The Martyrs of Uganda witness against sexual violence

The Martyrs of Uganda are celebrated on June 3rd. While the feast is not well known in the West, it is a big day in much of Africa. Martyrs Day on June 3 is a national holiday in Uganda. The men who were martyred were Anglican and Roman Catholic Christians and this year marked the 50th anniversary of their canonization by Pope Paul VI.

The story of their death is hair-raising. The Satucket Lectionary on the Holy Women Holy Men website says:

On 3 June 1886, thirty-two young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following months many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire for their faith.’

images.jpegThese martyrdoms totally changed the dynamic of Christian growth in Uganda. Introduced by a handful of Anglican and Roman missionaries after 1877, the Christian faith had been preached only to the immediate members of the court, by order of King Mutesa. His successor, Mwanga, became increasingly angry as he realized that the first converts put loyalty to Christ above the traditional loyalty to the king. Martyrdoms began in 1885. Mwanga first forbade anyone to go near a Christian mission on pain of death, but finding himself unable to cool the ardor of the converts, resolved to wipe out Christianity.

Their deaths was the spark that began a remarkable expansion of the Christian Gospel in eastern and central Africa. It is a story of remarkable faithfulness in the face of the violence and power of the state.

But the story of the Ugandan Martyrs has changed. Their witness is no longer remembered in terms of the resistance of the faithful to the demands of a human king. Instead, their story has been used to justify homophobia and violence . Because in addition to demanding that the thirty-two men renounce their Christian faith, King Mwanga also demanded that they submit to him sexually. As a result their story is used to justify both hatred of homosexuality in general and violence against gay and lesbian people in particular.

The transformation of their story from a story of sexual violence exercised by king into a moralistic story against homosexuality is similar to how the church of the Middle Ages, the Victorian era and even in our time, transformed the story of first Christian women who were martyred...women who were often called virgins.

In the early church there was a strong connection between a woman's chastity and martyrdom with several examples of women choosing death over rape or forced marriages, and so on.

One the hallmarks of the early church was that it was a place that accepted "widows" and "orphans," who were not simply women or children whose husbands and parents predeceased them, but who were women and children cast off by society because their bond to that society was severed either by the death of--or very often the whim of-- a man. A woman whose husband put her out and whose father and brothers would not take back was a "widow."

Similarly, the children of a man who would not accept paternity--the child of a mistress or a slave or conceived through rape or simply not accepted in the family (like an expensive girl-child)-- were put out to fend for themselves in the society of the Greek and Roman world.

Slavery was one answer to this. Not the chattel slavery that we think of, but a high-order indentured servitude. People, in short, could and did become property.

The early church offered a place and a status to women and children by welcoming and caring for the widowed and orphaned. The idea that a woman could choose chastity over involuntary sex with a person not of her choosing, and this choice was considered not rebellious but virtuous was a radical aspect of the Christian gospel. Paul's affirmation that in Christ there is no "slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female" but that all are one in Christ takes on a particularly radical and poignant perspective in this context.

In this context, "virginity" was not so much about sexual restraint as the refusal to allow others to choose when, how and with whom a woman may exercise her sexuality. Early church saints and martyrs like Cecile, Agatha and Agnes were choosing not to participate in a society that made women the property of some man, in a world where sex was a sign of domination and power instead of intimacy.

The impact of their witness was lost when chastity and virginity became more about morals and regulating women's bodies in later times but understanding their original context can help us in understanding what to make of the Martyrs of Uganda.

For one thing, in the story of the king demanding sex with these Christian captives, there is very little connection with how we understand homosexuality (as an orientation) or marriage (as an equal partnership based on mutual love and mutual commitment) or even healthy sexuality today.

Like the early Christian martyrs, what the Martyrs of Uganda refused was the power of an earthly king who wanted to demonstrate his power over these slaves--and the powerlessness of the Gospel--by attempting to have forcible sex with helpless victims. What they refused was the use of sex as a expression of power--in this case political and religious--through the humiliation of rebellious subjects. Their refusal was an affirmation that in Christ each person has inherent dignity and worth. As they went to their gruesome deaths singing and praying, they proved that God's power builds up while human power degrades.

Their witness is a powerful example today where sexual violence is widespread in conflicts all over the world.

Participants at last week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, agreed that faith communities can have significant influence to end the sexual violence that still takes place all over the globe.

Faith leaders and faith-based organizations have a vital role to play in engaging their communities in both the prevention of, and response to, sexual violence in conflict..

…faith communities are often at the center of communities and able to be first responders in times of crisis. They can challenge the attitudes associated with sexual violence and address perceptions that can lead to inequality and the spread of violence.

Those who use the witness of the Martyrs of Uganda to condemn homosexual persons, or to denigrate same sex marriage or as an excuse to persecute GLBT persons miss the power of the original witness of the Martyrs of Uganda. They reduce their deaths to a story of paranoia and social control. In short, they accomplish precisely was the Ugandan king failed to do in 1886.

Instead, the Martyrs of Uganda are a powerful example of how the Church can—and does—stand against sexual violence of all kinds and in all places.

The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns is the Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Easton, Pennsylvania in the Diocese of Bethlehem. He keeps the blog “Fun’n’Games in the Kingdom of God.”


by Maria L. Evans

"Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos',"--Opening line in the Zulu hymn, "Siyahamba" ("We are marching in the light of God)

Easter in my home parish brought me a wonderful flashback. We sang "Siyahamba" (in English) for our communion hymn, and even though I never heard the Moru of Lui singing it when I was in South Sudan last winter, I could practically see and hear what I imagined Easter to be in Lui. I could feel the drums in the beat of my heart, and hear the clapping. I later emailed one of my Lui friends and told him, "I even made the yi-yi sounds because it felt so much like Lui."

His reply to me touched me deeply. "Thank you for being African."

We are nine hours apart from Lui to Missouri, so I pondered his words over my morning coffee. What I came to understand is that the unspoken price of mission in a far away land is that for any of us who do it, we never quite see the world the same, because we come home with hidden cargo in our heart. Yes, there is a piece of me that will always "be African" now.

Some of "being African" shows up in the things I do as a manner of course. I regularly cruise online feeds from the Sudan Tribune and All Africa News. I ponder what the news means to "the folks back home" (and yeah, I have called them "the folks back home.")

Some of "being African" is seeing the parts that are "not African" in a more defined light. What we take for granted as "the way things ought to be" are so often rooted in our American culture of rugged individualism, survival of the fittest, and "(s)he who has the most toys wins." Being African means that leaving the tap running now makes me uncomfortable, or recognizing that my "get 'er done" attitude to things, although not always wrong in some circumstances, can actually prevent those more reserved from wanting to participate sometimes. Hearing everyone in the circle speak got more important, although I still sometimes struggle mightily with that. It's knowing in my heart I am not yet African enough in those places.

For Episcopalians, "being African" also means feeling the pain of the ecclesiastical gap between us and entities like the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, and our opposing stances on some very basic issues, while at the same time being in touch with the most basic aspect of being Anglican--to try to, above all else, remain at the Eucharistic table together. I keep reminding myself, "How can I expect the average East African Christian to see eye to eye with me on same sex marriage, when we can't even see eye to eye that I think having pets in the house and on my bed is ok?" These are countries that are still trying to figure out how to abolish the bride price, while at the same time trying to figure out how to have enough food to eat. Many are war-torn and still deeply laden with PTSD. I suspect very little will be "fixed by my satisfaction" in my lifetime. Being African means to love and trust in a milieu of greater incongruities than I am used to having surround me. It means acting in love and abiding in patience.

I'm willing to bet that "Siyahamba" has been the most universally translated African song in the last 30 years. We have something really awful--the struggle for civil rights in South Africa--to thank for its universal nature. Yet at the same time, every time I sing it, the image of Bishop Desmond Tutu comes to the forefront of my mind. This awful thing gave the world a beautiful song and an amazing saint on earth. It's a reminder that we need more verses to "Siyahamba"--verses like, "We are listening in the light of God," "We are being still in the light of God," and "we are sharing in the light of God." "Being African" means these things are not incongruous with singing, dancing, and praying in the light of God.

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

Can a leopard change its spots?

by Nigel Taber-Hamilton

I left the Church of England for good on October 4, 1979, at about two o’clock in the afternoon.

That was when my British Airways flight from London touched down in San Francisco, and I returned to the place I had, only a year previously, spent a year as a World Council of Churches Ecumenical Fellow.

Born and bred in London until that first overseas trip at the age of 24, ordained a deacon in London’s Southwark Cathedral in 1978, I left Britain in 1979 for a complex of reasons that, I have come to realize, can be summed up by this short sentence: The Church of England is always a train-wreck waiting to happen.

This last week, at the C. of E.’s General Synod, the waiting ended.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! My first year in Berkeley CA – 1977, at the Episcopal Church’s west-coast seminary, C.D.S.P. – had introduced me to the first group of Episcopal women who knew without a doubt when they entered seminary that upon graduation they would be ordained deacons then priests.

The months after my return to London from California in August of 1978 proved to be a stark reminder that it would be a very long time before women were ordained priests in my homeland. I survived only a year in the Church of England’s class-conscious, paternalistic structures before throwing in the towel and returning to what I had come to recognize during that year in the United States as my spiritual home: the Episcopal Church.

The sad truth for women in England is that my adoptive province which ordained me a priest in the Church of God in 1982 (
and several times flirted with consecrating him a bishop, ~ed. note) ordained women as bishops five years before the English Church ordained women as priests.

No human institution is perfect; if it was then it would mean that Jesus had returned. But the Episcopal Church has two things going for it: We’re willing to make the hard decisions and stick with them; and we understand better than many the meaning of baptism and the importance in particular of embracing the ministry of the baptized as the fundamental ministry from which all other ministries receive their credibility and authority. As a priest I am, first and foremost, a member of the baptized – as is my bishop, Gregory H. Rickel and every other Episcopalian – every other Christian.
As a member of the baptized my responsibility is to serve others, including other members of the baptized – as is their responsibility toward me; we’re all servants or none of us is – there’s no in-between.

This seems to be a truth the Church of England has forgotten – if it ever really knew it. Mired in institutionalism, petty bickering, and the surrender of its integrity to extremists, the C. of E. is living in a fantasy world:

• Bishops think they can impose modifications to legislation passed by 96% of the dioceses and are surprised when many object;

• laity think that they have no responsibility to those they represent, voting any which way with no consequences, and are surprised by the outpouring of anger toward them;
• and the rest of the nation – long used to living with (or in spite of) the idiosyncrasies of the state Church – even they are shocked by the utter disarray of an institution that, commanded by its founder to be inclusive and compassionate, has so spectacularly failed in this core mission and identity to do either for at least half its members.

One wonders if there are any three English bishops out there with the guts to get together and do what the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness did for the Episcopal Church in consecrating Samuel Seabury (our first bishop) on November 14, 1784: consecrate a woman as a bishop in England.

Probably not.

It’s hard for a leopard to change its spots.

The Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton is rector of St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church on Whidbey Island, WA. He is the Interfaith Officer of the Diocese of Olympia and a former Deputy to General Convention

Is the Anglican Communion a Gift from God?

by Elizabeth Kaeton

“The communion is a gift from God. It is a treasure. We cannot divide it. We should treasure it even though we may have our differences.”

So said the Rt. Rev. Daniel Sarfo, bishop of the diocese of Kumasi in Ghana, after the third Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, recently hosted by the Anglican Church of Canada at a Jesuit retreat center near Toronto.

I'm seeing this phrase "gift of/from God" more and more frequently applied to the Anglican Communion. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable.

Don't get me wrong, I treasure the Anglican Communion. It is a very precious gift. I love the depth and breath of our diversity. Although not well practiced of late, I love the "Big Tent" of the Anglican ideals of Tolerance and Accommodation. And yes, I can sing "all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above" with the rest of the congregation and not have to cross my fingers, but's what is disconcerting about it for me.

I would imagine that many Roman Catholics feel that their denomination is a gift from God. So, too, the Orthodox. I've heard Jews speak this way of Torah, and Muslims speak of Koran as a divine gift. Certainly, Christians - including Episcopalians - speak of the divinely inspired gift of scripture, but I've not heard any other denomination speak of their religion as a "gift of God". Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily, as long as we admit that ours is not the only gift. God is certainly a God of abundance, entirely capable of bestowing many gifts to many groups of people.

I must say that I cringe when I hear some refer to America as a "Christian nation" . While our country may have been founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the assertion that we are a Christian nation is not only untrue, it smacks of Christian triumphalism, which is disquieting to my soul precisely because triumphalism is so antithetical to true Christianity.

I also admit to growing more and more uncomfortable with the theistic idea of a God who is in control of everything. I remember seeing pictures of the after effects of a fire in California. There was one house standing amidst the rubble of other houses that had burned to the ground. The home owner had put a sign outside the house which read, "Thank you, God." I thought to myself, "I wonder how the other home owners feel about that sign. Was this really an "act of God" or just the random pattern of the wind? Was it a manifestation of Divine intervention or a cruel trick of nature?"

What does it mean when bad things happen to good people, or good things happen to bad people? Is God always involved or does stuff happen sometimes that defies human knowledge and comprehension and logic?

I remember a January 2009 Oprah program when guest, Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, Pasadena, said, "Being gay is a gift from God." The audience exploded in gasps followed by a smattering of enthusiastic applause which grew louder and more sustained. Oprah was clearly startled and laughed as she said, "I ain't never heard no reverend say THAT before."

If we say that "human sexuality is a divine gift", then does it not follow that all expressions of sexual orientation are God's gift - even if some might think it a curse? Does the fact that some do not value a particular sexual orientation diminish the value - or the divine origination - of that gift?

What are we saying - what does it mean, exactly- when we say that the Anglican Communion is a "gift of God"? Especially when Bishop Sarfo adds, "We cannot divide it. We should treasure it even though we may have our differences.”

I note that the Anglican Province of West Africa, of which the Diocese of Kumasi, Ghana, is a part, has not yet weighed in on the Anglican Covenant. However, the Primate of West Africa - at least until September - is Bishop Justice Akrofi, a decidedly "orthodox" Anglican who is a member of the GAFCON primate's council and was appointed alternate representative from Africa to the Primates Standing Committee before resigning in protest last year.

Which leads me to raise a left eyebrow in suspicion about Bishop Sarfo's comment - especially appearing, as it does, in the Anglican Journal. Does he mean that the Anglican Covenant would be an "instrument of unity"? Is he signaling his support of the Anglican Covenant? Is it a political sign, designed to send a message about what kind of Primate he would be, if elected?

I agree with the bishop that the Anglican Communion should be treasured and not divided, but I happen to see the Anglican Covenant running contrary to that goal - perhaps in the same way that those who support the Anglican Covenant do not necessarily consider that "being gay is a gift from God".

I expect that, as we move closer to the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury, we shall see this language about the Anglican Communion being a "gift of God" resurface again and again. I also expect to see it as an overture or a prelude to an attempt to try and re-kindle support for the Anglican Covenant.

I happen to think the Anglican Communion is a gift - divinely inspired. I pray we will always use it - and all good gifts around us - as God intended. We cannot divide it. We should treasure it, even though we may have our differences - like good Christians who are Anglican.

The Rev'd Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton is an Episcopal priest who loves Jesus unconditionally and struggles with the institutional church continually. She is currently a member of and assists at All Saints Rehoboth Beach and St George's Chapel, Harbeson, DE and has a private pastoral counseling and consulting practice. She blogs at Telling Secrets.

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 »

Sewanee Plan opposed as Imperium in Imperio

With Jim Crow on the rise, Bishop Green of Mississippi suggested a meeting of the "Bishops of the Late Slave States" in preparation for the General Convention. Twelve southern bishops met in Sewanee, Tennessee in 1883 to consider segregation of the Church. The view of the Sewanee Conference bishops is described by Bishop Howe of South Carolina in his convention address of 1873:

I find, myself inclined to think, at least from present observation and reflection, that if our Church is to do any work of moment among this people, it must be done by the Church at large. Let a Missionary Jurisdiction be erected by the General Convention with express reference to these people, and let a Missionary Bishop be consecrated, who shall give his whole time and thought to this work; who, as the executive, not of a single Diocese, but of the entire Church, shall organize congregations, provide them with Church schools and pastors, and in due time raise up from among the colored people themselves, deacons and priests who shall be educated men, and competent to the work of the ministry. It would seem as if the Church, even in lack of precedent, ought to be able to provide for our perplexity.
When General Convention rejected the plan, southern bishops acted on their own by segregating blacks into "colored convocations" within their respective dioceses.

In 1907 the Sewanee Plan for a diocese for blacks was brought back to General Convention, this time by a blacks who chafed under the southern system of colored convocations. They wanted a diocese of black parishes under a black bishop. What convention did instead was to put into motion the creation of the office of suffragan bishop, action that was finalized at the 1910 convention. The understanding was the office was a middle road that would lead to black bishops for blacks -- bishops without the powers of a diocesan, but rather answering to a white southern bishop.

The Very Rev. James. S. Russell, the son of slaves, served as the Archdeacon for Colored Work in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. He favored the status quo over either of these alternatives. He expressed his views in The Churchman of October 5, 1907:

A canon almost identical with the present, providing for a missionary episcopate, was presented to the General Convention of 1889. The Committee on Canons reported adversely upon it on the ground that it was antagonistic of the history and the traditional policy of the Church and episcopal jurisdiction in the sense that it created an "imperium in imperio"; that it trenched so closely on Article IV, that its constitutionality was doubtful, and finally it recognized a racial distinction incompatible with the general tenets and policies of the Church.


From time immemorial the boast of the Church has been the brotherhood of man, and its disregard of race or color in its ministrations. This is not a mere sentiment, as some claim, but one of the most cherished and time-honored principles of the Church, and one which she has held fast to throughout all the changes of the years. The one bishop administering to the sheep of both flocks is not a mere sentiment or tradition, but a priceless heritage, rendered sacred by the practice and injunction of the years. The bond of union between whites and blacks has been swept away successively until this is the only one left.


Talk about being a laughing stock -- we would simply be the butt of other denominations. Our bishops under such a system [of suffragans], when compared with bishops of other denominations would appear at a disadvantage. ... Our latter condition would be infinitely worse than it is now.

Biographical note: Born into slavery, Archdeacon James Solomon Russell (1857-1935) was founder of the St. Paul Normal and Industrial School (now Saint Paul’s College).

In 1882 Russell was ordained to the diaconate of the Episcopal Church by the bishop of the undivided Diocese of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. F. M. Whittle, who four years previously had opened the way for the Archdeacon's training. Bishop Whittle appointed him as missionary to Brunswick and Mecklenburg Counties.

He was the first Negro to be appointed to any department of the Board of Missions of the National Council and served eight years (1923-1931) as an additional member of the Department of Christian Social Service of the National Council. He attended eleven consecutive triennial sessions of the General Convention.

James Russell Solomon was named a Local Saint during the 1996 Winter Session of the 104th Annual Council of the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Southern Virginia. (Abridged from here.)

A Critique of the Covenant through Michael Ramsey’s Theology

By Jared C. Cramer

The following is an excerpt from Fr. Cramer’s book, Safeguarded by Glory: Michael Ramsey's Ecclesiology and the Struggles of Contemporary Anglicanism, published by Lexington Books and available from

Michael Ramsey, the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, served from 1961—1974, and is now widely respected by both liberals and conservatives within the Anglican Communion. I believe careful attention to his approach to theology yields significant insight for the life of the contemporary church. Indeed, there are several ways in which Ramsey’s approach to theology and the doctrine of the church interact with the Anglican Communion today. Some of that is surely due to the simple fact that humans have not changed: they are still prone to sects and idols. However, in some other ways his words speak profound criticism to recent trends within the Communion. While it would be impossible to trace each and every way that Ramsey’s theology speaks to the contemporary church, there are a few areas where it seems his words are especially needed. One of the most significant is the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The first point of critique, of course, is the very existence of the Covenant itself. When the revision of canon law came up while Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury, he did not engage it fully because of his belief that law could not usually solve the problems of the church. Ramsey consistently praised the “non-confessional” approach of Anglican Christianity, glad that the truth of God expressed in the creeds is a sufficient standard for Christian belief. Furthermore, the easy confidence that seems to have arisen in our Communion with giving great authority to high level drafted statements is problematic. When Ramsey was in ecumenical meetings, he had deep doubts about the possibilities of engaging the profoundest matters of theology through “high pressure drafting,” asking, “Why should such procedures be the medium through which the Holy Spirit speaks to the Church?” [1]

Within the final draft of the Covenant there are also several specific points for critique. First, the way in which the “historic formularies of the Church of England” supposedly provide an interpretive framework for Scripture is problematic. This is especially so for the inclusion of the Thirty-Nine Articles. While Ramsey acknowledged the place of the Thirty-Nine Articles in the Christian and Anglican tradition, he would certainly never have given them the high place to which the Covenant seems to put them. It must be remembered that he presided over the 1968 Lambeth Conference that had a resolution devoted entirely to the question of the Thirty-Nine Articles. That resolution (resolution 43) said three things: each church should consider whether it is necessary for them to be bound in the prayer book, assenting to the Thirty-Nine Articles should no longer be required of ordinands, and that if subscription is to be required, it should be “only in the context of a statement which gives the full range of our inheritance of faith and sets the Articles in their historical context.” Furthermore, Ramsey himself insisted that what was important to a proper understanding of Anglican faith was not the articles, for they are profoundly historically limited: every group in the Reformation had its articles. Rather, when asked what Anglicans stand for, he suggests the proper answer is, “Yes, here are our articles, but here is our Prayer Book as well—come and pray with us, come and worship with us, and that is how you will understand what we stand for.” [2] That is, what Anglicans stand for is found in an experience of common worship, not a historically limited document.

On the problem of “living out this inheritance of faith in varying contexts” (Sec 1.2), the Covenant speaks primarily of the importance of Scripture and tradition. Where reason does occur (1.2.2), it is answerable to Holy Scripture and catholic tradition. This is a profoundly problematic, not to mention simplistic, approach to theological decision-making—especially adjudicating proper theological decision-making in different cultural contexts. Ramsey would have steadfastly rejected this approach, insisting it did not give enough room for reason and that it gave no room for the revelation of God through avenues outside the church.

Even all the Covenant insistence upon the importance of the creeds seems to miss part of the point of the creeds. As Ramsey argued, the creeds exist to protect the church from the insistence of various parties that their views be seen as the most important. Thus the creeds should not be used to divide, but to turn back the rising tide of schismatic pride. The creeds properly functioning in the Anglican Communion not only provide an interpretive key to Holy Scripture, they also clarify the heart of Christian faith to those on both sides. To those on the right, the creeds remind them that ethical disputes are not at the center of the Christian faith. Ramsey himself insisted the church should never use ethical criteria to determine the pure. To those on the left, the creeds clarify that as important as social justice is, it is only a Christian concern when it is united to the Gospel message of God’s self-giving love in Christ. To say the church should act in a certain way because it is “a justice issue” fails to properly articulate the Gospel. It would be much better to say the church should act in a certain way because it more fully reveals the Gospel of God in Christ.

Particularly troubling in the final Anglican Covenant is the section the ACC also found difficult in the Ridley Cambridge Draft: section 4. Even given the revisions in the final text, it seems that “the teeth” of the Covenant have been placed squarely in the jaws of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (SCAC). Though the Covenant acknowledges that “each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations,” section 4.3 also makes clear that not participating in this Covenant raises important questions “relating to the meaning of the Covenant and of compatibility with the principles incorporated within it.” Furthermore, not participating may “trigger” the provisions set out in 4.2 for the limitation or suspension of engagement with the Instruments of Communion. Thus, in the Anglican Covenant, the organ of unity ceases to be the traditionally Anglican broad approach, where we find unity in our shared worship and historic relationships. In the Covenant, not participating in it, or not ceding to the requests made through the processes of the Covenant raises questions as to just how Anglican one really is.

Certainly, the Episcopal Church needs to practice a greater understanding of its place within the Communion than it did in 2003. It has admitted such since then. It is true that too often members of the Episcopal Church are not truly listening to the beliefs and concerns of their brothers and sisters in other provinces—content instead to offer only support and aid. However, this Covenant responds by undermining the traditional understandings of the Communion whose bonds of affection the Episcopal Church only strained. Ironically, the Covenant seeks clarity and a definite process of how exactly to break relationships in order to adjudicate relationship. Most problematically, the Anglican covenant provides mechanisms to cement and effect division. As many raised their concerns with the development of centralized authority in global polity, the ironic result has been a covenant that now explicitly allows any province to say “I have no need of you.”

What if, instead, the Covenant insisted that member churches must remain in relationship? What if it called them to take seriously the historic documents of Anglican ecclesiology like the Quadrilateral, insisting these are the actual standard of Communion relationship? One can clearly see the mechanism for separation in the Anglican Covenant, but it is much harder to see the mechanism for deep and abiding relationship. An approach to unity based upon forced policies and lists of doctrine and church principles results in precisely the same problem that created the sin of schism: the idea that one’s own perception of Christian faith is the one that is normative. At the end of the day, however, neither the Primates’ Meeting, nor the (Anglican Consultative Council, nor the SCAC, nor any other group will succeed in telling one bishop or group of bishops with whom they should consider themselves in Communion or in strained relationship. The unity which the Covenant purports to seek will remain out of reach.

[1] James B. Simpson, The Hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 134.
[2] Michael Ramsey, The Anglican Spirit (Seabury Classics; ed. by Dale D. Coleman; New York: Church Publishing, 2004), 7.

The Very Rev. Jared C. Cramer is the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan. He blogs on his parish website at

Paul's analogy of the body has its limits

By Marshall Scott

Some years ago I read an interesting science fiction story in a “classics” collection. I can’t find either the title or the author, but the point has remained with me. In the story human researchers have found in space a planet that is a vast insect colony, something like a termite colony on an planetary scale. Like a large termite colony, within the primary species there is a queen, and there are various categories of worker according to function. There are also other species, living in and off of the primary species. All seems to the human researcher to be going well, and the lead researcher is considering how humans might make use of this new species, especially its apparent capacity to breed members with new abilities to meet new situations without a planning intelligence.

As one might expect, things took a very different turn. The queen took control of the body of a researcher to communicate to the lead researcher (in a process that also didn’t turn out well for the person so used). The queen made it clear that the capacity of the hive included the capacity for intelligence “when needed.” She also made clear that she was quite aware of human history and human capacity. She noted that her species had adapted and survived for millions of years (not unlike similar species on Earth), while the human species was perhaps 100,000 years old, and on the brink of self-destruction. She added that “intelligence is not necessarily an evolutionary advantage.”

What brought that to mind was this comment made by Bishop Graham Kings in his interview with the BBC: “I was worried when Martyn [Minns] spoke about reducing the Communion to a network. Networks are very different from an organic Communion.” We’ve heard that phrase, “an organic Communion,” often enough in our Anglican controversies. I found myself curious where it came from.

While I found a number of more recent citations, perhaps the most salient is Christifideles Laici, an Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II, issued December 30, 1988. In that work, John Paul wrote,

“Ecclesial communion is more precisely likened to an "organic" communion, analogous to that of a living and functioning body. In fact, at one and the same time it is characterized by a diversity and a complementarity of vocations and states in life, of ministries, of charisms and responsibilities. Because of this diversity and complementarity every member of the lay faithful is seen in relation to the whole body and offers a totally unique contribution on behalf of the whole body. “(Italics in the original)

He goes on to cite Paul in I Corinthians 12, and to discuss the theology of the Body. And, of course, Paul’s metaphor of the Church as Body is central to our understanding of communion, and the specific expression of the Anglican Communion. Paul does not use the phrase, “an organic communion,” but his image of the Body is organic by any meaningful definition.

I find myself wondering, though, whether we don’t to some extent mislead ourselves by the specificity of Paul’s image. His image is, well, all too human. When we think of his image of the Church as Body, we think of a human body – just as Paul did, as shown by his description of the inseparability of a hand or a foot.

The thing is, we have come to understand many other kinds of bodies, and many other images that “a body,” an “organic union,” might take. There are other ways that creatures are organized that are very different from ours. Is there something we miss if our image of “an organic communion” is too anthropomorphic?

It seems to me that all too often when we think about “an organic communion” and conflate it with Paul’s image of the Body, we forget that in Paul’s image Christ is the head of the body. Oh, when we think of the image of the Body itself, we don’t make that mistake. It’s just when we want to use that image to help us imagine “an organic communion.” My evidence for this is that in all our arguments about “a communion,” organic or otherwise, an ongoing theme is about who gets to be the head. Think of all our arguments about “the primacy of Peter;” or about “establishment,” whether now in England or a thousand years ago in Constantinople. And, if we’re fighting over “headship” in our “organic communion,” what becomes of our commitment to the headship of Christ in the Body? What if a “having a head” other than Christ isn’t “an evolutionary advantage” for “an organic communion?”

We do have other images we might imagine for “an organic communion.” We might, for example, think about the vine and the branches. It speaks to us of growth that is rooted in Christ, but that can lead in a variety of directions. It speaks to us of fruitfulness, and can connect in our reflections to the blood of Christ, which we receive in the Eucharist and in which we are cleansed from sin.

We might consider the lilies of the field. In that sense, we might think of the field itself, the ecclesial “ecosystem,” if you will, as “an organic communion.” In the field it is precisely variety that speaks of health and wholeness. “Not even Solomon in all his glory” was as beautiful, but it is the sum of them, and no one alone, that expresses the glory of the Kingdom.

We might consider a garden – indeed, we might consider “the Garden,” the image of creation. In the Garden there were “trees of every kind,” including the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Every animal was there, brought to be named. Remarkably, as in our current arguments about “headship” in “an organic communion,” it was precisely ambition that led to the fall.

If we want to best parallel “an organic communion” that steps away from claiming “headship” for ourselves, perhaps the image we want is that of a flock. It is made up of a variety of sheep, and even of both sheep and goats, at least until the last judgment. It is an image in which it is clear who are the sheep, and who – singular – is the shepherd.

This is certainly part of current conversation on the nature and future of the Church (the Body of Christ, and not specifically the Episcopal Church) these days. In 2006 Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom published The Starfish and the Spider. The image of the “starfish organization” is of one that is gathered around ideas and purpose, and not structures; and of one that is resilient, capable of recovering and even growing when it seems divided, scattered, even ruptured. Do a quick search, and you’ll find that many have written on how this might apply to the Church, and how reimagining the Church as a “starfish organization” might be meaningful for our future. Now, it doesn’t hurt for this imagining that a starfish is an “organic communion” without a head, but it’s also important to note that in Brafman and Beckstrom’s metaphor “headship,” leadership, takes on a different form and role.

Any of these images, whether Biblical or cultural, might offer some insight, and certainly any of them will have limitations. Still, I think these various images, from garden to flock to starfish, offer us opportunities, opportunities to think about the various forms “an organic communion” might take. We are indebted to Paul for his image of the Church as the Body of Christ. However, I think we may well go astray when we imagine that “an organic communion” must have the same form and characteristics of the Body of Christ. Even Paul’s metaphor has its limits, and we run up against one of them time and again. Time and again we seek to structure “communion” in our own image, and to imagine that one (or some) of us should be the head on behalf of, and all too frequently instead of, Christ. I have to wonder how we might see the Church differently if we imagine it as absolutely organic, rooted in Christ, let by Christ, and growing into the light of Christ, but with no “head” for our ambition to seek.

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

The Church and the state of gay rights in Kenya

By Peter Anaminyi

In a recent address last month to a national symposium on HIV/Aids targeting homosexuals, lesbians and sex workers in Kenya, Hon Esther Murugi, a Minister in the Office of the President in Kenya, told the participants that “We need to learn to live with men who have sex with other men… we are in the 21st century and things have changed.”

She went on to say that homosexuals and sex workers were an independent constituency and should not be stigmatised and called for statistics to enable the government to develop a policy to cut prevalence rates among the group.

The reaction of religious leaders was predictable, virulent, violent and swift.

The Organising Secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers described her utterances as “satanic and contrary to African culture” and added that “God in his holy books (Quran and Bible) cursed homosexuality and directed us to fight it.’ He went on to urge the President and the Prime Minister to take stern action against the minister. His comments were supported by the Chairman of the Kenya National Muslim Advisory Council.

Not to be left behind more than 74 churches under the aegis of the Federation of Evangelical Indigenous Christian Churches of Kenya petitioned the President to sack the minister over her remarks and threatened to hold public demonstrations if this was not done. They warned that the Ministers statement would invite God’s wrath.

However a week or so after the minister’s statement, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs added what must have come as a shocker to some members of the religious community: the Government was not going to discriminate against gays in the provision of services. It’s against the new constitution. What people do in their bedrooms should be a private matter.

Homophobia however is not unique to Africa, as the recent suicide ofTyler Clementi, the 18 year old Rutgers University freshman who felt he would rather commit suicide than have people know that he is gay, has shown.

Kenya Government statistics show that over 30 percent of all new HIV infections are generated by commercial sex workers, homosexuals and drug users. All these groups are engaged in sexual and other behaviors that are currently criminalised. An HIV prevention policy therefore that assumes that 30 percent of the problem to be solved does not or should not exist would be one that is based on wishful thinking.

Almost 30 years after the first incidence of HV was reported, 35 out of 52 African countries or almost 70 percent of them were unable to report any information about gay populations to the United Nations General Assembly Session of HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) this year.

Again whereas the Centre for Disease Control has found that the unadjusted probability per coital act of transmitting HIV is 80 times higher for receptive anal intercourse than for vaginal intercourse, and that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with
men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women, the risk of homosexual behaviour in relation to HIV in Sub Saharan Africa has been measured in only 14 out of 118 studies reported between 1984-2007.

No responsible government can allow this state of wilful ignorancev and inaction to prevail. The Kenya government is therefore pursuing an evidence based policy in addressing the issue of HIV and sexual minorities through it’s National Aids Strategic Plan. This plan is a product of the Kenya National Aids Council whose corporate members include all the main Christian religious denominations in Kenya who are represented on its board by the National Council of Churches in Kenya, as well as the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, and the national associations representing all employers, NGO’s and women organisations. It is not possible to constitute a membership that is wider, stronger or more reflective of the state, civil society and religious interests.

The Plan fully embraces the gay community and organisations that have expertise in this area and commits the government to addressing the delicate and controversial issues of decriminalization and access to services. Significantly the plan states that Cutting across all
strategies will be a central focus on MARPs (Most at Risk Populations: gays, sex workers and injecting drug users) and vulnerable groups.

In compliance with its international human rights treaty obligations, the Kenya Government presented its second periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2005, to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and cited the differences and conflicts within the Anglican Church and communion and the strong homophobic stance of the African Anglican Bishops as one of the factors it was considering in framing its policy towards same sex relations.

In response to a question as to whether it considered the criminalisation of homosexuality to be inconsistent with the Covenant’s non-discrimination clauses, Kenya’s Attorney General said that ‘The movement appeared to be towards tolerance, but the Government would watch the issue closely, particularly as the Anglican Church was currently struggling with the matter.’

However in response to calls this year for decriminalization of homosexuality by the US, France, Netherlands and 97 national international development organisations in Kenya, the UN reported that the Kenya government said it was ‘Committed to decriminalize them and combat discrimination, but facing serious social intolerance towards homosexuals’. And in its report to the United Nations General Assembly Session of HIV/AIDS this year, the Government recommended the revision and harmonization of health and criminal laws ‘so that all the issues of HIV and AIDS that are affecting the MARPs (Most at risk populations)… are addressed.’

The Anglican Church of Kenya is represented on the Kenya National Aids Council by the ational Council of Churches in Kenya. In fact the Anglican Church is the largest denominational member of this Council.

The violent attacks on Kenya’s minister are an indication of the fears African governments have about adopting evidence based approaches in dealing with HIV and AIDS due to culture and religion. They are also an indication of the inability of some churches to distinguish between moral values that should guide their members and public policy that guides all. But how will Africa’s cultural values and religion exist if its people are dead from the consequences of taking the same values and beliefs uncritically? Kenya is prepared to work with any individual or organisation, local or international to address to the human rights and health issues of its gay communities and other sexual minorities.

Peter Anaminyi is the National Director/CEO Feba Radio Kenya and formerly a Manager
with the National Bank of Kenya and Assistant Inspector of State Corporations, Office of the
President, Kenya. He holds an MA in Management from the University of Leeds, in England
an M.Sc in International Banking and Financial Studies from Herriot Watt University in
Scotland and an MA in human rights law and diplomacy from the University of
Witwatersrand in South Africa. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the views
of Feba Radio, Kenya.

Comprehensively beautiful, not tightly consistent, Part II

By W. Christopher Evans

The language of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral as it relates to Scripture and the Creeds is similar to much language found not only in the Articles of Religion, but also in Richard Hooker. A resonance of authority exists there that requires we as Anglicans particularly not only take the Quadrilateral in itself, but look for those resonances, such as Hooker and the Articles. That the Quadrilateral and all of our authorities point beyond themselves, ultimately to a Person, indeed, Persons Three. Historical authorities cannot be dismissed because they are with us also, but that does not mean that we are so beholden to them that no open spaces or even closed opinions are not up for reconsideration or further examination, yes, even reassessment in light of new flesh—that is data, input, member-ed-ness. To say otherwise is to no recognize how truly complex was the undoing of slavery given almost universal biblical acceptance. It required breaking open beyond the Scriptures themselves to a Person who sometimes speaks in a text by forcing us to question supposed “God” in them.

To begin to get at authorities falling within this field of resonances, some questions are helpful for clarifying (without settling) shared and disputed Anglican informative/interpretive sources:

What sources do we share or dispute as Anglican Christians across Churches and Provinces?

I would suggest, for example, that Richard Hooker would fall in this category as a shaping if not shared source, while Lancelot Andrews might not across Churches and Provinces. We share heavily the influence of F. D. Maurice with the Church of England, but the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) might not, though Maurice’s thinking very much shapes aspects of our Communion as a whole. Even here however is broken-open-ness, for though Hooker’s understanding of Scripture shapes an overall Anglican sense as also found in portions of the Articles and distilled in the Quadrilateral, we have always had our faithful, that is, showing up and praying with us, Puritans. Puritans, for whom as with Resolution III.5.b of Lambeth 1998: “This Conference…in agreement with the Lambeth Quadrilateral, and in solidarity with the Lambeth Conference of 1888, affirms that these Holy scriptures contain ‘all things necessary to salvation’ and are for us the ‘rule and ultimate standard’ of faith and practice.” Hooker would not concur. Neither do I. And it seems a misuse of the Articles and Quadrilateral to boot.

What sources do we share or dispute as Anglican Christians across parties or school?

Among High Church and Anglo-Catholics, certainly William Laud, Lancelot Andrewes, and the Carolines would be shared sources, but not necessarily for the more Evangelical-minded or Liberals. Among Liberal High Church and Anglo-Catholics, we might add the likes of Charles Gore, William Temple, Michael Ramsey, Desmond Tutu. Evangelicals might hold out Wilberforce, or more currently, N. T. Wright. Moreover, Evangelical-minded, High Church, and Anglo-Catholics might share an interest in Patristic sources, particularly St. Augustine of Hippo, while the two latter might also look East or to other Western Fathers, particularly St. Irenaeus, St. Gregory the Great, and the Venerable Bede. This complicates matters, as as a whole, for example, the American Episcopal Church presumes a great deal of Scottish and Caroline influence on our Eucharistic understanding and rites, while nevertheless, we have those among us who would distance themselves from these authorities.

What sources are particular to our Church or Province?

For example, I would that in general John Henry Hobart and William Porcher DuBose and James DeKoven and William Stringfellow among others may provide particular interpretations from within our own Province and have informed the long-term scope of revision of our Prayer Book, that is, our own Reformations.

Our party or school?

On the whole, for example, Pusey and Keble are most likely to inform Anglo-Catholics, for example.

And of what type?

I tend to look to Herbert, Donne, Auden, Thomas, Trahern, Tallis, L’Engle, Lewis, and others as equally valid theological authorities and lenses for getting at an Anglican feel.

Depending on position, other (in)formative/interpretive authorities might include science and culture. For example, Michael Ramsey, because of his strong sense of the Word’s activity among us from “in the beginning,” would expect that something of Christ is generally revealed in creation, and hence, we cannot ignore science as a source. Stringfellow, from a more Evangelical point of view, offers a similar sense of the Word’s activity in our social worlds, the Word Who we as Church are meant to point out.

To put all of this more forwardly, I do not think we can arrive at a singular hermeneutic, a tightly consistent interconnection of strands upon which most much less all can agree that may not finally cut off someone (and something’s) understood as Anglican—even if we disagree, and even if we court error, and the question becomes more what is decidedly out of bounds? And why? Who decides? And what are the consequences?

Rather than despair all of this, however, I receive this multiplicity and intransigence as a challenging gift rich in godly nourishment and mutual correction from friends and enemies alike, that leads me to trust finally and ultimately in Jesus Christ. We who are Anglicans in this time have been handed on quite a lot. The dispersed authority and many authorities makes Anglican Christianity capable of error, open to correction, contingent in decision-making, and dependent on God. This makes us pilgrim Christians living in an eschatological tense, or perhaps better, mood, a mood that is hopeful, and thus, subjunctive, as if all things are already reconciled in Christ because Christ promises precisely this. And we cannot see our way through, much less see how on our own.

Which is to say that in our actual expression of authority and authorities, we body one of the root reforms of our tradition, that we are nothing of ourselves, and receive everything because of Jesus Christ. Like an icon, we break open and out onto Someone more than ourselves, Jesus Christ. Our broken-open-ness with regard to authority and authorities though muddy and painful, is a great gift in our dominant social worlds proclaiming self-sufficiency and much of Christianity claiming a definitiveness that now scandalizes at every turn. Our painful muddiness throws us into Arms Who alone will finally make all manner of things well. Precisely in our broken-open-ness, in our airing of dirty laundry and public fighting, we are in a good position to proclaim and present our only Life.

Because of this complexity, we have been spared the ravaging wars of the worst excesses of creationism and scientism alike precisely because we have not made of the Scriptures more than “rule and ultimate standard of faith.” Not practice. Which begins to dig into that beyond common prayer, our root practice, and is meant to do so in response to human sexuality—the undertext for the resolution. Begins to close up the pastoral/ascetical/moral requiring observation of fruits, that is, among other things, the observations of science and relationships in communcal discernment and the particularity of human beings trusting that the Logos has been and is always working among us not only in Church sanctuaries but in our daily social worlds. Which turns Scripture to matters it cannot and is not meant to or fit to answer sufficiently, much less, definitively. We have neither made of our Scriptures a science textbook, nor an ascetical/pastoral theological manual, or even, a book of polity and ecclesiastical law. They are sufficient and definitive for their purpose, to lead us to trust in Jesus Christ, our salvation as is evident by the profoundly Patristic theology of Maurice, who himself seems to have known little of the Fathers (Scripture, especially John 1 and the Christ canticles were enough). And we can do no more as a Body than proclaim and present this Same One. And our broken-open-ness may do this best in our own time if we will embrace, rather than constrict the open spaces and the controverted spaces and the revisited spaces. Precisely in tumult and uncertainty and contention the Word speaks.

We have painfully but surely been able to reassess ascetical/pastoral theology surrounding chattel slavery and its civil remains, precisely because Scriptures are not a rulebook on all manner of life. We have been able to live with being adult Christians and the contentions this often brings. We have begun to undergo the struggling grace of seeing in sisters, daughters, mothers that same Christ. And not without a lot of heat. Can we sit with grace long enough to discover what it is sin hath wrought and grace undoing regarding human sexuality, not just, that of “those people” but of our own?

I would suggest that the proposed Covenant may address some of these matters without actually providing the spacious framework of informative/interpretive challenging and correcting diversity that has prevented us from falling into traps. My grave reservation is precisely and largely so because the want of those most adamant about the Covenant is largely encapsulated in Section IV. The intent of this section is juridical and even punitive, and may unnecessarily cut off the informative/interpretive diversity needed for sharing salvation with others in our time. We may yet have our own Galileo should we go this route. But even that broken-ness, I trust, God can and will turn to grace dare we give away our member-ed-ness for pottage. It is precisely when we are broken most open that God’s grace takes our want for consistency and shows us God’s own Beauty: “Blessed is this One.”

Dr. Christopher Evans recently completed a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies and Church History at the Graduate Theological Union. He offers occasional musings on the Rule of St. Benedict, liturgical questions, and life as a Benedictine oblate at Contemplative Vernacular

Comprehensively beautiful, not tightly consistent, Part I

Summer hours continue. Daily Episcopalian will publish every other day this week.

By W. Christopher Evans

An Icon

Our own?
each piece
breaks open
upon another...

Derek Olsen has brought us again to an ongoing and necessary conversation about what makes us Anglican Christians. Questions of particular identity have been at the heart of our current controversies and conversations with mutual distance taken if not anathema issued. It is often implied that the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral functions or should function among our Anglican Churches and Provinces in precisely the same way as it functions between Anglican Christianity and other Christian traditions. Hence, we get bent out of joint about the American Episcopal Church being the focus of ire among some fellow Anglican Churches and Provinces while the Lutheran Church of Sweden and other Churches of the Porvoo Agreement or the Old Catholics are not also questioned with the same vigor for similar stances made and actions taken.

Can the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral adequately account for what it means to be an Anglican Christian or Anglican Church? Yes, and... I agree with Derek on this. I would suggest that the Quadrilateral does not function among Anglican Churches and Provinces in precisely the same way as it functions between Anglican Christianity and other Christian traditions with whom we are in or are seeking full communion. The Quadrilateral, in short, is not enough to adequately identify Anglican Christianity and our particular, peculiar catholicity. But there is a caveat to my words that otherwise sound like a singular self-understanding, an understanding to which I as a Prayer Book Christian cannot admit simply because the history of our praying alone is multi-informed and controverted and particular.

Many of my favorite past and present Anglican theologians and commentators state that we are simply the Church in a given place, unmarked, if you will. Everything we are and have we expect to find in other catholic expressions of Christ’s One Body: Old and New Testaments of the Scriptures, Baptism and Eucharist, Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, Bishops locally adapted.

What these theologians and commentators fail to address is “place.” “In this place” necessarily is to recognize markéd-ness without claiming singular uniqueness. The placéd-ness given by the history of the Church of England as well as Anglican expression in Scotland and indeed the history of Anglican expression in each location profoundly marks a given Church or Province by environment, culture, and history. We may not be unique, but we are particular—and often peculiar. Our markéd-ness is not so much found in those things we expect to find in catholic marks of Christ’s One Body, they are found in our practices and interpretations of those markers in a given context. To say all of this is to recognize how much history and changing ideas of many eras and culture, and hence, flesh shapes us as Churches and Provinces. To say all of this is to own that the Body of Christ is larger than our own present and more many-member-ed than “Anglican” might imply.

For example, our own American Episcopal Church is profoundly marked not only by our ties with the Church of England and the Episcopal Church of Scotland, but by our own peculiar history of Ritualism and its controversies, chattel slavery, etc. We are marked by deepened understandings of Jesus Christ in Incarnation and Creation and Eschatology as these take more prominence in theological thinking in James DeKoven, William Porcher DuBose, F. D. Maurice, the Lux Mundi schools, and more, and then that thinking finds its way into our most recent Prayer Book, moving us beyond a more pronounced Reformation emphasis on Cross and Redemption so central in Rite 1. We have had our own American Reformations, Reformations that have in turn touched even England.

Unlike either the Roman Catholic tradition or our Reformation kin, we Anglicans do not have a central teaching authority or confession respectively. Just as we have dispersed authority through councils (parochial, diocesan, provincial, communion) and orders among others, we also have many authorities, by which I mean multiple sources of theological guidance, reference, lenses with differing weight and rank about which we may and do disagree among ourselves. Among those authorities, we have been very careful to maintain sufficiency, that is enough-ness, knowing that the Gospel expressed in the language of any age will break open upon the Mystery of a Person, Jesus Christ Who cannot be expressed in anything less than our creedal confession and its central concerns, but Who is always more than they express without being inconsistent as if the hiddenness or infinity of God were of a different character than God revealed in Jesus Chrsist. No language can capture God in Christ, but because God in Christ has identified once-for-all with us in the Incarnation, language must do—sufficiently. So we do have our authorities:

Unmarked authorities are those marks we expect of any expression of one, holy, catholic and apostolic Christianity as together capable of handing over a sufficient proclamation and presentation of Christian faith. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral falls in this category. Without necessarily unchurching a tradition that does not have all of these marks, for sake of visible, organic full communion (note here that I am avoiding the Borging tendency of “union” in much ecumenical conversation by using “communion” or koinonia or fellowship), these are those unmarked markers Anglicans expect to be present or to be reincorporated in some form as we seek and live into full communion with other Christian bodies. To some degree these interpret one another, for example, the creeds interpret Who is the One whom we trust and why so as (because of what has been done for us) found in Scripture. This avoids a split between fides qua and fides quae. But they do not interpret themselves wholly or insularly. Just as we shall see “rule and ultimate standard of faith” and “sufficient statement of the Christian faith” in the Quadrilateral languaged as a whole in relation to Hooker (among others) with whom there is interpretive resonance, the Creeds themselves require we enter into the resonance of Patristics and debates about Who it is Jesus Christ is in light of what he has done for us and for our salvation—that is, the Incarnation with all of its to the end, that is, death, death on a cross and He is Risen! And within Patristics, we find a multiplicity of expressions, even within a given cultural, philosophical context. Patristics are not a singular gift. After all, on sin alone, the Fathers disagree, as do they, on the how of our salvation, that is, atonement.

Practiced authorities are those ways in which unmarked markers are given particular shape and bodied in a given place, that is, a Church or Province. While the Quadrilateral largely expresses William Reed Huntington’s understanding of what is required for full communion among Anglican Churches and other Christian traditions alike, Frederick Denison Maurice also offered from his point of view an additional unmarked marker: Set liturgical prayer. I would prefer to name this a practiced authority. We may think set liturgical prayer the common sharing among Christians, but we have not made it wholly non-negotiable and certainly not so even among ourselves after the 1960s. For ourselves, however, we Anglicans expect some or another form of shared prayer patterns in a Church or Province that have some relation though reformed and reforming to what was handed to us and then gifted to us to take shape in this place, soil, Church. Our prayer together in a place, our praise becomes the rule or framework by which we actually body the Body. Our prayer together is grounds for our own responses to God in daily life, that is, ascetical/pastoral/moral theology. The Book of Common Prayer as received and revised in a given Church or Province is particular (and peculiar) to us, however, even if displaying shared shapings with other Provinces. That is to be expected in a tradition that takes very seriously our own body-member-ed-ness in and dare I say as representing Christ without reductivity within a an always hybridizing fellowship (not new, mind you, as the writings of the nun Egeria attest).

(In)Formative/Interpretive authorities are those means that inform and even reform our practiced authorities and reinterpret our unmarked and practiced authorities, providing means for placed-ness. A similar or parallel way of saying this in terms of our praying is that lex orandi, lex credendi has always carried at least a two-way directionality, with prayer being reformed over the long-term as theological conversations (often controversies in their own time) come to new insights in a broader sense within a time, place, and people. We forget, for example, that Cranmer was a theologian influenced by Renaissance Humanism and Reformation return to the sources among others. His theology changed Isles praying, and praying changed theology, and so forth, as placed-ness became more Isles and less Roman. And particularly more English—for I can already hear objections of the Welsh and Scottish, and more so, the Irish and Cornish.

The central issues facing us are hermeneutical or (in)formative/interpretive as Derek espies. And this is not unrelated to cultures and contexts, indeed, cannot be disentangled from these wholly. The gift is that our Anglican hermeneutical landscape has been and remains complex because always in conversation among multiple participants and schools and peoples, participants and schools and peoples who as long as they remain within the framework of our unmarked authorities and participants in our practiced authorities cannot be thought necessarily non-Anglican. And even here, latitude is such that when someone has fallen outside these bounds, we have learned to listen and even sometimes learn, have learned through some rather painful proceedings that it is often better to continue the controversy-conversation-contention rather than inhibit or expel if those involved are willing to stay and pray. I am reminded of the way Anglo-Catholics were once prosecuted only to find in time that their contributions to Anglican tradition as a whole are a necessary portion or even the gentle and controverted and even reviled way with which was dealt Bp. Pike. Truth and error, we trust, will be sorted out and best done so by controversy-conversation-contention rather than expulsion. But this requires holding lovingly yet openly our own placed-ness and trusting that God will turn even our errors to a deepened encounter with Jesus Christ.

Dr. Christopher Evans recently completed a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies and Church History at the Graduate Theological Union. He offers occasional musings on the Rule of St. Benedict, liturgical questions, and life as a Benedictine oblate at Contemplative Vernacular

Loyalty, accountability and the Episcopal Church

Summer hours continue. Daily Episcopalian will publish every other day this week.

By George Clifford

This spring, President Obama faced what commentators described as a difficult choice: should he fire General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. general in charge of the fighting in Afghanistan? On the one hand, McChrystal had good working relationships with Afghan government leaders, a high profile role in shaping and leading the war, and his troops had confidence in his leadership. On the other hand, McChrystal publicly expressed contempt for senior political appointees in the Obama administration.

Military personnel owe their seniors honest advice, especially when the senior solicits an opinion or the subordinate fills a key leadership role. Theoretically, the military chain of command that stretches from the newest recruit to the President welcomes timely advice, even dissent, appropriately expressed. Timeliness requires communicating advice before the leader makes a decision; appropriate expression involves communicating that advice in a way that will not embarrass the boss. McChrystal’s opinions voiced in Michael Hastings’ The Runaway General (Rolling Stone, June 22, 2010) failed both tests.

Obama acted decisively yet not vindictively. He accepted McChrystal’s resignation and then graciously allowed the general to retire at his four star rank.

What can the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church (TEC) learn about leadership from this incident?

Globally, the Anglican Communion, a lose federation of Churches in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, has no official “party line” or “chain of command.” The Anglican Covenant’s premise that no member of the Communion should act without consulting the other members seeks to impose new conformity on Communion members, stifling independent action. If the Anglican Communion were to adopt the current draft of the Covenant, the Communion would severely limit the freedom of the Episcopal Church to follow God's call to practice a radical hospitality that welcomes and fully includes all.

Hoping that (1) the Covenant will die a bureaucratic death, (2) lengthy discursive and approval processes preceding adoption will produce a more acceptable amended Covenant, or (3) keeping a low profile will cause less gnashing of teeth among conservatives and temper their firm resolve to impose their will on the Communion are all naïve miscalculations. Instead, TEC and other, sympathetic Anglican Communion members need to model forthrightness by openly characterizing the proposed Covenant for what it is: an attempt to transform the Anglican Communion into a hierarchical body that enforces an un-Anglican conformity. TEC, like loyal military personnel, best fulfills its duty to Christ by courageously and loyally declaring its discernment of God’s leading.

Rumors of the Very Rev. Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Albans cathedral, nomination as the Church of England’s next Bishop of Southwark posed an interesting dilemma for the Archbishop of Canterbury. John, when nominated in 2003 as area Bishop for Reading, faced a torrent of conservative opposition. Unlike Bishops Robinson and Glasspool who live openly and fully with their partners, John, though partnered in a civil union, claims he is celibate. Short of constant video surveillance, nobody can verify that; I have no reason to doubt John’s honesty but find myself skeptical. Archbishop Williams felt sufficient pressure from the opposition that he spent six hours convincing John to withdraw his acceptance of the nomination as area Bishop for Reading.

The rumor prompted some Church of England conservatives to declare that if John were consecrated they would affiliate with another Anglican province. This barefaced ultimatum reflects the disunity that exists in both the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, the British press reports that Archbishop Williams, angered by the leak from a supposedly confidential nominating process, has averred that he will not respond to coercive pressure. I’m enough of a cynic to wonder if the Archbishop isn’t secretly delighted with the leak because it effectively derailed John’s nomination without forcing Canterbury to take a no-win public stance for or against the nomination. Clearly, the Archbishop has not acted with the type of decisive and principled courage that Obama exemplified in dealing with McChrystal.

Nationally and in its dioceses, TEC needs to hold its own leaders accountable. Loyalty to TEC is a non-negotiable, sine qua non for leaders, clerical and lay. Loyalty does not necessitate agreement. TEC is a church that prays together using the forms established in the Book of Common Prayer without pretending that beliefs conform to any norm or fall within a particular set of parameters. Loyalty, however, does preclude both attempting to sow dissatisfaction or disenchantment with TEC as an institution and encouraging people or organizational structures to disaffiliate from TEC.

TEC has too often practiced a false kindness by tolerating active disloyalty rather than appropriately challenging disloyal behavior among its clergy and lay leaders. Actively disloyal individuals have decided to abandon TEC, a decision evident in actions if not in words, regardless of any protestations to the contrary. Disaffected dissidents who try to cling to structures or relationships that they believe they own misunderstand the concept of connectional Church that TEC incarnates. Furthermore, the actively disloyal manifest a lack of personal integrity, maintaining an affiliation with an institution that they believe has abandoned or significantly compromised its Christian identity or witness.

Addressing issues of disloyalty should proceed in a firm yet caring rather than vindictive manner; witch hunts and revenge have no place in Christ's Church. By addressing their lack of integrity in a timely, direct manner, TEC may actually help some of the disloyal to move toward improved spiritual health through greater integrity.

Concomitantly, TEC should continue to make room for the truly undecided as they discern whether they can in good conscience remain a part of TEC. This space should have no time or other artificial limits imposed. The one necessary boundary is that the undecided refrain from actively promoting disloyalty to TEC through words or actions.

Locally, clergy, wardens, vestry members, and other opinion makers must lead. In the 1970s, seminary instruction emphasized facilitation rather than leadership. Facilitation belongs in ecclesial tool kits. But leadership is even more important. A leader leads his/her followers toward actualizing the leader’s vision.

Pressures for leaders to sit on the sidelines, soft-pedal their views, or capitulate to the opposition certainly exist. A priest, for example, whose congregation splits over an issue may soon face a drastic reduction in stipend or unemployment with little probability of soon receiving another call. Emotional pressure on a leader may be more subtle but at least as powerful as economic pressure.

Instead of tolerating disloyalty, TEC should encourage loyalty. TEC, bishops, diocesan staff, elected leaders, and peers can proactively support clergy and laity working to keep people and parishes loyal. Support might include funding, spiritual or psychological counsel, outplacement options, public declarations of support, leadership training, etc. As I have previously argued in this forum, people are far more vital to the Church than is property. The Church will reap the largest dividends for Christ by investing its scarce resources in supporting its leaders battling to preserve and enhance loyalty to TEC.

General Convention 2009 resolutions and the consecration the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool in 2010 clearly indicate TEC’s present course. Now is not the time for waffling. Most TEC lay and clerical leaders, as well as many leaders in other Anglican Communion provinces, whether they agree with TEC’s direction or not, demonstrate their loyalty to Christ and fidelity to the Anglican way through visionary leadership that promotes proclaiming the kingdom of God, healing the sick, reconciling the estranged, and liberating the captive. The rest of us need to emulate their example.

The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years. He serves as priest in charge at the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, is a visiting professor of ethics at the Naval Postgraduate School, and blogs at Ethical Musings.

Cowboy poker and
the Anglican Communion

Daily Episcopalian will publish every other day this week.

By Marshall Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The slow-motion car crash

By Adrian Worsfold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More noxious mail from England

By Jim Stockton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant, communion, personhood, wholeness: A conversation to pursue

By Kathleen Staudt

Father, we pray for your holy catholic church
That we all may be one.

We say this most Sundays, gathered around the altar in whatever local congregation we belong to. I’ve been thinking lately about this prayer as one of the many in our liturgy that both holds up a vision and confesses our very deep brokenness. And it has resonated particularly over the past few weeks when for various reasons I’ve been reading, side by side, Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas’s classic Being as Communion and Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. Because I’m a word-person I’ve been playing with the consonance in the language between these two writers -- Orthodox theologian and Quaker retreat leader-- and finding a dissonance -- perhaps a fruitful one -- with some of the language about “covenant” that have come up lately on Episcopal Café. As a church and in our personal relationships, we are often living divided lives. Both these writers remind us, in different ways, that ours is a God who calls us to wholeness and unity. So what does that mean? My thoughts about this are still a little unformed but I’m hoping that putting them out there, partly in response to things I’ve been reading lately on the café, may elicit some discussion that will help me think more clearly.

So here goes.

Theologically and spiritually, in conversations about “covenant” and “communion,” I have been wondering whether we’re missing the point, or forgetting what these words mean because of the way their meaning is being distorted or manipulated in the political discussions within the Anglican Commuinon.

Just to remind ourselves of what we know: “Covenant” in Hebrew Scripture is about the relationship between God and God’s people -- “you will be my people and I will be your God” -- bad things happen when the covenant is broken, but ultimately it is God’s desire to restore it. “Again and again, you call us to return,” we say in our Eucharistic prayer, acknowledging this part of the story.

The “new covenant” established in the Eucharist is also about relationship between ourselves and Christ, and again, it comes from God’s side. We live in brokenness, all the time, in relations to these covenants -- we fail to live up to them. But I don’t think that our tradition can deny that the call to live into a covenant relationship with God is fundamental to our identity as Christians, however we express that identity. And so how to live into a covenant with God that demands something of us as a human community and as separate persons within that community is a worthwhile topic for theological reflection.

Living in covenanted relatinship with others is part of our human effort to imitate and reflect back the faithfulness of God. Zizioulas takes it further: he says that since our God is a unity of “persons in communion,” we live into our identity as persons made in the divine image through our relationships with one another. This is what it means to be made in the divine image; to the extent that we violate and distort human relationships, or seek dominance over one another, we are dimming the divine image in ourselves; this is called “sin.” In this view, Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you” becomes primary, and love becomes a way of being to which we are continually called home. The Eucharist draws us together as a church to remind us of this.

A covenant IS different from a contract because it rests not on defending the interests of individuals but on setting terms that will preserve the relationship, through mutual consent. Our growing cynicism about the language about “bonds of mutual affection” in the Anglican Covenant debate is distressing to me because that language does express an ideal we are called to live into, with God’s help and despite our human brokenness.

I welcomed with interest the discussion on Episcopal Café about the covenant of marriage, and how it compares with the monastic life, in a discussion that I think was meant to get us thinking about the manner of life we are called to as Christians in relation to one another. Objections can legitimately be raised that it is seems exclusive to focus only on marriage and monasticism as models for covenanted relationship -- but I would like to see us have the conversation about what it means to live in covenanted relationship -- what does Christian marriage mean in an era of sexual freedom and gender equality? For those who can agree that marriage is not dependent on gender, can we have this discussion now? Surely people who have been denied the opportunity to marry have important thoughts to contribute to a discussion of what Christian marriage means. And through that discussion we might come to a fresh theological consideration of other relationships to which we give ourselves in love and commitment.

The point, in the marriage conversation, is that we’ve so lost track of covenant language that we can’t even talk about what we aspire to in our theology of Christian marriage (“in it is represented the union of Christ and the Church” we say in the liturgical prayer: what do we mean by that? Or do we avoid the whole conversation because it’s couched in sexist language? Or can we talk about how we’d translate the idea into language we can embrace? Can we peel of the layers of abuse/oppression in these words and get to some kind of understanding of the nature of the relationship with God that these words, this image of Spiritual Marriage holds? Or do we throw it out altogether, and if we do, what happens to the Biblical challenge to live in covenant with a God who is passionately engaged with us and who exhorts us to love one another?

If I were to announce in a contemporary assembly that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, there is no male and female but all are one in Christ “-- would people be offended by not being mentioned in the list? ((why did he leave out black or white, gay or straight, old or young, married or unmarried, east or west, north or south -- is he snubbing some group or other by exclusion? I exaggerate, but among liberals I think this can be a common distraction in our conversations - we focus on who seems to be excluded and sometimes miss the point) -- Paul of course is saying that there is a greater wholeness to which we are called, in which we find the fulness of our identity as human persons made in the image of God? Isn’t the point is that there are NO divisions in the divine life of Christ? And isn’t the invitation to hold up that vision, even amid our brokenness, and to admit that we all contribute to that brokenness, by those we exclude or allow to be excluded?

Similarly, even if few of us make profession to a monastic community, what are the expectations of monasticism that can help us in our human relationships? Joan Chittister suggests, for example, that “Benedictine spirituality is about caring for the people you live with and loving the people you don’t and loving God more than yourself. Benedictine spirituality depends on listening for the voice of God everywhere in life, especially in one another and here.” Is this an ideal we would like to retain as part of our identity as Christians and as Anglicans? How might it translate into our everyday situations. Why is it so difficult for us to have this kind of conversation?

I’m wondering what happens if we try on the Eastern Orthodox language and think of our particular selves in terms of “personhood” rather than in terms of “individuality.” It would be countercultural for us, in the post-enlightenment, individualistic west -- but it seems to me that this might help us to look more closely at the formative effect of our relationships in the Christian life -- how we shape and are shaped by one another, growing into the divine image, without denying the dignity of each and every human being. It seems to me that this may be what Parker Palmer is getting at when he invites people to live “undivided lives.”

None of this helps with what should be done about the Anglican Communion, the “Covenant,” etc. I don’t know where that will go; but I hope that our frustration over the politics and the difficulties of cross-cultural conversation (sketched out beautifully in Marshall Scott’s recent post on the café) will not lead us to become cynical about the abiding call to unity in Christ, or to fear serious discussion about what is radical, counter cultural and hard about the call to love one another, to live into covenanted relationships, and to recognize our deep identity in communion with persons very different from ourselves.

To desire unity in Christ is to come face to face with our brokenness; but isn’t that unity what we are called to as persons made in the image of God and called to be in communion with one another? The Covenant, the dream, of a God who desires relationship with us, is still the invitation we are called to hear. The brokenness is real, but so is the promise.

Reflecting on all of this (with apologies if it seems very disparate) I am led back to Verna Dozier’s wisdom, who sums it up when she writes: “We have all failed the dream of God. The terribly patient God still waits.”

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.

Individualism, communalism, and the Anglican Covenant

By Marshall Scott

I have been reflecting on Michael Poon’s paper on the Communion and Covenant, “The Anglican Communion as Communion of Churches: on the historic significance of the Anglican Covenant.” The Revd Canon Dr Poon is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College, Singapore. At this point I want to address an issue that he does not directly address, but that his paper raises, or perhaps illuminates for me.

One of my favorite books of Christian history of the last decade is Martin Palmer’s The Jesus Sutras. It involves the search for and discovery of the most important monastery rising from the earliest missions of the Church to China – from the West in the Seventh Century. The Church that reached China in the Seventh Century was the Church of the East, the ancient Assyrian Church, now under so much stress in Iraq, and virtually lost in much of Central Asia. Traveling eastward along the Silk Road, in 635 A.D. a bishop names Aluoben arrived with his party at Xian, the capitol of the Tang Dynasty.

In discussing this history, Palmer discusses important differences between what he calls the Church of the West (which in this case includes the Imperial Churches that would become Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and the churches springing from them) and the Church of the East. While he addresses the communication difficulties that resulted in the Nestorian controversy, theological differences are not really the most important in his description. (He does note the development of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Armenia, but for his purposes these are neither “West” nor “East.”) Rather, it is an important cultural difference: the Church of the West was the Imperial Church, linked for centuries to both spiritual and temporal power. The Church of the East was a minority, and often persecuted. The Sassanian Empire came to treat Eastern Christians according to the Empire’s relations with Rome. When the Roman Empire and the Sassanian Empire were on good terms, Christians were a tolerated minority in a Zoroastrian culture. When the Empires were at war, Christians were seen as possible enemy agents, representatives of the political and military power to the west (and we thought that started in the Fertile Crescent only with the Crusades!).

This resulted in Churches with different corporate cultures, seeking to answer different questions.

The Church of the West, having won the battle to convert the Roman Empire, began to turn inward, through intellectual giants such as St. Augustine of Hippo, who explored what constitutes a Christian state. In contrast, the Church of the East developed its own distinct spirit, one that allowed a greater freedom of belief and that was dedicated to preaching the message of Jesus. Unlike the Church of the West, it never dominated its cultural world to the exclusion or suppression of other faiths. Instead, it worked out a modus vivendi by which it could function as a minority among other faiths. This made it a first-class missionary Church.
His point is that the Church of the West became committed to a unity of structure and confession in no small part because it served the needs of the Empire. The needs of the Church of the East never sought the same sort of unity because it never served in a majority, or in concert with political leaders.

I think that underlying our current issues in the Anglican Communion (and, although I’m no expert, I think other Christian bodies) is a difference of corporate culture of different content but equal importance.

One issue that is central to a society is the process by which personhood or personal identity is defined. (I know as a clinician those are different, but for my purposes at the moment they are functionally the same.) That process involves some balance, and perhaps some negotiation, between the individual and the society within which the individual functions. Here, I think, is where the rub is in our current difficulties. In much of the world, the weight of power or authority or influence in defining personhood is with the group – family, tribe, nation. However, in the industrialized West, the balance is with the individual. This is not to say that there is no response to the “Group” in the industrialized West, nor to the “Individual” elsewhere. However, once again, the weight – indeed, the greater influence as recognized by the society as a whole – is respectively as I have described it in both instances.

Folks in North America, and especially in the Episcopal Church, complain often enough that folks in other parts of the Communion “don’t understand our procedures, our structures.” I don’t think that’s true, not in the intellectual sense. Rather, I think that they see our structures and procedures through a more “communalist” or “communitarian” prism; and refracted through that prism our structures and procedures seem at best fragmented and nonfunctional, and at worst anarchic. By the same token, I think we see their structures and decisions through an “individualist” prism, through which we see their structures and decisions as dependent of codependent at best (terms that really only make sense from an individualist perspective), and at worst oppressive. Again, individual cases, and even individual cultures, address in some sense both individual needs and societal accountability. They differ significantly, however, in points on a spectrum, and therefore on perspective. And of course each person and each society as an entity sees its own perspective and its own point on the spectrum as “normal” and normative.

One point that needs to be made, then, specifically about the Episcopal Church’s perspective (I hesitate to speak for the Anglican Church of Canada, but I think this is also likely to be true for them) is that this isn’t really a new situation. It may seem new to our siblings in other parts of the Communion, but that’s largely because until the past generation or two the various gatherings of the Communion were really gentlemen’s clubs, and most of the gentlemen were from the industrial West. One could argue that, because they shared a largely “individualist” prism, it was ironically easier to use “communalist” rhetoric. First, they shared roughly the same balance of “individual” vs. “communal” influences; and second, to use “communalist” language was in fact to challenge the excesses of the society around them.

But this situation isn’t new. Indeed, the limitations on the powers of bishops in the Episcopal Church date to its original Constitution. (Armentrout and Slocum, Documents of Witness [Church Hymnal Corporation, 1994) pp.24-26) It was apocryphal after Lambeth 2008 for American bishops to speak of Third-world bishops asking them how they would act “if they were really being bishops.” Many American bishops suggested that this was evidence of the misunderstanding of structures. However, I think it was more profoundly a misunderstanding of the culture within which the Episcopal Church was formed and had developed. There has never been a period in the Episcopal Church’s history when lay and (non-episcopal) clergy could not challenge and limit the activities of a bishop. Perhaps it speaks to the esteem in which the episcopate has been held that in fact bishops have been able to exercise from personal authority power that Constitution and Canons did not actually establish.

A second reason that we in an “individualist” culture have used “communalist” language is that the cultures in which Scripture was formed were “communalist.” This does not really “decide the matter,” as it were, for two reasons. The first is that many of us would say that the uniqueness of Christ and his focus on individuals has resulted in the model of salvation in “a personal relationship with Christ,” a markedly individualist model, and certainly different from the models of salvation in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Recall, for example, that one of the most popular hymns in American culture says, “I walked in the garden alone… and he walked with me….”) That has shaped Western culture as much as it has been shaped by it. Second, many of us would say that our mission is to speak in and to the culture we find, and that culture is so different from Scriptural models as to make a difference.

It is very interesting to me, then, that as Dr. Poon thinks about alternative models for what a “universal church” might look like, he highlights the models of the Holy Catholic Churches of China, Korea, and Japan. These might make some sense for us for two reasons. First, they are (or have been, in the case of the Church of China, largely replaced I think by the Three Self Christian Movement) demonstrably Anglican, with their roots in English and American Anglican missionary activity. Second, they would seem remarkably good parallels to autocephalous Orthodox bodies in those nations.

However, what I note about them is that they are in clearly and remarkably communalist societies. Americans of my acquaintance have thought quaint the Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down” until they had worked with Japanese colleagues. I do not speak so much as an expert on East Asian cultures. I do, however, want to raise the question whether these churches, however Anglican they may be, are not so shaped by the cultures within which they have been formed, and within which they have found their mission, as to be thoroughly communalist in mindset.

I would raise a similar issue about many of the African voices in the Communion. I have noted, for example, the continuing importance of tribal identity in Nigerian culture. Nigeria is certainly a democracy, but Nigerians have also found a political role for traditional tribal leaders. Even in the West I’ve been aware that dynamics of tribal identification and political identification have been intertwined in recent events in Kenya. My point is not to see these as problematic. I only want to note an aspect of how Nigerians and Kenyans have structured their societies that I don’t think most North Americans appreciate. I would ask, however, whether these models of leadership have contributed to understandings of the role of a bishop in those cultures. That might explain, more profoundly than Roman or other models of the episcopate, the differences in the experiences of North American bishops and of African bishops. A Third World bishop, acculturated to the social prestige and socially sanctioned authority of a tribal elder or chief, might well ask a North American bishop, “but how would you decide if you were really being a bishop?”

I could be wrong, of course, but I’ve been thinking about this for some time. I think it sheds light on the illustrations I suggested, and perhaps some others, such as our understanding of the roles of the Instruments of Communion, interpretation of the Anglican Covenant draft, and whether we are “episcopally governed and synodically led,” or “synodically governed and episcopally led.” It especially illuminates the critical different perceptions as to whether actions in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada do or do not affect the lives of other churches in the Communion.

I fear it also suggests to me that the Communion cannot stand. I am among those who have note that we have already lost “the-Anglican-Communion-as-we-have-known-it,” beginning with the assertions expressed not first but most widely in the Windsor Report about the roles of the Primates’ Meeting. However, I fear it goes deeper than that. This is not, at least in theory, an insurmountable difficulty. However, it would require a generation of thoughtful conversation to really understand one another. A “communalist” appreciation in the Communion, however, calls for a rapid resolution. Whether we “individualists” understand it, our “communalist” siblings really do see our actions as harming them. While I can’t agree, I can take them seriously. Therefore, they cannot but press for clear resolution in a Covenant, and for acceptance of this Covenant draft without alteration. They may even want to take seriously our “individualist” perception that this is not grounds for haste, but for more individual conversations, but their perspective limits how they can – as our perspective limits us. So, words will be said, and actions taken, and lines drawn; and the Communion will divide.

Over the next few generations this may well change. For the past century rapid change in the rest of the world brought on by the power and attractiveness of Western economic and technological influence has been perceived as both opportunity and threat. If the next century becomes dominated economically and technologically by China and India, the challenge may well be in the industrialized West.

But right now, we are where we are, and who we are. We see the world as we see it, including how God is working in it. I will mourn when things fall apart; but I cannot see how it will not. We can love one another, and talk to one another as best we can. I just don’t think we’ll be able to address this difference soon enough to change our trajectories.

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

The no longer hidden agenda of the Anglican Covenant

By Adrian Worsfold

I was always told by my academic tutors, and when employed in the role I tell students that there is no virtue whatsoever in length of an essay beyond giving the argument.

This advice seems to have been missed by the academics who promote the Anglican Covenant. We have seen it in the Anglican Communion Institute, and now we see it with the latest offering by Michael Poon of Singapore.

The idea seems to be, however, that if they write in huge length there is a sort of gravity effect towards their new or parallel universe of alternative Anglicanism.

This reminds me of the Large Hadron Collidor, that as it goes beyond its achievement of 3.48 trillion electron volts it could possibly give indication of another parallel universe very close to our own, where dark energy comes through with its influence felt here through its gravitational pull.

If we start at these Michael Poon paragraphs:

66. The Anglican Covenant is an invitation to the particular Churches to be the Anglican Communion as one ecclesial body.

67. In so doing, the Anglican Communion sets a concrete model of a Christian World Communion that is formed in and out of particular Churches worldwide.

We see again, however, the attempt not at continuity but at an innovation, that is to make the Anglican Communion an Anglican Church.

54. Here we come to see why the Anglican Covenant is important. It provides a canonical structure that unites the Churches of the Communion to be "Church".

His argument says that this joining up should be done from the perspective of time not space, using a comment of the Orthodox.

63. The four Sections of the Anglican Covenant spell out the canonical structure of the Anglican Communion.... The unity between particular Churches does not merely come about with inter-Anglican agreements "in space" (to borrow the phrase that the Orthodox Church used in their response to the New Delhi Statement on Unity 1961.)
But this ignores the fact that back in time, in those Anglcian origins, the mother Anglican Church specifically rejected governance from outside. So have other Anglican Churches, doubly so in the American Church having origins in a Scottish Episcopal bishop. That was the Anglican origin. Now sometimes there is congregationalism, in which every congregation is independent; there is Roman Catholicism, which is centralised; and there is Orthodoxy, in which there is autocephalous organisation yet where division is regarded as schism through time; but there is also Anglican organisation, in which international bodies were simply bases of friendly consultation and exchange and not instruments of governance. The Churches of governance are in each land.

He wants to change instruments of friendly exchange into instruments of governance.

8. ...the four existing instruments ...must be authorised structures that arise from the inner being of ecclesial life, and so would enable the Church to make concrete ecclesial decisions that lead to concrete and efficacious ecclesial actions. The four existing instruments need to find their proper place within such canonical structure.

59. The Anglican Covenant provides the canonical structure that constitutes the particular Churches to be a confident Communion of Churches.

What is happening is that people are fighting over the meaning of the Anglican Covenant. For some, it is another invitation to be together on the old model. For others it is a means of disciplining. For Poon, it is more than that, a formation of a worldwide Church. The essays are getting longer and longer as they try to indicate 'authority' for their innovations.

The danger of signing up to the Covenant is that you think you might make up or join into one thing, and end up being in another. The Covenant is itself divisive, and any Church seeking to maintain an Anglicanism as it is would better find other means to deepen relationships without enforcing new international governance.

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

Recovering "three-dimensionality"

By Christopher Evans

Let us renew our vows to heav’n,
Beyond restraint of reason stir;
By David’s oath to Jonathan,
Faiths fragments become singular.
Do place thy peace upon my lips,
I will with my “also’s” follow;
With my body I thee worship,
Joy plots transgressions overthrow.
Love purifies lovers’ fire,
Makes chaste but by feverous burn;
Through thee to Thee one desire,
Awareness rises with each turn:
For fervor fashions godly ends,
Fastens by each breath as friends.1

Recently Archbishop Rowan Williams offered the beginnings of an apology:

The debate over the status and vocational possibilities of LGBT people in the Church is not helped by ignoring the existing facts, which include many regular worshippers of gay or lesbian orientation and many sacrificial and exemplary priests who share this orientation. There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them; I have been criticised for doing just this, and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression.2

Without going into enthusiastic hyperbole, his words represent the possibility of a fresh start.3 The start is in actually having to engage with lgbt persons as persons. However, restraint on our part will require restraint on his part and on the part of the rest of the Anglican Communion. No more dehumanizing words or deeds, no more stereotypes and cardboard characterizations. Period. We lgbt baptized too are conversation partners and full members in the Christ’s Body not by your inclusion, but by Christ’s choosing.4 The days of our accepting the terms set only by heterosexual brothers and sisters are over. As this holy season of Lent reminds, we all, not just lgbt Christians, are called to examine ourselves, to conversion of “habits, behaviors, ideas, and emotions.”5

In the past few years we lgbt Anglicans have been treated to a rather mind-boggling exercise at the highest eschalons of the Anglican Communion involving Archbishop Rowan Williams. The institutional attitude of Anglicanism toward lgbt persons has become represented in and by a single person. And that attitude is ugly, like a spider-trap of insanity-causing propositions all too akin to the alcoholic family or abusive home.

It is really a special form of splitting, a phenomenon in which reductions of all or nothing are made either to the good or to the evil. In this case, the poles have been the personal and the public. Other poles, as I will show further in have been laid upon lgbt persons. But this splitting is even more special because it also wants a both/and solution of personal openness and public denigration. It is almost Kafkaesque in its ability to hold together irrationalities disguised as ambiguities and paradoxes. It does not cohere.

And that incoherence will continue to fly farther apart as more and more lgbt persons live into a personal-public coherence.

Anglicanism has never claimed tight consistency, but comprehensiveness does not imply that 1+1=10 either. But that is exactly what lgbt persons have, however, been asked to accept. It is unacceptable.

And that unacceptability spills not only into lgbt lives, but into the lives of many younger people, losing the gospel in the process.

Here is what it looks like:

On the one hand, Archbishop Williams is a good and nice man. I have no doubt that this is the case. I also have no doubt of his theological acumen, and I am quite fond of his works, meandering as they do in a familiar Anglican style resonant of Maurice, Temple, or Ramsey. Not necessarily tightly consistent, but comprehensively beautiful.

Personally, he is a kind man. A smart man. “He has gay friends.”

On the other hand, Archbishop Williams has chosen and choses only to present and speak for the public official, such as it is, consensus, such as it is, on lgbt persons and our loves.6 Thus, he has had harsh words for the consecration of Bishop Robinson and for Bishop Robinson himself, has placed the burden of welcome and conversion on lgbt persons near-too-exclusively, has more than once spoken in ways that come across as dismissive, has acted in ways that tell us friendship is expendable.

Publicly, he is the voice of institutionalized heterosexism. “Good gays are celibate and closeted.”

And together his own personal-public split is quite representative of Anglicanism as I know it.

Yet, this split of personal and public is representative of a breakdown in ecclesial personhood and conversion to utter dependence upon Christ on the part of all of us. The result cannot be but cardboard characters. After all, for us to be ecclesial, the personal and public will cohere at least in a comprehensively beautiful way if not in an always tightly consistent one. Much is the same way in moral theology as practiced by Hooker and the Caroline Divines. To be ecclesial persons requires describing one another with the patience of the iconographer.7

What cannot be done—and has been done too consistently by many apologists, is to argue that because Rowan Williams (and Anglicanism) is a nice, good guy personally and “has gay friends,” therefore we should give him (and Anglicanism) a pass on public words and actions that dehumanize, words and actions that have too often given permission for others to show contempt toward lgbt persons. And have all too often, meant or not, communicated an abstractive, reductionist, attitude toward us that allows others to not only say, but do the same. That’s not nice! Or good! Or true! Much less beautiful!

I could offer a list. Many already know both the words and the deeds. I am sure there are more.

Behind-the-scenes meetings and personal meetings do not make up for or repair these public words and actions. They do not put on public record that the Anglican Communion abhors maltreatment of lgbt persons or that as adult Christians we too have a responsibility to make informed moral decisions and that does not give everyone the right to pick our souls apart or kill our bodies. On the contrary, Williams has allowed for a 1984-esqueness that is not only mind-boggling or head-splitting, but heart-numbing. We love you and we love you not. See how we love you!

But again, to be fair, Archbishop Williams is representative of the way most Anglican Churches and the Anglican Communion behave toward lgbt persons of the Body (and those outside the Body). We are asked to live with and accept splitting. A nice word here in private, a public beating if necessary to show our mettle. How many American lgbt ordination candidates have I known who are assured in private while their bishop threatens to throw them under the bus if anything comes into the open? That’s just one example of this severe split. I am sure that if asked lgbt Anglicans could produce reams.

Recently, Archbishop Williams called for a more three-dimensional approach. I am going to take him at his word by making a suggestion to him.

Archbishop Williams shows an affinity for Benedictine tradition, so I can imagine a very different scenario.

This scenario does not allow for a split of the personal and the public, but teaches by example, indeed, by his person. This scenario is one in which Archbishop Williams refused and refuses to indulge others’ contempt for lgbt persons in both word and deed. This scenario insists upon leadership by requiring he take up his theologian’s pen again and put on his episcopal teaching mantle. The split between personal and public is mended not by a quick change in official Communion stance, but by humanizing-in-doing. And it rehumanizes Rowan Williams. I miss the theologian-scholar. I miss the teacher. These have been lost to us to-date in his role as Cantuar. And that is a shame. (I think of the corresponding leadership shown by Archbishop Ramsey working to have homosexuality decriminalized in the United Kingdom and not without controversy.)

This will naturally involve a crash course in experiencing lgbt lives, which will require stepping outside his head and into our daily existence to experience our joys and concerns, our sufferings and our triumphs, our prayer and our delight.

That does not mean that he would automatically suggest Province-wide much less Communion-wide changes in third order teaching on human sexuality--after all, he has no authority to do that.

But he could humanize us as no one else can not only by talking to us at closed-door retreats and conferences, but by standing alongside us in public photo sessions and eating at our home tables. He could publicly show us as persons, show our relationships and partners as loves, not merely speak of us as abstractions and reductions notable only as “sacrificial” for the good of the Communion or as “sexual practices” that disgust. After all, such language continues the old dehumanization and reinforces the heterosexism that so moves the heart of current Anglicanism, I dare say, more than Jesus Christ.

As Anglicans, we place great value on homely divinity, that is, our ordinary and daily human existence of home, work, and community is as much our prayer as the regular round of Offices and Sunday Holy Communion that hold us. It is in the everyday that our lives grow in Christ, are sanctified. To not take that in to consideration for lgbt persons (to make of us villians of pushy resolve and sexual libertinism or heroes of lackless color with closeted quirks), to do less than describe the fullness of our lgbt lives with the same brilliance of detail and color as Archbishop Williams does of icons of the Mother of God and our infant Lord Christ comes close to bearing false witness. It is to fail to show where God is at work in us. It is to fail to recognize those means by which God sanctifies us. It is to docetize us, to strip us of flesh, and doing so, docetize members of Christ’s own Body.

As a human being of real flesh and blood, my relationship is more than a sacrifice and certainly not reducible to sex. We play together. We snuggle. We laugh. We eat. We fight. We serve. And at the same time these do not exclude sacrifice or sex, the other polar swings often on offer by the “left” and the “right” respectively. The same goes for my relationship to the rest of the Body. This is all to say that any communication that will bring together this split of the personal and the public, that will cover the ecclesial gap that currently destroys personhood and devours our Churches, will require moving beyond how it is lgbt persons are good (or bad) for everyone else—as sacrifices or sex practices, and begin showing us, speaking about us (and with us), as rather ordinary people with all of the same personal peccadilloes and life aspirations of our heterosexual kin.

And doing so, we will all find ourselves more human, more ourselves. As the saying goes, “there is nothing as queer as folk.”

Neurologists tell us of the brain in the heart and depths, or is it the other way around? The heart and depths do touch the brain, the body’s mind compound.

Tracing the scar running
one-inch down my left pectoral,
near-over my heart crosses thin flesh.
Where surgeon’s art removed grief’s growth
and sutures closed me fresh.

This my body given,
my blood shed for you to come out,
a mere shadow of Him who holds us.
Outward sign of inward ache—
I dare to name it Love.8

(To see the footnotes, click Read more.)

Dr. Christopher Evans recently completed a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies and Church History at the Graduate Theological Union. He offers occasional musings on the Rule of St. Benedict, liturgical questions, and life as a Benedictine oblate at Contemplative Vernacular

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The Covenant as theater

By Frederick Quinn

The setting is spooky, a large, cold English room filled with furniture of different styles and periods crowded together and needing a good dusting. It could be the setting for Masterpiece Theatre or Mystery, with the voice of Vincent Price introducing another dark tale of intrigue, etc. But the voice was that of Rowan Williams and this was his December 18 four minute visual presentation designed to win friends for the proposed Anglican Covenant that is otherwise going no where.

Numerous commentators have pointed out the document’s deficiencies, its misuse of Anglican history, and the dreary proposals in Section Four that would give us regulatory structures not dreamed of in Cromwell’s time.

Presumably the Williams video would assuage such apprehensions. The archbishop sat in what could have been a British railways hotel lobby chair, in a room out of Agatha Christie. His hands were pressed tightly together, voice was high and tense, and he tried briefly to be reassuring. A lot of work has gone into the Covenant, he began, I guess thinking that somehow such an opener would successfully paper over the numerous objections to the document. “It is not a penal code,” he continued, which immediately flagged that question. “We haven’t learned to trust one another,” he continued, and the leaden document being unrolled once more that December 18 would presumably “intensify our fellowship and our trust.” But does trust intensify from signing a poorly drafted document nobody wants, or does trust come instead from contacts built up over years of sustained sharing ministries?

The presentation was only four minutes long, ending in a flow of random observations that raised many questions and provided little reassurance of any kind. Parsing the individual lines serves no purpose, as the objections to the draft Covenant and the imperious way it has been presented have been chronicled elsewhere in Episcopal Café. What was most interesting was William’s body language, tense, imperious, and grasping at straws. It did not suggest the intensification of trust.

As a longtime follower of Mystery, I thought the video might end with a crow flying past or a suit of armor clanging to the floor, but the tape just stopped. Maybe what is needed is for some actors from Mystery or Masterpiece Theatre to film a set of short spots in period costumes ending with a line like “The Covenant really is good for you” or somesuch. But so far the Covenant rollout is unconvincing,

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn has written extensively on law and Anglican history.

Of creeds and covenants

By Torey Lightcap

Sunday after Sunday, presiders at Holy Eucharist rise following the sermon and try to say something pithy about what is immediately to follow. Too often, this introduction to the recitation of a creed – generally the Nicene Creed – misses the mark by a mile or two, betraying potential discomfort. For as well all know, being pithy and being liturgical don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand; the words of the liturgy stand on their own even if they’re not complete until spoken.

Among the many ways of mishandling this moment, my favorite is this: “And now let us stand and affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.” (Wait … you want me to affirm my faith in what, now?) I enjoy this moment not only because it makes me cringe (as indeed I am a fan of the awkward), but more to the point, because it accidentally shows how unsure of the content of the Nicene Creed we can be. (If we affirm our faith in the words themselves, perhaps we needn’t affirm much else besides!)

As one who presides (and as a stickler for liturgy), I suffer likewise, having attempted lots of workarounds to what often feels like a ham-fisted half-attempt at leading a community at prayer:
• Lofty: “Let us rise in historic witness to our faith and say together the words of the Nicene Creed.”
• Unapologetic: “Turning to page 358 in the Prayer Book, (pause) we say together (pause): ‘We believe in one God…’”
• Invitational: “Would you stand, please, and join me in saying together the Creed.”
• Or I say nothing at all: pausing, standing, and starting the recitation.

In truth, in their execution not a single one of these ideas improves on the situation in the slightest, and we all know it. By allowing us to over-announce the obvious, they simply reveal our sometime dis-ease with what is about to happen.

The simple fact is that for many, the content of the creeds these days provides a stumbling block where once, and in many times, it was foundational to faith. It feels like a stumbling block, perhaps, because it seems to sound tinny and unenlightened in the ears of moderns, who busily ask themselves, Does this statement reflect reality? rather than the postmodern question, Is it lovely enough to be true? (So perhaps it’s not even a question not worth flagging – something generational due to pass its own way after a few decades of “parallel development”!)

But then, what other foundational statement invites any higher level of agreement? A friend relates that the originators of an emergent project to construct a contemporary-language version of the Bible required assent to the Nicene Creed among collaborators; he writes that it “was the linchpin that we could all assent to – liberals and conservatives, Catholics and Protestants, evangelicals, progressives, denominational and non-denominational.” Yet for all the consensus it generates, the Creed’s placement within Sundays, for me, has always felt like something of a sore thumb – the thing we do because “it’s what we’ve always done.”

I most assuredly speak out of both sides of my mouth, for I say all this as someone who is relieved that the Creed follows the sermon. If my homiletical foot has slipped out of place, or if I have broken a boundary on the way to making some point, I take great comfort that the Creed is there to suggest what is normative. In that moment, the Creed is the remembering of a grace-giving Law.

Still, to any parish priest with an open office door and a confirmation class to teach, these tensions aren’t new. Something better is longed for; nothing better is advanced; we fall back into what we know; and omitting the element from worship only makes things stranger because we miss it so. Meanwhile, we’ve been hearing these complaints for years about the longsuffering Nicene Creed. You know:

• it reflects a cosmology whose structure is not supported by science (i.e., heaven is “up” and death is “down” and “we” are somewhere in between);
• it holds the value of baptism as being salvific for Heaven only, having little or nothing to do with entering into earthly communities of believers;
• it allows only for the bodily resurrection of Christ;
• it turns the prophets into predictors of the future only, and takes away their function as critics of the society, religion, and government to which they were contemporaneous; and
• it envisages God, in both God’s one-ness and three-ness, as being strictly male.

If it wasn’t meant to do these things, we certainly have not been careful to point that out. That would be an equal failing of seminaries and priests.

Whoever’s at fault, in other words, the Nicene Creed can at times feel like a limited and limiting instrument of faith – proscribed, dogmatic positions rather than the kind of lively thing we hope for, and know, our worship can be.

Even so, when it comes right down to it, we tend to grit and stand and recite with everyone else. The instinct to do so is practically reptilian. It’s just written on our liturgical DNA.

We tell ourselves,
• “This is all just one big metaphor, one approach to a larger and ineffable truth, which I can ‘believe’ because I can spiritualize it; I don’t need it to really be true.”
• “It’s beautiful and poetic.”
• “I’ll say this part but not that part” or “I can cross my fingers for the next three lines” or “I shall stand, but I shall not speak.”
• “Maybe if I do this I’ll be a better Christian. After all, everyone has to have a place to stand.”
• “Saying the Creed puts me in line with history.”
• “The sermon was so heretical, we have to have something to get us back on track.”
• “If this thing has been around as long as they say, it must be worth something, so I’ll give it a shot.”
• “I dare not leave the crowd.”
• “Thank God for the communion of saints. If I can’t say this Creed with a straight face, perhaps my neighbor will do it for the both of us.”

We negotiate the creeds, wrestle with them; revere their supposed historical capacity for creating compromise; use them as personal theological counterbalance to weigh and sift belief. But too often – or perhaps this is only one priest’s imagining – we do not employ them in the actual worship of God. And all this interior negotiation is happening (must this really be said?) in the supposed context of the worship of God.

Talk about awkward.

A few congregations have elected to deal with this situation by simply setting the Nicene Creed aside, not saying it at all, or saying it only sporadically when it suits them (say, when the sermon is shorter, or when voices clamor for it), or not saying it when it doesn’t suit them. You can never tell which way that wind is going to blow. But really, that’s just the exception proving the rule.

Others have tried to write new creeds, but their chief characteristics are not primarily credal; that is, their first goal is not to set out the scope of believing, but rather to react: to not offend, or to pack it all in, or to correct the theology and language of existing creeds. These artifacts, such as Jim Rigby’s “A New Creed,” aren’t so much creeds as they are alternative creeds (heavy on the alternative):

I trust in God, universal parent, source of all power and being;
And in Jesus Christ, a unique expression of God and our guide for living:
conceived by the spirit of love,
born of Mary’s pure trust,
suffered under political oppression….

The fact remains that for most of us, the Nicene Creed is not a commodity up for editing: it’s part of what makes worship essential and whole. Even if our understanding of it is less than complete – even if its recitation is like swallowing medicine drawn from an unlabeled bottle – nevertheless we need it (or should we say the collective mood or feeling requires it) to make the worship experience seem complete. For most, it must be like the blessing or the Gospel reading or the Peace: the air we breathe at worship, the ground on which we stand.

Only the air and the ground are so common that we forget they’re even there. No wonder it seems so awkward: certainly we need air to breathe, but in this case that air consists of the recitation of the terms of a theological deal struck nearly 17 centuries ago in a vain attempt at unifying a religion that was being fitted for servanthood to the Romans. That could be some pretty stuffy air.

The Nicene Creed may have settled the collective hash of the Arian camp, but those who study history know that the Creed came with its own ultimatum: endorse it or be exiled.

If any of this seems oddly familiar, it’s because we are currently standing upon the crust of exactly the same precarious moment in which propositions are being thrust upon us with the demand of assent or exile. In the propounding of an Anglican Covenant, Anglicans have been asked worldwide to state, codify, and commit to a set of beliefs and the practices that inhere in such behaviors so as to determine who is and who is not Anglican, and that’s just not how Anglicanism works.

A powerless and hollow citizenship in the Anglican tribe may be offered to those who cannot sign the Covenant in good conscience, yet who hold the common purse, and that might make them out to be Judas when all they ever wanted was to state with clarity what Christian justice looked like within their own province.

Who among us would imagine that a few hundred years hence, Anglican catechesis (if such a thing there be) would include the memorization of a binding juridical formula for the purposes of recitation in worship? Will it be set to music?

Of course not. This Anglican Covenant – so long as it is primarily concerned with discrimination – would have about as much flavor and pith as last week’s gum. It would be made into footnotes and studied by those with specializations in history and theology, and it would be remembered not as compromise, but as con. It would be novel in the worst sense.

In short, it would reflect its own limited worldview, proscribe rather than describe Anglicanism, and be largely misunderstood. It would certainly not be used in the actions of praise. Really: under what circumstances would it become an instrument of faith and evangelism, or further clarify the meaning and intention of Christ?

All of which returns us to the Nicene Creed, with its limitations and imperfections and our great, inexplicable, and admittedly rote need for it.

Whether and how we handle particular articles of faith says a lot about us. Sometimes, in a sense, they say more about us than they say about God. And yet here is this thing that provokes both theological anxiety when it is present, and personal anxiety when it is absent. What more can be said of it, than that it has held us together as much as it has pricked at our ideologies and politics.

May we handle with great care not just what is already in print and has been recited for generations, but what has been set before us to shape for the generations that follow.

The Reach of our Comprehensiveness: Certainty, Ambiguity, or Sufficiency?

By Christopher Evans

As we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, the feast of the Incarnation par excellence, I find myself pondering the sheer wonder of the utterly unutterable: God become human in Jesus Christ. Y’eshua. God Saves!

Love dares speak His Name.

In recent Anglican disagreements, which are in part disagreements about identity, certainty and ambiguity have played off one another in a tug-of-war that to my mind fails this Holy Mystery of the Incarnation: Divine Person become human flesh, who founds and illumines the mystery of our own human personhood by means of Himself.

Awe before, and thus, reverence and respect for what cannot finally be only abstracted and wholly captured in language, that is Persons and persons, God and flesh, go missing in flipside ways. This failure is first Christological, and because Christological, then also anthropological. This failure is rooted in the sparring of two equally erroneous tendencies of present among Episcopalians: Certainty and ambiguity.

On the one hand, in our present disagreements certainty is brought to bear in such a way that all churchly and social traditions are of equal weight and truth without cause for reconsideration or evaluation of any no matter if their fruit bears goodness and mercy and love in the lives of each and all. Or that each word of Holy Writ is meant to bear forth its own truth without definitive reference and responsibility to the Living Truth, Jesus Christ, such that the words of the God become divorced from the Word of God who is Love, becoming a weapon to use against someone else rather than a proclamation of the Living Word by Whom to examine our own self.

The Church cannot err under such propositions of life together and tradition. Or Holy Writ becomes a rule book or a science textbook rather than those living words that point us to and draw us into communion with the Living God. In either case, humility about the things of earth and the ways of God goes absent.

The Personal check on Church and Scripture goes missing. And this, I find especially odd at the season of Advent. External critics, the vocal atheists and secularists, the scientists and those of other religions, then become a last ditch gift to us from God to call us to our senses, to call us to awe again. Which is another way of saying, that we are called again to get clear about language—it’s uses and limitations.

Certainty cannot become an excuse for denying the ongoing discovery of new knowledge of the things of earth, much less for refusing to consider previously unnoticed ways of grace among us. To do so is ultimately to deny the Incarnation Himself, who becomes not mere letters, but living flesh.

Somehow we have to live with a sense that Another more than ourselves will call us to account.

On the other hand, ambiguity has been used often to suggest that Episcopalians (and other Anglicans) do not have doctrinal claims. This often goes hand in hand with praising our lack of a singular theological voice, not to maintain the richness of our corrective tradition, but to deny that we (pro)claim anything at all. Ambiguity becomes an excuse for suggesting that we have no content at all regarding who God is with us. Thus, by doctrinal claims, I do not mean dry dead letters, but words (and images and means) that as proclaimed point us to and bear us into living relationship with the Living God. This is a liturgical understanding of doctrine, as in the earliest proper prefaces: The angels sing you their theologies: Holy, Holy, Holy, etc. In the proclaiming of this canticle, this psalm, this passage, this creed, we find ourselves upheld and in relationship with the God who is this way with and toward us.

Coupled with this is a sense that warranted or not, anything goes. Ambiguity becomes an excuse for even justification of licentiousness. The ways of grace cannot be discovered or distinguished from the ways of sin and what sin has wrought in us.

Ambiguity cannot become an excuse for denying any content about God at all. To do so is ultimately to deny the Incarnation Himself, who did not merely empty himself, but revealed himself in human flesh.

Somehow we have to name Him who calls us each to discipleship.

No doubt one of the beauties of Anglican tradition is that we can handle questioning, doubt, disbelief, and even error. Few Christian traditions can make room for the doubter and the agnostic, much less the atheist and the heretic. Yet, some of those with strongest faith have wandered through times of questioning and doubt, disbelief and even error. To make room for these among us is a sign of a mature tradition and of a generous trust. After all, to question and to doubt are very close to the wonder of mystics, to disbelieve and even err are very close to the idol-smashing of prophets.

We dare not cast away even the gift of others’ scorn.

Yet we can make room for questioning and doubt, disbelief and even error because what we pray in common continues to proclaim what the Church must about God revealed in the Second Person, Jesus Christ. That God became flesh, human being, and dwelt among us. Even so, we know that our poor words, no matter how well composed and beautifully crafted, point to and draw us into communion with this God without pretending that our words are absolute. Nevertheless, our official and public words, while never absolute—as if they could capture the Living God, are never less than enough. We may say more, we dare not say less. We may say it differently, but we dare not say other than that Jesus Christ is fully God, fully human.

Between certainty and ambiguity lays sufficiency. On the level of God, sufficiency allows us to proclaim the God who is with us this way—Jesus Christ. On the level of human beings, sufficiency allows us to discern the work of grace and the work of sin among us.

Sufficiency, then is another option, an option that Episcopalians have used to describe our approach to the core doctrines of our faith: Incarnation and Trinity. Sufficiency does not compel us down the road toward an arrogant defiance of discovery of any new insights or a willful denial of grace at work among us in ways we might have thought impossible. Sufficiency also does not deny claims to any content at all about our proclamation of God through a misuse of apophatic theologizing that finally empties any possibility of our knowing God at all.

Sufficiency respects the Mystery of the Person, Jesus Christ. Sufficiency recognizes that language of our official proclamations can never fully or finally capture wholly this Person, but rather provides gentle bounds within which to name and proclaim this Person, Jesus Christ, fully God fully human. And we dare do so because in the Incarnation, the Second Person has identified Himself with us to the utmost, including speaking to us in a means understanded by us—language.

Indeed, sufficiency is itself respectful of the full weight of God become flesh in Jesus Christ. In Christ, God identifies Himself totally with us, including that means understanded—language. In Christ, such identification is wonderous to behold, ultimately beyond comprehension, because Person in the flesh. Even words finally fail us. Language is broken open before the Living One. So the concept of sufficiency makes it possible for us to risk such naming while recognizing that our words are not ends unto themselves but lead us into communion with the Living God. Before such a One, language will always be but sufficient, and yet, only through language do we find ourselves come to awe by holy silence before God become human flesh. For finally, God in Christ speaks to us not only in words, but by means of Himself incarnate.

This reserve in sufficiency, minding our Scriptures to matters of salvation by means of the Creeds, I would suggest, is the scope of our comprehensiveness, a comprehensiveness that can make room for questioning and doubt, disbelief and even error because we dare to continue to risk naming and proclaiming God who is with us this way, Jesus Christ, by that means which we share in common: authorized public prayer.

Sufficiency gives us the middle ground between certainty and ambiguity to continue proclaiming nothing less than this God who is this way with us, Jesus Christ, while recognizing the broken-open-ness of our words. Sufficiency gives us the possibility of discovering more about the things of earth and the ways of this God at work in and among us for the healing of that which sin has wrought. Sufficiency gives us together the fortitude to proclaim, the space to discover, the room to err, and the grace to abide.

This same sufficiency in its care in “languaging” Persons and persons, begins with reverence and respect, rather than abstractions, ideologies, or totalizing captions. By Church and Writ, we are brought to encounter with the Living God, Jesus Christ, in common prayer. And just therein, we in turn encounter one another as living flesh, not as mere concepts, abstractions, or identity markers, but as members of Christ’s own Body.

Love dares speak His Name and ours. Amen.

Dr. Christopher Evans recently completed a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies and Church History at the Graduate Theological Union. He offers occasional musings on the Rule of St. Benedict, liturgical questions, and life as a Benedictine oblate at Contemplative Vernacular

Anglicanism gives way to Democratic Centralism

By Adrian Worsfold

Isn't if funny how Anglicanism increasingly mirrors the world of Communism? We know that some of the idealistic Puritans, the first European settlers on America's eastern shores were communists, but now Anglicanism seems to have this in the blood. Well - without the idealism, that is.

Already we have had an example of entryism, the religious Trotskyism of GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Back in the 1980s, frustration with the Labour Government being rather more moderate than its credal Clause 4 led a group of Trotskyites to organise within the Labour Party on its own secretive terms, to pre-arrange socialist outcomes, and influence by any planned means available a wider frustrated democratic socialist group of people. We have seen Western Conservative Evangelicals, frustrated with their minority status and little effect, organise themselves and use a new concept of international oversight - bishops from more compatible with them Anglican provinces in Africa - to push Western broader evangelicals and make Anglicanism doctrinally purist. A well funded strategy has been to isolate the most liberal and Western of Anglican Churches, and to pressurise elements in the rest. It took a Neil Kinnock to root out the party within a party, and allow Labour to go on as it was, a moderate party (indeed to later remove Clause 4 altogether).

Unfortunately, Anglicanism is currently headed by someone with his own international outlook: not an extreme evangelical one but rather a dedicated Catholic one, of bishops and himself, using so called Instruments. Instead of rooting out the Anglican equivalent of Militant, and restoring the diverse and culturally responsive nature of the Communion in its localities, Rowan Williams has played their game and fancies his own form of centralisation. He has allowed biblical fundamentalism to be the basis by which one Anglican Church might recognise another as valid or invalid, to then have a system of referrals up regarding complaints. Thus the extreme evangelicals have played a blinder.

And now we have his feature to bring harmony to this stressed and internationalised Communion called a Standing Committee. Doesn't it just look like a Politburo! Democratic centralism is a means by which one layer of a party (which is infused into a bureaucracy) elects the next layer up, but we all know how that conserves a system. It also hands out edicts, from the top down. Properly speaking, democratic centralism is all about power. The only fully worked out, bureaucratic and democratic centralised religious system is in the Baha'i Faith, with its nine male only members in Haifa's Universal House of Justice that determines Baha'i interpretation of the holy writings, produces plans and delivers policies. But whilst the Anglican Standing Committee, the Politburo, will not have power over autonomous Churches, it will have authority.

It works like this. Each Church agrees to sign a document that gives consultation across Churches and upwards the highest priority before it does anything that it suspects will cause controversy. Indeed it can consult to find out if an action will be controversial. The Standing Committee might have something to say on the matter early on too; after a Church acts the Standing Committee will have something to say and do about the matter. The Standing Committee derives from the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the latter being the only semi-representative element in all of this. The rest is very hierarchical. The Standing Committee does all the reasoning and recommending around an issue, and then makes a declaration, though action needs the rubber stamping of the Primates and the ACC. Yes, even the Soviet Union had parliaments (as well as committees), in order to rubber stamp party decisions.

Of course an Anglican Church could, with its autonomy, carry on with its own synodical or assembly led action. The result would be 'relational consequences' - that is, removal from one of more of the Instruments, surely the Primates' Meeting and/ or the ACC, and certainly the key Standing Committee itself. On removal, there would then be efforts to bring the Church back in, presumably with pressure to reverse the decision in order to return.

At the moment the Standing Committee is already meeting in secret and passing resolutions, but there is no Covenant. Already the Archbishop talks about 'The Mind of the Communion' from over ten years ago, but a body of bishops at Lambeth every ten years has no actual authoritative constitutional existence. But these bodies would have authority if a Church signed up to the Covenant. Such signing comes with expectations: don't sign something that cannot be met!

So what of the missing elements in the actual workings of the Covenant and the Standing Committee? Let's be clear. The Archbishop will be free to roam around regarding the issues of the Standing Committee and add his weight behind it, and if necessary there will be resolutions passed among the body of bishops at Lambeth to uphold the centralised Anglican structure. Their outsideness yet overlap regarding the Standing Committee and the ACC and Primates Meeting just adds to the authority of centralisation.

So, pass the Covenant and know what to expect. It won't just be the recent experience of entryism and the Archbishop of Canterbury's willingness to roll over that will resemble authoritarian Marxist-Leninism, but there will be a new form of Anglican Soviet Union. There will be a Politburo expecting to have its secretly decided pronouncements met. It will decide from the centre. The Archbishop will have created his Catholic dream, and he will thank the extreme evangelicals for helping him achieve his vision of a worldwide Church, and he can then tell the Holy Father in Rome what it can achieve and what comes next.

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

The Ugandan repression in historical context

By Louie Crew

Anglicans in Uganda are currently encouraging passage of a harsh new law that would institute the death penalty for some homosexual acts and would punish with severe prison sentences those who fail to report the homosexuality of those whom they counsel or even just know. The legislation will encourage the most vicious kinds of witch hunts. One Anglican priest in Uganda has likened lesbians and gays to "cockroaches." International human rights organizations are alarmed that this legislation may actually pass.

This violence has a long history, especially among the British and those whom the British have influenced.

The Napoleonic Code (1804) led to radical reform of almost all law in most of Europe. One of its effects was the decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts throughout most of Europe, except in England.

That was no accident, and the Church of England was one of the main obstacles to reform of Britain's sodomy laws.

Britain continued to execute homosexuals for five more decades. England's last execution for sodomy occurred in 1857.

While the death penalty was still on the books, many visitors from the Continent wrote of their horror at the flagrant public pillorying of homosexuals in Britain. (See a brief account of the Vere Street Coterie,1810.)

The British obsession led Lord Byron to spend most of his adult life on the Continent. He and his homosexual friends called themselves "Methodists" as code for "homosexuals" in their private correspondence. (See extensive accounts in Louis Crompton's Byron and Greek Love, University of California Press, 1985; see also Crompton's Homosexuality and Civilization, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003)

Even after the death penalty was removed, the British fervor against gays continued little abated. Witness the conviction with jail and hard labor sentence for Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Wilde died only five years later, in 1900, a completely broken man, and it took more than six decades thereafter before Britain decriminalized consensual homosexuality (1967), almost a decade after decriminalizing heterosexual prostitution.

Britain's decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts would likely have been delayed further had not the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, supported the reform.

There is much LGBT blood on the hands of the Church of England. Uganda is merely keeping alive those ancient uncouths, with help from the silence of Rowan Williams. Rowan Williams is no Michael Ramsey.

In the early 1971 one of the bishops from Florida shocked the Episcopal House of Bishops by asking on the floor of the house how he was to handle a priest whom he had discovered to be "queer." His raw candor shocked the House, which immediately established the House of Bishops Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry (1971-76) so that such discussions could go underground. (Only Episcopalians could have come up with such a prissy name as "the House of Bishops Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry"!)

In October 1974 I took out ads for a new publication, Integrity: Gay Episcopal Forum in The Episcopalian, The Advocate and The Living Church. Immediately I received a letter from Bishop John Walker, a member of this Task Force, asking me to meet with the Task Force in Washington as soon as possible. We met at Epiphany in Washington, DC, and to that meeting I brought with me copies fresh off the Xerox, of the first issue of the Forum, in which I called for chapters to be formed.

A priest named Tyndale and a layman named Wycliffe (who says the Holy Spirit does not have a sense of history?!), both from Chicago, but neither knowing the other, called me wanting to start a chapter. I put them in touch. They met in December and the following summer (1975) hosted the first national convention of Integrity at St. James Cathedral in Chicago.

In my papers stored in archives of the University of Michigan is a thick binder labeled "Episcopal Snide," a collection of hostile mail that I frequently received from bishops. Long ago I decided not to keep that collection near me. From the day I took out the ads, I understood that we all have much better news to tell to absolutely everybody. It is not ourselves whom we proclaim but Jesus as Lord and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

Louie Crew, professor emeritus of English at Rutgers University, is the founder of Integrity, and a longtime deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Newark.

The silence of the shepherds

By Adrian Worsfold

The Archbishop of Canterbury's speech on 19 November at the Gregorian Pontifical University offered, even promoted as 'good', a condition of impaired communion as experienced within Anglicanism as a model for Roman Catholic and Anglican relationships. Presumably this was a definition of the Anglican brand, and a rather optimistic one wrapped up in dense theological speak and question after question.

One reason I responded to this only humorously (on my blog) was because this is easy speech. It is easy to construct arguments like this, even if it takes Rowan Williams's own mind to deliver it in the strained manner that he does. It is also easy to talk about the awful violence in the Congo. What is not easy, and where the silence has been deafening, has been to find anything said about Uganda and its proposed laws singling out one group of people for harsh and repressive treatment. We also have an Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, a Ugandan himself, who doesn't mind a bit of publicity now and again, in jumping out of aeroplanes and refusing to wear his white collar until Robert Mugabe leaves office - but when it comes to Uganda and gay people, and that Anglican Church's intense homophobia, he suddenly has his mouth all zipped up. So it is easy to talk shop, easy to talk about general situations, and yet when it comes to the minority sheep in the flock in your own back pen, silence is the order of the day. More puzzling, given that Canada has at least said something about this, is the silence of The Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop. What on earth is going on?

To me this is a gigantic ethical failing. I knew already that the whole Covenant business was to build an international institution on the backs of excluding a minority. It will give recognition to processes at the level of international institutions for the first time; these processes will give worldwide Anglicanism a conserving central identity. I maintain the Covenant needs defeating to preserve a diverse and culturally responsive Anglicanism, and clearly the Pontifical speech was about an identifiable Covenanted Anglicanism that deals in processing disagreements - to and from the centre.

My own personal theology is further and further away from the sort of theological clutter lying at the heart of what Rowan Williams presented in Rome. I take the view, almost conclusively now, that this is utter human construction, pure institutionalism, human made and human preserved. Theologically I have become stripped out of even relating to this material because in part it is increasingly morally objectionable, and indeed allows morally objectionable behaviour such as attitudes to consenting minorities. Somehow the heart is dying inside Christianity so that it becomes a pointless hulk, where some of its core messages are tossed aside in order to promote one institutional fantasy or another.

There is another potential explanation to Rowan Williams's dealings, and it is almost Kamikaze. That, in making his 'half full' speech about Anglican incoherence, he knew perfectly well that it would be dismissed in Rome, and it was a kind of raspberry from an incoherent Anglicanism, just as this Covenant business is a non-starter because the Church of England cannot legally adopt a Covenant that even sniffs of control from without. The Church of England would have to only voluntarily abide by something without, which is worthless and constantly open to challenge. So, in the end, the argument goes, despite deliberate appearances to the contrary, there is no end in sight. There is no intended Covenant to process anything, but just an exercise in keeping people on board to a point of exhaustion - it is towards nothing at all.

In the same way, not all appears to be as it seems regarding Rome's latest finger into the Anglican pie. Whilst there might be initial annoyance, the Pope has put a spring into the Anglican step. He has annoyed mostly his own bishops and clergy. The Romanish Anglicans now have their galleon to sail away on, and the some of the most awkward of the Anglican awkward squad will be gone or utterly weakened, allowing for clearer decisions on women in ministry in the Church of England. Plus the Pope could well weaken GAFCON/ FCA significantly given its unprincipled alliance of extreme Protestants and extreme Catholics, as the latter shave off. So this also weakens the extreme Protestants, for whom the Catholics were more ballast along with the Africans. The extreme Protestants want to be both in and out, but in the end will face frustration in this never ending long game that goes nowhere. If they want their idea of renewal, they'll have to become independent. Bye bye to them too.

Do we believe it? Is it as devious as this? It could be that behind all the convoluted intellectualism is a kind of laughter of institutional politics that is the real game, and that the visible game is not the game being played.

I hear this explanation, but I don't believe it. It might be what happens, but it isn't the intention. I really do think Williams wants the Covenant, to impose it; it's just that he won't get it because the mother Church cannot have it legally. I really do think that a minority is being sacrificed for this end. There is no ethical basis to any of this.

More than this, there is no ethical basis up front or devious. If devious, it is too risky for people's lives for them to be included eventually. If not devious, there is the burning smell of sacrifice - not self sacrifice via service, but the sacrifice of others for convenience and for the worst of bureaucratic religious motives.

It is hugely disturbing and wrong. The silence is deafening and these institutional leaders will pay for this error in lost credibility. They are out of touch and colluding in cruelty.

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

The failed ecclesiology of Rowan Williams

By Adrian Worsfold

Let's do a round up of recent worldwide Anglican history to the present.

We have an Archbishop of Canterbury who brought his High Church identity into his job, along with his form of narrative theology, and was thought to have skills relating himself to contemporary society and social movements.

He headed a Church of England in the middle of an identity crisis, as one school, the Evangelicals, thought they were on a takeover trip, where the Liberals' ability to handle the middle and keep relatively quiet was coming undone, much because the Catholic traditionalists were defeated on female ordination and looked to be finished regarding female bishops. No longer a triangle, it was Evangelicals versus the Liberals.

The Archbishop then started on his quest to answer a question from Rome always put, that is, 'What is Anglicanism?' Williams's answer was to use the crisis now around the Evangelical's issue of homosexuality, which gave them some third world ballast and international power-leverage, to build a worldwide Anglican identity more like a Church than a Communion. Whilst he and successors could not be a pope, he could have Instruments of Communion.

He decided that actual Anglican Churches were "local" Churches. A "local" Anglican Church would recognise another "local" Church by its slavishness to a more or less fundamentalist use of the Bible, especially when it came to ecclesiastical ethics, like homosexuality. This Reformed or Protestant recognition would then have, in its difficulties and disputes, a Catholic solution, in terms of bishops in dioceses running up to him, bypassing the "local" Churches except as it related to the Instruments: him, bishops all gathered together, prelates gathered together, and the only representative body in any sense, the Anglican Consultative Council. Presently, let's be clear, there is no international seat of authority, other than friendliness and getting togetherness, but under a Covenant there would be a description of a process of dispute resolution that involved describing these instruments of international authority. Thus Anglicanism would be a Reformed or Protestant believer's fellowship in that strained biblical way, but then its authority would be vertical going up the Catholic pole.

Forcing the Covenant through, and that almost has meant through hell and high water, he could then take his Covenant result to his mate Benedict, and answer the Roman question 'What is Anglicanism?'

However, while the Archbishop used homosexuality this way, and did so to the shocking extent of being able to mouth that no one who is homosexual could represent Anglicanism in any ministry, the Pope, his friend, was looking at women and bishops and saying that no one who is female can be a bishop and taking a view that the Church of England is the central Anglican Church.

The Church of England General Synod made it clear that women will become bishops. It is when, not if. It decided that diocesan bishops, men and women, could decide provision for those who were awkward about accepting women sacramentally. A committee then decided that this would be done by statute instead, bypassing the diocesan, but certainly not by having new non-geographical dioceses. But everyone knows that the Synod, barring amazing elections of the reactionaries, would overturn the committee and reinstall the diocesan principle. We know by the previous General Synod, which decided on, at best, a diocesan code of practice, that the Archbishop of Canterbury bellyached about the traditionalists, despite the fact that they were digging their own grave, or building their own ark to go across the Tiber or perhaps the Bosphorous or some other world cruise.

But now Benny has pulled the rug from under him and stuck the knife in. Before Rowan Williams can go to Rome with a Covenant on a silver tray, before some 'solution' can be made regarding women bishops, Benny has done what he wants. He could have waited three or five years, which is nothing in Roman Catholic timing, though plenty for his stage in life.

What a humiliation for Rowan Williams to have to sit next to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and make sweet ecumenical noises. What a climb down that Williams has (again in Curia style, as it must 'fall to him') to write to "the Bishops of the Church of England, and the members of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion" that this is: no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression'.

The humiliation is evident in the statement also there to say:

I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage.

That's because, while he regards the Pope as the boss, and has welcomed the Pope's visit to these shores next year in the usual grovelling terms (the "joy" of "all" Anglicans), the Pope obviously regards him as insignificant - not worthy of advance notice of an action that basically and potentially takes traditionalist Catholic priests en masse out of his Church and short circuits the female bishops decision making and the whole matter of the Covenant and Anglican identity.

Williams has shown himself to be run around by every group except the one with whom he was mistakenly identified; by his actions he has separated out ecclesiastical rights from human rights, and has become complicit in the actions of African prelates and civil authorities against gay people; he has turned Church life into a form of isolated ecclesiastical bureaucracy; he has made a joke of critical theology and Biblical study when it comes to Church authority, and now for all this overturning of Anglican sensibilities for the greater goal he has been humiliated by Rome.

Everything he has stood for and acted upon, everything he has done, has now been overturned. The Roman Church simply no longer recognises any Anglican authority now: For Rome, the identity of Anglicanism has been reduced: now just a 'tradition' and hardly even, any more, an 'ecclesiastical community'. Williams's Catholic fantasy has been underlined by the sheer power brokering of Rome.

Well, for the Church of England, the way is clear for women as bishops as well as men. The only thing that will continue resistance by traditionalist Catholic clergy is the loss of their monthly payment in the bank. They'll have to have the courage of their convictions regarding empty pockets, when they swim off or take the boat trip, but they have the systematic getaway option now. Any 'getting paid' reasoning for resistance won't go very far. Secondly, the whole wider purpose of the Covenant is dead: already wilting, the Pope has given it a good kicking as, essentially, a waste of time (which it is).

Incidentally, the Anglican Church of North America won't stay in one piece: the two extremes of Protestant and Catholic had no middle ground to smooth the way, and now the Catholic end has its true goal in sight of running off to Rome. Wrecking the 'orthodox' Anglican breakaway suits Rome: it suits Rome to have, in its eyes, all of Anglicanism either Protestant and/or unacceptable - not even an ecclesiastical community.

There are some extreme evangelicals for whom the Covenant has been just a tactic to get one over The Episcopal Church. They've never been committed to it. The only ones that have been positive have been a small bunch of verbose essayists with their foghorn 'leader' in the present Bishop of Durham. They are all undermined as well. They saw the Covenant as a way of maintaining a worldwide fellowship and an additional structural unity, but the structural unity is bust and the rest is dispersed without it.

There is one good thing about what the Pope has done, in short-circuiting all the agony of Anglicanism. He will bring this Covenant nonsense to a quicker conclusion regarding its failure; he will get females as bishops in the Church of England cleaner and should be quicker; he will make it more obvious that Anglican ecumenism lies with the Old Catholics and the Lutherans and with Protestant denominations; and he might just persuade Rowan Williams to end his disastrous period in Anglican office by resignation sooner than would have been the case when his imposition of his pet project fell to pieces.

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

Canterbury approves "Vatican use" rite

By Christian P. Hansen

LAMBETH PALACE, Thursday, October 22, 2009. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, held a second joint press conference this morning. Dr. Williams announced that, with immediate effect, the Church of England would permit parish churches to establish a "Vatican Use" liturgy to allow disaffected Roman Catholics to find a church home more to their liking.

The Roman Catholic Church has for centuries refused to ordain women, refused to allow priests and bishops to be married, and demanded that its followers acknowledge that the Bishop of Rome is unable to err in matters of defined faith and doctrine. In addition, the celibate hierarchy of the Roman communion forbids Roman Catholics from using artificial means of birth control or using condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV.

"The establishment of 'Vatican Use' in the Church of England will allow those who, in conscience, cannot accept all of the doctrinal and ecclesiological positions of the Pope of Rome to move to the Anglican communion, where you are not required to check your conscience and reason at the door of the church." said Dr. Williams, while Archbishop Nichols looked on from the side. "We in Anglicanism have a tradition of accepting people of rational faith from whatever background. We are especially welcoming to Roman Catholic priests who have been forced out of the active priesthood because they wish to be married, or just have a girlfriend like that priest in Miami. Keeping the 'Vatican Use' will allow like-minded refugees from Rome who have swum the Thames to be in community with others who have made that same journey."

Dr. Williams continued, "As we have also been in the forefront of ordaining women to the historic priesthood and, in many provinces, the episcopate, we welcome those Roman Catholic women who feel that God is calling them to a vocation as priests and bishops in the Church of God. We feel that the Roman Catholic Church would welcome this reshuffling of people from each side, from Anglicanism to the new Personal Prelature and from Romanism to the welcoming folds of the Anglican Communion."

Archbishop Nichols said, "We believe that the presence of former priests who are married in the Roman Catholic church is detrimental to the future development of Holy Mother the Church. In addition, allowing women who feel called to a vocation as priests or bishops to remain Roman Catholic means that a dangerous third-column of dissenters would exist in each parish and diocese across the land, distracting us from our mission to build up the Church of God that Jesus intended, with a male priesthood and episcopate as well as fecund parishioners who raise up large families of children and encourage them to enter the priesthood or the convent as appropriate."

He continued, "We welcome this historic realignment of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches into two distinct confessions, allowing people to make a clear choice between the two. The Holy Father has sent his personal blessings on the 'Vatican Use' to his Grace the Archbishop and expressed his hope that this initiative will be duplicated throughout the world."

Archbishop Williams thanked Archbishop Nichols for the kind words and blessings on 'Vatican Use' Anglicanism, and concluded with a request that other provinces of the Anglican communion share in 'Vatican Use' and give Roman Catholics in their provinces the opportunity to share in this historic initiative.

Their Graces then repaired to the Library at Lambeth Palace for a lunch of humble pie washed down with Bishop's Finger.

Chris Hansen is an Episcopalian transplanted to London now coping with the Church of England as a lay leader in his Diocese. This essay originally appeared on his blog.

The Church of England's reactionary drift

By Adrian Worsfold

It is an interesting exercise to reduce to essentials the points made in Peter Selby's recent address to Inclusive Church opposing the Covenant. When the points are given headings and reordered, they become even more powerful.

When looking at these points again, keep in mind this: the Church of England Synod voted for draft legislation that meant that in the future diocesan bishops, men and women, would provide male only alternatives to congregations not accepting women bishops. A committee of nineteen overturned this in favour of a general statute, undermining the diocesan principle (the one that elsewhere the Archbishop of Canterbury upholds to the point of undermining Anglican Churches). This revision will go back to the Synod, but this is an example of how the Church of England undermines even the semblance of representational democracy in favour of hierarchy.

Bishop Peter Selby on...

Recognising Anglicanism

Recognisable Anglican practice takes controversial decisions because they seemed to be right, and taking time to see whether they were legitimate developments or not. Recognisable Anglican practice has not been based on procedures of the kind the Archbishop of Canterbury now has in mind.

Unrecognisable Anglicanism in numerous provinces other than TEC has involved bullying, threats, withdrawal of communion, unilateral invasions of others' territories.

Given the treatment given to TEC it is less likely to make a positive response. The Archbishop's Response warm comments on TEC carry little weight if most of his thoughts are actually directed against it.

Anglican Communion

Why does the Archbishop of Canterbury have to deny that the Covenant is a manifestation of centralisation?

The Covenant is a 'when accepted' due to TINA (There Is No Alternative)

Representational congruity, like that of recognisability, cuts in more than one direction.

Membership of the communion ('track A') will in some way be made dependent on conformity to the Covenant text with its message about recognisability and congruity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury would settle for a stalemate, which is what his response actually advocates.

Shared Discernment Recognized by All article: the ACI/ Bishop of Durham 'all' is just selected 'insiders'

The People not the Hierarchy

'Facts on the ground' get established for reasons of conscience and integrity by both 'sides' and reveal the importance of the matter in hand. It is unrealistic for the Archbishop of Canterbury to reject these.

Truth gets discovered precisely in the context of biblical and theological reflection and acted out in worship: the Archbishop quite wrongly suggests that the Church will have ended up conforming to social mores. An example from the people of God in worship: the congregation remained in their seats until a gay pair whose partnership was to be Civil Partner registered had received Communion together.

What is happening to the role and person of the Archbishop if an issue 'seems to fall' to him to articulate a matter? His response to TEC was addressed to 'the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion', like a papal encyclical.

Ecumenical Relations

Anglicans shall have to take steps to notify ecumenical partners that 'Anglicanism' is not represented only by participants 'signed up' to the Covenant. Such will be 'not in my name' and this excluding will just be the official Church not the peopled Church.

Church of England

The Church of England criticises TEC for collusion with its surrounding culture, but it is itself one of the most successfully enculturated churches.

The Church of England has discomfort with ideologies opposing centuries of European monarchical history, conditioning assumptions behind approaches to Rome rising in priority presently.

Over more than twenty years Bishops' Meetings have brought more mistrust and less openness than at any previous time. There is a pretence of unity that needs to be confronted for the sake of the integrity of ecclesial life.


The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to own some responsibility for the situation regarding homophobia in the Church being far worse than during his predecessor's time.

The Archbishop treats issues of sexuality only as ecclesiastical problems and solutions, denying theological insight and fresh thinking regarding this issue as given to other matters.

There are many forms of 'Church' but 'Hygienic Church' is the one innovation apparently to benefit everyone.

When the Archbishop says that there must be no questioning of LGBT people's human or civil rights or of their membership of the Body of Christ, he is.

His personal opposition to homophobia does not exempt him from complicity in the way that he deals with this issue that traditionalists have used precisely because of the visceral responses which homosexuality arouses and its energies tapped.

'Lifestyle' wording to describe gay partnerships is something of a giveaway of the Archbishop's attitude.

The Archbishop has responded to overwhelming pressure, there is also an element of personal choice and he has arrived at a false consciousness.

Denunciations of homophobia are made without reference to the Archbishop being personally responsible for requiring Jeffrey John's withdrawal from his acceptance of the see of Reading.

The decision not to allow the appointment of a gay person as a bishop is a representative action.

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

I am not a nobody

By Lauren R. Stanley

When, pray tell, did I become a “nobody”? I want to know, so that I can readjust my thinking, readjust my life.

Over in the Church of England, a proposal is circulating that would limit the powers of some women bishops if anyone – apparently anyone – objects to that woman.

Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, a conservative Anglican group in England, was quoted as saying this so-called compromise was “sensible.”

“It represents a compromise,” Mr. Thomas told Reuters. “It doesn’t go as far as some wanted, it goes further than some liberals wanted. It is a way in which nobody can lose.” (emphasis added)

“Nobody”? Is that what I am? A “nobody”?

It has taken the Church of England years, and lots of nasty infighting, to even consider the idea of women bishops. This after taking the same Church years even longer to decide to allow women to be ordained priests.

Just months after agreeing to open the episcopate to women, conservatives are forcing the Church to pull back. The Revision Committee already has voted to change the rules so that certain powers can be removed from women bishops simply to appease those who don’t want them. If women bishops face opposition from traditionalists in the dioceses in which they serve, some of their powers – as yet undetermined – would be taken away from them and given to male bishops.

One Church of England spokesman says that in parishes that “don’t recognize women bishops and want to look to another bishop,” – read “a man” – that diocesan bishop’s duties and responsibilities to those parishes would be reduced “automatically.”

So there would be no attempt at education, no attempt at mediation, no attempt at reconciliation. Apparently, just one person can object, and poof! There goes the diocesan bishop’s ability to function.

Liberals in the Church are decrying this latest development, claiming it would create a two-tier church, allowing discrimination against women to get even easier than it already is.

As a woman priest ordained for these past 12 years, I can assure you: The two-tier system that the liberals in England fear has existed for millennia. The Church has perpetuated this system throughout its history.


Because, apparently, it is still acceptable to declare women “nobodies.”

I find it ironic that this last brouhaha is taking place in England, which has been ruled, quite successfully, by queens and one woman Prime Minister. It’s OK for the nation to be liberal enough to recognize that women are equal, but heaven forfend if the Church were to do so!

Let me be clear: I am not a nobody. I am a beloved child of God, created in God’s image, brought into being because God loved me into being.

I have no desire to be a bishop, and certainly do not serve in the Church of England, so in theory, this latest development has nothing to do with me. But in fact, it does, because the women who are being called “nobodies” over there are my sisters in Christ. They, too, are beloved children of God, they, too, were created in God’s image because God loved them into being.

So my heart breaks to hear of this proposal, because it tells me that the Church of England is more concerned with appeasing those who cannot accept a new thing than it is with living into a basic tenet of our theology: That we are all created in the image of God.

Because that is true, none of us is a “nobody.”

It would be nice if the Church of England were to remember that.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Haiti, where she works on the Partnership Program and Development. Her website is

In defense of the organic church

By Jim Stockton

The Church of England describes itsef as “episcopally led and synodocally governed.” Bishop Pierre Whalon recalls at his blog site the comment of the late Church of England Bishop Ian Cundy, intended as a gentle corrective: “Our modality is historically the ‘bishop-in-synod’ rather than ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’”. It is a distinction, perhaps, that a bishop of the Church of England can appreciate, but one wonders if the lay person or priest there would do the same. Certainly, one wants the late bishop to be correct; and not simply out of respect for the dear departed, but because it reflects a high ideal: the notion that the institutional Church is guided by the Spirit of God moving in the organic Church gathered.

But one wonders, then, why comment on ‘bishop’ at all? Perhaps even within a relatively populist comment, the reality remains evident that the Churches of the Anglican Communion are institutionally weighted in favor of the bishops. The same tension that emerged as early at Cyprian’s third century declaration: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, “Outside the Church there is no salvation” seems to continue. Outside what Church? What is meant here by ‘Church’?

The Churches of the Anglican Communion are respectively engaged with the question of how they are to remain a Communion. They are being asked, if not required, by the Archbishop of Canterbury to consider and respond to the unfinished latest draft of an “Anglican Covenant.” Implicit, then, in the Archbishop’s request is the requisite assumption that the Communion cannot remain such without such a document. It is unfortunate, I think, that this assumption betrays a bias toward the institutional Church and a lack of confidence in the organic.

The modality of the institutional Church is indeed oriented around bishops, even in synod or council. However, with regard to our councils, it should be helpful to recall that it is a modern innovation that councils or synods incorporate lay or clerical participation at all. Historically, the Councils of the Church were populated only with bishops. This is true for the Church of England until as recently as 1970, when its General Assembly was established. Its General Assembly is the only gathering of the Church of England that we Episcopalians would recognize as in any way similar to the democratically organized bodies that we name as our ‘councils’ or ‘conventions.’

The modality here in the U.S. has been to proceed with a healthy suspicion toward bishops. Historically, Church of England bishops here were, as they are now, agents of the English government. Their presence in, and affection for, the colonial churches were almost nil. Colonial churches were populated with lay leadership and priests ordained in England, having then made the arduous journey here to serve. When the colonies declared their freedom, the Church gathered itself without any bishops at all, since the American Church had only one bishop at the time, and this one having been irregularly consecrated in Scotland. It was this initial Convention, much more organic than institutional, that decided to continue with bishops and to identify itself nominally with their ecclesial Office. Here, then, the modality has been quite different from that of England and her Church.

This may explain why many of our fellow Anglican Christians, at least their bishops, continue to fail to understand how it is that we here in TEC could, much less would, proceed with democratically established practices in our own Church that they cannot accept in their own. The Church of England, while far ahead of us in the practical sense in terms of gay unions and openly gay clergy couples, gets a bit of a pass from the criticism, presumably because of the Church’s status as an arm of the government and thus its consequent subjection to that governments laws. The Episcopal Church, though laden with institutionalism, is nevertheless far more organically organized and governed than the Church of England as well as most of its fellow member Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Maybe this explains, also, why the notion of an ‘Anglican Covenant’ is viewed here with increasing suspicion. As the Church of England itself once did, we of TEC have a resentment toward the institutional intrusion into our Church’s autonomy and autocephaly by foreign prelates, in this case, via the proposed ‘Covenant.’ Just as this nation was built upon suspicion toward such institutionalism, so also was our Church. Our modality is distinct. Because we are more organic, we are decidedly not “episcopally led;” instead, we are episcopally served. We are not even oriented around “the bishop-in-synod;” the corrective is too subtle for our organic reality. Instead, our synods, our councils or conventions, hold the bishops accountable. After all, we elect them.

Because it is rooted in the organic Church it enjoys comparatively fuller participation of the entirety of its membership, and so is comparatively more accessible to the movement of the Holy Spirit. If the organic Church spurns the product of an institutional modality, we can be assured that its perpetuity will remain far from tenuous. The existence of institutionalized organizations may well be threatened, and probably rightly so. But the status of One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic is claimed with profound integrity by the Church organic. It will thrive.

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

Anglo-Catholicism: what the heck is it?

By Derek Olsen

Thinking and arguing about Anglican identity is new territory for some. Not me. Every since I’ve become an Anglican almost a decade ago, the question of identity has been intertwined with my Anglicanism. And with good reason—I identify with the most fractious and tribal of the great Anglican traditions, Anglo-Catholicism.

Since the beginning of the Twentieth century, Anglicanism has been described as a threefold cord consisting of three distinct parties, the Evangelicals, the Broad-Church, and the Anglo-Catholics. As if negotiating these positions weren’t difficult enough, Anglo-Catholicism has been in a tough spot since the ‘60s. The theological and liturgical changes of Vatican II combined with the movement for women’s ordination were a one-two punch that rocked the movement. The emergence of women’s ordination brought the matter to a head in the early 70’s in the Episcopal Church, calving the movement into several major branches, some remaining within the Episcopal Church, others leaving for the Anglican Continuum consisting of other Anglican entities not in The Episcopal Church.

At the root of the problem is identity: what does it mean to be a catholic Anglican? For some outside the movement or on its fringes the answer seems simple, it’s about liturgical ceremonial. If you wear a chasuble, know what a cope is, swing around incense, and chant, you must be Anglo-Catholic.

Trust me, it’s not that simple.

As any Anglo-Catholic in good standing will tell you, it’s not about the externals. Or, rather, the externals are driven by the internals. As I’ve said before, we don’t do a solemn high mass or use incense because we like it (though we do, of course…) but because of what it communicates about who and what God is and who we are in light of that reality. It’s about theology. And our theological commitments come with liturgical implications. Defining that theology is what drives us crazy.

One simplistic definition is that catholic Anglicans hold the doctrine of the Undivided Church (those things that the Orthodox East and the Catholic West agree about) but hold different discipline. That is, our faith is the same but our principles of church order are different. But defining what is doctrine and what is discipline, and deciding who gets to be the final arbiter is what’s been giving us fits since the ‘60s.

I’ve said in jest that the true definition of an Anglo-Catholic is a person who knows three other people who think they’re catholic Anglicans but who aren’t because they’re either not “catholic” or not “Anglican” enough.

The most obvious and polarizing argument is over women’s ordination—is it doctrine or discipline? The major divisions in the party have been over this issue, but a host of others complicate even agreements on that point. Which way to lean in matters of faith and morals: towards the Orthodoxen or towards Rome? What liturgy to use: the ’28 BCP, the ’79 BCP, or the (Anglican or American or English) Missal? What ceremonial to use: pre- or post-Vatican II?
And so I say, matters of Anglican identity have never been far from my mind lo these years.
As I survey the current squabbling and bickering amongst the worldwide Anglican Communion and especially here in the Episcopal Church, I find myself in familiar territory. Out of that familiarity, I return to one of the positions that I’ve found the most helpful. It’s not strictly about doctrine or about discipline but about practice. The most succinct expression that I’ve found comes not from a committee or report, but a book on spirituality written by the English Anglo-Catholic Martin Thornton. In writing about the monastic father St. Benedict and his impact upon English spirituality he says:

The greatest Benedictine achievement (from this point of view) is the final consolidation of the threefold Rule of prayer which is absolutely fundamental to all Catholic spirituality: the common Office (opus dei) supporting private prayer (orationes peculiares) both of which are allied to, and consummated by, the Mass. . . . Here is the basic Rule of the Church which, varying in detail, is common to East and West, monastic and secular, to all the individual schools without exception, and which forms the over-all structure of the Book of Common Prayer. Amongst all the tests of Catholicity or orthodoxy, it is curious that this infallible and living test is so seldom applied. We write and argue endlessly about the apostolic tradition, about episcopacy, sacramentalism, creeds, doctrine, the Bible—all very important things—yet we fail to see that no group of Christians is true to orthodoxy if it fails to live by this Rule of trinity-in-unity: Mass-Office-devotion. (Martin Thornton, English Spirituality, 76)

It’s a position that certainly doesn’t answer all problems or arguments—and Thornton admits as much—but in this statement, I find the heart of the matter expressed more simply and clearly than in any bishops’ statement.

At the end of the day the question isn’t whether we are “authentic” Anglo-Catholics or Anglicans. The question is whether we are authentic Christians seeking to pattern our lives according to an Anglican shape that proceeds from catholic and orthodox roots. Yes, we do need to argue whether women are valid sacramental matter for the priesthood (and I argue they are); yes, we need to argue whether queer folk in relationships are appropriate leaders for our church communities (and I argue that it’s about the relationships not the folk and applies equally to us straight people…); yes, we need to argue about how to interpret and apply the Scriptures (and I argue without a formal or de facto magisterium). More fundamental than these, however, we need to agree and be united in a common Anglican way of life.

It used to be said—and I’ve heard it many times both before and after my move to the Episcopal Church—that rather than confessional documents we have the Book of Common Prayer. Despite the history and legacy of colonialism and its aftermath, the one thing that all Anglicans hold is a Book of Common Prayer—none identical across the provinces, but all rooted in common precedents, all embodying the fundamental principles of Eucharist, the Daily Office, and personal prayer.

Can we live up to, is there any point in, a new Anglican Covenant if we don’t bother to live up to or have regard for the more basic Anglican covenant that sits in our pews? On the other hand, it’s terrific to call ourselves Anglicans or Episcopalians, but do our daily and weekly habits reflect that reality—or display some other truth?

Yes, let’s navel-gaze. But more important, let’s pray. And let’s live our praying. Don’t just argue about being an Anglican; act like one.

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

What fidelity requires: thoughts on blessing same-sex relationships

By George Clifford

Several weeks ago, Jim Naughton posed several questions in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s idea that the Anglican Communion might become a two-track organization:

a) What difference will it make in practice? b) Do you care? c) Will anyone outside the Communion care? d) Does it feel to you sometimes as though we are writing rules for membership in a tennis club in a city that is on fire?

I spent two of the most personally and professionally rewarding years of my ministry as a Church of England priest. The Anglican Communion is important to me. Most of my ministry was as a military chaplain, a setting in which ministry frequently depends upon ecumenical cooperation and that represents, often out of necessity, the cutting edge of ecumenism. That ministry forcefully taught me that Christian unity is vital, particularly in this increasingly secular age.

In spite of the formative nature of those experiences, I as a Christian have no choice but to value faithfulness to the Gospel above all else. Abandoning the trajectory that I believe leads toward God (i.e., faithfulness to the Gospel) leads away from life abundant. The Church must equally honor and include all people, regardless of sexual orientation, not because doing so will change the world, alter our prestige or privilege within the Anglican Communion, respect human rights, or for any reason other than the theological wisdom that God has given to us demands genuine inclusivity. Inclusion necessitates that the Church provide liturgies for blessing same sex couples, ordain people to its ministry without regard to sexual orientation, advocate that all people enjoy equal civil rights, etc. Those acts translate theology into praxis; the Church as the body of Christ should always begin with theological engagement then proceed, after discerning the mind of Christ, to incarnate that theology in appropriate ways.

Christians live in tension between individual autonomy and communal identity. Describing, let alone living into, the creative tension between individual autonomy and communal identity is a difficult theological challenge. The Presiding Bishop correctly observed in her opening address to General Convention that God saves communities, not individuals, sparking a controversy that says more about American individualism than it says about her theology. Conversely, communal identity that becomes coercive violates God's image within people and pushes toward the demonic. The motto of the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps aptly describes Christian communal identity that the Anglican Communion has historically modeled: Cooperation without Compromise.

The Episcopal Church should not choose to leave the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church must also incarnate its discernment of Christ's mind. If the rest of the Communion then decides to “punish,” treat as second-class members, or otherwise negatively respond to our incarnation of Christ, so be it. I shall be sad, but I shall not lose any sleep nor will I compromise my journey. Cooperation without compromise characterizes genuine Christian community.

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

Of fish bones and following winds: on the proposed Anglican covenant

By Frederick Quinn

“A plate of fish bones” is how the Archbishop of Canterbury described the fourth section of the draft Anglican Covenant currently being circulated throughout the Anglican Communion, but the bones heap over to the whole document as well. A year ago at Lambeth the Archbishop declared he felt “a following wind” in support of the Covenant, a zephyr unrecorded elsewhere.

Some observations on the overall document in its entirety:

1.) There never has been and is not now much widespread support for a Covenant. How the draft was declared accepted by church membership across the wider Anglican Communion remains as mysterious as an Egyptian election. There was no general referendum, and the published responses (from only 21 out of 38 Provinces) posted on the Anglican Communion website are complex, incomplete and raise many thoughtful, unanswered questions. There is no groundswell here.

2.) The word catholic (small c) appears several times in the draft. But not the word Protestant, which represents a major part of the Anglican heritage. A revolutionary aspect of the English Reformation was placing the Bible in the hands of the people (“Laity” is another missing word in the Covenant). The current draft (1.2.4) speaks of the Bible, but its interpretation is primarily left in the hands of bishops and synods. Guess where that leads.

3.) The draft Covenant appeals to tradition (1.1.2). But carefully read the footnote. Tradition is not the via media that is Anglicanism’s balanced, delicately wrought heritage, but the 39 Articles and 1662 English Prayer Book (never adopted in Scotland or the United States). The 39 Articles of 1563 were influential but never accepted as a creedal document in Anglicanism. They represent a restrictive temporary compromise reached during a particularly fractious period of English Reformation history.

4.) Surprisingly, the foremost Anglican voices of the English Reformation are ignored, especially Richard Hooker and John Jewell who wrested with the same power issues as the covenanters, but came to more gracious, commodious solutions that allow for the expression of differing opinions within reasonable boundaries.

5.) Additionally, covenants were once a widespread feature of Protestant Europe, where a “Covenant Belt” once existed. They Covenant idea was proposed in England and was rejected. Ignoring the English and Continental Reformations won’t make them go away.

6.) The Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces represent starkly different histories and structures. The resultant organization is at best a loose confederation, the understandable byproduct of a postcolonial era, arrived at more by historical accident than administrative intent. There are 38 dotted lines linked globally in various patterns of religious relationships, person to person, church to church, diocese to diocese, etc. Real mission flow in the twenty first century is horizontal, not vertically. Canterbury is not Rome, and all roads do not point to a favored European capital. There is no need to change that.

7.) The document’s grimmest line is near the end where the Covenant is supposed to be signed “with joy.” What joy? Whose joy? There is not a joyful line in the whole leaden document.


While individual Covenant sentences have been shaved to give an appearance of balance, tracing a wiring diagram through the actual document reveals multiple lines leading to forms of centralized power that were previously unknown and unacceptable in Anglicanism. This effort is done with the subtlety of elephants moving through dried grass.

The Covenant exercise should be seen for what it is, one part of a multi-year power play that has gone awry. It represents a sustained but erroneous effort to rewrite history and claim that a narrow, mean spirited perspective somehow represents our heritage. Windsor was an incomplete, biased report, the coup attempt at Dar Es Salaam failed, and the draft Covenant represents an unattainable effort to seize the levers of power in an amorphous organization.
The Anglican Communion’s binding ties are not legal ones but extend through long cultivated bonds of affection and commitment to the creative challenges of mission. The fish bones in the draft Covenant are far too numerous, and the following wind has long expired. So should the Covenant.

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn has served as advisor to constitutional drafters in several countries of central and Eastern Europe, and as a chaplain of Washington National Cathedral. He has written extensively on law, history, and religion. He is former head of the Rule of Law programs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Warsaw-based Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

The imagined Anglican Communion: a response

By Adrian Worsfold

Frank M. Turner's piece here on Anglicanism as an imaginacy community in the manner of Benedict Anderson's understanding of nationalism (1991) is rather a two edged sword.

Anderson's analysis is a response to the inability of Marxism and its class analysis to handle nationalism - a force Marxism expected to wither away but which has remained incredibly powerful, and more powerful than the actuality of communism and possibly commitments to democratic socialism. Nationalism is also a force that transcends racism; racism deals in (imagined) fixed concepts of exclusion but nationalism has a broader imaginary boundary of those who are out and those who are in with a clearer political project of governance. The argument about racism is important here because it involves identity that also cuts across social class. It all gets complicated by the argument about ethnicity, which involves more than race, as it introduces language, mythic history, space and place. If nationalism is closest to ethnicity then it is still ethnicity with a project for governing institutions.

I suspect that the fundamental human concept is the tribe. There just might be some sociobiology in this, that we are descendents of the chimpanzee social beings side of apes than of the isolated Orang Utans. Whatever may be a base cause, the social anthropologist notes the pervasive activity of ritual exchange (passing relatively useless tokens one to another) in a material effort or material sacrifice for the spiritual gift of reinforcing the community. Humans do look for collective conscience: we bind ourselves to one another through exchange that is economic and cultural and through additional relatively (on the face of it) pointless ritual. Indeed, the Eucharistic ritual is, in practical terms, a fairly pointless ritual exchange of tokens involving some material sacrifice (time, effort, presence, money given) for a spiritual gift (what it is said to involve within the religious outlook) via the actions of eating and drinking. But it is a central ritual that binds a community and regulates its outlook.

Thus ritual is a powerful reinforcement of collective identity, and any particular identifiable religion can reinforce ethnic identity through shared cultural content, and adds its organised and institutional power to creating national authority and power. In essence a national state is a castle wall and controlled gate around a broad ethnic identity. If the castle walls appear good and safe, the potential is actually to broaden the scope of ethnic identity, but if ethnic identity is divided to begin with then the national institutions will be weak at best.

The problem with applying the imagined community to Anglicanism is that it implies two contradictory things - an imagined community of identification that does not need and should not have an enforced reality (people imagine a Communion that is otherwise loose and made of of autonomous Churches) and then an imagined community that magnetically calls forth a project for governance. The Benedict Anderson analysis (transferred across) is clearly about the second. Both of these are in Frank Turner's understanding, but he clearly sees an episcopal imagination at work pursuing the project for governance, and then a project with a particular edge:

The so-called Anglican Communion exemplifies a religious version of Anderson's "imagined community." At its most banal, the Communion exists to justify bishops traveling about the world on funds contributed by the baptized. At its worst, it has come to represent an imagined community several of whose Episcopal spokespeople now seek to persecute and degrade or relegate into a second track churches who have opened themselves, their process of ordination, and their episcopate to gay and lesbian people.

Actually, the imagined community, as with nationalism, does not have to exclude anyone in the development of its imagined insiders, for its self-limitation and its sovereignty as part of its project. What it can do is draw a geographical boundary and exclude all else outside: if people on the inside are then more loyal to an outside institution they risk excluding themselves. It becomes a question of perceived disloyalty to the new tribe in its nation state. But it does depend on the condition of ethnic relationships, and the danger is that narrow ethnicity is the driving force behind governance that will therefore exclude.

Did the British State in its development exclude? The issue is complicated because of the differences around the English State and other States in the British Isles. Homing in on England and its Anglican Church, its tendency to exclude has been because it was not born in ideology but has nevertheless had ideological periods, fringes and parties, and because it was set up to exclude the influence of foreign institutions. Roman Catholics were seen as loyal to something outside: a threat to the British State. Nevertheless, the British State was unstable through the Reformation and Restoration, and thus its Church did gain a habit of excluding those who had a distinct identity beyond its social, educational and welfare establishment. The feudal State had restored itself at a time of change, with many merchants and capitalists forced to work for political reform via non-conformity and their own parallel institutions. First local government and later national government was opened to non-Anglicans. One of the broader effects of the radical theological Essays and Reviews (1860) was to remove subscription to the Church of England as a condition of attending Oxford University.

Is Frank Turner right: that we see in this Archbishop of Canterbury an imaginary community of Anglicanism that draws on a tradition of an excluding Church of England, and who has generated an episcopal drive towards central governance on the basis of excluding gay and lesbian people because the Archbishop states that they cannot be representative of Anglicanism at any level of ministry?

It looks that way; and it is a very dangerous course of action. It means that the ethnic identity that drives this form of ecclesiastical nationalism involves the specific exclusion of a particular group of people. By so excluding, the walls of governance become thicker and the potential of control stronger. It is a very old tactic.

It seems extraordinary that anything like this should even be considered; the parallels with recent history simply illustrate the completely unethical nature of this course of action.

At this point I would mention a different imagined community. The Unitarian community is nothing if not dispersed and autonomous. Even its own 'Churches' are congregationalist where its centres are only advisory. But around the world there are new concentrations of congregations appearing in Africa which are virtually unitarian-fundamentalist and universalist, there is the Anglo-American tradition that is non-credal, a central European tradition that has a catechism, and an Indian collection of non-Christian theist village churches, and generally there are theological tendencies to rationalism or romanticism. This is all in the present. Go back in history, and the one label 'Unitarian' has content that would be at odds withe the present day, and also evolved from origins in trinitarian Puritanism, the very thing the Church of England could not contain in 1662. Yet Unitarians imagine all of these, in different spaces and times, as part of its imagined community and inheritance. It defies, however, creating governance: the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists does nothing more than process information and funnel money to those widely different groups called 'Unitarian' and 'Universalist'. It cannot do anything else.

Cannot Anglicans, despite the purple, the doctrinal promises of clergy and above, maintain a looser 'imagined community' that does not demand moves towards governance, and certainly not governance that is based on exclusion? How can it do this?

It needs a different ecumenical vision. The one driving all this at present is the Covenant based mixture of reporting to Roman Catholicism, about institutional identity and consistency, mixed with a lowest common denominator of biblical interpretation - the fellowship of believers as narrowly drawn. The combination of Protestant and Catholic within the same Churches used to loosen them up, but under this central drive they have been inverted into a lurch for uniformity.

The breaking up of this project comes with dropping the Covenant. It fails and the project fails. Secondly, the ecumenical outlook has to look towards the Old Catholics and the Lutherans. Just as the UK and other once warring European powers have moderated their nationalisms by building the European Union, so Anglicanism can moderate its tendencies by looking outwards to these other episcopal and accountable groups. It also should consider how to merge and moderate itself by reincorporating the Methodists. Theologically too, it might reconsider legitimising such views as were expressed in Essays and Reviews (where there was clear Unitarian influence of its day!) so that a liberal view of the imagined ecclesiastical community is helped by having a place for liberal theology.

(To see footnotes, click Read more.)

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

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The imagined community of the Anglican Communion

By Frank M. Turner

One of the most fertile political concepts to emerge in the past quarter-century is Benedict Anderson’s “imagined community.” Anderson, now a retired Cornell professor of international studies, government, and Asian studies, contended that the emergence of modern nationalism involved the creation among various groups living in their own localities with no direct interaction between or among themselves of the idea of an imagined community with other people on the basis of supposed common histories, customs, language, and ethnic identity. The reality of the community resided in the imagination of those drawn to these ideas that circulated in the print media of the day.

Over the past twenty years proponents of what is called “The Anglican Communion” have sought to establish a similar imagined ecclesiastical community among various provinces around the world whose churches derived in some fashion from the Church of England. In the case of the Episcopal Church the derivation of Episcopal orders was not direct but through the Scottish Episcopal Church and its character was strongly influenced by its eighteenth century American setting. The so-called Anglican Communion exemplifies a religious version of Anderson’s “imagined community.” At its most banal, the Communion exists to justify bishops traveling about the world on funds contributed by the baptized. At its worst, it has come to represent an imagined community several of whose Episcopal spokespeople now seek to persecute and degrade or relegate into a second track churches who have opened themselves, their process of ordination, and their episcopate to gay and lesbian people. In this respect, it this ecclesiastical imagined community replicates in its drive to exclusion the persecution that ethnic minorities have experienced at the hands of dominant nationalist groups from the early nineteenth century to the present day.

In his recent garrulous meditation on the General Convention of the Episcopal Church the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote of the Anglican Communion being important to “our identity.” He did not identify the antecedent to “our.” Certainly throughout the world the people who most identify with the so-called Anglican Communion are bishops. If one looks to the website of the Anglican Communion (the Internet being the equivalent of the print media within which early nineteenth-century nationalism emerged), what are described as the “Instruments of Communion” overwhelming relate to the various episcopates. The laity play little role and would seem to be intended to play little role. In this respect, the modern so-called Anglican Communion is an invention and ecclesiastical innovation of the clerical imagination. Indeed the term “Anglican” itself achieved modest common currency only in the l830s with the phrase “Anglican Communion” being first used in l847 by the American missionary bishop, Horatio Southgate.

One of the reasons for the use of “Anglican Communion” as part of what the Archbishop of Canterbury terms “our identity” resides quite simply in the hubris of the claim that the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian denomination in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is, however, important to recognize that the churches in this communion are not all the same, represent distinctly different histories and cultures, use different prayer books, different liturgies, and different modes of ecclesiastical governance.

“The Instruments of Communion,” now being given supposed histories and purposes different from their actual origins and being made vehicles for the controlled invention of identity, are of relatively recent origin. The Lambeth Conference, first convened in 1867 by Archbishop Charles Thomas Longley for providing “Brotherly Counsel and encouragement,” gathered amidst much controversy. Several bishops of the Province of York refused to attend, and Dean Arthur Stanley denied the group the use of Westminster Abbey. In neither its origin nor in its decades of meeting was the Lambeth Conference ever intended as a general conference of the whole church or as a legislative body. Not until 1969 did the Anglican Consultative Council first convene. Only in 1978 did the Primates begin to gather regularly, and they refused to define those meetings as any kind of higher synod. The Lambeth Conference of 1998 (Resolution 3.6) stated that the activities of the Primates should not interfere with the judicial authorities of the several constituent provinces. All of these gatherings were collegial in character designed to further communication and bonds of fellowship among the vastly different churches of what was evolving as an imagined worldwide Anglican Communion.

What most notably demonstrates that the so-called Anglican Communion is merely a still-emerging imagined community is the fact that only in the past few years (really the past few months) have some of its leaders decided that they must construct a covenant determining what beliefs and practices actually constitute its theological and ideological basis. That is to say, the Anglican Communion presumably having existed for its present proponents since the first Lambeth Conference in l867 must now actually figure out what holds it together theologically and ecclesiastically. What the effort to establish a covenant demonstrates is that the so-called Anglican Communion does not really exist but must be forcibly drawn into existence. Radical innovation rather than tradition hence drives the process.

The idea and the effort to establish a covenant that might at great cost of conscience and intellect call into being an actual as opposed to an imagined Anglican Communion unhappily recalls moments in the history of the Church of England that many people have chosen to forget. During most of the twentieth century spokesmen for the Church of England and for those various churches around the world in one way or another derived from that church have emphasized the reasonableness and moderation of Anglicanism, and thus the Church of England displayed itself for most of the past century. But in point of fact, throughout much of its earlier history the Church of England was an actively persecuting church. Under Elizabeth it persecuted recalcitrant Roman Catholics. After the Restoration in l660 the Church of England drove out the Protestant Nonconformists. Thereafter until the late l820s the Church of England benefited from legislation that prevented Protestant Nonconformists and Roman Catholics from participating in English political life. Over the centuries the authorities of the Church of England sometimes on their own and sometimes with government aid excluded or drove from its ranks the likes of John Bunyan, Philip Doddridge, Isaac Watts, eventually the Methodists, and John Henry Newman. In the second half of the nineteenth century the authorities of the Church of England led by its bishops and its Archbishops of Canterbury persecuted and took to court the liberal authors of Essays and Reviews, the pioneering work of Victorian English biblical criticism, and the Anglo-Catholic ritualists including the Reverend Arthur Tooth and Bishop Edward King. The essayists and the ritualists remained in the Church of England but only after intense experiences of persecution.

Knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously, the present Archbishop of Canterbury seeks to revive this tradition of centralized arbitrary exclusion and chastisement. Edmund Burke, a great friend of the Church of England, wrote that most vices throughout human history were championed on the basis of plausibly attractive pretexts: “The pretexts are always found in some specious appearance of a real good.” The good that the Archbishop of Canterbury seeks to achieve is the unity of an imagined Anglican Communion that has virtually no existence in reality. In support of that unity he willingly sacrifices the ordination of women in some dioceses, the appointment of women to the episcopate in some churches, and the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from ordination and the episcopate. For the sake of unity of a communion that does not really exist, he has (perhaps unwittingly) fostered turmoil, dissension, and schism. He has urged the adoption of an ill-conceived covenant for the purposes today of excluding those churches who would embrace as part of the divine creation gay and lesbian people. But whom will the covenant exclude next year? The precedent for exclusion and persecution will have been established, and on the pretext of unity future dissidents and yet to be designated minorities could be targeted.

The Episcopal Church through its long established institutions of ecclesiastical governance, combining lay and clerical voices in equal measure, has chosen to tread the path of Christian liberty. Over the past decades the Episcopal Church has concluded that the perpetuation of unity with an imagined Anglican Communion being increasingly drawn into a reality for the purpose of persecuting and repressing gay and lesbian people is not acceptable and is not Christian. The Episcopal Church has decided to reassert not only that Jesus Christ has redeemed us, but that he has also made us free. In accord with St Paul’s injunction to the Galatians the Episcopal Church has chosen to stand fast “in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” and not to be “entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Frank M. Turner is the John Hay Whitney Professor of History and director of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Yale University.

Anglican no longer

By Adrian Worsfold

We are all individuals, of course, but we gather in institutions, and we try to match ourselves to the most suitable available institutions. We also allow these institutions to form us through participation and, in some cases, formation through not knowing the alternatives.

We might describe some children as Christians or Muslims, but it might be more accurate to describe them as children of Christians and children of Muslims until they make their minds up. However, there is no doubt that to be brought up inside a church or inside a mosque is to have your mind formed in such a way that your basic assumptions seem to be difficult to alter later on. So their minds are being made up by institutional formation.

I say this as someone who has met a number of Christian priests and ministers who started life as evangelicals and went to theological college and university for training and had slow or crunch crises of belief. Yet somehow that formation keeps them going, despite what appear to be intellectual somersaults that you would not find in other areas of thought. People retain commitments. The background is something of an anchor. Some incorporate the new understanding into the foundation of their commitment, perhaps with clever and sophisticated presentations, and there are those who, once in paid ministry, revert to type and you wouldn't know where they've been.

For myself, I was for my first twenty four years an agnostic with no churchgoing at all. It was not just that I did not believe in God, which I did not, but that it was not even a relevant question. Those who did raise it as something to be agreed with or observed, I found to be just imposing something superfluous.

Yet from 1980 I did engage with matters of meaning, via a social connection with a Methodist church, and then from 1982 in a chaplaincy as an agnostic, and consumed some theology as part of my sociology of religion Ph.D. Nevertheless, although I was confirmed as an Anglican via another university chaplaincy and have built a worship life, I have never been able to get inside the mentality of someone who wants to 'follow' someone else. I did not see it, and I do not. Nor do I see that offered explanation of the world, that there is some sort of theological history that started in the past and will work out into the future. The world is too boring for that, too chancy, too rigidly reliable in a naturalistic sense at the big sizes in which we live and move and have our being.

Inevitably, every attempt to be 'inside' Christianity is doomed to failure, including the postmodern version I've attempted since about 2004. When some believers read the Bible and see something 'at work' that confirms their foundation of belief, all I see is communal literary devices and cultures. The arguments don't stick. My viewpoint is confirmed by contemporary theology rather than challenged by it, and I allow it to challenge me.

Still, religious ideas, and the stillness in worship, is part of me now, and so I gravitate back to a more clearly Unitarian stance (in the contemporary sense, not as a theology), and whilst I can worship in Anglican style I find it increasingly dogmatic and crunchy in all its repeated wordy assumptions. In Anglican terms an experiment to drop taking communion seems to be a settled position, nor do I wish to contribute to prayers if it means making statements I would not make normally.

And yet this is not the only reason for falling out. It is that the Anglicanism I deal with has become unethical. It is obsessed with sexuality and usually in a harmful fashion. I read too much what the Archbishop of Canterbury writes, and I know this is doublespeak - and doublespeak fails an ethical test of truth-seeking. I see this too often in others too, and I think it is a corruption of thinking and it is directly institutional in cause. It becomes harmful when it has victims, when it marginalises, when it alters thought in order to meet a political objective. We know politicians do this because it is the nature of compromising to get something done, but somehow religious people have a higher ethical demand. It just looks like the ethical heart is being tossed overboard in present day Anglicanism, never mind an expected failure to meet an ethical demand.

I think a fundamental problem is apostolic authority, when that authority involves making promises. What is that about? I should make promises to think or talk in a particular manner when I don't think it? I can't make promises like that, to some higher person, when I might change my mind. Now I am not a member of the clergy and not required to make the same level of promises, but that actually underlines my point. There is a hierarchy of the more committed, who do make such promises. At first the issue was simply that I could not make those I had heard, and now I am saying they should not be made in the first place as a behaviour. Of course, if my views were convinced about the content of the promises, I might not be so troubled.

Nor am I convinced about maintaining a presentational package, that somehow it comes complete and as a benefit when maintained as the liturgical whole. If some parts make sense, keep them, and if others don't then drop them.

Clearly in a religious community what I think won't be the same as what another thinks. There has to be a market place of ideas and some sort of compromise of expression. But for me this does not include maintaining a package simply because it exists, under a set of promises, on a theory of maintaining a bishop in one locality under which all else are subservient.

Still, one can still have good wishes for an Anglicanism that one tastes but cannot keep within. It would still be a shame if some of its insights, that come from its diversity - such as meeting internationally on a friendly basis and having a more organic unity - were lost in a drive for greater uniformity. The latest development is still worthy of comment: having an office for Unity, Faith and Order - a UFO very alien to Anglicanism. This drive towards uniformity of process is proving to be most corrosive, and somehow it has to be settled and rested soon - otherwise the wider institution will rot under its ethical losses and doublespeak. But my move away from its labels, my wish no longer to be known as Anglican or Christian, has more foundational roots about what it is to reason within matters of wider religion, about natural explanations available, and the right to change one's mind and to express it.

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

The Communion in summer, on the shores of Maine

By Heidi Shott

Maine has a gift for unusual arrangements. My son Martin attends one of Maine’s private high schools that serve as de facto public schools. Founded in 1801, Lincoln Academy has educated our community’s kids well enough for more than 200 years – well enough that our towns never got around to building a public school. I understand New Hampshire and Vermont still each have a few of these academies, but Maine communities told tight to the ten or so “private schools that serve the public trust.” Compared to secondary education in the rest of the United States, it’s an odd way of doing things but it’s our way and in all ways – statutes, tuition agreements, public accountability – we’ve learned to compensate for the irregular practice of private schools acting like public schools.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maine is home to its own unusual arrangement. Late in the nineteenth century, faithful Episcopalians who steamed up the coast of Maine to escape the heat of Washington, Philadelphia and New York brought their church-going ways with them. These rusticators were the ones who turned “summer” into a verb. And over a 30 year period, from 1885 to 1915, many of Maine’s 18 summer chapels were built and consecrated. Some were built on islands like St. Cuthbert’s on McMahan off the coast of the shipbuilding city of Bath, others like St. James’, Prouts Neck – founded by Winslow Homer’s family – were built in the midst of summer enclaves. Chapels needed to be close at hand; before automobiles, going to church meant walking there.

Today few extended families, no matter how wealthy, come to spend the entire summer. Still, these independent summer chapels continue to draw generations of the same families back to mark life's milestones: weddings and baptisms, memorial services and lovely, unremarkable Sunday mornings. The connections remain for those families who have worshipped and celebrated together in places of great natural beauty.

Each July the Bishop of Maine hosts a day for representatives of the summer chapels to share the life and joys and challenges with the Bishop and one another at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. Late last month, about 40 people gathered from Trinity, York Harbor, in the far southwest corner to Redeemer, Sorrento, located way Downeast which is how old-time sailors described the easy downwind sail to the easternmost the stretch of coast. In the winter they live in Pennsylvania or Texas or D.C. or Boston. But it’s at their summer chapels on the coast of Maine where they are married, baptize their babies, and commit their parents’ remains to the columbarium or over the rail of the boat.

In the morning the conversation covered suggestions for organs that survive in unheated buildings through the cold winter and how to defeat the mice that like to nest inside them, how to fund capital improvements for leaky roofs and deteriorating stained glass.

They compared notes on how various chapels host clergy: one priest for the whole summer; a July guy and an August guy; or a new priest each week. The bishop covered his plan to make visitations to each chapel over the next few years, made easier with no Lambeth or General Convention cutting into summer Sundays.

The summer people – who are extremely generous in their support of ministry in Maine - heard from our Hispanic missioner about Portland’s Spanish-language congregation that offers a tight-knit Christian community to many newly-arrived immigrants. They listened to a priest share news of our newest Jubilee neighborhood center located in a struggling former mill town and from the volunteer director of St. Elizabeth’s Essentials Pantry that serves more than 300 households each Tuesday morning with the necessities of life that aren’t covered by food stamps.

The retired cathedral dean who has served for 17 summers at St. Ann’s in Kennebunkport recounted the how the elder President Bush recently skydived onto the chapel lawn to celebrate his 85th birthday. While waiting Mrs. Bush apparently quipped to the warden, “Well, if something goes wrong, at least we won’t have to take him far.”

After noonday prayer, we retreated to the undercroft for lunch. At the end of the buffet line, I looked up to see the only seat remaining among the many tables was next to Bishop Steve Lane. Having worked for bishops for 11 years, I’ve come to understand that no one presumes to sit right next to the bishop at events like this. People might sit at his or her table or nearby, but usually only late-arrivers take the last seat beside the Ordinary. And, because I tend to cut arrival times close, I often end up sitting next to the boss.

At this year’s summer chapel meeting, Bishop Steve’s second, he tried something new. He invited the wardens and clergy from a few year-round congregations located near summer chapels that tend to bleed off some winter residents to the summer chapels. The people from St. Columba’s in Boothbay Harbor, a year-round congregation, were chatting with the bishop. As I sat down with my plate, St. Columba’s interim priest was shaking her head, “The summer chapels aren’t parishes or missions of the diocese, but they are Episcopal. So what ARE they? What is their formal relationship to us?”

Bishop Steve explained how each chapel is variously organized – some are incorporated, others are held in private trust, others are loosely organized and ecumenical with a love and custom for prayerbook liturgy. “Essentially they are part of our diocese by the strength of our relationships,” he said, gesturing around the room.

And, as he spoke, it dawned upon me that we have our own Anglican Communion right here. We’re drawn together by our history, our love of place and common prayer, our commitment to ministry and community, and by our enduring relationships that transcend the tenure of bishops and wardens. The Diocese of Maine and the 18 summer chapels of the Episcopal persuasion that grace our rocky shores don’t need a formal covenant to prescribe how and under what circumstances we are related to one another.

We have an Anglican Communion right here within our borders. It’s an unusual arrangement to be sure, but we seem to have a gift for that and I hope we can learn how to share it.

Heidi Shott is canon for communications and social justice in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.

TEC and C of E: the makings of a progressive alliance

By Giles Goddard

Two years ago I was lucky enough to be able to spend a couple of weeks visiting Episcopalian churches in New York, Rhode Island, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco – and I also visited the Columbus General Convention in 2006. Both times, I left the US with a deep sense of gratitude at the generous and open welcome I’d received. But more, I also had a sense that in many ways the Episcopal Church (TEC) has a clearer understanding of what it means to be Anglican than the Church of England. Perhaps because TEC is a small church compared with some others, and perhaps because it’s had to forge its identity in a much more competitive arena than the C of E with its historic privileges and relationship with the State, TEC appears to me to have imbibed the breadth, the diversity and the challenge of Jesus Christ to bring the Gospel to ALL people. Justice and welcome go all the way down. Of course, that’s not to say that the Episcopal Church is perfect, but seems to me you certainly score highly on your theology of mission.

So I’ve been watching with increasing dismay as the way in which you try to live out your mission is relentlessly undermined by groups opposed to your work, and the way in which that has brought about the extraordinary and depressing attempts to isolate TEC within the Anglican communion simply because it is trying to live out its understanding of the inclusive Gospel. And, to a lesser extent, the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) – but for a host of reasons the situation the ACC faces is different.

Meanwhile, back in the UK we’ve been facing similar issues but dealing with them in a different way. As my American friends have often observed, we’re not as open as you; there’s a different relationship with the hierarchy and we tend to get on with things without being too public about them, while trying to work with the structures to bring about change. I don’t defend that – it’s just the way we are.

But that’s changing now. Not a moment too soon, you might say. Over the past few years different groups within the Church of England – Changing Attitude, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Inclusive Church, Women and the Church, the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, Affirming Catholicism and many more from across the theological spectrum – have been working more and more closely together on a range of issues – for example, women bishops, the inclusion of people of colour, and of course questions of human sexuality. We’ve been coordinating our activities and sharing our vision, our knowledge and our experience. The Lambeth Conference in 2008 was an example of that – those of you who were there will remember the way in which progressive groups in the US, Canada and the UK tried to work together, and the challenges and learning processes which that involved!

On 27th July 2009 the Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to the General Convention in Anaheim was published. The immediate reaction, in the UK as much as in the USA, was one of dismay. While we understood what the Archbishop was seeking to do, the reflections contained a much clearer statement of his understanding of the place of LGBT people – or rather, the lack of place – within the Anglican Communion than we had previously heard, and they also seemed to acknowledge in a much more fatalistic way the prospect of a two-track communion.

A meeting already planned for the following Friday was quickly expanded and was made into an open meeting for anyone or any group concerned about the reflections and wishing to respond. It’s fair to say that the meeting was quite low key; there was a general feeling that once again LGBT Christians and their friends and colleagues had been shown to be excluded, and after years of trying different ways to end that exclusion this was a further rebuff.

However, there was also general agreement that a “tipping point” had been reached. Various concrete suggestions were made as to the way forward – for example, getting better statistics about the number of LGBT clergy and lay people in the church and how many same-sex blessings and thanksgivings have been carried out in England; raising the visibility of LGBT clergy and their supportive congregations; forming closer links with TEC; and a joint Statement.

The statement “On the Archbishop’s Reflections” was drafted the next day and published the following Tuesday with the signatures of 13 groups from across the Church of England, and the tacit support of several others. It is only part of a work in progress, and we are meeting again in September to take forward the other ideas. But it’s the first time we in the C of E have made so public a joint stand on these questions, and we hope that this collaborative working will continue to bear fruit.

What of the future? We certainly welcome better and stronger links with the US and Canada – as we say in the statement “We will seek to strengthen the bonds of affection which exist between those in all the Churches of the Anglican Communion who share our commitment to the full inclusion of all of God’s faithful.”

The big question facing us all is how we respond to the suggestion of a two-track Communion. The feeling within the progressive groups of the Church of England is that such a thing should be resisted, and if the Covenant were to bring this about it, too, should be resisted. However, and this is a new thought for me, there may be another way. The Episcopal Church in Anaheim passed various resolutions which reaffirmed its inclusive polity and brought greater clarity about the way forward TEC may take. In that context, and having passed those resolutions, what is to stop TEC signing the Covenant? We are awaiting a further draft, but unless it contains radical strengthening of any judicial measures, it seems to me that TEC would be able to sign it, as a sign of its mutual commitment and in the context of its present policy of ensuring that it is open to LGBT people both single and in relationships. Result; a Communion strengthened and affirmed in its breadth and diversity and once again bearing a global witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And for the Church of England? We still have a long way to go. The measures to bring about full recognition of LGBT Christians are still a few years off, and as presently drafted the Covenant might delay those measures even further. Maybe the Church of England shouldn’t sign it. In which case, I suppose, we would be outside the main body while TEC would be inside. Now there’s a thought to conjure with.....

One thing’s clear. We have to move on from this debate and find a way to live together and acknowledge difference, as we have on so many other issues – so that the churches in the Anglican Communion can be free to speak with credibility once again about the other, so urgent, issues and challenges which face us all.

The Rev. Canon Giles Goddard is priest in charge designate at St John’s Church, Waterloo, London, and chair of Inclusive Church.

The Anglican Communion as airline map

By Frederick Quinn

What does the Anglican Communion’s actual operating structure look like? The question is important because each person holds in their head an implicit diagram of the power structure of any organization of which they are a part. Who is in charge? Who decides policy? The question frustrates Episcopalians because no ready “wiring diagram” exists about the Anglican Communion. And the top down centralized model currently being test driven in the draft covenant proposal doesn’t work either, in part because historically power has always been diffusely distributed in the Anglican Communion, through what has come to be called the via media or middle way. But what does such an actual middle way look like on a diagram today?

An aviation model of church structure was sometimes employed in discussions at the Anaheim General Convention of the Episcopal Church in July 2009. In one version, if the left and right wings pull against one another the plane will spiral downward and crash. In another, the plane shakes as it approaches the sound barrier, but once it pushes through, a smooth flight usually follows. Possibly a third aviation-related model might describe the Anglican Communion at work, day to day.

On the ground the Anglican Communion in action resembles the route maps in airline magazines where hundreds of thin, graceful semicircles connect points all over the globe, London with Shanghai, Jakarta with Singapore, and a thousand other in between points as well. Such an image suggests a horizontal model of widely diffuse power sharing, not a vertical one of concentrated power. In this “many arcs” model young people, laity, and congregations are recognized as the principle focus of mission power as they build churches, teach classes, distribute antimalarial nets, exchange life stories, and share prayers and the holy meal in a hundred different languages. Each congregation and diocese establishes its own connecting routes, and when counted, they will number in the thousands. A business representative who regularly visits Brazil fills his luggage with supplies for an Episcopal school there. An energetic group of young people from New York City’s St. James’ parish work purposefully with a diocese in rural Malawi to build a clinic and a rectory and share meals and pray with the mothers of H/AIDS infected children.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori described this mission model of Anglicanism in a July 12 Anaheim sermon at the United Thank Offering ingathering, “All over this church, and beyond, God's people are feeding, and healing, and announcing peace and the reign of God. The First Nations Kitchen in Minneapolis welcomes Native Americans to a meal of traditional and healthy foods, in a healing community. Teaching ministries heal deprivation and hopelessness in Boston, Taiwan, and Quito. Physical illness is being healed in the clinics of la diocesis de la Republica Dominicana y la diocesis de Honduras, in the nursing school of Haiti, through elder care in Native communities in Alabama and Minnesota, in the hospitals in Oregon, Texas, Long Island, and Jerusalem. Camping ministries in the Central Gulf Coast, West Texas, California, and Mississippi teach children and adults to travel light and to eat whatever is set before them.” What is the policy message? “Mission is our life, and it is a life spent on the road, traveling light, anticipating hospitality, and sharing what we have.”

Recently I spent a week at a Christian educational center in the Philippines where lay and ordained representatives from at least twenty Asian countries gathered to study and pray together. The shelves outside the center’s chapel were filled with treasured handicrafts left by earlier participants, a carved water buffalo, a small national flag, an elaborately stiched piece of lace, a cross made from local wood, etc. We sat in a circle on cushions in the chapel as prayers and chants were offered in various Asian languages, and after the service walked about the spacious grounds and shared stories. When I boarded an airplane for the long homeward journey the Asian airline route maps with their arching points of origin and destination somehow connected with what I had experienced. “Yangon ” became a lay teacher’s face, “Chang Mai a medical missionaries’ story, “Columbo” an orphanage, etc. The hundred blue semicircles of the route maps took on new meaning. They visualized a model of wider mission and ministry suggestive of the Anglican Communion -- where constant, grace-filled power flows horizontally, not vertically.

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn writes extensively about world Christianity. His most rcent book is “The Sum of All Heresies,” The Image of Islam in Western Thought (Oxford University Press, 2008).

We pray together. And that's enough

By W. Nicholas Knisely

A few months ago one of the staff here at the Cathedral forwarded an email to me with a request that I answer the question it posed as he had no idea what he should say. The email was very simple. It was from a person in the community who was looking for a new church home. But, before he would consider a congregation, it was very important for him to know where we stood on the question of blessing same-sex couples.

There wasn’t any hint in the email about whether or not the sender wanted us to say we were for blessing same-sex couples or opposed. Just that it was critically important to him that we give the right answer so that he wouldn’t waste his time unnecessarily.

I get letters or questions like this quite commonly. I think most Episcopal clergy do these days. It’s the BIG question that seems to be used as a way to sort through congregations and dioceses so that we can determine which ones are right-thinking and therefore worthy of support and which ones are wrong and worthy of nothing. What was different about this letter though was that I simply couldn’t figure out what the person wanted me to say.

So rather than trying to be pastoral and sensitive in trying to respond to the question behind the question (as is my wont), I decided to be bluntly honest.

“There are people in this congregation who are fully supportive of the Church’s blessing of same-gender unions. There are people in this congregation who are opposed to the Church’s blessing of same-gender unions. While the Episcopal Church as a denomination is on record as calling for equal protection under the law for all citizens, if you’re looking for a congregation that is of one mind on this issue, you’re going to be disappointed with this one. We don’t have agreement internally on this particular - or many - issues. Instead, we just agree to pray and worship together”

We don’t agree with each other. We pray together.

Friends of mine who are involved in the church growth movement offer me their sympathy every three years or so following our denomination’s General Convention. “It must be really hard to grow a church that spends so much time fighting” they say. In the past I’ve agreed with them. But I think I’ve decided that it’s time we as Episcopalians tell the truth about who we are though in a way that tries to explain to others why our struggles are not a “bug” - they’re a “feature”!

The Elizabethan Settlement, which for me is modeled at every Eucharist when I present the host to a communicant with the paradoxical words (to a person of Tudor England) “the body of Christ, the bread of Heaven”, is fundamental to our identity as Anglicans. We are willing to be in relationship with people who will gather with us around Jesus; whether they by free or slave, man or women, Jew or Greek. We are the anti-puritans caring less about clarity of theological categories than we do about loving relationship. “If you will pray to Jesus with me, I will pray to Jesus with you.”

At least we try to when we’re at our best. Which isn’t always that often admittedly.

In my mind, as an Episcopalian of catholic leanings and ecumenical enthusiasm, if there’s one thing that argues for the continued existence of an Anglican witness in the Universal Church - it’s our charism of holding firm to praying with those with whom we disagree no matter how hard that is to do.

Eusebius writes that in the latter days of his life, St. John the Evangelist would respond to repeated requests of visitors to “tell of us of Jesus” by only repeating again and again “Little children, love one another.” When asked by those caring for him why he would only say that he is supposed to have responded “Because if they do only that, it is enough.”

Episcopalians don’t agree to agree. We pray with each other. Because if we can manage to just do that, it seems to me, that we will have done enough.

What happened when I responded to my inquirer wanting to know where the Cathedral I serve stood on the question of same-gender blessings? I sent my short note off fully expecting to never hear from him again.

I got a note back a day later; “That’s so awesome. I’ll be there this Sunday.”

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely is Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Ariz. He served as Chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication, is active in ecumenical works and was originally trained as an astronomer before he was ordained. His blog is Entangled States.

"Rowan Williams's game is up"

By Adrian Worsfold

The reality of meeting only once every three years has its own effects for a governing body. For those matters that are pressing, and really cannot wait another three years, taking action might be seen as hurrying things up. For other matters that can wait, waiting another three years might look like being slow - even deliberately slow.

The pastoral realities after three years of an observed 'nearly moratorium' have built up, as has the frustration of observations of the other actors of the so-called moratorium ignoring their side of the deal. Not only did the border crossings go on and on, but they turned into a competitor Church that seeks the approval of the Anglican Communion. So the once every three years moment arrives and it is time to act and not just to let things drift by waiting three more years.

So it was time to move on - just a little. The resolutions D025 and C056 have been passed, that mean the resistance and disagreement about the place of people in stable gay relationships being accepted into any level of ministry has been decentralised. Assuming the process of discernment goes on, the Church itself will not resist such appointments. It would take another convention for a clearer policy of non-discrimination down in the various sections of The Episcopal Church. Even more reserved is the decision to gather liturgical resources for same sex blessings, and that any of these must be about pastoral sensitivity in the meantime. Whether prayers are offered for such couples or not, there is no approved liturgy of the Church for at least three more years.

On the other hand, frankly, the proposed Anglican Covenant can wait. It is not ready yet, and was subject to shennanigans at the recent ACC meeting in Jamaica, where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, puzzled everyone by seemingly facing this way and then that way, ending the whole session with a Presidential Address that likened the Anglican Communion to the Arab-Israeli dispute, and verging on the hopeless.

Well, hopeless for him maybe. Because surely his policy of centralisation has now come to an end. His policy was this: in the face of difference between Anglican Churches he wanted to try to unite them more centrally by finding ways and means to bang in rivets between the Churches and the centre (rather than just between the Churches) to the point where he combined 'a common reading and understanding of Scripture' between the Churches, as the condition of mutual recognisability, with a Romanesque view of bishops and him as a worldwide Church that allowed him to praise and incorporate some loyal Communion (and therefore disloyal elsewhere) bishops in TEC as a 'not monochrome' body. This was in his low point of the Advent Letter 2007 that managed to combine biblical near-fundamentalism with Catholic authoritarianism all in one go and gave justification to all kinds of malcontents to go on with their complaints and actions, as he himself was effectively picking off only some bishops in TEC.

The man who was once in a public minority in the hothouse atmosphere of Lambeth 1998 was now writing:

that the 1998 Resolution [1:10] is the only point of reference clearly agreed by the overwhelming majority of the Communion. This is the point where our common reading of Scripture stands.

Of course, as Archbishop himself, his Lambeth Conference would have no such resolutions: he would not be captive to any rush to a collective view by the bishops with whom he was communing. One has to marvel at his management of the Lambeth Conference in 2008, that the (suggested from within TEC) half-indabas (the process with the resolution making chopped off) produced all sorts of opinion and togetherness, whilst committees and groups out of reach around it continued the main direction of the Communion under him.

But the policy of keep listening and keep talking and push things along has now failed.

He reminds me still of Mikhail Gorbachev. Let's recall the condition of the Soviet Union at the time Gorbachev came to power. After a succession of duff General Secretaries Gorbachev took power and established himself as a reformer. Moves were made for more representation and criticism as a means of change, and he understood the realities of what could be afforded by a bust economy. But, as was always argued by conservative opinion there, if you started to reform, the ship itself would start to break up. Nationalisms would arise, and indeed they did, and when Gorbachev approached the nationality question the powers that be and the interests within all these structures were scared that the whole lot would crumble.

Gorbachev ran out of allies, except at the frustrated liberal margins - and if he went with them the demands would be overwhelmingly market based and democratic and the vast powers and bureaucratic interests still existing would overrun him. So what did he do? Like the Archbishop of Canterbury, he made a shift to the right. He was ducking and weaving but eventually threw his lot in with those who opposed change.

Yet there was still potential policy direction towards limited reform, particularly regarding the constitution and the nations, and the old right wing he publically rejoined effectively dumped him. The right locked him up, and then took control. There would be no change at all. However, this bunch of old men had nowhere to go in State already loosening its chains. The liberals then proved more nifty and pushed through, and the coup crumbled. But when Gorbachev came back, a free man, and according to law, he was finished, because his job was simply ended by the nationalities, and the Soviet Union came to an end. Not just Eastern European satellites had jumped free, but so did some nationalities of Russia, those that since Russia would have tried to claim as within itself. They are now safely in the European Union (despite ongoing interference) while Russia still lurches regarding its longer term political future.

Now there is no doubt that the Advent Letter of 2007 was written by Rowan Williams to appeal to the right wing of the Anglican Communion: it was to get as many to the Lambeth Conference as possible. It did not work, and neither did it stop the border crossings. In signing up to the right, in a way he could not as a theologian (knowing full well a critical approach to the Bible), he tried to pull in the hard right. But they effectively said thanks and dumped him. The Jerusalem Declaration produced by a few ideologues and presented to GAFCON effectively (for them) leaves the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury hanging in the air: that in their skewered view of orthodoxy he only matters if he agrees with them. Of course, in his weakness, he has declared how he agrees with the declaration though not in setting up a different place of authority in the Primates Council - the new legitimising international oversight of Anglican bishops from beyond any dioceses until some alternative Church is set up. Not only that, but his new non-friends have set up a Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans for the United Kingdom and Ireland, ready to pronounce on which bishops are orthodox and which are not, and already active in their marginalising of Open Evangelicals as part of their taking direction of the policy of all Evangelicals. The man, then, who was at the founding of Affirming Catholicism is being dumped by those that include Catholic traditionalists in transition (and they are, including in ACNA too: we shall see this).

Well, The Episcopal Church has not quite done a standing on a tank outside the White House (the Russian version) because its actions have been far more careful than such drama. But the effect has become the same.

For the policy of centralisation is now finished. It is finished when it comes to the hard right, and it is finished when it comes to the more progressive and Western Churches. These have been the reason why the Covenant has been so slow, and why, in the end, the Archbishop looked to be in a spin in Jamaica and ended with such a pathetic Presidential Address.

He took this policy on himself. He crafted it and designed it, and actually pushed it far further than any Archbishop of Canterbury should have been able. What lies behind this policy is not his apparent liberalism, because in the end (and not unlike Gorbachev's outlook) Rowan Williams was and is a Catholic: almost Orthodox in much spirituality and even Roman leaning in ecclesiology. Catholics can and do criticise the Bible, and Catholics can and do favour inclusion of peoples the Evangelicals exclude. Whereas, for some, Affirming Catholicism is just a front for a bunch of liberals who like to dress up and use smoke, Williams brought to Affirming Catholicism real Catholic gravitas. But as Archbishop he did several about turns, and ended up tying himself in knots.

So his intended legacy was, though all this crisis, to make Anglicanism more of a world Church, and indeed he wanted to say to the Pope in Rome, 'This is the Church I represent.' He wanted to say, 'It has its differences, but now it has an overall consistency, as in this Covenant.'

But to do this he had to bring along the Evangelical hard right (whereas the Fulcrum/ Anglican Communion Institute type people are more like lapdogs, who'll be along anyway) and this was his undoing.

In fact what was his undoing was that, when taken as a whole, the Anglican Communion contains Churches that are just too diverse in their cultural settings. They each - except for the Church of England - have their own internal consistency if minority variations, but taken as a whole they simply span too large a space. He thought he could pull them all in, and it is something of an achievement that he got so far. Indeed he was concerned that if he didn't pull the Communion inwards, the Church of England might move outwards - and it very well might, if stuck inside establishment buildings, structures and national laws.

But he didn't get far enough, because the hard right did their own thing as they always intended. Western Conservative Evangelicals, who represent a very small faction in their own cultural settings, lined up with Africans in particular as ballast. They all sidelined Rowan Williams and they have gone to town on their near Evangelical neighbours, ready to see the Anglo-Catholics wander off (to their own, to Rome, to Orthodoxy, to oblivion) and then to take on what they regard as all the liberals. The Archbishop of Canterbury has just been swept aside.

Well the Anglican Communion has not gone the way of the Soviet Union, and had Gorbachev also been President of Russia he'd still have had a job (but then no one would have stood on a tank). Rowan Williams is still Archbishop of Canterbury, and he still has a job, but his policy is finished and the direction of the Anglican Communion is bust. It is bust and he is sidelined because the hard right did him in, and then The Episcopal Church had had enough, and at this point in the three year cycle tentatively resumed the direction it had been going before it put the brakes on. And with this, Rowan Williams's game is up. He might still listen, but another policy - if there needs to be a policy at all - would need another person.

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

Meanwhile in England: FoCA on the rise

By Adrian Worsfold

Today a new group will be launched in the UK called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA). It is the organisational expression of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in the UK.

It is a group that without doubt intends to legitimise some bishops in the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Anglican Churches and attempt to delegitimise others. A parallel group, the Fellowship of Confessing Churches, using the Jerusalem Declaration's words as relevant, has already got to work on the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. Combined with the self-selecting Primates Council, and the decision making that takes place behind that, this FCA is a grouping that is not just another Anglican pressure group (of which Anglican Evangelicals have plenty) but one with the potential to provide international oversight. In other words, entryism always leads eventually to replacement. Replacement is what has happened in the US and Canada, rather too quickly, in terms of a province of GAFCON, but entryism comes as a threat and the threat is realised in institutional difference - usually by the effective collapse of an institution and its decision making centres into the entryist's arms.

Entryism needs to be explained. It comes from Trotsky and his French turn in 1934 when he dissolved the ineffective Communist League to join into the more successful French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). In other words, a small, unrepresentative and otherwise unsuccessful group burrows itself into a more moderate and broader successful organisation, and its own leadership acts to bend the larger host in its direction. A few 'Intellectuals' choose the strategy that ought to influence the ballast of workers' organisations. The best example is more recent in the political memory of the UK. Militant Tendency was a hardline Trotskyite group that placed its people wherever it could throughout the Labour Party in order to influence its policy direction. Militant was never going to attract support openly for itself, so it hoped to draw on the habitual popular Labour vote and manipulate expressions of socialism towards its own purist brand. However, despite always the need for tactical flexibility, its inevitable confrontational tactics both within the party and in society meant that a Labour Party wishing to moderate itself to be re-elected had to root out Militant and expose them to their own political existence. Once it was removed from the host it soon died.

Incidentally, the entryist group, despite the need for secrecy, deception and flexible footwork, often makes howling errors, and the most obvious is the leaking of actual intentions around all the presentation.

Conservative Evangelicals have been a small part of US Episcopalian life and they are also small in the Church of England (and smaller still in the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopalian Church). In order to raise their power and influence they have essentially gone abroad; they have used the idea of the Anglican Communion, but selectively: going south and then part of that south, that is within Africa for their ballast. Inventing international oversight and criticising 'Anglican nationalism', they have intended to start directing the Evangelical traffic their way. They have also co-opted, temporarily, the most strident (and transient) end of traditionalist Anglo-Catholicism. This is a grouping already defensive and marginal that will have nowhere to go but out when the British Anglican Churches start ordaining women bishops. It adds weight - adds the appearance of breadth despite consisting of two extremes. Such a sharp division is there in the rushed US/ Canadian replacement strategy.

Back in 2006 a leading British Conservative Evangelical made a defining speech of the Religious Trotskyite entryism that is now being launched in the UK . Richard Turnbull was clear that Evangelical identity had to be made correctly defined before it could be successful, and this of course was in the context of continuing divisions in UK Anglican evangelicalism between what are called Conservative and Open Evangelicals. Turnbull was clear that the first target had to be what he called Liberal Evangelicals, and this means Open Evangelicals (they don't themselves use the term 'liberal' for fairly obvious reasons). He talked about the "strategic nature" of theological colleges. Indeed, as a new Principal of one of them, he was active in staff replacement when many Open Evangelicals found themselves going elsewhere. Only when the Open Evangelicals are marginalised will the real enemy be tackled, the Liberals proper. He gave this view in typical reverse-speak or mirror language that the skillful political operator used in groups like Militant (that is, accuse the other of doing what you need to do):

I need, also want to warn against the nature of liberalism within our own midst. What I mean by that is this whole idea of what it means to be evangelical being broadened so that it encompasses everybody and everything. If the liberals seek to capture the theological colleges in order to exercise strategic influence, the first step will be to encourage liberal evangelicals to capture the evangelical colleges. And I just want to draw that challenge to your attention and not overlook it and not to think all is well.

He said as well:

I view the post [of Principal] as strategic because it will allow influence to be brought to bear upon generations of the ministry. Now, you put yourself in the shoes of the liberals and you capture the theological colleges and you have captured the influence that is brought to bear upon generations of future ministers.

Recently leading Open Evangelicals have been writing much more definitely on their opposition to the stance of FCA. Their question is why the FCA should be set up now, when (from the viewpoint of Open Evangelicals) the Church of England is not like The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. There is something naive, even deliberately naive in the question, because they already know the answer. GAFCON happened and the FCA is intending to frame the evangelical agenda!

Two articles have recently appeared on the Fulcrum (Open Evangelical) website that are clearly opposed to the FCA despite the apparent shared headline evangelicalism. One is by the new Bishop of Sherborne (promoted by an Affirming Catholic diocesan bishop and with a fascinating consecration sermon given by a theology textbook theologian) and another by one of those ordained theology teachers who left Richard Turnbull's theology college, Andrew Goddard. In my view, one of the best articles on this division with Open Evangelicals has come very recently from a certain Rev. Charles Raven, one of the Conservative Evangelicals who represents the potential nature of the entryism/ replacement to come. It is a very good explanation of why FCA will want to spread its tentacles into the UK from the Western Conservative Evangelical 'intellectuals' and the ballast in Africa and pick people off into its own membership who might now be at the more conservative end of Open Evangelicalism - in other words to make Open Evangelicalism more institutional, more liberal and therefore to be opposed, and move towards becoming an evangelical rump.

Charles Raven himself is a most interesting character. The previous Bishop of Worcester was opposed to the manner and result of George Carey's badly-handled and over-excited Lambeth Conference of 1998 and the resolution that was Lambeth 1:10. This evangelical priest and his church decided to dissociate from his variant bishop, at which in all effect he was told to go. His congregation did not take the property! This now independent Anglican is fully part of FCA, and of course he would be inside any replacement Church ACNA-style. Note how he writes (and does so consistently) against 'Liberal Evangelicalism' and the stance of Fulcrum, the Archbishop of Canterbury and even the Evangelical Bishop Tom Wright. I think this most recent of articles is one of his best and is as revealing as the Turnbull lecture of 2006.

Let's be clear. This all-guiding 'Jeruslalem Declaration' was prepared and leaked before the GAFCON conference made it apparently its own. The plan was ready and unfolded, and a small number of people take the real decisions. The FCA is not going to be another pressure group, or seek to engage in another split. It won't take in members to divide it or change its agenda. It aims first and foremost to weaken away Open Evangelicalism. With the Catholic traditionalists gone (leaving those Affirming Catholics that are anyway regarded as 'liberals') the FCA intends to be an organisation to take on the liberals proper, whatever their institutional position, to divert funds, to move people, and to undermine a whole Church. If you don't replace a Church by a parallel one, and then try and suck people over, you do it from within, weakening and dislodging until the rot you intend to bring about falls into your hands, and then it is all yours.

As GAFCON said about itself, these folks are revolutionaries and they mean business. Anyone with any sense would do all they can to stop them. That's what the Labour leader did with the Militant Tendency, but the Archbishop of Canterbury has compromised with them and grinds on with the cold "glacier" of the Anglican Convenant proposal, about which the GAFCON people have blown hot and cold as it suited them - making the surface as slippery as possible for all these institutional people

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

Uncivil tongues

By Lauren R. Stanley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking the right kind of unity

By George Clifford

The Anglican Consultative Council has adjourned its 14th plenary. The Episcopal Café’s Lead and other reportorial sources have amply documented the results of that meeting. Even after the Council’s adjournment, debate continues (flaming in some quarters, flickering in others) about the proposed Anglican Covenant. The Archbishop of Canterbury urges Anglicans to engage in that conversation. Although acknowledging the Communion may adopt some form of federalism, he hopes that the process will instead move the Communion toward closer unity.

Why, exactly, should we in the Episcopal Church care about an Anglican Covenant and the Anglican Communion?

Christian unity is a prominent New Testament theme. Emphasizing unity and participating in the larger Church helps to define our Anglican Christian identity, highlights the Church’s global reach, and enriches us individually and collectively. We Episcopalians trace our ecclesial roots through the Scottish Episcopal Church to the Church of England, from which the American Revolution separated us. Apostolic succession provides a tangible link across the centuries to Jesus.

These linkages have been more than intellectual concepts for my journey. I was privileged to spend two years of my ministry on exchange from the U.S. Navy with the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, serving as a Church of England priest and chaplain. Our Episcopal membership in the Anglican Communion made that experience possible.

The twentieth century World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order movement flopped. Faith and Order sought to promote Christian unity by articulating doctrinal formulations of the Christian faith with which various Churches could agree and by identifying ecclesial structures for achieving visible, structural unity. Those worthy goals proved impossibly elusive.

Different Churches live with very different worldviews. Culture, ecclesial history, language, and many other factors all help to shape a Church’s worldview. I value collegial ministry. In the Navy, I treasured opportunities to conduct joint Lutheran (ELCA) – Episcopal worship services. With approximately twenty-five Episcopal Navy chaplains, we were rarely co-located. Next best was working with an ELCA chaplain. Each time, I learned much about a very different tradition with which I generally shared liturgical practices but a tradition that had a different set of theological emphases, different polity, different ethos, etc.

During my time with the Royal Navy, my Church of England colleagues included priests from Canterbury, York, Wales, Scotland, Australia, and South Africa. In other words, we came from seven Anglican Communion provinces. All of these nations had close ties with Great Britain. Yet as I listened carefully, I heard about seven sets of traditions, theological emphases, and ethos. Since then, through conversations, travel, and reading I have developed an even greater appreciation for the breadth of diversity represented in the Anglican Communion.

Anglican polities that at first glance may appear similar in fact incarnate highly valued differences. Some provinces are their nation’s established church (or part of it), whose major policies, leaders, and worship require government approval. Other provinces function as ecclesial fiefdoms, largely controlled by the provincial Archbishop. Other provinces operate as representative democracies, integrating bishops, clergy, and laity into a system of checks and balances. Still other forms of Anglican polity exist in the various provinces.

In sum, perhaps the Anglican Communion has embarked on an enterprise similar to the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order movement, an enterprise likely to prove an equally frustrating and elusive search for greater organic unity.

What if the Anglican Communion laid its efforts to draft an Anglican Covenant to rest and instead promoted the unity of cooperative mission?

Cooperative mission is not mission tourism. Cooperative mission is feeding the hungry – spiritually and physically – together. Seminarians spending one year studying in the seminary of another province might become the norm, not the exception. Clergy might routinely serve several years in another province. Mission teams from all provinces might beneficially serve in all other provinces. Companion diocesan relationships might continue to proliferate and strengthen.

On a larger scale, the Anglican Communion could beneficially create a massive global mission initiative to engage thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Anglicans, in cooperative mission. For example, the Anglican Communion might establish an Anglican mission to feed, house, and otherwise care for many of the world’s millions of displaced persons. The Communion could organize this with initial funding from monies now spent on consultative meetings. Every province could link the mission to its biblical and theological teaching, recruit volunteers, raise funds, etc.

Cooperative mission of this type helpfully bypasses theological and structural differences, focusing on incarnating Jesus’ love. The latter half of the twentieth century offers numerous examples of Churches cooperating in mission in spite of important doctrinal and structural differences. Surely, many of the people who participated in such a mission would return home with a genuine appreciation of other Anglicans and a radically deeper commitment to the Communion.

No amount of dialogue seems likely to resolve the substantive theological and structural issues that divide the Anglican Communion. Unity is too valuable to lose because of that impasse. Jesus left us no doctrinal statement, no plan of organization. He simply loved people and encouraged others to do follow his example. Perhaps now is the time for we Anglicans to go and do likewise.

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

Reigning in the Ridley draft

By Adrian Worsfold

If you go back to Tuesday June 27, 2006 and the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments , it was clear that the Anglican Communion Covenant was intended to divide the Anglican Communion into core and association elements, with privileges of participation given to the core in strengthened, centralised, Instruments of Communion making the Anglican Communion more like a worldwide Church.

So strongly was that envisaged, that the difference between being a core member and an associate was like the difference being an Anglican and a Methodist. It was solution by centralisation and organised hiving off, somehow better than a schism.

Through each successive draft, that distinction has been reduced and that has meant less in the way of what was effectively disciplining associate members. The stress turned to 'welcoming' and a great deal of opposition was shown to a document that was juridical.

The Ridley-Cambridge Draft Covenant (RCDC) moved further in the direction of Churches autonomy and difference, and took away even a difference of participation in institutions between those that signed up and those that did not. Furthermore undefined Churches could start signing up as soon as the document was distributed - a Churches approach rather than a Communion approach. Rat smelling was rife.

There was something distinctly crafty about the RCDC. It would let in non-Canterbury Anglican Churches, and even dioceses of non-signing Canterbury-linked Churches, according to Dr Ephraim Radner. GAFCON theologian Stephen Noll thus urged a speedy signing on to the Covenant of his approved Churches including the Anglican Church of North America on the basis that the entry conditions were biblical and orthodox. While The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada dithered, his Churches could steal a march on them. Gregory Cameron spoke about a weight of Churches that might then mean a difference between core members and associates after all.

Thus the Covenant, more inclusive in its formal text, was a document of manipulation, allowing the kind of result it was intended for by the creative means of joining.

What the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica has done is removed the backdoor and windows means to entry and manipulation. First of all, only signed up members of the Anglican Consultative Council can join, thus cutting out the Anglican Church of North America's ambition to fast track itself into recognition against that of TEC and the ACC. Furthermore, it wants the section 4 revised, so that even that centralising and residual disciplining is removed. It was a close vote, but nevertheless that's it regarding the ambitions of GAFCON and the separatists who would opt to press the Communion into its own shape first.

Now GAFCON was the equivalent of the 1980s Trotskyite Militant Tendency inside the British Labour Party, with narrow parallel institutions but pressing on the larger body. In order to recover the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock removed it and forced it to stand on its own two feet. Having been ejected from its host, the parasite diminished into its own pointlessness.

This has happened at the ACC. The plugholes have been plugged. The rush to sign on is now pointless, and ACNA can have no delusions of fastracking. The parallel institutions (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Primates Council, the FCA itself - a believers' fellowship communion, and ACNA, the first GAFCON Church) are out on their own. However, it gives them little choice but to take on the institutions that will not let them apply pressure by manipulation.

They claim large numbers and majorities, but (even if numbers are near to the claim) they are concentrated, and this means the existing ACC will not succumb to the Conservative Evangelicals that are a considerable minority in many of the Anglican Churches.

Nevertheless the ACC vote of 33 to 30 was close and the result is messy. The Covenant will take so long to appear that the presenting issue for many will remain unaddressed and even unaddressable. The Covenant is like a marshmallow kicked into long grass, and seems to be dying of a hundred tactics and revisions.

Canon Graham Kings, soon to be a bishop in an attractive part of rural southern England, has promoted his scheme of Communion Conservative, Federal Conservative, Communion Liberal and Federal Liberal categories. He has assumed that Stephen Noll's conversion to the Covenant was a Communion Conservative shift on his part, whereas it could simply be taken as yet another Militant style tactic among many. But it is the fact that these tactics were presented, that have effectively bust any means to have a Communion Conservative approach. If there is a Federal approach (actually, Confederal - his terminology is too loose) that is Conservative, it is to be the muscle flexing of GAFCON as more or less parallel and independent. Well, some think we've seen its maximum strength and its institutional weakness. As for the likes of Fulcrum, recent lectures and comments by the likes of Oliver O'Donovan and Andrew Goddard have shown a depressing obsession with homosexual sex and a depressing sectarianism regarding this issue relating to ministry and rituals. They are closer and closer to the GAFCON reactionaries, and that is probably the direction in which many of them will go. The condition of Anglican evangelical theology is narrow, sectarian and culturally separated and strikes anyone outside as obsessive, institutional and irrelevant. It is a pity that liberal theology has been moribund for too long, as it too tries to obey doctrinal rules that don't quite come with the support of theological research. Indeed there is one general crisis of the whole of the Anglican form of Church and its relevance - it is losing its anchor within Western society.

The greatest likelihood is no particular Communion or confederal outcome but rather a balkanisation of Anglicanism across the world. There will be a concentration of GAFCON Churches that will attempt international episcopal oversight into America and Europe that will receive measures to block them. There will be fairly conservative Anglican Churches not linked to GAFCON and its concentration of power, but may have its own catechism and defining documents. There will also be Western Churches, and will variously find the freedom to become more inclusive. Let's be clear here: when the Church of England ordains women bishops, it will finally lose its traditionalist Catholic wing, and this Church will move closer to, nor further away from, The Episcopal Church and its own neighbouring Churches in the British Isles in terms of inclusivity. Yet this loss of the traditionalist Catholic side means even more a simple straight bipolar fight between liberals and conservatives, with the line passing through the position occupied presently by the likes of Fulcrum. This means only more strain not less, and one wonders how much weak institutions can take when disagreements have become so simplistic and narrowly focused.

On taking up his job, the present Archbishop of Canterbury ditched his moderate narrative liberalism but retained his Catholicism, because the latter was seen as still legitimate. He used this as an institutional solution for the Anglican problem, but when an institution spins outwards the answer is to loosen up not tighten up. The whole of the Covenant process has been one of impossible expectations, and instead of accepting that there will be more Anglican difference and even competition, the attempt to divide and centralise has just increased the amount of recrimination as expectations of 'disciplining' could not be met. Anglicanism is not and cannot be the Archbishop's vision of a worldwide Church all based around bishops. His policy has been a complete and utter failure, of only half of what makes up Anglicanism, and whereas the previous Archbishop was arguably ineffective and blundering this one has been, I suggest, positively destructive as well as ineffectual in action. It may be that his options have never been very many, but the policy intention and direction was wrong from the beginning. Look at what was said in 2006 and look at the outcome now.

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

What will be lost

By Marshall Scott

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

It's a common enough question in our experience, isn't it? It comes up in a lot of situations. In a movie, it usually comes up in the last half hour or so, setting up the improbably difficult and brave resolution. In real life, I suppose it comes up as frequently as not around weddings. Sooner or later someone will ask bride and/or groom, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

And of course we don't, or at least not entirely. I say that as one who has married, divorced, and married again. I grant you that I was less confused when I married again – now almost twenty one years ago, thank you! – but I can't say that even then I knew what I was doing. I simply knew better how to choose, and how to live well the promises that I made.

“Are you sure you know what you're doing?”

I have that question these days about the changes in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Now, anyone who's read my work here and elsewhere will know I support the direction the Episcopal Church has chosen. That doesn't mean I have no qualms.

And my greatest qualm is that we have already lost forever the Anglican Communion that I knew, and that the Episcopal Church will soon follow. I don’t mean that the Church has departed from the Christian faith or the Anglican tradition. I don’t believe either of those assertions. It is, rather, that the shape and manner of the Communion has changed, and of the Episcopal Church will change.

For most of my career in the Episcopal Church we have been conscious of – even proud of - our vagueness. That’s not to say that it hasn't driven every one of us crazy at some point; but we cherished it nonetheless. It allowed us to always pray together, usually worship together, and sometimes work together despite our strongly-held differences. The old epigram associated "Broad-" churchmanship and "haziness;" but the truth was that we all took part in some haziness as a central strategy of living together in the Episcopal Church.

We’ve even managed to justify it as good theology. We would note that the problem with transubstantiation was not that God couldn’t do it that way, but that the Church couldn’t say that it was the only way God could have changed bread and wine into body and blood. Instead, we clung to the very lack of definition that is consubstantiation: "in, with, and under," but only God knew how.

With a nod to our Orthodox Christian siblings, we spoke of appreciating mystery, of believing in what God was doing without wanting to constrain our understanding of how God might do it – whatever it might be. As a result, we preferred not to define anything too specifically. In many ways, that worked for us marvelously well. How else could we have held Hooker and Laud, Jewell and Wesley, Cranmer and Keble and Maurice all somehow within the Anglican tradition?

Sadly, now we are being driven to specificity. We are being driven to it by those who don't want to associate with us, and who are at great pains to explain just why they don't want to associate. We are being driven, too, by those who want to associate, but want to be crystal clear about the terms of association. Look where we are now.

* We have seen the third draft of an Anglican Covenant. Members of the Drafting Committee have spoken of an intent to be inclusive, and the mechanisms of exclusion so prominent in earlier drafts have been muted. What hasn't changed, however, is the idea that there must be some clear and delimited description of common content to hold us together.

* Having largely despaired of an Anglican Covenant that would exclude what they see as the excesses of the Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has essentially written their own; for what is the Jerusalem Declaration if not a confession in the ecclesiological sense, a core around which they might covenant?

* We wait on the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, to see how that gathering will react to the Covenant draft and the Windsor Continuation report, as well as to dissension within and without.

* The General Convention of the Episcopal Church will meet this summer, and it remains to be seen what we will say there, and how our statements will be received among Anglicans outside the Episcopal Church. There are many Deputies (I cannot say whether it is “most”) who are ready for the Episcopal Church to state clearly what it will do regarding the hot-button issues, and no longer wait to see who else in the Communion is prepared to listen and to talk.

And all of these raise in me a certain sense of - well, not dread so much as sorrow. Some have found us in the Episcopal Church (some both within and without) not sufficiently clear, and they have made themselves clear. In reaction we will make ourselves clear – it is human nature and, for many, virtual institutional necessity – but, as is always the case, in specifying some things in we will be specifying some things out. If we don't do it in the explication itself, it will come over the ensuing years of interpretation. It will change the manner, and perhaps the nature, of the Episcopal Church.

That’s not to say that we're doing the wrong thing, or that the Holy Spirit isn't in it. That may well be one of those strange ways in which God works. We have our New Testament in reaction to Marcion’s rejection of the Old Testament in service to a Gnostic dualism in Christian vestments. Our own Anglican tradition is grounded in important efforts to explain who we are not and why: Hooker’s discourse on why we’re not Puritans, and Jewel’s on why we’re not Roman. The Council of Trent happened in reaction to all that Reformation fervor; and if we're not convinced just how much the Holy Spirit was in that Council, our Roman siblings certainly are.

Nor is it wrong to do something when you can't know exactly what you’re doing. I entered marriage – both times – in good faith, with determination to do what I could to make it work. The fact that in my first marriage things didn’t work as I had hoped isn't to say there is something wrong with marriage itself, or that God couldn't have been working in it. I continue to be convinced that God was then, even as I am convinced that God is working in my marriage now.

As we understand things, only God knows the future. We are always stepping forward in faith. Tomorrow may bring the proverbial bus, or the apocalyptic meteor, or the Kingdom of God. All I can do today is my best to follow where God calls me.

But until the Kingdom comes, those results will always be mixed, with losses as well as gains. In our times now we in the Episcopal Church are indeed seeking to follow where God calls us. Unfortunately, in our times now voices around us and within us push us out of our hazy breadth toward specificity; and coming from hazy breadth to specificity will change us. However righteous most of us may find the result, there will be those who embrace it and those who want no part of it; those who claim victory and those who feel lost.

That’s why I feel that, in a way, we might lose ourselves, even as we win the battle. In resisting becoming the Church that some want us to be, we will not simply stay the Church we are. We may well become more the Church that we want, but we will not stay the Church we are. We will have more clarity on a host of details, from how we understand how property is held in trust for the whole Church to what we mean by the phrase "abandonment of communion;" but we will discover ourselves a different church in the process.

And that's not wrong, either; for it has to as true for the Church as it is for her members that salvation comes in losing our lives for the sake of the Gospel. That doesn’t mean we won’t have some sorrow at that loss. I expect that soon we will determine that we can no longer, as the Episcopal Church, remain “broad and hazy.” It may well be a step toward the Kingdom. It will come, I pray, in our response to the leading of the Spirit. Still, to tell you the truth, I will miss it.

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

Is the Anglican Covenant just Dar by other means?

By Jim Naughton

Is it possible that proposed Anglican Covenant is a means of achieving a modified version of the Dar es Salaam settlement proposed by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in 2007?

The communiqué released after that meeting proposed a “pastoral scheme”, which created a church within a church led by almost exactly the same bishops who signed the factually challenged document on diocesan autonomy released Wednesday by the Anglican Communion Institute.

The ACI, with Fulcrum in the United Kingdom, were influential in creating the pastoral scheme and articulating the Camp Allen principles that were also endorsed by the Primates. The Dar settlement was almost unanimously rejected by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, (which, as Sally Johnson chancellor to Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, has demonstrated, did not have the constitutional authority to affirm it). Despite its rejection, the leaders of the ACI continued to press for its provisions to be imposed on the Episcopal Church, even though the Dar settlement makes no provisions for this eventuality, and the Primates Meeting lacks the authority to force settlements on member Churches.

Have a look at the Pastoral Scheme (which you can see by clicking Read more) and then read the emails in this thread written by Christopher Seitz regarding conservations between himself, Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina and the Rev. Theron Walker, a rector in the diocese of Colorado.

In these emails, Seitz says that if a parish determines that its bishop's support for the covenant is not as intense as its own, it can ask for alternative episcopal oversight through the Communion Partners. Put aside for the moment the fact that the proposed covenant has not yet been presented to the Anglican Consultative Council, and therefore may not be in its final form, and note how Seitz uses the covenant as a tool to separate parishes sympathetic to the Anglican Communion Institute and the Communion Partner Bishops from their diocesan bishops. If this is considered a legitimate exercise, it can be employed against any bishop anywhere--and can be used as a cover to legitimize separation on other grounds, for how would anyone determine that one's bishop's support for the covenant was, in fact, precisely commensurate with one's own?

Note also the emphasis Seitz puts on keeping all of this business between the Communion Partner Bishops and the Pastoral Visitors (who have been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but who have not yet been asked to intervene anywhere), in effect setting the CP bishops up as free agents in their dealings with Lambeth Palace. Note the importance he places on keeping Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the sidelines so she cannot refuse a pastoral visitation, and note that he does not mention the PB's own plan for alternative episcopal oversight, which was adopted by the House of Bishops in September 2007, with the support of most of the Communion Partner bishops.

If the scenario Seitz is outlining here were to come to fruition and be embraced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the result would be strikingly similar to the results envisioned by the architects of the Dar es Salaam settlement: a theologically conservative enclave within the Episcopal Church that enjoyed all of the rights and none of the responsibilities of Church membership.

Given Seitz's plans, the fact that the archbishop's pastoral visitors were trained for their new roles by a team that included two men who are mentioned prominently in the ACI emails is cause for real concern. The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner of the Covenant Design Group is one of the three members of the ACI and signed the statement on diocesan autonomy. Bishop Gary Lillibridge of the Windsor Continuation Group did not sign the statement, but if the emails are to be believed, he offered helpful comments on previous versions, and supports its general principles. (A statement from the bishop, who is well-respected by many who disagree with him on the issues convulsing our Church would be extremely helpful right around now.)

If passing the covenant effectively creates a church within a church, the covenant has to be defeated, but its proponents may be able to salvage their project by amending the document to foreclose this possibility. Whether they are open to amendments may tell us much about their true motives.

Jim Naughton is the editor of Episcopal Café.

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The Covenant giveth and the Covenant taketh away

By Adrian Worsfold

The Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Covenant compared with previous drafts seems to move this way and that, and offers direction without offering direction. Is the Covenant now anyone's and should anyone sign it?

Overall it seems to have moved in the direction of concerns expressed by The Episcopal Church about Churches and autonomy and by those who emphasise new interpretation for every generation. Yet, at the same time, rather like a game of push me pull you, it makes statements and orders processes that would operate in precisely the opposite direction.
The language is sometimes loose and contains assumptions that could grow into bad policy. Take what it says about the Lambeth Conference, for example. Here it states:

(3.1.4) II. their [bishops in Lambeth Conference] ministry of guarding the faith and unity of the Communion...

What does this mean? How far does this faith and unity go in terms of details and across the whole Communion? Does it go as far as a recognisable uniformity, for example. What happens if a Lambeth Conference starts passing more resolutions? Is the guard a secure guard?
It is possible to stack up some statements as freeing the faith a little and adding to the potential for new interpretation, and it is possible to stack up statements in the conserving direction, and some statements can face both ways at once.

For example, there is a recognition of biblical scholarship, and scholarship is hardly friendly to some of the statements to emerge out of GAFCON and that Jerusalem Declaration and associated Anglican Churches:

(1.2.4) [biblical understanding] by the results of rigorous study by lay and ordained scholars.

(1.2.8) discern the fullness of truth into which the Spirit leads us...

But then there is the statement that goes in the other direction:

(1.2.5) expectation that Scripture continues to illuminate and transform the Church and its members, and through them, individuals, cultures and societies.

That's reasonable, indeed expected, even for new insights, but one can imagine the accusations of culture influencing the reading of the Bible versus the literal Bible influencing the culture.

The point of the Covenant has been to find a way to process issues of impact across Churches when Churches are autonomous and have generally come together for mutual support and recognition. So we have this statement - and it is confusing:

(3.2.3) Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well evoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God's revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles ... need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.

So on the one hand, there is the potential of new insights and a matter of revelation (therefore, again, positive about change, as with biblical scholarship) and then there are distractions (something to get over), and finally something called obstacles - which are presumably the matters to deal with. But which of these "need[s] to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church"? What does Church mean here? There is probably slack language here, but this must come to mean within an individual, autonomous Church in each case, though one supposes the Church here intends to mean across the Communion. A text like this ought to be careful with its words. There is no one Anglican Church - and loose language creates confusion.
There also seems to be something of Church to Church relationships too:

(3.2.4) [Each Church] to seek a shared mind with other Churches ... Each Church will undertake wide consultation with the other Churches of the Anglican Communion and with the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion.

In thinking things through, and doing something, each autonomous Church is to consider the Communion and ought (doesn't have to) to consider what Communion counsels state:

(3.2.1) [Each Church] to have regard for the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy ... a readiness to undertake reflection upon their counsels, and to endeavour to accommodate their recommendations. ... respect the constitutional autonomy of all of the Churches of the Anglican Communion

The obligation upon Churches gets stronger too:

(3.2.7) [Each Church] to uphold the highest degree of communion possible.

But imagine if an issue is complex and a thinking through and discerning comes up with six of one and half a dozen of the other. Is the solution to be a bit of this and a bit of that, or is it always to apply the brake? What if a statement was of the effect that some can accelerate while others go into reverse gear? Would each accommodate the other, somehow? What does accommodate mean? What if a majority of Churches see a way forward, but a minority are offended and want to go backward? What sort of gymnastics maintains the highest communion in this situation?

Here is the clue:

(4.2.2) ...the meaning of the Covenant[:] compatibility to the principles incorporated [and then] Joint Standing Committee may make a request to any covenanting Church to defer action

So, there it is - defer, and in amongst all this comes:

(3.1.4 cont.) Each Instrument may initiate and commend a process of discernment and a direction for the Communion and its Churches.

Oh, so there comes the centralisation. Instruments will direct: this is strong language, except direct to... what? Accommodate? What is it to defer, and is to defer to accommodate? Presumably defer is to delay, but accommodating may be something partial or whole for a longer time.

There is also a further conserving by talking on:

(3.2.6) in situations of conflict, [each Church] to participate in mediated conversations ... to see such processes through.

So a lot of the directing, and accommodating, could be to engage in a lot of talking as well as deferring. Perhaps it is good to talk, if there has not been enough talk. But where does talk go, in the end, and is talking the same as communion? Or is it being in communion to apply the brake?

This business of direction seems to live in a virtual world, because the one thing the centre cannot do is direct. So as soon as we get to directing, we get to emphasising autonomy again:

(4.1.1) a readiness [for each Church] to live in an interdependent life, but does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

(4.1.3) Nothing ... deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church ... no one Church, nor any agency of the Communion, can exercise control or direction over the internal life of any other covenanted Church.

So then if a Church does not accommodate, because it is not under submission, is it actually breaking any communion at all? At this point the real and the virtual begins to make one a bit dizzy: and even the Covenant has to be adopted autonomously. After all, the Church of England legally cannot accept anything from a religious without that would direct it! It is like adopting something that is not adoptable, and, to help, the Covenant to be adopted says as much:

(4.1.4) adopt this Covenant ... according to its [a Church's] own constitutional procedures

One might ask if adopting the Covenant brings any rewards. That would mean, particularly, the peculiar body called the Anglican Church of North America. It could be a fast track to membership so it has to be a no, to avoid stepping on other toes (presumably the unity of the Communion). But then even that is not clear as there is some sort of non-carrot offered, to adopt the Covenant and ask for Instruments to go through their procedures:

(4.1.5) Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. [But] adoption of the Covenant by a Church may be accompanied by a formal request to the Instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each Instrument's procedures.

So far, then, it has all been about accommodation or not, delay or not, deferring or not, discerning change or finding something controversial, and the mind of a Church and the apparent unity of the Communion that is not a Church. The question then becomes one of any sanction at all, if a Church (that does not have to do what the centre wants) does not do what the centre wants. And yes there is a sanction, that underlines the importance of deferring (slowing to a pause):

(4.2.3) If a Church refuses to defer a controversial action, the Joint Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument

In other words, if you don't do a deferring, you can't join in at the centre. But then look at the very next paragraph.

(4.2.4) Joint Standing Committee ... [declare an] action or decision ... "incompatible with the Covenant". [Such] shall not have any force in the Constitution and Canons of any covenanting Church unless or until it is received by the canonical procedures of the Church in question.

So a declaration of incompatibility has utterly no effect unless a Church decides to make it have effect. The language is unclear again, so let's examine it. Why would any Church on the receiving end of such a declaration take any notice anyway (in terms of Constitution and Canons)? Presumably, then, this is (mainly) a statement to say to other Churches in rejectionist mode, 'Don't jump the gun.' But on the other hand, such a Church is autonomous and entirely free to alter its Constitution and Canons at any time in terms of a decision to break off communion with another Church. Once again we have Churches that do what they like anyway, but a centralised direction that is no direction.

Indeed the direction that is no direction is emphasised in the next paragraph!

(4.2.5) the Joint Standing Committee may make recommendations as to relational consequences to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion. ... an action or decision which has been found to be "incompatible with the Covenant" impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion. ... [Yet] It shall be for each Church and each Instrument to determine its own response to such recommendations.

Of course a Church in the firing line might decide it has had enough, and pull out of the Covenant. Then the dizziness becomes chronic. Take two paragraphs together:

(4.2.7) Participation in the processes ... shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant

(4.3.1) ... withdrawal [from the Covenant] does not imply an automatic withdrawal from the Instruments or a repudiation of [Church's] Anglican character

What do these mean, taken together? Well, a Church that has withdrawn from the Covenant is still within the Instruments and is still Anglican, and yet it cannot take part in the processes of the Instruments because such participation is limited to those in the Covenant. So this means, presumably, that once a Church has left the Covenant, and is yet still part of the structures, there is no way it can come back into the Covenant (or keep talking) unless, presumably again, it makes its own application to rejoin. Is this credible? Would they all stop talking after a withdrawal, and yet the Church is still active in the Instruments? Does it mean it is better to leave the Covenant quickly and continue to participate (because the processes only apply to those in the Covenant), than to stay in and have participation suspended?

If, at this point, anyone is not quite sure whether their face is on the back of their heads or on the front, or they are just utterly confused, let's try and summarise this Covenant by the use of imagination.

Imagine a country with about thirty eight cities in it, and there are railways pretty much between every city, with some high speed lines to Canterbury. Now we know that some railway services are suspended, and indeed someone has pulled the track up just outside Abuja on the line to Washington, and is turning the track towards a new town of confused architecture called ACNA. But most services are running, and you can get everywhere from anywhere even if you have to change trains, and the services are all reasonably quick.

Then, because of the shouts from some African stations because of the (suspended) human resources policies in Washington and Montreal, and the odd pink livery, some Canterbury officials have decided to get engineers to build a new railway line that all should use, reducing services on the many lines that now exist. To make the journey acceptable, however, it goes in a zig-zag fashion. The train leaves any station, goes over some reverse points and reaches some buffers. It then goes in the opposite direction using those points and ends up at another set of buffers. It then reverses again going across another set of reverse points and gets to another set of buffers. And so it goes on. This committee created railway line is like this all the way to Canterbury, stopping at all stations. Worse than this backwards and forwards lurch, however, is the constant waiting before the buffers. Passengers wonder who has pulled the cord this time. Plus, from Canterbury, the signals go level and stay level, and nothing moves for ages. So even the zigzagging doesn't actually work. By the time the passengers get to anywhere, they feel sick and it's long past all their appointments.

Instead of this centralised scheme, the engineers should spread out and maintain the lines between the cities, or services go another way if necessary (sad as the detour may be) until new staff get hired and new trains come into service and lines are repaired. As for ACNA, the line from Abuja is a dead-end.

This Anglican Covenant now acknowledges the potential for change, if all it wants to do is get international Instruments to direct and defer - without directing and probably not achieving any deferring. What a document! This Covenant is a completely contradictory mess, and the best place for it is the bin.

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

For the sake of the oppressed, move ahead

By Adrian Worsfold

In his recent lecture on economics, the Archbishop of Canterbury stated:

Ethics, I suggested, is about negotiating conditions in which the most vulnerable are not abandoned.

And later:

The reduction of pain or of frustration, the augmenting of opportunity for human welfare and joy - again, these are obviously good things. They are good because they connect with a sense of what is properly owing to human beings, a sense of human dignity.

And later still:

But the task is to turn people's eyes back to the vision of a human dignity that is indestructible. This is the vision that will both allow us to retain a hold on our sense of worth even when circumstances are painful or humiliating and sustain the sense of obligation to the needs of others, near at hand or strangers, so that dignity may be made manifest.

I hope that I am not accused of quoting these out of context: applied to the economic crisis they are nevertheless, surely, universal statements.

Recently, referring to bullying in faith schools within England, the Bishop of Manchester also gave some words that are, again, of the character of universal statements. He said :

It is vital that the Church does as much as possible to keep dialogue going between all God’s people. That means everyone – whoever, whatever, wherever we are - including of course the gay community.

I extract them because dark clouds are gathering over Nigeria and it is the Anglican Church there that is helping pushing them into place.

This is the Church's contribution there :

Same sex marriage apart from being ungodly is also unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, uncultured, up-African and un-Nigerian. It is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this country. It is also capable of extincting mankind and as such should never be allowed to take root in Nigeria. Outlawing it is to ensure the continued existence of this nation. The need for doing this is urgent, compelling and imperative. The time is now.

The Most Revd. Peter S. Akinola
Archbishop Primate and Metropolitan
Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

This is towards a law that would outlaw same sex marriage in Nigeria, but same sex marriage is not available in Nigeria. So what it actually amounts to is the legalising of a witchhunt against gay people living together, giving the police powers because there would be prison sentences for gay couples and those who assist gay couples.

To call this a moral and social holocaust is itself a perversion of the actual holocaust, that of systematic death carried out to groups and individuals. The effect, to Nigeria, of leaving same sex couples be, of living and let living, is precisely nothing. It is of no impact on all the laws they want to pass on promoting heterosexual marriage, if Nigeria is so motivated. What is surely not acceptable - not locally, nationally and internationally - is instituting a regime of oppression.

Now the time must come when the Churches have to show another way forward. This is another way to be Church, to stand as some sort of beacon or model that flatly contradicts the oppressiveness of the Nigerian Church to its minorities and those who would copy its stance. There has to be a real, material, alternative: a way forward that gives a different vision. The Church clearly most able to do this is The Episcopal Church, closely followed by the Anglican Church of Canada, but also by a number of others once the lead is taken.

Yet we have the Archbishop of Canterbury intending to go along to General Convention 2009 and we know why. He is going to plead for more stalling, more patience. He wants to nudge the Anglican Communion towards centralisation, towards it becoming more like a Church, for it to start making decisions among primates. He is going to put the religious bureaucracy first, as he has all along, asking others to sacrifice themselves for this bureaucracy. The principal people to be sacrificed again are the gay and lesbian community: not him, not bishops, not a communion, but a people for whom inclusion would be like freedom at last. He wants this not because of some prime belief, but simply to wait. Wait for what - Nigeria?

Back in 2006 the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger and said this:

I'm very struck by what Bonhoeffer writes in the middle-30s about the division of the church over the Aryan laws in Nazi Germany, where he says both that it's extremely important not to try and work out in advance every circumstance in which it would be necessary for the church to break.

However, when actually you do have to break I have called a Bonhoeffer moment. This is what Bonhoeffer did: he joined the Confessing Church, and although safe in the United States he was effectively called back to Germany by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth and Bonhoeffer met his death at the hands of the Nazi regime. He sacrificed himself in the service of others.

It is time to stop playing games of religious bureaucracy. There is no ethical position of flogging a dying horse of a centralisation project when that is based on sacrificing others. This argument, presumably the purpose of the Archbishop's trip to the General Convention, simply should not carry, and the Archbishop should be reminded of his own words about what it is to be ethical. Perhaps he might have to be asked if they mean anything in this material world, the world of the body as so identified.

If it was thought that pausing actions of inclusion in the United States, Canada or elsewhere would help the people of Nigeria, then surely it would be done; indeed, arguably, this has been done so far. Patience has been shown, but patience is for a purpose and a goal. The goal is not towards producing a worldwide Church, which is probably acquiring its own dynamic anyway (and thus patience towards building that is patience towards an unwanted project?). The goal is towards the inclusion of people further than one's own shores. However, that Bonhoeffer moment does come when you need to make the other vision material and real.

Say to the Archbishop of Canterbury when he comes, 'Thank you, but your argument no longer applies. Please, in this real, even desperate situation abroad, when some people need a vision they can grasp of a tomorrow in their land, refer to your own words.'

Say, 'It is time to move ahead and we just happen to be the first able to do so.'

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

Anglican reduction?
Anglican roux?

By Marshall Scott

My wife and I are foodies - or, at least, we cook. I like to cook. It's a form of recreation for me, with immediate feedback (I'd usually say, "No pun intended;" but I like that one).

So, because I cook, I know something about sauces. I can deglaze a pan. I can make a roux, and I can make it as dark and as rich as you want. I can even do a reduction, that slow, steady process of cooking down a liquid until the color is deeper, the consistency thicker, and the flavor more intense than one could ever imagine from the original.

Perhaps that's why it got my attention when Archbishop Williams said this in his Presidential Address to the recent General Synod of the Church of England:

"The Communion we have: it is indeed a very imperfect thing at the moment. It is still true that not every Primate feels able to communicate at the Lord's Table alongside every other, and this is indeed a tragedy. Yet last week, all the Primates who had attended GAFCON were present, every one of them took part in daily prayer and Bible study alongside the Primates of North America and every one of them spoke in discussion. In a way that I have come to recognise as very typical of these meetings, when talk of replacing Communion with federation of some kind was heard, nearly everyone reacted by saying that this was not something they could think about choosing. We may have imperfect communion, but we unmistakably want to find a way of holding on to what we have and 'intensifying' it – to use the language I used last summer about the proposed Anglican Covenant. Somehow, the biblical call to be involved with one another at a level deeper than that of mere affinity and good will is still heard loud and clear. No-one wants to rest content with the breach in sacramental fellowship, and everyone acknowledges that this breach means we are less than we are called to be. But the fact that we recognise this and that we still gather around the Word is no small thing; without this, we should not even be able to hope for the full restoration of fellowship at the Eucharist.”

What concerns me is this thought of "intensifying what we have." In the first instance, I’m not sure we really have agreement on “what we have.” Actually, I’m certain we do not. I’m not sure what to make of his experience that “when talk of replacing Communion with federation of some kind was heard, nearly everyone reacted by saying that this was not something they could think about choosing;” for if we’re not agreed what we have now, we don’t know what it would mean to choose a “federation,” and so why “this was not something they could think about choosing.” We are a group of “regional and national member churches” (that’s what the Anglican Communion Website says on its front page: ”regional and national member churches”). Sometimes we speak of a “fellowship,” and sometimes a “family,” both terms well represented in Christian rhetoric. On the other hand, either a fellowship or a family can be disparate or enmeshed – too loose to work together, or too tight for all members to work to full potential – and arguably a “communion” can be, too. Is what can be accomplished by the Lutheran World Federation somehow less important or less successful or “less church,” than what can be accomplished by the Roman Catholic Church?

And if we’re not agreed what we have, what would it mean to “intensify” it? Would that mean clearer rules and clearer values? Would that mean tighter rules around common values? Would it leave us with more facility in including, or in excluding – or, perhaps, both?

This wasn’t made easier by the next paragraph in the Archbishop’s address. He said,
“Underlying this is something that dawned on me last week with a renewed force. We have not yet got to the point where we can no longer recognise one another as seeking to obey the same Lord. To make a very simple point, common Bible study would not be possible if we did not see in one another at least some of the same habits of attention and devotion to Scripture, whatever the diversity of interpretation. We can see that the other person is trying to listen to God's self-communication in scripture, not just imposing an agenda. But this entails a more complex and challenging point. If we recognise this much, we have to recognise that the other person or community or tradition is not simply going to go away. They are near enough to be capable of conversation, shared prayer and shared discernment with us. They are not just going to be defeated and silenced. For the foreseeable future, they are going to be there, recognisably doing something like what we are doing. We can't pretend.”

That would all be wonderful, if some of the points weren’t demonstrably inaccurate. I wish it were true that, “We have not yet got to the point where we can no longer recognise one another as seeking to obey the same Lord;” but the rhetoric of many who would see the Episcopal Church restrained or excluded says just that: that they no longer recognize us as seeking to obey the same Lord. That is the stated reason that “it is still true that not every Primate feels able to communicate at the Lord's Table alongside every other.”

I like his statement that, “common Bible study would not be possible if we did not see in one another at least some of the same habits of attention and devotion to Scripture, whatever the diversity of interpretation. We can see that the other person is trying to listen to God's self-communication in scripture, not just imposing an agenda.” But neither is that entirely accurate. We might see in one another “some of the same habits;” but how many would be required to support “communion?” In the American context (and I would bet in the British as well) it’s quite common for folks to cross denominational lines for common Bible study. At another level, one with which the Archbishop is intimately familiar, scholars do it all the time. And every person involved brings an “agenda,” a set of expectations based on what they’ve learned elsewhere – largely in their various churches – even if he or she doesn’t seek to “impose” it.

Granted, those on both sides – on all sides, since I for one think there are more than two – aren’t going to simply disappear. Indeed, they might well be “near enough to be capable of conversation, shared prayer and shared discernment with us.” They may be “recognisably doing something like what we are doing;” but, how “near?” And, how “like?” Christians, Jews, and Muslims are, at least in some contexts, “near enough to be capable of conversation, shared prayer and shared discernment.” All communities that recite one or another variation of the Golden Rule are “recognisably doing something like what we are doing;” but we wouldn’t say in either case that all were “near” enough, “like” enough, for something we would call “communion.”

Perhaps what we forget to do is to step back. We commonly say that communion, and so the Communion, is God’s gift to us, and not simply ours to determine, much less to structure. There have been discussions about a distinctive Anglican charism, our own unique spiritual gift. Perhaps we need to rethink how we want to consider that gift, that charism. We have assumed that it is there, without thinking about why it is there.

That question of why is important. Paul says consistently that the charisms, the gifts of the Spirit, are given, not for their own sake or for the glory of the recipient, but for the building up of the Body of Christ. If communion is such a gift, then surely it has such a purpose. We think we want communion and this Communion, and we think God wants it; but what do we think God wants it for?

Perhaps that would provide a renewed starting point (if not an entirely new one) for us as Episcopalians to consider our relationship with the Anglican Communion, both as we have had it and as we discover it coming to be. It would allow us to be clear about what blessings we saw in participating, and what price; what we would expect of it and what we would be willing to let go of to be a part of it.

In the meantime, there is more than enough heat, more than enough simmering, to intensify things. All the more reason, then, that we need to be clear what we are working for. Would this be a roux? Then the longer we simmer it the more intense would be the flavor, but the weaker the thickening power, the cohesion to hold together disparate elements. Would this be a reduction, with the flavor and color defined and strengthened, but at the cost of significant loss in volume? And how long would be too long for things to simmer? For if the heat is maintained long enough, however low and measured, eventually the sauce will be scorched, unfit for use.

I think, especially for us as the Episcopal Church, this is the unfinished task. Before we might agree to the value of “intensifying” something, we need to be clear, at least for ourselves, what we think we have, and what we think we want. This is a General Convention year. While Convention is not always the best forum for clarity or definition, it is the widest and the broadest forum we have for such discussion. Can we this year as a gathered community address these questions? If we can, we can take our part in this process of intensification; and perhaps produce together a sauce fit even for the heavenly banquet.

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

Overcoming the Corinthian temptation

By Greg Jones

"Conceited, stubborn, over-sensitive, argumentative, infantile, pushy." This is how bible scholar Jerome Murphy-O'Connor describes the Church in Corinth to which Paul wrote the two letters now in our bibles. They were a frustrating and exasperating people, who seemed to misunderstand Paul's teaching at every turn. Murphy-O'Connor writes that "virtually every statement he made took root in their minds in a slightly distorted form." Yikes.

Lucky for us that Paul faced this crowd. Because he had to teach, and teach, and teach them, now we have the benefit of First and Second Corinthians. The basic situation in Corinth was a mixed body of folks, divided by ethnicity, idea and practice. They were highly partisan, and apparently loved to dissent and divide.

Well, it sounds likes Christians everywhere, at least from time to time. It seems like Christians are always struggling with a "Corinthian" tendency toward division and disunity. To be sure, in our denomination, and global Anglicanism, we've seen lots of it in the past six years, and certainly will see more. It is worth remembering that the Church of England broke ties with Rome in the middle 16th century over questions of authority and power. Over the next couple of centuries - a host of groups left the Church of England, whether Presbyterian, Quaker, Methodist, Baptist and so forth. In the 19th century, a small group of evangelical Episcopalians broke away and formed the Reformed Episcopal Church. (They believed that 'Romanizing germs' had infected the Episcopal Church and it was corrupt beyond repair -- opposing things like altar candles, priestly robes, and high sacramental doctrine.) In the late 20th century, several groups split away from the Episcopal Church - first over integration, then over the new prayer book and women's ordination. And now, of course, we see the chasm forming between those who seek to include glbt people into the full life of the Church, inclusive of marriage equality and ordination, and those who do not.

I believe that there is a way forward that preserves a maximum of unity and diversity, with integrity. I think that the Church will always be reforming its understandings of how God wants us to be - but I believe it can be done in such a way as to comprehend both a faithful respect for what has been received, and a faithful openness to "new wine." As I understand Paul, what is required of Corinthians as well as Episcopalians is that we die to self, pick up the cross, and follow the Son of God. In my view, the community which does this, will also be able to maintain a glorious degree of both differentiation and unity within itself. Even when faced with questions which are very difficult to come to an accord about.

The way through the dilemma of Us vs. Them, and We're Right and They're Wrong is to remember the mark on our heads. For we who have been marked as Christ's own forever, are not permitted to ask any more, "How do I get what I want?' We instead get to ask, "How do We obey our Lord?" We instead get to ask, "How do we discern together what God wants, and how do we get there?"

Frankly, I'm afraid Episopalians simply do not remember that we are called to be a people submitted to each other as to Christ. I believe we very often identify ourselves in individualistic, then congregational, then diocesan terms, then General Convention terms; and then very little in terms of the wider Communion, let alone our ecumenical and interfaith partners.

As we approach General Convention, I simply pray that we be mindful of our primary identity as a people of God in Christ, called to submit to another as to Christ. I don't know what the way forward will look like - vis a vis the inclusion of glbt persons in matters of marriage equality or holy orders - or vis a vis the Anglican Communion and beyond. I would take great joy, however, if we could indeed find that forward route while maintaining the maximum degree of unity in the love of Christ. It would be so refreshing to pull off what so many are calling impossible. It would be so exciting to manage to get through this with the bonds of affection not only unbroken, but strengthened.

There, I said it.

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

The sacred calling

A sermon preached at the annual convention of the Diocese of Washington

By Trevor Mwamba

Dear friends, I would like to convey on behalf of the Diocese of Botswana, our heartfelt greetings and God’s blessings on you all in the Diocese of Washington. We especially join you in praying for the success of this Diocesan Convention.

Botswana is in the southern part of Africa and is renowned for its working democracy and economic prosperity. But I think that for many of you Botswana is famous for Mma Ramotswe, the heroine of the bestselling series of books: The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith.

Mma Ramotswe, you will be delighted to hear is a very devout Episcopalian! In the book, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, in which I appear, Mma Ramotswe comes to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana when I am preaching. But, Mma Ramotswe is not concentrating on the sermon as her mind is wandering on how to solve a case involving a pumpkin. She stops herself and thinks, “This is not the way to listen to Trevor Mwamba!”

Well, being in the “Company of Cheerful Episcopalians”, I hope your minds will be clear of pumpkins!

Tonight I have much to be grateful for.

There is a lovely story set in the African forest which reflects gratitude, well. A missionary came across a big lion. Trembling with fear the missionary got on his knees and prayed fervently for dear life. Opening one eye he noticed that the big lion had also gotten on its knees and paws together was also fervently praying. The missionary truly heartened by this sight opened the other eye and said, “I see my brother we are of the same faith.” The lion replied, “I don’t know about you but I am just saying grace!” For what I am about to receive, O’ Lord, I am truly thankful.

Tonight, I am grateful to God for the honour of preaching in what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 40 years ago described as, “this very great and significant pulpit.” For making it happen I express my deep personal thanks to my dear friend Bishop John Chane for his gracious invitation to me to preach at this Diocesan Convention.

Bishop John is a man of integrity and highly respected in the Anglican Communion. Indeed, my respect for him increased by a hundred percentage points two years ago in El Scoria, Spain, when over dinner he told me he had been a drummer in a rock and roll band. I am also grateful to Dean Sam Lloyd and the Cathedral Chapter for the opportunity of worshipping with you all in this great Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. I stumbled across an interesting fact about the National Cathedral in an episode of The West Wing, entitled “Two Cathedrals”. It is that you can lay the Washington Monument on its side in this Cathedral. Just imagine. Another point worth saying is that, Aaron Sorkin, who was the writer and executive producer of The West Wing, described this Cathedral as the “Yankee Stadium of all Cathedrals.”

Now, in this holy place, the “Yankee Stadium of all Cathedrals,” we gather to begin the Diocesan Convention by celebrating the Holy Eucharist which is the ultimate Act of Thanksgiving. The word Eucharist is derived from the Greek, Eucharistos’ which means to give thanks. In the Eucharist we give thanks for God’s saving grace profoundly revealed in the gift of Christ. In the Eucharist we give thanks for our calling to share in God’s mission of healing and reconciliation in the world.

It’s in the spirit of thanksgiving that we become aware and humble to see that everything in life is a gift from God. We cannot take anything for granted, people, friends, family, places, happenings, this moment.

Tonight, in the Eucharist we especially give thanks for this Diocesan Convention. In the context of the Eucharist may I impress on you the theme of this Diocesan Convention: That we may be one: Making Disciples.

To summarise the theme for those of you who might doze off! Here it is in two sentences. That we may be one is intrinsic in God in whom we exist. It is to know God and reveal Him to others in a living relationship that we are called.

Let me unpack this for you in two stages by first focusing on the first leg of the theme: that we may be one. We tumble over our oneness because we don’t take God seriously and each other. Six years ago, Bishops declared war on each other over the homosexuality issue. It was breaking news for the media who simplistically, to sell papers, created two bitter opponents, the conservatives compromised of African bishops in one corner and weighing quite a lot! And liberals comprised of Western bishops in the other and weighing the same as the Africans. The war was nasty. Totally dismayed, three years ago, I wrote an article in the Church Times published in London, entitled, "Consider the Communion’s Calling," which was
a plea for mutual tolerance among Anglicans worldwide. We are all children of God and need to be reminded of the generosity of God, humility, respect, and love for one another.

It was gentle reminder of the gift of oneness we share whether we like it or not, and how: we must all learn to live together. I quoted the wise words of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, who in 1981 in a foreword to a book entitled, Grow or Die, wrote

“…no single form of Christian experience, conviction or organisation is going to prevail over others. Conservative and radical, contemplative and activist, pietist and social reformer, all must learn to live together. They may and should see much to criticize in their own and others’ position. The critical faculty must not be lost. Reverence for truth must still be paramount. But all must learn to live together, for in religion, as in all else, the same things do not appeal to everybody.”

Mahatma Gandhi suggested that one of the greatest challenges of our day is finding unity amongst diversity. Unity implies oneness. But oneness does not necessarily imply sameness. In other words, we may all be different, unique individuals but through unity of purpose we can team together to accomplish great things – things of love where the whole is greater than the sums of its parts.

This is the heartbeat of the Eucharist: the mercy and extravagant generosity of God is greater than the sums of its parts. God is the whole and the parts, you and I, find a place at the table of love. All are welcome: black and white, male and female, poor and rich, straight and gay, clever and dumb, Peter Akinola and Gene Robinson. No one is left out.

Each of us is a reflection of God who calls us into existence. We are all hewed from the same Rock of Ages. Or to paraphrase John Donne’s insightful words: “No person is an island entire of itself. Every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

John O’Donohue picks the thread up in his magical book, Eternal Echoes, when he talks of God as the “Divine Artist” who is born in each of us revealing a different dimension of His divinity. It is not all the same. God has no spare wheels in life. We all have a special role in the world to which we are called. Each of us has our own work, gifts, difficulties and commitments to deal with. God expects us then to live out our unique gifts in order to bring forth an aspect of God that is only contained in our life. If you don’t live out your talent then that aspect of God cannot be known in you. And you cannot awaken new blessings in your life and the world. You will be poorer and the world too.

Amazingly, last summer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams, in his Retreat addresses to the bishops at the Lambeth Conference, touched on this. Quoting Galatians 1:16, where Paul speaks of God “…who set me apart from birth, called me by his grace, and was pleased to reveal his Son in me.” The Archbishop reminded us that, “Everything starts here because every calling… every vocation in the Church of God… is a calling to be a place where God’s Son is revealed. And that is because there is more to be revealed of the Son of God than any one life, or any one book, or any one church can reveal… Each one of us is a place in which the Son of God is revealed.”

That we may be one points us to be a place where Christ is revealed. How is Christ revealed? I discovered this snuggled in a cute book entitled Mister God this is Anna. The book is about an extraordinary child and her relationship with God, whom she called Mister God.

With that perceptive gift that children have of getting at the heart of things, she describes God this way, “Peple in Cherch are misrable because peple sin misrable songs and say misrable prers and people make Mister God a very big bully and he is not a big bully, because he is funny and loving and kind and strong.”

That is a good picture. Our oneness is that we become the place where people can see in us someone who is not a bully, because we are funny and loving and kind and strong. Like God. We don’t take ourselves seriously because we focus on the negative picture of the mess that we are.

How are we a messed up? Let me quote Mother Mary Clare of the Sisters of the Love of God, in Judy Hirst’s book, Struggling to be Holy. Mother Mary Clare says, “When you go before God in prayer you cannot leave anything behind. You carry in your heart every person, every incident, every thought, every feeling you have ever had and as you lay yourself before God so you bring all the mess as well. My prayer,” she said, “is really one sentence: Here I am what a mess”.

The Eucharist deals with mess and transforms it. The symbols of bread and wine are transformed elements having passed through a messy process. The bread is made from grains of wheat, sifted, ground, baked, to finally produce one bread. Likewise lots of grapes are pressed together in one vessel, and wine made. These are then consecrated and become places where the Son of God is revealed.

Imagine each grain of wheat as a life of person. Imagine each grape as a life of person. Imagine the sifting, grounding, baking, pressing, as the experiences and adversities we pass through in life. This messes up people. But in the Eucharist we drag our messed up lives and lay ourselves before God and we are transformed. Here we are what a mess. Here is the Anglican Communion what a mess. Here is our world what a mess. But God who is not a big bully, but funny and loving and kind and strong in His infinite mercy and generosity welcomes us and in our mess we are transformed in Christ. We are made new.

Ask not how? “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, My ways,” says the Lord.

That’s true. It is also true that as St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians says: that if a person be in Christ, they are a “new creature” old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

In the Eucharist we are spiritually joined, first to Christ, and then with each other. Though we are many we are one body for we all partake of the one bread. In our oneness we proclaim together one faith, one baptism, one Holy Spirit, and bond of love. The first leg of oneness reveals then our identity in God. God is one and we must express the oneness we hold in common by being the place where we reveal God by living out love.

This brings us to the last leg of our theme: making disciples. The Eucharist is holistic it concludes with us being sent out into the world in the power of the Holy Spirit to live and work to the praise and glory of God. It send’s us out to deal with the mess of the world. God is at work in the political, economic, social, scientific, technological, and cultural world out there. We need to recognise this. The God of righteousness, peace and Justice does not doze off after the blessing. The Spirit of the Lord is always at work engaging the world and bringing about change to make it a better place for all.

In 1960, during his tour of British colonies in Africa the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan gave an historic speech in South Africa which became famously known as the, Wind of Change, speech. He said in effect, “The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact…”

Three year years earlier, in 1957 Ghana had become the first African British colony to gain independence led by a charismatic leader named Kwame Khrumah, like President Obama, he was 47 years old. It marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Lots of foreign Statesmen attended the Independence celebrations.

The most enthusiastic guest was Richard Nixon, then the United States Vice President. From the moment he touched down in Accra, Ghana, he rushed about shaking hands, hugging paramount Chiefs, playing with black babies and posing for photographs. Once surrounded by a crowd of Ghanaians at an official ceremony, he slapped one man on the shoulder and asked him how it felt to be free. “I wouldn’t know, sir,” replied the man, “I’m from Alabama!”

God was at work in Africa and the world. The wind of change was blowing.

In America, God was also at work in the civil rights movement as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated in his I’ve been to Mountaintop, speech. “…I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world.”

Yes. God was at work. The wind of change was blowing.

And God continues to work in America with the recent historic inauguration of President Barack Obama, as the first black President of America. In this changing and uncertain times faced with the global financial crisis and it’s still unfolding negative impact. In the face of global poverty, climate change, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and all that robs people of their human dignity. God is at work. The wind of change is blowing.

Tonight, the Diocese of Washington, in oneness with God, is called to be that wind of change blowing through America that makes life better for all. Whether we like it or not, God’s purposes come to pass. It is as we address the suffering of God’s children wherever they may be that we realize our oneness with each other and become the place where God is revealed and disciples made.

The Rt. Rev. Trevor Musonda Mwamba is Bishop of Botswana

A new province? Not likely

By Phillip C. Cato

Much of the discussion, some of it quite impassioned, about the prospects of a new Province of the Anglican Communion being established in North America misses the mark.

In the Boy Scouts you are taught, when attempting to see an object in the dark, to look to the side of the area where you believe the object to be and the object will become more visible. There is, I believe, a wider applicability here.

Blogs, newspaper, and periodical articles have focused attention on the legality of parishes, dioceses, clergy, and bishops breaking away from the Episcopal Church, or on their announcing that they are putting themselves under another bishop’s or province’s jurisdiction. Not much is made of laity doing this because the laity has always been able to move around with impunity.

Objections have frequently been raised that the clergy who are departing are in violation of canon law and the promises that they made at their ordination. Parishes and dioceses are said to be in violation of their legal ties to the larger entities to which they belong, and which, in many cases, established them.

A lot of the discourse revolves around the issue of who owns the church property, and, for the moment, the property goes with the majority in this dispute. Dioceses are aggrieved, and have filed lawsuits, very expensive lawsuits, to retain what they claim to be their property.

All the talk about separation and schism creates anxiety among clergy and the laity and some bishops feel obligated to find ways to reassure them, claiming that the likelihood of these breakaways receiving permission to establish their own province is very unlikely. The bishops and other commentators even count potential votes among provincial leaders, betraying their own anxiety in this matter.

Much of this fretting is, in my view, the consequence of excessive concentration on the details of this de facto schism and its potential spread. The inability to see the real issue results from looking straight at it in the dark.

Look to the side. When you do, it will become apparent that there is no need to stampede or die of fright.

Long ago, I learned that in a strident controversy, it is instructive to grant the adversary their point in its entirety, and then step back and look at it as calmly as possible. Those who take strong and unbending positions are, more often than not, not all that sure of their claims. Else, why all the energy being put into the defense? The next step is to ask the question, “If they get their way entirely, what would the world (or my world) look like?” If necessary, the next question is, “Can I live in this world?” [There are more steps but they are irrelevant in this case, as will become clear.]

In this instance, I have concluded that the last question is not necessary. We will not have to live in that world, not because someone, like the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Consultative Council, will not allow it to happen. We will not have to live in it because the proposed province is completely untenable.

A philosopher might say that it will collapse because of its internal contradictions; the truth is more mundane and banal.

In this province, as proposed, we find strident Evangelicals, Charismatics, Anglo-Catholics, those who allow for the ordination of women to the priesthood and those who regard this as a metaphysical and theological and Biblical impossibility, those who were ordained and consecrated in the canonical ways of national churches in the Anglican Communion and those who have received express consecration in total disregard of any canons, those who are conflicted over the theological issue of Baptismal regeneration, those who have flirted with Rome and those who are of a radical Protestant bent, and a notorious collection of massive egos, unlikely to concede much in the way of theological, ecclesiastical, or Biblical views. All have shown complete disregard for their ordination vows and canonical obligations, and lay claim to property they do not own.

In your most generous imagination, can you conceive of such a coalition surviving? I cannot.

Looking to the side, and seeing the object in the dark, I feel quite reassured.

The Rev. Phillip C. Cato is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington. His current work is in bioethics, for the National Institutes of Health, and professional ethics.

Further thoughts on the proposed Anglican province

By George Clifford

This is simply a reminder that what we are called to is not our stuff. This is a cleansing by fire. - Brother Joseph Brown, one of seven Benedictine Anglican monks who lived at Mount Calvary Monastery in Montecito, which was destroyed by fires that swept through southern California (New York Times, November 19)

I wonder how many Christians really understand Brother Joseph’s remark?

My recent essay at the Episcopal Café, “An Alternative Province? Why Not?” sparked a surprisingly large and disappointing response, leaving me pessimistic about the number who understood Brother Joseph’s comment. The response to my essay was surprising in that a couple of conservative websites republished the post suggesting their approval. I had not expected conservatives to find my perspective agreeable. Let me be clear. Those leaving the Episcopal Church (like those remaining) are equally wrong to pursue property issues in the courts. Indeed, departing dissidents should honor the branch of Christendom that heretofore has nurtured them in the faith and depart by respecting a polity that assigns moral (and arguably legal) ownership of property and other assets to the national church through its dioceses. Individuals are free to depart; Church canons provide no mechanism for a parish or diocese to depart, as these are integral elements of the national body. Attempting to secede violates the trust that binds us together as God's family.

Those departing need to remember that even as their views about gender determining eligibility for ordination or the morality of same sex relationships do not put them outside the pale of the body of Christ, the converse is also true: those with whom they disagree remain part of the body of Christ. None of those issues, no matter how passionate or strong one’s views are, is a litmus test or definition of Christian identity.

Funds given to the Church are just that, given. That is, monies once donated become the Church’s property. Who contributed the money or other assets is irrelevant in Anglican polity. Once received, the resources belong to the Church for use in God's work, a truth symbolized in terming donations received in worship “offerings” and the priest blessing them.

Frittering away precious resources in a physically and spiritually starving world is equally scandalous, whether the Church or dissidents pay the legal bills. My local newspaper’s front page this morning featured two stories that nearly brought me to tears: one on a teenaged Eagle Scout allegedly murdered by four friends and another on the Zimbabwean cholera outbreak. Court battles over who owns what Church property provides no hope in either situation. Nor will court battles, regardless of who prevails, change anyone’s views about the issues that divide us. Courts and lawyers are important instruments of social justice; however, the scriptures exhort Christians to resolve their disputes without litigation.

The Presiding Bishop has helpfully observed that departures number only about one hundred thousand in a Church of twenty-three hundred thousand. Those leaving are a small percentage of the whole Church and their exit in no way threatens the Episcopal Church’s existence or vitality. Furthermore, the Archbishop of Canterbury has emphatically clarified that those who have left, should they wish to become an Anglican province, must comply with all established procedures for achieving that status, a process requiring years. In sum, the remarks of the Most Reverends Jefferts Schori and Williams suggest that the Episcopal Church should focus on its ministry and mission rather than devoting substantial and unwarranted time and energy to the sad but inevitable departure of the unhappy and bigoted few.

Normally, an author feels gratified when his or her writing attracts considerable attention. Yet the obvious depth of attachment, both among those departing and those remaining in the Episcopal Church, to property and other assets disappointed me. Material resources are important. However, my experience and observation is that human commitment and vision, not lack of material resources, are the real limits on Church ministry and mission. People, within and without the Church, respond enthusiastically and generously when afforded meaningful opportunities to engage in life-giving ministry and mission.

The relative handful of those leaving with their mutually incompatible theologies, to their dismay, has not caused the Episcopal Church’s numerical decline over the last fifty years. Part of the real explanation for that decline is that a Church caricatured as the party of the wealthy and powerful at prayer should expect inner conflict and pain when it strives to incarnate more fully God's inclusive love that transcends wealth, race, gender orientation, ethnicity, etc. Part of the explanation is also that we Episcopalians have focused on internal issues and institutional maintenance (conventions trying to legislate theology and ethics; attempting to preserve an aging, poorly located physical plant; perpetuating once useful activities that no longer serve today’s needs; etc.) rather than ministry and mission.

Perhaps, God has a badly needed message for us in the sad departure of our more narrow-minded brothers and sisters, a poignant reminder to prioritize ministry and mission ahead of institutional maintenance. Like the monks of Mount St. Calvary whose hospitality and ministry I have enjoyed and cherished, all parties in the current controversies can benefit from a painful and costly lesson in keeping one’s priorities correctly ordered. The monks will continue to serve, moving in the direction they sense God leading. The Episcopal Church should do the same, declaring the truth about property ownership but prepared to exercise costly grace in our actions rather than to compromise our priorities. Now is the time, the season, for us in the Episcopal Church to respond to God's vision for us, God's calling, to incarnate Christ's inclusive, life-giving love for all, at home and abroad. To do otherwise has intangible costs that far exceed the dollar value of any disputed assets.

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

With respect

By Marshall Scott

There are some places that I don't wear my hat.

I wear a large, broad-brimmed black hat. I've done so for years. (I'm actually on my second.) When I originally made that choice, my own images were of Jesuit missionaries and Methodist circuit riders.

Of course, other people have other images. I also have a full beard and wear, as the weather requires, a long black coat. As a result, I've had other images suggested. Most commonly I'm told either that I look like a rabbi, or Amish, Mennonite, or otherwise Anabaptist.

And so, there are some places I don't wear my hat. Neither Jesuits nor Methodists are notable these days for their head gear; but Orthodox rabbis and Anabaptists are. And since each group has a lifestyle marked by a distinct discipline and piety (neither of which I follow), out of respect there are some places I don't wear my hat.

It's the resemblance to an Orthodox rabbi that can raise the most—well, perhaps not concern, but confusion. Years ago I worked in a hospital that had a health facility on site. I would go in early to work out before starting work. One winter morning I had finished working out, and was starting to get dressed. I pulled out the hat and the coat, and then reached for my work clothes. As I buttoned my black shirt and attached my white collar, a man down a few lockers down said loudly, “Now, wait a minute.”

I looked at him and said, "Yes?"

He said, "I grew up an Orthodox Jew in an Italian neighborhood, and you’ve just messed up all my images of religious professionals." We talked, and realized he was a former patient. We laughed about images, and not recognizing each other "out of place," and how the white clerical collar was a shock set against the background of a black hat and full beard.

Perhaps I'm overly concerned. I imagine many folks in any of the various traditions I have seemed to resemble, however unintentionally, would appreciate the sentiment, but not think my concern warranted. Still, it's important to me to be respectful, and to be clear, at least where I might be confusing, about who I am and who I’m not.

There is a new church body coming in North America. Those who are part of it will call it and themselves "Anglican." Many of those involved will have left the Episcopal Church, although many others will not have. Many will retain a certain anger about the Episcopal Church, although some will "get past it." The situation is not really new; there have been "continuing Anglican" bodies for decades; and that's without considering the Reformed Episcopal Church, whose tenure and reason for separating from the Episcopal Church place them in a somewhat different category. However, new unity and new size will bring them, at least for a while, new visibility. They will be part of the American church landscape for the foreseeable future.

I think that means we have to work out how we will be respectful. That may not be our first inclination. Some harsh things have been said. Some issues will have to be settled by due process that will feel to both sides like durance vile. Some folks on both sides will come to cherish their senses of righteous indignation and justification.

I think those things are painful, but still secondary. We need to determine how, once this is over, we will be respectful of folks with whom we differ, whether or not they are respectful of us. We remind ourselves frequently that we are called to respect the dignity of every human being, even—especially—those with whom we disagree, those who have condemned us. These circumstances may not be as clear (nor as painful) as the right cross of a Roman soldier, but they are our opportunity in our time to turn the other cheek.

Of course, in this case it's not as simple as choosing to wear or not wear a hat. Part of our regret in all of this is that we share so much in common with many of those who want this new Anglican entity. Critically, we differ on what is essential in the Anglican tradition; but we share that tradition nonetheless. That means that in so many things, from the colors of the church year to the colors of the priests’ shirts, to the very words we pray, we will look so very much alike.

That makes it all the more important for us to clarify who we are and how we will choose to live out the Christian faith and the Anglican tradition in the world. We need to resist the temptation, satisfying as it might seem at the time, to spend our energy reflecting on how they understand the Anglican tradition. We need simply and solely to proclaim how we understand the Anglican tradition, and how our tradition calls us to demonstrate the love of Christ in the world, both before the altar and beyond our walls.

If we are clear enough about what it means for us to be the Episcopal Church and to live out the Anglican tradition as we have received it, we won’t need to do anything else. Specifically, we won't need to be disrespectful of those whose understanding of the Anglican tradition is radically different. The differences will be clear—differences of mission and ministry, of tenor and teaching. Some will note the differences, and we might well respond, but without the need to be rude.

That won't always be smooth. My hospital is in the same area as one of the first congregations to leave an Episcopal diocese for an African bishop. Now and again I look in on a person whose record says, "Episcopalian," but who is part of the departed congregation. When I ask about congregation, the person will tell me, and then say, "Oh, I guess I'm not an Episcopalian anymore." I will respond that, for my purpose and for the hospital setting, the church political issues aren't important; but the tone always changes. I do my best to be welcoming, but the person seems awkward, perhaps fearing my disapproval. Frankly, so few of my patients are actively worshipping anywhere, I"m not about to let differences between Christians alter my appreciation of those who do.

And so I’m acutely aware that, in these times of change, we need to figure out how we will be respectful. Some things we may need to "take off" and some things to "put on," so as to be clear about who we are in the midst of their proclamations of who they are. They may be respectful, and they may not; and for some things it may be years before we can once again talk. In either case, we need to respect their dignity, as individuals and as institutions. It is the Episcopal thing to do, because it is the Christian thing to do.

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

An "alternative" province? Why not?

By George Clifford

Until two weeks ago, I strongly advocated the Anglican Communion refusing to establish a new province in North America and mandating that provinces cease violating provincial boundaries by conducting ministries or establishing congregations within the Episcopal Church’s jurisdiction.

Then I read that the Episcopal Church had spent in excess of $1.9 million in 2008 on lawsuits connected to the departure of parishes and dioceses from this Church. Daily I read about critical needs for healthcare, food, sanitation, and shelter in the United States and abroad. I see the spiritual illness and death that afflict so many. I remember that Anglicans have wisely never claimed to be the only branch of the Christian Church.

I started to wonder, Was I wrong? Why not another North American province?

Geographic boundaries, I realized, are not as sacrosanct as we who value tradition might wish they were. Within the Anglican Communion, geography has historically defined provinces and dioceses. The same is true of Anglican parishes in England, although not in most other provinces. Yet nowhere in Scripture can one find a God-given plan for the organization of parishes, dioceses, and provinces. Indeed, the whole concept of provinces seems extra-biblical. The geographic model for parishes and dioceses emerged naturally because of physical proximity, administrative practicality, and political identity.

Modern transport has invalidated the first of those three reasons why the Church adopted geographic boundaries to define parishes, dioceses, and provinces, i.e., so people could conveniently participate. The disestablishment of the Church, which characterizes most of the Anglican Communion, voided the second reason for geographic boundaries. The internet and development of online communities are diminishing the importance of political boundaries for defining ecclesial identity. All of these changes bring the Church closer to becoming more fully a seamless community of God's people.

The reality, as much as I or anyone else may not like it, is that geographical boundaries are no longer functionally definitive of Episcopalian identity. Four dioceses have already voted to disassociate themselves from the Episcopal Church and to associate with another Province. At least several dozen parishes have done the same. Numerous individuals have more quietly departed, often for a congregation that advertises itself as “Anglican.” In other words, the geographic model is irretrievably broken in the United States. Those who have left believe the divisions that were the catalyst for their move are too deep, too significant to permit dissidents to continue their Christian journeys within the Episcopal Church. One can no more coerce ecclesial unity than marital unity. Even as the Episcopal Church rightly recognizes its understanding of the Bible, theology, and ethics must change with the continuing unfolding of knowledge and moving of the Spirit, so should the Church be open to revising its thinking about ecclesial structures and polity.

A non-geographic model actually offers some advantages. In England, many communicants ignore parish boundaries to attend a parish that has the style of churchmanship or offers the programs the communicant desires. Latin American dioceses, for various reasons, have chosen to affiliate with the Episcopal Church. In the United States, parishes openly “compete” with one another, and with congregations of other Christian Churches, to attract communicants. This competition promotes quality programming, can better ministers to individual needs, and partially explains why Christianity flourishes more strongly in the U.S. than in England. Admittedly, like most things, ecclesial competition can have negative dimensions including promotion of ecclesial consumerism and clerical careerism at the expense of fidelity to the gospel.

Acknowledging the reality of multiple Anglican bodies within the geographic boundaries of the Episcopal Church would introduce refreshing notes of honesty and grace into the present turbulent controversy. This step might preserve Anglican unity by abandoning the dishonest hubris of insisting that the Episcopal Church is the only Anglican presence in the United States. Recognition of another Anglican province could provide an option for individuals, parishes, and dioceses to transfer, even as clergy now transfer from one province to another. A minority who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church but are part of a parish that wishes to transfer could establish a new parish or affiliate with an existing parish. Similarly, those in a diocese who wish who remain in the Episcopal Church after the diocese voted to realign could affiliate with an adjoining diocese that extends its borders or reconstitute the disassociated diocese.

My prognostication is that regardless of what the Episcopal Church may think or do, formal recognition by the Anglican Communion of a new province, perhaps co-terminus with the Episcopal Church or also including Canada, is inevitable. Alternatively, if that does not happen, then the Anglican Communion will persist in a state of denial, formally fracture, or authorize provinces to engage in extra-provincial ministries in the United States and perhaps elsewhere. Any new (or adapted) structure will launch with a brief surge, quickly plateau, and then linger, slowly losing relevance and impact. Those who wish to disengage from the Episcopal Church are wrong: gender does not determine suitability for ordination; gender orientation does not determine eligibility for receiving God's blessing of a faithful, monogamous relationship; etc. Truth, not error, will prevail.

Who – other than Anglicans (and only a minority of us) – cares about the structure of the Anglican Communion? Who else cares if the Episcopal Church is the sole Anglican body in the United States or if other provinces also function in the States? I honestly cannot think of any non-Anglicans who might care. Consequently, I recognized that my fighting about Anglican jurisdictional boundaries is a red herring that distracts me (and the larger Church) from the much more difficult task of the Church’s real mission, i.e., engaging in creative, life-transforming ministry. For the most part, whether a Christian belongs to the Episcopal Church, a different Anglican province, or another Church is relatively unimportant when millions are dying of physical needs and spiritual hunger. We must again move forward and cease waging an already-decided, rear-guard action.

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

Taking over the Church of England

By Adrian Worsfold

How does your GAFCON grow? We know that in North America it is via the New Province of North America in GAFCON. It is through separation and intended competition with the existing provinces, and some Evangelicals might try to use the possible Covenant to legitimize it and delegitimize The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

In England GAFCON grows via Evangelical organizations. Its strategy mimics that of what we know here as entryism. Back in the 1980s the Labour Party faced years of opposition. Its failures in government were laid at the door of its right wing by many of a socialist tendency. But the socialists themselves were failures, failure to take policy into the Labour Party when it was in power.

When Labour lost power in 1979 the socialists took their chance against the leadership, and the manifesto moved to the left; the result was a breakaway Social Democratic Party that later was to merge with the Liberals, a left-progressive but individualist party.

Some at the Marxist end of Labour wanted to go further, especially after Labour lost in 1983 with a manifesto that some called "the longest suicide note in history" - though Thatcher was parading around after winning the Falklands War. This Marxist end was known as Militant, which kept control of its own agenda, and infiltrated constituencies and impacted on policy organizations. It welcomed fellow travelers of other socialists; it hit back at the same who criticized its separate organizing. Militant took power in Liverpool, built lots of social housing, wrecked the budget and was removed from power by combinations of the government, law and the electorate.

Those who saw Labour as electable only if it reoccupied the centre ground again were forced to wrestle the party back from the socialists and Militant. They elected a moderate left leader (and right wing deputy leader). He somersaulted and stood on his head - regarding the ditching of his own past policies, and became unelectable himself, but his main effort was to remove Militant and move the party rightward. His replacement died, and then came Tony Blair, who moved the party well to the right of the SDP that had merged into the Liberals. It has taken the economic collapse to move it significantly and reluctantly leftward again.

There is a sort of equivalent battle for the life and soul of the Church of England now. One could say that the Church of England is a failed institution, attracting below 5% at best of the population into the pews on a regular basis. Other denominations barely double the figure. The last Archbishop that could speak for and to the nation would be William Temple just after the Second World War. Every one since has been something of a flop. Perhaps the worst was the Evangelical George Carey, said to be "Margaret Thatcher's revenge" after the Church prayed for both sides and not the victorious British after the Falkland's War.

Carey's Decade of Evangelism was a flop, and so the equivalent of Militant in the Church of England has been organizing. A tiny group of Conservative Evangelicals found their colleagues in the United States and saw a situation to exploit there, where the Episcopal Church has a stronger identity of inclusion. Conservative Evangelism also found ballast in some African provinces. It has used this to create a kind of international confessing Anglicanism that gives the grouping far more influence than it could have if reliant upon home numbers and theological argument. Members have organized themselves like another Militant Tendency in producing this GAFCON movement to oversee Conservative Evangelical developments. They have been helped by the stupidity of the present Anglican leadership in seeking to centralize the whole communion and shift coordinating power upwards as a way of containing differences; Rowan Williams, far from being the liberal the Militants feared, has shown his Catholic Church centralizing tendencies, and given internationalism a legitimacy that the dispersed Anglican Communion never had. This is why the Covenant should not be allowed to be born.

Why is GAFCON like Militant? Because a core group maintains control as a reaction to the failure of other Evangelicals to get their way in the wider Western Churches. It then infiltrates to force its agenda. Even at the Conference itself, that jumble of oddities called the Jerusalem Declaration was born in a back room - it was leaked even before the assembled could give it the rubber stamp. GAFCON itself was planned by annoying the local Anglicans in Jerusalem because of their opposition to its divisiveness.

In Britain came the entryism into one of the theological colleges and the scattering of much of its evangelical staff, replaced by hardliners and the agreeable. The same man, Chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has chaired the recent National Evangelical Anglican Consultation, in which, without notice, and without a right to amend, a pro-GAFCON motion was put to the meeting. The assembled would not have it, and refused to give it a vote. The result is that the CEEC will vote for it anyway on the spurious basis that it represents Evangelicals. Perhaps the CEEC once did, but as ever the hardliners continued to attend when others dropped away - it is how the entryists work.

Since then there had been blood on the floor. The Evangelicals are divided as never before. Yet perhaps they have been too charitable to those who seem to be of the same stock, and now see this.

It suits Militant types to have chaos. So longer as there is chaos, and division without, they have the control of the actual working agenda and can force it through as the only working show in town.

Like Militant these are entryists. Why? Here are the words of one of them at the NEAC 5:

"We will keep formal administrative links with the formal Church of England, but our real identity is with Global Anglicanism as defined by the Jerusalem statement and declaration. GAFCON is our connection to the Global Anglican Communion."

In other words, like the separatists of North America, these people will use the property, parishes, institutions as they can exploit them, whilst running the show for themselves. They will never let in those who are unreliable. These include other Evangelicals.

Since the NEAC the same speaker has questioned the legitimacy of one of the Evangelical groupings, but well before this the same Chair of the meeting had identified Liberal Evangelicals as stooges of Liberals proper.

It is imperative, for the good of the dispersed Anglican Communion, that the new Province of GAFCON - and it will be only the first - is not recognized as part of the Anglican Communion. The Militants want that as a wedge into the system. Some more foolish of the Open Evangelicals, desperate for a Covenant to work (there'll be egg on their faces over its failure), would 'bring in' the new Province via the Covenant. GAFCON would in turn use this, even though it regards the Covenant as useless (not confessing and toothless). It is rumored that the present Archbishop of Canterbury invited Bishop Robert Duncan to make an application for Communion membership, and he has said there can be few criticisms of the Jerusalem Declaration doctrinally (but he criticized a different centre of authority). This Archbishop also wrote the disgraceful Advent Letter of 2007 that endorsed Conservative Evangelical biblical interpretation as a means of Anglican Church by Church recognition.

In other words, Lambeth Palace hasn't 'got it' - it cannot see entryism if it came with marching bands and large banners. Well let's not be surprised about this: the present incumbent occupies another failure at the centre.

Labour recovered itself, and its internal peace, not by Militant taking it over part by part, but by ejecting it and excluding it. This is what is needed: let the separatists be really separate, to live on its own resources and not parasitically, and root it out. It might not sound Evangelical, it might not even sound very Christian, but it might be necessary all the same.

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

Real Americans. Real Christians.

By Peter Carey

In recent days, we’ve heard a great deal about what a “real American” might be, and what a “real American isn’t.” There has been rhetoric from Governor Palin when she has spoken in certain towns that they are “real Americans,” with the accusation that those people who come from urban areas, or who are from the Northeast, may not be “real Americans.” Questions arise about the status of those who don’t pass the test of being a “real American.” Do these people surrender the rights and privileges, and responsibilities of the “real Americans”? Lots to ponder in this election season.

This notion of “real Americans,” reminds me of some of the discussions that we’ve been having in the church. What does it mean to be a “real Christian”? In the Anglican Communion, work is moving along to create a Covenant which will spell out the requirements for being a part of the Anglican Communion. There is an apparent implication that those who are able to “sign on” to the Covenant will be “real Christians.” I suppose those who are unable to sign on to the Covenant will be some other kind of Christian…unreal Christians? I still have some grave concerns about whether this Anglican Covenant will be a good thing on various levels. Along with many others, I am waiting to see how this Covenant comes into being. There are people I respect who fall on both sides of the argument about the efficacy of the Covenant, so I am praying about it.

I wish that we in the Episcopal Church were just a bit bolder about what it is that we do believe; that we could put out our message with more fervor and enthusiasm. For example, I believe that we have allowed those who are outside our church to define us, usually negatively. What if we spoke with more clarity about our dedication to our baptismal covenant, and about our belief in the creeds? I was recently listening to a bishop who was at the Lambeth Conference who said that there were bishops from the Global South who were surprised to hear that Episcopalians actually believe in the resurrection. This came as quite a shock, but it does illuminate the confused messages that we allow to dominate the airwaves about our church.

The discussion about whether the Episcopal Church is orthodox enough gets into the labeling of whether we are “real Christians” or not. What is a real Christian? To those who wonder, I say yes, we do believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Don’t we believe in the sacrament of baptism, in which we die to sin and are raised in Christ? Don’t we believe that through this sacrament we have been received “into the household of God” and that we are called to “confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood”? (BCP, 308). Not only are we “real Christians” but we may have a unique calling within the body of Christ in this post-modern world. Time will tell.

I am reminded of one of my heroes, William Sloane Coffin, Jr. who considered himself to be a “real American” even, and especially, when he protested injustice in our great country. He considered himself to be a “real Christian,” even when he spoke truth to church bodies that were slow to respond to the injustices of war, racial segregation, and nuclear proliferation. Coffin often said that we need to have a “lover’s quarrel with our country.” In his view, we need to love our country enough to have an engaged quarrel with the forces that would blindly accept the status quo. For Coffin, having a quarrel with one’s country, or one’s fellow citizens, was not a sign of being an “unreal American.” To truly love one’s country there will be times that disagreements will arise, and quarrels can help us to address our corporate blindness and oppressive tendencies.

And then there is the “lover’s quarrel” that is going on in our church. I continue to hope that our diatribes might turn to dialogue, and that our hostile behavior might turn to hospitality. I realize that we can fall into the trap of dehumanizing the other side, and claim that our way is the way of “real Christians.” I also realize that, for too long, those of us who are dedicated to the Episcopal Church (not without quarrels, however!) might need to gird our loins and speak with more boldness about our Faith, and about our practice, and refuse to let others define us. As someone said recently, the notion of “they will know we are Christians by our love,” may not be enough in our present context of 24/7 media saturation. A wise woman once told me that as a preacher I should “always be willing to give an account of the hope that is within me.” Are we, as the Episcopal Church giving that account boldly enough, and with enough gusto?

Doesn’t Jesus call us to do such a thing?

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20, NRSV)

The Rev. Peter M. Carey is the school chaplain at St. Catherine's School for girls in Richmond, Virginia and is also on the clergy staff at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Richmond. He blogs at Santos Woodcarving Popsicles.

The finest "instrument" of Anglican communion

By Sam G. Candler

The phrase “instruments of communion” has become standard in serious descriptions of the Anglican Communion of Christian churches.

Each draft of a possible Anglican Covenant, citing recent Anglican theology and drawing upon the good work done at Lambeth meetings, and at Anglican Consultative Council meetings, and at Primates’ meetings, acknowledges four “instruments” of communion: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting. We all know that these last two “instruments” have emerged rather more recently in our history.

However, the word “instrument” is ultimately an inadequate word in its ability to describe a way in which Anglicans share faith and mission together. It sounds too mechanistic, even manipulative. I hereby propose another “instrument” of communion. I hesitate to call it a fifth “instrument” at all; because, again, I do not admire the term “instrument.” Nevertheless, because the word is part of the standard Anglican vocabulary now, I use it.

If the term “instrument” is meant to describe a way in which Anglican Christians have enjoyed communion with one another (for over 1800 years, since Anglican Christianity started way before the Reformation), then the most important “instruments” of our communion have always been living personal relationships that existed far more locally than hierarchically.

Thus, I propose that the most real and most effective “instrument” of our Anglican Communion is the set of actual personal relationships that exist among parishes and dioceses across national and cultural boundaries. These relationships, often existing outside the initiative or control of institutional authorities, are what have inspired Anglicans to deeper faith and service to God. These are personal relationships of witness, service, and prayer; and they have been the efficacious symbols of communion in its highest degree. (I presume they are the “links which sustain our life together,” suggested in paragraph 3.1.4 of the St. Andrew’s Draft of the Anglican Covenant.)

When Pope Gregory the Great sent the first Archbishop of Canterbury to England, Augustine and his followers were surprised to learn that Christians were already there. Thus began a long history of Roman (or, we might say, “institutional”) Christianity differing from Celtic (and, local) Christianity. Most conflicts within Anglican families of Christianity have included some sort of conflict about authority –usually conflict between a more universal human authority and a more local human authority.

During most of these Anglican conflicts, actual relationships between individual Anglicans, parishes, and dioceses are what have held the family of Anglican Christianity together. They were not usually held together by declaration or doctrine or even covenant. They were held together by people holding on to one another.

Consider the relationships that exist at this very moment between parishes and dioceses of the Anglican Communion around the world. We have parish-to-parish relationships across national and cultural boundaries; and we have diocese-to-diocese relationships across national and cultural boundaries.

More importantly, as I hope we all realize now, these relationships are not restricted to one particular theological idiom of Anglicanism; there are both conservative and liberal relationships. One could make the easy case that these very relationships are what have enabled and emboldened certain conservative causes. Yet, similar relationships also exist between more liberal Western communities and non-Western communities.

For most Anglican Christians, the relationships we have within our own parishes are our strongest expressions of Anglican identity. Second to those bonds of communion, the relationships of our own parish or diocese to a parish or diocese outside our nation or culture is the most practical and effective way we have of appreciating and realizing Anglican communion. We are not held together merely by pronouncement or even conciliar agreement.

Though I am uncomfortable with the way in which the word “instrument” has been adopted in recent documents of the Anglican Communion. I certainly understand the word’s usefulness, and I have certainly used the word myself. Still, the word “instruments” to describe the ways in which Anglicans enjoy communion with one another runs the risk of mechanizing our organic relationships. An “instrument’ is a tool or implement. As such, it is impersonal and objective. The real relationships that hold together Anglicans across the world are living and active; they are organic.

As I have read the drafts of the Anglican Covenant, I have noted much that is valuable. I am not opposed to an Anglican covenant. Covenants are good for humanity, and they are good for faithful relationships. “Covenant” is, first and foremost, a biblical notion, because covenant is about promise. We live because God promises to be in covenant, in faithful relationship, with us.

But the most effective covenants occur at the most personal levels. Each of us makes promises to God, and we receive God’s promises to us. Many of us make covenants of our lives to one another in marriage. We make promises to join the Christian Church. Those are good and faithful and real relationships. If we Anglicans want to expand our sense of covenant, even if we want to acknowledge “instruments” that help us discern our shared life, let us not forget the living relationships that actually comprise our communion.

The Very Reverend Samuel G. Candler is dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. His sermons and reflections on “Good Faith and Common Good” can be found on the cathedral's Web site.

The Episcopal Church: excelling in irrelevance?

By Phillip Cato

With each passing day, the profound irrelevance of the Church becomes more and more evident. In this irrelevance, the Episcopal Church excels.

Even a superficial knowledge of the events which are overtaking our nation is enough to make the case that our church has no direction to give and nothing intelligent to say.

Our economy is at the brink of total collapse. This is so self-evident that no argument needs to be made. Kevin Phillips, several years ago, in Wealth and Democracy, made the case that the United States was following the same pattern that proved the economic undoing of Spain, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. We abandoned a producer economy for one that is primarily financialized, with all our wealth in the form of traded paper.

What he predicted has come to pass. Wealth is concentrated in relatively few hands; the middle class (the former productive class) is greatly diminished, and regularly exploited for the benefit of the wealthy. Political power is oriented primarily toward benefiting those with wealth. The paper instruments upon which this wealth depends increasingly do not represent much that is tangible, the very conditions which preceded the 1929 stock market crash.

The current administration has accrued and claimed exceptional power to act as they choose without constitutional constraint. With sleight of hand, and a willful lack of truthfulness, they have led our nation into an ostensible “war on terror” which changes identity with predictable regularity as the need to justify preemptive war presents itself.

Almost every abuse of executive privilege and power has been on full display. Justice is regularly disregarded and trampled under foot. Disregard for the poor and antagonism toward the strangers in our midst are now a consistent and macabre caricature of Biblical teaching.

In the midst of all this, our Church, the Episcopal Church, squabbles with its internal critics, and behaves as if settling issues of sexuality, and its expression in the Church, are the only serious moral issues in view.

Our bishops waste time at Lambeth and in earnestly disciplining their recalcitrant colleagues while the moral, economic and political world is collapsing around us.

Somewhere in all of this, there is a mistaken hierarchy of values.

The church stands unprepared to deal with economic hard times; it spends unconscionable amounts of money and human resources on propping up failing congregations that have no sense of mission; it is completely unprepared to deal with either natural or health disasters; it eschews any prophetic stance against a corrupt government and a moribund Congress; and it seems to have no sensitivity to the plight of its own members.

When the Church becomes totally irrelevant, and that time is near upon us, those who have looked to it for spiritual and moral leadership will have to look elsewhere.

Though God loves the world; our Church apparently loves only itself and its institutional survival. And that survival increasingly makes very little difference.

The Rev. Phillip Cato is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington. His current work is in bioethics, for the National Institutes of Health, and professional ethics.

Saying "Please" in Sudan

By Lauren R. Stanley

RENK, Sudan – We’re coming to the end of the semester at the Renk Theological College, which means that the students here are frantically trying to wrap up assignments, read books, study notes and write papers.

Because they study in four languages -- English, Arabic, Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Greek – and have to write papers in Systematic Theology, Christian Ethics, Stewardship and the Synoptic Gospels, never mind face final examinations in six of their 11 courses, there suddenly is not enough time for everything.

So the other day, a student asked if we could skip Greek class that day (it’s a pass/fail course, and nearly all are passing right now) so that they could have an extra hour in the library, researching and writing.

I told that student to bring the rest of the class to the classroom within two minutes (time is a loose thing here in Sudan, and getting to class on time often seems impossible). Once everyone arrived – with literally five seconds to spare – I asked the first student to repeat his request. Everyone wants more time to research and write, he said; could we not have this time to go to the library? I asked who wanted more time for research. They all raised their hands. And then came the hard part:

“Say ‘please,’” I said. They looked at me blankly.

“Ask me nicely,” I said. “Say ‘please.’”

One student, who knows me better than most, suddenly caught on and piped up: “Please!”

But the other 14 students looked at me blankly.

“Really,” I said. “If you want me to do this for you, you need to say ‘please.’ I mean it.”

So they all sounded off together: “Please!!!!”

Which is when I let them go off to study. (For all lovers of Biblical Greek, fear not: We will catch up later on.)

The lesson here is that in Sudan, “please” is a foreign term. It’s simply not part of the daily vocabulary. Nor is “thank you.” Sudanese tend to live in an imperative world: “Come here.” “Sit down.” “Bring me water.” “Get me a soda.” When they’re not in the imperative mood, they’re in the vocative case: “Awok!” “Deng!” “Grace!” It is simply how they function – no “please,” no “thank you,” no asking if you would like to do something, no invitation to do another thing.

Just a bunch of orders, coupled with your name (always followed by a vocal exclamation point).

It is very hard to get used to this way of communicating, for if nothing else, it makes this place seem very harsh and unfriendly, without a trace of decency displayed for the other.

It’s one of the many things you have to accept if you’re going to live in this country: Abrupt orders. Curt name-calling.

You also have to get used to seeing hand gestures that here mean “Wait a minute,” and in the United States are considered rude Italian slurs. And folks of all ages spitting incessantly. And children squatting down in the middle of the dirt road to go to the bathroom. And donkey-cart drivers beating their donkeys (which have quite the reputation for stupidity and stubbornness). And people almost reflexively throwing stones at dogs. And everyone interrupting everyone else just to greet you.

But most of all, you have to get used to the imperative and vocative way of life. It’s very disconcerting to be in church and have the officiant order everyone to sit down, in the same tone of voice we in the West use to command a dog to sit. Or to be talking to one person, have another walk up and demand – demand – that you stop what you’re doing to greet them. (And if you don’t, be prepared to be lightly punched. Or to have a hand suddenly reach across your face to get your attention.)

Which is why I took my stand the other day and demanded that the whole class ask me, nicely, using what my mother used to call the “magic word.” Every once in a while, I simply want to hear some politeness, the kind drilled into me as a child.

My Sudanese friends actually laugh at me when I do this. Every time I ask someone to do something for me and add minfadlik (“please” in Arabic), someone always makes fun of me. I’ve even been asked, “Why do you do that? Why do you ask? Why do you say ‘please’?”

In part, it’s a habit. In part, I’m probably afraid of facing my mother one day in the next life and having her ask me why I wasn’t being nice to other people. But most of all, what I really want is the sense that each of us is honored, respected, treated well, treated not as a servant who can be ordered around, but as an equal.

I truly believe that little gestures of politeness count for a lot, that they help build the community, and that not using them helps destroy communities. I believe that every time we take that extra step, every time we ask instead of order, every time we show even the slightest bit of respect to another person, we live more fully into God’s image of love and community, the image in which we are created.

It’s a small thing, I know.

But sometimes, it works.

The very next day, my students once again wanted more time in the library. We gathered in the classroom. I looked at them and said, “Who wants to go to the library to research and write?” Every single hand shot up.

“What’s the magic word?” I asked.

And resoundingly, with great laughter, they responded immediately.


Oh, that sounded so very nice.

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

"Household" and "mystery":
thoughts on being a Church

By Kathleen Staudt

“Good Morning, Church!” This greeting has become familiar in my congregation. Members who originally come from West Africa are accustomed to beginning announcements that way. And it’s catching on. “Good morning Church!” the lay leader says.

“Church.” That would be us. And we respond heartily “Good morning!”

In the aftermath of Lambeth, and Archbishop Rowan Williams’s suggestion that a Covenant might make us “more like a church”, I’ve been musing about my own sense of what it means to “be a Church,” and where it comes from.

I came into the Episcopal Church in 1978, as the “new prayer book” was just coming into use. Coming from a Reformed and Confessional tradition, I was drawn by the beauty of liturgy and what I understood us to be saying at worship about what it meant to “be Church.” What holds Anglicans together, I learned in confirmation class, is not set doctrine but common worship, though of course we are always in conversation about doctrine and tradition. That has been what I’ve understood about being Anglican, and that’s been my experience at worship. So some of what’s coming out of Lambeth about being “more like a church” seems befuddling to me. I had thought there was consensus that as church we are not unified by doctrine or discipline sent from on high, but by our practice and worship. That’s what I take people to mean, discussing Lambeth, when they say we are “a communion, not a church.” But of course we are a church (as in “the Church, the people of God” to use Verna Dozier’s language). We’re not “not a church.” Clearly much remains to be discerned.

As is my habit, I go to back to the liturgy for help, to see what poetic images have rooted themselves into my imagination and memory. And here I find some metaphors that seem worth pondering in these times. They are from important prayers that I think are not always as familiar as they might be to people in congregations – and now might be a good time to revisit them in our corporate life in congregations.

The first comes from the baptism service, a passage that sometimes gets lost in actual practice, when the priest says “Let us welcome the newly baptized” and the congregation responds with applause. (I’ve seen this happen at a number of baptism services, in a number of congregations). But the words of welcome are Biblical, and important:

We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.” (BCP 308)

The “household” of God. Yes. A good image of the Anglican Communion right now, as well as of many a congregation. We live together, we share the same food, and we have conflicts and celebrations, upheavals and challenges. But we belong to the same household. The rest of the welcome prayer is a catechism in itself – worth spending years unpacking: Confess, proclaim, share. We live out a “priesthood” as Christians, a life that involves bearing the Holy into the world, and sharing it with others, as Bill Countryman has described so well in Living on the Borders of the Holy. We are carrying out into the world the transforming love that is expressed in the faith of Christ crucified and the good news of his Resurrection. Being church means being the presence of Christ in the world, or in another metaphor I like, from Robert Capon, to be the Church is to be “the hat on the Invisible Man” for the world.

The fullness of that calling is expressed in my favorite prayer in the book, which I often use when I teach workshops on discernment and discipleship:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual ordering of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. (BCP 280, 291, 515, 528, 540)

This prayer is appointed for Good Friday, just after the solemn collects, and Holy Saturday, just before the baptism service. We also say it at ordinations. (Marshall Scott has a good discussion of this in an earlier post on the Daily Episcopalian). It’s worth pointing out and holding up this prayer in a time when we’re reflecting on “being Church” because people who don’t attend a lot of ordinations may not be aware of having heard it or offered it.

I love the poetry of this prayer: the suggestion that radical transformation – things cast down, raised up, grown old, made new—can be carried out “in tranquility.” That in itself is a prayer for a miracle! This prayer acknowledges that our life as Church is held in the Divine life. To acknowledge this requires humility, as we craft ways to be together as the “household of God.” That’s why I also love the prayer’s description of the Church as “that wonderful and sacred mystery.”

The scrappiness and challenge of a “household”, held in “that wonderful and sacred mystery.” Holding these two metaphors together may help keep us open and humble, in this time after Lambeth and in the lives of our churches generally. as we continue to discern together what it means to “be a Church.”

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

The Lambeth Conference:
The turning point that wasn't

By John Bryson Chane

The 2008 Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of bishops from around the Anglican Communion, can best be described in two words; optimistic and troublesome.

I have always believed that relationship building must be at the center of all we do in the life of the Anglican Communion, and this year’s conference, which drew more than 650 bishops to the University of Kent in Canterbury, provided a great opportunity for this to begin in a way that was not the case at the previous gathering. The non-legislative nature of this conference was in many ways a success.

The first three days, which had been set aside as a retreat for the bishops at Canterbury Cathedral led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, set a reflective tone. Following the retreat, each day began with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist hosted by one of the Communion’s provinces. Daily Bible study in groups of around 12 persons from diverse backgrounds followed, and then we met in Indaba groups of about 40 bishops (Indaba taken from the African experience of meaningful conversation between people of good will.) These groups engaged in discussions ranging from the role of bishops in the Communion to the Millennium Development Goals, and sharing our experiences of ministering in our own dioceses and provinces. Afternoons were spent participating in programs covering everything from the MDGs, human sexuality and canon law to hearings on the drafting of the proposed Anglican Covenant and the ongoing work of refining the Windsor Report. Then came Evening Prayer, followed by special presentations by the Archbishop of Canterbury and outside guests on topics such as evangelism, respectful dialogue, the environment, ecumenical and interfaith issues and the challenges that are present in the life of the Communion.

A powerful “coming together event” involving the bishops and their spouses was a mile-and-a-half march through central London in support of the MDGs, ending at Lambeth Palace where Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Williams and Hellen Wangusa, our Anglican Observer to the United Nations, gave impassioned addresses, challenging the Communion and our respective countries to engage in a more meaningful effort to end poverty and to take seriously the call to halve poverty levels globally by 2015. The event was followed by a luncheon on the grounds of Lambeth Palace, and concluded with a garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

All of this was mostly positive, and it gave me the opportunity to describe the polity of the Episcopal Church to bishops from other provinces – how we are governed by the voices and votes of the laity, clergy and bishops and not by the solitary decision making of the bishop or primate of the province. Some African bishops expressed wonderment that American bishops had very little decision making and enforcement power and saw our system as difficult, if not unworkable. One bishop from Sudan came up to me after I spoke at a hearing on the Windsor Report and apologized for his primate’s position on human sexuality. He told me he had been threatened with losing his diocesan oversight if he attended the Lambeth Conference. Others from Africa, India and Asia had not been aware of the incursion of primates and bishops from overseas jurisdictions into the Episcopal Church and were saddened to learn that such behavior was seemingly tolerated by some in leadership positions within the Communion.

It was reassuring to me that many bishops, even those who do not share our understanding of human sexuality in the life of the church, said their disagreement with me and the Episcopal Church was not a “breaking point” in our relationship. Some said they knew in time they would have to be facing the same issue in their own countries, and we all needed to have more conversation about human sexuality in a non-legislative format. All of these reflections, although problematic in some instances, were centered on an optimism that can hold us together as a Communion if we continue to work at it and not remain in isolation from one another. I came away from these engagements with bishops from other provinces with a far clearer understanding of the challenges they face and their near total lack of basic resources to care for their people; resources that we in the West too often take for granted.

What I found troubling was the manner in which the reports from the Indaba and Bible study groups were given, and how the hearings on both the Windsor Continuation study and the Covenant were finally presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his remarks toward the end of the conference. I was troubled because what was reported did not seem to capture the real flavor of what had been going on during the almost three weeks of our time together as bishops. I have always believed that politics plays a huge role in the decision making of the Communion, and the close of the Lambeth Conference was a clear indication that politics trumped the power of conversation, reconciliation and hard work that so many bishops exerted in their time together.

It is my opinion that in order to placate those primates and bishops who chose to absent themselves from the Lambeth Conference and instead attended the GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem, and to quell the growing dissension within the Church of England over the recent decision to ordain women bishops, and the issues of human sexuality in Holy Orders, Archbishop Williams sought what he believed was a middle way that unfortunately continues to marginalize the Canadian and American churches. Once again, more emphasis was placed on the sexuality issue as being the “line drawn in the sand” that threatens Anglican unity, with little attention paid to the invasion of primates and bishops from other provinces who continue to wreak havoc in some dioceses within the Episcopal Church. There was no discussion of the struggle for power within the Communion, so evident in the rhetoric of GAFCON, that would marginalize the historic roots of Anglicanism and the unifying role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. There was far too much recognition of those who chose not to participate in this Lambeth Conference and far too little recognition of those bishops who chose to come; among them some who did not want to have their names released to the press as participants for fear that their boycotting primates would punish them when they returned home.

I believe that this gathering had a great chance to move forward in relationship building, and to some extent, as I have mentioned earlier, it did. But when it came to addressing the pressing needs of the Communion to develop a global Anglican strategy to address the issues of disease, poverty, illiteracy, the environment and state-sponsored violence against civilian populations, this conference succumbed to “blaming the victims.” As in 1998, the victims are those whose sexual orientation happens to be different from the majority. It is far easier to blame our divisions and our inability to act as a united Communion to address pressing global issues on those least able to defend themselves. Blaming the least among us continues to divert our attention away from the issues that threaten the very existence of humankind and the environmental health of our planet.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for sacrifices to be made to keep the garment of the Communion together. And for the American and Canadian churches, that clearly means sacrificing once again the full participation of gay and lesbian persons in the life of our church. I for one will not ask for any more sacrifices to be made by persons in our church who have been made outcasts because of their sexual orientation.

This Lambeth Conference could have been a positive turning point for the Anglican Communion, but instead the powers that be chose to seek a middle way that is neither “the middle” nor “the way.” It will therefore be up to bishops from around the Communion who have continuing partner and companion relationships to work toward a more holistic view of the church. The Anglican Communion must face into the hard truth that when we scapegoat and victimize one group of people in the church, all of us become victims of our own prejudice and sinfulness.

In Christ, all things are made new. May the living presence of Jesus Christ empower us all to be a part of this new creation and may the Anglican Communion become a new creation, filled with the courage to lead, and an unfailing trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls each one of us to be part of a new journey, knowing that to fear in such an effort is to be unfaithful to the one who reminds us, “be not afraid for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.”

The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane is Bishop of Washington. This column originally appeared in the diocesan newspaper, the Washington Window.

The Cathedral and the Compass Rose

(Through Labor Day, the Daily Episcopalian will be the every-other-daily Episcopalian.)

By Richard Helmer

Several weeks ago, with a group of youth pilgrims from my parish, I visited The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City for their Nightwatch program. The time there became for me a spiritual journey through the heart of what it means to be a musician, a priest, an Anglican, and a Christian -- all writ large in the great hand-hewn stones of the partially completed Cathedral.

The nave was still blocked off, the organ pipe framework still empty as the clean-up continued from the fire that devastated the Cathedral in 2001 shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center. The state of things seemed to me a metaphor for the great fires in the world and the Communion since that time: the blow-ups between bishops and archbishops, the painful breaks and terrible rhetoric. And all the while the globe saw another war, genocide in new places, and fear rose again to prominence in the hearts and rhetoric of many. But somehow, life at St. John the Divine had continued like it had for so many of us in the Church, despite the mess around them, they reached out locally with the Gospel and plumbed the depths of the Spirit in an age of almost frenetic uncertainty.

The unfinished nature of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine to me was breathtaking. The great central tower is missing, never undertaken. The pseudo-Byzantine dome is unadorned, linking a recovering transept to its invisible counterpart; connecting one of the longest Gothic naves in the world to a great choir with empty alcoves for un-hewn saints. The limestone finishing stones stop abruptly in the crossing like the edges of an abandoned jigsaw. The bell tower is unfinished; its twin hasn't even been started. Meanwhile, the water flows in occasionally through leaky rooflines, staining chapel walls and reminding all who look that the elements work tirelessly to drive the whole edifice back to earth.

At a number of points during the evening of Nightwatch, I was nearly overcome with the irrepressible urge to quit my "day job," and set off on the quest of high finance to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to complete the grand scheme of the Cathedral. As if I could. But the irrational desire was akin to the desire to finish all unfinished projects, to attain perfection, to complete the incomplete.

I also found in myself a strange sense of loss to history. Time was continuing forward inexorably. It was uncanny during the vertical tour to climb up the winding stone staircase into the triforium where artists like Madeline L'Engle had escaped for the solitude necessary to forge their craft. We gazed down a tunnel of carved rosettes to the stained glass at the far end of the nave. The rosettes are virtually invisible from the floor below, but offered to the glory of God, just the same. Stone masons, many now long gone, had left their unique impressions on each ornamental flower adorning a column in the triforium, knowing that few people would ever see the work up close or gaze for long at the details of a carving unique in all of cosmic history. And to know that even the stones themselves would not last forever, but would ultimately crumble into something other. Madeline L'Engle, a favorite childhood author of mine, had now passed away. All remains in motion. Anglicanism, and even The Episcopal Church as I once knew it was no more but was becoming something else again.

As we explored the Great Choir, we were asked what the Greek said in the Anglican Compass rose in the tile work on the floor. I was taken aback by the realization that I had never looked at the Greek in the Anglican Compass Rose before, lifelong Anglican that I am. "The Truth will set you free," it reads in that inviting quote from John's Gospel. The Compass Rose seems to suggest that the Truth sends us off in all directions, and not just for mission, but for discovering God in Christ already at work in our midst, in our world, in our torn hearts. For the rest of the night, the Compass Rose kept appearing in my meditations and prayers.

GAFCON was concluding their statement from Jerusalem as we were in the Cathedral that Saturday evening – a new condemnation for The Episcopal Church and other parts of the Communion was in circulation. Lambeth was shortly set to meet, the media were gathering a storm already, and the boycotts were being announced. There was something significant in the Compass Rose in St. John the Divine needing to be taped down in one spot, where it had sprung up from the floor. The Communion was in need of some repair, the tensions had finally reached a breaking point.

It began to dawn on me that my overwhelming desire to finish or at least "fix" the Cathedral was akin to the quest of some to fix the present crisis in the Anglican Communion through any number of means, as though the Anglican Communion can be fixed or cleansed by sand-blasting, the empty porticoes filled in with saints hewn from stone who will guard us from all that is heretical and undesirable.

Around Midnight, an old college friend of mine, David, called us with his mandolin to the high altar, beyond the Compass Rose, for Eucharist. A deeper truth began to emerge before my eyes as our youth gathered, and my associate led us and another youth group from Florida in the hallowed words of sursum corda under the watchful gaze of the Christus Rex. We were dwarfed by the great polished pillars of the apse, reminded of our insignificance by the sheer scale of tireless human labor. And yet we were offering glory to God, whose work in the ordinary bread and wine that we shared was infinitely greater.

There's a name for the old heresy of the Church and Christians in our collective quest to be perfect before God, to be "fixed," to be complete: Pelagianism. But there were greater reasons than that for my feeling ashamed for being overcome with such desires to complete the great Cathedral, to fix it for all eternity. To think of raising millions for a great Gothic tower when tens of thousands struggle for basics like food and shelter and medical attention in one of the world's wealthiest cities. . . To conclude the never-concluded architecture of a Cathedral and to try to erase the awesome question mark that is at the heart of the Revelation to John while countless multitudes around the world who suffer from skyrocketing food prices: now these were heretical thoughts.

The heart of Anglicanism, and indeed the heart of Christianity, along with the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-reformation, and the Settlements and Creeds and theological arts. . .these are all manifestations, like The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, of the unfinished business that Christ began. They are manifestations of the unfinished work of God's Reign, the in-breaking Kingdom that lives on like the uncut diamonds of hope planted in our hearts, the fragile seedlings nurtured by a Maker who is not finished creating us yet.

The Anglican Compass Rose, I realized, is not the destination in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. It is only a waypoint, a mark of where we are in the journey towards the great altar of God. It is at the great altar where all that is holy and all that is mixed up like the world comes together to worship the Lamb in simple gifts and the love of Christ working in the human community there gathered. There we are clothed not by our own achievements or monuments, but by the glowing white garments of grace given us beyond time.

My visit to St. John the Divine and the meditation I found there in the Anglican Compass Rose have now become a parable to carry with me at this time, when the future direction of the Communion, The Episcopal Church, and the world still remains messy and uncertain. Questions remain unresolved. The tensions are left in place for another season.

Perhaps that is precisely as it ought to be. After all, God is still at work, and we are not in charge.

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer, a priest, pianist, and writer, serves as rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, Calif. His sermons have been published at Sermons that Work, and he blogs regularly about spirituality, ministry, Anglicanism, and church politics at Caught by the Light.

Moratorium? Not again

(Through Labor Day, the Daily Episcopalian will be the every-other-daily Episcopalian.)

By Donald Schell

Some of our global Anglican bishops have called for a moratorium on blessing same sex unions and ordaining LGBT bishops (or maybe even LGBT clergy). Can we accept their moratorium? Not if we remember what another moratorium cost our church in integrity when we turned away from black America at a moment of Gospel opportunity.

We have to learn how say ‘yes’ to Communion and ‘no’ to moratorium.

If we so ‘no’ to moratorium and don’t just walk away, we’ll have to explain ourselves patiently and compassionately to our fellow Anglicans around the world. That will include facing the debate to rescind B033 at Anaheim in 2009.

But if we reject the moratorium, won’t they throw us out?

Common history and our understanding of sacrament anchor us in Anglican Communion, and our willingness to love sisters and brothers across the globe makes us flourish in Communion. Is Gene Robinson an Anglican bishop? We know he is, even though he was disinvited from Lambeth, but his critics know he’s a bishop too – that’s why they’re so troubled and call for his resignation.

If our American and Canadian bishops get disinvited from the next Lambeth, I’d hope they’d find their way to join Gene in Canterbury outside the security line, following his lead to take Lambeth to the streets.

Meanwhile, though some would say we’ve already explained ourselves, in love for our sisters and brothers (at home and globally) we’ve got to use print, video, scholarly publication, and face to face conversation to speak to those who don’t get what we’re saying and doing and -

- tell them all we’ve learned from the ministry of LGBT leaders among us,

- lay out (again and in detail) how we read scripture,

- say again why we believe that faithfulness to scripture, reason and tradition demand we practice full inclusion of LGBT sisters and brothers,

- argue biblically from St. Paul’s refusal to accept a moratorium on baptizing uncircumcised Gentiles,


- confess our Episcopal church’s mistaken moratorium in the years when emerging global Anglicanism came to reject slavery.

For a moment in this present struggle, we’re privileged to stand on a hilltop. We listen to the voices of sister and brother LGBT clergy who are us and stand among us; we see their faces and know them today because we’re learning together to practice honesty. Of course they’ve been there all along, and they’re all across the communion. The ‘moratorium’ asks us all to ignore their existence and asks them to return to hiding in plain sight. We can’t do that anymore. Their ministries have blessed us all. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

From the hilltop we see the Spirit at work in our LGBT friends’ willingness to risk marriage in a culture where people are afraid to commit or acknowledge lasting love, and we see a way forward as our secular society now leads us in beginning to affirm committed LGBT relationships with domestic partnerships and marriage. Straight couples among us have been grateful for support and wise counsel from LGBT friends in relationship.

Moratorium at this point would be choosing anesthetized ‘peace’ over Good News. For us moratorium would be walking away from Jesus.

That’s exactly what we did in the 19th century, turn away from Jesus. Our Episcopal Church turned its back on the key moral issue of its time.

Our English brothers and sisters, relentlessly urged on by Quaker activists (and a few brave Anglicans who defied and shamed their own recalcitrant C of E) disturbed a complacent, complicit church to bring an end to slavery. The English struggle for abolition began about the time our new Constitution acknowledged slavery as an institution. England stopped the slave trade in 1807 and emancipated all the slaves in English colonies in 1833. Of course there were abolitionists in the U.S., but they weren’t Episcopalians. It take two more generations for the American church to begin facing up to our national shame.

The Civil war divided the American Episcopal Church in two. Like other churches in the Confederacy, Southern Episcopalians found biblical justification for slavery. One prominent Episcopal Bishop (Leonidas Polk) was not only a slaveholder, but died on the battlefield as a Confederate general. Meanwhile, the Northern Episcopal Church, though loyal to the Union, never supported the Abolitionist movement in word or action. Instead we longed and prayed for reunion of the church, even at the cost of truth.

After the war our church rejoiced in reuniting, boasting that smoothing over differences proved our Christian charity. A few bishops and lay leaders attempted to begin a truth-telling conversation about Emancipation, but the 1865 General Convention quickly resolved that church unity was worth silence. The Episcopal Church’s failure to repent of its complicity in slavery and celebrate the freedom of our own African-American members prompted a mass exodus thousands of African-American to other churches.

It could have been different. There were voices at the 1865 General Convention like Maine Bishop Burgess who proposed holding a service of thanksgiving for the ending of the war and slavery. It’s easy to imagine a momentary hush in the House of Bishops when he’d finished his proposal. Bishop Elliott of Georgia had warned against just this sort of thing in The New York Times a few weeks before the Convention:

“Reunion…ought to take place in such wise as to preserve our good faith in our brethren and each other….It is our duty to guard the memory of our deceased bishops Meade, Otey and especially our beloved Polk [the slaveholding Bishop who died on the battlefield as a Confederate General]. Not that we should expect any endorsement from the General Convention of their views and actions, but that we should feel assured that no reproach, either direct or implied, will be cast upon their graves…the reputation of the dead is in our keeping, and we can fraternize with nobody who would willingly disturb their ashes. They have lived and died for us, and however wrong others may think them, we revere their memory and weep over their graves.”

“The church should desire to maintain and uphold the self-respect of all its members, remembering that they are the body of Christ. In this way we shall become in our reunion the admiration of the country, as we were for so many years during the fierce wrangling which preceded secession, its wonder, for our reticence and self-control.”

Bishop Elliott speaks as though the Episcopal Church had no black members, though in fact, at that point, most African Americans still attended Episcopal churches. ‘Our reticence and self-control’ kept us from speaking against ‘their’ enslavement or celebrating their freedom.

But Bishop Elliott didn’t actually ignore the existence of black people. He talked about them with a condescension that sounds like a contemporary Anglican bishop claiming Christian charity toward homosexual people and concern that liberals are shielding ‘them’ from Biblical truth,

‘…I have advised my people to take it [the oath of allegiance renewing U.S. citizenship] and be good citizens, and above all to do the best for the poor, unfortunate negroes, whose future is dark and miserable beyond conception. Already they are perishing by thousands, the whole race will now go out before civilization (so called) and competition, as the Indians are doing. We can survive the change, and one day flourish again; but not they; their fate is sealed.’

Apparently Bishop Elliott gave no thought to the thousands of black Episcopalians who would hear his self-satisfied warning of a future ‘they’ could not survive. No black Episcopalian hearing Elliott could miss how profoundly the bishop’s ‘we ‘ and ‘they’ marginalized and obliterated black Episcopalians’ desire and need to celebrate new found freedom in hope.

The Convention rejected Bishop Burgess initiative and followed Bishop Elliott’s lead. The House of Bishops quickly crafted a substitute resolution that we celebrate that the church was being reunited (making no troubling mention of Emancipation). Can we hear their sigh of relief? It was almost over.

The House of Deputies did reopen the question but a flurry of fierce debate came to no resolution, so there the 1865 General Convention took no action to acknowledge that slavery for black Episcopalians (and other citizens of African descent) had ended. We embraced silence rather than thinking, not talking rather than facing painful arguments. We turned our backs on grief, responsibility, and wrong. And so we closed our eyes and shut our ears to the grace of long desired freedom that had come to so many of our members. By the 1867 Lambeth conference, most black Episcopalians had left our church. What difference would it have made to black Episcopalians if the Episcopal Church in 1865 had tried to tell its whole painful story? What if we had established something like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

That first Lambeth Conference met just two years after the American church’s 1865 General Convention. Our bishops carried America’s unaddressed race struggles to the first Lambeth. We know they were wondering silently about the exodus of black Episcopalians, because back home they were preaching and writing about the ingratitude of the Negro race. How could they abandon our church after we built them slave galleries so they could worship with us?

Our church carried that wound of silence for the next century, choosing to institutionalize denial for the sake of unity and joining in the practices of Jim Crow America: A few years after first Lambeth Conference, when we ordained our first African-American Bishop (Delaney) to serve black Episcopalians in North Carolina, we made him promise that he would never lay hands on a white person’s head in the rite of confirmation.

Our hundred-year moratorium of silence ended in the 1960’s when the Civil Rights movement awakened our church’s conscience. It was painful time for the church, because we were not of one mind, but conscience and conflict were no longer in hiding. From the 60’s Freedom Marches until today, we’ve been struggling to keep speaking, listening and talking; it’s clear that it will take a very long time to heal the wounds our century of silence inflicted on the church.

In 2008, American Episcopalians, legitimately confident in our proclamation of Jesus’ welcome to all and proud that our church is working for justice for our LGBT sisters and brothers, must learn from our own shameful moratorium that held our church together and silent before the Civil War and reunited it at the cost of most of its black membership after the War.

The Spirit of Truth challenges us to reject any more moratoria on truth telling. That’s all this moratorium would be – silence from and about the LGBT Anglicans throughout the Communion. But if we see our way to rejecting the moratorium, can we do it without self-congratulation and disdain for our brothers, Anglican bishops and church leaders who, at this moment, hear inclusion as a counterfeit Gospel?

Along with all our efforts to interpret what we’re doing now and why we believe it’s faithful to Scripture, Reason and Tradition, humble truth-telling of the damage we did ourselves and our church with an earlier moratorium begins to sound like Gospel. Can we say ‘no’ to this moratorium and insistently thank the worldwide Communion for welcoming us over the last hundred and fifty years while we struggled (and continue the struggle) to become fully Christian on issues of race?

Speaking our truthful refusal to accept this new moratorium and acknowledging our past sins as a church will not prevent painful conversation and conflict. Painful conversation and conflict is inevitably part of growth and change. But recalling our old moratorium and what we learned from it could plant a seed of Gospel unity in penance and Christian charity. Like the mustard seed, such unity grows from a tiny beginning to a shrub so generous that birds will nest together in its shade. It’s time to insist. Whatever it takes, we’ll ‘yes’ to communion and ‘no’ to moratorium.

The Rev. Donald Schell, founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, is Creative Director of All Saints Company, working for community development in congregational life focusing on sharing leadership, welcoming creativity and building community through music.

A good gripping story

By Heidi Shott

Already I’m worried about General Convention in 2015 because a pattern seems to be developing between every third major Anglican/Episcopal event and a loved one dying of cancer.

Two years on the job as a diocesan communicator, my plan in early 2000 was to go to General Convention in Denver to learn, to report and to hang out with my communicator buddies. But then my father’s lung cancer returned with a vengeance in the spring and it became obvious I wasn’t going anywhere. I reported on the events in Denver from afar, and he died on July 23, a week or so after convention packed up.

While I’ve written a lot about those summer weeks over the past eight years (links below), it’s been hard – as both as a communicator whose salary is paid by people putting money in the plate week after week and as a person of faith – to put into words the conflicted-ness I feel about the “big” doings of the Church like General Convention and Lambeth and the “big” doings of sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one.

Which is bigger? Which is more important? Which is of greater consequence? Which is the greater story to tell?

As the Lambeth Conference was about to commence and I was giving Flip Video lessons to our bishop and bishop coadjutor – who are, by the way, doing a dazzling job at - I was also worrying about my next-door neighbor and good friend, Martha.

Two years ago, Martha was standing at the local Memorial Day parade next to her husband of 53 years and a friend who happened to be a nurse. It started with the nurse saying, “You look yellow.” A month later it continued with an extraordinarily complicated surgery for pancreatic cancer called the Anglican-sounding Whipple procedure. Though she was in the hospital for most of the summer it was, ultimately, a success. Then a good year. An excellent, normal year. But last fall during a routine check-up, the bad news arrived that the cancer had returned. Months of chemo ensued. Besides this nasty form of cancer, Martha was the healthiest, busiest, most vital 79 year-old we know, so to see her slow down was hard.

Though we live in a rural little village surrounding a millpond and a fresh water lake at the head of a tidal river, our house, a big 220 year old mishmash, and their house, a winterized, expanded cottage, are no more than 30 feet apart. The daughter of a former owner of our house built the cottage for her young family in the 1950s. It resembles a family compound and in the ten years we’ve lived here, that’s increasingly how we’ve crafted our lives in relation to Martha and Roger. Martha shares our twin sons’ New Year Eve birthday. With no children of their own and no close family nearby, they keep close track of our lives and we keep close track of theirs.

Her illness is awful. It’s wrong and painful and it’s coming to its conclusion.

Late in June, we were about to go camping and hiking in Acadia National Park. Before we left, I stopped by to check on Martha who had called off the chemo and was feeling poorly. “Go to the hospital,” I said. “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m worried about me too,” she said from the sofa where she cradled her painful belly.

When we returned four days later, Roger called to say she had been admitted.

“She doesn’t want phone calls or visitors,” he told me. After a few days of that nonsense, I stopped in early one morning and sat with him while he ate his Raisin Bran before going to the hospital.

“Roger, don’t leave until I give you a note for her,” I said, whipping out their back door. “I’ll be right back.” If there’s just one thing I can do, it’s write a damn good note.

At noontime, my husband Scott came home for lunch and picked up the ringing phone. He called out the window to me on the deck where I was reading. “Roger says Martha wants you to visit. Afternoons are good.”

When I got there I saw that the week had taken its toll. She was on a morphine pump and had lost weight. Over the next few hours and on several visits since – first at the hospital and now in a skilled nursing unit – I’ve pushed her morphine button, put the straw to her mouth, applied blistex to her chapped lips, held her hand, stroked her shoulder, kissed her and chatted with Roger about everything imaginable.

Unlike my father, the cancer has not reached her brain, so when she’s awake she’s fully herself.

“I wish something miraculous would happen,” she told me the other day when Roger left the room to get some tea, “but I know it’s just a matter of time.”

“We’ll be right next door.” I said. “I don’t want you to worry about anything. We’ll spoil him.”

She looked at me, so clear-eyed, so present, so close to something that’s hard to understand. I looked back and we smiled at each other with love.

And I thought, this is the most important thing happening in the world.

This morning – or last night, who knows when people are blogging from England – Jim Naughton, editor-in-chief of Episcopal Café, wrote

“My concern for the Lambeth Conference is that a critical mass of reporters—or perhaps just a handful of influential ones—will deem the conference a failure if it does not produce the sort of stories that they want to write, that they will say so repeatedly in the pages of their papers or on their blogs, and that this perception will become reality.

The only inoculation against this outcome that I can perceive—outside of an unexpected outbreak of forbearance from the British press—are vivid daily media briefings that feature bishops with good gripping stories to tell about how the conference’s theme of the day figures in their lives and ministries, and the lives and ministries of their people.”

As an Episcopal communicator, and as often as I could in the years I worked as a mainstream reporter, I’ve worked to tell “good gripping stories” because they are what people really want to hear. I believe well-told stories move people and engage people and change people. Why do you think Jesus spoke in parables? Why do our little children lie in bed at night and ask to hear tales of their parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods over and over again?

The story of our family’s love for Roger and Martha and our sadness in Martha’s illness is a real story. It’s one we’re living tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

The Lambeth Conference will be important to the Church and the world only to the extent our bishops sit with one another and listen closely, lovingly and compassionately to the stories each has to tell. Then they need to return to their homes to share the news with their people. It won’t be the same as hearing for ourselves, but it’s a start.

It occurs to me that after my father died in 2000, just after General Convention, I thought and wrote something similar to this. I really hope I get it right this time.

My own private Denver -

Holding hands at the comma

They’re onto our game

Forty percent in the loop

Next month, Heidi Shott will begin work as canon for communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Maine . Her essays about trying to live a life of faith may be found at Heidoville.

Words and meanings: communion & community

By Marshall Scott

In this brief space between GAFCON and the heart of Lambeth, I have been indulging in word play. It can be a vice. It can be seen as silly. But, here’s the thing: we are people of a faith in which words have meaning. God created by speaking. God came among us in the Word; and it is in the written Word that we in our generation know of these things. So, while playing with words might sometimes seem indulgent, for us as Christians it is a meaningful enterprise.

Specifically, I have been playing with the words “communion” and “community.”

Believe it or not, it was GAFCON that led me to these thoughts. I have been considering the recent statements from and in response to GAFCON. I think much of the time those meeting in GAFCON and those responding to them (from Canterbury on down) have been talking, but past each other and not really to each other. From the GAFCON Statement to Canterbury’s response to the recent paper by Canon Gregory Cameron, many things have been said or written, but little has been compelling. I don’t have much sense that anyone has been persuaded to move too far from where they already were.

The reason has been that the two polar positions have represented two different paradigms. Oh, we’ve spoken more of ecclesiology or of “ways of being the Church.” Many of us have been aware of individual differences (a more literal use of Scripture vs. historical critical method; focus on guidance from the our Scriptural history vs. guidance from the Spirit in the present; and there are others); but I don’t think we’ve considered the possibility that our very frameworks of interpretation are sufficiently different that our very words have different meanings. We end up talking while feeling we’re never heard; because, after all, if we were really heard the listeners would find our words as compelling as we do.

The GAFCON folks have tried to establish a new, or at least a different model (for I don’t think I see much really “new” about it). And as I considered their efforts to express it in an institutional structure (beginning with a Council of Primates), I began to think about our own model; and I began to play with words.

I began to play particularly with the central word of our difficulties: “communion.” We use it in so many ways, all related but all different; and we even agree that all these usages are authentic, even as we disagree profoundly which usages are more critical. We speak of the Anglican Communion, a construct so precious that we’ve reified it into a quasi-institutional reality. We speak of communion, meaning sharing together generally in the Christian life and faith. We speak of communion, meaning sharing specifically in sacramental practice. And all too often we speak - sometimes we speak most loudly – of when and where we can’t share.

And so communion is broken – from the communion rail to the Communion Instruments, communion is functionally broken. As a result, I think we have two opportunities. We can restructure Communion by reassembling with those with whom we can share communion (from the communion rail out); and we can seek new models, new words to express how we might be together.

And so I began to play with “communion” and “community.” I began looking for differences of denotation, of formal definition; and as is my habit in the search for denotation, I went back to my old Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Much to my distress, I found it somewhat unhelpful. Of course, the OED has so many usages of any given word, and certainly of a word used as widely and frequently as either “communion” or “community.” But, by the time I’d peered through the magnifying glass and pored over both words, they simply had too much in common, at least in denotation. Both had their common, political, and even religious definitions; but there was too many commonalities to offer much help.

That wasn’t helped either by my own sense that there is a difference in connotation, in common usage. “Communion” is used more in religious conversation, while “community” is used more in political discussion. Again, that isn’t to say that there aren’t religious meanings for both words; but we do, I think, commonly make that distinction. As a result, I think we feel in a way that “communion” is somehow more intimate than “community.” As a result, I fear we are prone to actually create a greater sense of “who’s in” and “who’s out” around the word “communion” than we do with the word “community.”

That sense of difference brought me back to two words in the life of the Church that would hold that same sense of difference: koinonia and ekklesia. It seems to me that those two words in our tradition have some of that same sense of distinction between the religious and the political, and between the more and the less intimate. Perhaps it would be easier to describe the difference this way: ekklesia (reflecting the Hebrew qahal) is about the structure, the gathered assembly; while koinonia (for which there appears to be no real Hebrew equivalent) is more about the quality of the relationship among and perhaps binding the gathered assembly. So, the difference seems to me much the same as the difference in connotation between “communion” and “community.”

Of course, there is much more to ekklesia than simply the gathered assembly. Looking at the article, “Church, Idea of” in the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon, 1962) emphasizes four “basic meanings of ekklesia” in the New Testament:

1. An assembly of persons which has been summoned for a particular purpose.
2. A community of believers which has been gathered from the inhabitants of a specific area.
3. A community gathered by God through Christ.
4. The eschatological people of God.

In essence, then, what makes for ekklesia is not the assembly in and of itself, but the assembly gathered for a purpose. More particularly for us, it is the assembly gathered by God in Christ for God’s purpose, to participate in God’s eschatological plan.

I think this should be meaningful for us. It is, first and foremost, consistent with what many of us have said about any covenant process: that the goal should be a covenant focused on mission instead of on either a defined understanding of “the faith as this Church has received it,” or on authority defined in institutional structures. Indeed, it emphasizes our efforts to work with others toward shared goals, without needing or expecting narrow agreement on all aspects of the faith.

It is certainly consistent with an Episcopal perspective on the Christian life. The Baptismal Covenant, so precious to us and yet largely unknown through most of the Communion, describes not only the faith of the Creed, but also the life that expresses, incarnates that faith in the world. We confess that faith, not only to affirm the content, but to claim our personal stake and responsibility in pursuing God’s purposes, and not our own.

It affirms the ecumenical enterprise as we have seen it in North America in this generation. We have long ceased pursuing one institution as the sign of unity in favor of “a communion of communions;” and so often those expressions have begun as individual congregations and judicatories found common cause and common goals with other Christians. It affirms our ongoing ecumenical conversations, even with those who, like the Roman and Orthodox churches, will not soon recognize our orders or our perception of the Spirit; for there remain common goals in the Kingdom that we might pursue together.

Indeed, it will allow for continued relations with those who claim the Anglican tradition, but who are concerned about how they see it in us. Even in these times of “broken” or “impaired communion,” many, many common ministries have continued. They have continued precisely because they have focused on common mission, and not on ideological identity. It could in time allow for us to converse with smaller bodies that claim the Anglican tradition but are not in communion with Canterbury. This could be especially true of those small bodies that are more inclusive and more progressive in some ways than the Episcopal Church. Interestingly enough, that idea arose from reflecting on this in light of the Common Cause Partnership. They have opened themselves to conservative groups claiming the Anglican tradition. There are in fact a few groups claiming the Anglican tradition that are more progressive (one can find them on the “Not in Communion” page of “Anglicans Online.”), and finding common goals might allow us to reach out to them.

Most important, focusing on ekklesia instead of koinonia, at least for some purposes, might well allow for conversations with less invective. The intimacy we associate with “communion” can make every difference not simply an argument, but a family argument, and all the more bitter. To think of ekklesia instead of koinonia, of community instead of communion, turns us again to our opportunities to gather and to the purposes God might have for our gathering.

This is not to suggest that we shouldn’t also pursue koinonia, communion, with all our hearts. These models are not mutually exclusive. However, we in the Episcopal Church have been among the first to call for continued gathering to do God’s work, even in the face of our difficulties of Anglican tradition and identity. We have affirmed, as well, that koinonia is a gift from God, and not ours to mandate. So, let us pray for and seek koinonia, “communion,” that in God’s time we might all be one. And in the meantime, let us also consider and live into our call as ekklesia, as the community of the faithful, gathered by God in Christ to pursue God’s purposes.

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

An inevitable divide

By George Clifford

Several weeks ago, my wife and I were sitting in a Paris train station waiting for a train to Giverny. A man came over, inquired if we spoke English, and upon discovering that we, like him, were American, requested that we watch his luggage so that he could use a restroom. We quickly agreed, glad for the opportunity to help a fellow traveler. Upon his return, he treated us to a brief but thankfully mild tirade about the inefficiencies of the French and their lack of gratitude for the U.S. having liberated them from the Germans in World War II.

While hoping that not too many of the people within earshot spoke English I wondered why this man traveled in France if he found the nation and its people so objectionable. Then I reminded myself that I was an Anglican. A great many Anglicans are similar to that sad traveler: they journey in a country that they do not appreciate with companions they do not understand. Why don’t those unhappy people change their journey’s route?

Having nothing to lose since the train we had hoped to take was cancelled and the next did not depart for half an hour, I asked my new acquaintance why he traveled in France when he knew that he disliked the culture and its people. He replied that he had attended an elder hostel on spying in the UK and was now on his way to a second one in the south of France. These were the only sessions he could find on this somewhat arcane topic.

Again, my thoughts turned to the many unhappy Anglicans. At this point, the analogy broke down. Anglicanism has never claimed to be the exclusive path to God or the only true Church. Anglicanism may not even be the best Church and is certainly not the best Church for everyone. Those unhappy with Anglicanism’s direction, ethos, or people have options. The recent Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) represents a large step toward an unfortunate but inevitable divide as some of the unhappiest depart. Although those departing may claim the name Anglican, in fact the historic definition of Anglican is one who is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Nigerian province has already removed every reference to Canterbury from its canons.

At least three factors contribute to dissidents’ reluctance to depart from The Episcopal Church (TEC). First, issues of finances and property bind people to TEC for emotional and practical reasons. These issues incarnate our theology of unity. Second, overcoming our normal human inertia requires investing substantial personal and group energy and resources to reach the threshold where departure appears more attractive than remaining. Theologically, inertia helps us to maintain a steady course, to avoid each minor breeze or current sweeping in a new direction.

Third, united primarily by their unhappiness and dissent from an inclusive Anglicanism many dissidents fear that future harmony and unity will prove even more elusive. The historic pattern of schism is that one break inevitably precipitates further fractures. Once departure from the Anglican Communion removes the centripetal force of opposition to an inclusive Church that now unites dissident Anglicans, centrifugal forces are certain to cause repeated fractures. Some follow a polity that embodies strong central authority, some seek creedal conformity, some oppose the ordination of women, and some yearn to return to older forms of worship and belief.

Conflict need not be unhealthy. Anglicans reject all claims to infallibility, including that of the Pope (or even a council of Primates!). Through constructive dialogue Christians and the Church can move toward a fuller understanding of the truth. During that dialogue, Christians and the Church must accept diverse opinions expressed with mutual respect, modeling for others our ongoing search for a fuller grasp of truth. The gospel of John reports Jesus’ promising his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth (John 16:13), a promise that implicitly acknowledges that Jesus’ disciples – including us – do not yet know all truth.

No scriptural basis exists for establishing views about human sexuality as a litmus test of one’s orthodoxy or suitability for communion. Dissident Anglicans have clearly focused on this issue because sexual issues generate emotional energy and because this is perhaps the only issue that unites them. The time has arrived when faithful Christians, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion must stop defining their identity based on their views about human sexuality. I like sex, I have strong views about sex, and I believe that sex is a wonderful aspect of creation. However, sexuality does not determine the primary contours of either my faith or that of the Church. The Church must reclaim the fullness of its agenda as God's people.

Similarly, the time has come to end unhealthy conflict within TEC and the Anglican Communion. Any constructive dialogue that may have occurred between those holding disparate views largely ended years ago. Minds have closed, opinions hardened, and negative feelings of anger, exclusion, and bitterness now dominate. The conflict is an acid eroding morale and mission effectiveness within both TEC and the Communion.

My wife and I journeyed to Giverny to see Claude Monet’s home and gardens, entranced by his ability to capture beauty and light in his impressionistic paintings. Monet moved to Giverny because of its light and affordable property. He died there after forty years of productive work. Those who now find the Anglican Church (my country) inhospitable should find another Church in which to live out their journey in greater peace, joy, and faithfulness. Deleting all reference to Canterbury from Provincial canons and establishing new loci of authority are significant steps in that direction, regardless of the accompanying rhetoric. Those who find Anglicanism hospitable must similarly resume their faithful travels in peace and joy, seeking the truth, engaged in dialogue with fellow travelers, and agreeing to disagree when necessary. Life is too short and too great a gift for anyone to waste it in unproductive, let alone destructive, unhappiness.

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


By Peter M. Carey

It should be of no surprise to anyone who reads the Episcopal Café that this summer is the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops in Canterbury, England for the Lambeth Conference. Much has been written about this conference this year, and the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are surely picking up more than our share of headlines. I have been thinking about this gathering of bishops and their spouses and thinking about both the turmoil and the possibility that exist for the Anglican Church at this moment in our history.

I was reading last month in Ed Friedman’s posthumously published book, A Failure of Nerve, that one sign of overly reactive and anxious organizations is that there is a lack of playfulness. Is the Anglican Communion displaying the tell-tale signs of an overly reactive and anxious organization? Is there playfulness and humor at each level of the body of our church? I hope there is more playfulness than I am sensing in what I read and see.

While I know that the lack of playfulness and humor is the result of the reactivity and anxiety, I wonder if play and humor may also be a solution. I wonder if play and humor might help heal some of the wounds in the body of our church.

I have noticed that there is time set at Lambeth each day for Bible Study, in which, I imagine, bishops will meet with their counterparts from around the globe, to pray, to reflect, to study, and to build fellowship. In addition, I imagine there will be worship, and there will be time to eat and drink together. There will be meetings, and speeches, and press conferences. All these items are to be expected. I have also read that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is asking bishops to join him on a walk through the streets of London to highlight the issues of poverty and hunger. There will also be some discussion groups made up of bishops from different perspectives which sound very interesting. I give the plan for the conference high marks, but if I could time-travel back a few years and bribe the right people I would get on the planning team and propose something else.

You see, I’ve been spending my summer watching my three children in the city of Manhattan while my spouse is working on coursework for a master’s degree. I have spent countless hours in Central Park, in Riverside Park, and also on the streets of this great city. After spending the day watching the playfulness of children (and adults) in the parks, I spend time in the evening reading about GAFCON and Lambeth, and Covenants, and “emissions.”

What I would propose, if I were to time-travel back several years and get on the Lambeth planning team, would be to plan some playtime. And, I don’t mean drinking cocktails or tea or coffee. I would get the bishops together, count off in teams to get some good diversity on each squad and play what we Americans call “soccer ” (football, in most of the world). At first, the “games” would be to play “possession” in which there are no goals other than just trying to keep possession of the ball, what we might know as “keep away.” I would pay a fortune to see our bishops running and playing and sweating and laughing and learning how to work with one another. After a few days of “possession,” we would turn to games with two goals, and we would keep score. I am not one of these people who think it dehumanizes people to play something competitively, and I imagine that the egos on the field would want to keep score anyway.

So, you say, we are dealing with “serious business,” this business of the church, and we are dealing with deadly serious issues, and we should have greater formality, and the bishops’ time is too valuable for such things. These are childish things, and adults don’t “do” such things. And, if fun is to be had, it should be had over a glass of sherry and not over a soccer ball. Maybe yes. Maybe no. In my thinking, it’s worth a shot; doing the same old things will most likely get us the same old stuff. Who knows, maybe injecting some playfulness into the scene might just help to transform this church body by getting the bodies moving together, having some fun.

It’s not too late to smuggle a soccer ball and some short shorts into your bishop’s suitcase!

The Rev. Peter M. Carey is the school chaplain at St. Catherine's School for girls in Richmond, Virginia and is also on the clergy staff at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Richmond. His theological assumptions are challenged and strengthened while leading services for over 800 young people each week and at home with his three children under 5 years old. He blogs at Santos Woodcarving Popsicles.

The Covenant is dead, and so is the Communion

By Adrian Worsfold

The Archbishop of Canterbury has had a plan. Seemingly with a consistent Catholic insight, he has wanted to reform and centralise the relationship of bishops and dioceses into a more organic arrangement with each other and his primacy.

He tells us this very well in a recent lecture contribution to The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius conference entitled Rome, Constantinople and Canterbury: Mother Churches? (There is a written transcript, as well as two audio files.)

In it he criticised Roman Catholicism, as the See of Peter suffers from "juridical anomalies and bureaucratic distortion"; he speaks of an:

ecclesial unity that is ultimately somewhat secular (that is, the unified organisation controlled from one focal point).

It comes across that he is thinking of Max Weber and the bureaucratic authority that is rational and secular, and develops from traditionalism which would include sacred authority and such as the charism of bishops.

He also criticises the autocephalous arrangement of Orthodoxy, but only specifically as it is (not its philosophy of organising):

Orthodox have often frozen the concept of primacy in an antiquarian defence of the pentarchy as the structure of the Church thus allowing non-theological power struggles rooted in nationalism and ethnocentrism to flourish with damaging results.

The pentarchy is specific: must it always follow that culturally rooted Churches end up being nationalist and ethnocentric?

His argument uses the mother Church idea for primacy, but also that one bishop is no bishop, and that there is an economy of giving and receiving that brings bishops into necessary contact with each other. The mother Church idea means that local Churches cannot exist alone.

What we see here is a theology by ecclesiology of conservation and conservatism. This is a key text:

This is why it is problematic if a local Church so interprets the gift it has received that it cannot fully share it beyond its own cultural home territory - which is an issue for both left and right in our Churches, I suspect. And the primatial initiative in challenging or seeking to limit local development on these grounds becomes intelligible as part of the service of the mother Church - to those to which it is the mother.

So here we see how the theme of "Better Bishops" at the Lambeth Conference - better interactions taking full account of the mother Church - coincides with the effort to close down singular innovations within these local Churches.

The argument he presents does not hold. It does not hold on its own argument, nor does it hold any longer due to recent events.

He discusses various mother Churches, such as the "generative" Celtic Church, but in the end there is only one mother Church and that is the Jerusalem Church. In all practicality, though, the Anglican Communion and its ultimate mother Church of England is itself a local Church to the Roman Church - and, if not specifically, then to Churches "across the globe and throughout history." How come, then, that women were ever ordained, that women could be bishops?

In other words, there has to be a theology and ecclesiology of innovation. He might say that such resides in the immediate mother Church (he doesn't, because he doesn't discuss it), but then this turns a Communion into a Church, and the Anglican Communion is not a Church. This is where he keeps making his mistake, why he talks about dioceses and then his primacy, and forgets that, like it or not, the local Churches organise the dioceses and have their own primacy.

His method is to bind the bishops and his office via a Covenant to strengthen the Instruments of Communion: however, again and again, actual Churches have rejected its narrow focus and more disciplinarian features.

His policy will not work also because of recent events. If the leaders of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans can be believed, Anglicanism is going to have a Primates Council that is a different seat of authority. It will decide on whether a Church or a diocese is orthodox or not. It will decide this on the basis of a plain reading of the Bible understood not to contradict itself, on affirming the Thirty-nine Articles, on the one if locally translatable Book of Common Prayer, and on the Ordinal. It is unlikely such a Council will pronounce traditionalist Anglo-Catholics unorthodox, but they are marginalised (again) by this approach.

Whether the Canterbury Communion recognises or not the new Anglican Province of North America, with its Primate Bishop Robert Duncan, or continues to recognise or not The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, authority is still going to run in two directions. Also, in England, a congregation that regards its bishop as too revisionist may find the Primates Council offering international oversight. By Church and national law (there is no doubt about it) such a congregation would have to set up independently, leaving the parish to the bishop. However, a patchwork of congregations throughout Britain leads logically to another Province with another Primate. Again, whether or not a Canterbury Communion recognises it, authority goes different ways.

In other words, the whole reform of an organic episcopal unity and a mother Church, with the binding of a Covenant, is now shattered. It is finished. There will be competing Anglican Churches with different authority centres in the same place.

From the very beginning the Archbishop's policy has been wrong. A Communion spinning with a strong centrifugal force, ideologically dividing, cannot be forced together at the centre. It needed loosening up, to try and create space and slack in the system, to allow as much variety as possible.

The autocephalous view, of Churches deciding mutual recognition, does not prevent informal gatherings of bishops, and gift receiving and giving organic interaction. Nevertheless, variety does come over one territory, and you have to learn to live with geographical overlaps. We have arrived here anyway.

The Roman Catholic Church is just that, a Church. Eastern Orthodox Churches are that, but they organise themselves. Anglican churches are more like the Eastern Orthodox: it is at best a confederation of Churches.

Bishops and clergy and laity that form a Church are entitled to innovate, even if innovating ought to involve an argument that partly looks back. It is interpretation of the gift. In the end, Churches that will innovate can relate to one another, and recognise one another. Those that cannot innovate will recognise their own.

The Covenant is surely now finished. The Primates Council does not need one as they have their means to decide orthodoxy; and now a Covenant will have neither point nor purpose. In the resulting Balkanisation of Anglicanism, some sections may want a stronger Covenant among themselves - say the South East Asians who won't want to come under the Primates Council.

Quite simply the attempt to centralise according to Catholic theory and process has resulted in disaster. Never able to provide a Protestant belief basis for a fellowship (despite the transitory Advent Letter of 2007, which was unsustainable), the New Puritans and their African ballast have decided to provide a Fellowship meaning a different direction of authority. The rest of the Communion will probably have to let be, and it needs to loosen up, for the sake of remaining good relationships - and the Archbishop's policy ought to come to a swift end.

The Lambeth Conference of bishops apparently will not have any resolutions (unless there is a revolt from within) and no doubt the Covenant will press on by detached committee, but when it comes to the Churches they ought to stop it dead and organise Anglicanism according to decentralised relationships.

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

Bringing the "Voice" of GLBT Africans to Lambeth

By Katie Sherrod

Several of us have been trying for months to figure out how to get the voices of GLBT Africans heard at the Lambeth Conference.

Getting them there physically is very difficult, because it's hard for them to get passports and visas. Many of them can't get jobs because they are gay—or in the case of straight allies—because they are sympathetic to the GLBT cause. The British immigration people don't care why they are jobless -- they just won't let them in if they don't have a job to return to.

So the idea for a Voices of Witness Africa video, similar to the Voices of Witness 2006 video produced by Louise Brooks for Claiming the Blessing, emerged. It seemed a natural way to bring the African witness into the Lambeth context. But raising money takes time, and the first bloc of funding didn't arrive until the first of June.

So with less than ten days to prepare -- getting visas, lots of shots, setting up interviews, arranging for equipment, reassuring spouse/partner/children that we would be safe, and taking a big gulp of faith -- Cynthia Black and I headed off to Africa to try to talk to as many GLBT Africans as we could. We were looking for witnesses to the fact that yes, there are GLBT folk in Africa, just as there are all over the rest of the world, and yes, many of them are faithful Christians, even -- dare I say it -- Anglicans.

We videotaped their stories for a video to be shown at Lambeth to as many bishops as we can corral, and perhaps, at General Convention 2009.

We had raised enough money to get us to London, where we could interview some GLBT Nigerians who had fled there for sanctuary, and then to Uganda, and to Kenya. We had enough to get us back home, where I am now trying to compress 20-plus interviews into a tightly-structured video that doesn’t run too long, while doing justice to the stories of the courageous people we met. It is an awesome responsibility, for just by talking to us these folks are risking more than any of us privileged people can begin to understand.

Among those we talked to were a transgendered (female to male) Nigerian; a partnered lesbian activist in Uganda; one of a pair of gay 20-something twins in Kenya; a gay Ugandan farmer whose dream is to own two acres of land to grow his sugarcane; gay partners in Kenya who dream of having their union blessed; a gay Nigerian who was beaten badly simply for being gay; and many more. We also interviewed some of their straight allies -- a Ugandan bishop, a Kenyan Anglican priest, a Ugandan law professor and feminist; and a Kenyan Methodist minister.

Here is some of what they said:

"If the church happens to allow inclusion and let our voices be heard and let tell our story how it is, it will go a long way because as a gay man or lesbian woman -- your dreams and aspirations are most times caught at a point . . . you have ideas and you have visions and you want to do things for the common good for humanity but you are kind of like, you get caught up and you don’t want your voice to be heard and you don’t want to raise the dust as they say, so you just stay quiet and so you voice, your dreams, your vision just dies with you." -- A gay Nigerian

"Another question is do they really know that we have gay people in our churches? Do they really know that they worship in those same churches and when they preach sermons which are going to send them away rather than to bring them to Christ what are they really doing? What do they think when people run away from Christ rather than come closer to Christ? Do they really know that this is a reality? Those are questions that they should ponder, they should sober up, come together and reflect, not fight with amongst each other. We are one. God is not happy, and God wants us all together." A gay Kenyan

"It is because the high profile people in Uganda and to hear them inciting the public how to treat us it really hurts me. These are people especially the Church leaders who are supposed to be preaching love, tolerance, and acceptance and instead they are the ones trying to preach the opposite of that. Like in today’s newspaper the whole head of Church in Uganda Orombi, is busy wasting time about gay marriages in UK instead of concentrating on pressing issues that affect the people of Uganda like the war in Northern Uganda. They are busy talking about people married in UK. They are wasting time on issues which are not really a big deal." A lesbian Ugandan

"Well, I think the bottom line, when it comes to God – God is love. And that should be it. Homosexuals do not practice something else, we are not killers, we are not murderers, we are not molesters, we are not bad, We are like your average people, except that we choose to love in a different way, but at the end of the day it is love -- we love deeply, truly, honestly, and we should be given a chance to show that to the world. Do not force people into closets. Instead talk positively about people like us, homosexuals so that people who for whatever reason they think that we are bad because they do not know any better, when they hear this from leaders in the church, they might change their attitudes and make it better for us to exist." A lesbian Kenyan

"I would love to let people know that homosexuality is not epitome of what is wrong in this world. I’m out, but I’ve come to realize that people perceive me as what is wrong with this world. If asked what is wrong with this world, I’m sure they’d go like "that gay man is wrong with this world." Now I’d love people to know, that is not what is wrong with this world. There are far more worst things to be in this life, worst things that they themselves do behind closed doors. I’m open about this and this is not the worst thing to be in life and if anything, it’s the best thing." A gay Kenyan

My editor and I are putting our interview together in a dynamite video, but our work isn’t finished, and we are running out of money.

We need your help to pay for the rights to music and archival footage that will enhance our presentation and the delivery fees that will allow us to put our video in the hands of every bishop in the Anglican Communion.

$6,500 would do those jobs. Can you help us?

Integrity is set up to be the fiscal agent for Voices of Witness Africa. Checks should be made payable to "Integrity" with "VOWA" in the memo line and mailed to the address below.

There is a VOWA option for online giving

Power politics, Anglican style

By Richard E. Helmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Gospel fundamentally about power?

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

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

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

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

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

It would behoove us all to truly listen.

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

Another look at the appendix of the Covenant

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

By W. Nicholas Knisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant Week
The future: Process without promise

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

By Mark Harris

The Anglican Covenant Idea:

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

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

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

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

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

The Emerging Anglican Covenant:

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

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

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

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

The Final Form of the Anglican Covenant:

What will the presentation copy of the Covenant include?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant Week
The Appendix: Devil and details

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

By Sally Johnson

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

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

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

• An “Offense” is specified:

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

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

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

• Who can cause the process to begin is specified:

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

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

• Appeals are provided for at several junctures

Major Issues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant Week
Section Three: Birthrights and pottage

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

By W. Nicholas Knisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant Week
Section Two: Common ground

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

By Marshall Scott

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

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

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

2.1 Each Church of the Communion affirms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rev. Marshall Scott, a deputy to the 2009 General Convention from the Diocese of West Missouri, is a past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross. He keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Covenant Week
Section One: Claiming our inheritance

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

By Tobias S. Haller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Culture, tradition and the Anglican Communion

By Lauren R. Stanley

RENK, Sudan – A quick lesson in cultural differences:

In Sudan, a bride price is paid when two people want to get married. No bride price, no marriage.

In the United States, no bride price is paid. People get married for love.

In Sudan, if the families and the community don’t agree to the marriage, it doesn’t take place.

In the United States, if the families don’t agree, too bad. And who asks the entire community for permission to wed?

In Sudan, paying a bride price – in cattle, pigs, beads or money, depending on the tribe – is a given. It is considered by many to be payback for all the investment that went into raising and educating the girl. The more educated she is, the more cows (or pigs or beads or money) is paid to the girl’s family, to recompense them for their investment and for “losing” the girl, who goes over to the man’s family. (And yes, it is normal for a “girl” to marry a man – the men often are much older than the women.)

In the United States, paying back the woman’s family for educating her is not even a consideration.

Why is bride price – or the lack thereof – so important to figuring out how culture affects our understanding of God?

Well, it’s a major portion of our discussions in theology classes at the Renk Theological College, because it’s such a good example of understanding the “tradition” leg of the three-legged stool of Anglicanism.

The first thing the students learn is that “tradition” comes with both a capital “T” and a small “t.” The capital-T Traditions of the Church include the Sacraments, the Creeds and the Lord’s Prayer. Small-t traditions include the cultural ethos of the people in the Church.

To help the students understand these differences, we frequently talk about bride price. About one-third of our students are married; all of them paid the traditional bride price for their tribe and clan. None of them can understand why we in the United States do not do this. When I tell them that paying for a bride in America is not only not part of our tradition, but also could be considered illegal – “We don’t pay for people in America; we outlawed that in the 1860s.” – the students here are appalled.

“How can such a thing happen?” they ask.

I assure them I understand the differences in our small-t traditions, and that since I live in both Sudan and the United States, I pay attention to both. If I were to marry here in Sudan, to a Sudanese man, a bride price would be paid. That’s all there is to it; the local culture has to be honored.

But, I say, if I were to get married in the United States, no such thing would even be considered. We don’t do that; it’s not our tradition, capital “T” or small.

Who would set the bride price, they want to know, if I were to get married here. Oh, I explain, that bride price was set more than two decades ago, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. An elderly tribal chief decided he had to have me as his fourth wife. In a desperate attempt to help both him and me save face, I wrote to my Pops and asked him to set a ridiculously high bride price – 2,000 cattle, 1,000 goats and 500 chickens. My Pops wrote back a beautiful letter, setting forth the price and explaining that I was his beloved daughter, and that it would break his heart to lose me to Kenya forever.

When the chief received the letter, he was devastated. “Ah,” he said, “I cannot pay that price. But I am glad to know that your father values you so highly. You must be special indeed. But the marriage cannot take place.” (I never did tell the chief that I was not devastated in the least by his decision; that would not have been appropriate.)

Since the going bride price here is 20-30 cows among the Dinka tribe, my bride price is considered ridiculously high and helps keep the conversation light, which is necessary, because then we move to the nitty-gritty of the theological discussion.

Whose tradition is correct? I ask. The adamant reply, from both sides: Ours. How can you be sure? I ask. It’s our tradition, we each say. Who decides? I ask. We do. But what if we can’t agree? And that’s where the conversation stops for a while, every single time.

For what are we do to when two cultures clash? How are we to reconcile ourselves to each other’s traditions? Do we fight over them? Do we simply agree to disagree? Do we disparage each other?

Or, I always ask, can we agree that what is appropriate in one culture – paying bride prices – is not appropriate in another – no bride prices even considered – and still manage to maintain our unity in the body of Christ?

Always, always, the discussion ends the same: Cultural differences must be respected – as long as we remember that we all are members of the same body, and as long as we remember not to make another culture do what we want.

When we’re discussing bride prices, it’s easy to come to this conclusion. This is a cultural difference that in the end is not all that important in the greater scheme of God’s plans for us.

But when we move the discussion to the next level – to other cultural disagreements between one part of the Anglican Communion and another – it becomes a little harder to come to a quick conclusion. Cultural differences over sexuality are huge, particularly between the Sudanese and American churches. It takes a lot of discussion, a lot of prayer, a lot of arguing, before we, a tiny slice of that Anglican Communion, finally can come to an agreement:

As long as you don’t force your culture on us, or make us change our culture to fit yours, we can live with each other.

Every one is a little uncomfortable with this idea of different cultures co-existing in the same body, but in the end, when we keep our focus on Jesus and the love of God for all us, it works out. We rely on Gregory the Great’s instructions to Augustine of Canterbury: If the local tradition is not impeding the faith, let it stand.

We have great disagreements over sexuality in the Communion today. Perhaps if we all stood back a bit, if we all looked at this the way we look at bride price, perhaps, then, we could all remember: We are all members of the same body, even when our local small-t traditions aren’t the same.

Will this discussion, small as it is, solve all the problems the Communion is facing today? No. But it’s a start.

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

The plank in Michael Gerson's eye

By Jim Naughton

In today’s Washington Post, columnist Michael Gerson once again takes Sen. Barack Obama to task for his relationship with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In breaking with Wright, Gerson writes, Obama has woken from a theological slumber. But contrast Wright’s words and actions with those of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the leader of Gerson’s church, and ask yourself who has been sleeping.

Gerson is a member of the Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. His congregation and the nearby Truro Church, played the key role in leading 11 Virginia parishes out of the Episcopal Church after the Church consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly gay man as bishop in 2003. Most of these parishes joined the Church of Nigeria, which Akinola leads.

The relationship between Akinola, Truro and the Falls Church is a close one. The American churches provide important financial support for Akinola’s ministry, and American clergy frequently write his papers and speeches.

In February 2006, 10 months before Gerson's church made the final decision to affiliate with Akinola, Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (full disclosure, he is my boss) published an op-ed piece in The Washington Post calling attention to proposed Nigerian legislation (here, on page 12) supported by Akinola that –interpreted as narrowly as possible—would have significantly curtailed the rights of gays, lesbians and their supporters to speak about their lives in public, assemble or practice their religion. Interpreted more broadly, language that aimed at stopping any displays of same-sex affection, public or private, direct or indirect, was a prescription for home invasion.

One of the more objectionable clauses in this legislation reads:

Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

Akinola’s supporters argued that Muslims were behind the bill, but human rights activists in Nigeria told a different story. The legislation was advanced by a Christian president, and supported by the Christian Association of Nigeria while Akinola was its president. The bill’s key parliamentary opponent was a Muslim.

The legislation was vigorously criticized by 16 international human rights groups, the European Parliament and the U. S. State Department. It eventually died, but Akinola never backed away from his support, even after human rights groups explained the potentially devastating effect the law could have had on groups working to prevent the speared of AIDS.

In the midst of this legislative struggle, Akinola gave an interview to The New York Times, which appeared on the paper’s front page on Christmas Day, 2006.

The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.

Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of Nigeria’s Anglican Church who has emerged at the center of a schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican Communion, re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head in wonder and horror.

“This man came up to me after a service, in New York I think, and said, ‘Oh, good to see you bishop, this is my partner of many years,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘Oh!’ I jumped back.”

Akinola's allies in the United States had worked hard to soften his image and distance him from the bill (very, very hard.) but the published record was against them, and after the Times' interview, Akinola stopped speaking to reporters in the U. S.

If Gerson had any trouble with Akinola's behavior, he did not voice it in a column he wrote five months later. In his first effort as a Post columnist, Gerson described Akinola's decision to consecrate Truro's former rector, the Rev. Martyn Minns, as a bishop in the Church of Nigeria, as an "epoch-dividing event," and praised Akinola's vibrant brand of Christianity.

Gerson may have been referring to the failed Nigerian legislation when he offered these highly-qualified reservations, but they are so vague it is impossible to tell:

This emerging Christianity can be troubling. Church leaders sometimes emphasize communal values more than individual human rights, and they need to understand that strongly held moral beliefs are compatible with a commitment to civil liberties for all. Large Pentecostal churches are often built by domineering personalities promising health and wealth.

(The Post printed my letter responding to Gerson’s piece. However, I was unsuccessful in persuading the paper to acknowledge that Gerson had hidden a conflict of interest from his readers in failing to disclose that his parish was involved in litigation over church property on Archbishop Akinola's behalf. This still seems to me a fairly obvious and signficant violation of journalistic ethics.)

In May, The Atlantic magazine raised new and more troubling concerns about Akinola. In “God’s Country,” the writer Eliza Griswold, daughter of the Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, describes a retributive massacre in the Nigerian town of Yelwa carried out in 2004 by a well-organized band of men, wearing clothing and tags that identified them as members of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Akinola was president of CAN during the massacre, which Human Rights Watch reports claimed the lives of approximately 700 Muslims. Dozens of others were kidnapped, raped or maimed. (The relevant sections of the article and the HRW report are excerpted here.)

Eliza Griswold visited Akinola in 2006. She writes:

When asked if those wearing name tags that read “Christian Association of Nigeria” had been sent to the Muslim part of Yelwa, the archbishop grinned. “No comment,” he said. “No Christian would pray for violence, but it would be utterly naive to sweep this issue of Islam under the carpet.” He went on, “I’m not out to combat anybody. I’m only doing what the Holy Spirit tells me to do. I’m living my faith, practicing and preaching that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to God, and they respect me for it. They know where we stand. I’ve said before: let no Muslim think they have the monopoly on violence.”

When these remarks came to light, Akinola’s spokesman released a statement that had nothing to do with the incident at Yelwa, but with later riots over the publication of Danish cartoons, that Muslims viewed as insulting to the prophet Mohammed. Neither the archbishop nor his American followers have offered further elaboration.

Akinola's handling of the massacre in Yelwa and his incendiary comments during the cartoon riots contributed to his defeat when he ran for re-election of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Indeed, members of the Association took the unusual step of denying him the vice presidency, which is usually awarded to the candidate who finishes second in the presidential balloting. His anti-gay crusades, and his efforts to split the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexuality led to the defeat of Akniola's handpicked successor, in the voting for president of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. Yet, members of his American flock, which is concentrated in Northern Virginia, but includes a congregation with close ties to the Family Research Council, and other conservative political groups, continues to support him.

These congregations are involved in a high-stakes effort aimed at either driving North American churches out of the Anglican Communion for their acceptance of same-sex relationships, or, failing that, splitting the Communion in two, and claiming leadership of a potentially large faction centered in Africa. This movement is financed by Americans who, with help from British evangelicals, are also its chief strategists. Public fealty to Akinola and one or two other African archbishops is essential, however, or the effort is unmasked as a largely Western enterprise, and loses credibility among Anglicans in the developing world—the very constituency for whom it purports to speak.

As a result, the Nigerian archbishop, whose influence is on the wane among Christian leaders in his own country and among Anglican leaders on his own continent due to his extremism, remains the spiritual leader of Michael Gerson’s parish, and in similarly-minded congregations in Northern Virginia.

Gerson may hold views very different than those of Akinola—just as Barack Obama may hold views very different than those of Jeremiah Wright. But given Gerson’s repeated criticism of Obama over his relationship with Wright, it seems fair to ask whether anything that Wright has said or done is as destructive to the human family or reflects as poorly on the Church as the word and actions of Peter Akinola, and why Gerson is able to pronounce with such supreme condescension on Obama’s failures when his own are so much more damning—and enduring.

Jim Naughton is editor of Episcopal Cafe.

"The bonds of affection", and the wreck of the SS Tennessee

By Donald Schell

Like many Anglicans I’ve got the Windsor Report’s phrase, ‘Bonds of Affection’ rolling round in my head like a melody from the radio that won’t be dismissed. I think about affection and whether it makes relationship or just happens sometimes in it. What sense do we make of people who say affection is fleeting? Does good affection bind? That gets more wondering about choices and how we make them, and how bonds and choices live together. And that brings an old personal story to mind.

For eighteen months after she got her R.N. my wife Ellen worked nights caring for sleeping and sleepless patients at teaching hospital near our home. When she was on, I’d walk her over to the hospital, leaving our children sleeping for ten minutes. There had been some late night muggings in our neighborhood and I didn’t want her walking over alone. Ten minutes to eleven I’d steal a good-night kiss from my lovely nurse in uniform and walk home to sleep alone while she worked the shift that hospitals don’t call ‘graveyard.’ Next morning at 7:15 while I was making the kids’ breakfast, we’d listen for her key in the door and her weary "Good morning." Then it was breakfast together and, if it was a weekday, I’d deliver the children to school and child care while Ellen slept.

Regular weekdays I plunged into the priestly and missionary tasks I’d taken founding a new congregation from the ground up, leaving the house to Ellen as a temple of silence. With earplugs and a sleeping mask, she could sleep, more or less, and be ready to greet us in the late afternoon for tea and dinner together before my evening church meetings. Whenever Ellen had a week night off work, I’d take off the following day (with the children off at school) and we’d do something outdoors in the daylight (rain or shine) and enjoy lunch together.

On the weekends that Ellen worked, my task was to keep an intense three-year old son and our more contemplative seven-year old daughter happily occupied away from home so she could sleep. Wherever I took the children on Saturday, our company was divorced dads, men and their children haunting the hands-on Exploratorium, the zoo, the beach, the park. Ellen would make herself stay up for church if she’d worked Saturday night, so on Sundays, our outings were in the afternoon.

Night shift made Ellen’s weekends off important events to us. The Saturday I’m remembering we’d planned a hike and picnic to Tennessee Beach, in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area just north of San Francisco. It’s a beautiful place and the long gentle hike to Tennessee Beach was a favorite for us and the children.

I can’t remember how the morning went wrong except that something Ellen said as we were packing the picnic angered me. I made a tentative statement of what bugged me and why and quickly decided she wasn’t listening. So I decided to sit on my anger and say nothing about it. Of course, I was absolutely certain I was right, that Ellen was wrong, and furthermore that by not listening to me she essentially conceding that I was Right about The Very Important Point I Was Making. Happily casting myself as a righteous victim, I concluded that her evident wrong-headedness gave me no choice but to claim the intellectual and moral high ground and hold it in silence. I didn’t say, "Fine, have it your way," but I thought it.

However, not wanting to be a jerk, I decided to pity her for a long week of working nights, by doing my duty as a dad and father in every particular, being exquisitely nice and helpful as I did it. I agreed with absolutely everything she said, and I smiled a lot and kept busy. I felt Ellen picking up on my rage as we were walking from the ridge down to the beach where the Gold Rush era S.S. Tennessee was wrecked in 1853. My first indication was a look from her – angry, hurt, reproachful, and questioning all at once. The children seemed to be enjoying dad’s catering to them and had a great time. Since I wasn’t making conversation but only responding to Ellen’s or the children’s questions, I had some quiet time during the picnic to think about the early steamship whose wreck had given the beach its name.

Coming up from Panama finding the Golden Gate enshrouded in heavy fog, the Captain was counting on dead reckoning to establish his position. He knew there was land just to the north of him and thought he was entering into the Golden Gate to make anchor in San Francisco Bay, but the sound of waves breaking directly ahead told him his navigation calculations had been disastrously wrong. Through the mists a high cliff appeared, now directly astern. Turning the ship hard away from the cliff and driving the big steam-driven sidewheels full speed he struggled against waves and current and until he saw the other cliff that defined the little cove directly ahead. No way forward and no way back, each succeeding wave drove the ship closer to the beach until finally the sand caught it broadside. More than five hundred passengers and all the U.S. mail were successfully brought ashore. The Tennessee’s owners came out to find their ship beached, but still sound. Soon they had tugs and cables and workmen on the shore trying to re-float the ship, but a couple of days after the Tennessee was beached, a big storm blew in from the Pacific and fierce waves pounded it to pieces.

Three hours or so into my folly of forced niceness, fake smiles and cold helpfulness, I thought I was as trapped as the S.S. Tennessee had been, a nearly new ship, best technology of its era, now little left but rusty boilers buried beneath this beach. As the kids explored the quiet beach and played at the sea’s edge, Ellen asked what was going on. "Nothing," I insisted with all the warmth of an airline steward. Did I actually think I could fool her? Probably not. "Everything" was what I really meant, and she heard me.

We packed our picnic and hiked back to the car. I was impeccably helpful, showily available to the children, excruciatingly respectful and solicitous of my wife. And I knew as I did all this that I was trapped in my own folly and doing us serious damage. All the work of parenting had Ellen stranded too - baffled and frustrated with her incommunicative husband.

Finally, after a dinner at which I tried to channel Ward Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver, and then cheerily took dish duty while Ellen put the children to bed, she came back to the kitchen, stood looking at me for a fierce, loving moment and said, "We don’t do it this way. Tell me what’s wrong."

Words of a response lined up in my head, ‘Well, this is how we do it now!’ but I hated those words and knew I’d regret them for ever, so I left them unspoken. She had me. I was immediately embarrassed to recognize that I’d long since lost track of the fine points from our morning’s conflict, but knowing I was as trapped as the captain of the doomed steamship, I welcomed her direct appeal to unbreakable bonds of affection. I’d never heard us say it before, but she was stating an immediately evident fact – we had tried to shape the course of our life together from a steady intention to grow in love and truth. She was offering us what the S.S. Tennessee could not find, a way forward.

I told her what remained from our conversation that morning, how I’d felt unheard and not taken seriously. She replied describing the scene I’d actually witnessed that morning – her very steady focus on all it took to get the picnic made and us out the door and in the car.

What generated the strain of that day was real bonds of affection we’d forged in the eight years before. I felt the painful bind with which wisdom and the force of my loving her cramped my self-righteousness. Like St. Paul in Acts (26:14) I was straining against the constraints of love. Real bonds of affection are like the muscles and sinews of our bodies, and like those living bonds, practicing relationship makes the bonds more flexible and effective through the strain of use.

Taking ‘bonds of affection’ seriously gives the lie to the old, neat distinction between agape and eros—Christian love and erotic love. Ellen was calling on our established practice of disciplined affection. Letting her touch me with that reminder validated our history together, good memories, and hopes we’d shaped over some years. Her demand rested in the delight in each other’s presence and voice and yes, in the flesh she knew I treasured. She was asking me to use the blessed, powerful bond we’d forged together to break the bind I’d created that morning. We needed to talk. She appealed to what we knew but had never declared before. This new phrase, "How we do it," refused to accept that there were any disagreements we couldn’t talk about.

I am grateful for every liberal and every conservative in our Anglican Communion who is saying now, "That’s not how we do it." With cliffs behind ahead of our ship, there’s no way forward in the righteous certainty than "I’m right" or "She’s wrong." Genuine bonds of affection demand what forged them, the commitment to keep talking, graceful conversation, through whatever conflict we face.

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

Making the case against the Covenant

By Jered Weber-Johnson

The Anglican Covenant Conference closed Saturday in New York City following two full days of intense discussion, deep analysis, and passionate exchange from a diverse range of perspectives, all related to the St. Andrew’s draft of the Anglican Covenant. What began Thursday evening, at the Desmond Tutu Conference Center with the provocative comments of the first keynote speaker, Archbishop Drexel Gomez (see Friday’s post), continued in the ensuing day and a half with presentations by lay and ordained representatives from several seminaries and Anglican bodies from across the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as a few representatives from organizations within the wider Anglican Communion (over 40 contributors in all). Within that diversity, a few similar themes were echoed in both the papers presented and the questions posed in response.

Not surprisingly, a few of the presented papers rejected the idea that a covenant was “necessary” in order for the communion to stay together, as asserted in the opening remarks of the conference by Archbishop Gomez. While rejecting this notion of necessity, there did emerge consistently a sense among speakers and responders alike that an Anglican Covenant was probable if not inevitable. Many of the comments thus assumed the character of advice, pointing toward what a beneficial covenant might include in, and excise from, its content in future drafts.

In his comments Friday afternoon, titled “The Covenant, the Quadrilateral, and Balance” the Reverend Dr. Robert Hughes, professor at School of Theology at the University of the South, argued that in its present draft the Anglican Covenant gives too little weight to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, a statement, he said, that has been used primarily for outlining what was essential to forming communion with our ecumenical partners. The current draft said Hughes “is both less and more than the Quadrilateral.”

Hughes claimed that it was ‘less’ because it deemphasized or undervalued the role of the sacraments and creeds as essential to communion. The current draft is ‘more’ than the Quadrilateral argued Hughes, by “placing sources of secondary authority, at best, on the same level as essentials, and thus burdening the free consciences of Christian people beyond what our reformed Catholic tradition allows.”

Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, professor at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, addressed the conference from his paper “Whose Covenant? The Anglican Covenant, the People of God and History from Below”. He also echoed the sentiment that the current St. Andrew’s draft was lacking. Professor Joslyn-Siemiatkoski’s contention was that the ethos of the current draft and the whole process leading up to it seemed to reflect a top-down ecclesiology which emphasized the needs of the institutional Anglican Church to the detriment and neglect of the contextual needs of local churches.

Said Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, “If the drafters of the Anglican Covenant can come up with a way to frame the importance of this document for those people of God who experience the church ‘from below’ they will go a long way to making this text relevant to their lived contexts.”

In a similar vein, the second keynote speaker of the conference, Canon Dr. Jenny Te Paa, a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion that produced the Windsor Report in 2004, addressed the concept of a potential Anglican Covenant from the perspective of indigenous peoples, the poor, women, and young people. Canon Te Paa found “the galvanizing of the entire leadership of the Anglican Communion into responding, into reacting in a very intentional, sustained and extraordinarily costly manner” to the issue of homosexuality to be troubling when compared with the disproportionate reaction of the same leadership to the reality of global poverty, war, and the abuse of the environment.

Te Paa went on to argue that it seemed to her that “institutionalized dominant male power has been and still is being exercised in an exceedingly unjust manner” particularly in placing the issue of sexuality over all other issues facing the church. Further, she argued that same power is being used to “concentrate precious communion wide resources in the form of people and money to advance a proposal which essentially, at least in its first draft, served to protect and enhance that same dominant male leadership.”

This, for Te Paa, was tantamount to “the establishment of hegemony”. She said “I am speaking here of the Primates Meeting”. Canon Te Paa noted that rather than being a communion-wide issue of paramount concern for the entirety of Anglicanism, the issue of sexuality, particularly homosexuality, is an issue of “potentially schismatic proportions” only for this small group of the powerful elite within the communion.

While Te Paa had been supportive of the concept of an Anglican Covenant in her time on the Lambeth Commission on Communion, she claimed that because of what she saw as a move toward hegemony among the Primates particularly in the process of creating a covenant, that in the end she had changed her original position.

“I believe the current Covenant proposal while not without much longer term potential merit is inevitably seriously negatively affected by all of this”, said Canon Te Paa. She continued, saying “it is becoming increasingly difficult for us ordinary Anglicans to take seriously even the very good rhetoric of Covenant when the very real reality of some very bad leadership behavior is still so pervasive, thus making the whole exercise so utterly contradictory and inexcusably, unjustifiably expensive.”

Ultimately, Te Paa argued that either a “moratorium” or a “slowing down” of the current Covenant process needed to occur, that input in that process needed to be intentionally sought among a broader diversity representative of the whole communion, that new avenues of reconciliation be explored outside the context of Covenant, and that ultimately there needed to be “an intentional focus upon reclaiming, re-strengthening and re-affirming the already existing and strongly regarded covenantally bound relationships that the majority of Anglicans already hold to with profound commitment and with unbreakable confidence.”

One of the primary responders from the floor of the conference to Te Paa’s remarks was Archbishop Gomez. He wished to respond to add a point of what he felt was necessary correction to Te Paa’s comments about the Primates alleged hegemony. Gomez categorically denied that there was any move toward consolidation of power by the Primates, and that any assertion to that end “is a lie” he said. Gomez further argued that so far the process of Covenant design has in fact been very inclusive, and, he said of Te Paa’s talk, “I don’t think you were fair in your account of the Primates.”

When asked if she would like to respond to Archbishop Gomez’s rebuttal, Canon Te Paa declined, thanked the conference, and went to sit with Gomez.

Picking up on a thread that had continued throughout the conference in several speakers’ comments about the relationship between mission and covenant, the Reverend Dr. Titus Presler, Sub-Dean of the General Theological Seminary, in his remarks Saturday, affirmed the potential benefit of a covenant to the shared mission of Anglicans wherever it sought to strengthen relationships and reconcile member churches.

However, he cautioned that wherever mission and unity “become matters of quasi-legal adjudication, especially across differences of culture and language, we may find ourselves not only crippling the affirmations and aspirations of a covenant, but sinning against the Holy Spirit, that Spirit who is the source and animator of the mission of God.”

For more about the conference and to read papers from all the speakers as they are posted, go to

Jered Weber-Johnson, a candidate for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Olympia, is a student at the General Theological Seminary.

Gomez argues for the Covenant

By Jered Weber-Johnson

The Anglican Covenant Conference began last evening at the recently opened Desmond Tutu Center in New York City, with participants from across the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada as well as representatives from various bodies within the wider Anglican Communion. The General Theological Seminary convened this conference with the intent of engaging participants in dialogue and debate over the draft Anglican Covenant.

The format over the next day and a half includes panel presentations by theologians, scholars, and faculty from the several seminaries represented at the conference with responses by student panels. Each seminary was asked to select a faculty and student representative to send to the conference.

Interspersed between the panel discussions will be three keynote speakers. The first of these keynoters was last night, the Most Reverend Drexel Gomez, Archbishop and Primate of the West Indies and the Bishop of the Diocese of the Bahamas. Also on the schedule are Canon Dr. Jenny Te Paa, a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion which produced the Windsor Report in 2004, as well as the Reverend Canon Gregory Cameron, Director of Ecumenical Affairs and Studies, and Deputy Secretary General in the Anglican Communion Office in London.

The question posed to the presenters and keynoters by the conference organizers was “Would an Anglican Covenant clarify Anglican identity and strengthen mutual interdependence? Or would it be a tool of exclusion and dominance?”

In his talk, “The Case for an Anglican Covenant”, Archbishop Gomez asserted that not only would it clarify Anglican identity, but, he further argued, “covenant is the only available mechanism” to keep us together as a communion.

The majority of Archbishop Gomez’s comments centered on the necessity and practicality of an Anglican Covenant, drawing heavily from Section C 119 of the Windsor Report, on Canon Law and Covenant.

Seeking to demonstrate prior precedent for covenanting in the history of Anglicanism, Gomez sited the Bonn Agreement of 1931 between Anglicans and the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, noting that that particular covenant was brief due to the amount of trust by both parties entering into it.

Gomez argued, “brevity can only survive in a situation of complete trust. Where matters are disputed, the matters must be clarified.”

In his responding remarks, the Reverend Dr. Peter-Ben Smit, a priest in the Old Catholic Church and a student of the General Theological Seminary noted that rather, the tenor leading up to the Bonn Agreement was anything but trusting, and issues were far from resolved at the time of the agreement.

“Over seventy-five years of full communion, of which my presence here is a living example, show therefore that your premise that ‘where matters are disputed, the matters must be clarified’ holds not true”, said Smit.

Smit further noted that in lifting up the example of the Bonn Agreement, Gomez had not argued for a lengthy agreement such as the proposed covenant, but rather “for a short statement of fundamental agreement”.

John Lock, a seminarian from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry pointed out that he agreed with Gomez that an Anglican Covenant might be practical and necessary in troubled times such as these.

At the same time Lock argued, “we cannot achieve unity, the precious gift of the Spirit, merely on the grounds of Anglican polity.” Rather, “unity comes when” he continued, “we are reconciled to God and have peace with God, and as a result we can have peace and be reconciled to those who are redeemed in him.”

In perhaps the most pointed comment of the evening, Leonel Abaroa Boloña, a student at Trinity College, Toronto, stated that Archbishop Gomez had preached at the consecration of two bishops whose consecration was expressly for the purpose of pastoral care to Anglicans in America disaffected by the Episcopal Church’s stand toward homosexuality. Boloña argued that Gomez’s presence at the consecration, which took place in Kenya, seemed to be inconsistent with the stance of the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant, both of which Gomez played a part in producing and is expressly supportive of.

“I need consistency”, said Boloña, “and as the Primate of the West Indies and as a person who says he supports the Windsor Report, you are saying one thing and doing another.”
Gomez responded that his presence at the consecration was not as Primate, but as close friend of the two men being consecrated. He denied that his actions were in any way inconsistent with his words.

After the evening’s discussion the Reverend Dr. Ian Douglas reacted for Episcopal Café to the presentation and subsequent comments.

“I was quite impressed by the questions. People got right into it, and the questions people had were well researched.”

Noting the significance of the Anglican Covenant Conference: “I think it’s important to have substantial discussion, discussion that is considered and gracious, which surfaces valid and important differences. If we’re going to be genuine to the covenant process—these conversations are going to be necessary.”

For more information about the Anglican Covenant Conference, its keynote speakers and other presenters, and to look for papers as they are posted, go to

Jered Weber-Johnson, a candidate for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Olympia, is a student at the General Theological Seminary.

A new step in the reformation of Anglicanism?

By Howard Anderson

I was re-reading John Jewell’s Apology for the Church of England last night. Yes, I know, only a Church nerd would “re-read” something as ponderous as that. My seminarian daughter, Kesha, urged me to read it because she felt it was important. It isn’t exactly People magazine or even The Washington Post. But something struck me as I read his often turgid and convoluted arguments against the Roman Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. He, as well as his student, Cranmer, and Hooker were the three individuals who put Jewell's thinking into a new formulation of reason, tradition and scripture; and that the Episcopal Church are another step in the Holy Spirit's guidance of the church councils.

Jewell was seen by many, especially the Roman Catholic Bishops in England, who argued vehemently in the House of Lords against Elizabeth’s “Settlement,” as merely another Protestant cleric. But in his defense of the Church of England he began to link the seeming opposites together. He was smitten by the sola scriptura (scripture only) focus of the Protestants, but was appalled by the Puritans who took things too far in throwing the Catholic baby out with the bath. His fixation on the primitive church, and their less hierarchical priesthood of all believers, reaching out to the world as a way of living into God’s reign, almost sounds like what the “emergent/emerging” church folk are writing and talking about these days. Of course it took a couple more centuries before our ecclesiology caught up with the ideal of the primitive or early church. But I think it has. And I admit that I, like Jewell, am enamored greatly by the early church, whose faults I candidly admit I have not explored as deeply as its enduring contributions to the Church today.

I remember sitting in a pub in Canterbury with several of the Cathedral Canons, and after the second pint, one said “You Americans need to get with the program and use the same polity as the rest of the Communion.” My response was something like, “Perhaps you forget, that there was a revolution in the colonies and I believe your side lost. And, as you tried to strangle the Episcopal Church baby in the cradle by withholding episcopal support, our friends, and your adversaries the Scots came to our aid.” I added, rather snidely I fear, “The Church of England and the whole Communion, will, within our children’s lifetime, adopt the Episcopal Church’s polity. My friends, if you think lay and ordained Episcopalians will give up their rights to vote on matters of import like electing their rectors and bishops, voting in General Convention and give them over to a bunch of bishops let alone primates, you are simply deluding yourselves!” Slurp, wipe the Guinness foam off my upper lip, “so there!”

This harkening back, I admit often with nostalgia dimming the realities of the primitive church, has always marked much of classical Anglican thinking. The polity we in the Episcopal Church have embraced, coming out of our revolutionary culture is truly an American intervention into the wonderful world of polity. It is a reform that does take a step forward in the evolution of a church that is thoroughly Catholic, yet embraces the reformation thinking. I always add that TEC is “the last catholic church left.” Note the small “c.” But I can say that God willing, anyone I baptize could become our Presiding Bishop. There is no automatic roadblock to anyone who has the gifts for serving TEC as an ordained or lay leader, like there is in other branches of churches in the Catholic tradition, and these roadblocks of exclusion exist even in the normally inclusive mainline Protestant denominations.

TEC is much maligned in some Anglican quarters these days. But mark my words, this reforming Catholic/catholic church of ours is doing a great thing in following the model of radical inclusion that I believe Jesus called the early Church to, and stills calls us into today. Living in the tension of being a both/and Church is not easy. We, like Jewell, look backward for inspiration and forward to a church ever more being called by God into a bright and unpredictable future. It never has been easy to live in this tension. It never will be. But as for me, I am proud of this Church of ours that dares to risk persecution and having all kinds of evil muttered against it falsely on account of following Jesus.

The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral. He was a long time General Convention deputy and most importantly, is grandfather to a five year old theologian, Will.

The empty space in the photograph

By Steven Charleston

What do you know about Joseph Stalin? I ask that odd question because a momentary glance back to his era in the old Soviet Union gives us a useful image (or perhaps, the lack of one) to use in considering our situation in the Anglican Communion.

Stalin liked for people to disappear. Those he purged actually did vanish in a very real physical sense because he had them executed, but they also vanished from memory by being erased from public photographs.

This idea was nothing new. Egyptian pharaohs had been chiseling out the face of unpopular or discredited predecessors thousands of years before Joe Stalin took the hint. But by the age of mass media, the process had become more refined. Historic photographs that showed a line of leaders waving to the crowd were simply “doctored” by having the offending person erased. It worked very well, with only one small detail: it left an empty space in the photograph where someone used to be standing. In some instances this was hard to detect, but in many others, it was glaringly obvious. Like a kid who has lost a front tooth, the line up on the platform looked odd with one big empty space in the picket-fence perfection.

What’s wrong with this picture? That became a sort of joke for Soviet watchers. You could tell, literally, who was in and out in Soviet politics by seeing who disappeared from the official photographs. The doctrine of erasing history like this seems ridiculous, of course, but it continues to be practiced under the rubric, “out of sight/out of mind”.

Now please don’t make any quantum leaps of comparison between Stalinist Russia and the Anglican Communion, because that would be silly, but also please do think about this one, small, but important point: when the official photograph of the bishops at Lambeth is taken, will we notice the person who has been erased (in advance) from the picture?

And if we do, what does that tell us about the integrity of the institution that would do such a thing? I am not attempting to make any exaggerated points here beyond holding up an image of the assembled bishops and asking: “what’s wrong with this picture?” Someone is missing.

As Anglicans, we should be ashamed that Gene Robinson has been disappeared from Lambeth, but we should keep that image always before us as a reminder: if it can happen to one, it can happen to all and to any. Gene was erased for pure politics, nothing more. His disappearance was designed to keep power in the hands of the status quo. His absence makes us all anxious, embarrassed and uncertain. Are we more secure now that we pretend one of us doesn’t exist? Are we more credible before the masses? Have we fooled anyone out there who is watching? Not likely. We are no more successful at doing this than Joe Stalin or Ramses II. We make ourselves look like what we are: a vacant space where leadership ought to be.

At the very least, the rest of us who still get to smile for the camera should acknowledge that as we wave at the crowd.

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska, is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, and keeper of the podcasting blog EDS's Stepping Stones. A citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Bishop Charleston is widely recognized as a leading proponent for justice issues and for spiritual renewal in the church.

Making decisions as a Church

By L. Zoe Cole

During the day, I write ethical dilemmas that are used as part of a web-based simulation that teaches ethical decision-making skills. One of the things we teach is that more often than not ethical dilemmas are choices between competing goods rather than between right and wrong. The other thing we teach is that although there is often more than one "right" answer, some answers are better than others. Virtually everyone does in fact have a personal value system, although most can't articulate it and to the extent that we make "good" choices, we do so by accident rather than a reasoned and replicable process.

In popular debate, those arguing for the maintenance of traditional notions of morality often posit the "anything goes" straw man as the only alternative to tradition. However, to reject traditional notions of morality (which are often simply about maintaining the power and privilege of one group over another) is not to reject all notions of morality or the value of morality. It is simply to suggest that a different set of criteria or understanding of the same tools (e.g. different interpretation of the same Biblical texts) be used to determine what is moral, ethical and why some choices are better than others.

As Episcopalians, we are sometimes criticized for a dearth of "official theology," but we do have lots of information about how to make choices that are life-giving, or proclaim the Good News or spread the Kingdom - or however one describes the end results that are desirable for Christians. We have a catechism that tells us what sin and redemption are (sin is "the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people and with all creation" and redemption is "the act of God which sets us free from the power of evil, sin, and death" BCP p.848-849); we have Eucharistic prayers that tell the same story of creation, sin, judgment and redemption in different ways; the Easter Vigil which goes through the same history using various passages of Scripture; the baptismal covenant; the Prayers of the People—oh! and then there is Scripture itself!

All these provide tools for discerning whether one set of actions or values or politics is better than another. They also provide a common language, and, to the extent we take responsibility for learning, a shared teaching. Some choices are a matter of individual conscience, but if we are the Body of Christ, then we are not free to operate only from a position of individual choice. We have responsibilities as members of the Body to fulfill the vocations given to us. I am an elected deputy to General Convention and therefore have a responsibility to consider what common choices and commitments are appropriate and/or necessary for this part of the Church (The Episcopal Church) to do the work God has given us to do (as distinct from the Church of England or the Anglican Church of Nigeria), as the Church (as distinct from what I am called as an individual to do).

Some complain that the fact that different members of the Church come to different conclusions using the same tools means that we have no standard or shared language by which to justify one practice over another - in fact, we use similar standards and shared language all the time, we just don't use it to justify the same practices. The fact that we understand these tools to point toward different decisions for different people at different times does not leave us to the "arbitrary rule of the majority," whatever that means. Presumably those who complain of such a standard are making some distinction between the way we currently make collective decisions and the way other Christians do or did in the past. Are those decisions somehow less arbitrary or less the will of the majority?

Although I hope TEC lives out the Church’s vocation to be prophetic, and know that some congregations are profoundly and transformatively so, my guess is that in reality we are no more nor less prophetic overall than any other group of Christians. I think the only thing we can be is true to our own experience, even when, or perhaps especially when, that experience is not the same as others. I suspect based on what I read and hear from both the conservative and liberal sides that many see the parallels between our current religious debates and problems and Jesus' criticisms of the religious leaders of his own day. For those who are called to live in the light, we still spend a lot of time in darkness of our own making.

Some complain that we merely mirror a liberal American culture in our insistence on full inclusion of all God’s children, regardless of gender, race, ability/disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. They argue either that these values are not intrinsic to the Gospel, or perhaps that our adoption of them is not theological, but a mere acquiescence in the questionable values of American liberalism or post-modernism (that dreaded and maligned antithesis of “orthodoxy” and traditionalism). While the claims are often over-inflated, the essential question is legitimate: we have no business as the Church in simply mirroring culture, even where cultural values are consistent with the Gospel. But often the claims themselves are not understood as a call to theological integrity, but simply reveal the critics as feeling out of sync with both the actions of General Convention and their experience of contemporary society.

I am frequently inspired by the thoughtfulness and learning of my sisters and brothers in Christ, especially my fellow deputies, in their approach to the issues facing the Church. They inspire me to work against my personal shortcoming of too often seeing those who disagree with me as taking unreflective positions. Often I find myself and witness others being pleasantly surprised by shared understandings among those of different theo-political positions. Therefore, what I experience as true of those with whom I find myself in alignment, I assume is true of those with whom I do not find myself in alignment: we are all seeking to serve the same God and we accept the responsibility as leaders to discern the will of God for the community, as well as for our individual lives; and even though we won't always get it right, we trust that God is working with us to accomplish God's purpose.

In the end I can trust God even in the face of the differences of others and my own fallibility because I know that (as former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple said): when we chose wisely, God reigns; when we chose foolishly, God reigns.

L. Zoe Cole is a lay member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Denver, CO and active in the Diocese of Colorado. Currently, she is a part-time municipal court judge and a full-time writer for, producer of web-based ethical decision making tools and training materials.

"To Win the New Asia for Christ”

By Frederick Quinn

“To win the New Asia for Christ” was a widely employed missionary concept in the immediate World War II years. But half a century later less than two to five per cent of Asia is Christian. The number is still lower if the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines is excluded from the count. Having spent time recently in Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore (as a tourist), and the Philippines (as a lecturer), and after talking with laity and clergy of different denominations, several observations come to mind:

1.) Asia has become a world-class exporter of theology. With the plateauing of major German and English language theological writers, names like the Sri Lankan Catholic Aloysius Pieris, the Taiwanese Protestant C. S. Song, and the New Zealand Anglican, Jenny Te Paa, have gained global recognition for their different contributions.

Pieris for linking the social-economic emphasis of Latin American Liberation theologians with Asia’s poor, whom he contends must be the center of any missionary effort.

Song as a leader in the widespread contextual theology movement that allows individuals and communities to tell their deeply meaningful stories with religious implications, relate them to the life and teachings of Jesus, and from the ground up build theologies derived from them.

Te Paa as a respected voice in the global Anglican Communion. Her bridging of Maori and white New Zealand cultures and their complex race relations serves as a model for similar efforts elsewhere.

2.) Hunger for contact with Western churches is widespread. Priests and laity often shared details of their lives in long and heartfelt detail. An Episcopal Church “Fulbright Program” would have real benefits. While many American parishes, dioceses, and seminaries already have such exchange programs with overseas partners, they could be greatly increased as a way of promoting wider understanding.

3.) On the one occasion when the subject came up, there was real interest in and support for ordaining women and persons of single sex orientation to ministry and episcopacy. Ex: before discussing these issues with a group Asian church leaders, I spent the previous evening rereading To Set Our Hope on Christ, the Episcopal Church’s much-neglected but comprehensive response to the Windsor Report. I expected questions about the biblical justification for such ordinations, but none were forthcoming. Instead, participants (about half women and half men) wanted to hear details of the Episcopal Church’s half-century struggle toward fuller acceptance of women and gays and lesbians as children of God and ministers of the church.

4.) Asians note that Asia’s major religions were long established centuries before Christianity and Islam arrived. As for the latter, one class in the Philippines described numerous cooperative efforts at the local level, such as jointly sponsored primary schools, credit unions, medical clinics, agricultural cooperatives, etc. Following a period of warfare in the southern Philippines, local Roman Catholic bishops and Muslim leaders created a Bishops-Ulama council that meets four times a year.

5.) After witnessing the vitality and diversity of religious expressions in Asia, the Global South Anglican advocacy group’s claims to be representative voices of this vast segment of the developing world appear increasingly thin.

6.) Nor does the oft-invoked North/South divide hold up under scrutiny. Instead, a careful look at different countries reveals multiple social, ethnic, and religious groups defying easy generalization. The observation of Pakistan-born Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen in Identity and Violence is apt here that such simplistic generalizations reflect “extraordinary descriptive crudeness and historical innocence. Many of the significant diversities within each civilization are effectively ignored, and interactions between them are substantially overlooked.”

7.) Many deeply devout Asian Christians accept the idea that other valid paths to salvation are represented in the different religions around them. Ex: a leading Indian Christian, Rammon Panikkar, wrote metaphorically of his own religious experience, “I ‘left’ as a Christian, I ‘found’ myself a Hindu, and I ‘return’ a Buddhist, without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” Panikkar is a deeply devout Roman Catholic who over a half century has come to appreciate and use elements of the prayer life and wisdom of other religious traditions. Asian religious pluralism is grounded less in doctrine and more in experience. This includes sustained encounters with other religions, building trust among faith communities, and accepting the different histories and contexts from which they emerge. “We are right side of the brain people,” I was often reminded.

A leading voice in the Asian-American religious encounter, Peter Phan, is a Vietnamese priest who teaches world religions at Georgetown University. Recently he wrote in Being Religious Interreligiously, Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, “It is useful to recall that Jesus did not and could not reveal everything to his disciples and that it is the Holy Spirit who will lead them to ‘the complete truth’. It is quite possible that the Holy Spirit will lead the church to the complete truth by means of a dialogue with other religions in which the Spirit is actively present.”

Asia has moved to a new place religiously during the last half-century. New theological voices are emerging, as compelling as their European and American predecessors. It is not a fading West/ Rising East scenario, but one of Westerners broadening their study of and respect for the riches of Asian religions. Rooted deeply in tradition, yet adapted to local settings, Asian Christians seek a wider understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus and a broader exploration of the central concept of the Reign of God.

Focusing on current controversies in the Anglican Communion distorts the wider possibilities of such a potentially rich religious encounter, one that can benefit all participants.

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn is a former chaplain at Washington National Cathedral, a retired Foreign Service Officer, and the author of numerous books on law, history, and religion. His most recent work is The Sum of All Heresies, the Image of Islam in Western Thought (Oxford University Press).

The Global South's Catechism

By Marshall Scott

As was recently reported in The Lead, a new "Anglican Catechism in Outline" (ACIO) has been published. It is a part of " The Interim Report of the Global South Anglican (GSA) Theological Formation and Education Task Force" In addition to ACIO (contained in a section titled, “Key Recommendations”), the Interim Report includes a section of Commentary, several Illustrations of catechesis in Global South settings, and two brief Appendices.

I've been spending some time reviewing ACIO and the Interim Report. I have been surprised that more people haven't looked at it and commented on it. I suppose some might wonder why we should care. After all, it's from "those folks" in the Global South. What, after all, can we expect from them?

But that sounds all too much like, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" I think we do need to take an interest in this, and to look at it closely.

First, notwithstanding their discomfort with us, "those folks" are still our siblings in Christ and in the Anglican Communion. Indeed, the Task Force expressed the intent to produce a document "for the whole communion," one not caught up in current issues. By the same token we in the Episcopal Church have said again and again that we want to maintain conversations across the communion. We have continued to say that in all humility we can learn from them. One way showing that we mean it, of meeting their good faith with our good faith, is to read and reflect on documents like this Interim Report.

I will also allow that in our current difficulties we need to know the concerns of those with whom we disagree. ACIO and the process by which it has been developed have been endorsed by the Steering Committee of the Global South Primates. A final report is to be released this year, and ACIO may well be an influential document at GAFCON. While they are not our enemies, we might well "keep our friends close and our critics closer." So, once again, it is well worth it to take an interest in documents like the Interim Report.

Moving from general principles to specifics, this Interim Report has much to commend it. The Anglican Catechism in Outline itself is worth our time and interest. The Task Force decided not to produce a complete Catechism, and instead chose to produce a "catechetical framework," adaptable to many contexts.

What ACIO offers is the framework, no less and no more. The catechesis embodies the faith the church has received from Christ’s apostles (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). This deposit of faith is the foundation upon which the church upholds right teaching and right worship under different circumstances in all places and in all generations....

At the same time, communicating Christianity well requires sensitive understanding of the particular missionary situations. Provinces are in better positions to attend to such tasks. Provinces should also make every effort to understand the social contexts of their mission. They should teach the Christian faith in creative ways.... Therefore different provinces should find suitable ways to implement the recommendations.

Organized under the categories of Faith, Hope, and Love, and incorporating expositions of the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, the Summary of the Law, and the Ten Commandments, the framework is worth study as to how it might inform and complement our existing catechetical efforts.

In addition, I think the Illustrations are worth our time and attention. Having said that we want to maintain conversation, these Illustrations can offer us concrete examples of specific catechetical programs. More important, they can offer us better understanding of the contexts for those programs, and the challenges our Anglican siblings face. We value from the Quadrilateral, "The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church." We value it as much for that phrase, "locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples," as we do for the concept of the Historic Episcopate itself; and we are sometimes concerned that there is not enough respect for our own locale and our local adaptations. It is incumbent on us to understand these locales of our sibling Anglicans. Studying these Illustrations can only help.

That said, there are also those specifics within the Interim Report that I, at least, think are problematic. The three papers in the Commentary section are not the products of scholars from the Global South, but rather of scholars of the "Global North" who are sympathetic. The topics of the papers are Holy Scripture, the Creeds, and the Anglican Formularies. All are distinctily evangelical in their orientation. The paper on the Creeds by Bishop Paul Barnet, retired of Sydney, is distinctly Evangelical, but not notably partisan about our current differences. On the other hand, the paper on the Holy Scriptures by Professor Oliver O'Donovan of the University of Edinburgh takes a position on Scripture that is explicitly inerrantist and implicitly literalist. The paper on the Anglican Forumlaries by Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A, is less informative than polemic, so philosophically focused on the particular experience of the Church of England in Empire and Commonwealth as to largely ignore any real "local adaptation" and to imagine the experience of the Episcopal Church as literally "beyond the rim."

These commentaries are not explicitly part of ACIO, and arguably do not necessarily detract from its usefulness. At the same time, these papers were included by the Task Force in the Interim Report. They were obviously acceptable to the Task Force. If they were seen as important in interpreting and adapting the "catechetical framework," I think they would seriously undermine its usefulness across the Communion. It will be important to note how those who celebrate ACIO specifically also respond to these papers. Those attitudes will certainly affect the climate within which we might still seek conversation and mutual recognition across our differences.

In our desire to embrace and celebrate a Communion that is theologically and culturally diverse and inclusive, we need to be attentive to and thoughtful about ACIO and the Interim Report, and about similar scholarly efforts from those with whom we disagree. At least we will know what our critics say, and can decide how to respond. At best we will demonstrate our own commitment to a diverse and inclusive Communion, and our humility and willingness to learn from those at times seem so distant and so different as to become for us "those folks." They are still our siblings in Christ and in the Anglican Communion. It is important for us to listen to and learn from their best efforts as much as their harshest words.

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

The urgency of forgiveness

By Lauren R. Stanley

RENK, Sudan – We gathered in church this week to talk about forgiveness, a good topic to tackle on the last Sunday of Lent.

Far too often, when we talk about forgiveness, that’s all we do: talk. It’s usually nothing more an intellectual exercise for us, because heaven forefend that we should seek forgiveness for the wrongs we have done, heaven forefend that we should forgive those who have wronged us.

But in Sudan, a land that has been at war for most of the past five decades, forgiveness is a much more immediate issue. This is a place where religious, tribal, ethnic, language and gender differences have resulted in the deaths of millions of people. This is a place where land has been taken, families have been split, livelihoods have been destroyed.

Talking about forgiveness here is all the more poignant because everywhere you turn, there are reminders of the wars, reminders of the deaths, reminders of the devastation that has sundered this land.

On this past Sunday, our preacher at the Cathedral of St. Matthew was The Very Rev. Martha Deng Nhial, possibly one of the first African women to become a cathedral dean in the Anglican Communion.

Using texts from Luke on forgiveness and Matthew on temptation (“lectionary” frequently is a loosely followed word here), Mother Martha got right to the point:

We have to forgive, she said, because Jesus said so. If we don’t forgive those who have wronged us, she stressed, why should God bother to forgive us?

And then she brought in the devil.

The devil, she said, doesn’t want us to forgive. So the devil instead comes into our lives and tells us that we don’t have to forgive, because the other person isn’t forgiving us.

“The devil is not far from us,” she said. “He will be with you, eat with you, sit with you all the time. And because the devil is right there in our lives, we don’t forgive.”

Forgiveness – with all its attendant difficulties – is a very personal, absolutely urgent issue here. Every single Sudanese sitting in the Cathedral on Sunday has lost family members in one or more of the wars that have plagued this land. A culture of hatred has grown up over the last several generations, hatred between North and South, East and West, between the tribes, between the different religions. It almost seems ingrained some days.

Asking people to forgive those who have killed their families and friends, or who have denied them jobs or education, or who have striven to keep them from simply enjoying a life of peace and prosperity is hard, very hard.

Forgiveness in this place is not some intellectual exercise; it’s reality. It’s a daily need. Mother Martha wasn’t discussing some esoteric theological point; she was directly telling the people in her care to work at something some of them don’t want to even consider.

But in this place, a place of war and death and destruction, forgiveness is the only thing that will save this land. True forgiveness – the kind that hurts, the kind that stretches you beyond anything you’ve ever conceived – is the only thing that will heal this land.

So on the last Sunday of Lent, preparing ourselves to go into Holy Week – where forgiveness was modeled for us in the most memorable way possible – talking about forgiveness was real, poignant and necessary.

If the people take to heart that which Mother Martha preached, there is a chance that one day, Sudan will be healed. But only if the people start by forgiving.

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

Church property: let go with love

By George Clifford

In private conversations, Episcopal Church (TEC) leaders from various dioceses, both lay and clerical, tell me that two important reasons for lawsuits to retain title to the property of parishes and dioceses that wish to disaffiliate with TEC are fairness to the remnant that remains faithful to TEC and to deter other parishes from leaving. At first blush, those rationales may appear to justify TEC filing the lawsuits. However, neither rationale withstands careful scrutiny from a Christian perspective.

Quite simply, Christianity is about grace and love. For we who seek to follow Jesus, grace should take precedence over law. TEC operates through democratic processes. When a majority of a parish (or a diocese) votes to leave TEC, those who leave should recognize that the property belongs to TEC and, if they wish to have the property, offer to purchase it at fair market value. However, if those who wish to leave insist on keeping the property, grace demands that we accept that selfish decision rather than holding to the letter of the law. Although TEC may likely prevail in the courts, it will have further alienated the disaffected, turned its focus away from the gospel imperative, and wasted precious resources on an issue that is ultimately of little importance for God's business.

This choice may seem unfair to the minority who wish to remain with TEC but is gracious towards the larger number that decided to leave as well as to those whom God's love will touch because of TEC’s focus and resources invested in mission rather than legal actions. For example, the Diocese of Virginia has probably expended more than $1 million in lawsuits to retain the property of a number of parishes that recently voted to leave. The Diocese recently obtained a $2 million line of credit to further finance those suits. Although $30 million to $40 million of property is at stake, for those $3 million, and the countless hours of time the suits will require from bishops, priests, and laity, the Diocese of Virginia could fund several new missions to meet the needs of those who wish to remain and others. Successfully retaining large buildings for small congregations by winning the suits will burden those congregations with excessive overhead and probably instill a maintenance rather than missionary orientation.

Love between consenting adults does not seek to manipulate by using incentives or disincentives. Love wants what is best for the other, a choice that only the other can make. In human relationships, the unrequited lover who genuinely loves will sadly but freely permit his/her beloved to choose another. The same standard should apply to the community of God's people known as TEC.

Individuals who vote to separate from TEC are consenting adults. By so voting, they spurn TEC’s love for them. TEC may not have always communicated its love for those who vote to separate with sufficient ardor, frequency, or effectiveness. TEC may have failed to provide those who vote to separate with a leader or leaders committed to TEC’s vision of God's inclusive love. Representatives from other Churches in the Anglican Communion may have mischaracterized recent events within TEC or the Communion, seeking to fragment TEC. These representatives may have funded or employed manipulative tactics to encourage votes for disaffiliation. None of that diminishes the demand of our Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

Individuals, parishes, and dioceses that choose to leave TEC further fracture the Church’s already badly broken unity. Departures spiritually weaken TEC, leaving us bereft of the unique gifts and contributions that those who depart bring to the Church. After all, people, not physical plants or financial funds, are the Church’s most important resource.

Nevertheless, departures are not without precedent. The most notable Anglican precedent was the excommunication of the Church of England by the Church of Rome. Although this departure was not voluntary, the English knew that failing to alter their course would most likely force the Pope to act. King Henry seized excommunication as an opportunity to expropriate church property, disestablish monasteries, etc. Reform-minded clergy similarly saw a window of opportunity to make what they perceived as badly needed changes to liturgy and canon law. Following the American Revolution, Anglicans in the United States had to choose between swearing allegiance to the British crown and becoming U.S. citizens. If some had not chosen the latter course, TEC would probably not exist. Those who chose to depart from the Church of England took title to the Church’s property in the U.S. without paying compensation to the Church of England.

Anglicans from other provinces who have crossed jurisdictional lines to organize missions, receive parishes, or ordain clergy in the United States have certainly violated existing Anglican Communion structure and protocols. As much as I find such activities reprehensible, those activities do not result in those provinces or individuals losing their identity as members of the Anglican Communion. Likewise, those who leave TEC when accepted by a non-TEC diocese or another province do not cease to be either Christian or members of the Anglican Communion.

Establishing procedures for an orderly transfer of property and funds when a TEC parish or diocese votes to affiliate with another constituent member of the Anglican Communion and refuses to honor TEC’s right to the property will represent a costly gift of love. That gracious gift, whether it costs tens of thousands of tens of millions of dollars, honors and respects the dignity of those who have chosen to depart. That gift also emulates God's great gift of love in Jesus, a gift given in the full knowledge that it would be costly.

Sometimes, an unrequited lover’s beloved will desire, in retrospect, the gift of love that he or she earlier spurned. If that should happen among those who have chosen to depart from TEC, or who may do so in the future, then TEC’s gracious love in allowing them to go may inspire hope of a warm homecoming à la the parable of the prodigal son. To let go reluctantly and unwillingly of the beloved who spurns our love unintentionally sends the opposite message. God calls us to value persons, not property. Those leaving TEC should go with God's blessing and ours, albeit a blessing given with tears of sadness. We who remain must remain faithful to our calling and understanding of God's Word, treating all persons – members of TEC and others – with the dignity and respect due a child of God.

The Rev. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, with tours at sea, with the Marine Corps, on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains, on exchange with the Royal Navy in London, as the senior Protestant chaplain at the Naval Academy, and as the senior chaplain at the Naval Postgraduate School.

The view from England

The Cafe welcomes several new contributors this month, including Adrian Worsfold (known online as Pluralist), who offers a view from England.

By Adrian Worsfold

I am an independent-minded Anglican at the northern edge of the Canterbury province before the land becomes, over the River Humber, part of the province of York. In this part of England, which is a notorious area for low percentage churchgoing, I'd say that at the very best five per cent of the population enter all churches of all denominations.

It is such a different scene in the United Kingdom from the United States. The only real growth in churchgoing in this country is in London among black immigrant-based independent churches. There is also the result of Poland entering the European Union and perhaps some one million Poles coming more or less all at once into the United Kingdom, many of whom go to Catholic churches for communal reasons - rather a similar dynamic to background reasons for much churchgoing in the United States. This is not the dynamic of churchgoing in the UK, where people are generally not clubable and remain reserved, and who retain large areas of personal space around themselves as individuals.

My own background is religiously mixed. Without going into detail I was raised without any church upbringing, became confirmed at a university chaplaincy into the Church of England, but have had serious Unitarian (now exhausted) and Anglican involvement since. As well as this I have had intentional contact with Bahais, Western Buddhists and the liberal end of the Independent Sacramental Movement. So you know where I am coming from.

I suppose there are around a dozen people in my local congregation of approaching a hundred that I know about who show a regular knowledge and interest in wider Anglican affairs. I do because there has always been for me an issue in the local church and the wider church. I am happy with the local church but there are increasing problems with the ethical basis of the wider Church. This is the only reason why I write about it.

This is an age of increasing specialisation, as only a minority are committed to any sort of church life. Yet the Anglican Church is based on being generalist. The problem is that as we specialise our interests, and become more selective in what we do, the Anglican Church and indeed every broad historic denomination simply covers too wide a spectrum. While doing research for my doctorate, I interviewed three Christian ministers. There was a traditionalist Catholic Anglican, a strong evangelical Anglican and a liberal Methodist. On every issue they sometimes took completely opposing positions. With this and other research I concluded in 1989 that the old denominations were increasingly meaningless, and new ones were emerging inside the old. So only old institutional habits and some fashions and understandings of spirituality, and a lot of localism, will keep the old institutions going. This may be still be considerable, but it comes with an increasing number of speciality Christian labels, and many of these identities struggling to clarify, specialise and even break free. The party system in the Church of England hardly helps.

Then in 1993 the Church of England ordained women, and it broke the back of its Catholic party. The traditionalist Catholics have either left or become marginalised. The Catholics that are left are either sacramentally inclined liberals or are critical Catholics who are mistaken for liberals. What was a stable triad of Catholics, Evangelicals and Broad (or Liberals) has become an unstable dyad of Evangelicals versus liberals. However, the Evangelicals are themselves too broad. One lot of them cannot compromise with liberals or, increasingly, anyone else, and the other lot can. In this age of specialisation, they have to split. This split comes before any straight fight between Evangelicals and Liberals.

This is what the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) is all about. Via the presenting issue of homosexuality, they are organising a split from other Evangelicals. They want other evangelicals marginalised. What they will end up doing is marginalising themselves. At the moment there is a transient alliance of the dogmatic - marginalised extreme Catholics and extreme Evangelicals. It won't last, and like the Catholics before them, the Evangelicals in all their intensity must divide. It is quite painful for the compromising Evangelicals.

The result is a trimmed yet still broad Church. Some of the more intense liberal groups have shown the same tendency to divide between liberals and radicals. However, liberals have long put up with not getting what they want, and some have had an ethic of bringing others together. In England the Broad Church group contained, historically, compromisers and centralisers as well as radicals (those who sympathised with Unitarians, for example). That the Catholics and Evangelicals have split first and second may give comparative strength to the liberals and not lead to them splitting too. Also, the looser arrangement of liberals and their view of authority is more flexible about difference.

The core GAFCON body is basically an alliance of extreme Reformation Evangelicals, insigniicant in themselves, but allied with an up-and-coming Christianity made from a toxic mixture of out-of-colonialism religion with those literalist biblical words that reflect the kind of magical and crisis-ridden supernaturally haunted world they recognise.

My view is that each main Church should protect the integrity of the institution that the GAFCON people are attacking and will attack. It will be part of its existence to raid and to steal, should it be successful in setting up parallel but dogmatic Anglicanesque institutions. In the United Kingdom they will seek to redistribute Anglicans towards its leadership. However, there is a kind of inevitability about the breakaway, and they should be allowed to go. The attempt to centralise, to copy its agenda (as in the Advent Letter of 2007), to compromise with them, via this Covenant, is completely misconceived. Let those people go: producing another, smaller continuing Anglicanesque speciality as the main bodies trim themselves from their dogmatic extremities.

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

The art of being still

By Heidi Shott

In 1979 a small island in the Southern Caribbean made a bold move by designating the real estate between the high tide mark and 200 feet below the surface a national marine park. Rules require dive boats to use moorings instead of reef-damaging anchors and make illegal spearfishing and the use of diving gloves, lest divers be tempted to touch vulnerable coralheads.

Nearly 30 years later Bonaire, one of six islands that comprise the Netherlands Antilles, has done more to preserve the complex ecosystem of the coral reef and the variety and abundance of fish life than anywhere else in the Caribbean. Not only have the Bonairians preserved their natural resource, but they have also ensured steady economic growth by drawing divers to their pristine underwater park year after year. My family has returned to dive off the island ten times over the last 15 years. We’re in a rut, but it’s an awfully nice rut and very affordable once you get there.

Diving is something my husband Scott and I have shared throughout our life together. The thrill of seeing a sea turtle or a eagle ray or to swim in the midst of a huge, flock-like school of silversides or to have dolphins frolic along side our boat, binds us in a way that is hard to explain. Scott learned to dive at 14 in the mid-seventies in the murky lakes and frigid quarries of West Virginia. I learned in 1985 in the tropical waters off the Micronesian island of Saipan when we were first married and teachers at the island parochial school.

During our most recent trip in January, our twin 14 year-old sons learned to dive. Finally we could dive together as a family. We spent two weeks diving, reading, playing scrabble and gin rummy, and watching the sun set from our porch with boat drinks and snacks – no phone, no email, no computer games, no TV, no diocesan or hospital emergencies that required our response. When we awoke in the morning, the drill was not the mad morning rush to school and work but to drink some tea with a slice of toast, gather our gear bags, squeeze into the bottom half of our wetsuits, and make our way down the dock to the happy camaraderie of the dive boat. “So where we goin’ this morning?” the day’s dive leader would ask.

“Salt Pier!”

“La Dania’s Leap!”

“Carl’s Hill!”

“Anywhere, it’s all good!”

Under the Caribbean sun we would arrive at the dive site and hoist our air tanks onto our backs, the acrid smell of hot neoprene in our noses. How delicious to let the weight of the gear flip us backwards off the side of the boat into the cool ocean.

As a diver, one skill I’ve paid close attention to over the years is controlling my buoyancy. I’ve learned to rise and fall in the water by gauging the amount of air in my lungs and to control my pitch and yawl by the flick of a fin or the twitch of a hand in the water. I’m not an expert – I don’t dive enough for that – but after a dive or two the fluency comes back. By maintaining neutral buoyancy a diver can get close to things…really close. This is important because so much of what goes on in your average coral reef neighborhood is tiny and complicated and if you want to get a sense of the intricacies of life on the reef, you need to be as close and as still as possible.

What an honor to be a visitor to this little corner of creation. It takes hundreds of years for the coral reef to grow: one generation of a hundred of species of coral dies to form a minute layer over the great exoskeleton of the reef, a millimeter at a time. One of my favorite things to do, and I taught my sons to do it as well, is to kick back from the reef into the deep water and pause to take in the whole wide expanse of the scene. We’re looking at part of creation that was in this very place doing its silent, magnificent thing at the same time Henry VIII was beginning to grow a teensy bit dissatisfied with Catherine of Aragon, when our boys were shooting themselves to bits at Second Bull Run, and when my grandfather was in the trenches faraway in France. For millennia tiny blue-lipped blennies have bravely defended their two inches of territory, orange frogfish have extended their deceptive lures, the spectacular and shy spotted drum has swum in and out of the hollows of brain coral…over and over and over again. For the past 60 years, since M. Cousteau and his friends figured out how to breath underwater, we humans have been privileged to observe this world for up to 75 minutes at a time.

Last month, on the day before we were to fly home and resume our life in Maine, I jumped off the dock with my fins, mask and snorkel. We’d made our last dive earlier in the day and were now allowing all the dissolved nitrogen built up in our blood to dissipate before we flew." (Getting the bends in an airplane is a seriously dumb, seriously dangerous rookiesque thing to do.) Before long, I was swimming 30 feet above the terrain I’d dived inches from a half dozen times in the past two weeks. From the surface I recognized certain distinctive coral heads, a large prickly West Indian Sea Egg, brilliant purple stovepipe sponges and delicate, translucent vase sponges, five different species each of parrotfish, angelfish, damselfish, and butterflyfish, and little groupers called Rock Hinds. I recognized them from 30 feet above only because I already knew them intimately from close at hand. Fish we don’t recognize at depth, we study in our fish books when we surface so we will know them the next time. Divers sport the geeky enthusiasm of birders, we just don’t often talk about it in public.

As I paddled around in the gorgeous turquoise, warmer than our mill pond ever gets at mid-summer, I started to finger this essay in my mind. Out of habit and propensity, I often contrast whatever situation I’m find myself in to the state of the Episcopal Church or the nuttiness of trying to live like a Christian in this complicated world. It’s an annoying habit and I’ve tried unsuccessfully to break it. I’ve compromised by only writing about one in five ideas that wash over me. Still, what I was thinking was something like this: If one part of God’s glorious creation - such as the ecosystem of the tropical coral reef – is so amazingly complex and fragile, doesn’t it follow that other parts of creation – the family, the congregation, the diocese, the Church, the Communion – each would be just as complex. Think of how nuanced and complicated the life of any congregation or diocese is. Yet, if we’re on the outside, how easy it is, with a little bit of distant observation, to feel we have captured the nut of a place in the palm of our hands.

As a diver at depth, so careful with my breathing to remain close but not intrusive amid the life and death action of the reef, I can observe a world that I don’t belong to. I can learn a lot, but I’ll never be a fish. I’ll never know what causes the Pederson’s Cleaning Shrimp to climb onto that particular anemone. As a snorkler 30 feet above, I can see the bigger coral heads and the bigger fish, but I’ll never see the two-inch blenny defending his little home in the crack before darting back to safety or the baby spotted moray eel poking its head and mouth full of teeth from a burrow.

But my inability to really, really know doesn’t stop me from pretending I know the undersea world. In his song, “Laughter,” Bruce Cockburn sang, “A laugh for the dogs barking at our heels, they don’t know where we’ve been. A laugh for the dirty window panes, hiding the love within.” I’ve always loved that line because he calls us on how willing we are to be dismissive of people with whom we don’t agree or with whom we have little in common. We’re especially good at that in the Church.

I don’t know how to change that, but scuba diving provides some good lessons: control your breathing, be still, watch carefully, and, for God’s sweet sake, don’t open your mouth.

Heidi Shott has served as press officer to Bishop Chilton Knudsen of Maine since 1998. She is also communications director of the Genesis Fund, a revolving loan fund that provides expertise and low-interest loans to nonprofits engaged in community development. Heidi's essays about trying to live a life of faith may be found at Heidoville.

Enough, already

By Kit Carlson

I don't care. I know I should. I know all the very, very, very, very important reasons why I should care about the proposed Anglican Covenant, the upcoming Lambeth meeting, the "anti-Lambeth" gathering in the Middle East, and all the machinations, argumentations, proselytizations, and disputations surrounding all of it. I know that it matters. It does. I know I could wake up in a year or two and find my beloved Episcopal Church on trial in some ecclesiastical, international tribunal that emerged seemingly overnight at the urging of a few fearful and angry Anglicans. I know, in my head, that it is serious business for the future of the Anglican Communion, how we relate to one another, and how we wield power over, or power with, one another.

Still, you know what? I'm tired of it. I'm tired of it, and I'm bored of it, and I am ready to move on.

I just don't care.

Here is what I do care about: I care about the very real people in my very real parish who show up faithfully, week after week, to receive the sacraments, to hear the Word of God, and to laugh and cry and support each other as they walk through life together.

I care about their spiritual health, their physical health, their mental health. I care about their dying dogs and their wandering children. I care about their cancer scares, their cancer cures and their cancer deaths. I care about their doubts and fears, their debates with God, their insights into some fresh word of Scripture. I care about their ability to be in healthy relationships. (And I don't care whether those relationships are straight or gay, as long as they are healthy.)

I care about my parish as a whole. I care about its ability to welcome the stranger, to serve the needy, to pray and to grow, to be a good steward of all its blessings, from building to staff to children in the nursery. I care about its future. I want it to grow and thrive for the next fifty years and more, and to become such a force for good, such a blessing to our community, that East Lansing would be bereft if it were suddenly to vanish.

I care about my bishop and my diocese. I care about the Episcopal Church. And I do very much care about the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion has blessed my life in uncountable ways, because my home church in Maryland is filled with people from all over that Communion, people who moved to the Washington area to live and work and to worship in the Anglican tradition. My world has been expanded because I have lived in community with Nigerians, Ghanaians, Bahamians, Chinese, Indians and Canadians. My vision of God's Kingdom has been broadened by seeing all sorts of God's children from all over the world come to the altar rail, week after week.

And I understand that a flawed and failed Covenant could put that at risk.


I still don't care. Because I believe that, as the old hymn says, "the love of God is broader than the measure of the mind," and that what is good and true and Godly ... in my parish, in my diocese, in my beloved Church of Our Saviour in Hillandale, Maryland, is stronger than the division, confusion and darkness flying around out there in the rest of the Anglican Communion.

The Rev. Kit Carlson, is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich. In 2003, she played the apostle Paul on the world's first internet reality series, The Ark, a project of the Christian humor website Ship of Fools.

The vast majority

By Lauren R. Stanley

Sitting in a meeting recently, discussing issues relating to the great sexuality debate, I heard the old bugaboo raised once again:

“Please don’t do this,” one person said. “It will cause problems with the Anglican Communion.”

And there it was: the great “Anglican Communion,” brought into a discussion as though it were some giant standing right outside the room, ready to stomp us and gobble us up like Godzilla in those Japanese films of old.

Which is about the time I lost it. The aggravation caused by invoking the “Anglican Communion” was too much.

You see, I live, as often as is possible, in that Anglican Communion, and for me, it is not some amorphous monster lurking outside my door. It is my home. And I, for one, am getting very tired of hearing the “Anglican Communion” held up as some cudgel over our heads.

There are two things about this invocation that rile me:

First, we are the Anglican Communion, just as much as any other person who worships in any church that is part of the worldwide Communion. It’s not as though the Communion exists outside the United States only; those who belong to the Communion are not “other,” they are us.

Second, when the Communion is invoked in discussions on sexuality, it usually sounds as though everyone in the greater Communion is of one mind, that every Anglican around the world is standing against us in the United States and would like nothing more than to toss us out of the Communion.

The first objection is theological: There are no “us’s” and “them’s” in the Anglican Communion, anymore than there are “us’s” and “them’s” in God’s very good creation.

The second objection irks me because it simply is not true. The majority of Anglicans around the world do not care one whit about the sexuality debate. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of Anglicans around the world do not even know about the debate.

So, please: Let’s stop being so generic in our references. Please, let’s be a whole lot more specific.

Are there Anglican primates who are upset about the direction the Episcopal Church in this country is heading? Absolutely. Are there Anglican bishops upset as well? Yes again.

But the majority – the vast majority – of Anglicans could not care less about this debate.


Because far too many of our Anglican brothers and sisters around the world are dying, and people who are dying tend not to care one whit about someone else’s sexual orientation or activity.

Far too many Anglicans have to worry about where to get enough food to eat. They are struggling, on a daily basis, to care for their children. They don’t have health care. Far too many live in countries where AIDS is ravaging their societies. They don’t have clean water, or medicine, or education. There aren’t enough jobs for them; money is as scarce as food.

Listen to the Rt. Rev. Musonda Trevor Mwamba, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Botswana, who is but one of many Anglicans who have come to the United States in the last few years and said the same thing. Speaking at the convention of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina in January, Bishop Mwamba said, “The truth of the matter is … we must understand the majority of African Anglicans, about 37 million, are not bothered by the debate about sexuality. The majority of African Anglicans … have their minds focused on life and death issues, like AIDS, poverty … and not on what the church thinks about sex or the color of your pajama pants. Villagers who live on less than one dollar a day aren’t aware this is going on.”

And yet, whenever sexuality is debated in this country, the “Anglican Communion” gets tossed into the argument, and suddenly, we think of our sisters and brothers in Christ as a monolithic “other,” existing somewhere beyond the boundaries of this nation, and the next thing you know, we’ve set up an “us” against “them” dynamic, which breaks community, which must, simply must, sadden our Lord.

Those of us who live “out there” in the Communion, meaning outside the United States, know that the Anglican Communion is made up of people just like you and me, people who want exactly the same things we want: Enough food to eat and clean water to drink; enough medicine so that when their children get sick, as all children do, they can get better; enough peace to be able to walk down the streets of their villages and towns and cities without fearing when the next attack might come; enough education so that their children will have a shot at a better life; enough money to pay for all the other things they so desperately want, just so that they can stay alive.

That’s it. That’s all most people in this world want: Enough. Not more than enough. Simply enough.

I know that as a missionary serving in Sudan, when the topic of sexuality is brought up, which is not very often, people will debate it. They will take their stands, based on Scriptures and culture and everything else upon which we take our own stands. But in the end, the argument is not important to them, because they do not judge the Episcopal Church on this topic only. They have a much broader view of the Episcopal Church than we tend to have of them. They, like so many other Anglicans around the world, see the American Church as a generous and loving one, filled with people who not only care about those in need but who also are willing to do something about that need.

So as we continue discussions about what is happening in the Anglican Communion, as we begin to respond to the latest draft of the proposed Covenant, as we prepare for Lambeth later this year, let’s remember that the “Anglican Communion” is not some monolithic Godzilla-like creature hovering outside our boundaries, waiting to chew us up and spit us out.

Please, let’s remember:

We are the Anglican Communion. And just as we are not of one mind on sexuality, neither are our siblings in Christ.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is temporarily serving in the United States because of the instability in Sudan.

Draft Covenant creates
Instruments of Exclusion

By Marilyn McCord Adams

Actions speak louder than words!

The new draft covenant speaks softly. Its text has mostly lost the strident tone of The Windsor Report and successive pro-Windsor polemical documents. It has mostly dropped the fiction that pan-Anglicanism has ‘always been synodal’ and the urgent recommendation that pan-Anglican ‘instruments of union’ be given legal teeth--at least for the reason that kept the first Lambeth Conference from being a synod, that it would be illegal for the Church of England (St. Andrew's Draft 3.1.2)!

If The Windsor Report expresses the righteous indignation of its authors in the face of a perceived emergency and represents the purpose of the ‘instruments of union’ primarily in terms of preventing change, the new draft at least nods approval of the notion that Gospel proclamation has a social justice dimension--that ‘hungering and thirsting for righteousness’ involves not only striving for individual holiness but carries a mandate to work for social transformation and institutional reform (SAD 1.2.5, 2.2.2.a, 3.2.3).

The new draft covenant repeatedly acknowledges the legal autonomy of the provinces and accepts that deliverances of the instruments of union will have no legal--legislative or judicial--force (SAD 3.1.2, 3.2.2).

The archishops rewrite, and the new draft covenant speak softly. But let the covenanter beware! The big stick has not been thrown away but rather closeted in the appendix, where the machinery and timetables for ‘relinquishment’ are laid out. True, the language is of ‘request’ rather than ‘judicial injunction’ or ‘ultimatum’. Yet, it is enough for one ‘church’ to accuse another to set the ball rolling towards a request for compliance that would have the same effect as a demand to cease and desist on pain of excommunication!

Actions speak louder than words! Recent experience should make us wary. Just how much difference will the lack of legal authority make to the behavior of the ‘instruments of union’ in handling intra-Anglican disputes?

Look at how--without any legal basis whatever--Lambeth 1.10 (on Human Sexaulity) has been elevated to almost credal status, canonized as the teaching of the Anglican communion on sexuality. Consider how study documents such as Issues in Human Sexuality and Some Issues in Human Sexuality have been elevated to rub shoulders with patristic authors.

Remember how--without any legal basis whatever--the primates behaved in Tanzania: ‘requesting’ moratoria, creating ‘instruments’ to interfere in the internal affairs of TEC. The ABC said they weren’t ‘ultimata’, but they sure fooled the American House of Bishops!

Consider how the ‘instruments of union’ continue to give aid and comfort to North American secessionists, with the Archibhsop of Canterbury’s comments that they might be recognized as pan-Anglican Communion members and archepiscopal speculations about whether it is dioceses or provinces that are the intended covenanters.

How, we may ask, have the primates demonstrated their hungering and thirsting for justice, when Archbishop Akinola’s promotion in Nigeria of severe criminal penalties for homosexuality has gone without Communion investigation or sanction?

Actions speak louder than words! Recent past performance by the ‘instruments of union’ raise serious questions about whether they should be trusted with so much gate-keeping power.

Here in the Church of England, this recent track record will be welcomed with rejoicing in some quarters and greeted with indifference in others. Isn’t The Episcopal Church guilty by association with the rebellious colony whose present international arrogance deserves to be cut down!

Let the covenanter beware! Strong gatekeeping institutions can be turned in more than one direction. We may be happy when they move to enforce our viewpoint on others. But what about when our turn comes?

What if an English diocese should wish to secede? What if English dioceses demanded local option on signing the covenant?

What if African provinces started planting parishes and ordaining bishops on English soil? what if Anglican churches in England sought alternative primatial oversight? What if parishes and dioceses started exploiting legal loopholes to take the property with them?

What international machinery would be set in motion then?

What if another province complained that our permission of civil partnerships was contrary to biblical morality?

What if the international community insisted on a moratorium and reversal of the ordination of women?

What if persecuted churches maintained that our participation in Interfaith Councils and insistance on civil rights for non-Christian religious groups, undermined martyrs’ morale and jeopardized their mission?

What if other provinces accused us of betraying tradition by allowing anything but services from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer? What if we were ‘requested’ to ban free church-style fresh expressions or missel-based “smells and bells” worship and to discipline participating clergy?

What if other provinces declared certain forms of biblical scholarship unfaithful and ‘requested’ that we forbid ordinands to study them?

What if our faithfulness to the Gospel leads us in directions that provinces in the pan-Anglican Communion can’t countenance? Are we assuming that we are different, because we are the organizers of the club?

Covenant ‘relinquishment’ clauses and machinery still contradict the Reformation insight that Adam’s fall means that groups of sinners are just as fallible as individual sinners. Covenant clericalism still fails to reckon with the priesthood of all believers. Just as it would be unfaithful for individual lower house members to delegate discernment to the House of Bishops or the archbishops, so it is unfaithful for the Church of England to delegate its discernment about Christian mission and social justice in England to international bodies that are not accountable to General Synod, much less to Parliament or the Queen.

Let the covenanter beware! These documents, like their enactments, remain deeply flawed.

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

The St. Andrew's Draft:
A flawed document

By Frederick Quinn

The St. Andrew’s Draft Covenant is a flawed document, deficient as both a theological and a canonical exercise. Its tedious language does not improve on Anglicanism’s foundational creeds, the “generous orthodoxy of the Prayer Book,” and other key historic statements like the Baptismal Covenant so central to the life of the American Church. Nor does it derive from the historic via media in both affirming Anglican identity and seeking ways of negotiating differences within the Anglican Communion. Its deficiencies include both what it says and what it leaves unsaid. The Draft Covenant‘s presumed purpose is to raise a red flag about “threats” to church unity and address issues affecting today’s Anglican Communion. But it does not mention:

---the plight and status of women and children, a major issue facing churches everywhere.

---the ministry (and power) of the laity, who comprise the bulk of church membership.

---the status of gay and lesbian people and their full inclusion, or not, in the church’s larger life, the issue that triggered these deliberations.

---Episcopal poaching, extraterritorial ordinations, and calculated intrusions on established dioceses. (The group’s chair has been an active supporter of such intrusions, raising a question about conflict of interest).

The Draft Covenant’s Preamble states the document’s purpose is to proclaim the Gospel message “more effectively” in different contexts. But such contexts and diversities of histories, traditions, and viewpoints within the Anglican Communion are nowhere recognized. At heart it is a colonialist document, papering over differences in Trollopian language, and trying to force a distinctly unAnglican centralized juridical mechanism on the wider communion. Will it work? No. Does it improve on our historic creedal and structural statements? Decidedly not.

The Draft Covenant is narrow in its conceptual framework and distorts Anglican history in several instances. Many of its disputable provisions are buried in footnotes, a Draft Appendix, and an accompanying communiqué, press release, and commentary. It is toward the end of the press release, for example, that we learn the clock is already ticking and "It is the intention to produce definitive proposals for adoption in the Communion" in the post-Lambeth period. Then, "Proposals for the process of consolidation, and reception of, the Covenant and its ultimate consideration by synodical process will be presented to the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates at their meeting in March 2008."

It appears to be full steam ahead, despite substantial reservations careful readers of the Draft Covenant and Appendix are raising. Meanwhile, Covenant proponents are yet to convincingly prove there is any groundswell of global support for their proposals. Only twelve provinces of the Anglican Communion responded to the 2007 Nassau draft, and many substantial church groups replied with detailed qualifications, finding the Covenant exercise questionable.

Section (1.1) of the current draft contains six provisions and six footnotes. (Canonical drafters would caution against adding footnotes to key provisions, since it results in a confusing and difficult to interpret document.) When grouped together the origins of “Our Inheritance of Faith” are All-English, representing “the rich history of the Church in Britain and Ireland,” specifically the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the English Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. (2.1.1). Frank Turner, a Yale University specialist in English church history, has written of the first two documents, both “arose from the midst of deadly interchristian conflict….Both were designed to exclude people from the English Church and from institutions such as the English Universities dominated by the English Church.”

A reference (1.1.4 and Fn. 7), to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral 1886/1888 and “the historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his church” is voided in the Draft Appendix which is really a set of circuitous provisions centralizing power in the Archbishop of Canterbury, other Instruments of Communion, Commissions, Assessors, Primates, and the Anglican Consultative Council in case of a perceived threat to church unity.

The process of centralization of power is further cemented in (1.2) by acknowledging only one element of the classical Anglican triad of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Scripture is mentioned in (1.2.4) but allows for interpretation of the Bible “primarily through the teaching and initiative of bishops and synods.” Few modern bishops have time to be biblical scholars and the article ignores the Anglican Reformation heritage of placing the Bible in the hands of the common people and allowing its interpretation by individuals and church members at the most basic levels.

“Tradition,” the Anglican heritage’s second basic pillar, is not mentioned in the Draft Covenant, perhaps because traditions are diversely interpreted around the globe and extremely difficult to codify in a Covenant.

“Reason,” the third general characteristic of Anglicanism, is painted over with qualifiers and comes out as “a pattern of Christian theological and moral reasoning and discipline that is rooted in and answerable to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the catholic tradition.” (1.2.2) This pivotal Anglican Reformation heritage of a prayerful, reasoned relationship between person, church, and God is again ignored.

Centralizing of power provisions of the earlier Nassau Draft were dead on arrival, but the St. Andrew’s drafters have tried a new equally unacceptable approach toward consolidating ecclesial power. The technique is to state one thing and then propose the opposite. For example, the Draft Covenant states churches of the Anglican Communion are not bound together “by a central legislative, executive, or judicial authority” (3.1.2). After which foundations for centralized policy control are introduced, principally by changing the historic, largely advisory roles of the four so-called Instruments of Communion through melding together legislative, executive, and judicial functions in times of increased threats to unity. This becomes increasingly clear as readers attempt to trace the Appendix's labyrinthine options, representing a structural wiring diagram that short circuits itself at every turn. They start out with informal conversations, but then send any red alert threat to church unity to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who may refer the matter to three assessors, who may in turn send the matter on to a Commission, or to another Instrument. Dealer’s choice.

Perhaps the wide-ranging provisions sketched out in the Appendix are left intentionally vague because the drafters have not thought them through. Perhaps so many are offered because the drafters hope that those who find one objectionable will accept another one of the four routes. Possibly Draft Covenant enthusiasts believe that readers will tire and not pay attention to the fine print, and that Appendix Article 8—the sanctions article in new dress—will sneak through without discussion. Article 8 gives power to the Instruments of Communion, mainly through the Anglican “Consultative” Council assembled now as a judicial body, to decide if a Church “may be understood to have relinquished the force and meaning of the purposes of the Covenant” if it is found to have threatened church unity by some as yet undefined act (8.4). This vague wording gives unlimited juridical power to the Council, with no appeals process.

The General Comments accompanying the Draft Covenant note, “Habits of civility and mutuality of respect have taken us a long way in the past. We are now in a place where our structures must provide a framework for the context of our belief.” Not so. Could the Anglican Communion’s leadership not wage an active effort to reintroduce the “habits of civility and mutual respect” that have served us well for centuries?

Flawed in concept and execution, both the Draft Covenant and its Appendix do nothing to improve on the via media and existing Anglican creedal formularies. The Draft Covenant’s final declaration has everyone agreeing “with joy” to the Covenant, but how could such a grim document enlist the enthusiasm of anyone outside its inner circle of zealous advocates?

Member churches of the Anglican Communion urgently need to increase sustained, thoughtful dialogue at all levels, and efforts at theological mediation are called for, but that requires a quite different set of responses, including patient listening, sustained dialogue, and interprovincial exchanges at all levels, leading to a greater appreciation of the diversity within Anglicanism. Joyful, life enhancing encounters, yes. Covenants, no.

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn is an Episcopal priest and former constitutional advisor to countries of the former Soviet Union. He has written extensively on history, law, and religion and from 1993 to 1995 headed the Warsaw-based Rule of Law programs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Of boundaries, growth, and Lent

By Marshall Scott

"Good fences make good neighbors," so we say. "My rights stop at the end of your nose," we say, or at least we used to. From clinical practice to business practice, from the grand scale of diplomacy to the intimacy of personal relationships, we extol the values and importance of good boundaries.

Boundaries protect us, of course. That's usually the first reason we appeal for them. In current difficulties, there are dioceses that have tried to set boundaries to exclude the Episcopal Church. There are aspects of their lives they seek to protect; not least the sense of control to perpetuate themselves, to raise up bishops and other clergy carrying forward their particular perspective on the faith. In consequence, of course, the Episcopal Church has had to respond, asserting the established boundaries, and defending the integrity of Constitution and Canons and General Convention.

But if boundaries might protect us, they will certainly shape us in other ways. If we feel safer with them, we will also feel limited by them. That's not always a bad thing. In Lent we realize our limitations - both those we choose and those that confront us when our choices fail. Our limits are real, and we can grow from recognizing them.

Or not. In anxious times it’s all too easy to choose the limitations in the interest of safety. But, when we do that we run the risk of defining our boundaries ever more tightly, and erecting new ones whenever there is a problem.

When I was a schoolchild, we lived on (what I think of, at least, as) a typical suburban block. It was long and more or less rectangular. Various configurations of ranch and split level homes looked across modest front lawns to one another’s front doors, separated by quiet streets.

But in back, it was quite different. In back the lawns were large and open. There were no fences, or almost none. Within the large boundaries all the lawns were connected. It was, for a small schoolchild, a vast kingdom – almost large enough to stretch beyond the sound of mother’s voice. And between the vast kingdom and the boundaries of the streets were the resources: houses, and parents in them who could safely monitor us, carry us beyond the boundaries when needed, and evaluate and license our own liberty along those boundaries as we grew. Granted, all parents weren’t equally available, or even interested. However, the assumption was clear (at least in my house): children had largely unlimited access within the kingdom, and all parents were to be respected at the boundaries.

Now, the boundaries were real: nothing brought out parental wrath like playing in the street. And, as the various parents frequently knew one another’s children better than they knew one another, the reality of the resource was pretty solid. But the boundaries were relatively few; and the expectation was that we would indeed take them on and, as we grew, cross them and eventually use them as means to go beyond.

We can grow from recognizing our limitations if we’re also willing to step up to them, look beyond them, and engage whatever, whoever is beyond them. We can grow if we see the anxiety involved in our limitations as opportunities and challenges to grow. If instead we see them as defenses for our vulnerabilities, our limits will in fact grow smaller, and we will grow smaller with them.

In a way, I think this is what can happen in Lent, this growing by facing and challenging our limitations. Many of us take on or add to disciplines of life. We choose to abstain from this, or to take on that. The intent is in fact to make us mindful of our limitations, and of our need for God. That happens, I think, in two ways. The first is the additional effort involved. That incremental change, that measure of extra effort keeps our attention, and calls us to focus that attention on our relationship with and our accountability to God. If we take on discipline, we can’t help but notice; and if we don’t notice, just what did we really take on?

The second and more important way that we can grow from our limitations is precisely when we fail. What can convict us of our limits more profoundly than running into them and falling down? While the extra effort may focus us to some extent on our relationship with God, it is our failure that focuses us on our need for a relationship with God. It is in failing that we fall over the boundaries of our sufficiency, and realize we are in fact dependent, contingent. We cannot will ourselves to perfection, much less to salvation; and when we try we fail. That is when we realize our need for our Parent, for our resource who will indeed challenge us, but will also love us, evaluate us, and encourage us to grow so as to open and expand our boundaries and discover in them pathways to new freedom.

It is entirely possible to misunderstand and to fail to grow from our limitations in Lent. It is possible to take on the challenges of Lent in a spirit of defensiveness and fear. Is the extra effort taken on to focus on God, or to make us look good to ourselves or someone else? When we fail, do we ask that God strengthen us to try again, or just that God not condemn us outright? In either case the latter attitude is more about protecting ourselves within our limits than about discovering what might be beyond them. And in those attitudes we will be shaped by our limitations rather than our relationship with God, and we will grow smaller in consequence.

We are struggling now within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion with issues of limits and boundaries. We are struggling now within ourselves with our own limits, and how we can find God at them and in God grow beyond them. I pray that both within and without we may see our limits, our boundaries, not as constraints that make us smaller but as challenges to move beyond with God’s help. I pray that in both spheres we will trust first in God to strengthen us to face our limits, evaluate us as we struggle, love us as we fail, and call us to rise again to discover wider boundaries and pathways to freedom.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Paul's conversion, and ours

A sermon by the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas to the Convention of the Diocese of Washington, Friday, January 25, 2008 (The Conversion of Paul.) An audio file is here.

By Ian T. Douglas

These are tense times in the Anglican Communion with threats of division and schism flying about unchecked. Letters and communiqués from ecclesiastical leaders, newspaper headlines, book titles, and blogasphere banter all claim, and proclaim, that the Anglican Communion is in crisis. So in light of your convention theme we Anglicans, here and around the world, might begin by asking ourselves: Is it at all possible “that we all may be one”?

Now I am not so naïve to deny that the Anglican Communion is experiencing a crisis. I believe, however, that the crisis of the Anglican Communion today is not about fights over human sexuality and the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the Church. Nor is the crisis primarily about issues of authority and identity (although questions of who is in charge and who gets to speak for the Communion abound.) Rather the crisis in the Anglican Communion is fundamentally a crisis of conversion . . . a crisis of conversion.

What do I mean by a crisis of conversion? I understand conversion as a profound altering of life that results in a reorientation to God and God’s purposes; an amendment of life that calls one deeper into the heart of God; a turning around and joining God anew in what God is up to in the wider world. Conversion is thus fundamentally a reordering of one’s life, a reordering of one’s life to bring it in line with the misso Dei, the mission of God. The crisis for the Anglican Communion is thus, at its heart, whether we will let ourselves be turned inside out, upside-down, for the sake of God’s mission? Will we move from an established, known, secure and well-ordered place of privilege to a place of change, unknowingness, risk and marginalization for the sake of Christ in the world? Can we all be converted, whether we are Anglicans in Washington or Anglicans in West Africa, from our positions of power, comfort, and insularity to a deeper engagement, one with another, in God’s reconciling mission in the world? This is the crisis for the Anglican Communion.

St. Paul, whose conversion the Church remembers today, knew something about being turned inside out, upside-down, for the sake of God’s mission in the world. Called to move from a place of privilege, narrowness, and judgment, Paul set his foot on a new path, a costly path, of embodying and extending God’s reconciling love for all people.

Most of us know the story pretty well. Saul of Tarsus, as St. Paul was known before his conversion, was a devout and faithful Jew. Raised as a scholar of the Law, Paul was a man who took God and God’s word seriously. His many gifts and privileges, including a brilliant mind, a deep piety, an energetic and ambitious spirit, along with Roman citizenship, put Paul on a fast track to religious and political leadership.

As an up and coming leader in first century Palestine living under Roman rule, Paul could not avoid the challenges to the established order posed by the followers of Jesus. The author of Acts, in our first lesson, thus gives voice to how Paul persecuted the Christians. Paul says that he had in his previous life: locked up the followers of Jesus in prison, condemned them to death, punished them in the synagogues, and even pursued them to foreign cities in an enraged frenzy.

And so it was in one of his pursuits of the trouble-making Christians that Paul found himself on the Damascus road. There the living Jesus appeared to him as a light from heaven, brighter than the sun. Falling to the ground, Paul is bid by Jesus to stand up and receive a new commission, a new charge. Jesus says: “No longer are you to persecute me. Rather I am appointing you to serve and testify to the truth you have seen. I am sending you to your own and to the Gentiles so that their eyes may be open, that they may turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, to receive forgiveness of sins and a place among the sanctified.” Blinded by the light of God, Paul takes on a new life, a new vocation, as scales fall from his eyes. He reorients his life to God and God’s purposes and in so doing the Good News of God in Christ is made manifest to those who had previously been considered beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Giving his life to God in Jesus, Paul is thus turned inside out, upside-down, for the sake of God’s mission? Over and over Paul emphasizes that God in Jesus called him from his former ways to a life of proclaiming and making real the reconciling love of Christ to all people. In our Epistle from Galatians, Paul states that earlier in life he was more zealous for the traditions of his ancestors than almost anyone else. (More zealous for the traditions of our ancestors, does that sound familiar in Anglicanism today?) But God did a new thing. By the grace of God, Paul moves from an established, known, secure and well-ordered place of privilege to a place of change, unknowingness, risk and marginalization so that God’s love in Jesus could be made known to all. Similarly in our Gospel reading tonight the apostles are presented with the reality that proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ will result in alienation, arrest, judgment and persecution. The conversion of Paul and the commissioning of the apostles model for us the cost of following Jesus in God’s mission. And it is the same cost that is laid before the Anglican Communion, laid before each and every Anglican the world over, in our crisis of conversion.

The difficult question before the Anglican Communion today is thus: Can a historically mono-cultural, Church of imperial aspirations embrace a new Pentecost as a multicultural family of churches embodying wide differences yet called in unity to incarnate and extend God’s reconciling love in every corner of the world?

Allow me to unpack this question a bit. Within the lifetime of most of us gathered here tonight, especially if you are middle aged like I am, The Anglican Communion has been transformed from a white English-speaking church of the West to a radically plural and global family of churches made up of 80 million Christians in over 160 countries. And along with this radical transformation, individuals and groups who historically have been silenced or hidden in the Church have begun to find their voices and places at the table. Previously colonized people, people for whom English is not their first language, people of color, people around the world who live in dire economic, political, social, and health circumstances, are all standing up and saying they belong. And here in The Episcopal Church particularly over the last four decades: women, Africa-Americans, lay people, and most recently gay and lesbian people, are beginning to own their places in the Body of Christ. The Anglican Communion is thus no longer the Church primarily for the Ian Douglases of the world: heterosexual, white, male, economically secure, overly educated, Western-thinking, English-speaking, US passport-holding, middle-aged, clerics. Thanks be to God.

So the question really is, given the plurality of voices and peoples in this New Pentecost that is the world-wide Anglican Communion today, will we become alienated from each other in attempts to secure new privileges through the assertion of our own single identity politics? Or will we be converted anew to God’s mission in the world and therein find our unity and the possibility “that we all may be one.”? Like St. Paul, will we Anglicans, each and every one of us in every corner of the world, be knocked off our various high horses on our own Damascus roads and then be picked up and turned around by Jesus to new service in God’s mission? Will the scales fall from our eyes so that we may join with one another and set out together on new missionary journeys?

I am blessed to say that I have witnessed over and over Anglicans around the world being converted anew to God’s mission. I think of young men and women who, through The Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corps work alongside sisters and brothers in Christ in almost every province of the Anglican Communion. I have seen how they and their co-workers outside the United States have met Jesus anew in each other through these relationships. In my own diocese of Massachusetts, we have joined with the Mother’s Union in Kenya and Anglican church leaders in Uganda and Tanzania to feed and provide medical care to literally thousands of HIV/AIDS orphans. And in so doing we all have been changed, in Boston and in East Africa. And last July I witnessed 40 African Anglican bishops and 30 American Episcopal bishops come together in a consultation in Spain to share stories of what God was doing in their lives and their dioceses, beyond divisive church politics. In Spain I saw American and African bishops converted anew to God’s mission and to each other. I even saw your own Bishop (if I may John) moved to tears and transformed as he heard an African brother tell about dodging gunfire in a civil war in order to rescue the Gospel that had been translated into his own local language by his friend and mentor who lay dying from gunshot wounds. I hope and pray that though the meeting and sharing of such stories at the Lambeth Conference next summer, Anglican bishops from every church in the Communion will be similarly transformed. And, last but not least, I have witnessed how the invitation to dioceses, parishes and individual Christians in the United States and around the Anglican Communion to contribute 0.7% of our incomes in support the Millennium Development Goals has turned the hearts and minds of millions of faithful Anglicans to the possibility of making poverty history as a response to God’s mission of reconciliation.

So yes, these are tense times in the Anglican Communion. The Conversion of St. Paul however, reminds us that we never know where God might be leading us. Following in the footsteps of Paul and of the apostles, we are called to proclaim and make real the reconciling love of Jesus for all people to the ends of the earth. The challenge before the Anglican Communion today, the crisis of conversion each and every one of us invited into, is to move from established, known, secure and well ordered places of privilege to places of change, unknowingness, risk and marginalization with Jesus and each other in service to God’s mission. And when we are so converted to God’s mission, I do believe that “we all will be made one” in Christ Jesus. AMEN.

The Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas, Angus Dun Professor of Mission and World Christianity at Episcopal Divinity School, is a member of the Lambeth Conference Design Team.

Weekend in Sydney II

By George Clifford

Last fall, I was a tourist in Sydney, Australia. On the advice of a kindly lady on duty at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, I went to St. James in Sydney for worship that morning (see part 1 of this essay). I expected to find a recognizably Anglican service in a properly equipped church building, i.e., one with an altar. St. James exceeded my expectations: an attractive building, outside and inside, complemented a well-done Eucharistic liturgy. Serendipitously, providentially, synchronistically, as a result of kismet, or however one’s theological worldview characterizes coincidence, that Sunday’s preacher at St. James was the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. During the service, the celebrant announced an afternoon forum led by Canon Kearon and that the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, on sabbatical from New Hampshire and present in the congregation, would attend.

During the afternoon session, Canon Kearon in his opening remarks stated that the energy and money involved in the Windsor Report process detracts from the Church’s mission. He said that as he travelled around the Communion, he observes an increasing number of people who want to get on with the mission of the Church. Anger is building among Anglicans, he declared, over the continuing furor linked to the Windsor Report because that furor is not very Anglican, i.e., opposing the opinion of others rather than embracing diversity.

Although The Episcopal Church has engaged in extensive listening processes on homosexuality and related issues since the early 1970s, most of the Communion has not done so, in spite of requests from Lambeth 1978 and 1988. Consequently, Canon Kearon noted each group tends to identify with the pain on its side and to view others as lunatics. Listening promotes hearing the pain on both sides while promoting theological conversation.

Bishop Robinson commented that efforts to separate issues of sexuality from mission create a false dichotomy if one views Jesus as reaching out to the marginalized, pulling them to the center within God's embrace. Otherwise, for Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered (GLBT) persons to return to the Church is analogous with an abused spouse returning to the abused.

Bruce McAteer, General Secretary of the Anglican Church in Australia, also present that afternoon, described an entire day at the just concluded General Synod of the Australian Church devoted to listening to the pain of GLBT people. That day at Synod, four Australian GLBT Anglicans told their stories of pain and exclusion in depth. The process entailed listening with no debate, no votes, offering one model for what other provinces or dioceses might do. Several people with whom I spoke that morning and afternoon who had attended the Australian General Synod volunteered affirmations of how powerful and transforming that listening process had been.

Canon Kearon said that world, divided by race, ethnicity, and religion, needs reconciliation, briefly mentioning his experiences in Northern Ireland. In particular, he lamented the lack of dialogue within the Anglican Communion on major, divisive issues such as the authority of the Bible (hermeneutics), the nature of authority within the Church, and the relation of faith to society. Two conflicting versions of polity currently co-exist within the Anglican Communion: one democratic and one authoritarian, impeding dialogue and relationships. TEC exemplifies the democratic polity, the Church in Nigeria the authoritarian. Canon Kearon identified the heart of Anglicanism as meeting together and forming relationships, a process complicated by those conflicting concepts of ecclesiastical authority.

As an example of the Anglican way, Canon Kearon pointed to the ongoing development of Christian bio-ethics. The Anglican Church takes science seriously and engages in dialogue with science while concurrently recognizing the dynamic nature of tradition and scripture. That creative dialogue has consistently put the Anglican Church at the leading edge of the developing field of bio-ethics without threatening to disrupt Anglican unity. The continuing bio-ethics dialogue thus illustrates the reconciling potential and power of Anglicanism’s relational character in dealing with substantive, divisive issues.

Canon Kearon remains confident the Anglican Communion will survive. He declined to speculate on possible changes beyond acknowledging that the Anglican Communion in the future will embody a different type of communion than it did in the past. The Archbishop of Canterbury invites bishops to attend Lambeth 2008, he reminded us, and the Archbishop has said an invitation neither certifies a Bishop’s orthodoxy nor invites a Bishop to participate in a boxing match.

Personally, the most insightful portions of the day were the times that I spent in private conversations with many of those attending. From those conversations, I have begun to formulate an answer to my question of why homosexuality has become the Anglican Communion’s central, divisive controversy. After all, attitudes about homosexually have never constituted a theologically defining issue of Christian identity.

Three significant factors apparently coalesce around controversies over homosexuality to make it the prime proxy for the major but publicly unacknowledged issues facing the Anglican Communion. Those issues are African nationalism, anti-globalism, and anti-Americanism. Sex, non-serendipitously, uniquely adds emotional energy to the controversy, galvanizing forces on both sides.

If I am correct in identifying those three factors, an identification for which I can take no credit but honor the request of others not to identify them, then Episcopalians in the United States aligned with another province place themselves in a vulnerable position. At some point, the current controversies will move to a backburner, no longer receiving extensive media attention and no longer being Anglicanism’s front burner issue. What will be the follow-on expressions of African nationalism, of anti-globalism, and of anti-Americanism? Will those three forces remain aligned or diverge? Will African provinces, beset by their own pressing problems, continue to remain interested and invested in American missions? Will U.S. sources continue to fund African missions in the U.S.?

Conversely, if those three issues are the real source of controversy, when will the Anglican Communion dare to engage those issues? What does The Episcopal Church stand to lose by raising those three issues for discussion within the Anglican Communion?

The Rev. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, with tours at sea, with the Marine Corps, on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains, on exchange with the Royal Navy in London, as the senior Protestant chaplain at the Naval Academy, and as the senior chaplain at the Naval Postgraduate School. He taught philosophy at the Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School.

Here I stand

By Howard Anderson

I had trouble writing this. I had trouble because people I love and respect a great deal, people who have served the Church well seem to be placing unity before justice. Now I know that we ordained types are guardians of the institution of the Church. Bishops, especially, are the symbols of unity in the church. I know how hard it is to play that role because I have done it, both in the parish and on diocesan staffs. But I also know my very wise spiritual director often asks me, “Howard, do you love the Church more than you love God?” I always answer an emphatic “NO!” But if I were looking at my track record, my behavior, it would be very hard to tell who I serve, the institution, or The Holy One, whose Christ said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

The Rev. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams, the American priest and Regius Professor of Theology at Christ Church, Oxford, wrote a very thoughtful and challenging (and might I add highly enjoyable) paper for the recent gathering of those committed to the full inclusion of all the Baptized at Seabury-Western Seminary. We are calling ourselves “the Chicago Consultation.” She points out that those of us committed to full inclusion in the life of the church of Gay and Lesbian Christians are so committed to inclusion that we often bend over backward to keep our more conservative brothers and sisters at the table. Some of these folks who cannot accept the full inclusion of GLBT members, use this commitment against us. She speaks of “sex and gender conservatives” who have lost their majority in the Episcopal Church had no problem excluding GLBT members from becoming priests or bishops, but now that they have lost that majority in the voting at General Convention, still exercise a kind of veto power because the majority of General Convention deputies find our commitment to Anglican Comprehensiveness (the biggest possible tent to include all) so absolute that we continue to throw our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters “under the bus” (witness B-033 which urged a moratorium on the consecration of additional gay or lesbian bishops) to try and appease the sex and gender conservative minority. It is not only unjust, it doesn’t work. When my grandson was told that there was a vote (B-033) which would make his Papi’s statement “anyone I baptize could become the Presiding Bishop” untrue, he was shocked. He said, “Yikes! That’s God’s decision.” I guess my talking to him about the Holy Spirit guiding the councils of the Church actually caught hold in his six year old brain.”

Think about it. Has anything the General Convention done prevented the schismatic bishops like Duncan and Schofield from pulling out of TEC? Has anything our successive Presiding Bishops have done appeased the sex and gender conservatives? Has trying to respond to the Windsor Report (simply a report, not a mandate from anyone with any authority in TEC or the Communion) stopped Archbishop Akinola and others from ordaining renegade American priests bishops in their overseas jurisdictions to function here in TEC? When the Archbishop of Canterbury, or conservative American bishops speak of compliance with the Windsor Report, do they EVER say much about the boundary jumping of Archbishop Akinola and company? They have even created out of thin air, new entities they are calling the “instruments of unity,” or as Professor Adams so aptly dubbed them, “The instruments of mischief,” to try and muscle TEC back into the fold of those saying “not yet” to full inclusion.

Professor Adams is right. The tolerance of the majority of General Convention Deputies who have voted strongly for full inclusion of GLBT members of our Church in all orders of ministry, has been used against us. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So, shame on me. Shame on me for tolerating evil. Dr. Adams points out sharply in her paper that homophobia of the type exhibited by some of the sex and gender conservatives, most particularly, Archbishop Akinola who is advocating Nigerian legislation that would criminalize merely being homosexual, is evil. Period! Evil! Strong words, but who can deny their truth? Adams says “homophobia is a socially constructed sin, one that is built into us as part of our socialization.” She calls boldly for us to root this sin out of the institution and our hearts. Amen! Preach it sister! I am convicted. This sin of homophobia is both institutional sin (sin done in our name) and personal, (those things I have done, and left undone.)

And so I confess that I have been guilty of poor discernment, often sacrificing justice, and following Christ in breaking down the walls of prejudice, in order to keep peace in the family. I confess that I have sometimes allowed others to talk me into “toning it down,” and not pushing the agenda of inclusion of all the baptized quite so hard, so I would leave a place for sex and gender conservatives to stand. I confess this, and I know there are many whom I love and respect that have succumbed to this same demand to “slow down so that the rest will catch up” when it comes to the full inclusion of GLBT members of TEC. I have spoken out, but mainly in safe places where most people agree with me. And so I repent, and speak it here for all to see. I have been guilty of the sin of cowardice in not doing more to root out the sin of homophobia in the Church.

Some would say that the group that gathered as “The Chicago Consultation” were pushing a “gay agenda.” Nonsense. It is nothing less than a Gospel Agenda. No one ever said following Jesus Christ to the edges of society to bring the “least of these” (however each society creates ‘leastness”) to the center would be easy. I have watched friends who are bishops not want to be publicly associated with “The Chicago Consultation.” They fear that their effectiveness, or their ability to function collegially in the House of Bishops would be compromised. They fear that their ability to “guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church” in their diocese would be compromised. They may be right. But look at the conservative bishops. They organize into “networks and synods, and openly join groups with acronyms galore- CANA, AAC, IRD and more. Perhaps some of their appeal is that they are willing to step up and claim what they believe. However much I disagree with them, you have to give them credit for standing up for beliefs.

Something very predictable happens when we ordained types get together. My mother, when her Alzheimer’s disease had taken away her inhibitions, but not her words, said as she reached up to touch my clerical collar, “Cuts off circulation to the brain!” We get swept up in a wave of camaraderie, we bond with one another, relating effectively to one another becomes a prime goal of the gathering. So often, those outside that circle, (the 99% who are in the lay order) are not factors. But our General Convention’s genius is that lay AND clergy are together and vote. This tempers the “camaraderie effect” of a meeting of the House of Bishops or a clergy conference where the laity are excluded thereby rendering such rarified gatherings less comprehensive of the spirit of the Church than General Convention. I once sat with Michael Peers, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, as we listened to a debate on the issue of human sexuality in the American House of Bishops. One conservative bishop rose and said, in stentorian tones (and a British accent) “The only sexual activity sanctioned by Holy Scripture is life long, monogamous, matrimony.” In the spirit of brotherhood (pre-Barbara Harris) the other bishops nodded thoughtfully, and the gallery, in which we sat, erupted into gales of laughter. Murmurs of “What about Abraham? Wooo..Solomon” and the chuckling continued. Michael leaned over and said, “We have a single house, and the lay and clergy wouldn’t put up with such foolishness at our Synod.”

I re-read the Prayerbook service “Ordination of a Bishop” today. And like the Baptismal Covenant, the Bishops promise to “be chief priest and pastor, to encourage and support all baptized people.” They also promise to boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel stir up the conscience” of the people, and to “defend those who have no helper.” This sometimes seems to conflict with guarding the unity of the Church. These people whom the people and the Spirit elect to be our Bishops face a daunting job of discernment on where to come down on these two promises. It seems an irony, but also no mistake, that right next to the “Ordination of a Bishop,” in the Book of Common Prayer, is the Burial Office. Dear me, they face some hard and taxing challenges. We should all be grateful that they are willing to serve. And do, please, prayer for our bishops.

But as for me, my spiritual director’s question, and Marilyn McCord Adam’s challenge to “root out the sin of homophobia” are foremost in my discernment. Those of us in TEC who are now in the majority of The General Convention deputies, should not be, as Adams suggests, “held hostage" by our commitment to inclusivity so that we give in when conservative threaten to leave if they don’t get their way. For many Conventions the votes went against inclusiveness. I went home, as the first clerical deputy from my diocese and had to say to the GLBT members of the churches, “the Spirit has said not yet.” No conservative ever said to me that the Holy Spirit was not guiding the Councils of the Church when the votes went their way. But all of a sudden, when the Spirit guided the General Convention in the direction of full inclusion, our conservative brothers and sisters changed their tune. “The Spirit of God was not there.”

I beg to differ. The Spirit of God has moved through the Councils of the Episcopal Church. It has taken us to a difficult place. But it is a goodly place. It is a place where Jesus Christ would be more comfortable than those parts of the Church where the gifts and charisms all the baptized cannot be exercised. That’s what I believe. That’s where I will stand, with the much maligned, under fire Episcopal Church. And I stand with her proudly. I’m not going to be blackmailed any more with threats of leaving. I’m not going to let others use my commitment to including all of the Baptized in my Church, at whatever level the Spirit gives them gifts to serve.

When Bishop Duncan said he would try to pull his whole Diocese out of TEC, he quoted Martin Luther. “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Ditto Bishop Duncan, ditto. Me too.

The Rev. Canon Howard Anderson, Ph.D., is president and warden of Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral.

Conservative Anglicanism splitting

By Greg Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Dr. Michael Poon's remarks below:

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As we await a decision

By Robert L. McCan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A weekend in Sydney

By George Clifford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rev. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, with tours at sea, with the Marine Corps, on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains, on exchange with the Royal Navy in London, as the senior Protestant chaplain at the Naval Academy, and as the senior chaplain at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Matters of life and death

By Martin L. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to reason

By Greg Jones

The 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which many have cited in the recent divisions over human sexuality -- as being the normative Anglican teaching -- also committed the entire Anglican Communion to something called the 'listening process.' According to the official Anglican Communion website, Lambeth 1998 "recognised that there are people who recognise themselves as having 'homosexual orientation' and that that they look to the church for pastoral care, moral direction and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships." As such, Lambeth 1998 1.10 says,

We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.

This is as important as any other teaching of the Church affirmed at that conference. The Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in 2005 called for a facilitator to monitor and check up on the process "to honour the process of mutual listening, including 'listening to the experience of homosexual persons' and the experience of local churches around the world in reflecting on these matters in the light of Scripture, Tradition and Reason."

At the last Primates meeting further movement on the process was called for, and the Lambeth 2008 meeting of bishops is supposed to have a study guide to consider from all of the findings.

In all the focus of the past fews years on the Episcopal Church's supposed shortcomings, it has frequently been ignored that several provinces of the Communion have not at all fulfilled or participated in this process -- thus ignoring the supposedly 'normative' teaching of the Communion on the matter. Notably, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, the Southern Cone, and a couple others perhaps, have markedly rejected the process, just as they have rejected key portions of the Windsor Report.

The mother Church has done significant work in the process, however, and one of the valuable British submissions, in my view, is this report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists .

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is "the professional and educational body for psychiatrists in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland." Their findings mirror reports from the American counterpart organization.

The value of such a report goes to the area of 'reason.' If Anglican theology is to include reason -- which includes 'reasoned response to experience' -- then the findings of a prestigious scientific organization do have obvious possible implications for our theology.

The importance of the listening process is that there is a complexity to the moral issues of the day, especially those that currently divide the Church, which invites far more consideration and discernment. It has long been the Anglican way to employ the gift of reasoned discourse in our discernment of God's will.

I believe that it would be as hard to discern the meaning of Scripture without faith in Christ as it is to discern its meaning without the gift of reason.

We have been through this kind of thing before -- which is what makes today's situation so disappointing. After all, Copernicus discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe and the Roman Catholic authorities tried to squelch his findings in the name of Scriptural literalism. When Galileo put forth Copernicanism -- he was charged with heresy, made to recant, and spent his life under house arrest.

Yet, today, even the Roman Catholic Church fully acknowledges that Copernicus was right, that Galileo was wrongly treated, and that the earth does rotate around the sun. Amazingly, the Roman Catholic Church -- and all we else who agree with Copernicus -- have managed very well to cherish the Gospel and profess Christ as the incarnate, crucified, resurrected and ascended Lord -- whether the earth rotates 'round the sun or no.

The use of reason and the willingness to reinterpret Scripture in light of certain 'scientific' findings is not inherently wrong. It is not inherently a capitulation to culture or the adoption of paganism.

The calling we all share -- who love Christ and call Him Lord -- is to set our hope on Him, and pray that our minds will be illuminated by the Holy Spirit as we discern how to live rightly. Anglicans have always believed, I always thought, that not every scenario is scripted in Scripture, nor is every letter of the Law the self-evident vehicle through which the Spirit of the Law is mediated. As such, we have always sought to learn God's will for our lives by the careful interpretation of Holy Scripture, in light of the traditions of the Church and the gift of reason.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ("Greg") became a member of Christ's Body at St. Columba's in Washington, D.C., and he was educated at the University of North Carolina and the General Theological Seminary, where he is on the Board. Greg is husband of Melanie, father of Coco & Anna, rector of St. Michael's Raleigh, and author of Beyond Da Vinci (Seabury Books, 2004). He blogs at

To Lambeth or not to Lambeth?

By Steven Charleston

At their most recent diocesan convention, the people of Utah voted to request that the next Lambeth Conference be cancelled. In a nutshell, they expressed the opinion that no good could come from hosting Lambeth at this time. In fact, they expected that just the reverse could happen: that Lambeth would prove to be another cause for a further rift in relationships. Therefore, they asked that we just call the whole thing off.

Will this request be acknowledged? Will the powers that be take it seriously?

In the ever shifting tides of political positioning that has come to be considered normal in Anglican church politics, it is too soon to tell. But if the ground swell of dissatisfaction with the way things have been going continues to rise, it could very well be a genuine possibility. The current Archbishop of Canterbury has approval ratings close to the dismal performance evaluations of George Bush or the U.S. Congress. It is not hard to imagine that people, being justifiably suspicious of his ability to be clear, fair and effective, might decide that Utah doesn’t have such a bad idea after all.

But would cancelling Lambeth be a mistake? Should we not come to the table, perhaps most especially when we disagree? The knee jerk answer should be yes, that sounds right, but the realities of past experience should caution us to think twice before we respond. The performance of some bishops at Primates’ gatherings demonstrates that unless there is a firm hand at the tiller of Lambeth, any amount of childish posturing and manipulating is likely to reoccur. In addition, the sad sight of bishops refusing to worship with one another is hardly a global invitation to join such a fractured community. And finally, with special authority being granted and cited for pronouncements coming from non-legislative meetings like Lambeth, running the risk that some partisan “resolution” will be adopted and enshrined into dogma is a risk not worth taking.

But perhaps the most persuasive thing about the Utah suggestion is that it forces us to confront our own dysfunction. More meetings enable more silly behavior. The waffling of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the manipulation of meetings by some bishops, and the lame rhetoric of other bishops who have made a cottage industry out of doom and gloom prophecies has to be faced. For too long we have all been watching this soap opera called Anglican leadership and wondering when the adults would come back into the room to make the kids play nice.

That may not happen unless we take some serious steps. What the diocese of Utah raised is an idea for just this kind of wake up call and action. Perhaps if we call off the party, some people will sober up. It may be disconcerting to many that we have decided not to have another Lambeth right away, but after all, when did we start to worship Lambeth anyway? Even more disconcerting would be the spectacle of global religious leaders playing political gotcha over issues that most Anglicans find pointless and diverting from the mission of the gospel.

Should we stay home with the folks from Utah? I wouldn’t mind keeping them company. How about you?

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska, is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, and keeper of the podcasting blog EDS's Stepping Stones. A citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Bishop Charleston is widely recognized as a leading proponent for justice issues and for spiritual renewal in the church.

The moral example of Desmond Tutu

By Howard Anderson

Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu was at the National Cathedral for five days to help us celebrate our Centennial year. He was given the first annual Cathedral Prize for The Advancement of Religious Understanding and Action. This physically diminutive man, in his 76th year has more energy, ideas, joy and wonder at the world than any three or four of us. What struck me most about him as I was privileged to spend much of his five day sojourn here with him, was the way he moves through time and space.

He prays! He prays in a daily Eucharist. He prays before and after any event, auto trip, talk, visit or meal. He prays for hours each day! In John Allen's excellent and authorized biography of the archbishop, aptly entitled Rabble Rouser For Peace, it is revealed that over his entire ministry he has dedicated hours each day to simply sitting in prayer, listening to what The Holy One might have to say to him. He waits with great patience. He waits in silence or in outwardly voiced prayer. He waits with a smile on his face. He is not impatient like so many of us.

I was driving him to the White House for a meeting while he was here. The traffic was bad, and I was feeling responsible to find a way to get him through it. He seemed not to be noticing much of anything, because he was working on his address on "The Spirituality of Reconciliation," but without looking up, sensing I suspect, my anxiety, patted my hand and said, "Father, count to ten slowly. Breathe. God will get us where we need to be when we need to me there. Be patient." And I realized how right he was. I often repeat that one of my favorite theologians, Lilly Tomlin, has said, "The trouble with this rat race of a life of ours, is that even when you are winning, you are a rat!" Even more poignant is the reminder from Brother David Steindl-Rast in his book Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness, that the two Chinese characters for busyness are "heart," and "killing." Clearly, the Archbishop has this in mind, as he moves peacefully through a most hectic schedule that would wear out someone in their forties, let alone someone in their seventies.

But what is most striking about Archbishop Tutu, is what a radically different vision of how God works in the world, and what the Church should be he has than some of the other Primates of Anglican Provinces in the Global South, and Africa in particular. Let's compare. Archbishop Tutu was the Primate of the Province of Southern Africa. Archbishop Peter Akinola is Primate of the Province of Nigeria. Comparing the two you see stark differences in the spirit of the province as seen in the stances and theological positions each primate takes. One could scarcely believe that these two men belong to the same religion, let alone the same Communion on the same continent.

In his address to the National Cathedral, Archbishop Tutu spoke of a loving God whose divine intention for us is liberation. He speaks of a God who loves us as we are, yet calls us far beyond where we are to do God's work and live a life emulating God. We are to combat injustice, oppression, evil, "those aberrations of divine will," and live lives where the norm is the good, love, compassion, laughter, generosity, caring. Most poignantly, Archbishop Tutu challenged us to love those we would call enemies, and in a moving set of stories told of forgiveness offered by victims of the violence of both the Apartheid government and the liberation movements, sins and harm far beyond the human threshold, but through God's Holy Spirit, they were able to move on, even befriending those who harmed them or tortured and killed their loved ones. The message is about a God infinitely mysterious, infinitely beyond any human ability to emulate, and yet, so loving and forgiving that we would still strive to "Be ye perfect as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect," (the title of one section of his address).

When I read Archbishop Akinola, and for that matter, people like Bishop Duncan, I see a model of a God I do not recognize. A God who would ask God's people not to emulate compassion, or combat injustice, oppression and evil, but rather, to judge those who fall outside of what can only be called a modern version of purity codes. It is an Old Testament God of wrath, of judgment, of tribe and clan that emerges. "You aren't as we are and so we will not reach out to you. In fact, we want nothing to do with you. It is as if the Body of Christ's arm is saying to the foot, "we have no need of you. You are not an arm and so be gone. We will not only not share Eucharist with you, we will condemn you and try to harm you because God is on our side. You are wrong. We are right. We are righteous." What sort of God is it that Archbishop Akinola proclaims? I do not recognize that God. This is not the God revealed in the "big story," the whole sweep of Scripture. Let us grant Archbishop Akinola the dubious claims he makes. Is he not duty bound to pursue the apostate Episcopal Church rather than dismiss it to such an extent that he will not even engage in important mission with us?

There is none of this venom in Archbishop Tutu. He speaks for a Church, the province of Southern Africa that is deeply engaged in combating oppression, disease, sexism, even homophobia, those things which harm the children of God. And Archbishop Akinola? He has advocated for a law that would criminalize any manifestation of same-sex affection. Where is reconciliation in that? It is power being exerted against the marginal, the rejected, the despised of his society. Didn't Jesus reach out to those who were rejected by the Temple?

It is about time that voices other than those of Archbishop Akinola and other "neo-Puritan" Primates from the Global South are heard. We all know that the terrible carnage of colonialism will lead to a rejection of the colonizing power's ways. We all know that the missionary society that was responsible for evangelizing an area has great impact on the theology which emerges. But are we not, as Anglican Christians, called by bonds of affection to forebear in love with one another even when we differ? I think Archbishop Tutu's voice, and other voices from the Global South need to be heard. While the intimidating presence of men of power like Archbishop Akinola thunder, Anglicans by the thousand in Nigeria leave the Church to find the "Good News" being lived out and preached in Pentecostal and other churches. Nigerian friends of mine tell of visits home in formerly Anglican areas that are now predominantly Pentecostal, for those churches are trying to meet the needs of the people, not to find new ways to condemn others.

Franz Fanon, the Algerian psychiatrist who took part in the revolution in Algeria as they pushed the French colonizers out of their nation wrote a book that still deserves a wide reading, The Wretched of the Earth. In this prescient book, he predicts how the "native elite, more French than the French or more British than the Brits," will emerge to lead, but be swept away by a second wave of leaders who are in reaction to the colonial powers. I think Archbishop Akinola is one of the latter. But the good news is that Fanon suggests that this type of reactionary, reactive leader will soon be replaced by a more thoughtful and purely indigenous leader, who draws from the tradition of the people the style and method of leadership. In the Church, that would be Jesus last time I checked!

While Fanon is writing about government, I think it applies to the church in post-colonial areas of the Global South. I think the Akinolas will soon give way to a less power hungry, more egalitarian leader, and with that, a polity which is more democratic, where clergy and laity, not just primates and bishops, discern God's will for the Church. We must be patient. And even as men like Archbishop Akinola castigate us, reject our way of being Anglican Christian, we must pray for them. I must be patient like Archbishop Tutu told me to be. So I say to myself, "be patient Father, count to ten slowly." Amen. I will. God's time is not our time.

How does one account for a Desmond Tutu and a Nelson Mandela to emerge to lead South Africa to freedom without a blood bath? How does one account for someone like Archbishop Tutu who frequently risked his life to save those who were against the cause of freedom for all South Africans, the spies of the Apartheid government? When asked such a question, Archbishop Tutu shrugs, smiles, and tells the story of a white South African woman who was crippled and blinded by a bomb set at a whites only country club by African National Congress "soldiers." She came to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and said, "I want to meet the people who did this to me, because I want to forgive them and tell them how being disabled has enriched my life and made me realize that I must rely upon God alone." Then he says with his hands making the appropriate motions, "Wow. Wow again. No doubt she was a part of God's cosmic movement of love." How does one account for this very different Primate's voice from the Global South? I say, "Wow! And Wow again. It must be a part of God's cosmic movement love."

The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral.

Of faith, compromise and onions

By Marshall Scott

When I was young, my father's profession took him at times overseas. He would attend meetings and discuss problems and solutions with folks from far away - such exotic places as England and Belgium and Germany (well, to a young boy they seemed distant and exotic enough). It gave him an interesting perspective on cultural differences.

Once, after a trip to the UK, he spoke of a meeting he had been to, and how it seemed different than those he commonly attended. The resolution of the discussion was a compromise; but my father found it interesting. He told me that in England, unlike America, a compromise was basically a good thing. True, no one got all he wanted; but everyone got something. In America his experience was that, no one having gotten all he wanted, everyone saw the compromise as loss. No one got everything, and so there was nothing one could celebrate.

The Oxford English Dictionary has several different denotations for "compromise." Two (in the Compact Edition of 1971) sound similar, but have some subtle differences.

4. Coming to terms, or arrangement of a dispute, by concession on both sides; partial surrender of one's position for the sake of coming to terms; the concession or terms offered by either side. 5. Adjustment for practical purposes of rival courses of action, systems or theories, conflicting opinions or principles, by the sacrifice or surrender of a part of each.

These sound a lot alike, don't they? And yet they are different.

They are different specifically in intent. The first definition is about coming to terms, with some concession from both sides. The second is about making pragmatic sacrifices to a rival. The first is about meeting of minds and mutual efforts. The second is about suspending conflict and grudging truce. The first is about comprehensiveness, and even communion. The second is about that other connotation of compromise: polluted, infected, stained, and shamed.

Now, I can't say now that the difference my father saw still obtains. Perhaps it was the setting or the topic or the times that made the difference. My own observation is that there seem to be quite enough competitive, convicted folks in the UK as to make "compromise" as distasteful to folks there as to folks here in the U. S. In any case, it seems to have been the first sense of compromise that moved the Episcopal House of Bishops; and the latter that moved the loudest voices on either side of the issues involved.

It is a hard time that way. I have heard again and again Revelation 3:15-16: "15 I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." It is from the challenge to the Church in Laodicea, a church apparently comfortable in the pews. But the call to be either hot or cold is apparently about the faith as a whole, and not a single issue. And while those who quote it most frequently want to portray their interest as "19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me," the tone and context seems more indicative of "21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne." Separated, verses 19-20 are about, I think, the first sense of "compromise;" while verse 21 is about the second sense. (Indeed, I have come to feel that for some the secret favorite passage is no longer from Revelation 3:14-22, but from Psalm 83.)

And that is the problem with this quotation, and with the second sense of "compromise:" it begins with separation and seeks to institutionalize it, to reify it. It is much like our current cultural and political context, parodied well by Stephen Colbert in his character for The Colbert Report. It’s all about rage and passion, and thought and reflection only undermine strength of purpose.

But "being neither hot nor cold" need not be so stark. Readers may have noticed by now that I love to cook. One of the things I have to work at, still, is noting that some things do better with long, steady cooking at low heat. What comes to mind are onions. Many recipes start with onions that need to be "sweated" - cooked slowly over low heat to bring out the sugar in them, so long hidden by the sharpness of sulfur. Rush to cook them quickly and you either undercook them or burn them; and everything you add to them will take on the flavor of the sulfur that remains or the charred sugar that has been added. It's worth noting that this is also known as "clarifying" the onions; for as the sulfur fades away the onions go from opaque white to translucency, almost transparency. It's not that the onions aren't hot. It's that the slower, more patient process has brought out in them beauty and flavor that you wouldn't know from the raw form, and that no other, faster process would have produced.

We know this well in human experience and in the Christian faith, even if it sometimes gets short shrift. It is, after all, how we come as persons to wisdom, and how we distinguish wisdom from knowledge. It is as William James described in writing of those "once born": a gradual growth in the knowledge and love of the Lord not dependent on one or a few moments of conversion (even though those moments do come). It is what we mean in the Catholic west by "sanctification," what our Orthodox Christian siblings mean by "theosis:" the gradual growth in grace and in awareness of God's presence and God's action that is the result of the Spirit's continuing work in us.

It is, I think, an aspect of Paul's statement that "God is working in all things for good for those who love him:" in all things, and not just in those that move us in passion. It was lived out in the life of Peter, whose passions drove him while Jesus lived. His anger rejected Jesus' prediction of the crucifixion. His rage cut off the ear of the High Priest's servant. His fear denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. It was in quiet and reflection that he understood his mission to tend and feed Christ's sheep, and that he realized that God could proclaim acceptable what his children had long rejected. And yet we would not suggest that either Paul or Peter was 'lukewarm' about faith in Christ.

So, perhaps all of us who are determined, committed, "hot" in our faith in Christ need to reflect again on what we mean by "compromise." Shall we see one another as colleagues to whom we might in good faith concede; or as rivals to whom any concession constitutes surrender? It's an important question for the Episcopal Church and for the Anglican Communion, and for each of us as individuals. Will we be moved by hasty passion, or trust in the slower, arguably harder and less comfortable process by which the Spirit seeks to bring us into all truth? How will we answer the question? The direction of the Church, and perhaps of our souls, depends on the answer.

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

Reinventing ourselves: A spiritual look at New Orleans

By Steven Charleston

By now most of us will have read all about what the Episcopal bishops said (or didn’t say) at the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. As usual in political controversies some of us will be happy while others are disturbed. But what ever your reaction to New Orleans might be, there is one common denominator that I believe unites all sides of the argument: for better or worse, the church is reinventing itself. We may not like it. We may not admit it. But that is what is happening.

I know it is not popular to say that we actually invent the church each generation. Many people like to think that there is a rock solid core of tradition that never changes. But even the most core beliefs of any religious community are continually transformed by the interpretation, the nuances, each generation brings to their understanding of those beliefs. Did people in medieval Europe believe Jesus was the Son of God? Yes. Do Christians in Iowa today believe the same thing? Yes, but beyond that the cultural values and historic realities of these two communities make that single belief a prism, not a rock. We are not building on the firm foundation. We are building on the ever shifting sands of culture.

What is happening in the church now, whether from the Left or the Right, is the reinterpretation of the culture we call church. The forces of change are played out in the kind of negotiation process we have been witnessing for several years around subjects like human sexuality and church governance. The actions taken in New Orleans are only a small piece in a continuing process. In effect, we are negotiating our future, shaping the community to fit the assumptions we hold about the values we cherish arising from the beliefs we have interpreted from the past. Therefore, New Orleans is not the last word, but only more words in the chain of change that will make the Episcopal Church a radically different community within the next decade.

Should we be made anxious by this process? Yes and no.

Yes, if we abrogate our role in the negotiations. We should be anxious if others are doing all the talking, making all the choices, or defining all the terms.

No, if we are fully engaged in designing our own future. We should not be anxious if we are actively listening, learning and negotiating no matter how difficult or frustrating that effort may seem.

While the decisions made in New Orleans will reassure some, comfort many, and upset a few, they are only the visible brush strokes of a much deeper creative process. Other challenges and other compromises will be reached in the days to come. All of them will be the outward signs of an inner cultural shift. Like the tectonic plates of the Earth, the interpretations we give to long held beliefs will move us to a new place whether we are ready to go or not. Change will happen and the process will recycle itself within the next generation.

Does that make what we do meaningless in the politics of the moment? Not really, not if you believe that beneath it all, behind it all, God is working out a future in negotiation with us. Our rock solid tradition is to believe that God is a God of history. Our common sense historical experience teaches us that this history is as pliable as necessity and as resilient as fear.

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska, is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, and keeper of the podcasting blog EDS's Stepping Stones. A citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Bishop Charleston is widely recognized as a leading proponent for justice issues and for spiritual renewal in the church.

A small c catholic looks at New Orleans

By Nick Knisely

In recent days there has been plenty of commentary both here and other places about the statement from the House of Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans and what it means for us as Episcopalians and Anglicans. The points made in those places are probably already familiar to the people reading this essay and I don’t see it as being helpful to list them here. (Take a look at the Lead if you’re need a refresher.) What I want to do here is to invite folks to look at what has happened in New Orleans in a different way through a different lens.

In the days leading up to the meeting I came across a reply to a comment on someone’s blog. The original post mentioned that “Rowan Williams was willing to sacrifice biblical truth for the sake of maintaining unity.” A few comments later someone replied to the effect that she “was right that Rowan might sacrifice to maintain unity, but that she misunderstood the reason why. Rowan was willing to compromise because he understands maintaining unity as biblical truth”.

That comment has been stuck in my brain ever since. It gives me a way to express something I’ve been struggling to put into words for years. I am a catholic Christian in a way similar to my reading of where Rowan Williams is coming from. I believe the Body of Christ looks like the wide diversity of human experience - intentionally and not by accident. This is not a belief I brought with me into the Episcopal Church, but it is one that I have grown into as I have prayed the liturgy and read the bible with the people I have met in this denomination.

It is because I am a “catholic minded” Christian that I have never been able to find any internal resonance for myself with the idea that “we” or “they” must now walk apart from each other.

I am for Jesus like, I believe, just about every other voice in this moment. For me that leads me to confess that I am for the greatest amount of communion with the largest diversity possible.

Having thus laid out my own prejudices, let me now offer up my differing take on the House of Bishops’ statement.

The statement from the HoB is a political document extracted from them via threats and coercion. To read it as theological statement or a self-consistent teaching document is to misunderstand its purpose and genesis. It does not grow out of spontaneous desire of the Episcopal Church to toss yet another hot-potato into the conversation. It was not something that the House of Bishops looked forward to creating. It is the response to the request from the voices of the Primates Council of the Anglican Communion.

Given that it is not meant to be a confessional statement of belief or a teaching from the house, then what hope can it bring to us in the Episcopal Church?

The HoB statement is more important for the consensus it represents than it is for what it actually says.

For years now we’ve witnessed raucous House of Bishops’ meetings with boycotts, minority reports, people refusing to worship with one another and political horse-trading. What we’ve not seen is our bishops resolutely coming together into a community, listening to each other and working to create a document that they could all support to one degree or another. We have that here and it is the most surprising thing about the flawed and internally inconsistent document.

I have been struggling for sometime now trying to understand the complaints we hear across the breadth of the Anglican Communion that the problems in its internal life are due to American imperialism and lack of concern for others. It’s a charge that hasn’t seemed fair to me given that the Episcopal Church has only ever tried to order its own life and spoken of its own practice for the most part. But while watching the goings on in New Orleans and listening to the overseas voices, I recognized something I hadn’t before. People who feel disenfranchised in the Episcopal Church and Episcopalians who feel disenfranchised in the Anglican Communion have been busy and effective of late reaching out and making allies for themselves outside of the Episcopal Church.

There’s nothing wrong with reaching out like this, and in most cases it seems commendable to me. But the unintended consequence of this looking for allies is that we here in the Episcopal Church have effectively turned our local squabbles into international ones. And our exported squabbles now not only threaten the health of our province but the internal lives of other provinces as well. It’s not that they don’t have to face the same issues, it’s that our culture’s framing of the issues is, in an unintended way, causing the issues to framed in their different culture in our terms rather than allowing them the opportunity to frame them for themselves.

To put it baldly: The lack of spiritual health in the life of the “instruments of unity” in the Episcopal Church is spreading to the “instruments of unity” in the rest of the Communion.

If the consensus statement from the House of Bishops represents the first steps on the long journey back to a mature and christian response to conflict in our province, then perhaps an important milestone in our recovery has been passed.

What do I as a “catholic-minded” Christian think a mature response to conflict looks like? For me the first and primary response to brokeness is not to walk apart from each other - it is rather to kneel together at the Lord's table.

I take both St. Augustine's theological anthropology and Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem seriously enough that I fundamentally doubt that we can either reason our way or interpret scripture accurately enough to find out way out of our present mess.

It is only by coming together to Christ and being fed from his self-emptying and freely gifted sacrifice that we can be healed.

So given that, our most effective response to the present conflict is to freely and honestly admit our brokeness and that we are stuck in a place we don’t know how to get out of. We are in an acute situation, and the first thing to do in an acute situation is to not take an action which would make things worse. Rather than cutting deeper to try heal a serious wound, might we instead first try to staunch the bleeding? I would argue that pastoral care for both sides, not schism or temporary separation, is what is called for in this moment in our Church.

Do I have specific suggestions about what that pastoral care would like like? Well, yes, I do actually... But I don’t think my suggestions are going to be terribly helpful because I’m not a member of one of the groups asking for care.

I believe the most Christian path would be for us to listen to both the communities of LBGT christians and those on the other side of the present debate who feel disenfranchised and marginalized by the actions of General Convention about what they respectively feel would be helpful. They have not been quiet in asking for specific things. And then to be honest and frank about what we can do and what we can’t do - recognizing our sinfulness and our brokeness as the source of our limitations.

I do not know the definitive way that would lead us out of our present stuck situation. I'm leery of people who claim they do. (If there's a true prophet amongst us, please tell me the sign by which I recognize her or him.)

What I do believe is that the answer will only come to us as we commit ourselves more and more strongly to becoming the Body of Christ in the world. The closer we come to Jesus, the closer we come to each other. The closer we come to each other, the greater the agape love we share and the less insurmountable the problems we face.

The House of Bishops’ appears to me to have taken a turn down this new road. And for that reason more than any other, I am more hopeful now than I was last week.

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely is Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Ariz. He serves as Chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication, is active in ecumenical works and was originally trained as an astronomer before he was ordained. His blog is Entangled States.

House of Bishops: The Cliffs Notes

By Susan Fawcett

Since all kinds of uninformed reporters in the secular media have been adding their opinions to the mix, I thought I'd throw mine in there, which may be worth all the money you've just paid to get to see it, and may be just as objective as your hometown newspaper.

Here's a short, slanted, and totally oversimplified summary of what the House of Bishops' response to the Primates' Communique says (which, for the record, is nothing new at all):

Dear Primates:

First, we still love our gay and lesbian people. We agreed last summer not to consecrate them (though we're not making promises about anyone who might be single), or authorize any prayer book revisions for them, so that you would not write us off entirely. But only for a while. And yes, there are some of us who are doing everything we can short of those two promises to speak up with and for them. (If that troubles you, please see point The Fourth).

Second, we still love you and all of our Anglican Brothers and Sisters (though we're seriously peeved at a particular set of you who are using some seriously sketchy funding to put forward a massive smear campaign, take away buildings that were pledged to us, and give away a bunch of purple shirts to people who couldn't be duly elected to earn them). We love learning from you and with you. We want to follow Jesus right alongside you. We think we have a few things to contribute to you, too. Please don't stop speaking to us.

Third, even though we really do love you, we aren't going to let you push us around and change the rules of how the Anglican Communion works. No, you may not come into our house and tell us how to do things. That was never what we agreed to.

Fourth, since we agreed way back at Lambeth in 1998 that we should ALL be listening to the experiences of gay and lesbian people, and making sure they are treated with the dignity and respect that human beings tend to deserve, we've decided to make that 'Listening Process' a priority. So should you (since you said you would).

Fifth, we'd like to remind you that the Anglican Communion was never meant to be a legislative body. We're more like a family. You keep complaining that we're being 'colonialist,' and thrusting our ways upon everyone else. We think that (how do we say this pastorally? Sigh.) in this situation, perhaps that might be the pot calling the kettle black.

See you at Lambeth!

Bishops, Episcopal Church USA

And, again, totally oversimplified, here is my assessment of the Important Things that happened at the House of Bishops last week. Note that there is no mention of their response to the Communique in this list.

1. Our Bishops underlined for the Primates, for the umpteenth time, that they do not have the authority to make decisions for the Episcopal Church (that would be the job of General Convention, which is made up of lay people and clergy, who are elected to their positions at General Convention. We shan't go into how post-colonial this is compared to other
structures around the world, Thus, there's no sense in getting your knickers in a twist over what the House of Bishops writes to some Primates. If you're going to get upset about something, pick something that matters a little more.

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury joined them, and made some very interesting and refreshing remarks. For one, he suggested that members of disaffected parishes here in the US should look for signs of grace in the Episcopal Church (rather than creating some sort of other structure outside of it). The fact that he spoke candidly to the situation at all was a great gift. You can watch a video of his responses at a press conference here.

3. Our Bishops got out of their purple shirts and out of their offices and out of all the ridiculous yammering about politics, and did something to actually help people on the ground in New Orleans. Thank you.

The Rev. Susan Fawcett keeps the blog This Passage. She serves a parish the Diocese of Virginia, and supports the work of the General Convention publication The Center Aisle.

Put not your trust in rulers

By Deirdre Good

Do not put your trust in rulers and in mortals in whom there is no salvation…Blessed is the one whose helper is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who guards truth forever, executing judgment for the wronged; giving food to the hungry (Ps 146: 3-7).

These words from Psalm 146 have been ringing in my ears ever since I read the Bishops' statement from New Orleans released earlier this week: "Put not your faith in princes! Trust and hope in God who alone redresses wrongs and who enacts justice!" Of course, the Bishops have done good work and to reach a degree of unanimity that responds to the Windsor Report while opening a way for full participation at Lambeth and commending a listening process is certainly pragmatic and noteworthy. But what good news does this statement proclaim to faithful glbt persons in the pews or at the altars of our churches every Sunday, in parishes here, in Britain, in Malawi, in Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion?

The Bishops declared: We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. This is a ringing declaration of justice (even if it misquotes Gal 3:28—the text says "male and female") but what does it actually mean in our dioceses or parishes? Does anyone believe gender discrimination doesn't exist on a local level? Just do a tally, for example, of the women and men rectors or clergy in your diocese and you will see what I mean. Or put yourself in place of a visitor to an Episcopal Church. No one can put a foot inside the door without being confronted by distinctions of all kinds from knowing your way around the books in the pews, to seeing whether people look like me and thus whether I'll be welcome. Are Bishops facilitating efforts to eradicate racism in their dioceses? Are dioceses discussing reparations for black Episcopalians?

Maybe the Bishops meant to interpret Gal 3:28 by one of the next declarations: We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. But is it the case in our parishes? Do I see glbt people like me represented at the altar, throughout the pews, on the vestry, in the diocese? Until I see something like fair representation in all these places (and others), statements like these have no teeth.

I have a job working for a church institution. But I know ordained glbt people who are not able to find employment in the church and whose God-given gifts the diocese in which they live is squandering. I know glbt lay persons who have been let go by their ecclesiastical employers. Where are the voices of bishops, deployment officers, priests and laypersons in our churches speaking out on their behalf or working quietly for justice and nondiscrimination?

So I say to the Bishops of our church: Let's work on implementing what you proclaim in your meeting by employing and promoting ordained and lay women and glbt people fairly and equally in your dioceses. To my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters I say: we always have the power of the purse to leave the church or to withhold our time and our talents to demand change. But if there is some hope that the statements from New Orleans hold out to us: that we have an ongoing and particular place at the table; that without all of us the body of Christ is fractured and broken; then let's take our witness –the angry patient tired but joyous witness of presence—as the church in the world to proclaim the incredible tireless love of God who guards truth forever and who always, always, always, executes justice for the oppressed.

Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. While she is an American citizen, she grew up in Kenya. Her blog is On Not Being a Sausage.

G-forces shaking up the Church and the world

By Kit Carlson

Forces are at play in our world and in our church, and one of the best assessments I have heard lately of those forces came from a community reform expert. Peter Plastrik, co-author of Banishing Bureaucracy and The Reinventors’ Fieldbook, spoke recently at a training session for community leaders in East Lansing, Michigan. He outlined five forces, five “Gs”, that are affecting communities across America.

As he spoke, it struck me that these forces are the same ones affecting our church.

Plastrik’s “Five G’s” are:

Grand Rapids – as a metaphor for the global economy. The internet, easy international travel, and the ability to move jobs anywhere in the world have changed the economies of communities once based on manufacturing and local enterprises.

Goat meat – as a metaphor for immigration and all the challenges it brings. Consumption of goat meat in the U.S. has skyrocketed as immigrants from countries that eat goat arrive, bringing their national cuisines with them.

Greenland – as a metaphor for global warming. The ice on this large Arctic island is vanishing, and with climate change comes a host of new challenges for each community.

Gay people – as a metaphor for all the cultural challenges surrounding gender, age, and sexuality.

Geoffrey Canada – creator of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a community-based organization that seeks to serve 9,000 children, providing support from birth through college. Canada serves as a metaphor for self-empowered citizens, who don’t wait for government or other institutions to solve community problems.

A member of the audience added a sixth “G”, the Graying of America, as the long-promised demographic shift of the Baby Boom into old age begins at last.

Plastrik’s “G-forces” made a lot of sense to me. When people ask, “What is happening to our church?” they often think in terms of political movements -- liberals versus conservatives, progressives versus traditionalists. Instead, one might look at the power of these forces, playing out in the parishes and dioceses and provinces of The Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Communion.

G-1: The worldwide Anglican Communion was not so prominent 30 years ago. As the global economy has taken shape, a global Communion emerged in prominence and consideration along with it. And just as a global economy knows no borders, ecclesiastical relationships that cross borders and jurisdictions follow the same pattern of connections that criss-cross the planet and minimize the importance of local communities.

G-2: Rapid immigration into the United States brought Anglicans from around the world into American parishes. No longer is Anglican worship uniform across The Episcopal Church. Inculturation has come to us, and so we sing from many traditions, read scripture in other languages, practice Pentecost every day of the church year. The values and expectations of other cultures become part of our conversations about sex, worship, politics and a host of other issues.

G-3: The churches of the Gulf Coast still recovering from Katrina understand how climate change can affect our churches and communities. There is more to come, and Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana has already seen it coming. His call for the church to focus on ministries of relief and development instead of on schism and division comes out of hard experience.

G-4: There is not much to say that hasn’t been said about the cultural challenges of inclusion and acceptance of GBLT people. Joan Chittister said it best perhaps … the Anglicans just got to the issue earlier than most.

G-5: Self-empowered citizens, entrepreneurial community activists … the church is full of them. Duncan, Iker, Minns and those who would develop an alternate structure are entrepreneurs in their way. Why wait for the agonizingly slow movement of the Communion and its provinces to address Windsor, gay bishops, a Covenant, or any other issue? Why not set up one’s own alternative diocese, alternative province, alternative Communion?

Finally, there is that sixth G-force, one that Plastrik dismissed as not of interest to him. But the Graying of America, the graying of the Episcopal Church, is a real force. As I look across the faces of my parish, I see a community that has failed to effectively share the gospel with the generations coming after it. There are faithful elders and faithful Boomers … most of whom have grown children who do not themselves attend church, who are not raising the grandchildren in any faith, and who have abandoned religion as irrelevant. The leading edge of the church is dying off, and it is not replenishing itself.

And so the question is probably not – what to do about gay bishops or authorized rites of blessing. The question is really: How will we navigate these powerful forces? In a global, migratory, entrepreneurial, aging, culturally conflicted, climactically threatened world … how are we going to be Church? How will we proclaim the good news of Christ in the face of forces beyond our control?

The Rev. Kit Carlson, is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Mich. In 2003, she played the apostle Paul on the world's first internet reality series, The Ark, a project of the Christian humor website Ship of Fools.

Against re-colonization

By Roger Ferlo

It’s been a relatively quiet week here at the seminary in Alexandria, where manicured lawns and tree-lined streets place most of us a world and several social classes away from the ramshackle detritus of New Orleans’ 9th Ward. Nonetheless, we pay a lot of attention to New Orleans these days. Several of our seminarians come from that part of the country, and for two years now many of my students and colleagues have spent days and weeks at a time in that broken city trying to help in whatever way they can. So it was unsettling this week, even a little distasteful, to be asked to refocus our attention on the comings and goings of bishops gathered in New Orleans, rather than on New Orleans itself.

I thought I knew better. No good usually comes of this. In my long experience as a parish priest, there have been few occasions more dispiriting to me than these scheduled gathering of bishops. I say this not because I dislike bishops all that much. I admire a lot of them, count not a few as my friends, and most of the time feel rather sorry for them, isolated and misunderstood as they often are. But I find such occasions dispiriting because, in spite of everything I believe and teach about shared power and shared authority, I find myself buying the press’s line that the power and decision-making in the Episcopal Church in the United States are centered in the House of Bishops, and find myself hoping that whatever they decide this weekend down in New Orleans will set everything right.

And I am always proved wrong. There’s no reason to assume that these men and women will be up to such a task. It’s not their job. It’s a job all of us share. That fact underscores one of the ironies of Anglican history. In spite of our reputation in other parts of the Anglican Communion as a prime colonizer of heretical values and American power, the American church goes about its business in a distinctly post-colonial way. We long ago shed our allegiance to meddling foreign bishops. For two centuries our church has invested decision-making authority in a duly-elected bicameral legislature where both the ordained and the non-ordained have equal voice and equal standing. Meanwhile, many other bishops—particularly in post-colonial western and central Africa, and let it be said, in Great Britain as well, that ancient well-spring of colonizing fervor— have embraced hierarchical styles of leadership and authority that would have warmed the autocratic heart of George III. So also have many of their American admirers, particularly those bishops and wannabe bishops who were happy to participate in the quirkily democratic body we call the General Convention unless and until the votes didn’t go their way. To hear them talk, you would think that the Holy Spirit seems to be at work only when matters fall out in their favor. And now people who could not get themselves elected bishops by their own people in their own dioceses are finding ways to get themselves ordained as bishops under the aegis of foreign primates, self-righteously bent on saving me from myself, and re-colonizing a church that had assumed it had ended that kind of extra-territorial interference when Cornwallis surrendered to American troops in the first place.

So I guess it’s hard for me to be too sympathetic to the goings-on down in New Orleans. I have been an Episcopal priest for over twenty years, and an Episcopalian for more than half my life. In all that time, I can never remember signing on to conform to the theological opinions of foreign bishops. My ordination vows were pretty clear. Like thousands of my colleagues in the ministry, I have done my best to uphold the scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the word of God, and to conform to the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church. I haven’t been very good at it, but I have kept at it. In that I’m in the same boat as everyone else, including the parishioners, priests and bishops who have served as deputies to General Convention over the years, as I did as a deputy from the diocese of New York in that now-demonized year of 2003. We haven’t been good at it, but we have at least been faithful.

So, as I said, thank God it’s been a quiet week here at the seminary in Alexandria. Our first year students have at last settled in, fired up to serve God in this branch of the Catholic church in spite of all these signs of disarray and fracture. These things go with the territory, as any resident of New Orleans might tell you. It was helpful (or was it a sign from heaven?) that the Morning Prayer readings this week were from the opening chapters of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

Brave words, these. Who knows where Paul would have positioned himself in the present fracas. If anyone knew about disarray and fracture, it was Paul, and we know that he was never above fomenting a little disarray himself. But he was faithful. That’s all that can be asked of any of us in the end—fidelity to God’s embracing love as we have experienced it in Jesus, and fidelity to each other, members of Christ’s body, wherever we stand or refuse to stand on the issues that divide us. Signing on to this kind of love will get you pretty far, regardless of what the bishops say or don’t say—no matter what political catastrophes seem to lie in store for Christ’s body, wounded and redeemed.

The Rev. Roger Ferlo is Director of the Center for Lifetime Theological Education at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, where he also directs the Evening School of Theology. His books include Opening the Bible (Cowley 1997), Sensing God (Cowley 2001) and Heaven (Seabury 2007).

What is the Church for?

By Kathleen Henderson Staudt

What is the church for? In a 1938 lecture series on the BBC, collected in her book The Spiritual Life, the British writer and retreat leader Evelyn Underhill answered the question in a way that has challenged the church for the past century:

The Church is in the world to save the world. It is a tool of God for that purpose; not a comfortable religious club established in fine historical premises. Every one of its members is required, in one way or another, to cooperate with the Spirit in working for that great end: and much of this work will be done in secret and invisible ways. We are transmitters as well as receivers. Our contemplation and our action, our humble self-opening to God, keeping ourselves sensitive to his music and light, and our generous self-opening to our fellow creatures, keeping ourselves sensitive to their needs, ought to form one life, mediating between God and His world, and bringing the saving power of the Eternal into time.

Underhill appropriately focuses on the church’s mission in and for the world; to her mostly Church of England audience, she is challenging the image of the Church that became comfortable during the long centuries of what Loren Mead has labeled the “Christendom” paradigm, when most people were nominal Christians, even churchgoers, and the mission of the Church was seen as being overseas, far away and directed toward people distinctly “other” than the people in the pews. Mission was done by the institution; for the people in the pews, church attendance was a regular social obligation, to be taken with more or less seriousness depending on one’s particular spiritual needs and dispositions: to be part of a church was to support “a comfortable religious club.”

But Underhill recognizes that the institutional model, the “comfortable religious club,” is not a true embodiment of what the Church is called to be. Rather, each of us has a part to play in the mysterious work of God in the world, the Spirit’s work to restore, reconcile and heal. Her work focuses on the spiritual practices of the individual as guaranteeing the health of the “cells” in the Body of Christ on earth. For her, ordinary Christians, each of us pursuing the work that has been given us, are the ones who carry out the saving work of the Church, “bringing the saving power of the eternal into time.” In this short paragraph she lays out a theology of the ministry of all God’s people – the laos (λαός) – in the world.

Underhill’s image of the Church in the world invites what I might call a “poetic” way of looking at the church, the people of God – seeing the Church as a kind of work of art that communicates something to the world. It might seem that our disputes in the Anglican community about whom we may ordain and who decides how we should read Scripture have little to do with the ministry of the people in and for the world, but actually, poetically, they are important. Because we are an ordered church, our disputes about who we are and how we serve the world have focused, for the past 50 years, on whom we ordain. This may be appropriate to some extent since the ordained leaders of the Church do function as “metonymies” for our corporate identity – they are the parts standing for a whole. So if we claim to be an inclusive community, living and proclaiming the gospel in and for the world around us, it makes sense poetically that our visible leaders should reflect the diversity of the world we live in and the world we serve.

If the world looks at us as a corporate body and sees inclusiveness in our leadership and our practice, then we are communicating something about the hospitality of God. If they see us finding ways to stay together in Christ while holding a diversity of views, that is a revolutionary witness for our deeply polarized times. On the other hand, if all that the world sees is fighting and schism and mutual recrimination, then we are losing track of our real identity and purpose.

I turn to Underhill’s description of the purpose of the church in my prayers for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion at this time, remembering that we are part of something much bigger that we believe God is trying to do through us, the people of God, in the world. I take comfort, too, from a beloved hymn we sing pretty often these days, and appropriately so – not least because its title reminds us of who we are: “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”. I was particularly glad that it was part of the Commencement liturgy at Virginia Seminary last June:

Though with a scornful wonder, men see her sore oppressed
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed
Yet saints their watch are keeping. Their cry goes up,”How long?”
And soon the night of weeping will be the morn of song. (Hymnal 525)

These words remind us that our tradition’s vision of the church as a “mystical body” is meant to give strength and energy to us as we try to live up to being the “Church visible -- the Communion of Saints “in the world to save the world, a tool of God for that purpose.” This vision does not deny that we have struggles and divisions. But both Underhill’s writing and the hymn call us back to awareness of our greater purpose and calling. It is a vision that sometimes seems improbable, but it is one that we are called to return to and refashion in our own generation, as faithfully as we can.

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

Odd lots and remnants

By Howard Anderson

I was down in Louisiana at a CREDO conference, earlier this week, and it has occurred to me that as the House of Bishops was sequestered with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the ABC) over in New Orleans, his task in trying to be a unifying force in the life of the Anglican Communion was not one that is to be envied. Archbishop Rowan Williams has four, maybe five Primates colonizing the United States, in an interesting kind of reverse colonization. He has The Episcopal Church. Yup, he’s stuck with us.

TEC has several bishops (to read the press accounts you would think it is dozens of bishops) vying to be the “one true Anglican Church” in the U.S. Further, he has a group of Primates from the Global South demanding that TEC “do what they say,” or be expelled. And they are being led by a Primate from Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, whose province is no longer in the Communion by virtue of a change he had made in the constitution of the Church of Nigeria, taking out all references to being in communion with The See of Canterbury (The Archbishop of Canterbury), the only sure fire way to be in this Communion.

Within the Church of England, the ABC (I have a friend who is a Buddhist priest who refers to him at the ABCdefghij…) has a very muscular evangelical party threatening to make more trouble themselves if he does not take a firm stand on the side of a conservative sola scriptura decidedly not mainstream Anglican stance which, if a student of his had written such a thing, Professor Williams would clearly have failed them. And yet, he is required by his position to doff his miter and politely listen to their demands.

I could go on with the issues that face our much maligned archbishop, who seems at present to be pleasing no one, but I won’t. If the ABC has a sense of humor, (he may well have, I don’t know him) he would have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. There was a grizzled veteran priest friend of mine in Minnesota who used to intone this little ditty every time there was a church fight. “Onward marches the Church of God, trampling each other into the sod.” And it does appear we seem intent on trampling one another into the ecclesial sod. Whatever is happening at the House of Bishops, I suspect that it is not easy for anyone.

But being down here, I have been given inspiration and it’s not just the chicory coffee and Cajun cooking. This time of year in Louisiana, is a time of love. The “love bugs” are mating, and they are everywhere, on everything and everybody, totally oblivious to their impending doom at the hands of whomever they land on. There are piles of them everywhere, joined together in an embrace that will end in the death of the male, I am told. They are so intent on their connubial task, so creative in their spiraling, helicoptering copulating, that nothing else matters. It may well be a metaphor for the Church and its various parties. You see, the life cycle of the love bugs is less than a week. But they are so focused on their mating that they are not paying attention to anything else. It almost seems as if, like the love bugs, traditionalist and progressive Episcopalians are so locked in our struggles, so sure of the rightness of our positions, that we are oblivious to the consequences. And it seems that it is who mates with whom that is the presenting issue. So much energy, money, time and emotional labor is being expended in this love bug dance, that despite our Presiding Bishop’s attempts to keep us focused on mission, we are spiraling toward the same fate as the benighted love bugs.

My friend Margo Maris, a very astute theologian, is here in Louisiana, too, as part of the CREDO faculty. Today I saw her scribbling something on a napkin, her face alight with what was clearly an “I have a good idea” look. I’ve known her long enough to know that when she has a good idea, it usually is A REALLY GOOD IDEA! What it said on the napkin was, “What we all have in common is that we all call ourselves the remnant.”

I think she is right. The archbishop needs to point our to bishops like Keith Ackerman in the Diocese of Quincy, and Robert Duncan in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and their fellow aspiring schismatic bishops that they are, indeed, a saving remnant of orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church. Then he needs to point out to the progressives that they are, indeed, the remnant in the Communion that is still open to the movement of the Holy Spirit who has a nasty habit of “making all things new.” Then he can tell the disgruntled Primates from the global south that they are, indeed, a remnant people (and majority) that God will use to grow and shape the Church. Margo is right. We need to celebrate our remnant identities. While already the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan slipped into a phone booth and put on his mild-mannered Professor Williams hat, and wrote a wonderful collection of essays entitled Anglican Identities. Note the plural: identities. He understands that the whole universe has changed. Is light a wave or a particle? The answer is “yes.” Just as the mysterious three-in-one, Triune God is both one and three, so too, in the post modern era we can have more than one way to be a remnant. Maybe there is common ground after all.

After sleeping on her ideas, Margo said I should add a postscript. She had a wonderful image come to her. She said that when our foremothers looked at all the remnants they had left from years of sewing, they pondered what to do with them. None of the remnants were identical. They were all different colors, shapes, sizes and of different cloth altogether. “How will we make use of these pieces?” they asked. And with other women bringing their remnant pieces, they made quilts for warmth, pot holders to be able to pick up hot pots and pans, and they braided pieces into rugs that we could walk on to keep our feet from getting cold. Hmmm…how will we use our varied, beautifully-colored, odd shaped remnants? Only God knows. And I heard God was a very fine quilter indeed.

The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral. He was a long time General Convention deputy.

Live from New Orleans

By June Butler

I commend the bishops' choice of New Orleans for the House of Bishops meeting.

The theme for last night's ecumenical prayer service was "Humanity Renewed, Restored, Re-centered in God". The use of the Morial Convention Center as the site of the ecumenical service was symbolic of the partial recovery of the city, because the Center, along with the Superdome were the two largest shelters of misery for those seeking to escape the flood waters.

No help came for 4 days. I'm sure you remember the scenes from TV. I have never yet figured out how the press could be there filming the misery, but help was so long in coming.

To make certain that we were there on time, we arrived early at the Convention Center. While we waited for the service to start, we were entertained by a choir singing Gospel music. The white folks in the choir were grooving right along with the black folks. I give them points for keeping up.

As the bishops processed into the auditorium, I had to suppress a desire to stand up and cheer when Bishop Katharine passed. She has presence - a quiet dignity and grace about her - that comes through, literally, in passing.

Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi read the first lesson, Zechariah (8:3-13), and Bishop Katharine read the Gospel reading, Matthew (25:34-40).

The invocation and the pastoral prayer were given by Bishop Douglas Wiley and Elder John Pierce, neither of whom were Episcopalians. Black preachers often have a way of praying that draws God and his people into an intimate circle. Bishop Wiley's invocation of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Elder Pierce's prayer did just that. Both were beautiful, and I experienced the powerful presence of God.

When Bishop Charles Jenkins introduced Archbishop Rowan Williams, he reminded us that Archbishop Williams was the 104th archbishop of Canterbury, whereas Bishop Jenkins was the 10th bishop of Louisiana. A tad more history on the side of the archbishop, no?

Archbishop Williams had toured the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, and thus was aware of desolation which still remains, for only a very few brave souls have had the courage to rebuild in that area. The archbishop spoke of what we owe to one another. "The bottom line is that what we owe to one another most deeply of all is gratitude - not even respect, not even the recognition of dignity so much as gratitude," he said. "We are indebted to one another.

I am indebted to your existence because I would not be myself without you. A community, a society, that can get to that level of recognition is one that lives from a deeper place." He went on, "If the church does not live by thanksgiving, I don't what it lives by." We owe each other, but most of all we owe Jesus Christ - for life, hope, strength, and joy. As Williams said, "We owe Christ big time, as they say."

He said the help to the city was to buy time for renewal, reconstruction, and restoration of the city of New Orleans, to help it once again to become "a place for the people". He quoted from the passage from Zechariah:

"Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets."

He said, "What makes a great, godly city is that it is a safe place for older people to sit and children to play in the streets."

After his speech, the bishops went forward with their donations to Dioceses of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The finale was a musical presentation by the Irvin Mayfield Quartet of a slow Just a Closer Walk, I'll Fly Away, and a rousing When The Saints Go Marching In, which brought out the white handkerchiefs waving in the air and drew folks into the aisles in a second line, marching and waving their white handkerchiefs. I caught a glimpse of a couple of purple shirts in the marching group. I'll wager that this conclusion was unique for a House of Bishops prayer service.

June Butler, better known online as Grandmere Mimi, is a native of New Orleans who blogs at Wounded Bird.

A battle against distraction

By Richard Helmer

Doubtless, much of the media coverage of the House of Bishops meeting this week will be prefaced with the same sound bites we’ve been hearing these past four years. We will hear the words “gay, sex, schism, and lawsuits” in reference to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. This places before the House of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury an important, if not monumental task of leadership as they meet together: a battle with distraction.

The flurry of recent consecrations for the Anglican missionary organizations recently planted in this country by other Provinces, even under protest from the Archbishop of Canterbury, underscores the simple fa