Episcopalians encouraged to re-evaluate world mission


The Episcopal Church Center staff issued a 27-page draft report on world mission June 26 in response to two questions posed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

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A few words from Bishop Lane before General Convention

Maine's bishop, Steve Lane, uses YouTube to offer a few words to Maine Episcopalians in advance of General Convention. Perhaps your bishop could follow his example if he or she has not already done so.

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Print partners receive official notice from ELife

The printing partner editors have received this email from Anne Rudig, the director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Communication. It is their first direct communication from the church office of proposed changes such as the shift of the print edition of Episcopal Life from a monthly to a quarterly.

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Not so secret theology committee: six of eight names now known

Lisa Fox, who blogs at My Manner of Life, has the names of six of the eight members of the secret panel that the House of Bishops Theology Committee assembled to study same-sex relationships.

Bishop Henry Parsley, chair of the commitee, has refused to release the names, but, as Lisa writes, it is hard to keep secrets in a small church.

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ABC to meet with LGBT Episcopalians

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will meet privately with a select group of Episcopalians concerned with LGBT issues.

Episcopalians during his time in California to participate in General Convention. The meeting is not part of General Convention, and it is not clear that it was meant to come to light.

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Trinity Wall Street tribute to Michael Jackson

From organist Robert Ridgell.

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CT bishop nominees announced

The Diocese of Connecticut has a website for its nominees for 15th Bishop. Check it out.

There are four nominees: the Reverend Mark Delcuze, the Right Reverend Jim Curry, the Reverend Dr. Ian T. Douglas, and the Reverend Beth Fain. More about them here.

Elsewhere, the Diocese of Kentucky's bishop search website is here.

UPDATE: Michael Paulsen thinks the Connecticut web design is excellent.

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See you next week in Anaheim.

ABC announces IASCUFO members

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion have announced the membership of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order [IASCUFO]. The remarkably clergy-heavy commission is, according the ACNS release, charged with overseeing the ecumenical life of the communion. But earlier mentions of the commission had pointed to perhaps its underlying purpose: to define the instruments of communion in order to facilitate greater discipline and the make Anglican Communion more of a church with a magisterium. And Rowan Williams has said that in his view ecumenical work has been hampered because the Anglican Communion has been unable to give assurances of what it is and what it stands for.

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NC vestry member faces child sex abuse charges

A vestry member at a North Carolina church has been charged with sex crimes involving his 5-year-old adopted son. The Raleigh News and Observer has the story. To read Bishop Michael Curry's statement, click Read more.

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Bishop Wantland: a metaphor too far

Julia Duin posts this revealing comment from Bishop William Wantland, who apparently thinks that when you go to church you are marrying Jesus:

I queried retired Eau Claire, Wis., Bishop William Wantland, an old friend and an ardent opponent of ordaining women. He reminded me that 22 of the ACNA's 28 dioceses do not allow female priests. It's a system known as "dual integrity," dioceses that differ on a question where Scripture can be read both ways agree to respect and live with each other's views.

I asked him if he wanted the ACNA to eventually outlaw ordaining women entirely.

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Exec Council seeks comments on recent Covenant draft

Mary Frances Schjonberg writes:

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church's Executive Council has asked General Convention deputations and their bishops to study and comment on the latest draft of a proposed Anglican covenant.

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U. S. nuns under Vatican scrutiny

Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times reports:

The second investigation of nuns is a doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that claims 1,500 members from about 95 percent of women’s religious orders. This investigation was ordered by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is headed by an American, Cardinal William Levada.

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Barbie on a mission

The Carlisle (PA) Sentinel has the story of dolls doing good:

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Bonnie Anderson's Church Times interview

Pat Ashworth in The Church Times:

Lay people at the General Con­vention of the Episcopal Church in the United States will have some hard questions for the Archbishop of Canterbury when he visits, says the president of the House of Depu­ties, Bonnie Anderson. ...

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ERD publishes annual report

Episcopal Relief and Development has published their Annual Summary exclusively in an electronic format. In 2008, ERD touched the lives of more people than ever before - nearly 3 million in 46 countries.

Take a look right here and click on the 2008 Annual Summary.

An "open source" church

Kristy Harding imagines sees the word "ubuntu" and imagines what an "open source" church might look like.

She writes on the blog ReEmergent Church:

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Church of England criticized for investments

Ekklesia says the Church of England has been criticized three times in four days for its investments practices.

The first report deals with Royal Dutch Shell in which the Church has £103.7 million invested:

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Guide to General Convention

Updated. A version of Episcopal Life's Guide to General Convention and all the major documents a deputy or General Convention junkie could ever need are all available on-line.

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Jenny Te Paa: a vision of true Communion

Read Jenny Te Paa's closing address to the USPG [United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel] annual conference that concluded last week:

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Saturday collection 7/04/09

Here is our weekly collection plate, offering some of the good things that Episcopalians and their congregations have done that made the news this past week. And other news fit to print.

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Bishop of Bethlehem on religion, culture and the 4th of July

The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem:

I hope I would have made the radical choice we now take for granted, two centuries later, that government is of, by and for the people.

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General Convention 2009: arrival

I am in Anaheim, thanks to Alaska Airlines and the Super Shuttle from LAX. There are Episcopal Church signs on the Anaheim Convention Center, but at the moment, my hotel, the Hilton, is home to a convention of barbershop quartets. You walk out of the elevator and into a scene from The Music Man.

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Sexual ethics

In his latest book, Out of the Shadows into the Light: Christianity and Homosexuality, Miguel A. De La Torre writes,

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The Amish encounter modern life

Wall Street Journal:

In Amish country, a bank run is about as familiar as a Hummer or a flat-screen TV. For decades, the more than 200,000 Amish in the U.S. have largely lived apart from the mainstream, emphasizing humility, simplicity and thrift. Known as "the plain people," they travel by horse-drawn buggy, wear homemade clothing and live with very little electricity.

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Few wish to be more kind

Preferences for Psychological Enhancements: The Reluctance to Enhance Fundamental Traits:

We found that people were much more reluctant to enhance traits believed to be highly fundamental to the self (e.g., social comfort) than traits considered less fundamental (e.g., concentration ability).

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The twittering church

Paul Vitello of the New York Times writes about the tentative and sometimes awkward embrace that religion gives social media.

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Pop quiz

Compare and contrast the following Bishops of Rochester.

Based on this video by Dr. Prince Singh, Bishop of Rochester (New York):

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Meet the Chicago Consultation

You will be hearing from individuals who have attended gatherings of the Chicago Consultation on the video blog for the next few weeks, so allow a few of them to introduce themselves.

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The Café at General Convention: what to expect

Those of you who followed our coverage of the Lambeth Conference last summer know that the tempo picks up here on The Lead during major meetings of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Unlike Lambeth, however, the General Convention is a legislative gathering. This isn’t to say that there won’t be stories around the edges: the Archbishop of Canterbury and a number of Anglican primates are coming, and there are receptions, meet-ups and chance encounters by the dozen. Still, the big stories will likely unfold in committee rooms and on the floors of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. We will try to stay on top of them to the best of our ability.

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FOCA gets mail

Thinking Anglicans reports on letters received by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA) who are meeting to organize in the UK this week:

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Oldest known Christian Bible available on line

Reuters reports that the surviving parts of the world's oldest Christian bible will be reunited online on Monday, generating excitement among both believers and biblical scholars. The surviving fragments of the Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest complete New Testament and exists in four different locations in England, Egypt, Germany and Russia and now on the internet.

Unifying the book digitally and making it available on the internet will allow scholars to study the whole text as a whole. Up until now, relatively few scholars have only been able to see bits and pieces. Scholars (or the merely curious) will be able to search all the surviving text, down to thumbnail-sized fragments found at St Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai.

"The limits on access to this manuscript previously have meant that people (academics) have tended to dip, so that they have seized on particular things" to advance theories, McKendrick told Reuters in an interview.

He said the website will enable research to be carried out in a holistic way for the first time, forcing top scholars to view their theories in context.

A good example, he said, was evidence advanced by some academics pointing to the theory that it could have been made in the ancient city of Cesarea in Israel.

"It is our hope this will provide the catalyst for new research and it is already creating great interest," Garces told Reuters.

The Guardian says,

The pages can be searched in facsimile, transcribed or translated. The digital photography is of such high resolution that insect bites and scars of some of hundreds of animals whose hides became the vellum pages can be seen.

The text has proven immensely popular with believers who want to glimpse the oldest complete New Testament. When the first 25% of the the Codex Sinaiticus was made available online last year, it attracted 3.5 million hits and crashed the site.

The bible can be viewed online free and includes modern Greek translations and some sections translated into English. The text will be found here.

Read more here and here.

Blessing the runners

Dean Sam Candler of St. Philip's Episcopal Cathedral blesses Independence Day marathoners in Atlanta.

Daughters of the King defeat bylaw changes

Episcopal Life Online reports on the Daughters of the King meeting:

The Order of the Daughters of the King (DOK), a group dedicated to prayer and service, established a new Alpha Fund for Junior Daughters but rejected proposed bylaw changes and amendments during their July 1-5 triennial gathering.

Incoming national president Grace Sears, of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington in Province IV, described the gathering, which traditionally has met prior to the General Convention to pray for the work and ministry of the church, as both frustrating and wonderful.

"It was frustrating. I would say we tried to make changes in one direction and another, and came back to where we were," Sears said in a telephone interview July 6. "What we concluded is that we are not in a place where we are ready to make changes. The membership will stand pat, keep praying and wait on the Lord."
Incoming Province VIII DOK President Christine Budzowski of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles said "the proposed amendments to the bylaws served to polarize the order."

The full text of the changes may be found on the DOK website here.

While some DOK members said the changes were an attempt at inclusiveness; others interpreted them as an effort to remove the order from the Episcopal Church (TEC), by those whose congregations have left TEC, referred to as "New Anglicans" in a January 5, 2009 informational document disseminated to the DOK.

Attempts to substitute amendments for the proposed changes also failed, Budzowski said. "It was pretty evenly split, and not among so-called Anglicans versus Episcopalians," she said. "It just shows that what we do best is prayer."

See other Lead stories on the DoK here and here.

Niagara to begin blessings September 1

The Diocese of Niagara, Canada has published A Rite of Blessing of a Civil Marriage.

The Niagara Rite is intended for the voluntary use of priests who wish to offer a sacrament of blessing regardless of the gender of the civilly married persons who who wish to receive the blessing of the church and wish to affirm their life commitment to each other before God in the community of the church.

As such it does not imply nor is it intended to suggest that those who do or do not make use of this rite are excluded from the economy of God’s salvation. The rite is a means for the church to extend affirmation, support, and commitment to those who present themselves seeking a sign of God’s love in response to the love and commitment they express for each other and have already affirmed in a civil ceremony.

It is designed for the blessing of any couple who have been civilly married. It may also be used for the blessing or renewing of marriage vows for a couple celebrating a significant moment in their married life together.

Effective September 1, 2009, permission will be granted by Bishop Michael Bird for the use of the Niagara Rite as outlined in the protocols that are included.

Chris Ambidge, Convener of Integrity Toronto, writes, "I'm glad to see that the bishop of Niagara is moving forward to equal treatment of all couples - notice that the policy applies equally to same- and opposite-sex couples. And it's good to see that New Westminster no longer stands alone in this country."

The Theology of the Rite is here.

The Niagara Rite is here

General Convention Live: Getting rolling

The convention came to life today. The hotel lobbies on Convention Way were full of Episcopalians, milling about, greeting old friends, peering at message boards to find out where their committees were meeting and gradually adjusting to the notion that it was time to get down to business.

If there is a share vibe that informs these early stages of the convention, I haven’t picked up on it. The political landscape of the convention has changed with the departure of many of the members and clergy from the Church’s four most conservative dioceses. There is no absence of conservative voices in the Church—I helped prepare some of them to be media briefers yesterday.—but it isn’t clear if there is a organized right wing with a coherent political strategy, while there is most certainly an organized left, and center-left. Whether that gives the left an advantage remains to be seen. If you bring too many resources to bear against an opponent who has surrendered the field, you run the risk of appearing overly zealous, and alienating voters in the process.

Additionally, we are expecting only a smattering of mainstream media—most of it local—until next Tuesday, and not a grand contingent then. So the sense of playing on a big stage has been diminished.

In this environment, it’s possible—just possible—that the group that pursues its agenda with the greatest respect for its legislative opponents will carry the day.

The vibe-less-ness of the convention derives in some measure from the legislative uncertainty that surrounds the traditional hot button issue of human sexuality. There are no fewer than 16 resolutions aimed at repealing, superseding or in some way mitigating the effects of Resolution B033. There is another cluster of resolutions that deal in one way or another with same-sex couples (Should they be blessed? Should they be married? Should they be blessed while we figure out whether they should be married? Should the law of a state be considered when determining the policies of a diocese?). I don’t think anyone can predict at this point the nature of the legislation that will finally come before the House of Bishop and the House of Deputies. As a result, it is difficult to determine—beyond the usual suspects—how people will vote. (I mean no disrespect by the phrase “usual suspects.” Some of my best friends are usual suspects.)

I wonder whether this uncertainty will help raise the profile of other events and issues, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s appearance at an economic forum tomorrow night, the efforts to institute a denominational health plan, revise the disciplinary canons, energize a new initiative to fight domestic poverty and otherwise communicate the fact that the Church is about more than an argument over sexuality.

Episcopal Church's new media hub goes live


From the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs:

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General Convention 2009: some committee meetings of note

The calendar is taking shape. The Social and Urban Affairs Committee will have an open hearing on Resolution B012 on Wednesday, 2 to 4 p. m. That resolution requests permission for the bishops in states that permit same-sex marraige to adapt Prayer Books rites for use with same sex couples.

On Thursday, 2 p. m. to 4 p. m., the Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee will hold an open hearing on a cluster of resolutions dealing with same sex blessings and same sex marriage.

Not long after that meeting adjourns the House of Deputies will convene, and likely approve a motion to go into a committee of the whole to consider a response to Resolution B033, the so-called "manner of life resolution." Later that evening, the World Mission Committee will hold an open hearing on the 16 or more resolutions that deal with B033.

The following morning the House will likely go back into session as a committee of the whole to offer the World Mission Commitee some final guidance.

Oh yeah, and in the middle of all of that, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will speak at a forum on the global economic crisis and offer a Bible study during Thursday morning's Eucharist.

So, unlike some previous conventions, this one is off to a quick start.

A vaccination

Archbishop Daniel Deng of Sudan made headlines during the 2008 Lambeth Conference for telling media that he thought openly gay bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire should resign. But now he is coming to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. How to make sure there isn't a repeat performance? Have a look at this story from Matt Davies of Episcopal News Service:

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) has written to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and all the bishops, priests, deacons and laity of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church underscoring the importance of partnership between the two churches and offering an update about the urgent situation in Sudan.

In his June 30 letter, Deng expressed his gratitude for the invitation to attend the July 8-17 General Convention in Anaheim, California. Deng is one of more than 70 international and ecumenical guests expected to share in the Episcopal Church's triennial policy-making gathering.

The presiding officers' opening addresses

Read what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President Bonnie Anderson had to say at the opening session of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal News Service stories on their remarks are here (Anderson) and here (Jefferts Schori.).

What the Archbishop of Canterbury will be up to in Anaheim

Matthew Davies of Episcopal News Service has some details on the schedule of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams as he attends the General Convention of the Episcopal Church for the first time. Meanwhile, 15 other primates and various international visitors are already on hand.

USA Today's curtain raiser

We aren't expecting many mainstream media folks until next week, with the exception of The Los Angeles Times, for whom, in some ways, this is a local story. But Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today did file this curtain raiser. (Now if only her copy desk was aware that Episcopal is an adjective and Episcopalian is the noun. Or perhaps they do know and just couldn't come up with anything else that fit the space available.)

The convention begins with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, leading a forum on poverty, and "we want to add new initiatives on domestic poverty," Rudig says. "Yes, human sexuality is certainly going to be part of our conversation. But it's just that — a part."

With a legislature second in size only to India's, she says, "we'll also talk about polity, about how we govern ourselves. … We're messy and noisy and transparent, and out of it comes the remarkable work we do."

Some conservatives who stayed with the Episcopal Church even though they disagreed on gay bishops and blessing same-sex marriage are concerned that sexuality issues interfere with the church's missions and development in Third World countries. Since 2003, some African and South American Anglican archbishops have refused to take communion with Episcopal Church leaders or partner with the church on projects.

Eyes on the floor: reflections from General Convention

By Richard Helmer

Tuesday: Getting Underway

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The Presiding Bishop's sermon from the opening Eucharist

From Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's 's sermon at the opening Eucharist of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church:

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Making connections at General Convention

By Brenda Hamilton

Connectivity. These days that word usually brings technology to mind. As we get started here in Anaheim, I've been practicing connectivity today. This morning as I drank my coffee in my hotel room I fiddled with my laptop until I made sure my email was working. Connected, I sent messages to those at home and to family here in California to let them know of my safe arrival. Next I connected to the internet, logging onto the General Convention website and Episcopal News Service to make sure I would be able to review all the latest legislative developments and follow all that goes on at once here. Feeling a little overwhelmed by the rush of activity and the volume of information that gets thrown at deputies as soon as they arrive I decided to take a break from technology and walked out into a perfect warm California day... the kind I remember from growing up not far from here... re-connecting with my own history.

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FoCA UK ruffles Queen

George Pitcher:

I hear that Canon Chris Sugden may have somewhat spoilt his chances of a knighthood. The secretary to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which is this week busy fanning the embers of Anglican schism, went on Roger Boulton’s BBC Sunday programme and was asked whether it was true that The Queen had written to Canon Sugden and his traditionalist pals to say that “she understood their concerns”. Canon Sugden replied that this was “correct”.

“Sources close to the Palace”, as they say, have coughed lightly and raised an eyebrow to one another. That’s a courtier’s equivalent of being incandescent with rage.

Because Her Majesty said no such thing.

Read it all.

Thinking Anglicans continues to a great job of covering FoCA UK. His latest roundups are here and here.

Included in the former of the two:

Dave Walker at the Church Times blog has a selection of blog posts titled Anglo Catholics unimpressed by the FCA launch meeting.
From the latter roundup: Jonathan Bartley has written for Cif belief Evangelicals are betraying their heritage.
On Monday a new coalition of evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes launched within the Church of England, claiming to uphold the “traditional biblical view” on homosexuality.

But such a coalition was unlikely to be contemplated by evangelicals at many times gone by. For the original evangelical spirit with its reforming zeal and progressive outlook was more often at odds with traditionalists, than aligned with them.

Anderson and advisors meet with Archbishop Williams

Updated with Mary Frances Schjonberg's well-reported ENS story that includes comments from people who were in other meetings with the archbishop.

By Jim Naughton

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, and four members of her council of advice met for half an hour today with the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The topic was the distinctive governance system of the Episcopal Church, and the friction that system sometimes creates for Williams and others in the Anglican Communion.

Anderson said she and her council expressed to Williams their concern that communications and requests to the Episcopal Church are typically addressed only to the Church’s House of Bishops, which does not have authority, on its own, to respond to them.

“We are a church of more than one order of voices,” Anderson said to several reporters after the meeting.

Sally Johnson, Anderson’s chancellor and a deputy from the Diocese of Minnesota, said that the group told Williams it hoped that requests to the Episcopal Church be addressed to the Episcopal Church, rather than to the House of Bishops. “Allow The Episcopal Church to decide for it who decides,” she said.

“No one can respond and bind the Episcopal Church except the General Convention,” Johnson added. “These may seem like fine distinctions to other people, but to us they are foundational.“

The Rev. Jim Simons, chair of the Dispatch of Business Committee, and a deputy from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said Williams expressed his concern that the Episcopal Church’s governing system took too long to reach conclusions. “It is difficult to hold some decisions for three years,” said Simons, adding that the group discussed “possible alternatives,” although only in an informal way.

Williams told the group that Episcopalians had to be aware that in some parts of the Communion, “bishops only want to hear from other bishops,” Johnson said.

“We believe God guides us using all four rudders,” said the Rev. Frank Wade, chaplain to the House of Deputies and a deputy from the Diocese of Washington. “Bishops, priests, deacons and laity. Other provinces may use one.

“We are a problem for other people that we move more slowly,” he said, adding that Episcopalians believe this allows them to consult more broadly and make better decisions.

Byron Rushing, a deputy from the Diocese of Massachusetts said there was no question that Williams understands the polity of the Episcopal Church, but that he clearly has reservations about it.

"Our great deep hope” is that all orders in the Episcopal Church will be addressed in future communications with the Anglican Communion," Anderson said. “My evil twin thinks that maybe [they think] that if we are ignored enough we will just go away...or won't be legitimized."

The bishops of the Episcopal Church are under “significant pressure” from some parts of the Anglican Communion to claim authority that the Church’s constitution does not give them, she said.

During the meeting, Williams also spoke briefly with Simons of Pittsburgh and Cindy Smith, a lay woman from the Diocese of San Joaquin, about the experience of Episcopalians in diocese from which a majority of the members and clergy had left the Church to join more theologically conservative provinces in the Anglican Communion.

“We wanted him to understand what‘s going on and the toll that it has taken,” Simons said. The conversation, which touched on rebuilding efforts, was “encouraging,” according to Simons.

Chicago Consultation reception draws quite a crowd

Episcopal News Service carries this story about the Chicago Consultation and its new study guide on same-sex relationships.

The guide was unveiled at a reception at the Hilton last night, and the most striking thing about the evening to me was how many primates came and stayed, including our own Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

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Hearing no objections

By Rebecca Wilson

A hearing yesterday afternoon was the first open forum of the 76th General Convention to examine an issue that dominated the 75th Convention—the church’s inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

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John Calvin's 500th approaches

Get the John Calvin birthday clock at Calvin 500

My conversation with the archbishop

IntegrityTV has an interview with Deputy Michael Spencer, one of eight LGBT deputies who met yesterday with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

General Convention 2009: Title IV 101

By Richard Helmer

You can read elsewhere about Wednesday’s hot debates at General Convention, the panel presentation including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and highlights from the day’s sermons and proceedings. As Convention got into high gear on its first full day, I began my work as self-declared Title IV wonk.

Here’s my primer for all you Title IV neophytes out there:

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Video: Anderson and advisors meet the media

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies and members of her council of advice met with several reporters yesterday after their meeting with the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The panel from left to right is Byron Rushing, Diocese of Massachusetts; President Anderson; Sally Johnson, Diocese of Minnesota; the Rev. Jim Simons, Diocese of Pittsburgh; the Rev. Frank Wade, Diocese of Washington.

Hat tip: Gail Fendley

ABC meditation for General Convention Worship

Archbishop of Canterbury’s Meditation

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Eyes on the floor: Process and story

By Richard Helmer

Contrast: Process and Story
It’s the third day of General Convention, and I’m beginning to see the fatigue in people’s eyes as the legislation process starts to become all-consuming. I am certainly feeling it, along with everyone who rolled out of bed early enough this morning to be in legislative committees by 7:00. If you read my hastily written, voluminous post on Title IV, you’ll probably guess correctly that I was up and at ‘em first thing, listening in with a handful of other guests on the deliberations of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons.

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Some solid links from General Convention

Bishop Gene Robinson has revived his blog Canterbury Tales from the Fringe. Today he wrote:

We also had a disturbing private (no one in the gallery) conversation in the House of Bishops that led me to feel discouraged about what lies ahead. That conversation is private, so I can't detail it, but there seems to be a kind of belligerent attitude toward the House of Deputies by some of our bishops. Their vision of the episcopate is way too "high and mighty" for my taste, or my theology, and I am not happy about it. The last thing we bishops need is a larger measure of arrogance. Didn't Jesus save his most serious criticism for the religious powers-that-be of his day who lorded their power and position over others?

I can't say for sure, but the bishop may be referring to the fact that what struck me as a politically astute suggestion for the bishops to observe the Friday morning session of the House of Deputies--in which the deputies will be discussing resolution B033 from the 2006 General Convention--was voted down. I think this move would have indicated a gracious spirit on the part of the House of Bishops, and made it less likely that friction would develop between the two houses.

Dean Sam Candler, chair of the House of Deputies Prayer Book Committee, and dean of St. Philip's Cathedral in Atlanta writes:

My prayer is about peace against anxiety. I pray that all this concentrated anxiety will not produce chaos and ill will and frustration. My prayer is about the order that might very well be established if General Convention finds a way to honor and bless same-sex relationships. I am glad that those resolutions devoted to such blessings will be considered in their customary ways by the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music committee. That would make available an ordered way of life that will make a great and graceful witness to the Anglican Communion and to the world.

And Cafe favorite Heidi Shott of the Diocese of Maine has created a new blog: Six word sermon:

This morning I was attempting to give a brief rendering of the day’s sermon by the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, on Day One of the Church’s General Convention in Anaheim, California. Because I’m hosting the Daily Wrap, a short – really short, two minute – video news show, I needed to capture the essence of the sermon in a limited number of words. So I thought, “How about six?”

Six Word Sermon was born. Like an hour ago.

For each day of General Convention, I will condense the sermon from the Daily Eucharist at General Convention into six words and reveal them on the Daily Wrap. (It should be up at the Media Hub by about 8 p.m. Pacific Time.)

Eyes on the floor: B033 and Elephants

By Richard Helmer

As the retrospective on the origins of B033, passed by the 75th General Convention in 2006, was delivered to the House of Deputies this evening by the Committee on World Mission, it struck me again just how much the Windsor Report has become the elephant in the living room of The Episcopal Church, if not the whole Anglican Communion.

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Live blogging the B033 open hearing

By Jim Naughton

It is only the second legislative day of the General Convention, but these first two days have been jammed with activity and I am already feeling kind of punchy. This has something to do with attending the platform breakfast that President Bonnie Anderson hosts each morning at 6:15 a. m. for her top aides, and a couple of press assistants.

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Video: Anderson and advisors parts 2 and 3

If you viewed this item, get the rest of the story.

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The Rev. Sue Carter of the Diocese of Michigan is blogging about the General Convention for Ruth Gledhill and the Times of London.

And Gail Fendley of PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly continues to post video she has taken with her flip camera on the show's You Tube channel.

Prayerbook Committee hears testimony on marriage equality

By Rebecca Wilson

Thomas Cranmer, Shakespeare and Lord Chesterfield all made appearances in testimony at yesterday afternoon’s open hearing on same-sex blessings. Held by the Prayerbook, Liturgy and Music Committee, to which the bulk of these resolutions are assigned, the hearing lasted two hours and drew well over a hundred people.

The resolutions were divided into two categories: those that concern canonical changes and those that call for rites to be developed or amended. Most people who spoke were in favor of same-sex blessings and/or marriage equality, but not all.

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Another buffet of General Convention links

Bishop Gene Robinson continues to express concern about the possibility that the House of Bishops may be unwilling to work with the House of Deputies:

I fear (and I hope I'm not being overly dramatic here) that we are moving toward a train wreck between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. I sense an unwillingness among the bishops to listen to these voices of the laity and clergy. I hope I'm terribly wrong, but it seems that bishops feel they have some special access to God's will and nothing will persuade them otherwise. I shudder to think of a church where the Bishops are so disconnected from the will of the people they serve. Please God, let me be terribly wrong about this perception, and may the scales fall from my pessimistic eyes and reveal an episcopate who has listened to the Spirit's movement in the people of this Church. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about this. Only time will tell.

The folks at Walking with Integrity remind us that William Stringfellow, whom the Archbishop of Canterbury praised as perhaps the greatest American theologian of the 20th century, was gay.

We are slow off the mark on the manufactured controversy about the Presiding Bishop's opening sermon in which she said described "the great Western heresy":

that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of beingy of us can be saved individually.

USA Today is on the case, as is Religion Dispatches.

Episcopal News Service has a number of good stories today, including a couple to which we have paid little attention. This one examines the budget-making process, and this one looks at the future of church communications.

Live blogging: House of Deputies discusses way forward on B033

By Jim Naughton

The House of Deputies goes back into a Committee of the Whole this morning at 10 a. m. Pacific time to hear comments from as many as 30 deputies on the question of how the Church should respond to Resolution B033 from General Convention 2006, which urged those who must consent to the election of a bishop not to do so if his or her "manner of life" might increase division in the Communion.

The legislative committee that will actually write whatever resolutions come to the floor on this issue held an open hearing last night, which I blogged about here. This morning, the entire house will listen to a number of speakers (selected by lot and allocated two minutes a piece) whom I think we can assume will have strong opinions on whether to reaffirm B033, or move beyond it.

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The secret theology committee is secret no more

Nine days ago, Lisa Fox revealed the names of six of the eight members of the anonymous panel of theologians that the House of Bishops' Theology Committee had appointed to study same-sex relationships.

Here are the names of the other two members:

John Goldingay of Fuller Theological Seminary

Cynthia Briggs Kittredge of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest

Eyes on the Floor: B033 – A Festering Wound

By Richard Helmer

The conversation in the House of Deputies this morning on 2006 B033 brought to the fore how deeply this resolution wounded the House of Deputies and The Episcopal Church as a whole.
Calls from those addressing the House in conversation this morning included one for us as a body to be somehow dispassionate; to engage in emotional detachment as we consider the aftermath of B033. But I think that was to ask us to ignore what B033 had really wrought by way of abusing credibility and tender hearts. B033 had not only cut the House to the heart, it had severed the House’s heart from its head, even within individual deputies, a number of whom spoke close to the edge of tears about their profound regrets for voting in favor in 2006. This kind of division – head from heart – is not mere disagreement or argumentation on issues or the finer procedural points of resolutions, but seems to me much deeper. . .and in some ways quite profoundly diabolical. It flies in the face of a Gospel that calls us towards wholeness.

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General Convention: culture clash

Over the last 24 hours, the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church has conducted a well-designed, extremely respectful and entirely public reconsideration of a controversial piece of legislation: B033. At this hour, the House of Bishops decided to go into executive session tomorrow to discuss the same issue in private. (Corrected from earlier.)

When that discussion concludes, the bishops may move on to consideration of B012, the resolution that permits bishops in states with marriage equality to adapt rites in the Book of Common Prayer for use with gay couples.

The disciplinary canon revisions move forward

Eyes on the Floor: Title IV Moved and Moving

By Richard Helmer

This morning, my journey tracking revisions of the disciplinary canons, Title IV, through the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons came to an end – but one that turned out to be quite moving.

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Saturday collection 7/11/09

Here is our weekly collection plate, offering some of the good things that Episcopalians and their congregations have done that made the news this past week. And other news fit to print.

Church provides safe haven and more for kids

... musicians performed Tuesday for the annual holiday party at Cornerstone Kids ... where inner-city youngsters receive gifts donated by the community as well as new shoes from the Krewe of Alegria's Kickin' for Kids program. "Some places give you education and they shoo you on your way," said Marvin Lindsey, grandfather to 6-year-old Nija Capers. "Here they're more involved with the kids. It offers spiritual input as well as education, and the family members are involved. You can't beat that." Started in 1983 as a place for neighborhood children to hang out, Cornerstone Kids Club was operated as money allowed by the House of Prayer Episcopal Church. When the church merged with St. James Episcopal Church to form St. James House of Prayer Episcopal Church, the club became a fixture. In 2002, it obtained nonprofit status, shortened its name and opened its doors five days a week with a mission to help at-risk children.

Church camp offers lessons for youth

Plastered to a sheer rock face, or hanging precariously 35 feet off the ground – no matter which situation they found themselves in, each member of the Boys and Girls Club learned the importance of trust this past week. Whether they were repelling and rock climbing, or maneuvering their way through a high ropes course, the students learned that it was impossible for them to achieve success without working together.

The Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming Wilderness Camp provided the place and funding for Boys and Girls Club members to attend camp for a week.

Good news, bad news

An extended stay in a North Charleston halfway house helped Nellie Gash escape the temptations of the street and rebuild a life ravaged by crack cocaine and prison. At 44, Gash is sober, employed and enrolled in Trident Technical College. She hopes to get a place of her own soon and move out of Magdalene House, a nonprofit that helps women try to break the cycle of addiction and incarceration. Gash credits Magdalene House with saving her life. But as she prepares to graduate from the program, she wonders if the same helping hand will be around to lift others from their cycles of despair. After two years in operation, Magdalene House is almost out of money and struggling to keep its doors open.

The Integrity Eucharist

Lynette Wilson reports on the Integrity Eucharist, which drew some 1,600 worshippers to the Pacific Ballroom of the Hilton Anaheim last night:

"What right does anyone have to draw lines beyond to whom God's grace, care and favor extend? asked Bishop Barbara Harris in her July 10 sermon celebrating God's grace on all the baptized, including the Episcopal Church's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members.

Harris, retired suffragan of Massachusetts and the first female bishop ordained in the Anglican Communion, preached to more than 1,200 people gathered for a Eucharist service hosted by Integrity USA, a support group for gay and lesbian Episcopalians. New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who lives in a long-term relationship with a male partner, celebrated.

Take a moment of enjoy Tracy J. Sukraw's headline before reading her report, which focus on Bishop Harris' passionate sermon which included:

“If we can develop rites and blessings for fishing fleets and fisherfolk, and for hunts, hounds, horses and houses, including the room where the indoor plumbing is found, we should be able to allow clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry to adapt and to appropriate the pastoral office of the blessing of a civil marriage for use with all couples who seek the church’s support and God’s blessing in their marriages. Yes we can,” she said.

More GC links worth a look

Cafe stalwart Marshall Scott gives his impressions on the conversation yesterday morning on B033 in the House of Deputies:

So, what strikes me is the continuing passion, the audible pain and anxiety that were quite clear. Many speak of sacrifice – of the sacrifice of people, the sacrifice of relationships, the sacrifice of the Communion. Many speak of cost – of cost in lives, of cost in relationships, of cost in ministries and vocations lost. No one speaking – no one - is casual, and no one is dismissive. Of course, the pain being what it is, I don’t know that those most engaged don’t still feel dismissed. I rather expect they do.

In this video introduced by Heidi Shott, Joe Delafield, chancellor of the Diocese of Maine.explains the revisions to the church's disciplinary canons, and why he likes them.

And don't miss Bonnie Anderson's sermon from yesterday's Eucharist..

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B012 encounters rough canonical weather

Of the many resolutions seeking to move the Episcopal Church toward marriage equality, none has received more attention than B012, the so called "pastoral generosity" resolution. The key clause is this one:

That in those dioceses, under the direction of the bishop, generous discretion in interpretation of The Book of Common Prayer is extended to clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry in order to permit the adaptation of the Pastoral Offices for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage for use with all couples who seek the church's support and God's blessing in their marriages;

A number of bishops and deputies have raised concerns that allowing "discretion" to "permit the adaptation" of rites in the Book of Common Prayer is an end run around the Convention's responsibility to authorize changes to the prayer book. Others have asked why the Church should follow the state rather than making its own judgments on the issue of marriage.

As a result, advocates for marriage equality are refocusing their attention to some of the resolutions before the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music, and trying to reassure their allies that the defeat or withdrawl of B012 is not a decisive blow against marriage equality at this convention.

Fear and the Episcopal future

By Rebecca Wilson

We’ve had five hours of testimony about human sexuality in the last two days. Regardless of the setting or structure of the conversation, the speakers can be sorted into three broad groups: those in favor of full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and (GLBT) people; those against; and those who know it is coming but are imploring us to wait.

It’s that last group that’s on my mind as we wait for the resolutions on inclusion to wend their way through the legislative process. These people—perhaps a growing number, perhaps just newly emboldened to speak—may be personally uncomfortable about sexuality, but they are anxious to point out that they don’t believe being gay is morally wrong or scripturally prohibited. They know that the culture has changed, the church is changing and they, too, shall be changed. And they’re frightened.

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PBS's Ray Suarez preaches at General Convention

Click Read more to read the sermon that Ray Suarez of PBS's New Hour gave today at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

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Prayer Book subcommittee drafts blessings resolution

The sub-committee of the Prayer Book, Music and Liturgy Committee assigned to review resolutions on same-sex blessings and marriage equality has written a four clause resolution to present to the larger committee. Below is a rough paraphrase of the resolution, pending further refinement of my understanding.

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Walking back B033, revised resolution D025 clears committee

A revised version of Resolution D025 has cleared the Committee on World Mission with the unanimous support of the deputies. Two of the five bishops on the committee, including bishops' chair Geralyn Wolf, voted in favor of the resolution.

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Being challenged to tell the truth

Eyes on the Floor: Tell the Truth

(or On Dealing with Inflatable Elephants)

By Richard E. Helmer

This afternoon, Tobias Haller and Nicholas Knisely met with the new deputies over lunch to hold conversation over their impressions of the process that led to B033 in 2006.

What emerged early in the discussion was something a number of us knew already, but it bears re-telling.

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The remarks of Dr. Jenny Te Paa to the House of Deputies

Of all the words that have been spoken in this first week of the General Convention, these may be the most important ones to hear. They come from Dr. Jenny Te Paa, principal of the College of Saint John the Evangelist, Auckland, New Zealand, a guest of President Bonnie Anderson, who addressed the House of Deputies yesterday afternoon. Her text was handwritten, but is now available.

Click Read more to read Jenny's speech.

Here is a highlight..

It may be worth my repeating here something I said the other day in my contribution to the Chicago Consultation luncheon event at which I spoke. I was sharing in all humility one of my deepest regrets (one that I know is shared by other Commissioners) that as members of the Lambeth Commission we were never fully apprised of the full facts of your polity and in particular of the limits to the power of the office of Presiding Bishop.

As a result of that crucial gap in knowledge and understanding it is my belief that the very unfair, in fact the odious myth of ‘The Episcopal Church acting (in the matter of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson) with typical unchecked US imperialism’, was more readily enabled and abetted to grow wings and fly unchecked for way too long across the reaches of the Anglican Communion.

It was only in hindsight as a number of us as Commissioners managed to catch our breath, to compare notes and to consult with our trusted Episcopal Church sisters and brothers that I realized, that we realized, to our utterly deserved chagrin that we had perhaps failed albeit inadvertently to prevent something of the unprecedented vilification of the Episcopal Church and especially of its leadership that inevitably resulted. (Here I want to pay special tribute to the careful and valuable teachings which Reverend Canon Brian Grieves and Reverend Ian Douglas so generously and patiently provided me during this period).

I share this with you not by way of exploiting the privilege of this public platform as a confessional site but rather by way of affirming with boundless respect and gratitude the truly mutually redemptive moment it is that you now enable us all to live into.

Your generosity of spirit in spite of all you have suffered so unjustly and unnecessarily over the past few years is just so perfectly admirable. That you continue with such magnanimity to gather international friends, to share with us so openly, so willingly all that you do so formidably, so precisely, so efficiently and so compassionately is a gift offering of such magnitude that it seems so utterly insufficient for me to simply say thank you, thank you, thank you.

Episcopal News Service has also interviewed President Anderson's other international guests.

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Center Aisle endorses Resolution D025 with some reservations

Along about 3:30 Pacific time, the House of Deputies will take up Resolution D025, the Episcopal Church's long-awaited reconsideration of Resolution B033 from the 2006 General Convention. Much of today's coverage will focus on this issue.

The Diocese of Virginia occupies a special place at General Convention, not simply because it is the largest American diocese in the Episcopal Church, or because its retiring Bishop Peter Lee has been such an influential figure in the Church for so long, but because through its 4-page news daily, Center Aisle it manages to capture--in very few words--the mood of the Convention. As a member of the steering committee of the Chicago Consultation then, I was grateful to wake up this morning and read this editorial in the Aisle.

Editorial - Room for Optimism

You’ve heard them before – words like recognize, affirm, encourage. They are the parlance of unity amid diversity. They are the language World Mission is using in its earnest quest for consensus on issues relating to human sexuality.

Prepare to see the results of that effort in a discussion that could occur today or tomorrow on the floor of the House of Deputies. The fate of Resolution D025 could go a long way toward determining whether our Church will continue its pilgrimage with the rest of the Communion.

The work on this resolution is not done. Bishops on World Mission voted 3-2 against the proposal, while deputies on the panel approved it 24-2. Though D025 doesn’t explicitly repeal B033, the compromise resolution from 2006, it does raise legitimate concerns by affirming that “God has called and may call” gay and lesbian persons “to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church.” That language could be interpreted as a unilateral lifting of the moratorium on gay bishops

Still, it’s encouraging to see how effectively World Mission has drawn on language of reconciliation from past Conventions and how deftly it has integrated our Church’s “abiding commitment” to the Anglican Communion with a reaffirmation of our inclusiveness as a community of faith.

It’s a reminder of how precise wording can be far more than lawyerly nitpicking; it can be a catalyst to building bonds of trust. Recall past statements by Anglican bodies for “gracious restraint” and “bonds of affection.”

So prepare for the latest quest for consensus—today or tomorrow in Deputies and, later this week, in Bishops. There is room for optimism that a compromise may emerge.

Resolution D025 does achieve key goals: It reaffirms our relationship with and strong commitment to the Anglican Communion; it recommits our Church to being an inclusive community of faith; and it acknowledges the divisions in our Church on issues relating to human sexuality, specifically the consecration of gay bishops. The task now is to ensure that, while achieving these goals, Convention does not resort to unilateral actions that could fracture the Communion.

I appreciate this editorial deeply, but I would take issue with the notion that Resolution B033 is a moratorium, and hence with the interpretation that D025 lifts a moratorium, unilaterally or otherwise. B033 was an urging. Please don't do this. In the time since B033 was passed, we did not do this. But now a new General Convention is in session, our Church is in a different place, and it is time to speak again.

I would also caution against reading too much into the opposition of the bishops on the panel who voted 3-2 against it. The sample size is small, and the vote close. One of the bishops who voted in favor of D025 was Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, who is very much a centrist.

The Center Aisle also carries an interview with the principal sponsors of D025, the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, co-convenor of the Chicago Consultation, and Deputy Rebecca Snow, a lawyer from Alaska. I recommend it in its entirety.

Live blogging the B033/D025 debate in the House of Deputies

Resolutioni D025 lives here. It comes from the Committee on World Ministry. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention. The House of Deputies will take up this matter around 3:30 Pacific time and I will be live blogging.

Live blog (click read more):

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Live blogging D025/B033. Part the second

Part one here.Resolution D025 lives here. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention.

Live blog:(click read more)

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D025 passes the House of Deputies

Resolution D025 passed the House of Deputies and will be sent to the House of Bishops. The vote was 77-31 in the lay order and 74-35 in the clerical order.

The resolution was co-sponsored by the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers of Chicago (and the Chicago Consultation) and Rebecca Snow, a veteran deputy from Alaska.

The text of Resolution D025 is here. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention.

Previous installments of this live blogging are here and here.

My sense is that the resolution doesn't repeal or rescind B033, which in any event urged but did not compel. Rather it expresses the fact that we live now in a new reality. It does not so much pave the way for the election of another bishop in a same-sex partnership as it does remove an artificial impediment to our ongoing discernment on this issue which may, just may, resume diocese by diocese.and case by case.

I think the resolution will face a much tougher climb in the House of Bishops.

Live blogging the Sunday evening news conference (post D025)

Sunday evening news conference live blog beneath the fold:

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News from Church of England synod

While General Convention is in session on this side of the Atlantic, the General Synod of the Church of England is in session on the other side of the pond. We draw your attention to three items with direct application to General Convention..

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Eyes on the Floor: The house reclaims solid ground

By Richard Helmer

The question was raised early on from the floor during debate yesterday afternoon whether or not the much-anticipated resolution D025 rescinded the provisions of 2006 B033. The desire, it appeared, was for an unambiguous answer. But such an answer of “yes” or “no” would have ignored D025’s careful and heartfelt comprehension of who and where we are as a Church living with disagreement: over theological perspective, over interpretation of scripture and tradition, over the nature of faithful witness.

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Few dioceses respond to racisim resolutions

ENS reports on the work of Social and Urban Affairs Committee:

Efforts to deal with the Episcopal Church's legacy of complicity in slavery have been difficult and slow, and the church needs more time to deal with the issue, say several resolutions pending in the Social and Urban Affairs Committee.

In recent hearings at General Convention in Anaheim, members of the committee have considered resolutions A142, A143 and C050, which would extend and expand the Episcopal Church's exploration of its role in the institution of slavery and its modern-day repercussions.

General Convention 2006 passed several resolutions on the subject of the church's complicity in slavery as well as other forms of exploitation and abuse of non-white peoples. The resolutions called on dioceses to explore the history of slavery and its aftermath and to find ways to seek reconciliation and healing.

"The reality is that the two resolutions [on slavery] that were passed in 2006 have elicited a paucity of response," the Rev. Canon Ed Rodman, a retiring member of Executive Council, told ENS. "Only 12 or 13 dioceses began to do the work."
Even though the progress towards repentance and reconciliation is slow, said Rodman, it's essential that resolutions calling for this work be passed. "If you don't have this mandate on the books," he said, "there's no chance that anyone will do anything about it out of the goodness of their own hearts.

Read it all.

July 13: What's up today at GC?

I've just had a chance to look at the bishops' legislative calendar for the day, and it seems very unlikely that they will take up Resolution D025 today. I don't think B012, the "pastoral generosity" resolution that would allow bishops in states that have legalized same-sex marriage some latitude in adapting Prayer Book rituals for use with such couples, is on the calendar either. I think substitute resolutions are in the works.

A major resolution on same-sex blessings has cleared the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies) We should have text soon. It asks for the development of rites for same-sex blessings that can be considered at our next convention. It also grants some of the "pastoral generosity" sought by B012 to all bishops.

I haven't had time to round up links today, or say much about Title IV, which comes to the floor of the House of Deputies this afternoon, or about the MDG and Latino Ministry legislation, both of which are exciting, but about which others will have to inform you more fully.

Resolution C056 on same-sex blessings

As I mentioned a second ago, a major resolution on same sex blessings has cleared the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies).

The text of the resolution follows:

Resolved, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions, to be presented to the 77th General Convention for formal consideration; and be it further

Resolved, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, devise an open process for the conduct of its work in this matter, inviting participation from dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are or have already engaged in the study or design of such rites throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, that all bishops, noting particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships’ are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, that honoring the theological diversity of this Church, no bishop or other member of the clergy shall be compelled to authorize or officiate at such liturgies; and be it further

Resolved, that the Anglican Consultative Council be invited to conversation regarding this resolution and the work that proceeds from it, together with other churches in the Anglican Communion engaged in similar processes.

Bishop Henry Parsley supported the resolution, but in a minority report will argue that the "generosity" in resolve 3 be limited to states where same sex marriage is legal.

Concurred: D045 Committee Member Transparency

The House of Bishops have concurred; D045 is the law of the land. Read the final version here.

The one and only resolve:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention direct that the membership of all committees, subcommittees, task forces, panels or other bodies elected or appointed by any body or leader throughout The Episcopal Church including, but not limited to, the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops, the Executive Council, Standing Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards of The Episcopal Church and their respective Presiding Officers and Chairs be publicly available within 30 days after election or appointment.

The bishops' calendar

Updated: looks like the bishops will take up D025 in the near future, and depending on how long that takes, could get to C056 immediately afterwards. (3:40 p.m. Pacific.)

Resolutions D025 (regarding the consecration of partnered gay bishops) and Resolution C056 (same-sex blessings) are both on the House of Bishops supplemental calendar for this afternoon. That is not guarantee that the bishops will take up these items, but it seems certain that they will eventually be in play.

Live blogging: the bishops take up D025

The text of Resolution D025 is here. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention.

Live blog beneath the fold:

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Amended D025 passes House of Bishops 99-45-2

An amended version of Resolution D025 has passed the House of Bishops. It must now be re-passed by the House of Deputies because it has been amended. I don't think the amendments will present a problem to the deputies.

Here is the amended resolution.

A relatively complete roll call follows as well the conclusion of my live blog of the debate. The Presiding Bishop voted yes.

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Updated, but imperfect roll call

My thanks to the Chicago Consultation and Center Aisle for their tallies. These aren't perfect. We are trying to get our hands on something official.

Click read more for the tally.

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How to interpret D025

How to interpret D025. It depends who you ask.

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Eyes on the floor: An epochal boundary

By Richard Helmer

Popular ideas about evolution in communities and the natural world can be deceptive. Most of us, when we’re not thinking or observing closely, imagine evolution to be a slow progression of measured, tiny changes occurring over a long period of time. Whether we’re reading the history of our own communities or the history of life on this planet, we see laid out before our mind’s eye an evenly spaced series of snapshots, each one slightly different from its predecessor. A series of these snapshots document the steady march of evolution over time, the even ticking of change in the community or cosmic clock.

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The opportunity of C056

By Otis Gaddis III

Something is happening at General Convention. In the House of Deputies, resolution D025 passed two days ago with an overwhelming majority in both orders, lay and clerical. And yesterday it was passed by two-thirds by the House of Bishops with minor amendments. That resolution reaffirms that God has called and may continue to call gay and lesbian people “to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church; and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.” If passed by the House of Deputies, this resolution will go a long way to restoring the sense of pride young adults and many converts had in the Episcopal Church upon the election of Gene Robinson and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. That pride in the Church is the fuel of mission. You can see the effect of that pride in some of the public narrative stories that I have heard. Those stories as well as my own experience as a young adult minister in my home parish indicate that those two elections deeply impacted many young adults and have functioned as icons of the kind of Church they had always wanted to be a part of and now have discovered that they wanted to be witnesses of this Church to others.

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Live blog: Bishops debate C056 on same-sex unions--then postpone

The House of Bishops is now debating C056. Here is the resolution:

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Tuesday afternoon in Anaheim

I am told that the Deputies will take up D025 almost as soon as they go into session at 2 pm Pacific, and I am assuming that the bishops will recommence their debate on C056. Stay tuned.

Bp of Durham: HoB is "formalising schism initiated 6 years ago"

Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham writes in an op-ed in The Times entitled "The Americans know this will end in schism":

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops.
The question then presses: who, in the US, is now in communion with the great majority of the Anglican world? It would be too hasty to answer, the newly formed “province” of the “Anglican Church in North America”. One can sympathise with some of the motivations of these breakaway Episcopalians. But we should not forget the Episcopalian bishops, who, doggedly loyal to their own Church, and to the expressed mind of the wider Communion, voted against the current resolution. Nor should we forget the many parishes and worshippers who take the same stance. There are many American Episcopalians, inside and outside the present TEC, who are eager to sign the proposed Covenant. That aspiration must be honoured.

Contrary to some who have recently adopted the phrase, there is already a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans”. It is called the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is now distancing itself from that fellowship.

Read it all.


Amended D025 passes Deputies; Bishops to return to C056 tomorrow

The Deputies passed the amended version of D025 sent to them by the bishops by a vote of 78 deputations in favor, 21 opposed and nine deputations divided (and therefore counted as no votes.) The clergy tally was 77-19-11.

Here is the amended resolution.

Meanwhile, the bishops have decided to postpone further consideration of C056, the same-sex blessing resolution until tomorrow afternoon.

There is other stuff going on, but ENS will be on the job this evening, and I will pass along their reports.

Kendall Harmon on D025

Statement of Kendall Harmon on Resolution D025

The passage of Resolution D025 by the General Convention of 2009 is a repudiation of Holy Scripture as the church has received and understood it ecumenically in the East and West. It is also a clear rejection of the mutual responsibility and interdependence to which we are called as Anglicans. That it is also a snub to the Archbishop of Canterbury this week while General Synod is occurring in York only adds insult to injury.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the BBC, the New York Times and Integrity all see
what is being done here. There are now some participants in the 76th General Convention who are trying to pretend that a yes to D025 is NOT a no to B033. Jesus’ statement about letting your yes be yes and your no be no is apt here. These types of attempted obfuscations are utterly unconvincing. The Bishop of Arizona rightly noted in his blog that D025 was "a defacto repudiation of" B033.

The presuppositions of Resolution D025 are revealing. For a whole series of recent General Conventions resolutions have been passed which are thought to be descriptive by some, but understood to be prescriptive by others. The 2007 Primates Communique spoke to this tendency when they stated “they deeply regret a lack of clarity” on the part of the 75th General Convention.

What is particularly noteworthy, however, is that Episcopal Church Resolutions and claimed stances said to be descriptive at one time are more and more interpreted to be prescriptive thereafter. Now, in Resolution D025, the descriptive and the prescriptive have merged. You could hear this clearly in the floor debates in the two Houses where speakers insisted “This is who we are!”

Those involved in pastoral care know that when a relationship is deeply frayed when one or other party insists “this is who I am” the outcome will be disastrous. The same will be the case with D025, both inside the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

D025 is the proud assertion of a church of self-authentication and radical autonomy.

It is a particularly ugly sight.

--The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina

Eyes on the Floor: Washing Socks

Eyes on the Floor: Washing Socks

By Richard Helmer

I spent part of the early morning today sorting laundry and washing socks in the room at the hotel. After all the lofty theologizing and vagaries of parliamentary procedure of the last several days, washing socks seemed very grounding, although it reminded me of how much I missed my wife and family, waiting patiently for me to return in Mill Valley. My wife doesn’t always do my laundry, but the image of the socks hung up to dry reminded me poignantly of home and our little indoor clothes racks, often populated with articles of clothing left there to air dry throughout the week.

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A full buffet from Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Life Online is available at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/elife.

Today's Episcopal Life Daily includes:

* TOP STORY - Deputies reject litigation resolution, approve ecumenical
agreement and communications study
* TOP STORY - Resolution D025 draws mixed responses
* TOP STORY - Convention Notebook: Anglican covenant study, Altar Guild Art
Show, open Communion
* TOP STORY - Convention accepts revised ministry discipline canons
* TOP STORY - Peace Fellowship's young adult representatives are active
advocates for justice issues
* TOP STORY - Environmental issues are on the table at convention
* TOP STORY - Convention reaffirms open ordination process, commitment to
* TOP STORY - Bishops to consider Rachel's Tears, Hannah's Hopes
* TOP STORY - Abagail Nelson's address at the July 14 General Convention
* TOP STORY - Ecumenical guests raise their voices in song and prayer
* TOP STORY - Convention Daily
* DIOCESAN DIGEST - LOS ANGELES: Episcopalians join hotel worker protest
* MISSION - Money and faith present conflict between scarcity and abundance,
Schut says
* PEOPLE - Massachusetts bishop honored for his work with campers
* MULTIMEDIA - Image Gallery: National Altar Guild Art Show
* MULTIMEDIA - Image Gallery: General Convention, July 14
* ARTS - Convention worship vestments hold special meaning
* DAYBOOK - July 16: Today in Scripture, Prayer, History
* CATALYST - Eating the Sun - How Plants Power the Planet

Comprehensive coverage of the Episcopal Church's 76th General Convention is
available at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/107145_ENG_HTM.htm.

For the General Convention Media Hub, visit

News in Spanish (Noticias) is available at

Click read more to see the leads of some of these stories.

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Today's calendar at General Convention

Updated: I was wrong, the same sex blessing conversation in the House of Bishops is going to occur after the budget presentation, which, I am guessing, means somewhere between 3:30 and 4:15 . To arrive at that start time I employed a sophisticated journalistic technique known as guessing.

The Houses will receive a draft of the budget in joint session beginning at 2:30 p. m. Some of the folks I have talked to are worried that the financial crisis is being used to achieve others ends, namely a more centralized power structure. I don't know enough about the details of the budget to make any sort of judgment about that, but these are folks whose opinions are widely respected, so I hope to have time to give this some thought.

Time for thought is in short supply though. Due to my other responsibilities, I've been more a typist than a writer this week, and am really grateful to Richard Helmer, Rebecca Wilson and Otis Gaddis III for providing thoughtful reportage and commentary.

Denominational Health Plan passes

According to several tweeterers the House of Deputies have in the last hour concurred with the HOB and passed A177, the denominational health plan. Check out the stream at twub/#ecgc.

That can be confirmed from the official site for resolutions. Here is A177 final version, concurred.

A138, Establishing a Mandatory Lay Employee Pension System, is pending before the House of Deputies. It has not been to HOB.

Hallway conversation on C056

What I think I know: a group of more than 20 bishops of varying views met informally last night from about 9 p. m. to 11 p. m. to discuss Resolution C056, the same-sex blessing resolution. The group discussed, but apparently dismissed a suggestion that the House of Bishops take no legislative action on the issue, but issue a Mind of the House Resolution on the issue (Saying I am not sure what). The telling argument against this position was that General Convention is a legislative gathering, and that what it does is legislate, not issue statements of sentiment.

So some new language was proposed for certain sticky points in the resolution--although I am not sure what those points were or what that language is. At any rate, several bishops whose opinions on this issue are not very different than mine, seem to think that the changes are not devastating, and that the chances of passing the resolution are pretty good.

But be cautious. I have been darting around all day, and what I have written here doesn't rise to the level of real reporting.

The current version of the resolution is below the fold, so to speak. Click Read more.

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Our very own Nick Knisely is writing some great stuff

Nick Knisely has written several excellent essays on the General Convention at his blog Entangled States, but I want to call special attention to Tears of Truth.

Fast forward to Sunday lunchtime. I’d been invited (for some reason unknown to me) to a lovely lunch sponsored by the Chicago Consultation. The Consultation is a group of people in the Episcopal Church who are striving to find a both/and solution to the question of Inclusion in the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church’s membership in the wider Communion. I was seated at a table with a theologian, another priest, two lay women, one of the Communion’s primates and an Episcopal bishop. We had lunch, listened to speakers, and then we talked.

It was in the talking that the emotions stirred up in Jenny Te Paa’s speech finally overwhelmed me. I was recounting to people around the table how deeply touched I had been by her words, my voice cracked and I started to cry. Frankly I was stunned. I don’t actually cry that often. And hardly ever in public. That I was doing so here, in this luncheon told me how very profoundly I have buried the hurt that the words by others have caused. Some of the others from around the Communion at the table joined me in my tears. And the weight on my heart began to lift and by the end of the day on Sunday was gone.

Sometimes tears are cleansing. Perhaps this is one of those. So many tears have been shed by so many people in Anglican Church over the past decade. Most of those have been tears of hurt shed by LGBT members of the Communion. My tears on Sunday were to me a symbol of reconciliation that the Episcopal Church is faithfully attempting with them and with the larger Communion. Reconciliation begins, can only begin, with telling the full truth of who we are. I believe that the actions that have just been passed by the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops are truthful. They are come with tears of relief on the part of many and tears of regret by a few.

Live blogging the Bishops C056 debate: it passes

Updated it wins 104-30.

Live blog beneath the fold:

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Bishops back blessings

With overwhelming support in the House of Bishops legislation on rites for same sex couples passed and was sent on to the House of Deputies for concurrence.

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Evil into good

By Rebecca Wilson

Here at the Anaheim Convention Center, you could swing a cat in any direction and hit a theologian capable of learned disputation on the theology of evil. I’m not one of them.

But today, as Convention concludes its debate about full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, I’m thinking of two stories I heard last weekend:

On Saturday afternoon, the Very Rev. Rowan Smith, dean of Cape Town and St. George’s Cathedral in South Africa, described his congregation’s early work toward inclusion of gay people. They began three years ago at a retreat on reconciliation, when congregational leaders decided that they needed to heal relationships with gay and lesbian people in the same way that South Africa had healed racial strife after apartheid.

Since then, the leaders of St. George’s have held conversations about inclusion of gay people with other parishes in the diocese, and also met with the archbishop. And next month, Cathedral leaders will bring to their diocesan synod a resolution to permit blessing of existing same sex unions.

It’s a small step, but notable because it indicates that other parts of the Anglican Communion beyond the usual North American suspects are grappling with human sexuality. But here’s what struck me most in Dean Smith’s story: The congregation’s reconciliation retreat was held at Robben Island, the site of the prison where Nelson Mandela and other South African political prisoners were held during the apartheid era.

Another story, from Sunday afternoon: At a Chicago Consultation lunch, Bishop Bruce Caldwell of Wyoming used the public narrative model, much in favor at this General Convention, to tell his story of how an “elk-hunting, horse-riding bishop” became a GLBT activist. You can watch his speech here.

In 1998, after Caldwell became bishop of Wyoming the previous year, Matthew Shepard was tortured and killed near Laramie. Shepard, an active Episcopalian, was targeted by his murderers because he was gay. Bishop Caldwell presided at Shepard’s funeral Eucharist in front of, as he recalled, flowers sent by Elton John.

When it was time to distribute the elements, Caldwell went to the furthest corner of the parish hall. Gay and lesbian people came with open hands outstretched, he remembered, “and they came, and they came. “ As he was distributing the bread and wine, he thought, “Why are they here? Why would they have hands outstretched after the way they’ve been treated?”

That moment, at Matthew Shepard’s funeral, is when Caldwell became an activist. He concluded his speech on Sunday by saying, “My question that I pose today, because those hands haunt me: Is it time to fill those hands? Can we fill those hands together with the absolute love of God?”

Full inclusion advocates are celebrating victories we didn’t entirely expect to achieve at this General Convention. The votes have been by wide margins, and it’s clear that minds and hearts have changed in the last three years, and even in the last ten days. There have been hours of testimony on full inclusion, and many people have told inspiring stories of loving same-gender couples, committed gay Christians doing mission work, and beloved gay and lesbian children.

But we’ve also heard stories like the two recounted above, including lesbians in Africa who are subjected by their families to what is horrifyingly called “curative” rape. And in last week’s World Mission committee hearing, the story that moved the audience most was not about loving commitment or Christian ministry, but about a young gay man named Arthur who killed himself in middle school because of bulling and harassment.

Our hearts break open when we confront the worst that human beings can do to one another, and out spills the prejudice or apathy that we’ve been harboring. It seems inescapable that we move toward justice because of places like Robben Island and people like Matthew Shepard, and perhaps they are even necessary to get us to move. So as we celebrate, the dark places we have seen and the people we have lost are much on my mind.

Rebecca Wilson is communications director for the Chicago Consultation.

Same sex blessing resolution tomorrow in Deputies

Resolution C056, the same-sex blessing resolution passed yesterday by the House of Bishops, will be heard on Friday at 9:30 am Pacific in the House of Deputies. Sorry for the confusion.

Eyes on the Floor: Less is More

By Richard Helmer

I wrote a couple of reflections back about epochal boundaries. At General Convention 2009, they seem to be multiplying as we approach our last lap of shared discernment before adjourning for the next three years.

Wednesday was filled with prophetic signs of looming change. At our Eucharist, celebrated with no paper in hand and a beautiful, simple liturgy, The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Assistant Bishop of California, warned of the impending global catastrophe unless the human family learned to live not only at peace with one another, but with the earth, this “fragile island home.” He held no punches, laying out before us the apocalyptic vision of a baking planet: baking in the throes of environmental melt-down and warfare over essential resources such as water and arable land.

While so much fear and controversy has revolved in The Episcopal Church around human sexuality and the power of bishops, we have turned a blind eye to the real crisis unfolding before us and around us. Bishops Charleston said that the clock has stopped ticking, and now the alarm is going off. Will we heed its warning?

In the afternoon, the Houses came together in joint session to hear Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) present the proposed budget for The Episcopal Church in the next triennium. The Presiding Bishop warned us that it would be painful, as it calls for the substantial reduction for program and mission funding, cuts in staff across the board, and a massive restructuring of how The Episcopal Church goes about its ministry in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

One might say that change is looming. But I suggest we’d better call this a moment when we are being re-woven on the loom of change. Everything around us and internally to The Episcopal Church is now unraveling, and the Spirit of God is drawing the strands back together, weaving us into a new tapestry. Our basic organizational structures, economy, and even our core world-view -- forged in the post-war boom of the 1950’s -- no longer serves us, our sisters and brothers and neighbors, the planet, or our God.

But the sense of impending death is the way of the cross, as Bishop Katharine reminded us. And, as a people of faith, resurrection always follows death.

Remembering our Priorities
PB&F, in their budget proposal, remember that our mission to those most profoundly in need must come first. The 1% commitment to funding MDG’s was restored. In addition, 0.7% is allocated in the portion of the budget to focus on the relief of domestic poverty.

Diocesan asking is reduced to grant relief to the local Church, by one percentage point a year beginning in 2011. The exemption level is also increased. This will be welcome news in many parts of the Church, but there remains some unsettled concerns that a number of dioceses have not been paying their full assessments to The Episcopal Church for quite some time. PB&F presented a spreadsheet documenting diocesan giving as a percentage of their budgets, and while the precise facts remain in some dispute, it is clear that not everyone is contributing equitably to the budget of the greater Church.

Also in the proposed budget is a recognition of subsidiarity, the organizing principle that decisions for funding, structure, and mission are best left in the hands of the smallest unit of the church possible. Mission and evangelism are to be returned largely to the dioceses for development and discernment. Where I find hope in this is that our local contexts for ministry are more diverse than they ever have been. So my guess is that the tapestry of The Episcopal Church, woven together by God’s grace in the coming years, will be much richer in color and patterns.

General Convention 2012
. . .will be strikingly different from this year’s. It will be shortened to eight days, the Blue Book will be available online only, and we will leverage technology with the intention of virtually eliminating the enormous amount of paper that has been inherent in the legislative process up to this point. CCAB’s, the interim bodies that prepare reports and legislation for the next General Convention, will be meeting much more over video and tele-conferencing to substantially cut travel costs. While little hay was made of this yesterday, we are also looking at a significantly reduced carbon footprint as well. In this way, we are going to be following Jesus’ command to travel light a bit more closely.

Less is More
As the strands of a re-structured and leaner Church begin to come together, we are all learning that less is more. Less is more was the name of the game on Wednesday as the House of Deputies returned to business under late-in-the-Convention rules that reduced the time for each speaker during debate to one minute. With this rule, the House moved legislation more rapidly in an hour-and-a-half than it had for much of the week.

One key piece that passed the House Wednesday included a repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery” (D035) a centuries-old legal argument still standing in American jurisprudence. The doctrine perpetuates the lethal notion that European “discovery” of lands already inhabited by indigenous people is sufficient justification for settlers and colonizers to claim full rights to resources. It’s a hideous legacy of our past, and the House of Deputies, with only a little opposition, passed this piece to repudiate the doctrine as fundamentally immoral. Another resolution passed addressing the scourge of human trafficking, which is only growing in the pressures of economic crisis.

Word came through late in the day that the House of Bishops had crossed another epochal boundary by overwhelmingly passing a revised version of C056, which grants considerable latitude and open process for dioceses to consider liturgical materials and pastoral responses for same-sex couples entering committed relationships. It was another stunning moment for me. Yes, this is our House of Bishops – the House we feared that might be, as a whole, reactionary at this General Convention. Pray for the House of Deputies as this resolution is taken up today, though I have little doubt of it passing.

And pray most of all for both Houses today as the matter of the new budget is taken up Thursday. While the truth has already been told, there will be painful moments. Budget cuts, as we all know by now, have profound impact on the personal and vocational lives of many people. And the transition to a “less is more” Church will be challenging both to our faith and our identity.

The good news for me is that the less that Christ embraces in the cross means more for the deep needs of the world. The less that leads to death is the gateway to the more of resurrection. The sadness of this day is the raw material that will give rise to the hopes and joys of tomorrow.

Off to session. . .

This week's Church Times

In Friday's (tomorrow's) edition of Church Times -- the news weekly covering the Church of England -- there are stories on General Convention, the Porvoo accord and same sex blessings, and an editorial on General Convention's actions.

Item 1. Editorial: Schism must not be allowed to happen

The Episcopal Church has not really broken the Communion any more than it was already.

The decision exposes the flaw at the heart of attempts to order the Communion on the basis of single issues. There is no less reason to join together at the eucharist, share theological ideas, engage in jointly funded enterprises, and so on, this week than last. A few Episcopalians have said more clearly what they have believed for some time; many still disagree with them. Nothing much has changed.

Item 2. http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=78081
Before the vote, more than 1000 people crowded into the Pacific Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel to hear the testimony of 51 people, all but ten of whom wanted the Church to move beyond B033. It could have been repealed or re­affirmed, but neither happened. Instead, 13 resolutions relating to B033 were combined into D025, a multi-part resolution “on Commit­ment and Witness to Anglican Communion”, intended to describe the mind of the Church on the issue.

Like B033, it has no canonical force, and the moratorium will technically be broken only if the Episcopal Church ordains another gay bishop. The final wording of the motion was described as “descriptive, not prescriptive”.

Item 3. English bishops say Swedish proposal redefines marriage
The letter from the English Bishops, dated 26 June, notes that Swedish approval of such blessings is already “problematic” for the Church of England, and reiterates the position expressed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference that same-sex sexual relationships should not be blessed, and those in such a relationship should not be ordained.

Describing the new Swedish proposal, as currently understood, to be apparently “a fundamental redefinition of the Christian doctrine of marriage”, FOAG says it is “acutely conscious of the immediate and negative consequences of moves within any of the Porvoo churches to revise Christian teaching and practice in matters of sexuality”. Such changes would have “particular implications for the limitation of the interchangeability of ordained ministry”, and could even “further undermine the fragility of the Anglican Communion”.

FOAG also says that “from a Church of England perspective it is vital for the Church to maintain a critical distance from the state.” It suggests, however, that the alternative, of ceasing entirely to solemnise marriages in church, which a majority of the Swedish bishops may favour, would still indicate a significant difference between the two Churches.

The Local, Sweden's news in English, carries this report:
The Church of England has condemned a proposal by the Church of Sweden to grant same-sex couples the right to religious wedding ceremonies.

In a sharply worded letter to Swedish archbishop Anders Wejryd, two high ranking bishops from the Church of England call the proposal “problematic”, adding that it risks causing “an impairment of the relationships between the churches”.
The critique comes following March correspondence from Archbishop Wejryd in which he informed his colleagues in England of ongoing discussions within the Lutheran Church of Sweden about allowing gay marriages in Swedish churches.

Following Wejryd’s letter, the governing board of the Church of Sweden proposed that it should continue to perform wedding ceremonies in accordance with new legislation granting same-sex couples in Sweden the same legal marriage status as heterosexuals.
The critique, in addition to expressing concerns about the Church of Sweden’s stance on gay marriage, appears to also be a less-than subtle reference to the recent election of Eva Brunne, an openly gay woman, to be Bishop of Stockholm.

Bishop Bruce Caldwell on how he became an activist

Bishop Gary Lillibridge reads statement in private session

A press release from the Diocese of West Texas:

Speaking for a group of about 15 bishops, Bishop Lillibridge read a statement on Thursday during the House of Bishops’ private time that “reaffirms our constituent membership in the Anglican Communion” while seeking to “find a place in the Church we continue to serve.” The statement was drafted by several bishops, including Lillibridge and Bishop David Reed, wanting to articulate their place in the Anglican Communion.

The statement represents the voices of many bishops who consistently find themselves in the minority at the 76th General Convention. “It is apparent that a substantial majority of this Convention believes that The Episcopal Church should move forward on matters of human sexuality,” says the preamble to the statement. “We recognize this reality and understand the clarity with which the majority has expressed itself.”

The bishops say they “seek to provide the same honesty and clarity” and invite all bishops who agree with them to sign the statement. About 25 bishops had signed the statement by late in the day on Thursday.

The statement asks for reaffirmation of commitment in five areas:

- membership in the Anglican Communion, communion with the See of Canterbury, and commitment to preserving those relationships

- the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church

- the three moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion

- the Anglican Communion Covenant process

- the apostles’ teaching and fellowship that is “foundational to the baptismal covenant” and the apostles’ teaching in “interpreting the Gospel.”

“The majority voice has spoken at this General Convention,” said Lillibridge later. “But I think it is important to also hear from the significant minority that represents about one-third both in the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.”

He said that in the Diocese of West Texas, the focus will remain on being a part of The Episcopal Church and continuing as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.

“Out of all of this,” said Lillibridge, “what I want to bring home to the diocese is the deepening of our conversation regarding the issue of human sexuality as well as the relationship between minorities and majorities as we all seek to work together.”

He said that he and Bishop Reed will have more to say about this General Convention when they return to San Antonio.

The General Convention ends on Friday, July 17.

Bishop Lillibridge discusses the "Anaheim Statement" in his audio report for the day. ENS has a report in which they interview other bishops who signed the statement.

Addendum. In its reporting The Living Church says the number of signatures has reached 29. It includes a partial listing of those signing and notes the list of names "included bishops who voted on both sides of D025 and C056."

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Morning roundup

Below is a sampling of news and comment on the morning of General Convention's closing day.

Huffington Post: TEC is the canary in the coal mine

[T]he Episcopal Church is seen as the canary in the coal mine by other mainline Protestant Churches. They are waiting to see if accepting gays and lesbians as full members of the church will lead to a breaking away from the international church, or whether different views will be able to co-exist happily.
NYT: Episcopals’ (sic!) First Openly Gay Bishop Speaks
I think maybe that’s what people don’t get about the House of Bishops. We have longstanding relationships. We meet several times each year, at length, and relationships build over time. We have a commitment to hang in there with one another, though we have disagreements. The ones that did not have that commitment are gone. The conversation has been a lot less shrill this year because a lot of those shrill voices are gone. It’s given people permission to listen better.
ENS: Convention adopts severely reduced triennial budget - Deputies refuse to tinker with proposal; bishops act without debate
Some church-wide programs will be eliminated under the budget, encouraging more mission work to take place in dioceses and congregations. At least 30 of the 180 people employed by the Episcopal Church in its New York and regional offices could lose their jobs.

The next General Convention could be two days shorter, and interim church bodies will meet face-to-face less frequently during the triennium. The Episcopal Church's provincial contribution to the budget of the Anglican Communion Office would decrease by a third.
After the deputies approved the budget, the Rev. Ann Fontaine (Wyoming) called for "a moment of silent prayer for all the staff that will be axed, that they might find healing and hope."

ENS: Brian McLaren speaks at General Convention
[T]he Episcopal Church must rid itself of "institutional rigidity," McLaren said.

"From my outsider's perspective, your most urgent issue of institutional rigidity is related to the complex ways candidates are accepted and trained into ordained ministry. To put it bluntly: For all your system does well, it is perfectly designed to scare away from Episcopal leadership almost everyone with the spiritual gift of evangelism," he said.

In the future, McLaren said, he hopes the Episcopal Church will not make potential postulates choose between the church and their call to evangelism.

WSJ op-ed:
Schism is considered such an ugly development that it is usually avoided at all costs -- until tensions become intolerable. Even then, it is preceded by patched-up compromises and interventions. We may well see a process like this in the Anglican world over the next four or five years.

But is schism truly so awful? A lot depends on the outcome.

RNS: Episcopalians ask who should lead: church or culture?
Even liberals here have said the church should not depend on the state to make decisions for it. Former New Hampshire Bishop Douglas Theuner, who retains a vote in the House of Bishops, argues that all bishops -- not just those in states where same-gender partnerships are legal -- should be allowed to adapt rites of blessings for gay couples.

"If we say we'll only do what the state allows us to do, then in effect we're saying that the state effects our theological decisions, and that shouldn't be," Theuner said.

Episcopalians have taken cues from the culture on marriage mores before, particularly in the 1970s when it voted to allow divorced people to remarry in the church, said Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Ky.

Eyes on the floor: Matters of conscience, matters of psyche

By Richard Helmer

N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, in his most recent tirade on The Episcopal Church, accused us of inciting schism, of “double-think,” implying the false choice between upholding the ministries of our LGBT members and full participation in the Anglican Communion. Others have argued well elsewhere against Bishop Wright’s rhetorical use (or abuse?) of The Episcopal Church as a straw man for whatever purpose.

But the “double-think” accusation lingers with me for many reasons. One of the most important is the implication that somehow The Episcopal Church fails to meet some standard of being of one mind on this or any other matter. It’s as though the disciples of Jesus Christ have never (our ought to have never) had an argument with each other, or that they never suffered an internal tension of conscience while following in the ways of our Savior.

Of course, they did struggle with these disagreements, both relational and internal. The arguments while on the road are easily recalled in the gospels. The church was barely formed following the resurrection, and the first disciples were already arguing about how best to organize and provide for the needs of the growing community. Or take two of the great apostles, for instance. Peter’s wrestling with the laws and purity practices of his ancestors as the Gospel began to spread amongst the Gentiles is a classic story in Acts. Remember Peter and Cornelius the Centurion in Chapter 10? Paul who stumbled – or was pushed by Christ – into conversion spends much of his letters sorting out profound theological tensions and arguments as he communicates with the small Christian communities he has helped found. Whether he settles these tensions and arguments, and how, is more than debatable even now, 2,000 years later. And the Pauline epistles are well-known for the conflicted and apparent two-mindedness about a wide variety of matters, not least of which involves the tensions between marriage and chastity.

On Thursday in the House of Deputies, as the legislative pace hastened on the penultimate day of General Convention, a matter of conscience arose around C023, a resolution meant to repudiate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) laws in the United States. As one deputy put it during the debates, we found ourselves in the age-old tension between civil rights and theological tradition. To which is the General Convention of The Episcopal Church ultimately responsible?

It would be easy for me to respond that we historically equate civil rights with theological arguments about the fundamental nature of human dignity and freedom in God’s grace. This equation goes back in recent history to the heart of the abolition of slavery, and it was key in the civil rights era of the 1960’s and after. The scriptural stories that under gird this intersection of civil law and theological discourse are readily available to cite. But our American jurisprudence and the common notions of separation of church and state still leave us much of the time with a bifurcated view of reality – separated into civil on the one hand and ecclesiastical on the other. How we navigate this distinction is one of the harder tasks of the Anglican tradition – at least in the United States.

C023 exposed this reality today as key arguments (that held it to passing through the House of Deputies by a relatively narrow margin) boiled down to conscience: conscience to disagree. The clause that mattered most was this one:

That the Convention call on all Episcopalians to work against the passage of so-called "Defense of Marriage" state statutes and state constitutional amendments, and, in states where such statutes or constitutional amendments already exist, to work for their repeal.
The key phrase was “all Episcopalians,” which to some violated the principles of D025 that passed earlier in the week. D025 passed the House of Deputies by a substantially wider margin in part because of its acknowledgment that faithful Christians in the church together may disagree on the matters of same-sex blessings in particular and the theology of human sexuality more broadly. C023 appeared to leave no room for conscientious disagreement, or at least so it appeared to some of the more conservative members of the House. It was, as another deputy put it, a matter of legislating the hearts of some of our own.

Most of us know this really doesn’t work.

This brought to my mind a deep tension that is present today not only within The Episcopal Church, but in broader American society, and even within many of our sisters and brothers individually. It was best articulated by a former music student of mine, whom I visited recently in the Midwest while on vacation. Raised in a theologically conservative Christian tradition, she holds dear many of the classic virtues of Midwestern Christian culture. But a good friend of hers is a gay man who recently contemplated marrying his partner in a state where same-sex marriage is now legal. As she described her own considerations of the matter to me, she said she was absolutely in support of full civil rights for gays and lesbians. . . but she just wasn’t sure about gay marriage.

Is this “double-think?” It would be all too easy to jump on this like N. T. Wright and point out the apparent inconsistency. While I now am very clearly a supporter of same-sex marriage, both civilly and theologically, I remember once being in such a position myself: holding an inner tension that could not quite reconcile my care and concern for my LGBT neighbors and their rights with my world-view and emotional – visceral even – attachment to a particular understanding of marriage. It was this tension that I held for a long time in an attempt to find a middle position in the midst of an evolving conscience – or as my bishop put it to me in conversation this evening, a matter of change in the psyche.

Somehow, this tension about marriage and sexuality hits us at the very core of our self-identity. Maybe this is because all of us grew up and developed as thinking and reflecting individuals in relationship with a particular understanding of marriage – for good, for ill, or for both. To change that particular understanding is, of course, to send some unsettling questions into the deepest places of our souls – those places that formed even before we could speak. And to change those deep places requires of us a true inner leap of faith, of stepping into the unknown. I remember when I did precisely that on matters concerning human sexuality. It took me nearly six months to settle into a new understanding of the world. I was grateful to have a community – at that time a university chaplaincy – to support me during that time.
Something that N. T. Wright does not bring himself to acknowledge – at least publicly – is the simple fact that The Episcopal Church, the broader society, and, yes, even the Anglican Communion are all in various stages of wrestling with a leap of faith just like this. It could be argued that the threats of schism and the fissures in The Anglican Communion are – to some degree – reflections of the deep internal conflicts of many of our leaders and communities as we attempt in vain to find solid footing in an otherwise shifting understanding of grace. . . and how that grace relates to our shifting understandings of basic anthropology and some of our most essential traditions and social institutions.

This points back to the brilliance of D025 and the now pending C056 that the House of Deputies takes up on Friday. They were wrought, particularly in the House of Bishops this General Convention, through bishops on opposite sides of these questions engaged in conscientious listening to one another – the Indaba process that a number of our bishops first experienced, ironically enough, at Lambeth.

Indaba’s deep listening and sharing is accomplished without the goal of converting one another. Rather, the intent of the process is to find in one another the deep and abiding love that is shared for the wider community, even when disagreement is strong. If conversion happens, it is mutual and communal. D025 and C056, in their current forms, reflect not a “double-think” but a communally-held tension in the collective psyche of our Church. They represent the truth of conflict held tenderly and honestly in loving community. And I think that is a beautiful truth, and a powerful one – especially for a world that resorts to demonization and warfare all too quickly to “settle” differences.

I am reminded that all of us on the more liberal side of our Church and faith tradition must endeavor to remember the process and experience that brought us as individuals and communities to where we are, and how we must be wary of our expecting others to be in the same place at the same time with us. This is not to suggest we forestall laboring for justice. But at the very least, we must acknowledge and hold compassion for those who most strongly disagree with us. It would be easy to cut them off or hold them in derision. The whole point to remember, as has been stressed by so many of our finest leadership, is that they are a part of us. We belong to one another in God’s grace. This is living into the Ubuntu theme of this General Convention, and indeed that of the Christian Gospel.

When the disciples argued, Jesus continued to walk with them. When the early church argued, they kept at proclaiming the Gospel. When Peter was flummoxed in a vision of unclean animals, the Spirit showed it to him again and again. When Paul was caught up in cycles of his own theological rhetoric – I imagine his brow furrowed as he pondered the carefully crafted paragraphs – God still stood by, stretching Paul’s mind and heart towards new vistas of grace-filled revelation.

So, it seems to me, as the dust settles and the outcome of this General Convention begins to clarify where we are now as a Church of many minds but one heart towards Christ, we must remember our call to stand by one another and all our communities as we journey through the deep questions of conscience and psyche our resolutions reflect.

After all, we belong to one another. . . perhaps even across the great expanse of the Atlantic.

Deputies go to worship and lunch; no totals yet on blessings vote

updated with fuller quotations throughout

By Jim Naughton, Lauren Stanley and Rebecca Wilson

The deputies are debating the resolution passed by the bishops that would give bishops latitude in allowing clergy to bless gay marriages, and that would also begin the collection and development of "theological and liturgical resources.

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Anderson, Jefferts Schori send letter to Archbishop Williams, Anglican Primates

Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:

[July 17, 2009] A letter describing the steps taken by The Episcopal Church’s 76th General Convention and reaffirming the close relationship with the Anglican Communion was sent today to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson. A copy of the letter also was sent to the 38 Primates, and clergy and lay leaders of the Anglican Communion

The letter to Archbishop Williams outlined Resolution D025, which was adopted at this General Convention, explaining that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and President Anderson understood Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature. It stated that some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution B033 but reiterated that is not the case. The letter continued, “This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025.”

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C056 wins

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has passed a resolution on same-sex blessings. The House of Bishops approved the legislation by a margin of more than 3-1 yesterday. tin of more than 3-1 yesterday. The House of Deputies passed the legislation by a slightly smaller margin today.

The lay order voted in favor of Resolution C056 by 78-23 with seven divided deputations. The clergy passed the legislation 74-27-7.

Read our live blog of the debate.

Thurgood Marshall: one step closer

The efforts of the Dioceses of Washington and Maryland to establish a liturgical feast day for Thurgood Marshall moved closer to fruition yesterday as the General Convention "call(ed) upon the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to add Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to the liturgical Calendar of this Church now."

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The Presiding Bishop's closing sermon

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the sermon below the fold at the closing Eucharist of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Both/and thinking is the kind of tension that keeps our hearts pumping and mission thriving. It’s also the kind of tension that drives some of us crazy – what’s more important – justice or mercy? Inclusion or orthodoxy? Ministry grounded in bishops or in baptism? Most of those polarities are false choices. The long view says that if we insist on resolving the tension we’ll miss a gift of the spirit, for truth is always larger than one end of the polarity. Tension is where the spirit speaks. Truth has something to do with that ongoing work of the spirit, and it can only breathe in living beings capable of change and growth.


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Bearing with each other

My Face to Faith column in the Guardian is now live:

Our church has not sought to increase the strain in the communion, but to redistribute it. The suffering on all sides of the debate over homosexuality must be borne by the entire church. Ideally, it would be borne by the entire communion in the form of generous pastoral discretion and respect for the discernment of individual provinces, but Williams and a majority of the primates have rejected this most Anglican of accommodations in favour of a single-issue magisterium on the issue of homosexuality.

Gradually, tentatively, the Episcopal Church has begun to push back. The result, in Anaheim, was a pair of resolutions that attempted to be firm yet conciliatory, recognising the need to move, but move slowly, in order to bring along as much of the church as possible.

President Anderson's closing remarks

The remarks of President Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, on the closing of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Walter Cronkite, newsanchor & Episcopalian, dies at 92

Walter Cronkite died yesterday at his home in New York at the age of 92.

As anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, he has described as the "most trusted man in America."

According to the New York Times, a private funeral will be held at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York, where he was a member. This was also where the funeral for his wife Betsy was held in 2005.

Walter and Betsy met in 1936 in Kansas City, Missouri while both were working at the KCMO radio station. Betsy was an advertising writer. They were married at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Kansas City on March 30, 1940.

Read more here.

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Saturday collection - General Convention Edition

Updated. Monday, July 20, 2009 Here is a collection of a few of the good things Episcopalians did at General Convention these past two weeks that did not necessarily make the news.

The following list is based on a list from the Diocese of Connecticut web-site. Thanks to Karin Hamilton for keeping up with this and sharing it with the folks at home.

Updated: When we first posted this, we said that the "view legislation" page is broken. It is now fixed. We will begin the process of updating links.

We have been cautioned that it will take time, a week or two maybe, for the legislation page to be completely updated and for a summary of every action that was taken to be created.

Here is the link to view the legislation of the 75th General Convention.

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News reports roundup

Here is a round-up of how the press understood and interpreted General Convention.

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Integrity, Chicago Consultation issue statements

Following the close of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, there were statements issued by the Chicago Consultation, and by Integrity.

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An economist's review of the Pope's Encyclical Letter

The Pope's letter on the economy didn't create a big splash. Perhaps that's because it didn't say anything new. The Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks on the economy at General Convention garnered a similar reaction from the press -- that is, very little.

Tyler Cowen on the Pope's letter:

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Distinguishing the work from the author

As cited in a Times article by Nicolette Jones, Archbishop Williams advocates making a distinction between the work and the author of the work. Jones writes:

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Terry Martin on cuts to the evangelism budget

At his blog, Father T. Listens to the World, the Rev. Terry Martin writes about the staff cuts at the Episcopal Church center and to the evangelism budget in particular:

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A few preliminary thoughts on General Convention 2009

Our thanks to everyone who read our General Convention coverage. Visits to the site were up about 50 to 60% over our average, and more than doubled our average on the day of the vote on the resolution D025, which acknowledged that God calls gays and lesbian Christians to all orders of ministry in our Church.

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Frank McCourt, dead at 78

May he rest in peace.

The Washington Post has a report.

First Communion on the Moon

Bosco Peters remembers the 40th anniversary of the first communion on the Moon.

He writes on his blog Liturgy:

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Bishops post reactions to Anaheim

There will probably be a number of notes published by diocesan bishops over the next week regarding the decisions made or not made at General Convention in Anaheim. Here's a sampling of a few that have already appeared.

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Chicago Consultation work at convention recognized

One of the major players in the months leading up to General Convention, and during the actual meeting was a group that is called "The Chicago Consultation". The decisions that were made at Convention were influenced by the work of the Consultation, in part through the words of members of the Anglican Global South that spoke to the bishops and deputies.

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Ireland reasserts blasphemy laws

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the church, in non-General Convention related news; the Irish Government has been given broad new powers to use police force to suppress "blasphemous statements".

Jason Walsh writes in his report:

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Jimmy Carter leaves Southern Baptists

Former President Jimmy Carter has decided that he must, after 60 years of membership, leave the Southern Baptist Convention of churches because of their stance which insists on the submission of wives to their husbands.

President Carter writes in an essay posted on "The Age":

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Bishop Robinson describes how the House of Bishops decided

There's been a great deal of reporting about the passage of two key resolutions by General Convention last week. One of the major surprises of Convention was the level of strong support that the House of Bishops gave to both the resolutions. That support came as a surprise to many.

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The Rev. Phyllis Edwards, first woman deacon dies at 92

The Rev. Phyllis Edwards, the Episcopal Church's first woman deacon, died in Forks, WA of age-related causes. She was 92. Edwards was a civil rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and fought for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church. She was ordained by Bishop Pike.

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Kiss-in in Salt Lake City

While we were away in Anaheim supporting full inclusion, Episcopalians and others in Salt Lake City were demonstrating against the treatment of gay couple for a kiss.

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New England and Iowa bishops ponder next steps

The Boston Globe spoke with several bishops who are most affected by the General Convention's resolution to allow bishops and clergy to make a pastoral response in states with marriage equality:

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UK Christians welcome TEC resolutions

Ekklesia reports:

A leading UK network of Anglicans working for the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the life and ministry of the church has welcomed the US Episcopal Church's affirming stance.

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Episcopalians, Lutherans taking action on sexuality topics

ELCA News Service has released this statement: ELCA NEWS SERVICE
July 21, 2009

Episcopalians, Lutherans Taking Action on Sexuality Topics

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Letters to Archbishop of Canterbury, Primates on C056

From the Press Officer of the Episcopal Church:
Following its passage in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson sent a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams discussing Resolution C056 at the recently completed 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. (Text of letter is at the end.)

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A congregation's asset is its people

Whose job is it to build up the church? Daniel P. Smith and Mary K. Sellon write:

"Finances are tight, and our numbers are dwindling. The congregation is looking to me to turn things around. So is my denomination—that's exactly what I was told when I was appointed here. And, frankly, that's my expectation too. Isn't that my job?" says a pastor of a congregation that has been experiencing decline for many years, voicing the belief of many congregations, denominations, and pastors that when a congregation is declining, it is the pastor's job to fix it.

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Bishop Coadjutor writes Diocese of Virginia

The Diocese of Virginia has released letters from its three bishops. The bishop coadjutor, Shannon Johnston will become diocesan in October of this year. Below is his letter. All three letters can be read here. (A related editorial in the Richmond Times Dispatch is here.)

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Presiding Bishop writes the church

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued a letter to the church about General Convention, which was held July 8-17 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. "Above all else, this Convention claimed God's mission as the heartbeat of The Episcopal Church," Jefferts Schori says.

The full text of the Presiding Bishop's letter follows.

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ACNA member withdraws as bishop candidate in North Malawi

Anglican Information has sent a fresh email in the on-going saga concerning the Diocese of North Malawi [Central Africa] and the unfilled position of diocesan bishop:

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Progress in Sudan border dispute

There has been progress on settling the border between north and south Sudan, a dispute that has been amplified because significant oil revenue is in play.

From the BBC:

North and south Sudan have accepted a ruling by judges in The Hague which gives the north control of an oilfield.

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Like so many of the rest of you, when I think of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, my mind drifts back to the 1991 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls v. Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.

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CofE takes swine flu precautions

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York have "written to Bishops in the Church of England recommending the suspension of the sharing of the chalice at communion."

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Biking for life

From Episcopal Relief and Development:
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop of the Diocese of Ohio, and seven other cyclists persevere after riding for three days through extreme temperatures up to 120 degree in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. “Their dedication is an admirable display of their commitment towards raising funds for our NetsforLife® program partnership,” remarked Brian Sellers-Peterson, Director of Church Engagement for Episcopal Relief & Development.

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C of E offers same day service

Giving a new meaning to Married with Children, the Church of England has introduced a family-friendly ceremony where you and your co-habitating partner can marry, and your progeny can be baptized. The fee the church charges is virtually the same as if the ceremonies were conducted on separate occasions. A spokesman for the Church said the ceremony was environmentally and socially responsible given the substantial post-ceremony savings in hiring a venue and a caterer. (No, this is not a spoof.)

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Survey: Episcopal clergy, General Convention in step

Religious Dispatches:

[A] recent nationwide study of Episcopal clergy makes one thing clear: the American General Convention is not walking apart from the opinion of its own clergy.

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Horace Boyer 1935-2009

Horace Boyer, editor of the Episcopal Hymnal, Lift Every Voice and Sing, a beloved musician who loved teaching others to sing with passion, enthusiasm and excellence, has died at age 74.

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Straight believers in "gay" churches

Tiffany Stanley reports on the experience of straight people who are worshiping in congregations that are predominantly gay or lesbian. The report describes the experience of people in synagogues, main-line congregations and even in the predominantly LBGT Metropolitan Community Church denomination.

There's a mention of St. Thomas's Dupont Circle in Washington DC:

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Of birthdays and Ubuntu, General Convention as seen in the press room

Trying to describe General Convention and its atmosphere is hard enough in any year, but trying to make sense of the subtleties of this most recent Convention has been a stretch for everyone, whether deputy, visitor or reporter. Rebecca Wilson, who served in the press room of General Convention writes of how the atmosphere in that place was different this year.

She starts by recounting an impromptu birthday party by the gathered press for conservative blogger and reporter David Virtue and then observes:

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Mission statement available

The Episcopal Church's 2010-2012 triennial budget available now online. During floor debate the deputies rejected each of several amendments to the budget presented by the Program, Budget, and Finance committee.

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Lack of stewardship tackled during Church of England Synod

The Church Times wins this Friday's award for "Best Headline of the Week" with a report on the stewardship debate at the recently concluded Church of England Synod. The article headline? "Stewardship: Let's talk about wallets, not willies."

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Fort Worth welcomes California decision

UPDATE: Press release from the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and link to the ruling below.

A court in California issued a judgment earlier this week regarding a number of findings in the ongoing litigation surrounding the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Episcopalians who left the diocese and associated with the Anglican Church in North America.

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Blackburn Cathedral offers clean bread

The Times:

Worshippers at a Church of England cathedral are being offered a two-track Communion service with a separate supply of “untainted” Communion bread for those who object to its being consecrated by a woman priest.

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Changing environmental attitudes and actions

How can your church help make a long term difference to the environment and in the short run help people to simplify their lives?

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Saturday collection 7/25/09

Here is a collection of a few of the good things that Episcopalians and their congregations have done that made the news this past week. And other news fit to print.

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Jim DeLa offers a video wrapup of General Convention

He brought us a video primer on General Convention 2009 and now he's delivered a closer. He is Jim DeLa, President of Episcopal Communicators.

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How will your church adjust to demographic realities?

The Dallas Morning News Religion Blog:

What about religion? How do demographics shape the thinking of you who are in the pulpit, theology schools or the pew?

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Thanking God for the C of E

Christian Patterson on why she loves the Church of England:

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Icons of Resolve

From Susan Russell's blog: "A slide show of members of the Episcopal church, ... icons of what this church can and will be as it lives into the resolution passed at the 76th General Convention ... to collect those liturgical resources the church has asked to compile for consideration at the 77th General Convention." Watch here.

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And that's the way it was

Washington Post:

Faced with the prospect of having Cronkite stalked by gay activists and bikers, CBS lawyers relented.

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Mourning a life lost in Uganda

In 1976, the Sabune family lost their idealistic brother to the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in Uganda. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports how the family came together to mourn and remember these many years later:

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Christianity free Cathedrals

During a recent tour of Salisbury Cathedral a blogger noticed that not once was there any mention of Christianity or of Jesus as the motivation behind the creation of the extraordinary edifice. That noticeable lack of conversation about religion and about Christianity in England is suggested as part of a much larger problem that is contributing to a sea-change in morality in England.

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Archbishop of Canterbury responds to General Convention

The Archbishop of Canterbury has posted his thoughts on the actions of the most recent General Convention.

His paper opens:

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Bishops of Massachusetts respond to General Convention resolutions

The bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts have written to the people of their diocese and outlined a plan of widespread conversation to determine the appropriate diocesan response in light of the resolutions on human sexuality and pastoral care from General Convention.

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Reactions to +Rowan's essay vary

Earlier today the Archbishop of Canterbury posted an essay detailing his thoughts on the actions the most recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church has taken. Reactions to his reaction are starting to be posted. Not surprisingly the reactions fall along a rather broad spectrum. And people tend to see what they expected to see.

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Diocese of Northern Michigan officially notified

While it's not a great surprise to those who, like the Café, have been keeping track of the public announcements about dioceses and bishops consenting to the election of the new bishop in Northern Michigan, today the Presiding Bishop formally announced the "failed election" of Kevin Thew Forrester.

The Presiding Bishop's letter follows:

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Tale of two dioceses: Harare and Malawi

A report from Anglican-Information:

Zimbabwe and Malawi are two different countries with the ecclesiastical commonality of the Church of the Province of Central African (C.P.C.A.). They also have in common a quest for justice particularly on the part of an increasingly influential lay voice.

Read the whole report below.

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Northern Michigan responds to consent process


MARQUETTE, MI., July 28, 2009—The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northern Michigan released this statement today. The members of the Standing Committee are Linda Piper, president; Marsha Kleber, Marcia Franz, Hazel Satterly, Carol Clark, Sue Jamison, and Sue Ray.

The election of the Rev. Dr. Kevin Thew Forrester to be our bishop has not received the required consents from diocesan bishops and standing committees across the Episcopal Church. Elected at a Special Convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan held on February 21, 2009, Thew Forrester received 88% of the delegate votes and 91% of the congregational votes. We are disappointed and saddened by the outcome of the consent process.

We are a diocese of twenty-seven small congregations scattered across a wide geographical area—a forested land tucked among three Great Lakes in a place of great natural beauty and harsh climate. Our congregations are located in small towns with declining populations and in one of the country’s most economically depressed rural areas. However, while we may be small in numbers, we are committed and caring Christians who are faithful to the Episcopal Church and committed to our common life.

Now we will continue to discern God’s call to the people of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. We proceed with a sense of deep gratitude as members of the body of Christ in the Episcopal Church.

As we discern, we ask for the prayers of the people of the Diocese of Northern Michigan and of people throughout the Episcopal Church, especially diocesan bishops and standing committees.

We invite the wider church to reflect with us on what this experience can teach us about the episcopal search and consent process. Among the issues ripe for discussion are how bishops and standing committees can best be made aware of the particular needs of individual dioceses, and how new communications technologies affect the consent process. We hope that out of our disappointment can come a deeper understanding of the ways in which we can all be accountable to one another as members of the body of Christ.

contact: Linda Piper, lindap219@gmail.com

Tuesday roundup of reactions to ++Rowan's reflections

UPDATED: see below, including Chicago Consultation

Reactions from evangelical, conservative Episcopalians/Anglicans and others to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Reflections on the actions of The Episcopal Church General Convention actions for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, and transgender persons in the life and ministry of the church:

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Prosperity gospel in hard times

Clint Rainey, writing at Slate asks hard questions for the purveyors of the prosperity gospel:

In times of record-high foreclosures and Treasury Department scrambling to shore up loan-refinancing initiatives, the Prosperity Gospel can sound as if it comes from preachers who live under rocks, not in mansions: "God wants to give you your own house," big-cheese pitchman Joel Osteen announced in 2007's Your Best Life Now, which he penned in an economic Indian summer of a bull market and excited homebuyers. " 'How could that ever happen to me?' you ask. 'I don't make enough money.' Perhaps not, but our God is well able."

Osteen is everywhere these days. You see his coiffed pate smiling on Good Morning America, at the new Yankee Stadium for its first nonbaseball event, on the cover of Texas Monthly's ideas issue—all in one week. Yet he artfully disappears for housing-crisis questions like "Why, if God wants to reward the faithful with material possessions, are so many believers in foreclosure?"

Read more here.

Niagara blessings may create tensions

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Anglican Church of Canada, quoted in the Anglican Journal says, "The decision by the diocese of Niagara to offer same-sex blessings as of Sept. 1 is bound to create some tension among bishops, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada." More:

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I love to tell the story ...

Alban Institute discusses the importance of sharing the Christian story - from the earliest days of the followers of Jesus to our experience of the story today:

When I find myself feeling disillusioned about Sunday mornings I often wonder when worship as celebration became "going to church" as an act of obedience that appeases God. If we approach worship, Bible reading, participation in rituals, financial donation, or other "religious activities" as attempts to win God's favor, they become magic, every bit as much as dancing around a fire chanting incantations on moonlit nights. If, on the other hand, we approach these practices as ways to spend time with God, then we are involved in relationship.

It is more important than ever that we know and share our tradition. The risen Christ is actually present in the telling of the Christian story. It is essential that we tell the story—not talk about the story, not give directives based on the story, not modify or abridge the story—but tell the story. We need to tell the story with our words, through our relationships, and in our actions, and to trust its power as a vehicle of Christ's presence.

Read it all here.

Choice and the Archbishop

Sam Candler observes that Archbishop Williams' essay is mostly descriptive, but is also diagnostic and prescriptive. Here's what troubles Sam:

It is the way that Archbishop Rowan uses “choice” which is bothersome, as if it would be as easy for someone to choose a homosexual lifestyle as it would be them to choose a certain way of being Anglican. At their deepest levels of identity, neither homosexuality nor Anglicanism is a choice. In particular, Anglicans have claimed that Anglican Christianity is a gift; and part of that gift is a joint realization of local grace and global grace. I understand that certain formal parameters of an Anglican Covenant have yet to be developed, notably any “two-way” system. However, it seems to me a distinctly un-Anglican maneuver to sever local autonomy from global communion. Those very poles, taken together within one orbit, are exactly what define the structure of the wider Anglican tradition.
Read it all.

Some conservative response to the ABC's statement

Julia Duin of the Washington Times has dug out some responses to the statement by Rowan Williams regarding the actions of General Convention. The headline is "Anglican leader foresees two paths - Archbishop's essay draws fire":

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35 years ago today: Episcopal Church on the road to becoming unrecognizable

Susan Russell reminds us of the last great schism threat when the Episcopal Church risked becoming unrecognizable to other local churches in the Anglican Communion (and threatened ecumenism to boot),

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Ex-DJ webcasts Morning Prayer

[T]he Rev. [Dr.] Chip Lee is fortunate if he preaches to 100 souls on a Sunday.

But the former disc jockey-turned-Episcopal priest has hit on another way to reach the faithful.

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Where is the God of history and the Incarnation?

The question of the day over at Ask the Priest is "Why am I an Episcopalian?" We wonder if it's also the author's answer to the question, Where is the God of history and the Incarnation?

An extract:

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CNS: Anglican leader's concern for unity reflects Vatican concerns

That's the headline at Catholic News Service to this article. How ironic that the dateline is July 29, 2009 -- 35 years from the date of the first ordination of women in The Episcopal Church.

An extract:

Vatican concerns about how some recent decisions of the U.S. Episcopal Church will impact the search for full Anglican-Roman Catholic unity are echoed in a reflection by Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion.

Writing July 27 about the Episcopal Church's recent general convention, Archbishop Williams repeatedly referred to the need to keep in mind the ecumenical implications of local church decisions in addition to their impact on the unity of the Anglican Communion as a whole.
In a statement July 29, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity "supports the archbishop in his desire to strengthen these bonds of communion, and to articulate more fully the relationship between the local and the universal within the church," the statement said.

"It is our prayer that the Anglican Communion, even in this difficult situation, may find a way to maintain its unity and its witness to Christ as a worldwide communion," it added.

It is worth recalling the address Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave at the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference in July of 2008. An extract:
As you well know, the ordination of women to the priesthood in several Anglican provinces, beginning in 1974 to be exact, 35 years ago to the day, July 29 1974], and to the episcopate, beginning in 1989, have greatly complicated relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church....

As I stated when addressing the Church of England’s House of Bishops in 2006, for us this decision to ordain women implies a turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, that is, not only the Catholic Church but also the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox churches. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century.

Since it is currently the situation that 28 Anglican provinces ordain women to the priesthood, and while only 4 provinces have ordained women to the episcopate, an additional 13 provinces have passed legislation authorising women bishops, the Catholic Church must now take account of the reality that the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate is not only a matter of isolated provinces, but that this is increasingly the stance of the Communion. It will continue to have bishops, as set forth in the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888); but as with bishops within some Protestant churches, the older churches of East and West will recognise therein much less of what they understand to be the character and ministry of the bishop in the sense understood by the early church and continuing through the ages.

So there you have it. For its stance on woman's ordination the Anglican Communion has become more unrecognizable to Rome. Until Rome changes that will continue to be so. Ecumenism is a false argument to raise in the debate over unity of the Anglican Communion.

Jagger speaks to CoE Ethical Investment Advisory Group


Pressure was mounting on the Church of England tonight to use its power as a shareholder to stop mining company Vedanta Resources from opening a bauxite mine in a sacred part of India after it vowed to go ahead despite pleas from indigenous people.
Human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger said: "I appeal to the shareholders to hold Vedanta accountable to make sure it adheres to social, corporate and ethical responsibilities."

A spokesperson for the church, which has a £2.5m stake in Vedanta, said: "The church investors use their influence as shareholders to improve corporate behaviour. Working to a robust ethical investment policy, issues of concern are raised in a constructive and ongoing engagement, which experience has often shown to be the most successful way of bringing about change."

Read it here.

Bishop biking, not flying

Eight cyclists including led by biking enthusiast Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of the Diocese of Ohio left Anaheim on the closing day of General Convention. Destination: 815. Mission: Episcopal Relief and Development and NetsforLife®.

ENS reports they arrived in one piece -- more or less -- and have accomplished their objectives.

Hollingsworth and his team share billing with other bike-a-thons in this story from the Examiner.

Anglican church offers two track communion

We covered the story last week. Now Catholic News Agency has more:

The congregation can choose whether to receive communion bread blessed by Rev. [Sue] Penfold or bread blessed by a male priest at the main cathedral service on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

“This situation is not ideal, but we are trying to be inclusive,” Canon Hindley said, adding that Rev. Penfold had been appointed to Blackburn Cathedral to reflect the “board views” of the Church of England.

The communion practice was announced to worshipers when it was introduced last year but it is reportedly implemented in a “very discreet manner.”

The practice was attacked by Sally Barnes of the Anglican feminist group Women and the Church. She said it was “unacceptable and disgraceful” to turn communion into “a buffet.” She claimed the practice labeled women as “tainted” and that many people in the area have complained about it.

The traditional-leaning Anglican group Forward in Faith, which opposes women bishops, said the practice was unusual. According to This Is Lancashire, group spokesman Stephen Parkinson called it “bonkers” and said he did not understand why the women priests put up with it.

You can not make this stuff up.

For more, see our story from last week.

Tutu to receive US Medal of Freedom

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Anglican Archbishop emeritus of South Africa, Desmond Tutu will be among those receiving the US Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop emeritus who was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. Widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience,” he served as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 1978 – 1985, where he led a formidable crusade in support of justice and racial reconciliation in South Africa. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work through SACC in 1984. Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, and the Chair of the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995. He retired as Archbishop in 1996 and is currently Chair of The Elders.

Others named for the medal are:

Billy Jean King, tennis great who helped champion gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all areas of public life.

Rev. Joseph Lowery, U.S. civil rights leader who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott after Rosa Parks was denied a seat; he later co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Joe Medicine Crow, native American historian, the last living Plains Indian war chief and "the last person alive to have received direct oral testimony from a participant in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.''

Harvey Milk, pioneer of the modern LGBT movement, as one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and was assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone, by Dan White, a former supervisor in 1978.

Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court.

Sidney Poitier, groundbreaking African American actor and the first to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award.

Chita Rivera, powerhouse two-time Tony Award-winning actress, singer, and dancer who made her fame as Anita in "West Side Story,'' and has broken barriers for Latinos in a lifetime of outstanding work.

Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland and the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Janet Davison Rowley M.D., geneticist, the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers.

Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and economist who pioneered the use of "micro-loans" in anti-poverty campaigns to provide life-changing credit which has become the foundation of small businesses for millions of poor individuals without collateral.

Read more here.

A different sort of youth retreat

Duke Divinity School is trying something a little different than the typical youth summer camp experience in which so many church kids participate. The folks in the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation (DYA) are basically recreating a monastic/semarian experience.

From an article posted on the United Methodist website:

"Instead of typical youth ministry fare such as whitewater rafting or ski trips, DYA offers days that begin and end with worship and are punctuated throughout with study, work, common meals and rest. 

It’s a strange rhythm for today’s youth: 16- and 17-year-old kids hear lectures from seminary professors and work with artists as they learn to integrate art and Christian faith. They engage in local service projects and they spend time intentionally doing nothing. 

In short, for two weeks the DYA kids live something like a monastic life. 

And get this: they love it."

Read the full article here.

The Episcopal Church: The Flagship of Anglicanism

Marion Hatchett, a beloved professor of liturgics at Sewanee and a key figure in the development of the 1979 Prayer book and the 1982 Hymnal has some words of exhortation for the Episcopal Church.

From an quoting a speech he gave at General Seminary earlier this year:

"The American Church jumped way out ahead of the Church of England and other sister churches in a number of respects. One was in giving voice to priests and deacons and to laity (as well as bishops and secular government officials) in the governance of the national church and of dioceses and of parishes. The early American Church revised the Prayer Book in a way that went far beyond revisions necessitated by the new independence of the states.

At its beginning the American Church legalized the use of hymnody along with metrical psalmody more than a generation before use of 'hymns of human composure' became legal in the Church of England. At an early stage the American Church gave recognition to critical biblical scholarship.

The American Church eventually gave a place to women in various aspects of the life of the church including its ordained ministry. The American Church began to speak out against discrimination against those of same-sex orientation, and the American Church began to make moves in establishing full communion with other branches of Christendom.

Historically the American Church has been the flag-ship in the Anglican armada. It has been first among the provinces of the Anglican Communion to take forward steps on issue after issue, and on some of those issues other provinces of Anglicanism have eventually fallen in line behind the American Church. My prayer is that the American Church will be able to retain its self-esteem and to stand firm and resist some current movements which seem to me to be contrary to the principles of historic Anglicanism and to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures."

Posted at Susan Russell's blog here. The magazine with the full article should be arriving in alumni and subscriber homes shortly.

Britain's Quakers endorse gay marriage

Britain's Quakers have agreed to carry out same-sex marriages on the same basis as marriages for opposite-sex couples.

The BBC reports:

One of the UK's oldest Christian denominations - the Quakers - looks set to extend marriage services to same-sex couples at their yearly meeting later.

The society has already held religious blessings for same-sex couples who have had a civil partnership ceremony.

But agreeing to perform gay marriages, which are currently not allowed under civil law, could bring the Quakers into conflict with the government


The BBC says that the Quakers "had been more prepared than other groups to reinterpret the Bible in the light of contemporary life."

Ekklesia describes the debate:

The decision came after an intense week of debate and reflection at the Quakers' Yearly Meeting in York.

Emotions ran high in the discussions and several people of various views were visibly in tears. Many participants hugged each other and expressed delight as the decision was reached.

People working for equality and inclusion within other churches and faith groups will be encouraged by the decision.

Quakers are now likely to face a difficult time with the law, which currently offers same-sex couples only civil partnerships, in which no religious element is allowed.

The statement agreed by the Religious Society of Friends, as Quakers are otherwise known, comes 22 years after they began formal consideration of the issue.

The Quakers agreed this morning that they would “treat same-sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite-sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord's work and we are but witnesses”

They further declared that “the question of legal recognition by the state is secondary”.

Quaker same-sex marriages will now be “prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state in the same way as opposite-sex marriages”.

Read the BBC story here and the Ekklesia story here.

A test of faith

President Obama wants to appoint Dr. Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins is a physical chemist, a medical geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project and also wrote the book The Language of God. Pop Atheist Sam Harris says that's a bad idea because, as good as Collins' credentials may be, he is fundamentally unqualified because he believes in God and describes himself as an evangelical.

So which is worse? Appointing a person to a post solely because of their religious faith or denying a post to a person because it appears to some that religious faith is compatible with the job?

Harris applies a religious test in his understanding of the NIH director position because, as he writes,

As someone who believes that our understanding of human nature can be derived from neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics, among others, I am troubled by Dr. Collins’s line of thinking. I also believe it would seriously undercut fields like neuroscience and our growing understanding of the human mind. If we must look to religion to explain our moral sense, what should we make of the deficits of moral reasoning associated with conditions like frontal lobe syndrome and psychopathy? Are these disorders best addressed by theology?

Dr. Collins has written that “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” and that “the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted.”

One can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the institutes of health. After all, understanding human well-being at the level of the brain might very well offer some “answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” — questions like, Why do we suffer? Or, indeed, is it possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself? And wouldn’t any effort to explain human nature without reference to a soul, and to explain morality without reference to God, necessarily constitute “atheistic materialism”?

Ari Eisen at Religious Dispatches disagrees with Harris and says that in this case the atheist is being unreasonable.

First of all, and most importantly, (as Harris himself points out), Collins is a well-known and well-respected scientist, who among other significant achievements helped lead the NIH project to completely sequence the human genome. No one questions Francis Collins’ science or administrative credentials.

But, as we see regularly now in so many nomination proceedings, that’s not enough. The next question: Will the nominee be biased by their personal beliefs? Which is really another way of asking Does he or she believe in the same things I do?

So, here’s my reasoning on Collins. First, the NIH spends American tax dollars to help make Americans leaders in scientific and medical discovery and innovation. At last count , more than 90% of Americans believe in God or a higher power; more than half of us pray regularly. Now, this doesn’t prove, of course, that God exists, but given these statistics, isn’t it reasonable that the American representing and making decisions as NIH Director be both—of course a good thinker and scientist, but also someone who understands religion and believes in God?

Second, again as Harris points out, "there is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States." Now, much of what Harris calls ‘ignorance’ I would call "lack of open discussion and education" and much of this lack occurs between scientists and people of faith who often simply yell past each other.

So, who then could possibly make more sense to help address this ‘epidemic’ than a well-respected scientist who also claims himself among the 100 million evangelical Christians in America? What better person to lead, decide, think, bridge, and help us think better and more cooperatively on science and religion than Francis Collins?

What many atheists forget is they practice theology even when they deny God's existence, warn people about the dangers of belief, and promote the virtues of unbelief. If it is wrong to apply a religious test to assure that only evangelicals can hold government posts, it is equally wrong to apply a religious test that only atheists can make governmental decisions about scientific policy.

Read Harris' Op-Ed here and Eisen's essay here.

Center for Religion and Environment formed

The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, has announced the creation of the Center for Religion and Environment, which connects its College of Arts and Sciences, School of Theology, and All Saints Chapel in a partnership to strengthen its mission in education, church and society.
The center and the public programs it will offer reflect Sewanee's commitment to sustainability and its mission as an institution of the Episcopal Church.

Dr. Robin Gottfried, the center's founding director and professor of economics, notes that there is a need to change minds and hearts, to bring together the resources of the university to address the challenge he calls "environmental formation" -- integrating "faith, practice, and the understanding of environmental issues for our students."

Read the ENS story here.

Will good manners kill the C of E?

Andrew Brown thinks that passing an Anglican Covenant would ensure that that the Church of England will both become disestablished and split along ideological lines, but that most members of the CofE synod would not vote for it. MadPriest has asked around and finds that at the moment there is no organized response to the Anglican Covenant among progressives and liberals in the Church of England.

Brown writes:

Has Rowan Williams just set the Church of England on the road to disestablishment? Or does he envision it as standing outside the central body of Anglicanism that he is trying now to erect? I have just read carefully throughhis response to the American Church's recognition of equal gay rights, and there are two things that are really striking about it. The first is familiar from his earlier struggles with the matter: a certain airy disdain for the facts of the struggle in hand and the simple mutual hatred which has driven it for the last 20 years....

...English Anglicans have enough trouble taking seriously the opinions of their own bishops. The covenant would require them to obey foreign bishops as well. That's just not going to happen. The only churches to sign up to such a covenant will be those who are entirely certain they will never be outvoted in it. So it's quite possible that the Church of England itself might stand outside such an arrangement if it came to a synod vote. But what is still more likely is that it would split on the matter. The synod, after all, exercises its authority over the church on behalf of parliament. That's what establishment means. And I cannot imagine any parliament in 10 or 15 years' time agreeing to hand over powers to some wider Anglican body so that it can preserve the tradition of Christian homophobia. What would sooner happen would be disestablishment.

The Rev. Jonathan Hagger, aka MadPriest, at first assumed Brown was right--that the Church of England Synod would never pass on a theologically restrictive Covenant that shares authority with foreign Prelates-- but after asking around he has changed his mind.

Hagger finds that, as far as he can tell, there is no organized response to the Anglican Covenant among progressives. He writes:

I contacted some of the organisations within the Church of England that ought to be campaigning against the covenant. I discovered that there is no cohesive plan to mobilise Synod members to vote against it. There isn't even any real discussion going on in these organisations concerning what will happen if the covenant is adopted by the Church of England.

Basically, my church is sleepwalking into disaster. We are going to die because we are so damn polite and we don't like offending people.

Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be any understanding among Synod members of the importance of the Church of England in the debate over the covenant. Basically, if the English Synod was to vote against the covenant then it would be dead in the water in the rest of the world. You simply cannot have an Anglican covenant if the archbishop of Canterbury is not a fully signed up member of it because of the role of that office as an instrument of unity.

It seems to me that it is of the utmost importance that the progressives, liberals and radicals of the Church of England, along with anyone who is protective of our church's national identity and its establishment role of being a church for English society and the English culture, must get off their arses pretty damn quick and do something to stop the covenant now. If they do not, then not one of these people will have a place in the Church of England in a few years' time. If they vote for the covenant they will be voting for their own censorship. They will be voting for an end to freedom of thought and the right to speak their thoughts.

Read Brown here and MadPriest here.

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