religion, assembles here a comprehensive survey of the great Christian mystics, especially of the west, insisting at once upon their universality as “pioneers of the (human) race” and on the particularity of their Christian identity, rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation.

What is fascinating about Mysticism, and a thread through all of Underhill’s writing, is her simple insistence that spiritual experience is about God, and not (primarily) about our own internal psychology or makeup. A thoughtful and well-reasoned Christian apologist, she is unapologetic about insisting on the “reality” of God as the ground of mystical experience. In the 1920’s, following the upheaval of the Great War, she embraces to a decidedly “catholic” Anglican faith and moves into a remarkable career as a writer and lecturer on Christian spirituality, directing retreats, writing letters of directions and teaching “normal people” about the life of prayer in the modern world. Archbishop Michael Ramsey said of her that “ in the twenties and thirties there were few, if indeed, any, in the Church of England who did more to help people to grasp the priority of prayer in the Christian life and the place of the contemplative element within it.”(Preface to Christopher Armstrong’s Evelyn Underhill (1975, Eerdmans), pp. ix-x)

I find Underhill increasingly appealing as her work matures, from the Romantic celebrations of Mysticism to a focus on what her later work calls “the spiritual life,” preferring that term to “mysticism” when she discusses the life of prayer for ordinary people. Particularly infectious is her deepening appreciation for the ancient wisdom of the Christian tradition, which she sees forming the greatest of the western mystics, and whose theological heritage she finds, increasingly, in eastern orthodoxy. Though my preferences vary when it comes to Underhill’s work, at the moment I am very much taken with the series of Lenten retreat addresses on the “Christian creed” which she published in 1937 under the title The School of Charity. I led a study course on this work recently and was surprised to find how fresh and wise it is, for contemporary Christians seeking clarity about our identity and practice in the postmodern world. It presents the Creed (mainly the Nicene Creed), not as a series of propositions to be debated or assented to, but as a series of themes for prayerful exploration and contemplation.

The heart of her argument in The School of Charity offers fresh and We are created by, and in the image of, a God who relates to the world as the “Artist-Lover” -- delighting in Creation and loving us and desiring us to grow into deeper and fuller companionship in the divine life. “We are Christians,” Underhill writes, bracingly, and so we accept, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, the Christian account of [God’s] character. God is Love, or rather Charity; generous, out-flowing, self-giving love, Agape. When all the qualities which human thought attributes to Reality are set aside, this remains. Charity is the colour of the divine personality, the spectrum of Holiness. We believe that the tendency to give, to share, to cherish, is the mainspring of the universe, ultimate cause of all that is, and reveals the Nature of God: and therefore that when we are most generous we are most living and most real.” (10-11)

The Incarnation follows naturally from this fundamental character of God as generous love: it is out of compassion and love that God becomes one of us, taking on the “pattern” of a human life, and inviting us to make our own Christ’s life of loving service and availability, compassion, radical peacemaking, and ultimately radical self-offering. Rather than pursuing the theology of a “substitutionary” atonement, Underhill invites us to marvel at the generosity of the divine self-offering, which enters the brokenness of our human experience to share and transform it. And so the heart of our faith is the Incarnation; the Cross, the central symbol of that faith, is the inevitable outcome of the divine decision to share our human nature. In the Crucifixion, the extremes of human suffering experienced in his own humanity by the One who loves us. The suffering that we experience in our lives is given meaning and hope by the profound generosity of self-offering Love - “caritas” - “Charity,” which is the heart of the divine life, the goal of our formation in the Christian life, the ground of human transformation.

“A Christian’s belief about reality,” she writes, “is a wonderful blend of confidence and experience. On one hand it asks great faith in the invisible world that enfolds us. On the other hand it includes and embraces the hardest facts of the actual life we know, and gives them a creative quality. It is a religion which leaves nothing out (p. 51).” In her chapter on the Spirit and the Church, she insists that however incongruous it may seem, the Holy Spirit’s mission of transforming a broken world happens through us, the Church, in our ordinary, practical lives. So she writes with wry awareness:

. . . . .All this seems terribly concrete to the enthusiast for “pure spirituality”: and when we think of pews and hassocks and the Parish Magazine, we tend to rebel against the yoke of official religion, with its suggestion of formalism and even frowstiness. It seems far too stiff and institutional, too unventilated, to represent the generous and life-giving dealings of the Divine Charity with men. The chorus which exclaimed with awe and delight, “I believe in one God! Thins out a good deal when it comes to saying, “I believe in one Church!. . . . Yet there it is; the Christian sequence is God-Christ-Spirit-Church-Eternal Life. No link in this chain can be knocked out, without breaking the current of love which passes from God through his creatures back again to God. The incarnation of the Holy in this world is social. We are each to contribute our bit to it, and each to depend on the whole.” (92)

Rereading these and other works by Evelyn Underhill has invited me to recognize the excitement at the heart of Christian faith, and try to live into it more fully. Hers is a “practical mysticism”-- an aliveness to the Reality of the Divine mystery that embodies itself in a way of life. Her work continues to hold wisdom for us in the Church today. It has been well worth a revisit in this centennial year of Mysticism.

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.

In defense of seminaries

By Lauren R. Stanley

Tis the season for graduations, including those at seminaries across the United States. Within a matter of a few short weeks, Christian churches will be flooded with hundreds of new graduates, most newly ordained, to serve as ministers.

It should be a time of great celebration … unless, of course, you read Jerry Bowyer on Forbes.com. According to Mr. Bowyer, all these graduations, all these newly ordained clergy, are not a matter of rejoicing but of sorrow.

Mr. Bowyer claims, in columns published on April 20 and May 11, that seminary is, basically, a waste of time. Clergy are not trained properly in seminary, he says. Among the claims he makes (some of which I and many others found astounding) is that learning about such topics as Church History and Theology does nothing to prepare a person for leading a congregation.

Really?

Why, just the other day, I had to call upon Church History, Litugrics and Theology to talk with a congregation about why they might want to consider moving their altar away from the wall, and having the priest actually face the congregation. We talked about why the altar was up against the wall in the first place, about the importance of including the people in the celebration, the fact that Jesus never celebrated a “Eucharist” as we know it, and that at the Last Supper, he sat (actually, he most likely reclined) around a table, passing the bread and cup around. What does that mean to you theologically? I asked the people.

That same day, I drew upon my theological training to talk about why a congregation might want to consider changing its building plans, making handicapped access the priority, and leaving a new office to a latter date. How hospitable is it, I wondered, to make handicapped people wait years more to get into this church, just so a new office could be added? If you were in a wheelchair, would you like to be told you have to go to the back door to get in? What message are you trying to send?

I use my education in pastoral and systematic theology nearly every day of my life, when I am working, when I am with family and friends, and even when I am alone. I use my studies of Scriptures for my preaching, my teaching, my pastoral care and my personal spiritual time. My education in Christian Ethics informs almost every decision I make. Christian Education classes taught me about working with children and youth, and helped me learn how to preach and teach at all levels.

In other words, I use my seminary education every day of my life. Yet Mr. Bowyer claims that I could have learned all of it on-line, and that that would have been sufficient.

Mr. Bowyer laments the fact that seminary is a three-year graduate program, and focuses on how much it costs. (He also writes as though all married seminarians are male, “with a wife and children in tether,” which makes me wonder which seminaries he has visited, where he attended and where he has been teaching. In his second column, he harshly castigated those who called him out on this, but that’s not my point here …)

Yes, seminary does take three years. Yes, it is a graduate-level institution in many churches (but not all). Yes, there is a lot to learn. You see, most of us who go to seminary do not have the prerequisites all taken care of. Some graduate programs require prerequisites; most seminaries do not.

And there is another reason for three years of schooling: formation. Asking a person to go from being who they have been to being an ordained person, living a life under vows, is not something that should be taken lightly. And many of us needed that time to leave behind those portions of our old lives so that we could be the person God is calling us to be now.

Mr. Bowyer also tells one tale – one tale! – of a man who somehow made it through both Bible College and seminary without, apparently, ever having preached in public … anywhere. After ordination, this person found he could not preach. He simply could … not … preach. His life went to hell in a hand basket, Mr. Bowyer says.

Um? Really?

This man went through an accredited seminary and somehow, he never once was asked, or even forced, to preach? And because of this one man’s experience, Mr. Bowyer believes that seminaries as a whole don’t do their jobs?

Really?

I took a fully year of homiletics in seminary. I preached at my field education parishes throughout the year, and at my summer internship. I preached in classes. I even was blessed to preach, one time, as a senior, in my seminary’s chapel. Was I nervous? Good Lord, yes! Sixteen years later, with literally hundreds of sermons under my belt, I still get nervous. I get so nervous I get dry-mouthed, and have to tuck an Altoid in my mouth before I can preach. Nerves are part of the job: After all, we preachers are attempting to say something intelligent about the Word of God! If that doesn’t make you nervous, I’m not certain what will. (Actually, if it doesn’t make you nervous, there might be an ego issue running here.) I didn’t have to wait until graduation and ordination to find out whether I was suited to the pulpit or not.

Mr. Bowyer also claims that many mainline denominations, including The Episcopal Church, over the years have followed “leftie fads” and are guilty of “indulging in ideological tourism.” Apparently, going to seminary means you become some kind of radical leftie, according to his columns. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think about this, but his comments rather remind me of those made by others who like to throw stones at churches that engage in social justice issues.

The only point on which Mr. Bowyer and I agree is the cost of the seminary education. It’s high – too high, in many cases. And far too many students leave seminary with huge amounts of debt, then are hired for jobs that pay well below any national average for holders of graduate degrees. Me? I never incurred debt in seminary. Of course, I received dozens of scholarships and grants, because I worked very hard to get even the smallest gifts (you want to give me a $50 scholarship in exchange for me filling out some forms and writing an essay, I’m on it!). I also worked up to three jobs at a time – because I didn’t want any debt. I cobbled together the money any way I could, and still managed to graduate in three years. So it’s not as though graduating from seminary without debt is impossible. It’s simply very, very hard.

Mr. Bowyer claims that technology is the solution, that we can find almost all of the courses on-line, and that what can’t be taught on-line can be taught through apprenticeships to experienced ministers. I can point out many problems, including the potential for abuse, with that system, too.

Do our seminaries need to change, to adapt to new realities? Absolutely. Many seminaries over the years indeed have changed, and they continue to adapt. More part-timers are attending seminary now. Courses have been added, and others dropped, to reflect the new realities of our world. Any seminary that won’t change and adapt needs to re-examine its mission statement, and look again at the church for which it is preparing its graduates.

And do we need to do something about the cost of seminaries? Without a doubt. Ministers in general do not get paid a whole lot of money. Having enormous debt coming out of seminary limits their choices.

But trashing the whole system and claiming that what is taught in seminaries in not necessary, not good for the greater Church?

Absolutely not.

Mr. Bowyer might want to think again before he applies such sweeping generalities, because in this case, he’s missed the mark.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and a proud graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, Class of 1997.

The war in Libya fails the test

By George Clifford

The United States is now fighting three wars concurrently: one each in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. That is correct, Libya. Even though no formal declaration of war exists, the U.S. is at war with Libya and we need moral clarity about that fact and about whether the war is just or unjust.

Consider how the U.S. would react if another nation – Libya, perhaps – had taken the following actions against the U.S.:
• Conducted a missile attack against the Old Executive Office Building or the West Wing of the White House that killed several of the President’s family members;
• Bombed and launched missile attacks against military bases, equipment, and units, especially elements of the armed forces engaged in suppressing an internal rebellion;
• Encouraged, and provided material support for, other nations to attack U.S. armed forces as well as for the rebels;
• Spent upwards of $550 million on the above efforts.

Based upon the reaction of the U.S. to the 9/11 attacks, predicting the U.S. response seems a no-brainer: the U.S. would consider itself at war with that nation. Those hypothetical actions mirror what the U.S. has done to Libya: attacked offices in the compound occupied by the Libyan head of state, destroyed the Libyan air defense capability, supported NATO attacks against the Libyan armed forces, and, at a minimum, encouraged if not directly aided the Libyan rebels. Michael Ignatieff has coined the term “virtual war” to describe war waged at a distance, as the U.S. and NATO did in Kosovo and is now doing in Libya.

Christians have historically relied upon a Just War Theory analysis to determine the justice of a particular war. Before a just war begins, the proposed conflict must satisfy the following criteria:
1. Be fought for a just cause, either defense of territorial sovereignty or egregious violations of human rights. Libya, for decades less than a paragon of virtue, responded to internal political protests by unleashing military force against unarmed civilians that killed 300 plus and injured over 900 others. However, although that response was clearly wrong from a moral perspective, it does not seem an egregious violation of human rights. The Libyan acts fell far short of genocide and unjust acts by other governments that caused more casualties have not prompted multinational military interventions.
2. Be fought for the right intent, i.e., to create a more just peace. If Libya did not produce 2% of the world’s crude, would the military intervention have occurred? Genocide in Rwanda and the current vicious reprisals by Syria against protesters (hundreds, perhaps thousands, killed) have not prompted rapid international military interventions.
3. Be authorized by legitimate authority. United Nations Security Council resolution No. 1973 that authorizes action against Libya to protect civilians, create a no-fly zone, and enforce an arms embargo reasonably satisfies this criterion.
4. Be a last resort, having exhausted all reasonable means of alleviating the injustice without resorting to war. Perhaps the Libyan war satisfies this criterion. Although economic and other sanctions remain in place against Libya, those actions obviously did not prevent Libya from deploying its military to end the internal protests that birthed the revolt.
5. Have a reasonable chance of success. The international coalition can easily defeat the Libyan armed forces, with or without rebel aid. However, the war appears to have little chance of truly succeeding in establishing a more just peace because that presumes the timely emergence of a new and more just Libyan government. Neither pundits nor politicians appear to have articulated a viable plan for achieving that goal. Sadly, nobody even seems to have a clear vision of how to extricate the U.S. from the war.
6. Be proportional, i.e., the war must not cause more suffering than would have otherwise happened. As the casualty toll among all parties continues to rise (at this writing, almost all fatalities have been Libyans or among foreign personnel fighting for Qaddafi; from God's perspective all persons have equal worth), the calculus continues to shift against the likelihood of this being a just war.

A just war must satisfy all of six of the jus ad bellum criteria. The Libyan war seems at best to satisfy no more than four criteria and only one (legitimate authority) with certainty.

Qaddafi is undoubtedly a menace to global peace and to the prosperity and well-being of Libyans. The United Nations, other nations, and non-governmental organizations and individuals rightfully deplore the tragic conditions of Libyan life and governance. Taking every step short of war is morally justifiable, indeed, perhaps a moral requirement.

Nevertheless, Qaddafi’s morally abhorrent policies and actions do not justify waging an unjust war. War is not a panacea or even a quick fix to problems that otherwise seem intractable.

We cannot reverse time. The war is underway. So what can a Christian to do?
• Pray for peace.
• Actively advocate ending active U.S. participation in the war. For Christians, the most important form of genuinely supporting U.S. troops entails asking them to fight only wars that a reasonable person can deem just. The Libyan war fails that standard.
• Vigorously oppose any efforts by NATO or other nations to continue the war.
• Recognize that the struggle for freedom is part of the process that births democracy. Like any birth, the struggle involves pain and multiple costs. Others can cheer from the sidelines, but the Libyan rebels – like a mother giving birth – must perform the labor.
• Assertively endorse the U.S. and other nations continuing every action short of war to facilitate the struggle of the Libyan people for to win liberty and democracy for themselves. Economic sanctions against purchasing Libyan oil will disrupt world markets to a relatively minor degree (remember, Libya only produces 2% of the world’s oil production) but can have major adverse consequences for the stability of Qaddafi’s regime and his ability to fund military operations against his people.
• Strongly recommend the U.S. and others remain alert and ready to respond should Qaddafi actually pursue genocidal policies, something that he has not yet done.

George Clifford is an ethicist and a priest in the Diocese of North Carolina. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings (http://blog.ethicalmusings.com/).

A living hope

By Bill Carroll

In this season of resurrection, we are reminded again and again of this new birth and this living hope. For Christ has been raised from the dead, trampling down death by death and giving life to those in the tomb. And we, having become his People by water and the Holy Spirit, are called to live in the power of his risen life. We are called to live as if death were not.

True, we see the work of death all around us. We Christians are realistic enough to know the power of sin and death in our lives. All we have to do is watch the news or reflect quietly on our own experience. We know limitation, scarcity, and fear. We know that ultimate limit--death--and it haunts our every step. And sometimes, truth be told, we allow our limits to define us. We settle for something less than the fullness of Christ and his death-defying love.

But we are called to something different. We are called to a living hope. Hope which trusts in what our eyes can't see. Hope which expects great things--new things--from God, rather than more of the same, day after day. Hope opens up new horizons for us--new possibilities in Christ--possibilities that are not merely latent in the past, but grounded in the sovereign freedom of our God.

True hope is the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Scriptures, it is closely allied with faith and love, which are infused by grace rather than acquired by effort. We can exercise these gifts and open ourselves to the Spirit's work, but ultimately they are just that, the gift and work of God within us, rather than our achievement. Peter alludes to baptism, the sacrament of new birth. There's something to that metaphor--birth is something that happens to us, not that we do for ourselves.

But--and this is an important "but"--(as Kathryn Tanner and Karl Rahner, among others, have pointed out) our absolute passivity before God does not imply a passive existence in the world. Hope changes things. God is not like an especially powerful creature, but is the ground of our very being. When we come to new birth in Christ--when we stop presenting an obstacle to God's mercy in our lives--we grow in our freedom. The more radically we depend on God, the more fully we become ourselves.

In the Gospel appointed for the Second Sunday of Easter, we see the disciples huddled away for fear. There they are, locked in the Upper Room. Even though they have heard the Good News from Mary Magdalene, they have not yet seen Jesus for themselves. For them, his death still limits their horizons. It confirms the way of all flesh--the ultimate power of fear and despair. His cross remains a sign of bitter defeat.

Then, Jesus himself appears among them--ALIVE--showing them his wounded hands and side. Peace, he says, and their fear turns to great joy. His death becomes for them the gateway to eternal life, and his cross a sign of victory. Then, Jesus commissions them for missionary service, conferring upon them a share in his own authority to forgive or retain sins. Receive the Holy Spirit, he says, As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

This passage has often been called the Johannine Pentecost. In John, the dying and rising of the Lord sets loose the Holy Spirit, who empowers the Church to participate in Christ's own mission of mercy. In the Upper Room, Christ comes to us through locked doors and commissions us to share in his work of forgiveness and love.

We do so by preaching the Gospel, celebrating the sacraments, and serving others in his Name. We do so whenever we put forgiveness into practice, beginning with those nearest to us. If we are sent by Christ, just as he is sent by the Father, we share in his ministry, centered as it is on the forgiveness of sins. This is about letting each other go. It is about setting each other free from the burden of the past, so that we might keep watch and work, expecting great things from God.

The wounds of Christ, which he shows first to all the disciples, then later to Thomas, remind us that forgiveness is costly. His scars, which others might use as an excuse for vengeance, instead identify him as God's suffering servant--God's Paschal Lamb, in whose mercy lies our hope and by whose love God casts out fear.

For the Spirit of new birth impels us beyond the Upper Room, with its locked doors and false promises of safety. The resurrection is not about safety--but new life in God. It's about our participation in the risky venture of Incarnation. It's about the victory of Christ's mercy--both in our lives and in all the lives we touch.

For we have been born again to a living hope by his resurrection from the dead.

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.

My unintentional Lent

By Ellen Painter Dollar

This Lent, after a difficult winter marked by bitter cold, too much snow, and taxing medical treatments, I just couldn’t bring myself to give up any of the things—sweets, novels, coffee, Law and Order reruns—that offer bright spots of pleasure in the midst of long days dominated by frantic activity on behalf of other people, especially my three children. So as Lent approached this year, I wasn’t sure what to do for a Lenten discipline.

One day, worn out by my children’s daily litany of wants (I want you to buy my favorite yogurts! I want the dress in this catalog! I want another Zhu Zhu pet! I want a play date with so-and-so! I want Mom to put me to bed tonight!), I suggested we banish the phrase “I want” from our conversations during Lent. The goal, I explained, was to spend less energy thinking about what we don’t have and more being grateful for what we do. I framed this as a family discipline, but really, I saw it as a way to get my kids to stop driving me crazy with their endless pleas for more, more, more. Having practiced conscious gratitude for many years (prayers of thanksgiving are the only prayers I say daily, without fail and with enthusiasm), I didn’t expect our Lenten discipline to be particularly enriching for me, beyond its potential to make me less annoyed with my children.

Did it work? Are my children less focused on what they want and more grateful for what they have? Not really. They learned to discipline their speech a bit. They would start saying, “I want…” and cut themselves off. They also figured out ways to get off on technicalities. They still circled favorite clothes in the Justice catalog, for example, even if they didn’t voice their desires out loud.

But I, who instigated this discipline primarily to teach my children something, ended up learning something myself. (You could see that coming, couldn’t you?)

Our banning of “I want” forced me to pay attention to how often I uttered that phrase, usually to myself (since in a family dominated by children’s needs, let’s face it, Mom’s wants don’t get much air time). Sometimes, my wants were material—new clothes, a faster computer, a remodeled kitchen, a clean floor that doesn’t grab at my shoes with its constellation of sticky spills. But I noticed how often, instead of wishing for things, I was wishing for a different, healthier body: “I want to wear my favorite jeans that have become a bit too tight for comfort,” “I want to be stronger,” “I want to feel better about my body,” “I want to take a walk without getting so winded.”

I have a physical disability that has left visible abnormalities—scars, crookedness, a limp. But I seldom thought things like, “I want to not have scars any more,” “I want to walk without a limp,” or “I want to be healed.” Rather, my wants were focused on traits I could actually change—strength, endurance, weight, muscle tone.

I decided to stop wanting and start doing. Midway through Lent, I started waking up at 4:15 on weekdays, with the help of our cat, for whom this is a favorite time to be outside hunting critters (there is no snooze button on a cat who is sitting my chest and staring into my face). Rising so early is not easy, particularly because I’m tuckered out by around 7 p.m., when I still have homework to supervise and children to bathe. But the benefits are worth the effort. I exercise using a workout DVD for 30 to 40 minutes, then have a cup of coffee and check my e-mail before my children get up—all of which makes me a much more cheerful mother than when I’m woken from a sound sleep by someone whining that they can’t find their favorite pants.

I also added additional exercise later in the morning—a walk or swim—two or three days a week, and started tracking my calorie intake on the free web site LoseIt.com. I have only lost a couple of pounds so far. But, dare I say it, my unintentional, unanticipated Lenten discipline of exercising regularly and tracking my diet are changes that are here to stay. Easter has come and gone, but I’m still getting up at 4:15 to exercise most days. When I don’t, I regret it, because I feel more sluggish. I love the slight soreness I have in my muscles almost all the time now, because it reminds me that I’m getting stronger. I love wearing yoga pants and tank tops not just because they’re cute and comfortable, but because I’m actually exercising in them. I love trading tips on exercise and athletic shoes with able-bodied friends. I love seeing the calorie counter on LoseIt.com lop off 200 calories when I log an hour of exercise.

So thanks to my unplanned Lent disciplines, I’m getting stronger and (slowly) thinner. But what about God? Is it fair to even call these efforts Lenten disciplines? Or are they really more about self-improvement than a richer relationship with God?

I would be fooling myself (and lying to you) if I said my newfound enthusiasm for healthier living is untainted by covetousness, competitiveness, and a desire for accolades. I want to look like those other moms who can wear a clingy tank top without looking like a female version of the Michelin man. I want acquaintances who haven’t seen me in a while to exclaim, “Wow! You look terrific!”

But it’s not all about me and my selfish wants. My newfound enthusiasm for exercise and healthier eating reminds me that my body is one of God’s gifts that I am obligated to care for well. I am more closely following life’s underlying rhythm of work followed by rest and back to work again—a rhythm manifest in the world God created with its bright, busy days and dark, quiet nights. Collapsing into bed to watch Law and Order is way more satisfying, and much less guilt-inducing, after a day spent using and caring for my body well than after a day of couch-potatohood and mindless snacking. And as someone for whom a daily prayer practice has always been elusive, I find that walking and swimming provide excellent opportunities to pray without distraction (as long as I leave the iPod at home).

We live in a culture that often makes idols of healthy living, perfect bodies, and blameless diets. Just as laziness and gluttony do, devotion to healthy living carries some spiritual pitfalls, such as the temptation toward self-sufficiency and the fallacy that I can be in complete control of my life’s trajectory. No matter how hard I exercise or how well I eat, I am still mortal. A healthy lifestyle may lower the risk of sickness or death from heart disease, diabetes, or certain cancers, but I could still get hit by a bus.

Yet given how my unintentional Lenten discipline bubbled up when I wasn’t looking for it, and how it is helping me better care for the gift of my body and equipping me to fulfill my vocations as mother and writer with greater strength, focus, and energy, I’m going to trust that it came from God. Lent is over, and I’m still excited to get out of bed early each morning (OK, maybe not excited…willing?) so I can work toward getting stronger and using my God-given body, flaws and all, more fully. This Lent discipline—the one I wasn’t looking for, the one I started halfway through the season instead of on Ash Wednesday—may end up being the one that sticks.

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.

What sort of victory?

By Marilyn McCord Adams

Almost at midnight, on the second Sunday of Easter, President Obama went on the air to announce: Osama Bin Laden is dead. In the wake of 9/11 then-President Bush vowed, “we’re gonna get him! It may not be today or tomorrow, but we’re gonna get him!” Thursday the wreath was laid at Ground Zero. Promise kept! Vow paid!

For years, intelligence agencies worked to track Bin Laden down. Like the Sanhedrin of Jesus’ day, Pakistani and Afghani governments seem to have played both sides against the middle, favoring now one, now the other, calculating what might secure their fragile holds on power. It took the identification of an insider to lead them to the likely place. For months, Navy Seals strategized the surgical strike that would take Bin Laden out by surprize, leaving no opportunity for counter-intrigue and minimizing “collateral damage.” In the event, Navy Seals demonstrated the skill and courage expected of them. Mission accomplished! Job well done!

Like 9/11 itself, “getting” Osama Bin Laden has high symbolic value. 9/11 did not just mean the death of 3,000+ individuals: finance professionals, the infra-structure--secretaries and couriers, janitors, coffee and sandwich vendors--that supported them, people rushing into another day’s work, eventually, police and fire-fighters and medics who came to the rescue and labored heroically to get some out. Two jet-liners crashing into the World Trade Center shattered America’s sense of invulnerability, our confidence that warfare is something that happens “over there.” The twin towers flaming, their haunting shells rising from the rubble broke through America’s collective psychological defenses with the bewildering news that some people hate us, that not everyone shares our confidence in capitalism, that the hearts of many do not warm to the slogan “Truth, Justice, and the American way.” 9/11 was an attack on our national integrity. Self-respecting parties must defend their honor. The Honor Code requires it. Al-Quaeda’s “low tech, high concept” blow put Osama Bin Laden “one up.” The Navy Seals’ surgical strike evens the score, sends the message: “Don’t think you can attack America like that and get away with it. There is enough to us, you can count on us to stand up for who we are and what we mean!”

President Obama was joined by legislators and journalists who said, “justice has been done,” “Bin Laden has been brought to justice.” Insofar as lex talionis is instinctive for humans, it is easy to understand what they mean. “A life for a life: take a life, and your life will be required of you.” True, Bin Laden master-minded a mass murder, and he had only one life to give. At the individual level, one eye for 3000 eyes doesn’t quite compute. But Bin Laden was the head of a global terrorist organization. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.” We can hope that removing him will kill their organization, just as they meant 9/11 to be a critical blow to our American way of life.

Of course, Al-Qaeda knew that one terrorist attack wouldn’t be enough to destroy US presence in Arab countries. 9/11 was to be the Pearl-Harbor prelude to many others. Nor has the US made tracking down Bin Laden an exclusive focus. Even now, we have troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and drones fly over tribal lands in Pakistan. The 9/11 3000 have not been the only casualties in this culture war.

Many argue that our military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are also ways of bringing our enemies to justice. They explain that just war is a proportioned response of self-defense against an enemy initiative. Every day, our soldiers are fighting for justice, because the killings are a carefully calculated means to preserving our nation and what it stands for. Since Sunday, some have begun to raise the question whether our success in taking out Bin Laden doesn’t justify water-boarding and other severe interrogation techniques used on suspected Al-Quaeda collaborators. Others go further still to contend that these methods don’t count as torture because they are applied to get information that will save American lives.

Right or left, Democrat or Republican, commentators agree: killing Osama Bin Laden is a momentous victory. Certainly, it is an American victory. But it is not an Easter victory. Likewise, let’s not quibble about it now. By some criteria or other, our military engagement in Afghanistan may qualify as a just war. But it is not the Sermon-on-the-Mount righteousness that Jesus enjoins on citizens of the Reign of God.

What American response to 9/11 shows is what any student of history already knew: the USA is, like most other nations, willing to go to war to secure its existence and dominance. We love our way of life. We are right to think there is much in it that is worth preserving. We understandably treasure many and various of its high cultural achievements. I suspect that it is also true that human beings are politically challenged, not collectively competent enough to organize and secure a society against outside attacks without being willing to use force and violence to do it.

Nevertheless, war involves the killing and degrading of other human beings. It forsakes universal sympathy to act out the conviction that enemy lives are not as valuable as American lives. Severe interrogation methods aim to break down the personality, to shatter the integrity of the persons being questioned, to “persuade” them to betray deep loyalties by divulging privileged information. Nor are enemies the only ones put in harm’s way. We rear up our children in the knowledge and love of God, civilize them to the Golden Rule. But then we set some of them up for spiritual fragmentation by demanding that they become soldiers, people prepared to kill and degrade other human beings on our behalf “over there,” yet ready to re-enter polite society when they come home. The understood contract is “keep the horrors of war to yourselves, and we’ll give you a medal for your efforts.”

Killing or destroying the personal integrity of other human beings is bestial behavior. Society’s assignment to our soldiers does them spiritual violence. This means that much as we love our civilization and its achievements, it rests on a foundation of bestiality. Once again, I am not saying that America is worse than other nations. I am not claiming that turning the other cheek to Al-Quaeda would have been a more effective political strategy in the war on terror.

My point is that the willingness to kill and degrade other human beings violates our baptismal covenant. It breaks our promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Killing our enemies, breaking down their personalities, spiritually fragmenting our soldiers--none of these honors their human dignity as made in the image of God. Putting our soldiers in harm’s way violates the second great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Killing our enemies and/or shattering their integrity flies in the face of Christ’s command to love our enemies. It follows that our individual and collective readiness to do these things when attacked is not an Easter-instinct, and that societies that rely on it are--whatever their other merits--still far from the Reign of God.

If my suspicions are correct--that humans are politically challenged, that we lack the competence to organize and secure societies without threatening force and violence--then God alone is able to organize a society that is not founded on bestiality. The reasons God can do this were made plain at Easter. God is Life, for all else the source of Life, able and willing to hold us in life come hell or high water. God is Love that will not let us go. God is resourceful to make a success of Divine projects, even though the powers of darkness do their worst. What it takes to make everybody utterly safe, to assure each and all that they are loved, what it takes to make force and violence, death and degradation obsolete, is nothing more nor less than Who and What God is.
No, killing Osama Bin Laden is not an Easter victory. It will not even “make the world safe for democracy.” That is why--on this Third Sunday of Easter as on every day--we still pray, “God in heaven, Your kingdom come!”

The Reverend Marilyn McCord Adams is Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Mother's Day: a radical cry for peace

By Greg Syler

The first official Mother’s Day was celebrated Sunday May 10, 1907 – the second Sunday in May – at Andrews Methodist Church in the little town of Grafton, West Virginia. The woman who held this first celebration was Anna Jarvis – and she did it in honor of her mother, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis. The elder Mrs. Jarvis’ favorite flower was a white carnation, and Anna, her daughter, requested that everyone who attended the services on May 10 wear a white carnation in her mother’s memory. This quickly became the tradition; incidentally, it wasn’t supposed to be that the flowers were given to mothers, as is often the case today; it’s that you wore a white carnation if your mother was deceased, and a red one if she was living.

It turns out that Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis was a fascinating woman, who died in 1905, just two years before that first celebration. She was born in Culpeper, Virginia in 1832, the daughter of a Methodist minister and his wife, who later moved to present-day West Virginia to take a new call. Mrs. Reeves (her maiden name) married the son of a nearby Baptist minister, named Jarvis, and they had twelve children, although only four lived to adulthood.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the changing, growing, expansive world was bringing to these coal counties threats of civil war; battles over slavery; increasing productivity and technology, but also longer hours and dangerous working conditions – child labor laws were hardly heard. So it was that Anna Jarvis, in the 1840s and 50s, organized a series of (what she called) “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” – designed to bring the wisdom and domestic eye of women into deplorable living and working conditions, in order to improve health conditions for many families. Jarvis’ first Mother’s Day Work Club raised money for medicines, deployed women to work for families in which the mothers suffered from tuberculosis, and inspected bottled milk and food. By 1860, local physicians and mothers had spread this work to at least 15 other towns.

While the civil war raged on, making their little West Virginia county a strategic stop along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Jarvis urged the Mother’s Day Work Clubs to declare their neutrality in the fight and provide relief and medical care for any and all – whether Union or Confederate. The clubs treated the wounded, and fed and clothed soldiers stationed in the area. In all, Jarvis helped preserve peace in a war-ravaged town by focusing on a common mission in which all could participate. In fact, after the war, she and her family moved to a larger nearby town only to find that tensions between North and South had escalated due to the political bickering surrounding Reconstruction. In the summer of 1865, Mrs. Jarvis organized a Mother’s Friendship Day on the courthouse steps in Pruntytown, WV, to bring together soldiers and neighbors regardless of their confederate or yankee leanings. Many feared that the day would erupt in violence, but it turned out to be a great success. That celebration continued for many years following the first one in 1865.

For the next forty years, Anna Jarvis led this Mother’s Day movement, a movement of mothers standing up against poverty, war, injustice, and bigotry. Alongside her husband and family, she was committed to the idea that in a violent time, with the ravages of warfare and industry, the voice of women – in particular, the wisdom of mothers – was the only deciding factor between death and life, between health and rotting away. It would only seem reasonable that her daughter, Anna Jarvis, would want to celebrate her mother’s legacy on the second Sunday in May, 1907, after her death only two years’ earlier.

Seven years after that first Mother’s Day celebration, President Woodrow Wilson made the second Sunday in May – now called Mother’s Day – a national holiday. That year was, of course, 1914, and this nation was faced with a new threat – a world war that threatened to destroy any advances of human civilization, and nearly did. Yes, this day we celebrate – this seemingly quiet second Sunday in May – is a call to peace, a call to stand up for justice, a call to embrace the values that this world so easily trumps down, underfoot, yet which Jesus called us to embody.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said (Jn.14:27), for he gives generously, and from his own bounty. He does not give as the world gives, he told his disciples – it’s not tit-for-tat; not a political arrangement. No, it is Christ’s peace. “My peace I give you; my own peace I leave with you,” reminding us that we are, already, infused with a presence, a living Spirit within us. The gifts are already ours, and when one or two taps into them we are suddenly alive in Christ, animated to do amazing things, even with just a simple idea – say, getting local mothers together to go and inspect milk so children won’t die of a preventable disease.

This is something the world laughs at, frankly. Peace? What does that have to do with the issues we confront today, this complex War on Terror. Unless we strike them, and strike them dead, they will get us. Peace? Unless we show the pictures of a dead man to the world our strength will not be revealed. Peace? And how can you show us, Christians, what peace you have brought to this planet in the last two millennia? Peace?

But Jesus’ peace is given on a night, long ago, in the midst of great anguish, pain, anxiety and dread. Jesus’ peace does not wipe away any wars, neither civil wars nor world wars nor a war on terror. Jesus’ peace doesn’t alleviate our anxiety, like taking a pill at night. The world, as such, will still feature and, in fact, feed on violence and bigotry and destruction and – yes – it’s all caused by people just like you and me. We live, today, in deadly times, but we always have. Throngs rejoice, celebrate a killing. So many wrestle with ambivalence between rejoicing and fear, glee and, well, sickness. Threats of car bombs invade our major cities. Political conversation, across the aisle between two broken parties, is dead. The American experience seems under threat of collapse, economic, political, religious and otherwise. The creation, as we know it, is also not eternal, and through our own consumption of natural resources we can threaten its livelihood even as we sit and read these words.

No, Jesus’ peace is not an elixir or a drug. It’s a reality that, deep down, we are already redeemed, that we are already given gifts. So that peace is only activated when we use it. Jesus told his disciples, in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, to go out and spread the message: heal the brokenhearted, bind up the sinners, proclaim release to the captives. “Do not be afraid,” for this peace you have is mine, it is eternal, it is yours. Use it.

Someone we might remember this weekend, named Anna Jarvis, believed so much in the strangely counter-cultural values of peace, womanhood, goodness, mercy, and compassion that she stuck her neck out there, in a deadly, blood-lusty time. She risked faith, and was redeemed. And you and I remember her, or at least remember her day for it.

Or do we? Honestly, how many thought of the second Sunday in May as a radical cry for peace?

For the long ending of the story is that Anna Jarvis, who sought to lift up her mother’s memory in establishing this holiday, died in utter poverty, having spent everything she and her sister had to de-commercialize the holiday. As early as fifteen years after President Wilson established the Second Sunday in May as a holiday, she was disgusted by how quickly it grew into a buying spectacle and how suddenly it lost its focus on what her mother worked so hard to claim – a focus on mercy for the downtrodden, compassion for the prisoners, justice for the poor, and peace for all humankind.

Perhaps that’s the Christian story in a nutshell – that future generations might not know us for our great deeds and monumental tales but we do them nevertheless. We stand against violence and war-mongering. We love the downtrodden. We clothe the naked. We feed the hungry. We tend the poor.

Not because it’s popular, but because it’s right – and the right, the only way to peace.

The Rev. Greg Syler is the rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in Valley Lee, Maryland, and serves on Diocesan Council in the Diocese of Washington.

"Met Jesus on Pilgrimage, still walking."

“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
Luke 24:27

By Paul Fromberg

My friend Andy – he’s the bishop of Texas now – wrote a six word autobiography a couple of years ago: Met Jesus on Pilgrimage, still walking.

Andy was 11 year old when he spent nine days walking 168 miles across Mexico from San Miguel de Allende to San Juan de Los Lagos with his father. He didn’t know what he would find. And he found Jesus.

To be a pilgrim is to be ready for surprise.

Cleopas and his companion are walking the road away from Jerusalem. They had seen so much in the prior days. Death and life had been mashed together and made into something they had no way of understanding. It’s possible that the person walking the road with Cleopas, the unnamed individual he is pilgriming with is his wife. And it’s possible that the woman called Mary the wife of Clopas, one of the women who watched as Jesus was executed on the cross and then went to the empty tomb is the same person. So Cleopas is walking the road with someone who has seen the death of Jesus and has seen the empty tomb of Jesus.

And still they have no clue that the stranger they meet on the road is Jesus. Which suggests that witnessing the empty tomb is not the same as witnessing the resurrection. The absence of death isn’t the same as the presence of life. Death isn’t an end in itself. The death of Jesus isn’t the end of the story. There is something else that needs to fill that empty space.

A stranger joins these two pilgrims on the road that leads away from the cross and the tomb, and in one of the most famously unrecorded sermons of all times, he explains himself to them in such a way that their hearts burned within them. Or as you might have experienced, they put their hearts in something that was simply beyond their experience.

Baptism begins a pilgrimage. We put our hearts into an experience that is simply beyond our experience. And like my friend Andy, it may change our lives.

Paul Fromberg is the rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

Thomas: patron saint of skeptics and doubters

By Ann Fontaine

On the Second Sunday of Easter, the church once again hears the story of Thomas, called the Twin, who is out and about while the others are hiding in fear. He misses Jesus’ visit and wants proof that Jesus is alive. He wants to see the wounds for himself. Once he sees the torn flesh, he not only states this is “my Lord” – he is the first one to say this is “my God.” No longer teacher or messiah or healer or friend, but God.

All through my life I have wandered in and out of belief. As a child I had a sure faith. Then, like many I drifted away. Periodically I would attend church, get very involved and then move away from it all. Sometimes, even when involved, I would have long times of non-belief. Like Thomas, I was out and about. The community continued, but I was not really there. Whether physically or emotionally – I was away from what I thought every one else was so sure about.

Three events changed my life for me. The first was a dean of a cathedral who responded to my question about having doubts with a hearty laugh, saying “Oh, everyone has doubts. Doubts are a good thing.” What a relief. I could let go of worrying about all the questions I had and my inability to make sense of the inconsistencies in the Bible.

The second was a workshop – I was sitting in a circle with others and reflecting on a reading I had just heard. Before that moment I always felt outside the circle of believers and faith – but suddenly I felt “in.” There was no change in my believing or not believing, but the door had been opened and I fell through.

The third was being really sick – sick unto death as they say. My immune system was turning the little muscles in my lungs to scar tissue. In that time, many people from all sorts of faiths, were praying for me. In fact, the church was not there for me in that time, only one friend from the church kept in touch. But in that time I felt I was part of a web of life that went beyond time and space, life and death. I could feel it – it held me.

I touched something that was beyond the need for belief. This is what I see in Thomas. He has always been loyal to Jesus – each of his appearances show that. He volunteers to go die in the story of Lazarus, is mystified by Jesus teaching about the “way”, and in this week’s reading, he asks for proof. When he sees the wounds he recognizes God. I am not sure he had to touch – though most art shows him putting his fingers in the wounds.

Is there something about woundedness that reveals the Holy? Is there something about the community that offers a taste of that which is beyond our knowing? Is there a place beyond believing where it does not matter any more – a knowing that is not contained in all the words and rituals though they are part of the path?

Where do you encounter “My Lord and My God”?

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, Interim Vicar,St. Catherine's Episcopal Church, Manzanita OR, keeps what the tide brings in. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.

Mixed feelings and tarnished ideals

By Lowell Grisham

I stayed up late Sunday night watching the news after hearing of the death of Osama bin Laden. And I slept a little longer yesterday morning when after the alarm went off.

I found myself having somewhat mixed feelings on Sunday. It does not feel right to rejoice when another human being is killed. And yet, I had a sense of relief and thanks that a person who had perpetrated so much evil and violence was no longer alive.

It was good intelligence and basic investigative work that uncovered bin Laden after ten years. And some sophisticated special ops work that finished him in the middle of a suburban neighborhood without harming nearby innocents.

It has always seemed to me that we erred by using war metaphors in reaction to the attacks of 9-11. In doing so, we inappropriately ennobled bin Laden and his group as if they were a real army from a real nation with real warriors. I thought we should have used the metaphor of organized crime. Al Qaeda seems more like a drug cartel or like the Ku Klux Klan than an army. Had we framed the attack in terms of organized crime, we might have focused more on effective methods of counter-terrorism -- essentially police actions: good intelligence and infiltration of the group -- rather than creating wars.

How much damage we have done by launching wars, with their inevitable harm and death to non-combatants, rather than using our superior resources to combat a small, clandestine violent criminal conspiracy? What if we had responded to the 9-11 attacks by inspiring our highest American ideals and character rather than our reactive, violent nature?

On the day after 9-11, the whole world was with us. They looked to us with sympathy and with empathy. We were to set the agenda for an international response to terrorism. What if we had used the moral weight that we held at that time to do things constructive, things that come from the best of the American spirit? What if we had used our unequaled influence at that moment to broker a fair and lasting peace settlement between Israel and Palestine? What if we had used that moment to launch an international relief effort to combat poverty and misery in places that sometimes breed the helplessness that leads to violence and terrorism? What if we had chosen a law-enforcement metaphor rather than war? We could have stood for the values of the rule of law, and focused the whole world on solving our shared problems, rather than our creating more problems and launching a decade of war.

I think we were poorly led in those days following 9-11, and we did not follow our highest American values and traditions. Instead of being noble, strong and just, we became fearful and violent. The whole world has suffered.

The story we had yesterday from the beginning of the book of Daniel is a fine story about the power that is present when we follow our highest ideals and maintain our identity and values in times of challenge and stress. It is the story of four young Jewish men who have been carried off in a mass deportation to Babylon. Their captors decide to train the young men, along with captives from other nations, to compete to become elite servants in the royal court.

All of the trainees are to be given royal rations of food and wine. But the assigned food is not kosher. The four Jewish men ask their trainer to allow them to maintain their dietary traditions, here represented as vegetables to eat and water to drink. As long as the men can show they can compete with the others, the trainer allows them to observe kosher. At the end of the testing time, no one was found to be healthier and wiser than the four Jewish men.

We betray our highest identity and values at great peril. It is usually a crisis, a great threat, that tempts us to be less than we are. But crisis is also the time of trial that forges our strongest character. As Americans, we need to remember that we are a strong and peaceful people. We value freedom and opportunity; we are compassionate; we are creative and hopeful, we are unafraid; we watch out for the little guy, for those who are weak or threatened; we embrace the equality of human beings and the rule of just laws. When we live out of our highest values, we bring much goodness to ourselves and to the planet.

May this next decade be a time of rebuilding, renewal and healing, consistent with the best values of our nation and of all humanity.

The Rev. Lowell Grisham is rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The experience of resurrection is not guaranteed

By Paul Fromberg

Two Wednesday evenings ago, I was sitting in a restaurant with my husband Grant. It was a nice place with good food and soft lighting; a short escape from the many, many tasks of Holy Week. I’d actually spent months getting ready for all of the liturgies: revising the words, thinking about the sermons, imagining the beauty of this space. Dinner was a short respite, a bit of a reward for a hard, long slog to the resurrection. Then he said it: “I hate to ruin the surprise, but you know how the story ends? Jesus always comes out of that tomb.” It was an offhand comment by my agnostic husband that balances the mystery of the faith and the mystery of our human situation.

We think we know how the story ends. Just like the three wayward women who went to the unremarkable tomb of Jesus. They certainly knew how the story ends. When the sun finally rose and they made their way through the hushed streets of Jerusalem, outside the walls of the city to a garden-tomb, they went to mourn their dead companion and leader. And, as with all of our mourning, it wasn’t just about the loss of their dead friend; it was also about the loss of their dead hope. The future that Jesus had spelled out for them – a future where least was first and master was servant and outsider was intimate – that imagined world of Jesus was surely dead too. They had come to complete the burial of Jesus, and to begin the burial of their dream. They knew how their story ended.

I looked across the table at Grant. Dinner was over and we split a dish of ice cream. I remembered the first time we shared a meal; it was at a Passover Seder, hosted by mutual friends. And there was this dazzling man who’s energy ignited the room. And I knew how the story would end. No love for me: too many tries and too many failures and too many regulations about Episcopal clergy dating people of their own gender. So I put the dazzling image behind me. And three years later, at the same Seder meal in the same home, it happened again – the energy and hope. And there I was a decade later sharing ice cream with the same man in a city on the edge of the world.

You see, every time we think that we know the way the story ends we have to come back to the way the world actually works. Nothing is certain. Not even death. The three women at the tomb discover that instead of a slightly decaying body it contains a young man dressed in white. It’s as if he is waiting for them to trouble their certitude about life and death. “Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Do not be afraid.

But we are afraid. We’re afraid of so many things, and you know what you’re afraid of, don’t you? Maybe you’re afraid that there won’t be enough money or food or water or shelter to keep you safe. Or maybe you’re afraid that there is no love for you, no hope, no joy, no future. And all of that fear is real, it just is. But it isn’t the last word. The last word is always the word of that nameless young man, awaiting a mournful clutch of women, “He is not here.” It’s both good news and challenging news for the three women. Jesus has been raised, and he no longer needs a tomb. He no longer needs the comfort and certainty of death. Which means that we no longer have need for death.

That’s hard. It’s easier to rehearse what is known then it is to go chasing after life that expands beyond our control. Jesus is not here, not in the tomb, not in death. He has gone on ahead of you. And where he goes is a place on the edge of the world neither you nor I has any control over. We can’t contain or control the life that he carries with him. We can’t delegate it to the worthy or force it on the unready, because it is the life of God that fills every life. It is like the love of God: indiscriminate and unbounded. It is life that goes everywhere and changes the ending of every story.

So the surprise of Easter is that the experience of resurrection is not guaranteed. It doesn’t just come up and grab you by the shoulders and make itself known. We have to seek it out. We have to pay attention to the world with our eyes and hearts and minds open to see that the story isn’t over yet. Like those three women at the tomb, we have to go on ahead to the place that we do not know yet, to see the one who will be found; the one who promises that our seeking will not be in vain and our stories are not determined. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, but the life of God poured out in Jesus Christ is over all, and in all, and through all. And it is here. Now.
Where you go from the empty tomb is your business. The life that you will find is God’s business. That is the promise of this night. You will see signs of it here, this life that floods from the empty tomb. As we called down saints and strangers to join our celebration; in a meal of bread and wine; in endless dancing and delight, we saw signs of this life. But if you want to see it in your own story you’ll have to go on to that place that lies just ahead, where the risen Jesus waits to tell you what happens next.

The surprise will astonish you.

Paul Fromberg is the rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

Advertising Space