Lessons from Cantuar

by George Clifford

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ announcement that he would step down from his post at the end of 2012 pleased me and heightened my respect for him.

Archbishop Williams, in spite of commendable effort, has ineffectually led both the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Unfortunately, results not efforts count. Notably, his attempt to preserve the Anglican Communion through creating an “Anglican Covenant” as a fifth instrument of unity has failed and the Church of England has rejected his proposal for ordaining women as bishops.

Some Anglicans, most of whom oppose ordaining non-celibate gays and blessing same-sex relationships, believe that the proposed Covenant will exert insufficient restraint on proponents of those practices. Other Anglicans, generally supportive of ordaining non-celibate gays and blessing same-sex relationships, believe that the proposed Covenant radically breaks with the Anglican Communion’s historic emphases of unity centered on communion with Canterbury and provincial independence. Reconciliation between those divergent views has proved impossible. Archbishop Williams probably finds the Church of England’s almost certain rejection of the Covenant especially painful.

Similarly, the Church of England has rejected the proposal put forward by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York that, while authorizing consecration of women as bishops, would have made generous provision for alternative episcopal oversight of dissenters, i.e., provision for male bishops for congregations and male clergy who object. A solid majority within the Church of England believe that the time has come to move forward with respect to authorizing the consecration of a woman as a bishop and that further accommodation of male prejudice against women clergy is unacceptable.

Leadership in the Anglican Communion and the Church of England, like in the Episcopal Church, is not primarily a function of a leader’s formal authority. The Archbishop of Canterbury has very little ecclesial authority over the Anglican Communion. He decides which bishops to invite to the Lambeth Conference. He chairs some meetings and makes a handful of appointments. Most dramatically, he could terminate the communion that exists between himself and a province, a step that is virtually unimaginable. Canonically and legally, the Archbishop has more authority within the Church of England, but even there civil law, canon law, General Synod, and a host of other factors circumscribe the Archbishop’s authority.

Instead, leadership in both the Anglican Communion and the Church of England is primarily a matter of persuading people to voluntarily follow the Archbishop’s lead. To lead, the Archbishop must rely on his personal charisma, recognized expertise to which others willingly defer, moral or spiritual stature that others find compelling, or ability to connect people and organizations creatively and effectively.

The Anglican Communion and the Church of England are at crucial junctures. The Communion’s deep and irreconcilable divisions will inevitably change its size, composition, and perhaps even structure, probably within the next decade. The real question is not if but when the Church of England will consecrate its first female bishop. In addition to quarreling over the ordination of women, the Church of England has steadily declining attendance at worship, significant financial problems, and, from within and without the Church, intermittent calls for disestablishment.

In sum, both the Anglican Communion and the Church of England, at a time such as this, need an Archbishop whose vision, charisma, and leadership can bring unity in the midst of diversity and a renewed, reenergized focus on mission. Archbishop Williams, by all accounts a wise and deeply spiritual Christian, recognizes that he is not that leader. His insight and courageous decision to step aside have increased my respect for him.

Archbishop Williams’ decision prompted some self-examination. His choice is the latest and highest profile example of clergy stepping aside from leadership posts within the Church. Bishops Tom Wright (formerly of Durham) and Neil Alexander (Atlanta) have both chosen to return to academia. Many more bishops and priests have chosen to retire early rather than to continue serving. Calling a leader, especially within the Episcopal Church, is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. What is it about us, as Anglicans, that causes our leaders to exit?

First, we value our individuality and independence more than we value communion and mutual interdependence. Communion does not connote approval or even agreement. I feel strongly about fully including everyone in the life of the Church regardless of gender or gender orientation. However, these issues are not litmus tests of Christian identity. Nor is someone who disagrees with me on these issues less of a Christian than I am (how does one even measure such a thing?).

Second, like our polarized politicians, we define ourselves by our positions and conflicts rather than by our mutual love and respect. Growth is impossible without change; change always entails conflict. The grain of sand irritates the oyster, initiating the process that can transform the grain into a pearl. Yet a grain of a toxic substance or effluents in the water can kill the oyster. Tragically, our conflict too often has become toxic rather than transforming us into pearls of great value.

Third, too many Anglicans confuse authority and leadership. Episcopalians rightly resist ceding too much authority to bishops, especially bishops not accountable to the Church. Yet without good leadership, the Church flounders and people perish.

No wonder, in a gentle and tacit indictment of many Anglicans, Archbishop Williams warns that the next Archbishop of Canterbury must have “the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros.”

We Episcopalians can profit from that warning. Like the Church of England, our worship attendance and financial resources are declining. These declines – though exacerbated by our individualism, animosity in conflict, and wariness of leaders – more fundamentally reflect the Church’s struggles with modernism, secularism, and other external forces.

Thankfully, our Presiding Bishop, Bishops, and rectors/vicars have “bully pulpits” from which to guide and to mobilize the Church. Our Church desperately needs godly and effective leadership. Our polity means that we have no reason to fear strong leaders. Participation is voluntary. If people do not want to follow, they can vote with their feet, their purses, or through the Church’s formal decision-making processes. Those of us who choose to remain will do well to emphasize unity in the midst of diversity, practice mutual love and respect in conflict, and applaud good leadership. Otherwise, good leaders will continue to abandon their posts prematurely for other ministries and the Church’s problems will only worsen.

George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings.

Courting the Holy Spirit by practicing retail politics

This article appeared earlier this week on the Times of London's blog Articles of Faith.

By Jim Naughton

Last week, while the Church of England was dealing with embarrassing revelations about how badly the Archbishops of Canterbury and York had behaved while selecting the current Bishop of Southwark, I was observing the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D. C. as it prepared to choose the successor of Bishop John Bryson Chane, who retires in November.

The process that I witnessed was so different than the one described by the late Dean Colin Slee in his now-famous memo, that it seems almost unfair to draw comparisons. In filling the vacancy in Southwark, the English method of appointing bishops was clearly at its worst. Or so one hopes. A story of subterfuge leavened with a dash of Python-like absurdity, it featured a media leak meant to scuttle two candidacies, clumsy attempts to blame the leak on an innocent party, an investigation into the leak whose findings have been kept secret, and a delicious moment in which the Archbishop of York lobbied for votes while leading a group outing to the toilet. Little wonder that members of the Crown Nominating Committee were reduced to tears during the proceedings.

The process in Washington, on the other hand, has run relatively smoothly so far, although the election will not be held until June 18. Like most Episcopal Church elections, it has been a homey affair, featuring five nominees touring the diocese on a bus, visiting parish halls, a school gymnasium and a retirement community where they gave brief talks, answered questions, and engaged voters in a dance of mutual ingratiation. In the parlance of political reporting, this four-day program was an exercise in “retail politics”, and resembled our small-market political campaigns in which candidates woo voters at coffee klatches and community picnics, and futures are made and lost over crullers or ham salad.

The five nominees comprised a cathedral dean from Atlanta and rectors from Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and Washington itself. Three were men, two were women, and one of the men was an African-American. They had been selected from a field of ten priests who had attended a three-day retreat with the diocesan search committee in January. Those ten had been chosen from a pool of some 80 would-be candidates who had either “allowed their name to go forward,” or had put their names forward themselves.

On the evening that I caught up with the candidates, some 300 people had assembled in the gymnasium of an Episcopal school located in one of the four Maryland counties included in the diocese. A crowd of similar size had greeted them on the previous evening at a church in Washington near the State Department.

The average Episcopalian is older than the average American, a fact evident in the gymnasium that night. But the crowd was more diverse than the diocese as a whole, as it had been the previous evening. While certain Washington churches are home to the capitol’s elite, the sometimes-tedious work of running a church or diocese falls here, as elsewhere, to dedicated, but largely anonymous believers. There were no talk show fixtures in the gym, no deputy undersecretaries, but, this being Washington, there were probably several lawyers on hand.

Episcopalians refer to these events as “walkabouts,” realizing that Australians mean something different when they use that phrase. The gatherings are instructive as much for the sometimes deliberate and sometimes unintentional ways the nominees give glimpses into their characters, their passions and their leadership styles, as for their responses to questions about controversial issues.

One couldn’t leave the gym that night without knowing that the Rev. Marianne Budde of Minneapolis is fired by the opportunity to meld the insights of her faith with the insights of psychology and organizational behavior in running a complex faith-based organization, or that the Very Rev. Sam Candler of Atlanta thinks as deeply and speaks as movingly about what happens when a person comes forward to receive the Eucharist than any five people you know, or that the Rev. Jane Gould has responded with pastoral acumen and sensitivity when trouble came to her door in the depressed former mill town of Lynn, Massachusetts.

Over the course of the evening, one couldn’t help but notice that the Rev. Canon John Harmon of Washington, the most formal of the nominees, has a particular rapport with older members of the audience, and a disarming way of talking about the ways in which mother figures had shaped his ministry, or that the Rev. Ronald Abrams of Wilmington, N. C. built his ministry one relationship at a time, and that his direct and unpretentious nature spoke of a genuineness that was probably most impressive in a smaller format.

This sort of information may be more valuable than knowing where the nominees fit in the grand scheme of church politics. Bishop Chane, for instance, was a leader of our church’s left wing, but enjoyed an excellent relationship with the leaders of the diocese’s most conservative parish, who felt warmly toward him on a personal level, even though they thought he was a heretic.

Some controversial issues, however, are matters of immediate pastoral concern. The nominees were unanimous in their support for permitting—but not requiring—parishes to offer Holy Communion to the unbaptized, though most expressed the hope that the reception of Communion would lead to Baptism. (If you are in need of someone to defend this position in a room-quieting, pulse-quickening kind of way, Sam Candler is your man.) I believe they were unanimous in permitting clergy to bless same-sex relationships throughout the diocese—although it wasn’t clear how most felt about allowing clergy to marry such couples in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal. Canon Harmon’s answer was the most nuanced of the five on this issue—He spoke of “building on” the current permissive policy—and I am not sure that I understood him.

I don’t believe that the election in Washington will turn on the question of the Anglican Covenant because the document has been largely ignored at the grassroots level in the Episcopal Church, just as it has in the wider Communion. Only Candler and Gould, the two nominees who have played significant roles at our church’s General Convention, offered firm opinions on whether Episcopalians should adopt or reject the covenant. Gould, who helped design a comprehensive review of the document in her diocese, said that Massachusetts wanted no part of the covenant, calling it “legalistic and punitive.” Candler, knowing that most of his usual allies in the church differ with him on this issue, acknowledged the weaknesses of the covenant, especially the disciplinary provisions in the fourth section, but argued that the church should sign it anyway. “I am not afraid of the Anglican Covenant,” he said, expressing confidence in the Episcopal Church’s ability to remain true to its moral convictions whether it signs the covenant or not.

As a member of the diocese, getting some sense of the candidate’s characters, styles and priorities was important to me, but I wondered to about the lessons that an outsider, especially a member of another church in the Anglican Communion, would have taken from the evening. Here are four:

1. That those who say that the leaders of the Episcopal Church are less interested in Christianity than in liberal social engineering are making sweeping generalizations based on too small a sample. Each of the nominees spoke movingly about his or her religious upbringing or moment of conversion, call to ordained ministry and prayer life.

2. That Episcopalians are guided by two Jewish rabbis, one who has risen from the dead, and one who has not. The work of Rabbi Edwin Freidman in using the insights of family systems therapy to make sense of congregational behavior, set healthy boundaries and manage resistance to change, was mentioned several times in this gathering, as it often is when Episcopal clergy get together.

3. That Episcopalians realize that their membership is dwindling, that numerous congregations in every diocese may be too small to succeed, and that no one quite knows what to do about this beyond merging or closing struggling parishes.

4. That on the questions of doctrine that threaten to break the Communion, Episcopalians are comfortable with the notion that doctrine develops over time, that our knowledge of God’s will is culturally and historically conditioned, and that what is morally sound in one era is an outrage in another. They have gained confidence in their ability to worry complex issues through to a proper conclusion—one that usually involves room for disagreement. And after they do so, they believe it is wrong not to act.

The Episcopal Church’s system is not without flaws. We sometimes elect nominees who are better suited to running for bishop than to being bishop, and women and African-Americans are still underrepresented in the ranks of the episcopacy. I am sure that no English reader will be surprised to learn that there are limits to American wisdom. Yet I do not believe it is necessary to defend the proposition that that all Christians are responsible for the church’s flourishing and its fidelity, and from this conviction flows our ways of electing our bishops and governing our church.

It is tempting, of course, to argue that the openness of the Episcopal system throws a harsh light on the cruel and clownish antics described in Dean Slee’s memo, but no political process, whether it ends in election or appointment, can reliably claim to have discerned the will of God. For that reason it would seem best to let each province in the Anglican Communion chart its own uncertain course, each encouraging the other despite our differences. This is a sentiment so banal that I express it only because it is not widely shared. For those of us outside of the Church of England, the lesson of the see of Southwark is not that the English system for selecting bishops is broken, but rather that disputes within the Anglican Communion cannot be resolved as the covenant would have it: with a small panel of insiders meeting in secret under the guidance of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Jim Naughton is a partner in Canticle Communications and editor of Episcopal Café.

What are bishops for?

By Martin L. Smith

Taking my usual walk around the Tidal Basin yesterday, I was pondering our upcoming episcopal election. A wry quotation from Claire Booth Luce popped into my head: “Anyone who is not confused today cannot be thinking straight.” Understanding what a bishop is meant to be and do has become complicated. So many expectations are now heaped on the role: What person could possibly fulfill the wish list of ideal skills in our “profiles?” I can’t help shaking my head over it all. I have had the experience of being a chaplain to the House of Bishops though turbulent years. I have been a chaplain to a Lambeth Conference, and the spiritual director and confidant of quite a few bishops. I know the harm done by the cruel unrealism of our current projections onto the office of bishop.

The path round the Tidal Basin—alongside the Jefferson Memorial, through the Roosevelt Memorial and now past the glorious new monument to Martin Luther King Jr. —is quite an intense place for reflecting about leadership! And there are two images that helped me focus on the core vocation of bishop. There is the bronze statue of FDR sitting down in his wheelchair, and now there is the grand stone image emerging of Martin Luther King standing tall. Sitting and standing represent two fundamental aspects of the episcopal vocation.

A core symbol for the bishop’s office is the chair. Traditional language of a see, of having a cathedra, or official seat, comes from the ancient practice of sitting down to teach. Teachers help us find meaning, and no one should offer themselves to be a bishop who doesn’t want to serve by helping us concentrate on the fundamental issues of what life means in the light of the gospel. God help us if we prevent that ministry by turning bishops into tortured managers.

As well as symbolizing the call to articulate the gospel’s meaning with us, the chair resonates with other pastoral needs in today’s world. When all seems constantly in flux, when technology is racing and the ground is heaving under feet, we need leaders who will sit down with us, to center us, to stabilize, above all to help us focus. The bishops who have inspired me all have been good at sitting down. They put roots down quickly. They are willing to sit round the table and roll up their sleeves. They have a knack of leveling with us and getting to the point. As pastors they have known how to minister simply by sitting with people.

The complementary symbol for the bishop’s office is the vantage point. Episkopos simply means supervisor or overseer. It implies the vantage points enabling a leader to see the big picture, to take in the larger context, to relate what is happening in a particular spot to movements in the main organization and society at large. Larger vision is intrinsic to the bishop’s office, and the willingness to stand up for the imperatives of the big picture of God’s world in its predicament, and God’s promise of the Kingdom. The new King monument is a thrilling artistic expression of the ministry of standing out and standing up for the demands and hopes of God’s bigger picture! No one should be a bishop whose nature is to be immersed in the local scene alone. God calls for the practice of standing up to see ahead and around and even afar, and the willingness to pay the price of reminding us of our larger connectedness: it always arouses resentment.

My walk brought me back past the Holocaust Museum, and I glanced up at my old office there, and thought about a letter Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote to the church in Ephesus, en route under armed guard to his inevitable martyrdom in Rome. Advising the laity about their relationship to their own bishop, he wrote, “Pay special attention to the bishop when he is silent.” Here was a leader who kept the mystical core of his faith intact, who continued to be in awe of the profound mystery of God, and the way the crucified Christ brings us, through his vulnerability, into personal intimacy with that mystery. There’s nothing sentimental about that intimacy, and holy silence is our protection against glib religiosity. A visit to the Holocaust Museum induces the kind of silence Ignatius wanted to see a bishop practice. Well, we can kill our bishops by smothering them under our projections, so my hope is that candidates will come forward who won’t let us, because they maintain in prayer their own intimate connection with the mystery of God. Bishops who pray don’t pretend to have answers to everything, and they can foster our humility, which in the Episcopal Church today should be a high priority. We have good but hard times ahead.

Martin L. Smith is a well-known spiritual writer and priest. He is the senior associate rector at St. Columba’s, D.C.

Nullification revisited

By James R. Mathes

The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence wrote the essay, “A Conservationist among Lumberjacks,” in The Living Church, published online on October 1, 2010, which attempts to paint the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina as a protector of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.

It is true that there are no new plots.

What Bishop Lawrence postulates is simply a twenty-first century reprisal of the 1828 nullification crisis in which the state of South Carolina attempted to nullify federal tariffs.

Bishop Lawrence feigns great sorrow at the changing landscape of the Episcopal Church. He writes, “I have grown sad from walking among the stumps of what was once a noble old-growth Episcopalian grove in the forest of Catholic Christianity.” Donning the mantle of ecclesial conservationist, Bishop Lawrence even quotes environmentalist, Aldo Leopold, “a conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke [of the ax] he is writing his signature on the face of his land.” The bishop adds, “far too many leaders in our church have never learned this lesson.” Indeed.

All of this is prelude to his main premise that the presiding bishop is threatening the polity of the Episcopal Church. He wants you to believe that the threat is manifested in three ways: because her chancellor has retained a South Carolina attorney to represent the wider Episcopal Church’s interests should they diverge from the Diocese of South Carolina’s interests; through the Title IV revisions from the 2009 General Convention; and by the manner in which the House of Bishops has dealt with bishops who have left the Episcopal Church.

If Bishop Lawrence were simply presenting these thoughts to spur debate about his concern regarding the polity of the Episcopal Church and his perceptions of threats to the same, I could imagine he and I having a lively conversation, perhaps when we next meet at House of Bishops. He might even convince me to support changes in the canons to preserve our polity. However I suspect that that is not what Bishop Lawrence is after. His essay is rather an attempt to justify resolutions being considered this weekend at the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, which among other things, claims “sovereignty” of diocese. He tips his hand in his essay when he claims that “the presiding bishop and her unelected chancellor [are] intruding into diocesan independence.”

An Episcopal diocese is no more independent of the Episcopal Church than a state is independent of the federal government. This is nothing short of an attempt to craft ecclesiastical nullification. And of late, we have had too much practice in that with four other dioceses claiming nullification on the road to secession.

Bishop Lawrence’s thinking is problematic.

First, there is no real threat from the presiding bishop unless you attempt secession, in which case she will simply do her job of preserving the diocese from those who choose to abandon it.

The Title IV revisions, while not perfect, are an effort to shift from a disciplinary model to a pastoral model of dealing with clergy conduct issues. There is no external threat to a diocese from the presiding bishop. In fact, due process is enhanced. I would invite Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina to join the wider Episcopal Church in living with these canonical changes and to offer changes at future General Conventions. This is the right way to deal with perceived imperfections.

And it is rather silly to raise procedural objections to Bob Duncan’s deposition. While I believe we followed our canonical procedures properly, Duncan’s previously prepared departure to the Southern Cone immediately acted upon and announced moments after his deposition made it clear that the House made the appropriate decision.

Indeed, what’s the complaint? Bob Duncan and the House of Bishops were in perfect agreement: he was no longer a bishop in the Episcopal Church. The issue for Duncan was that his deposition gravely weakened his flimsy legal position relative to his compliance with an out of court settlement relating to Episcopal Church property. As Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina prepare to move forward with their own canonical changes, I fear they may be playing a similar game.

Bishop Lawrence: be at peace. Your colleagues in our House of Bishops support you in leading the Diocese of South Carolina consonant with its particular theological perspective. We grieve with you those who have left the Episcopal Church. But know this -- no one cut them out. They were not the victims of lumberjacks; they uprooted themselves. We pray that you will not do the same. It would be a regrettable repeat of history. In the end, we will wait for your next move. Please don’t fire on Fort Sumter.

The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

Tweeting the House of Bishops

By Wendy Johnson

Somewhere about the middle of the recent House of Bishops meeting it became clear that something was very different. In the past, the bishops met in relative privacy, some may even call it secrecy. As a rule, very little information about any House of Bishops meeting was made available until everyone was headed home. The result? The interested public received mainly finished product -- reports, statements, and maybe the opportunity to view a video conference with a few of the bishops reporting on the meeting’s outcomes.

This time, however, we had a handful of bishops (and maybe even more) communicating in real-time -- Twittering, blogging, and using Facebook to keep folks back home and around the Church up-to-date on what was being said and done. I counted at least five bishops actively using Twitter, Andy Doyle of Texas, Greg Rickel of Olympia, Kirk Smith of Arizona, Brian Prior of Minnesota and Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Tweets ranged from video links to quotes from Phyllis Tickle to the actual reporting of voting and election results.

Before this meeting, I don’t believe that anyone in official communications channels anticipated any bishop choosing to stay connected online, much less Tweeting. After all, it had never really happened before. Perhaps there was some unstated expectation that bishops would turn their electronic life off. However, it seems that the information age has caught up even to the House of Bishops. Through Tweets and blogs, this handful of bishops have grabbed the reins of authority and changed communications patterns and expectations, I believe irreversibly.

If you think about it, it had to happen. In our continuously connected realities, private meetings with controlled communications are far from an acceptable norm. These days everything happens out in the open, everything is publicly debated, and all news is distributed in real-time. Events that don’t embrace this criteria? Frankly, they’re suspicious, driving folks to connect around their shared consternation with the closed nature of the event. Not a good thing…and these bishops who chose to Twitter probably know that, at least intuitively.

The church as an institution has been slow to fully adopt the social media platform, mainly (I would guess) due to the effects it has on the organization. Sure, we’ll webcast news conferences and Tweet headlines, but embracing true and open peer-to-peer interaction is still a novelty. The uncontrolled nature of social media can be unsettling and the redistribution of authority that ensues is downright revolutionary. When the opinion of a little ol’ individual like me can appear next to one from bishop (as it could in Twitter) we are certainly living into a new paradigm.

With this landmark House of Bishops meeting now behind us, the question about ramifications of these events return to the wider church for parsing out. I suspect that in the past the ‘powers that be’ in the church would simply put a lid on these interactions. But I don’t think that is a realistic response and I don’t think the church is foolhardy enough to go there. So the question becomes one of how far the church will go in embracing this new media reality.

Will bishops be given limiting Twitter protocol or will we see the free and open use of hashtags at the next House of Bishops meeting?

We will wait and see.

Wendy Johnson is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.

Bishop Meade's Annual Report of 1861

By William Meade (November 11, 1789 - March 14, 1862)
Third Bishop of Virginia

Dear Brethren and Friends: ...

Having thus presented a statement of those things pertaining to our Diocese which the canon requires of me, I now ask your attention to a few remarks concerning the present unhappy condition of our State and Country.

My brethren and friends will bear me witness how carefully I have ever avoided, in all my communications, the least reference to anything partaking of a political character, and how I have earnestly warned my younger brethren against the danger of injuring the effect of their sacred ministry, by engaging in discussions which are so apt to disturb the peace of society. But in the present circumstances of our country the cause of religion is so deeply involved, that I feel not only justified, but constrained to offer a few remarks for your consideration.

It has pleased God to permit a great calamity to come upon us. Our whole country is preparing for war. Our own State, after failing in her earnest effort for the promotion of peace, is, perhaps, more actively engaged in all needful measures for maintaining the position which she has, after much consideration, deliberately assumed, than any portion of the land.

A deeper and more honest conviction that if war should actually come upon us, it will be on our part one of self-defense, and, therefore, justifiable before God, seldom, if ever, animated the breasts of those who appealed to arms. From this consideration, and from my knowledge of the character of our people, I believe that the object sought for will be most perseveringly pursued, whatever sacrifice of life and comfort and treasure may be required. Nor do I entertain any doubt as to the final result, though I shudder at the thought of what may intervene before that result is secured. May God, in great mercy and with His mighty power, interpose and grant us speedy peace, instead of protracted war! But can it be, that at this period of the world, when so many prayers are offered up for the establishment of Christ's kingdom in all the earth, and such high hopes are entertained that the zealous efforts put forth will be successful, and our country be one of the most effective and honored instruments for producing the same, that the great work shall be arrested by such a fratricidal war as that which is now so seriously threatened ? Is there not room enough for us all to dwell together in peace in this widely extended country, so large a portion of which is yet unsettled, and may not be until the world that now is shall be no more ? The families or nations which sprung from two venerable patriarchs of old, could find room enough in the little pent-up land of Judea to live in peace, by going the one to one hand and the other to the opposite. At a later period, when Israel and Judah separated, and the latter having the city and temple in possession, and the supremacy, according to prophecy, was preparing to go up against the former and reduce the people to submission, and bring them back to union, the Lord himself came down and forbade it, saying: "Thou shalt not go up, nor fight against your brethren, the children of Israel. Return every man to his house, for this thing is of me." And they hearkened unto the Lord, and ever after the history of the two kingdoms is written in the same sacred volume, in which are also recorded the evidences of God's favor to both, and though sometimes at controversy, yet how often were they found side by side defending the ancient boundaries of Judea against surrounding nations. God grant that our country may learn a lesson from this sacred narrative. Let none think that I am not mindful of law and order, and of the blessings of Union. I was trained in a different school. I have clung with tenacity to the hope of preserving the Union to the last moment. If I know my own heart, could the sacrifice of the poor remnant of my life have contributed in any degree to its maintenance, such sacrifice would have been cheerfully made. But the developments of public feeling and the course of our rulers have brought mo slowly, reluctantly, sorrowfully, yet most decidedly, to the painful conviction, that notwithstanding attendant dangers and evils, we shall consult the welfare and happiness of the whole land by separation. And who can desire to retain a Union which has now become so hateful, and by the application of armed force, which, if successful, would make it ten times more hateful, and soon lead to the repetition of the same bloody contests ?

I trust, therefore, that the present actual separation of so many and such important portions of our country may take place without further collision, which might greatly hinder the establishment of the most friendly and intimate relations which can consist with separate establishments. I trust that our friends at a distance, and now in opposition to us, will most seriously review their judgment, and inquire whether the evils resulting from a war to sustain their wishes and opinions as to a single Confederacy, will not far exceed those apprehended from the establishment of a second—an event far more certain than the result of the American Revolution at the time of its occurrence.

In connection with this civil and geographical separation in our country, and almost necessarily resulting from it, the subject of some change of the ecclesiastical relations of our Diocese must come under Consideration. There is a general and strong desire, I believe, to retain as much as possible of our past and present happy intercourse with those from whom we shall be, in other matters, more divided. A meeting is already proposed for this purpose in one of the seceded States, whose plans, so far as developed, I will submit to the consideration of this body at its present session.

I cannot conclude without expressing the earnest desire that the ministers and members of our Church, and all the citizens of our State, who are so deeply interested in the present contest, may conduct it in the most elevated and Christian spirit, rising above uncharitable and indiscriminate imputations on all who are opposed. Many there are equally sincere on both sides, as there ever have been in all the wars and controversies that have been waged upon earth; though it does not follow that all have the same grounds of justice and truth on which to base their warfare.

It was the maxim of an ancient sage that we should always treat our friends as those who might one day be our enemies, and to treat our enemies as those who may one day be our friends. While abhorring, as I am sure we all do, the former part of this cold-hearted maxim, let us cherish and adopt the latter, so congenial with the spirit of our holy religion. The thought of even a partial separation from those who have long been so dear to me is anguish to my soul. But there is a union of heart in our common faith and hope which can never be broken. The Church in Virginia has more dear friends and generous patrons amongst those who are on the opposite side of this painful controversy than any other, and feels most deeply the unhappy position in which we are placed.

As our State has, to its high praise, endeavored to avert the evils now threatened, so may our Church, and all the others in Virginia, by prayer and the exercise of true charity, endeavor to diminish that large amount of prejudice and ill-will which so unhappily abounds in our land.

Let me, in conclusion, commend to your special prayers all those who have now devoted themselves to the defense of our State. From personal knowledge of many of them, and from the information of others, there is already, I believe, a large portion of religious principle and genuine piety to be found among them. I rejoice to learn that in many companies not only are the services of chaplains and other ministers earnestly sought for, but social prayer meetings held among themselves. Our own Church has a very large proportion of communicants among the officers of our army, and not a few among the soldiers. Let us pray that grace may be given them to be faithful soldiers of the Cross, as well as valiant and successful defenders of the State.

If all of us do our part faithfully and according to the principles of our holy religion, we may confidently leave the issue to God, who will overrule all for good.


The following resolution was offered by Judge Thomas S. Gholson, and adopted:

Resolved, That so much of the Bishop's address as refers to the present condition of our political and ecclesiastical affairs, be referred to a Special Committee of three Clergymen and three Laymen, with instructions to report as soon as practicable to the Convention some plan of action.

The Chair appointed the following gentlemen such committee: Rt. Rev. John Johns, D. D., Judge Thomas S. Gholson, Rev. J. Grammer, Mr. James Gait, Rev. William Sparrow, D. D., Mr. R. H. Cunningham.

Source: Journal of the Sixty-sixth Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia, May 16-17, 1861.


From Bishop Johns' address the Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia, 1866: From Norfolk I proceeded to Richmond, and thence to Augusta, Georgia, to attend the General Council, which met in that city on the 8th of November. ... They involved nothing of special interest to us at present, except the recognition of the right of each of the Southern Dioceses to determine its
ecclesiastical relations, as its own Council might elect. Under this recognition every other Diocese of our late confederation has returned to its former connection with the Church in the United States, of which formal notice has been communicated to the ecclesiastical authority of this Diocese. It remains for us to avail ourselves of this annual meeting of our Council to take such action as our christian duty, the interest of the Diocese, and the unity and fellowship of the general Church may require. My own views on this subject were frankly and fully expressed in my address to our last Council. I have since seen no reason to change, but much to lead me
to reaffirm them with more decided emphasis.

By the withdrawal of the other Diocese, which, with our own, formed the ecclesiastical organization in the Southern States, that organization has ceased to exist, and now, certainly, we are free to act as we may think proper, without being embarrassed by the fear of appearing to be discourteous to our late respected associates. And as all apprehension as to the mind and bearing of our Northern brethren toward us has been happily removed by the christian spirit which characterized the last General Convention, and the conciliatory measures by which it expressed itself, the way is fairly open for a becoming re-union, and I cordially recommend, what I trust you will unanimously approve, (the adoption of a resolution that the Diocese of Virginia now resume her former connection with the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.)

Absent without leaving

By Andrew Gerns

In the first of seven meetings around the Diocese of Albany, the Times-Union reports a statement by Bishop William Love that is very telling. He said that the militantly conservative stance of the diocesan leadership is justified because parishes that might have broken away from the Diocese (and the Episcopal Church) have not. Albany, he says, is in contact with "all of the Anglican Communion."

What part of the Anglican Communion is Albany in contact with that the rest of the Episcopal Church is not? Presumably provinces that have otherwise crossed-borders to “rescue” congregations from the oppression and heresy that they say is the Episcopal Church today. Maybe Albany is in contact with former Episcopalians who have formed their own denomination?

One hears out of this statement the idea that there may be another tack for conservative dioceses who are opposed to the ordination of gays and lesbians and see themselves as holding the line against interpretations of the Gospel that grieve them: a strategy of non-participation.

Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina says that he is considering a position of withdrawal from participation in the Episcopal Church but not from the Church itself:

In our present situation some would counsel us that it is past time to cut our moorings from The Episcopal Church and take refuge in a harbor without the pluralism and false teachings that surround us in both the secular culture and within our Church; others speak to us of the need for patience, to “let the Instruments of Unity do their work”—that now is not yet the time to act. Still others seem paralyzed; though no less distressed than us by the developments within our Church, they seem to take a posture of insular denial of what is inexorably coming upon us all. While I have no immediate solution to the challenges we face—it is certainly neither a hasty departure nor a paralyzed passivity I counsel. Either of these I believe, regardless of what godly wisdom they may be for others, would be for us a false peace and a “fatal security” which in time (and brief at that) would only betray us. Others in their given circumstances must do what they believe God has called them to do.

Lawrence along with the Standing Committee of the proposes that the Diocesan Convention consider:

… a resolution … that this diocese begin withdrawing from all bodies of governance of TEC that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture; the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them; the resolutions of Lambeth which have expressed the mind of the Communion; the Book of Common Prayer (p.422-423) and the Constitution & Canons of TEC (Canon 18:1.2.b) until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions. Let no one think this is a denial of the vows a priest or bishop makes to participate in the councils of governance. This is not a flight into isolation; nor is it an abandonment of duty, but the protest of conscience.

Instead of attempting to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church, Lawrence proposes non-participation as a “protest” using language that combines civil disobedience (we will do this until the Episcopal Church repents) and psychology (we are creating boundaries). What it really means is a decision to isolate.

This approach undercuts somewhat the claims of ACNA to be an Anglican Province because while it aides and abets the claim that the Episcopal Church has gone down the path of heresy and revision, it also understands that in this country a diocese can only be a member of the Anglican Communion through the Episcopal Church. It also assumes that ACNA is a separate denomination that is not in and of itself a successor to the Episcopal Church… a denomination that South Carolina will not join.

This approach is rather different from the position articulated by Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana who writes in Christianity Today:

Nor are our divisions as clear-cut as they may seem. It is not the case, in the Episcopal Church or in any other, that you've got believers on one side and heretics (or apostates) on the other. I know many in my church who love Jesus, confess him as Lord and Savior, believe the articles of the Christian faith as summarized in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, and seek to follow Jesus in costly ways—and who affirm the decisions of the 2003 General Convention. As a matter of principle, when people claim to be disciples of Jesus, I will treat them as brothers and sisters in Christ, Bishop Gene Robinson among them. He is not only a colleague; I count him as a friend and fellow pilgrim. I will commit myself to him and to them, even when I am convinced that they are wrong. I will seek to manifest a godly forbearance and ask that they do the same toward me.

On the contrary, Bishop Lawrence proposes a separation-without-leaving precisely because he sees the church as dividing up between believer and heretic. He sees the need to name and isolate the heresy he sees:

This calls for a bold response.” It is not in my opinion the right action for this diocese to retreat from a thorough engagement with this destructive “new” gospel. As the prophet Ezekiel was called by the Lord to be a Watchman, to sound the alarm of judgment—to warn Israel to turn from her wickedness and live. We are called to speak forthrightly to The Episcopal Church and others, but even more specifically to the thousands of everyday Episcopalians who do not yet know the fullness of this present cultural captivity of the Church. Clearly this is not about the virtue of being “excluding”; it is about being rightly discerning about what is morally and spiritually appropriate.

The idea that Lawrence is proposing (and I believe Love of Albany will also attempt) is to maintain just enough membership links to be considered apart of the Episcopal Church but no more.

The choice of non-participation recognizes that outright secession would not work: it would result in expensive and lengthy court battles, with the likely loss of their physical assets.

At the same time, it is still based on an understanding of the diocese as a more or less independent entity. To choose non-participation is to say, in effect, to the rest of us “I have no need of you.”

South Carolina and other Dioceses considering this course must tread carefully. To steer this course, their diocesan conventions must avoid passing provocative legislation claiming to renounce or interfere with the authority of General Convention or the Presiding Bishop. Their bishops must avoid saying words or doing actions that makes it appear as if they have renounced their orders in the Episcopal Church, such as preventing the visit of the PB to their diocese, unilaterally claiming another Primate as their own nor formally aligning with a foreign province in a way that creates a new denomination.

A non-participating diocese may develop partner relationships with other Anglican dioceses in the Communion (as many participating dioceses have done) and even sign on to some kind of Anglican Covenant, if one ever materializes, with or without the rest of the Episcopal Church. The fact that a lone signature on such a document may not mean anything either legally or globally is irrelevant, because it would symbolize where the non-participating diocese "stands."

If these dioceses choose the tack of non-participation without leaving then there may be little 815 or anyone else—including the moderates and progressives in their own dioceses—can do about this.

This approach does not mean that there would an absence of provocative actions or words. A bishop of a "non-participating" diocese might show up at an ACNA function, for example. But in itself, this means nothing. A Bishop showing up at an ACNA function may be no more significant than an Episcopal bishop showing up at a Lutheran or Roman Catholic or some ecumenical function. Bishops, clergy and lay-leaders may say harmful or hurtful things about the Episcopal Church in the press. This approach would not lessen the division nor promote dialogue, but it falls short of outright schism.

A non-participating diocese would not pay their "asking" nor give money to any Episcopal organization like ERD or ECW that they believed concurs with decisions of General Convention they don’t like. They would not send representatives to these groups nor participate in the committees of General Convention. This would be disappointing, but since The Episcopal Church has never linked participation to paying a fair share of the "asking" nor is participation on the councils of the church a prerequisite to anything, these actions would not by themselves constitute renunciation.

It would take a lot of fortitude to maintain a non-participating status. The leadership in such a diocese would have to be careful not to get to cocky or impulsive on the one hand, and to deal with a loneliness and self-imposed isolation on the other.

They would also choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the Episcopal Church that they have chosen not to leave: they would lose connection with moderate and moderate-t- conservative dioceses that remain participatory. They would attract to themselves clergy who are passionate for what could become a narrower and narrower view of the Gospel and they would squelch the voices and inquiry of laity who have a broader view of church and mission than their leaders. Doctrinal enforcement would become an issue that could further dampen a dynamic common life and mission. They might network with other non-participating dioceses but before long this would be like phone calls between silos. It would be hard to avoid become self-absorbed and parochial in such an environment.

This approach is not new. Three of the dioceses that attempted to leave for a new denomination with all their property and assets to another province—Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy—also took a non-participating stance after the ordination of women. The Episcopal Church allowed this under a “conscience clause” but after three decades of non-participation, the leadership could no longer contain themselves nor hold the line and attempted to bolt. In Pittsburgh, non-participation led to a kind of myopia that assumed that their perspective was more widely held than it turned out to be. The lessons of these non-participating dioceses ought to provide a sobering example to South Carolina, Albany and others considering staying but not participating.

But as long as the Bishops shows up where they are (minimally) supposed to, and as long as their Standing Committees do the barest canonical essentials of their jobs, as long as the Diocese send deputies to General Convention, and as long as no Bishop, diocesan convention or parish says "I am no longer Episcopalian", then there is no reason to consider the bishop or diocese as having left the Episcopal Church.

Absent maybe, but not departed.

The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns is the rector of Trinity Church, Easton, Pa., AND chair of the Evangelism Commission of the Diocese of Bethlehem. He keeps the blogs Andrew Plus and Share the Bread.

GC and B033: a preview and an analysis

By Jim Naughton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purity and the necessary absense of honesty

By Adrian Worsfold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power trip

By Lauren R. Stanley

A group of 15 Episcopal bishops issued a statement last week that is without a doubt mind-boggling. It simply does not make sense.

These Communion Partner bishops, along with three Episcopal clergy who are members of the conservative Anglican Communion Institute, claim that there is, in reality, no Episcopal Church as it has existed since 1785. They claim that the Episcopal Church is nothing but a “voluntary association of equal dioceses.” They claim that dioceses are independent, and that bishops hold all of the power. They claim that the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, is not a metropolitan and has no authority.

In essence, what they are saying is that they do not belong to the greater community but rather are entities unto themselves, with all authority given to them.

Nothing binds us together, they claim, other than a mere desire to be bound together. No canons, no constitution, in essence, no Book of Common Prayer – nothing. In citing the history of the founding of the Episcopal Church at the end of the American Revolution, they somehow manage to twist that history to show that dioceses pre-existed the national church, and as such, somehow have no need of the national church. Dioceses, they say, “are both historically and ontologically prior to the Constitution and the General Convention.” But considering that only one of the 15 signatory bishops comes from an original diocese of the Episcopal Church (there were nine of them), it’s hard to figure out what these bishops mean. With the exception of South Carolina, all of the other dioceses came into being well after the Episcopal Church was founded, and all were founded at the direction of the Episcopal Church. So when they argue that the Episcopal Church doesn’t matter because dioceses predate it, even when most diocese do not in fact go back that far, they are doing nothing but going in circles.

Their arguments make about as much sense as the Commonwealth of Virginia saying it doesn’t really belong to the United States and thus can do whatsoever it pleases, regardless of what Congress, the administration and the Supreme Court says.

But that’s not all that boggles my mind over this statement.

What I also don’t get is that these same bishops are setting themselves up for a long, hard fall. Because if these dioceses and bishops can do whatever they want, then so can the rest of us. If this argument truly is what it seems to be – a justification for allowing individual bishops and dioceses to sign onto the yet-to-be-fully-known Anglican Covenant, regardless of what the Episcopal Church decides – then it means that those who do not want the Covenant (because we view it as non-Anglican, as still too confining, as still much too concerned with punishment and lacking in grace, as still ignoring the history of the Anglican Communion and its commitment to preaching to Gospel everywhere while at the same time honoring the exigencies of time and place), then we can reject it. Because according to the bishops’ arguments, everyone gets to do whatever they want. And no one can stop anyone else – because we are not one body, not one Church. We’re just a bunch of individual dioceses lacking any cohesion.

That’s why the arguments put forth by these bishops simply make no sense. They claim they want to remain in The Episcopal Church, which is good. But they also claim that contrary to history, contrary to their vows, contrary to the canons and constitutions, all is not as it seems, and they can change both history and the facts to fit their own desires.

What is it that they really want? I don't know. I can't tell, even after reading their statement numerous times. They quote extensively from the canons of both the Roman Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches, and cite the governing documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist Church, ignoring the fact that we are none of those. Each of those denominations has its own polity, which is different from ours. Their argument compares apples to oranges and says, “See?”

The statement also claims that the diocese is the “fundamental unit of The Episcopal Church,” and as such, individual dioceses can make individual decisions, regardless of what a national or provincial church decides. It seems as though, in order to get what they want, these bishops are willing to let the Episcopal Church descend into chaos.

And then, finally, there is the most telling sentence of all, the last one of the document: “We intend to exercise our episcopal authority to remain constituent members of the Anglican Communion and will continue to speak out on these issues as necessary.”

This statement isn’t about seeking a way out of a crisis, as it claims. It is, clearly, a power grab meant to ensure that these bishops not only can have their cake and eat it too, they can have and eat our cake as well.

I may not understand what these bishops are doing. But I do know this: Simply claiming that up is down and down is up doesn’t make either true. Likewise, simply claiming that dioceses are independent and not subordinate to the Episcopal Church doesn’t make either of those statements true either.

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.

The passion of the Holy Land

By John Bryson Chane

Karen and I recently returned from a 10-day journey to Palestine, Jordan and Israel. This trip was not your usual pilgrimage to the Holy Land but rather an opportunity to spend time with the new Episcopal Bishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, whose diocese spans Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Syria and Palestine. I can assure you that what I saw, heard and experienced has brought me to a place where I can no longer sit back and assume that in time all will be well in that troubled part of the world.

Looking back for a moment: In 2003 I joined Jim Wallis of Sojourners, two Anglican primates, five Church of England bishops and leaders from four mainline Christian denominations in the U.S. to meet with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, and urge him not to support the U.S. effort to undertake a pre-emptive military strike against Iraq. We urged patience, the use of soft power and the further support of high level diplomatic talks. We were not successful. But the Prime Minister begged us to return to the U.S. and urge the President to move forward aggressively with the Road Map for Peace, an effort to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. All of us agreed that without solving this conflict, the Middle East would forever be a seething caldron of war and discontent and would also be a breeding ground for the growing forces of indiscriminate global terrorism. Upon our return the President refused to meet with this broad, representative religious community to discuss the Road Map and the rest is a history that we are living with today.

We as a nation pride ourselves on being a great democracy, a “city built on a hill.” And we generally focus on several key ingredients that define a democracy: living by the rule of law and respecting and upholding human rights, especially the right to worship as one chooses. The current condition of Palestinian Christians that I observed in the Diocese of Jerusalem makes me question whether we as a nation are holding Israel, our trusted, democratic ally in the Middle East accountable to these standards.

The West Bank, as occupied Palestinian territory, continues to experience the illegal building of Israeli settler housing. Almost 1,000 new units are being built in Maale Adumim, a settlement in the hills just East of Jerusalem. In Giv’at Ze’ev, another one of the settlements that rings Jerusalem, a new 750-unit building project has been approved. Requests are on the table with the Israeli government to build 350 new homes in Beitar Illit very near Jerusalem. Literally hundreds of new homes are being added to existing settlements in the West Bank; all illegal, all on occupied, Palestinian land, and all built while the Israeli Government casts a blind eye. These settler houses are distinguished by their sturdy construction, red-tiled roofs, manicured lawns and suburban feel that resembles a California housing sprawl. As one drives between Jerusalem and Jericho, huge apartment complexes can be seen, rising high on a hill in occupied land, a painful reminder of broken promises. These settler houses and apartment buildings, constructed by Israel on occupied land, are a violation of international law. The 1907 Hague Convention clearly states that an occupying power may expropriate land only for the public use of the occupied population. Taking West Bank land indiscriminately, as Israel has done, is a clear violation of international law. I ask the question: Is this the behavior of a democracy that lives by and cherishes the rule of law?

Karen and I visited the land owned by Daoud Nassar and his family; more than 100 acres that have been in his family since 1916 when purchased by deed from the Ottoman Empire. The Nassar family has legal right and claim to the property located about 6 miles southeast of Bethlehem in Palestinian occupied territory. It is now in the middle of an area that in 1991 was declared by the Israeli Government as state property. A large illegal Israeli settlement less than 1,000 yards away has emboldened Israeli settlers to come onto the Nassars’ property brandishing rifles and shotguns, firing them and threatening the owners with death if they do not move out. Settler bulldozers have plowed a road through a portion of the Nassars’ olive grove, and have blocked the only road that gives entrance to their house and property with huge boulders. And with the support of the Israeli authorities the settlers have prevented the Nassars from being able to drill wells for water, or connect to available electricity. The settlers say the land is theirs because God gave it to them, and not to the Palestinians. Known as The Tent of Nations, the Nassars’ small farm is a now a center where pilgrims gather to support the family in their quest to end Israeli harassment and the daily threat of a land grab. After spending time at the Tent of Nations and hearing the story of abuse and constant harassment over property that is legally owned and deeded, I ask the question: Is this the behavior of a democracy that lives by and cherishes the rule of law?

While visiting Gaza, on an Israeli permit issued to the Bishop of Jerusalem, I was exposed to a Palestinian territory cordoned off like a prison for those who live there. I have visited many countries in Africa and Latin America steeped in poverty. Gaza is equal to them all. Donkey carts now are beginning to outnumber motor vehicles, as gasoline and diesel fuel is rationed by Israel through the Hamas government to 10 liters by permit every two weeks. Our Episcopal Hospital in Gaza is short of medicines because of Israeli prohibitions, and the hospital can only operate on electricity for eight hours a day because of shortages. I celebrated the Eucharist in a church next to the hospital that still has a gaping hole in the roof left by an Israeli rocket that exploded in front of the altar and left the interior strewn with lathing and plaster. In my protest to the Israeli embassy I was informed it was an unfortunate accident of war. There would be no compensation for damages. The hospital administrator informed me that last year eight patients from the hospital waiting to cross from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israel for emergency medical care died while waiting for clearance to cross the border to Israel for treatment. I ask the question: Is this the behavior of a democracy that lives by upholding and cherishing human rights?

If you are a non-Jerusalemite Palestinian Christian wishing to enter East Jerusalem for religious worship or pilgrimage, you must have a permit and those permits are difficult to get. Because of these prohibitions, 3 million Christian and Muslim Palestinians are being denied rightful access to their holy sites in Jerusalem, even during religious holidays. Because of restrictions and the obscenity of the separation wall which encloses it, Bethlehem has become a ghost town, with shops and businesses shuttering their doors and with religious pilgrims from other countries the majority of those who walk the streets and eat in the restaurants. I ask the question: Is this the behavior of a democracy that lives by protecting and upholding religious freedom and the right to worship as one pleases?

I am appalled that the Palestinian political movements of Fatah and Hamas play off against each other at the expense of the Palestinian people and their welfare. Their power struggle to control so much of so little is shortsighted and certainly not the way to raise up and strengthen political leadership in order for Palestine to be an active player in negotiating a fair, two-state peace settlement with Israel. The fracturing of Palestinian political leadership and the failure of the U.S. to work with Israel in brokering a two state solution, claiming Jerusalem as a shared holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims and supporting land swaps for the Palestinians in places where illegal settlers have moved is a moral failure.

Jews, Christians and Muslims have the moral obligation to denounce violence as a solution to any and all disputes between Israel and Palestine. No one has the right to take the life of another in the name of God, and no one has the right to take another person’s land in the name of God. Palestine must have the right to be established as an independent state in possession of territory contiguous with Israel. And Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state contiguous with Palestine. Israel must return to the 1967 borders established by the United Nations with appropriate compensational territory granted to Palestine for land not returned to Palestine in the peace agreement for reasons acceptable to both parties. The holy city of Jerusalem must be a shared holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Anything less violates the ancient traditions of these three Abrahamic faiths and violates their histories as contained in their holy books.

Politicians seeking the highest office in the land who wait on the results of our Nov. 4 presidential election must have the courage not just to speak out in their unequivocal support of Israel, but must also speak out and condemn violations of human rights and religious freedom denied to Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

I support with conviction the right of Israel to exist as a free state, unencumbered by indiscriminant violence and the threat of attack engendered by those who would wish to do her harm. But I am appalled that there has been little or no discussion by presidential candidates about the devastation of the Palestinian economy as a result of Israel’s construction of the security wall. I, as a Christian, am unwilling to remain silent as Palestinians are humiliated, their human rights are violated, their lands are taken from them and they are forced to immigrate to other countries because they feel that they and their children have no future in their ancient homeland. Faithful Jews, Christians and Muslims who do not speak out on these unacceptable circumstances are guilty of the greatest crime of all – the crime of silence! The same is true of our political leaders.

I am reminded of the ominous reflection contained in Jesus’ parable about the landowner and the vineyard. “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom. The one who falls on the stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane is the Bishop of Washington.

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 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.

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.

"The historic episcopate, locally adapted"

By Marshall Scott

Several Saturdays ago, I attended the diocesan service in which transitional deacons were ordained priests. I like to think that I’ve had some small part in the education of three of them. It was a great honor, and a great thrill, to participate in laying hands on them.

I think we are in a sort of “season” of ordinations – especially, the elections and ordinations of bishops. It seems to me that in just the last few months there have been elections or ordinations of new bishops in ten or eleven dioceses, with another three or four in process. With all these new bishops, it’s worth thinking about our understanding of what they’re committing to.

Not long ago I wrote a chapter – really, more an encyclopedia article - for a new book. It is being compiled by a colleague of mine, another chaplain, to provide information specifically for physicians on the spiritual traditions of patients, and how those traditions address issues of health care. I wrote, as you might expect, about the Episcopal Church.

The editor also requested of each author a brief statement representative of the tradition taken from Scripture or tradition. That wasn’t as easy as it sounded at first. The editor, himself a faithful Baptist, assumed for us writers that one or another passage of Scripture would be submitted. I thought of several, but none seemed quite right. It wasn’t because Scripture isn’t important in the Episcopal Church. Contrary to some current strident voices, it certainly is. But it seemed to me that no one passage of Scripture was more meaningfully “Episcopal” than any other. After all, there isn’t some distinctively “Episcopal” Bible. We read all of it, even if we wrestle with some parts more than others (and who doesn’t?). And, we share all of it with other Christians of the Western Church and, by and large, with the Eastern Churches. No single passage stood out for me as more “Episcopal” than “Catholic” or “Orthodox” or simply “Christian.”

Something from the Book of Common Prayer, then: that’s where any Episcopalian would go next. I looked through the 1979 Book (it is, after all, the Prayer Book we use, and in which I was ordained), including the “Preface to the First Book of Common Prayer,” and the section of Historical Documents, and through the Rites of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (both Rites, and all six Eucharistic prayers). Finally, one prayer stood out for me. It is an ancient prayer, taken from the Gelasian Sacramentary (per Hatchett), but it has not been used in earlier Episcopal or Anglican Prayer Books.

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

Now, I will admit that this collect is a personal favorite of mine. At the same time, I was struck once again by how important this collect is in the life of the Episcopal Church. It is the last of the Solemn Collects in the liturgy for Good Friday. It is also the Collect after the ninth lesson in the Great Vigil of Easter. For each of these important rites of the Church, the collect is, as it were, a summary of what we believe God is doing. In the death and resurrection of Christ, we believe God is indeed restoring - or perhaps, re-creating – all of creation, so as to bring creation to perfection.

With that in mind, I was also struck by the third place in which this collect is used. This collect is the summation of the Litany for Ordinations in the Episcopal Church – all ordinations. Whether for bishop, priest, or deacon, this collect is read in every ordination in the Episcopal Church.

Now, this is a change from previous prayer books. The 1928 American book had this collect at the end of the litany:

Almighty God, giver of all good things, who by thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers Orders of Ministers in thy Church; Mercifully behold this thy servant, now called to the Work and Ministry of a Bishop; and so replenish him with the truth of thy Doctrine, and adorn him with innocency of life, that, both by word and deed, he may faithfully serve thee in this Office, to the glory of thy Name, and the edifying and well-governing of thy Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen

This collect dates to the 1550 Ordinal of the Church of England, published then in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, where it is used, again at the end of the litany, for consecration of bishops and priests, and in adapted form for deacons. It was used this way in the 1928 Book.

Now, I am convinced that one of the things that current Anglican arguments are about is bishops. Granted, I think over all it’s about what it means to be Anglican; and within that, then, how we interpret Scripture and how we do or do not accept human sexual lives. But, a critical event was the election of a bishop, and many of the subsequent actions and reactions have been either statements of, actions of, or ordinations of bishops. We continue to speak about ordination of bishops for “the whole Church,” even if we argue about what we mean when we say that.

It that’s the case, it seems these collects, once again in position to summarize the Litany for Ordinations, do describe a different understanding of what ordination is about, and not just the ordination of bishops, but all ordinations. The 1550 collect is, if you will, about one person, and that one person’s place in the structure and discipline of the Church. It is about one servant, the vocation to which he is called, his fitness for it, and his functions in it.

The 1979 collect has a much wider focus. In the 1979 rite ordination is not solely about one individual or one individual vocation. Rather, it places ordination in the context of God’s process of re-creating the world. The ordinand is not called simply to “serve in this office” of bishop (or priest or deacon), but to participate in raising up what had been cast down, and making new what had grown old, and so participating in God’s work of “bringing all things to their perfection.” The fact that this collect is also in some sense the summary collect for both the Good Friday liturgy and the Easter Vigil only seems to confirm this view. And, of course, this is not just the work of the ordinand, but of the “whole church, that wonderful and sacred mystery.” And so in that sense ordination is hardly about the ordinand at all, but rather about the participation of the whole Church in God’s work of salvation.

In these controversies, when the statements of bishops as individuals, as groups, and as “first among equals” have so much currency, and are attributed so much authority, I am struck by the differences in these collects used roughly in parallel in the different ordination rites. Looking at them, I can see both how we come to speak so often of God doing a new thing, and how others speak of us altering the Anglican tradition. The differences in these prayers will, to some extent, distinguish Episcopal bishops from bishops ordained in and for other provinces. At the same time, if we are to appreciate the “historic episcopate, locally adapted,” perhaps we can consider these understandings, not as mutually exclusive, but as complementary and mutually informative. Yes, we ordain each person to a particular office in a particular time and place. But in our sacramental theology we see each office and each person as a part of God’s mission of reconciliation and restoration. So, perhaps we can go beyond claiming one or another as “right,” and see the truth and the blessing in both.

I would hope we could. I think it’s something that we Anglicans used 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.

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 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.

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).

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.

Hopes for New Orleans

By Jim Naughton

In February, the Primates of the Anglican Communion released a set of “recommendations” to the Episcopal Church; warned that if the Church did not comply there would be “consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion,” and set September 30 as the deadline for the Church’s response.

On Thursday, just 10 days before the deadline, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, begin two days of meetings in New Orleans with the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops to determine what sort of response is forthcoming. But much of the drama that one will no doubt find the press drumming up this week has already been drained from the situation.

In inviting the bishops of the Episcopal Church (with the significant exception of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire) to the Lambeth Conference next summer, the Archbishop has already signaled that he is not eager to exclude the Episcopal Church from “full participation” in the various quasi-governmental bodies that help hold the Communion together. And in jumping the deadline and ordaining bishops to work in the United States, primates such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Henry Orombi of Uganda and Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya have already played their most potent card to much fanfare, but uncertain—and quite possibly minimal—effect.

But if September 30 deadline has lost much of its dramatic luster, the meeting in New Orleans may nonetheless yield significant results.

One indication of what might transpire is given by the composition of the archbishop’s delegation. In March, the House of Bishops requested a meeting with the archbishop and the Primates’ Standing Committee. But the Archbishop will be accompanied not only the Primates Standing Committee, but the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council. Throughout the current crisis, the issue of which of the Anglican Communion’s four “instruments of unity” would make the final decisions on the issues of sexuality and membership has been hotly contested. The Primates, almost, by default, have taken the lead because they meet more often than the Anglican Consultative Council (every three years) or the Lambeth Conference (every ten). But a significant tide of resistance against primatial dominance has been building simultaneously.

In bringing the Joint Standing Committee, Archbishop Williams is opening up the process, although who will make the final decision (if a final decision indeed gets made) remains an open question. He is also enfranchising the one Communion-wide body not composed entirely of bishops.

Perhaps more important to the issue at hand, the Joint Standing Committee is also the body which commissioned the sub-group, led by Williams himself, to evaluate the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report. That report, forgotten after the Primates released their “recommendations” and set their deadline, gave the Episcopal Church relatively high marks. The meeting presents an opportunity for the Joint Standing Committee to make certain that Resolution B033 does indeed indicate that “the majority of bishops with jurisdiction… will refuse consent in future to the consecration of a bishop whose manner of life challenges the wider church and leads to further strains on Communion,“ as the sub-group concluded, and to seek greater clarify on the Church’s stance regarding the blessing of same-sex unions.

On both of these issues it seems at least possible that even many of the more liberal members of the House will be able to say the sort of things the committee wants to hear. A minority in the House doesn’t like the fact that a candidate in a same-sex relationship would not currently receive a majority of consents from diocesan bishops, and hence could not take office. But they acknowledge it as a political reality, and probably wouldn’t mind saying so.

The committee is especially interested in understanding the state of play in Episcopal diocese on same-sex blessings. Can the bishops say that neither the Church nor any diocese will authorize a “public Rite of Blessing” (per The Windsor Report and the sub-group report) or a Rite to Blessing (per the Primates’ Communiqué from Dar es Salaam)? The meaning of the phrase (public) Rite of Blessing has been debated intensely. And as neither the Archbishop nor the Joint Standing Committee has attempted to settle the issue, it is possible that this ambiguity is intentional. If the question is whether Episcopal diocesan bishops are willing to postpone the development of an authorized text to be used in blessing same-sex relationships, then the answer, in all likelihood is yes. If the question is whether every diocesan bishop is willing to enforce a ban on the blessing of same-sex relationships, the answer is almost certainly no.

The first interpretation seems to be the one shared by the authors of The Windsor Report and the sub-group report (although, again, this has been hotly debated). Both documents attempt (with uneven results) to capture the current state of play regarding the blessings of same-sex unions in Episcopal dioceses, and each raises warning in instances when dioceses where steps toward the developments of authorized text or standards were under development. In addition, the Archbishop is no doubt aware that unions are blessed in a number of Anglican provinces, including his own, and an evenhanded Communion-wide ban would be both unpopular and impossible to enforce.

The other difficult issue concerns the pastoral oversight of theologically conservative parishes that are out of sympathy with their bishop, and theologically conservative diocese’s out of sympathy with the Presiding Bishop and the General Convention. On this front it seems unlikely the bishops can do much better than the Episcopal Church has already done—unless Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori comes to the meeting with another oversight proposal.

A little history is helpful here. In March 2004, the House of Bishops passed a delegated episcopal pastoral oversight proposal which went as far as the House felt it could in guaranteeing sympathetic oversight to any parish that requested it. (The House does not have the authority to force a diocesan bishop to offer alternative oversight.) The plan was commended in The Windsor Report, which said it provided, “a very significant degree of security” to parishes that felt alienated from their diocesan bishop. The Primates, however, felt the need to establish a panel of reference at their meeting at Dromantine in February 2005, “to supervise the adequacy” of these alternative oversight arrangements.

(The remainder of that paragraph reads: “Equally, during this period we commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions. That is a matter for another time.” But do notice that various primates have released themselves unilaterally from the commitments they have made in these documents while continuing to call the Episcopal Church to account.)

The same primates who insisted on the creation of the panel became disillusioned with it, hence the proposal they embraced at Dar es Salaam in February, under which a Pastoral Council consisting of “up to five members: two nominated by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council” would be given broad powers not only to extend pastoral care of certain parishes and dioceses, but to participate in the adjudication of disputes within the life of the Episcopal Church. (In so doing they ignored a generous offer of alternative primatial oversight from Bishop Jefferts Schori that quite likely would have resulted in the same primatial vicar being named, and some of the same bishops, including Williams, being involved in his or her supervision, but would have vested final authority in Bishop Jefferts Schori.)

The Primates’ proposal was roundly rejected in late March by the House of Bishops in a vote that brought liberals and moderate conservatives such as Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina and John Howard of Florida together to rebuff the Primates attempt to exercise an authority that no agreement, written or unwritten, confers upon them. The proposal was also rejected, in June, by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to accept the bishops invitation to their meeting came just three weeks after it was offered, and was the first indication that he did not necessarily view the Episcopal Church’s rejection of the Council scheme as grounds for exclusion from the councils of the Communion. The invitations to Lambeth were another sign that whatever the Episcopal Church’s perceived transgressions, he still considered himself in Communion with its bishops. He underlined this message by snubbing those bishops who had been ordained by African provinces to work in the United States. (At that time this included bishops of the Rwandan-backed Anglican Mission in America and the Nigerian-backed Convocation of Anglicans in America. The Churches of Kenya and Uganda have since ordained bishops as well.)

To clarify matters further, one of Williams' advisors last week told the Living Church that:

it was a serious misreading of the primates’ communiqué to say that an ultimatum had been given to the House of Bishops to take certain actions by Sept. 30 or face expulsion from the Anglican Communion. The communiqué had asked for certain clarifications from the House of Bishops, he said, but did not envision a breaching of The Episcopal Church’s constitution.

It may be that Williams had determined that he has given the radical conservative faction led by Akinola (and stag managed by his American allies) as much ground as he can. It may be that he considers its jurisdictional innovations more threatening to the future of the Communion than the two North American churches innovations on issues of human sexuality. It may also be that other leaders in the Communion, including some in Africa, have informed him of their concerns that Akinola’s faction may be willing to use other pretexts to plant its flag in other provinces when the moment suits them.

Whatever the case, House of Bishops has an opportunity to improve and solidify the Church’s standing within the Communion by offering the Archbishop and the Joint Standing Committee much of the reassurance that they seek. These reassurances will be all the more meaningful if the resolutions that embody them can be crafted in a way that appeals to theologically conservative bishops still committed to the Church.

It is not within the power of the House of Bishops, the Joint Standing Committee or Archbishop Williams to stop Archbishop Akinola and his allies from breaking from the Anglican Communion. But it is within their power to appeal to the substantial minorities in the Church and the Communion who are uneasy about the course the Episcopal Church has charted, but appalled by the rhetoric and tactics of Akinola and his virulent friends. And there has been no better moment to do so.

Jim Naughton is the editor of the Episcopal Café .

A path breaking bishop

By Howard Anderson

I have just been reading the proofs of a most interesting biography of Bishop Henry Bishop Whipple, the first bishop of Minnesota. He was elected bishop when there was scarcely any church activity in Minnesota, and persevered for over 42 years as bishop building the diocese into a large diocese with over 200 parishes and missions. He also created a second diocese, The Missionary Diocese of Duluth, which survived until World War II. He cut a wide swath in world wide Anglican circles- a personal friend of five Archbishops of Canterbury and Queen Victoria, his colleagues in the House of Bishop’s held him in highest regard. He was a personal friend of Presbyterian leaders in the U.S and Scotland, well known to the Coptic Pope and Armenian Patriarch. He was a personal friend of a number of U.S. Presidents, counted the nations greatest industrialists as friends and certainly donors to the ministry of the diocese.

Traveling by canoe, horse drawn wagon, horseback (his huge and elegant horse, Old Bashaw, served him for 29 years and was a celebrity across Minnesota) he built the diocese into one of the strongest west of the Mississippi, and even got the perennially Eastern location of the General Convention moved to Minneapolis in the 1890’s, the first time it had ever been held in “the West.” He did battle with Congress over Indian rights, and often won. He convinced Presidents Lincoln, Grant, McKinley and Cleveland to modify federal Indian policy, and even got famed “Indian fighter" Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to admit publicly that he was a liar and backed Gen. Phil Sheridan into changing a war like Indian policy for the federal government into a less bloody policy.

He did all this on a financial shoestring. He was in ill health his whole life, bedridden often, and on doctor’s orders spent many winters in Florida to avoid recurring pneumonia and other respiratory problems. This never seemed to slow him down. In addition to the many Ojibwe and Dakota Episcopal churches, he launched missions to the Swedes and Norwegian’s flooding into Minnesota. When he was wintering in Florida he pressed for better treatment of African Americans, and advocated for the Seminole Indians to be able to keep their title to the Everglades. The schools (Shattuck, St. Mary’s and St. James) and seminary (Seabury) he founded educated women and Native Americans at a time when this was rare. He was faithful in adversity, struggling against great odds to advocate for the voiceless. He seldom found a disenfranchised group which he could not advocate for, drawing deeply from the gospel. Whipple felt that indigenous people across the globe needed to be given autonomy “to overcome the colonial nature of the genesis of their churches through the Church of England’s missionary endeavors.”

The most interesting thing I found in this new biography was a warning to the Communion that we should heed in the 21st Century. When the Lambeth Conference of 1897 was held, and the precursor to the Anglican Consultative Council was created under the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Whipple warned “In the past, centralization of authority beyond national bounds has been full of mischief and has brought sorrow to the Church.” He reminded the bishops present in a speech that “each national church had its own peculiar responsibilities to God for the souls entrusted to its care…and any intervention of one national church in the affairs of another will certainly bring sorrow.” Whipple had been very supportive of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, and saw in its insistence on a very broad and generous spirited approach to unity, rather than uniformity, the future of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Oh if we had only taken his advice to beware of the meddling by primates and bishops in the affairs of national churches!

When I look at the raredos at the National Cathedral and see the statue of Whipple, I realize that he was a man of great courage, vision and, it appears, connected to the deepest roots of the Anglican tradition.

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.

Jim Kelsey: A voice that will not be stilled

By Howard Anderson

When I heard of the tragic death of Jim Kelsey, Bishop of Northern Michigan, I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. He was to do his daughter Lydia’s wedding this coming weekend. It just seemed like an impossibly tragic event. He was a strong voice for justice in the world, and radical inclusion in the Church. As I tried to take in what I had heard, I began to hear his voice, clear and articulate in my head saying things which schooled me in mutual ministry, and doing justice. His friend and my bishop, John Chane, has spoken of Jim as a true leader in the Church’s search for a more just and peaceful world.

I first met him in the mid 80’s when he was working with a cluster of four congregations in the Diocese of Oklahoma. He was a rising star in the ministry development world, and it came as no surprise when Bishop Tom Ray of Northern Michigan called Jim to be his ministry development staff person. These were heady times in ministry development, and people like Bishop Wes Frensdorff, of Nevada, Bishop George Harris of Alaska, ministry developers like Lynne Davenport Wilson, Chuck Wilson and Deacon Phina Borgeson were crafting a revolution in our understanding of the Church that has forever changed the face of much of the Episcopal Church in dioceses with sparse populations spread over great distances. Jim was a very young priest, who had grown up at General Seminary where his priest father worked, and with his twin brother Steven became a priest himself.

I remember being very impressed with Jim’s creativity, his energy, his ability to stand firm even when others were trying to press him back into the old patterns of ministry. Jim strove to create a Church that was like Wes Frensdorff’s dream of “a Church which was a ministering community, rather than a community gathered around a minister.” Tom Ray and Jim, after Wes Frensdorff’s death, carried on the legacy of these pioneer ministry developers and the Diocese of Northern Michigan began to break new ground in living out the dream of a Church where all of the baptized are equal in their ministries. They embraced a practice of ministry that harkened back, as does much of what is best in Anglicanism, to the early church. Under Jim’s leadership the Diocese of Northern Michigan went “back to the future.” In the Diocese of Northern Michigan there is no clerical status, no classes of Christians. Rather, all know themselves to be a part of the Body of Christ. All know that they are in ministry by virtue of their baptism. Clergy, whether paid or unpaid, seminary trained or locally trained and affirmed, have to be elected delegates to the Diocesan Convention. Under Jim’s leadership the Diocese of Northern Michigan has shown that mutual ministry in not a maintenance or survival ministry, but the way the entire Church can empower the ministry of each and every member.

After Wes Frensdorff died, Chuck Wilson and some of other ministry development friends pulled out excerpts from Wes’s sermons and talks. It is called “The Dream,” and because I know of no one, Wes included, who lived more fully into the reality of the this dream for The Episcopal Church than Jim Kelsey, I will recall a few of these dreams which say better than I ever could, what Jim Kelsey stood for.

Jim stood for a Church in which all members know surely and simply God’s great love, and each is certain that in the divine heart we are all known by name--a Church in which Jesus is very Word, our window into the heart of God, the sign of God’s hope and God’s design for all humankind. In this church the Holy Spirit is wind and fire in everyone, gracing the Church with a kaleidoscope of gifts and constant renewal for all. Jim knew how to help worship be lively and fun as well as reverent and holy; and we might be moved to dance and laugh; to be solemn, cry or beat the breast. In Northern Michigan people know that the Eucharist is the center of life and servanthood the center of mission; the servant Lord truly known in the breaking of the bread, with service flowing from worship, and everyone clear about why a worship is called a service.

Jim helped Northern Michigan move beyond its sense of being a struggling little diocese with too few clergy, to become a diocese in which the sacraments, free from captivity by a professional elite, are available in every congregation regardless of size, culture, location or budget. It is a place where every congregation is free to call forth from its midst, priests and deacons, sure in the knowledge that training and support services are there to back them up. It is a place where all the sheep share in the shepherding.

Jim dreamed of the Church being a place that strives to affirm the beauty of diversity, abhorring the imprisonment of uniformity a place where people are as concerned about love in all relationships as they are about chastity, and where we freely admit that we do not have all the answers but are asking the right questions. Jim dreamed of the Church becoming so deeply rooted in gospel and tradition that, like a living tree, it can bend in the wind and continually surprise us with new blossoms. That is what the Church is becoming in Northern Michigan.

Jim, as a bishop, was a sign and animator of the Church’s unity, catholicity and apostolic mission, and not a prelate. He was electrically brilliant, but always humble about what one can know about the mystery that we call God. And he was helping to create in Northern Michigan a model of the Church that is so salty and so yeasty that it would really be missed if no longer around; where there is a wild sowing of seeds and much rejoicing when they take root, but little concern for success, comparative statistics, growth or even survival. It is a Church becoming so evangelical that its worship, its quality of caring, its eagerness to reach out to those in need cannot be contained.

As I continue to hear Jim’s voice in my head, I realize that each one of us can embrace this dream, because as the prophet Joel reminds us in our Pentecost lessons that God will pour out the Spirit on all flesh and that our sons and daughters shall prophesy, the old shall dream dreams and the young shall see visions. Jim Kelsey dared to dream of the Church that Christ calls each one of us to help create. He did justice, loved mercy and walked humbly with his God. He will be dreadfully missed, but he inspired others by the dozens to be partners in carrying out God’s dream for the Church. His voice will not be silenced. We must not let it be silenced.

The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral.

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