globalgood.org

Emphasizing the top mission priority set by the General Convention in 2006 -- to carry out peace and justice ministries framed by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- the Episcopal Church's Office of Communication announces the launch of globalgood.org preceding the observance of Earth Day April 22.

Launched on April 20, globalgood.org "should be viewed as a portal," said Daphne Mack, a communication specialist in the Episcopal Church's Office of Communication and site editor of 'globalgood.org.' "Visitors to the site will learn about the MDGs, find out what kind of work the Episcopal Church and other organizations are doing to address the urgency of the goals and the environment, and more importantly how they can get involved and make a difference."

Adopted by the United Nations in 2000, the MDGs seek to reduce global poverty by half by the year 2015. The eight goals include eradication of hunger and preventable illness, and achievement of environmental sustainability.

"Advocacy for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals represents one way the Episcopal Church is carrying out its mission of 'restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ,'" said Alex Baumgarten, international policy analyst in the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations. "For this advocacy to be successful, it needs to come from Episcopalians across America, and the new Global Good web site represents one exciting new way of engaging those voices."

Globalgood.org has been designed to provide a clear message coupled with ease of navigation.
The links to organizations and current events have been categorized for general audiences and youth, as well as emphasizing environmental initiatives and opportunities for action.

"The new site is offered to support Episcopalians in helping to achieve the MDGs," said Canon Robert Williams, the Episcopal Church's director of communication. "Our hope is to widen collaboration locally, regionally, churchwide and internationally around the vision set by the Presiding Bishop and the General Convention, which the Office of Government Relations is helping Episcopalians carry out in partnership with Episcopal Relief and Development and other groups."

Contributions of stories, resources, and photographs are welcome from across the church, to this ever-evolving site and may be sent to Daphne Mack at dmack@episcopalchurch.org.

Empty Pews

On Sunday morning the empty pews and gray heads in Delaware's mainline churches are making some pastors a little anxious, says the Wilmington News Journal in a story relevant nationwide.

What We Have in Common

What can Episcopalians who have taken sides in our current conflict actually agree on theologically? An Episcopal seminarian and blogger has invited other Episcopalians to think about where they might agree instead of focusing on how others might be wrong.

Read more »

Important ruling in South Carolina

[Episcopal News Service] A South Carolina state judge has ruled that the minority of the members of the parish of All Saints, Waccamaw in Pawley's Island, South Carolina who remained loyal to the Episcopal Church do, in fact, constitute All Saints' Episcopal congregation.

The ruling arose from two different lawsuits, the earliest filed in 2000, over the issue of who owns the 50-acre campus that is also home to the breakaway Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). One of the cases arose in 2000 when the Diocese of South Carolina filed a public notice that All Saints, subject to applicable canon law, holds its property in trust for the diocese and the Episcopal Church as a whole. Attorneys for the diocese said that the notice was filed "out of concern that All Saints might attempt to convey its property" to the AMiA.

Read it all with special attention to the judge's reasoning. The Episcopal Church will be in a strong legal position if this logic is embraced by courts in other states.

2004: Bishop Salmon writes All Saints

As reported yesterday, the Diocese of South Carolina has won its latest legal round with the secessionist parish All Saints Pawley's Island.

Back in January 2004 Bishop Salmon (South Carolina) wrote to the members of the parish. His letter echoes current events that surround CANA. Here is some of what he wrote:

When Bishop Murphy was consecrated in Singapore in an irregular consecration in 2000, I was not in favor of the consecration because I believed that it would be divisive to orthodox unity. I believe it has. I could not change the fact that it had taken place. Since Bishop Murphy was no longer under our Canons, I had no control over the exercise of his ministry. The hope and expectation was that All Saints Parish would remain a faithful part of the Diocese of South Carolina.

When the Vestry in Moorehead City, N.C. voted to leave the Diocese of East Carolina they first transferred title to the church property to another group, and then informed the bishop that they were leaving the Diocese of East Carolina. Because of this the Chancellor advised me to record in the Georgetown County Courthouse, the Canons of the Diocese reflecting the requirement regarding property under which all congregations operate.
...
I discovered, by happenstance, that the All Saints vestry had voted to amend the 1902 Charter which the then serving Chancellor had assisted the parish in securing. By way of background, the granting of the 1902 Charter by the Secretary of State was followed by the Trustees of the Diocese’s conveying the title to the church property to All Saints Church Parish by quit claim deed dated 1903.
...
The basic issues on the table are those of lawlessness and the stability of the Diocese itself. We have no theological issues with All Saints. If any parish in the Diocese can unilaterally decide to not be under the Canons, appoint vicars, do what they want to when they want to, our strength as a Diocese is soon destroyed. There is no authority, only individual choice. That is exactly why the Episcopal Church is in the mess it is in. Bishops have individually acted without accountability, believe or not believe as they choose. That is lawlessness. It is my duty to oppose it.

I have met with members of All Saints who are loyal to the Diocese. It was my decision to treat the loyal membership as a parish rather than a mission.

The full letter is available in the titusonenine archives here.

Churches March for Immigrant Rights

Revival of sanctuary movements among churches and lobbying for immigrant rights have become ways that Episcopal Churches are joining with other faith groups and with workers and their families to respond to Jesus' command to love our sisters and brothers. Many marched on May 1st with Immigrant Rights groups.

"Immigrant-rights groups around the United States marched on May 1 to urge Congress to pass legislation that will make the immigration system one that balances enforcement with acknowledgment of the need for an expanded program to permit foreign workers to enter the country legally. Immigrant-rights and faith-based advocates of reform, including the Episcopal Church, have consistently pressed for allowing those immigrants without documentation the chance to earn credit toward permanent status if they are employed and meet certain additional requirements.

Read more »

Conservatives disapprove of CANA

Beyond the pomp of yesterday's service and the buzz, it is too early to predict the future of Minns's group and the conservative movement in general, clergy and scholars say.
The Washington Post has a page A01 story on Saturday's installation of Bp. Minns by Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria:

Read more »

Church Thriving

The Presiding Bishop in Iowa:
"...one of the great joys I've had in my first six months, getting to travel and see the health and vitality that exists in this church,'' she told a crowd of about 300 at Christ Episcopal Church [Cedar Rapids.] "I know it's not always what you read in the newspaper or hear on the news, but it's true.''

Read more »

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

It's one thing to have a grand liturgy in a rented space. But, according to a report in the Post and Courier of Charleston, SC, it is quite another thing to take the property with you.

In his article, Post and Courier reporter Adam Parker contextualizes the installation Saturday of Bishop Martyn Minns as Missionary Bishop of the Church of Nigeria. He writes today that:

Efforts to achieve realignment, however, have been complicated by church property disputes. A recent court ruling concerning All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, on Pawley's Island favored the Episcopal Church's position that individuals can elect to leave the church but parishes cannot.

In the ruling, S.C. Court of Common Pleas Judge W. Thomas Cooper said that the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical structure, and that its former vestry members are not officers of All Saints Parish, which belongs to those who remained part of the U.S. church.

But, virtually ensuring future legal challenges, he also noted the mixture of civil and ecclesiastical law: "Which of two church factions should be recognized as the 'communicants' who, under the parish's constitution, make up the voting members of the church and are therefore entitled to choose its officers?" Cooper wrote in the ruling.

"That quintessentially religious question is left up to the church authorities."

The judge ordered that the amendments made to the parish's certificate of incorporation, amendments meant to disassociate the parish from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina, are to be canceled, and he said members of the breakaway parish did not have a legal right to use the property.

According the text of the actual ruling, a parish can neither unilaterally change their corporate amendments to become an independent, congregational church from a hierarchical church nor can they unilaterally transfer themselves to another hierarchical church without both violating the first amendment rights of the Episcopal Church or without constituting a fraud towards the members who are communicants of the church.

In addition, the judge wrote that the definition of a communicant is set out by the Episcopal Church not the parish. As soon as the members declared themselves members of another denomination, in this case the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) via the Church of Rwanda, they ceased to be communicants in the Episcopal Church and their vote to leave was invalid.

Readers wishing to more fully understand the strategic ins and outs should read the Report of the House of Bishops' Task Force on Property Disputes which has just become available over at Daily Episcopalian.

Another Property Dispute Settled in Court

A Florida state judge has agreed with the Episcopal Diocese of Florida's claim that it and not a group of dissidents owns the property of the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville.

"We expect to regain possession of the church property very soon and Episcopal worship and ministry under the leadership of the Rev. Davette Turk will be resuming at Redeemer shortly," the diocese said in a statement on its website.

Fourth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Karen K. Cole ruled on April 27 that Florida state law requires her to accept the diocese's determination of who is the rightful occupant of a congregation's property.

She wrote that the state law defers to decisions made by the "highest ecclesiastical authority" in a denomination structured as a "hierarchical church." Such a denomination is one that is organized into governing bodies of hierarchical ascending jurisdiction, Cole explained.

This is the second civil court settled in favor of an Episcopal diocese in as many weeks.

Read the summary judgment by Judge Cole here.

Read the Episcopal News Release item here.

Zahl Resigns

The Very Rev. Paul F.M. Zahl resigns as Dean of Trinity Seminary due to personal reasons. The Living Church reports:

The Very Rev. Paul F.M. Zahl has notified the board of trustees of his intention to resign as dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa. An announcement from the seminary is expected soon.

According to two independent sources, the decision was a personal one and came as a surprise to the board, which is meeting this week for its regularly scheduled spring convocation. The sources declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak on behalf of the seminary.


Read it all HERE

UPDATE: from TitusOneNine

The Rev. Canon David H. Roseberry, Chairman of the Board, said “It is our commitment to continue our task of forming leaders for mission. The Anglican World looks to Trinity and we have an essential mission at a critical time in history. We love Paul and we are very thankful for the contribution he has made to Trinity. We wish God’s blessing and best for him and Mary and their family.”
A refresher on Zahl's rhetoric:
  • March 22, 2007: "It is time for all of us [to] give up, and give up unconditionally. "
  • May 4, 2006: he likened the possible election of a gay bishop to "a terrorist bomb, which is timed to destroy a peace process."
  • May 10, 2006: he describes those with whom he is in theological disagreement as "Brown shirts" and warns against "this menace over our heads, which is the gay-agenda steamroller."

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New bishop for Seattle

The Rev. Dr. Gregory Rickel was elected today to be the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in western Washington. Rickel, 43, rector of St. James' Episcopal Church, Austin, Texas, was elected on the third ballot from a slate of five nominees. Episcopal News Service has the story.

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Worksheet for Draft Covenant Study Guide

ADDED May 16: "“Evaluating the Draft Covenant” contains the Study Guide from the Executive Council, the Covenant Design Group report with the draft covenant itself, the Windsor Report with its own covenant draft, and background materials like the “Historical Documents of the Church” section of the prayer book. “Evaluating the Draft Covenant” makes all the documents people are most likely to want to examine when responding to the Study Guide, including a few obscure ones and two items not available elsewhere. One of these is a compilation of all the scripture cited in the covenant draft."

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has posted a worksheet as an aid to members of the Episcopal Church who are working their way through the Study Guide published by the sub-committee of Executive Council

Episcopalians intending to answer the 14 questions about the draft Anglican covenant posed in the Executive Council’s Study Guide have a difficult task ahead, even aside from the fast-approaching June 4 deadline for submissions. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) hopes to make the task less burdensome by making available a Microsoft Word worksheet to help Episcopalians capture their thoughts.

The worksheet, which can be used by all but the oldest versions of Microsoft’s word processing software, provides a place for a person to enter his or her name, address, parish, etc. It then lists all 14 questions and provides places for answers to be filled in. Having all the questions together—the questions are separated by discussion in the Study Guide—helps the reader organize what he or she intends to say. Most people will want to use the worksheet as a Word form, which allows the user to move from one answer to another without worry about inadvertently changing the questions or the format of the document.

The folks at PEP are encouraging all interested parties who have not yet done so, to use the worksheet and send the result on to the General Convention Secretary prior to the deadline mentioned above.

The worksheets and instructions for their use can be found at Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh: Worksheet for Draft Covenant Study Guide
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Feedback Policy.

Hiding in plain sight

Episcopal News Service--This is one of the most exciting times in history to be an Episcopalian and an Anglican, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said during a May 9 presentation to the Church Club of New York, a 120-year-old layperson's group.

"The Communion is moving, in what some people see as seismic kinds of ways, but it's moving. It's not a dead and dormant thing," she said to applause.

A multimedia presentation of the Presiding Bishop's speech is available here.

While many tell her she has a "challenging job," Jefferts Schori answered: "I don't think that's a bad thing. I think we are meant to be challenged in the varieties of work and ministry in which we are engaged. If we're not challenged, we're likely bored, and that's not healthy for anyone."

Read it all.

Friends in Honduras

"You are transforming the world beginning in your own place," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the people of Sangre de Toro, Honduras, an isolated mountain Gotas de Sangre community, praising their newly built houses as "a sacrament of the reality that God loves us, and of human dignity being restored."

Read it all.

New leader for VTS

The Board of Trustees of the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) announced that Dr. Ian Markham, dean of Hartford Seminary and professor of Theology and Ethics, will become 14th dean and president of VTS succeeding the Rev. Martha J. Horne, who is retiring after 13 years service with distinction as dean and president of the Alexandria-based seminary.

Read it all.

We're no stranger to controversy

From Episcopal Life Online:

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson told a gathering of Episcopalians in Denver May 20 that Christianity has always been embroiled in controversy and that, while the Episcopal Church is no different, it "has the Good News of reconciliation to bring to this world and we are doing that in amazing ways."

"We walk along God's tightrope balancing our great value for diversity with our desire to speak with one voice," Anderson told the Martyn Hart Legacy Society.

Of particular note are her comments on Sunday's Epistle while preaching at St. John's Cathedral in Denver:


Noting that the Epistle reading that day included the Bible's last words, Anderson said, "People of faith have good reason to pay attention to last words. In them we find the distilled essence of the message, we find the truth."

In the case of the last words of the Revelation to John, Anderson noted, the words form an invitation, "not of judgment or harsh words -- but of open invitation."

"What is most important is the invitation," she said. "We are invited to God through Jesus. In turn, we are invited to invite others -- to share the story, the power, the transformation, the comfort, the justice of God through Christ."

The latest from Colorado

By Andrew Gerns

A Colorado congregation that has affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, and is attempting to keep the property it occupies from being retained by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, announced the results of a week of voting today. The vote is not recognized as valid by the diocese and is unlikely to keep the parish out of court with the diocese.

In a news release dated May 26, 2007, the parish leadership of Grace and St. Stephen's, Colorado Springs, announced the vote which took place from Sunday, May 20th through Saturday, May 26th, saying that 93% of the congregations members chose to align the congregation with CANA and keep the property they now occupy.

According to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette, there were 370 votes cast and 342, or 93%, were in favor of the parish leaving the Episcopal Church and joining CANA. The tally was 348 to 22 about authorizing the vestry to fight to retain control of the $17 million dollar plant.

Before the break-up, the parish reported a membership of 1500-2000 communicants. The breakaway parish claims 600 to 800 of these, while the Diocese claims that 200 to 400 members of the original parish now worship in the borrowed space down the street.

Robert McJimsey, a retired Colorado College professor who is spokesman for the members who have remained in the diocese, said “It’s sad and difficult for us in the parish. Episcopalians take seriously the word 'communion' — which means coming together in spiritual fellowship. And once you vote to leave the communion, it’s difficult to lose contact with those you have worshipped with a long time.”

Diocesan Bishop Robert O'Neill called the vote invalid. Diocesan spokesperson Becket Stokes said that people are free to leave the Episcopal Church, but parishes are not.

Vote Affirms a Previous Vestry Action

The vestry of the breakaway parish voted on March 26th that “Grace Church and St. Stephens Parish will leave the Episcopal Church effective immediately” and characterized the vote completed yesterday as simply an affirmation of the vestry action.

The vote was taken using voting booths and a ballot box borrowed from El Paso county which were arranged for by Bob Balink, a member of the breakaway parish's vestry and elected clerk and recorder of the county, according to a report in the Colorado Springs Independent.

The rector of the breakaway congregation, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, states that they will no longer carry the Episcopal flag in procession, instead using a flag bearing the compass rose of the Anglican Communion. The congregation's website has proclaim the parish to be a member of CANA since well before the election and the rector and some of the clergy were received into CANA before the process leading up last week's vote, called 40 Days of Discernment, was completed.

Episcopal Congregation Discourages Participation

A blog entry on the website of the Episcopal Congregation discouraged people from voting because the vote would be meaningless. An April 24th post said that “the position of the Episcopal Church is that the parish vote, sponsored by the secessionist vestry, to join CANA is an illegal action and has no recognized validity.” Members of the congregation who chose to remain with the Episcopal congregation now worship in borrowed space in a Christian Church-Disiciples of Christ congregation down the street.

Noting that the Episcopal parish continues despite the congregation that occupies their property, the blog says that “Episcopalians have no interest in this participation because the real estate issues will be handled in the courts....”

The leadership of the Episcopal parish contends that the rules established by the breakaway parish make the outcome of the vote a foregone conclusion. The rules establised for the vote require that members of the Episcopal parish must re-register as members of the CANA congregation, contribute to the new congregation and attend its worship. Members of the Episcopal congregation voiced concern that the use of the rolls, or even the possibility of signed ballots, might be used in court in validate the breakaway parish's claim.

Information posted by the CANA parish about the vote published in their newsletter and posted on their website was unclear as to the eligibility of Episcopalians who might have attempted to vote, expect to say that some cases would be handled individually. The question of a necessary quorum is also not addressed in the newsletter.

Controversy Surrounds Rector

The Rector of the breakaway parish, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, has been rector of Grace and St. Stephen's for twenty years. Armstrong was inhibited by the Diocese in December and is under investigation for misappropriation of church funds, a charge which Armstrong denies.

Armstrong refuses to recognize the charges or the inhibition since he is no longer an Episcopal priest but a priest of the Church of Nigeria through CANA. He characterizes the charges as persecution for his conservative religious views.

The Diocese issued an extensive report including the results of the work of a forensic accountant which led to the charges being filed.

According to The Independent, Alan Crippen, a spokesman for the secessionist vestry, says "The die is cast for Father Armstrong." Armstrong already has left the Episcopal fold, Crippen said, and that if parishioners don't vote to join him, Armstrong would leave Grace, probably with many of his supporters.

Controversy has followed Armstrong even among fellow conservatives. Until recently, Armstrong was executive director of the Anglican Communion Institute until that group decided in light of the ongoing investigation to incorporate in Texas and remove Armstrong, who has said that the ACI's “mission is no longer valid.”

CANA Claims in Dispute

CANA, which the breakaway parish has now joined, claims to be a member of the Anglican Communion by way of its association with the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

Last week, the Missionary Bishop of CANA, Martyn Minn, was not invited to next year's Lambeth Conference. The meeting, called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, meets every ten years and is open to Bishops from jurisdictions in the Anglican Communion who are recognized as being in communion with Canterbury. Minns was not invited because, according the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearnon of the Anglican Communion Office, CANA has no standing as Anglican entity.

The Primate of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, disputes this, saying Minns was properly appointed and consecrated in Nigeria, and that CANA has a claim equal to any diocese in Nigeria.

Other bishops with claims similar to Minns were not invited to the Lambeth conference of 1998 by the then Archbishop, George Carey, as well as being excluded from next year's meeting by Williams.

The Rev. Andrew Gerns is the rector of Trinity Church, Easton, Pa., and a news blogger for Episcopal Cafe. He keeps the blog Andrew Plus.

A Great Time to Be an Episcopalian

Responding to comments on her article in God's Politics: a blog by Jim Wallis and Friends on BeliefNet, Diana Butler Bass writes about her love for the Episcopal Church and its ability to engage tough questions.

I don't often jump into the comments, but my church--The Episcopal Church--does NOT thumb its nose at non-western brothers and sisters on matters of faith. The Episcopal Church has been greatly enriched by a willingness over the years to learn from our global friends, an opennesss to non-western theologies and political expressions of the Gospel.

In Episcopal pews (not the desks of the evangelical seminary from which I graduated, one that was relentlessly Euro-centric--even to to point of ridiculing the rest of the world), I first learned various African, South American, and Asian theologies, heard the voices of African and Asian preachers, prayed the liturgies of Native New Zealanders, Native Americans, South Africans, and Indians. As a church we weren't always historically very sensitive--and too often outright oppressive--but, overall, we learned from our mistakes and have been moving toward a much more generous theological vision, one that includes the insights, perspectives, struggles, and hopes of the God's beautifully diverse world.

That said, the Episcopal Church is struggling with SOME African, South American, and Asian church leaders at the moment over one issue: What is a deeply Christian understanding of sexual identity? (Although we probably should be struggling over the roles of women and children, the sex trade, poverty, and political oppression, too--if we were as faithful as we should be). That one issue, and the myriad of cultures in which the question is being addressed, should in no way obscure what has been, over the last half century, an increasing open, charitable, and mutually beneficial relationship between members of a great communion of Christians across the West and well beyond.

If we were just snubbing the non-western churches, this all wouldn't hurt so much. And, if you doubt me, ask any Episcopalian--even the most theologically liberal, pro-gay ordination one you can find--and ask how terribly painful, conscience-stirring, and prayerful this all has been. Nothing that has happened in the last six years has been done in the trivial, dismissive way your post suggests.

But pain doesn't go away by ceasing to be one's authentic self in God in order to please other people and make conflict disappear. Diversity, and true openness to diversity, will always cause conflict and tension because we are all different--even if we all live into the baptism acclamation that Jesus is Lord. Indeed, conflict suggests that people take one another more seriously than not (I fight with my husband more than anyone else!) and suggests that, as a church, the Episcopal Church has genuinely opened itself to being a true partner in global Christianity. We are trying to find ourselves in ubuntu theology--the theology expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu--that "I am a person insofar as you are a person." In mutual humanity, we find wonder, love, and God.

As we have opened to others and their voices and visions of God, we have also found God in new ways in our own midst--with our unique voice, history, and perspective. Indeed, being able to listen to people from the rest of world taught me how to listen to my closest neighbors--including my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. To communicate the biblical passions of the American Episcopal Church, our historical experience, spiritual insights, and the pain of our prayers is our vocation in the midst of all this global change. It is a noble task, even if we don't always get it just right.

And the struggle makes it a great time to be an Episcopalian. You can't avoid tough questions, you have to know what you believe, you have to delve into God's embracing heart of love and justice. Frankly, as churches go, it is a really pretty good one (How's that for a church sign? "The Really Pretty Good Church"). You just wouldn't know that from the partisan blogosphere or from reading the New York Times.
Diana Butler Bass, Homepage, 05.30.07 - 4:13 pm | #

Name It and Claim It

Episcopalians in The Falls Church, VA, who did not vote to leave the Episcopal denomination last December have stepped in to claim the historic name of the church, and are now calling their on-going worship and outreach efforts The Falls Church Episcopal Church according to The Falls Church Gazette. "Representatives of the church set up a booth at Monday’s Falls Church Memorial Day Parade and Festival and distributed hundreds of colorful brochures emphasizing an open and welcoming posture and describing about their activities."

Read it all HERE

Have you given up hope and reason?

In a recent comment on a posting here on evolution Tobias Haller wrote:

When "religion" is only around to plug the gaps in understanding the world, and science comes along and plugs those gaps more effectively and persuasively, religion will feel assaulted. That is why a faith that is based more on a Who than a Why or How is more lively, and surely at the root of Christianity we have a grasp on Who we worship. In the long run, this Who is at the base of everything, not just the gaps.
I wonder if The Rev. Dr. Leslie Fairfield is one of those who feels assaulted. In an interview the professor emeritus of church history at Trinity seminary in Ambridge stated:
There are dozens of consequences that follow from our choice between Biblical Anglican Christianity and Modernism. Let me just mention two.

If you opt for Modernism, you give up hope. The "god" of Modernism is simply the "force" that's spinning a sick system. Even a nine-second appraisal of human behavior immediately reminds us that we're in big trouble. And even in American suburbia (gasp) there are intractable problems that don't go away when you throw money at them or go serve at the soup kitchen. Drugs, teen suicide…you fill in the blanks. The Modernist "god" offers absolutely no hope, no intervention from outside, no autonomous burst of healing energy. Because the Modernist "god" is finally simply our experience - in other words, Us.

If you opt for Modernism, likewise, you give up reason. Let me say that again…if you opt for Modernism, you give up any hope of rationality or accurate knowledge. If "mind" is not a gift from God - a possibility that Modernism categorically excludes - then "mind" is simply a random product of genetic inheritance plus accidental environmental stimuli. Therefore a thought in my head is as likely to have been caused by some ancestral experience on the African savannah as it has of portraying the tree I'm looking at right now.

All of which is to say that Biblical Anglican theology is Christianity, and Modernism isn't.
Dr. Fairfield figures that if you are not in his Biblical Anglican theology camp then you are in this Modernist camp. Is he right? Or has he misunderstood the nature of the division that exists?

Doing the Math

Alan Cooperman, of the Washington Post reports that 200-250 churches have joined other provinces. epiScope and Father Jake take a look at how the WP came up with these figures. It seems that many were never Episcopal Churches or broke away years ago over the ordination of women, the Prayer Book, or previous issues.

Jan Nunley of epiScope writes:

It looks as though Cooperman has simply taken his numbers from claims made on various dissident groups' websites and by their spokespersons.

So far, the heads, or primates, of Anglican provinces overseas have taken under their wings 200 to 250 of the more than 7,000 congregations in the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.

That's a claim apparently made by Archbishop Akinola in a recent story. There's no hard evidence presented to back it up, for one good reason: not all, or even most, of those congregations--however many there are--ever were TEC congregations.

[AMiA] has grown at the rate of one church every three weeks and now numbers about 120 congregations, with five bishops.

Which makes it sound as though AMiA has had a steady rate of growth; in fact, the majority of those churches were factions of TEC congregations, new plants or "house churches" founded in the first year or so of AMiA's existence.

epiScope continues:

The misleading part is that uninformed readers naturally assume--from what's implied in Cooperman's lead--that "congregations" in these cases means "full duly constituted congregations of TEC, with their physical plants": in other words, just like St. Swithin's-in-the-Swamp down the street.

And that's just not the case. They're either splits off existing TEC congregations (which continue as TEC congregations), or new church plants, or "house churches" meeting in homes or hotels under lay leadership, or--in a great many cases--"continuing Anglican" congregations long outside Canterbury's official fold and seeking a way back in.

Read the rest here.

Father Jake corrects the Washington Post's math:

There are about 45 congregations, less than 1%, that have claimed to have left the Episcopal Church. Almost all of these congregations have been reconstituted by a group from within the congregation that remains faithful to the Episcopal Church.

More reflections on ACK, CANA, NAAC, and other foreign primatial incursions at Preludium

Live blogging the Pittsburgh District VII meeting

Jamie at Luminous Darkness is live blogging the meeting tonight of District VII in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It's all here.

An extract:

I asked my question and finished by saying: “I would like to hear from you who attended the Diocesan Leadership Retreat what was specifically discussed about the fact that resisting, as you say, morphed into leaving The Episcopal Church.” I got three answers from the panel...
Emphasis added.

Remembering Jamestowne 400 Years Later

An estimated 1,200 people attended an outdoor morning service commemorating "the 400th anniversary of the planting of the Church in America on Jamestowne Island in Virginia" and the settlers' first Holy Communion there, rites at which the Rev. Robert Hunt officiated on May 14, 1607 under a sail taken from one of the settlers' three ships, according to a report written by Bob Williams for Episcopal Life Online.

The fabric of four centuries of history -- woven with the 1607 beginnings of the Jamestown Settlement, Native American responses, and the rise of the African slave trade -- was prayerfully examined on June 24 as Episcopalians gathered for Eucharist to mark the church's 400-year heritage in the region.

Recalling the settlers' original sailcloth, canvas suspended from trees shaded the rough-hewn altar around which bishops from the four dioceses that comprised the original Virginia of 1785 gathered with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for Eucharist at which Bishop John Clark Buchanan of Southern Virginia was celebrant.

Also at the table were the bishops of Liverpool, England, and Kumasi, Ghana, both representing points of a "triangle of hope" engaged in continued healing and reconciliation in the slave trade's wake.

Read the rest here.

"The right of the general church to enforce a trust on the local parish property is clear."

From the Los Angeles Times:

In August 2004, the dissident parishes pulled out of the six-county Los Angeles Diocese and the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church, citing differences over biblical interpretation, including what they described as the diocese's too-lenient views on homosexuality. Instead, they placed themselves under the jurisdiction of a conservative Anglican bishop in Uganda.

The Los Angeles Diocese sued, arguing that the parishes held their church buildings in trust for the diocese and the national Episcopal Church and thus were not entitled to the property. An Orange County trial judge, in separate decisions, had ruled in favor of the parishes.

The legal battle has been both a tug-of-war over real property and a local reflection of tensions at the heart of a deepening rift within the Episcopal Church, and between that church and much of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church is the American branch of Anglicanism, but for years has been at odds with much of the communion over the U.S. church's more liberal views on homosexuality and other issues.

In Monday's ruling, however, presiding Justice David G. Sills, who wrote for the panel, made clear that it had confined its decision to the property dispute and not the broader controversy.

"Readers will look in vain in this opinion for any indication of what religious controversy may have prompted the disaffiliation," Sills wrote. " … That controversy is irrelevant to this action."

Sills later concluded, "The right of the general church in this case to enforce a trust on the local parish property is clear."

Bishop Bruno's reaction hinted at the possibility of reconciliation:
Bruno and diocesan attorney John R. Shiner have argued that the issue was not free speech or even theological differences, but who had rightful claim to the property. "While individuals are always free to leave the Episcopal Church and worship however they please, they do not have the right to take parish property with them," Bruno said.

But Bruno also said he would welcome back "with open arms" any dissident church members — or their rectors — who chose to return. "We want to move forward with these as Episcopal churches," he said. "I don't want to be punitive with them. I want to be loving and go forward."

The diocese has issued a press release.

The Lead's initial coverage of the decision, including links to the 77-page decision, can be found here.

Dissident Episcopalians had thought the California courts followed rules of church divisions that were particularly favorable to their cause. Comment at conservative Episcopal blogsites has been heavy and mixed. One commenter at Stand Firm stated:

I am/was a member of one of the churches still being sued in L.A. I just joined in January. After speaking with some vestry members, I come to find out that these folks had really no idea what they were getting themselves into. I am not a lawyer but am a law school grad from here in LA and I was astonished at the lack of true counsel.
His entire comment can be read here.

More coverage:

  • Appeals court rebuffs Newport Beach parish – A rebel parish that broke with its parent church in a clash over doctrine and homosexuality has no rights to its waterfront ...
  • Church may forfeit land - In a stunning reversal of a lower court decision, an appeals court ruled Tuesday that a Long Beach church may have to forfeit ...
  • Church ordered to forfeit property - Panel rules the Episcopal Diocese of LA has the right to claim St. James' property as a result of its split from the diocese. By Michael Miller St. James ...

At Jamestown the Presiding Bishop points to the evil and the good in our history

From Anglican Communion News Service as reported by Canon Robert Williams
of ENS:

The fabric of four centuries of history - woven with the 1607 beginnings of the Jamestown Settlement, Native American responses, and the rise of the African slave trade - was prayerfully examined on June 24 as Episcopalians gathered for Eucharist to mark the church's 400-year heritage rooted in the region.

Recalling the settlers’ original sailcloth, canvas suspended from trees shaded the rough-hewn altar around which bishops from the four dioceses that comprised the original Virginia of 1785 gathered with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for Eucharist....acns4297a-hi-res1.jpg

Also at the table were the bishops of Liverpool, England, and Kumasi, Ghana, both representing points of a "triangle of hope" engaged in continued healing and reconciliation in the slave trade's wake.
...
Full text of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon is available here.

That narrative includes "the story of the first Christian convert, Matoaka" (better known by her childhood name Pocahontas), an account "rife with ... ambiguous complexity," the Presiding Bishop said. Meanwhile, she noted that "the good news managed to be spoken, and done, even in the midst of diabolic tales."acns4297thumb.jpg
...
Bishop Peter James Lee, who has led the Diocese of Virginia for some 22 years, said the two bishops' presence at the service was for him a highlight of the observance. Lee called the day "a wonderful witness to the breadth, depth and hope of the Episcopal Church."

jamestown-400th0311.jpgHost Bishop John Buchanan of Southern Virginia agreed. "I'm grateful for opportunities to do things together with other folks - involving the other three dioceses of Virginia and and the visiting bishops from Liverpool and Ghana. These are wonderful community-building activities."

Bishop Buchanan joined West Virginia Bishop Michie Klusmeyer and Southwestern Virginia Bishop Neff Powell in commending the Presiding Bishop's sermon. "She addressed issues and reminded us of things we are not proud of," Bishop Buchanan said, "and she reminded us that we've made progress in redeeming some of these issues."

"The humility to re-examine our certainties will begin the prophetic re-telling of those tales," the Presiding Bishop added in her homily. "None is complete villain, none completely immune to error. None of these tales is completely ended as long as we continue to tell them and search for the new life that may yet emerge. Our humility to keep telling and looking - and even prowling around - will bring new and better news."



Richmond Times Dispatch coverage of the day is here. Its interview with Katharine Jefferts Schori is here.

Thinking about the property disputes

At the Café we've kept a lookout for thoughtful pieces on the recent court decision in favor of the Diocese of Los Angeles and its larger significance. Here's what we've found thus far.

Tobias Haller writes:

Even a casual reading of the court’s decision shows that the earlier decision was a major departure — and an erroneous one — from many times more decades of precedents; moreover, precedents recognized throughout the US, based on a decision of the Supreme Court concerning implied and explicit trusts. The earlier California decision was an anomalous departure from the principal of stare decisis, as the Court of Appeals makes clear, and it led to an uneven and confusing application of law.

Moreover, much as folks like to demean the Dennis Canon, it is the law of the church; moreover, it was created in response to the request of the Supreme Court to render implied trusts (on the basis of which such cases had been decided up until then as sufficient) explicit. In short, there was no change in practice with the introduction of the Dennis Canon, merely a spelling out of what was already implied by both uniform practice and the already long-existing canons on alienation, to which I referred above. (Parishes cannot alienate, that is abuse, church property without the permission of the bishop and standing committee — clear evidence of the hierarchical nature of such decision-making processes concerning property.)

That's just a taste. Read all that Tobias has to say here.

Another of our reliable sources, Father Jake, provides a great roundup of analysis. Included is this quotation of Richard Zevnik, a lawyer familiar with the case and the ruling:

Procedurally, the disaffected congregations have 30 days to petition for rehearing in the Court of Appeal. Given the standards applicable to granting rehearing and the depth of analysis of the Court of Appeal's decision, there is little likelihood rehearing would be granted if a petition were filed. When the 30 days expires, the congregations then have 10 days to petition for review in the CA Supreme Court. Such a petition is reasonably likely. Review by CA Supreme Court is discretionary. It is also relatively unlikely given the procedural posture of the case.

The Court of Appeal's decision essentially has tied the trial court's hands, and an eventual judgment in favor of the Diocese and TEC is essentially inevitable.

Episcopal Life Online:
John R. Shiner, chancellor for the diocese and its attorney in the litigation, called the ruling a "decisive decision" for the Episcopal Church. Shiner, a partner of Holme Roberts & Owen, LLP, noted, "Yesterday's decision contains the most thorough analysis yet of church property law in California, and should dispel any notion that local congregations of a hierarchical church may leave the larger church and take property with them."
Days prior to the ruling, Jan Nunley had written:
There's no problem, of course, as long as you abide by these agreed-upon rules of civil society, or if you don't like them, lawfully try to get them changed. But if you fail to get others to agree with you and then try to create "facts on the ground" by changing the locks on the clubhouse...you really shouldn't be surprised if the rest of the members take exception to your actions.
Over at Standing Firm they're doing a headcount: 5 Roman Catholics and 2 Episcopalians.

Two more dioceses act to protect Episcopal assets

Two more dioceses are acting to hold departing former Episcopalians accountable for Church property they are holding onto for use in their new congregations.

The Diocese of Massachusetts has sued former Episcopalians who departed their parish to start a new congregation under Anglican Mission in America. While they left the building, the diocese claims that the leadership systematically diverted funds from the parish to a separate account held by an organization that the leadership themselves formed.

the diocese said that over an 11-month period last year, the parish's rector at the time, the Rev. Lance Giuffrida, and the parish's vestry transferred $111,863.36 from the church's treasury to an organization called The Lesser Franciscans Inc., an organization founded in late 2004 with offices at Giuffrida's house and governed by members of the parish's former vestry. The diocese also alleged that the parish spent $85,000 on unknown expenses and gave the Giuffridas a $10,000 loan.

The diocese is asking the court to order the departed parishioners to turn over all the records of the church to the diocese and to repay the missing money.

Read the rest here.

In the Diocese of Connecticut, a Bristol congregation that has voted to depart the Episcopal Church and become part of CANA [Communion of Anglicans in North American] has until July 8th to vacate the building and account for the assets of the parish.

Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith said the Rev. Donald Lee Helmandollar "renounced his orders" and was deposed - the equivalent of being defrocked - on June 13 by the clerical members of the diocesan standing committee. Smith said he has since written to leaders at Trinity Episcopal Church informing them that the diocese intends to take over the property July 8.

Trinity Church in Bristol is the second of the so-called Connecticut Six parishes that Bishop Drew Smith and the Standing Committee has acted to recover. The Rector and Vestry claim the parishes charter, which predates the formation of the Diocese, allows them to leave unilaterally and retain all property and assets. The Diocese claims that the rector of the parish renounced his orders when he was accepted onto the ministerial roles of CANA and that the vestry gave up their fiduciary responsibility over the parish when they voted to align with CANA. The Bishop brought the case of the priest and parish to the Standing Committee after a vote in the parish to join CANA.

Read the rest here.

Another property ruling for the Episcopal Church

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge rules that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is the rightful owner of the buildings and other property of a conservative La Crescenta congregation that broke away from the diocese last year. The decision against St. Luke's of the Mountains comes barely a week after an appeals court panel in Orange County ruled in favor of the six-county Los Angeles diocese in a similar property dispute with three other local churches.

Complete story at Episcopal Life Online

California property ruling defers to higher court

As was posted here yesterday, there was another California court ruling in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning:

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is the rightful owner of the buildings and other property of a conservative La Crescenta congregation that broke away from the diocese last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision by Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. against St. Luke's of the Mountains came more than a week after an appeals court panel in Orange County ruled in favor of the six-county Los Angeles Diocese in a similar property dispute with three other parishes.

The judge said Tuesday that he could not ignore the higher court's extensive June 25 ruling on comparable issues, but said he expected an appeal in the St. Luke's dispute as well.

"This case is far from over, but it's over in this court," he said.
...
In Tuesday's hearing, Wiley said that before the appellate court's detailed, 77-page ruling, he had been leaning toward a decision for St. Luke's. But after the appellate ruling, he was obliged to defer to the higher court and its analysis of church property precedents in California and elsewhere, he said.
...
Eric Sohlgren, lead attorney for St. Luke's and the other dissident local parishes, said St. Luke's officials were expected to quickly decide whether to appeal. Sohlgren repeated his view that the appellate ruling was contrary to three decades of legal precedent in California and that it probably would be overturned.

But the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese, said he was happy with Tuesday's decision and eager to reconcile with St. Luke's parishioners and leaders, many of whom he has known for years.

The entire LA Times article is here.

Religious freedom in Virginia

1642 - Vestry system adopted by the legislature although opposed by overseeing bishop in London. It gave powers not given in the England including the right to choose ministers, and to terminate them.

1750s - Baptists sometimes imprisoned for being Baptists.

1776 - Episcopal ministers, as members of the government, required to swear oath of loyalty to the state (and, thereby, disavow their previous loyaly oath to the crown).

1780 - Tax support for Episcopal clergy salary ends.

1869 - African American clergy admitted to Council, but their congregations are not.

1886 - Council creates a "Colored-Missionary District" within the diocese. In 1889 the district is allowed representation at council but only on matters pertaining to race. Clergy representation shrinks.

1895 - Mary E. Jones admitted as candidate for the order of deaconess.

Virginia%20Magazine.jpg
"Parochial reports of 1919 listed thirteen women serving as treasurers in congregations and two as vestry clerks or registrars. By 1930 women were quietly serving on the vestry-equivalents at small missions, and one was listed as a warden in 1936. Women also became paid church professionals."

1927 - Women allowed to serve as trustees of the Church Schools corporation.

1890 - Diocese of Virginia approved creation a diocesan-wide women's auxiliary.

1930 - Women allowed to vote at parish meetings.

1931 - Constitutional amendment of the diocese restores voice and vote to all resident African-American clergy.

1937 - St. Philips first black congregation admitted to full membership.

1949 - "After consulting with the Colored Convocation and having its unanimous support, the diocese erared all mention of race and the convocation from its constitution and canons.

1951 - Virginia Theological Seminary is integrated.

Late 1950s - Camps and conference centers opened to blacks.

1955 - General Convention changes constitution to allow presidents of diocesan women's auxiliaries to have have voice and vote at annual conventions.

1961 - First black enters a St. Stephen's School.

1964 - "Female deacons gained the right to marry."

1967 - "Diocese of Virginia finds itself in deep financial trouble by 1967 as angry conservatives responded to the Episcopal Church's support of civil rights and urban renewal by withholding pledges so that the money would be available for [its] national initiatives.

1967 - Council voted to allow women to serve on vestries.

1974 - VTS faculty voted unanimously in favor of women's ordination.

"Virginia's diocesan, Bishop Robert Hall, attempted to gain permission to regularize [Alison] Cheek's ordination, but the House of Bishops refused his request...."

1976 - General Convention changes canons to allow ordination of women starting in 1977. Several are ordained in the diocese after the first of the year.

2003 - Bishop "Lee revealed that his decision to confirm Gene Robinson's election as bishop of New Hampshire rested not only, or even mostly, on questions of diocesan autonomy but on his understanding of Acts 15, finding in the passage clear support from the early church leader's decision to adapt 'the requirements of Jewish law to the realities of the gentile world" for a vision of an inclusive church."

Source: Edward L. Bond and Joan R. Gunderson, "The Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1607-2007," Virginia Magazine, Vol 115, No 2.

A lost boy's journey to priesthood in the Episcopal Church

Santificarnos:

Zachariah Jok Char was only five years old when he walked 1,000 miles for the first time. One of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, he braved the desert heat and attacks by lions and hyenas, without shelter, food, water or adult protection.
....
On June 16, Char walked in a procession of a different sort: down the aisle of Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to his ordination to the priesthood.
...
More than 180 people attended the Saturday morning service officiated by Bishop Robert Gepert of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. Both a drum and organ accompanied the singing, which along with the readings and prayers alternated between Dinka, Nuer, Arabic and English languages.
...
To prepare for his ordination in the U.S., Char received instruction through correspondence courses and residential weeks at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Pittsburgh, the only seminary that provided education in Char's native language and culture....
Read it all here.

Thanks to Standing Firm for the link.

The "conflicts inherent"

Bishop Geralyn Wolf has told a priest who professes to be both a Christian and a Muslim that she is "not to exercise any of the responsibilities and privileges of an Episcopal priest or deacon" for the next year. The case of the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding had become a cause célèbre among conservative bloggers, but was largely ignored by the mainstream media.

In an email to her diocesan clergy, members of the diocesan council and the standing committee, Bishop Wolf wrote:

As many of you know, The Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding is an Episcopal priest who has recently professed her faith in Islam. Dr. Redding is canonically resident in the Diocese of Rhode Island, though she has not served here for over twenty years.

After meeting with her I issued a Pastoral Direction giving her the opportunity to reflect on the doctrines of the Christian faith, her vocation as a priest, and what I see as the conflicts inherent in professing both Christianity and Islam. During the next year she is not to exercise any of the responsibilities and privileges of an Episcopal priest or deacon. Other aspects of the Pastoral Direction will remain private.

I am sending this e-mail to you because the continued web-site coverage suggests that I be as clear as possible with those exercising leadership in our diocese.

Called to serve

Andrea Jaeger, former tennis star, called to be an Episcopal Dominican, is featured in this video from ESPN. Her journey from tennis phenom as an early teen to founding a ranch for children and youth with terminal diseases to taking vows as a member of an Episcopal Religious Community is evocatively told on this video.

Watch it here.
Or link from here.
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Strife and Contention

A gathering of Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin, heard professors from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) speak about the "the diverse and sometimes contentious nature of all Christianity and the Episcopal tradition." According to Episcopal News Service approximately 90 people attended the program, "Common Prayer, Uncommon People: The Episcopal Church," held June 23 at Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno, California, exploring the 400-year history of Anglicanism in North America from Jamestown to California. This is the second event sponsored by Remain Episcopal, a network of Episcopalians from the Diocese of San Joaquin who don't agree with the diocesan leadership, which is disaffected with the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians from the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Dallas also attended the gathering.

Five CDSP faculty members led the event's presentations and discussions.

A celebration of Holy Eucharist used the 1604 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, the edition used at the Jamestown, Virginia settlement. The Eucharist was followed by discussions centered on church history and unity.

The Rev. Dr. Linda Clader, academic dean and professor of homiletics, preached at the Eucharist, quoting from the 16th century Book of Homilies, an authorized collection of officially sanctioned homilies read to congregations by the largely uneducated clergy of the time. Choosing an excerpt from the "Homily Against Strife and Contention" subtitled "A Sermon Against Contention and Brawling," she quoted, "If one member be pulled from another, where is the body? If the body be drawn from the head, where is the life of the body? We cannot be joined to Christ our head, except we be glued with concord and charity one to another."

Clader spoke about contention and disagreement in the early Church. "When there were still people walking the streets who had known Jesus face-to-face, the Christian community was arguing," she said. "They argued over who could share a meal. They argued over whose party represented the 'real' church. They argued over whether you were really a Christian if you didn't exhibit certain spiritual gifts."

Clader said that the "ancient theologians" talked about Jesus' oneness with the Father in terms of movement -- "a kind of dance among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

"It's just possible that this is what Christian unity looks like," she said. "A body, as St. Paul said, with many parts, a dance with many dancers, a song with many voices."

Read the whole article and what other professors shared here

In dioceses where the leadership appears to be attempting to leave the Episcopal Church, faithful Episcopalians have organized to support one another and show that they wish to remain within the Church. A list of these organizations is here

La Crescenta church to appeal property ruling

The vestry of St. Luke's of the Mountains voted unanimously on Monday to appeal a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruling that the La Crescenta church's property belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
So reports the Glendale News Press.

Recent posts on the California property cases here and here.

Covenant response group named

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has appointed the group that will "draft the Church's response to the first version of an Anglican covenant." Episcopal Life Online reports:

The drafting group's proposed response for the October Executive Council session is meant to meet the January 1 comment deadline "so that the voice of our Church will be heard in this process," Ballentine [the group's chair] said.
...
It is expected that a revised version of the covenant will be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, to be followed by a final text that would be proposed to the 2009 meeting of the ACC. If the ACC adopts the text, it would offer it to the provinces for consideration.

The members of the Covenant Response Drafting Group are:
Ballentine [Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, the group's chair], Kim Byham (Newark), the Rev. Dr. Lee Alison Crawford (Vermont), the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas (Massachusetts), Canon Victoria L. Garvey (Chicago), the Rev. Canon Mark Harris (Delaware), the Rev. Winnie S. Varghese (New York), Ted M. Yumoto (San Joaquin) and Belton T. Zeigler (Upper South Carolina).

Read it here.

ERD's annual summary

Episcopal Relief and Development has issued its annual summary.

Robert W. Radke, ERD's president writes:

Together with Anglican and ecumenical partners, ERD is working worldwide in places such as Burundi and the Philippines to fight hunger and poverty while empowering communities to support themselves and their families. Through primary health initiatives such as NetsforLifeSM, a partnership for malaria prevention in 16 sub-Saharan African countries, ERD helps to protect vulnerable communities against preventable diseases and keep families healthy through community health education and awareness programs. In the United States, after Hurricane Katrina, our long-term partnerships with the Dioceses of Louisiana and Mississippi have assisted nearly 172,000 people through the distribution of goods, access to psycho-social and pastoral counseling, and the construction of affordable housing.

ERD is laudably transparent. Few organizations put their federal tax returns online, but you can find ERD's here.

To read Radke's letter to supporters click Read more.

Read more »

Sins of the Times

The Rev. Jan Nunley, the Episcopal Church's deputy for communications, has picked apart a sensationalistic story in The New York Times which would leave readers with the false impression that a man who left the adult film industry six months ago is on the fast track toward beoming a priest.

The story is similiar to the equally over-hyped story about former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey's enrollment at the General Seminary in New York. He too was "ordained" by the media without ever even entering the discernment process of an Episcopal diocese.

Our first Presiding Bishop

The 17th is William White's feast day. He was our first Presiding Bishop. Joseph Packard tells this story about Bishops White and Meade:

White was of a timid, gentle disposition. He did not always call things by their simple names, but used circumlocutions, speaking of Satan as that personage. Bishop Meade once preached in his church, and by his strong, plain language made the people tremble, and Bishop White told him in the vestry-room they were not used to that sort of preaching.

Packard, Reflection of a Long Life 1812-1902, Byron S. Adams, Publisher, Washington, D.C., 1902.

.The Rev. Timothy B. Safford's homage to William White shows us that when times required, White could be something other than timid or gentle:
In his revolutionary and incendiary pamphlet, The Case of the Episcopal Church in the United States Considered, White proposed that each new state (we would say diocese) choose its own bishop by ballot, and that the ballots be cast by both clergy and laity. Further, each state would send clergy and lay delegates to a convention where a constitution would be ratified that would bind all the separate states/dioceses into one Episcopal Church.
...
Born and educated in the democratic cauldron of Philadelphia, White did not object to the role of bishops elsewhere, but believed the new American church had an opportunity to return to its primitive roots when, before Constantine, the laity participated in the selection of their bishop, and before 1066, when the power of a bishop was not an extension of the power of the state. For the New England states, White’s new democratic Catholicism went too far.
...
In time, William White’s “patience, wisdom and reconciling temper” helped effect every compromise needed to satisfy Connecticut while keeping the other states content. Finally, in July 1789, with William White presiding at General Convention without Bishop Seabury or Connecticut present, the compromise was brokered, allowing a separate House of Bishops that could veto the actions of the House of Deputies. The convention adjourned until Bishop Seabury could join a month later, at which time Seabury became the second Presiding Bishop.

One other very significant compromise was offered: Connecticut was allowed to keep its own rules on bishops’ elections without lay votes, and that diocese was permitted to not have lay members in its delegation to General Convention.

Read it all in The Living Church.

The extraordinary act in Massachusetts

The Boston Globe reports this morning:

Murdoch's congregation, which averages about 300 worshipers each Sunday, will have to turn over its three buildings and a $1 million endowment to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The congregation is planning to buy a closed Catholic church in Amesbury and start over as All Saints Anglican, a local parish of the Kenyan church.

The extraordinary act is part of a new national movement, in which a handful of Episcopal parishes and priests are leaving the 2-million-member Episcopal Church USA and affiliating with the more conservative Anglican churches, called provinces, of Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Let's underscore that: what makes this extraordinary is that Murdoch and the congregation are not attempting to take to the buildings with them. This is a significant departure from the Nigerian churches in Virginia and Colorado, and similar property disputes in California where the Diocese of Los Angeles had several court rulings in its favor.

The article continues, "Murdoch's congregation has become a magnet for disenchanted Episcopalians from several states." At the same time others have been attracted to other less conservative Episcopal congregations. It is no surprise, then, that the congregation is staying with Murdoch. And, as the article said we're talking about "handfuls", not a mass movement.

Read it here.

It appears likely that the congregation Murdoch leads will purchase buildings from the Roman Catholics.

UPDATE: Here's Episcopal Life Online's take,

Bishop Shaw noted that the discussions between the bishops and potentially departing All Saints' leadership have been characterized by an extraordinary spirit of cooperation through which all have been well served. ... No decision has been made about the status of the West Newbury Episcopal church. Diocesan representatives will meet with Episcopalians from the area in early September to discuss the continuing Episcopal Church presence in the Merrimack Valley which is also home to Episcopal parishes in Amesbury, Andover, Chelmsford, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover, North Billerica and Westford.

Lady Bird leaves a gift to St. Barnabas Episcopal

For more than 50 years St. Barnabas Episcopal Church was a second home for Lady Bird Johnson. ... "We had a debt on the Parish Hall that was built eight or nine years ago that the Parish has been dealing with and paying off," Elwood said.

That was until the former first lady stepped in. In their Sunday services three weeks before her passing, the church announced they had received a $300,000 gift.

The letter, signed by Johnson, reads: "I feel the time has come for me to repay a part of the debt for the irreplaceable gifts of comfort, strength and abiding faith I have received."

Read the News 8 report here.

From the church's history:

President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson were among the attendees at the cornerstone ceremony on November 11, 1964. In addition to the cornerstone, a stone from the St. Barnabas Monastery in Cyprus was placed on the South wall of the new sanctuary. Bearing the inscription “From the St. Barnabas Church in Cyprus” the 16 x 18 limestone rock was presented to the local church by Mrs. Johnson. It was given to her for the local church by Archbishop Makarios when President and Mrs. Johnson visited the Greek island of Cyprus in 1962. It is from the site where St. Barnabas, according to tradition, met a martyr’s death by stoning in the year 61.
Some footnotes on her Episcopalian faith via USA Today:
Moyers referred to the rain when he joked that he and other Baptists such as Carter and Clinton had failed to convert Johnson from her Episcopal faith and that she had once told him, "If you Baptists have any rain left over, any water left over, put it on the flowers. They need it more than I do."
...
Although Lady Bird Johnson ... insisted that the service hew closely to the denomination's Book of Common Prayer, she chose to close it with her alma mater's fight song, The Eyes of Texas. The University of Texas song was played by uniformed members of the Longhorn marching band as hundreds raised their pinkie and index fingers in one last "Hook 'em Horns" farewell.
President Johnson was not an Episcopalian. He had an interesting faith journey that is detailed here.

A Chaplain at Sing Sing

How does a Ugandan-born priest, who lost a brother and sister to Idi Amin, become the Episcopal chaplain in one of America's most notrious prisons? Episcopal Life Online tells the story of the Rev. Canon Petero Sabunein in words and video.

Court denies rehearing in California case

We earlier reported that the Diocese of Los Angeles had prevailed on appeal, against St. James, Newport Beach, St. David's, North Hollywood, All Saints, Long Beach and others. These churches were attempting to claim ownership of parish property although the Consitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church affirm that all property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church.

Yesterday, the California Court of Appeals denied the motion for rehearing by the losing congregations. The court docket showing this order can be found here (scroll down to 07/24/2007).

The congregations now have ten days to petition for review to the California Supreme Court. Such an appeal is discretionary. The California Supreme Court need not hear the case.

Church helping Church

Here's a bit of unusual news:
A New York Episcopal church is engaging in an unexpected act of charity, helping a neighboring Baptist church fundraise for renovations. Antioch Baptist Church, located in Bedord, N.Y., is currently trying to raise $600,000 to construct a new second-story addition to their building and has been joined in its efforts by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church with no strings attached. Church leaders were grateful for the kindness shown by the local congregation. ‘It’s overwhelming,’ explained Velma Lewis, a chairwoman for Antioch Baptist’s development committee, to the Lower Hudson Online. 'I cannot think of any previous experience where someone has come forward to make such an offer with no expectation of getting something back.'
There's not any further explanation about why the Episcopal congregation felt this was an important ministry to support. Do any of you know more of the story? Read the rest here: N.Y. Episcopalians Come to Aid of Baptist Congregation.

Accessibility to all

Canon Victoria Garvey of the Diocese of Chicago spoke with Episcopal Life Online earlier this week about the importance of accessibility when it comes to fulfilling the promise of "welcoming all."

When one considers the signs that point people to Episcopal Church congregations -- the ones that say "The Episcopal Church welcomes you" -- calling for the church to be accessible to all is a "no-brainer." The accessibility is possible in some parts of the church, Garvey said, but it must become the norm "all across the board."

That includes paying attention to what might be called unseen disabilities, she said. For example, someone with a heart condition may appear to be otherwise able but may not be able to climb stairs. Hearing difficulties, which are often not discernable by others, can prevent many people from truly participating in liturgies or program, she added, giving another example.

If part of the reason for the slow progress towards accessibility has to do with consciousness-raising, Garvey acknowledged that cost and the snowballing effect of making changes have been very important also. Given the way the ADA and other building codes work, if a congregation begins to improve its accessibility, it is usually expected to become completely accessible.

"You do one thing and then you have to do 16," Garvey said.


The whole thing is here.

Opening day of the Network's Annual Council

The Anglican Communion Network Annual Council opened today hosted by the Diocese of Fort Worth at Cathedral Church of St. Vincent in Bedford, Texas. Dioceses with representatives are Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin, and Springfield. South Carolina is not represented. Other groups that are represented include AMiA, CANA, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Anglican Province of America and Forward in Faith.

The opening address by Bishop Bob Duncan is available here. In it he noted he was coming to the end of his term as network moderator. In a later question and answer he said he was willing to continue as moderator only if others were willing to follow his lead. It's not entirely clear what that lead is, but as was reported earlier today on The Lead his diocese just provided a "toolbox" for parishes considering leaving the Episcopal Church.

These lines from Duncan's address may give some indication of the direction he has in mind:

Where we are is not where we had hoped to be. God, in His wisdom, has not used us to reform the Episcopal Church, to bring it back to its historic role and identity as a reliable and mainstream way to be a Christian. Instead the Episcopal Church has embraced de-formation—stunning innovation in Faith and Order—rather than reformation.
...
During this past year, the Network Bishops have done everything we could to work with a broader Windsor Coalition within the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. In order not to abandon the wider coalition in its one last stand, the Network Bishops have agreed to take part in the upcoming meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates Steering Committee and Anglican Consultative Council. We do so, some of us at least, without any implied recognition of or submission to the American primate, without any diminishment of our appeal for Alternative Primatial Oversight, and without any expectation that the Episcopal House of Bishops will turn from the course so unequivocally embraced at their March meeting.
At later discussion Duncan rebuked Rowan Williams saying that Williams has never really supported the Orthodox in the US. At the time of the formation of the Network Duncan said the Network was Williams' idea.

The council unanimously approved a Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partners (scroll down). Duncan's diocese, Pittsburgh, voted with a reservation concerning women's ordination. Duncan favors it but many other members of the partnership do not.

Discussed today, and to be voted on tomorrow, are the Common Cause Articles. It includes this statement:

The Jurisdictions and Ministries of the Common Cause Partnership at the time of its inception are the American Anglican Council (AAC); the Anglican Communion Network (ACN); the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA); the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC); the Anglican Province of America (APA); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA); the Anglican Essentials Federation (AEF); Forward in Faith, North America (FIF/NA); and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).
And it identifies as two of its tasks, "Furthering mutual understanding of its Partners with a view to eventual union when deemed appropriate ... and ... Support planting congregations by Partners."

Revealing, too, is who Duncan chose to name at the start of his address:

David Anderson, John Guernsey, Andy Fairfield, Dave Roseberry, Martyn Minns, Dan Herzog, Alison Barfoot, Bill Cox, John Yates, Bill Attwood, Bill Cobb, Valarie Whitcomb, Dwight Duncan, Ron Jackson, Dave Bena, Bill Murdoch, Don Armstrong—What do these believers all have in common? Great leaders, all; yes, of course. One other thing, at least: each was a priest or bishop (four bishops in fact) of the Episcopal Church at the Network Council one year ago. None is a leader of the Episcopal Church today.
Archbishop Venables is also in attendance and led the day's Bible study.

See The Living Church's story here.

Radner: "Duncan starting a new church"

The Rev. Dr. Epraim Radner has resigned from the Anglican Communion Network. He issued his statement of resignation on the Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. website. He writes, in part:

Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference -- two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition - to be "lost". ... the declaration in effect cancels out the other two Instruments of Communion that also uphold our common Anglican life - the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is the entire Anglican Communion, therefore, that Bp. Duncan is declaring to be "lost". The judgment is far too sweeping.

Read it all here.

Bp. Duncan has, in the end, decided to start a new church.

Radner was responding to remarks made by Bishop Duncan. As reported in the Living Church,
Bishop Duncan expressed his disappointment that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not supported Network members in ways that he and other Network leaders had hoped.

“Never, ever has he spoken publicly in defense of the orthodox in the United States,” Bishop Duncan said of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, adding that “the cost is his office.

“To lose that historic office is a cost of such magnitude that God must be doing a new thing,” he said.

A reporter for The Living Church asked Bishop Duncan to expand on his remarks about the cost of the archbishop’s office. “I was actually expanding on a remark that the Archbishop of Sydney made during a breakfast I had with him two weeks ago,” Bishop Duncan said, explaining that both the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference have been lost as instruments of communion.

“The fact is that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not led in a way that might have saved his office and might have saved Lambeth,” Bishop Duncan said.
...
Asked if he thought that being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury was essential to being Anglican, Bishop Duncan said that being obedient to scripture is of greater importance than being recognized by Canterbury.

As the ACN's annual conference came to an end delegates "declined removing the organization from under the authority of the constitution of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church."

An Anglican Communion without Canterbury has recently been discussed by Archbishops Akinola and Orombi.

UPDATE. Radner has more to say here (scroll to comment #188). Some extracts:

It simply made no sense – logically, theologically, and morally— for a member of the Covenant Design Group like myself to remain a member of an organization that has, through its chief leader and spokesperson, repudiated the very basis for the work I accepted and accepted willingly and under the Lord.
...
I have come to the conclusion that unity among conservatives has not in fact been a goal for many, and that to pretend otherwise is confusing matters gravely; it should be, of course, but until there is greater honesty, it will not be. The unity of the Communion is under such serious threat, and is of such a value, that allowing words, actions, and strategies that are undermining our future go unquestioned, immediately and forcefully, is a dereliction of Christian responsibility.
Radner remains on Board of Directors of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

"815" reorganizes

The Episcopal Church Center, where the most of the national offices of the Episcopal Church reside is also the location of the Presiding Bishop's offices and the staff that reports to her. The Presiding Bishop has announced a reorganization of the program areas and working groups at the Church Center:

"Strategic groupings of advocacy, evangelism, leadership development, and partnerships -- together with a configuration of regional satellite offices to support strategic mission -- are central to a new organizational effectiveness plan to reshape ministries based at the Episcopal Church Center. A new 'diocesan services' unit, offering a comprehensive approach to local mission needs, is a highlight of the new plan initiated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and drafted after five months of consultative work by two task forces.

'The new configuration will raise our level of service to the church,' Jefferts Schori said July 26 while commending the plan's outline to the Church Center management team. 'There is remarkable synchronicity in the development of this plan, and great potential for creativity and capacity building.'

Four newly identified 'work centers' -- Advocacy Center, Evangelism and Congregational Life Center, Mission Leadership Center, and Partnerships Center -- form the core of the new structure drafted by one of the task forces, the Working Group on Organizational Effectiveness."

This is one of those things that seems rather mundane at first glance, but could, if it proves to be as effective as is hoped, become a critical development in the way the Church Center serves the Episcopal Church's people during the new Presiding Bishop's administration.

Read the rest here.

Canons or conscience?

Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia, acting in accordance with national and local diocesan canons deposed 21 priests of his diocese earlier this week. The 21 clergy are no longer recognized as being priests of the Diocese of Virginia, and thus by the Canons of the national Episcopal Church, as priests of the Episcopal Church.

In response, five bishops who are associated with the Anglican Communion Network in the United States have announced that they will not honor Bishop Lee's pronouncement of a "godly judgement". They claim that the deposed priests are still in good standing within the Anglican Communion and are free to function as priests in their respective dioceses.

Mark Harris, has an excellent analysis of the situation and notes, along with others, that this may well put the Anglican Communion into violation of the canons of the Episcopal Church:

"[The] five bishops are the core of the Network on its way to being a new church. They have already abandoned attentive engagement with the Canons of The Episcopal Church.

There are other signs of this abandonment: The Moderator stated in his address to the ACN Annual Meeting,

'The Network Bishops have agreed to take part in the upcoming meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates Steering Committee and Anglican Consultative Council. We do so, some of us at least, without any implied recognition of or submission to the American primate ...' 'Some at least,' and I would suggest it is the core five, do not recognize the American Primate. This, of course, also makes it clear that such distinctly canonical matters as the election of the Presiding Bishop are able to be dismissed as well.

Looking at the statement of the core five, One half of the Network Bishops have made it clear that they consider the Canons of the Church to be without merit, at least in this instance.

It is of some interest to note those absent from the list of bishops receiving the 21 priests: Bishops Stanton of Dallas, Bishop Howe of Central Florida, Bishop Steeson of Rio Grande, Bishop Love of Albany, and a bishop for South Carolina.

By the way, NO ONE is a 'priest in good standing of the Anglican Communion.' We are priests in good standing in our own churches (Provinces) and at the sufferance of other provinces may exercise ministry there, but we have no rights to do so."

The bishops of ACN are arguing that the priests in question's allegiance to "mainstream Anglicanism" means that there is no cause for this deposition. Bishop Lee is stating that their refusal to follow the "godly admonition of their bishop" is proper cause.

(Your "editor o' the day" makes the following observation: What is particularly interesting in all of this is the way people are making use of the argument that they are willing to abide to the rules of the Church in as much as those rules do not require them to do something they do not wish to do. You can see this happening in different instances on both sides of the debate. What hardly ever happens is that both sides are willing to acknowledge that they are behaving in ultimately the same way as their opposition. Or that their decision to make a decision based on their personal reading of a situation has major implications for our theological understanding of Church.)

Read the rest here.

Greetings from Asbury Park

The altar is a tray for serving breakfast in bed. The pews are large towels or striped beach chairs. And instead of doodling on the program, distracted children can play with a bucket or bury a parent’s feet in the sand.

On Saturdays in the summer, Trinity Church, an Episcopal congregation here, celebrates a beach Mass at 6 p.m., attracting up to 75 people — some passers-by from the Boardwalk, some regular parish members, and some visitors from Asbury Towers, a retirement housing complex that casts a welcome late-afternoon shadow on the sand.

Read it all in The New York Times. (Hat tip, Dan Webster.)

Remembering Jonathan Daniels

The violent death of Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Daniels' was remembered Saturday by 200 people who braved in 103-degree heat to honor the white seminary student who gave up his life to save a black teenage girl 42 years ago, according to a report in the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. A student of the Episcopal Divinity School, Daniels answered the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for the church to become more involved in the struggle for civil rights. Daniels was killed on August 20, 1965 by a shotgun blast fired by an Lowndes County special sheriffs deputy at a small convenience store where Daniels and several other civil rights activists had gone following their release from the Lowndes County Jail, where they spent a week behind bars on charges related to a protest in Fort Deposit.

Episcopalians were joined Saturday by adherents of other faiths from throughout Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi, who paid their respect to Daniels and the civil rights cause under a blistering sun.

Jerry McGee of Destin, Fla., recited a Biblical passage about "giving your life for another," something Daniels did without question when he stepped in front of 16-year-old Ruby Sales to protect her and take the fatal shotgun blast.

"That's why I wanted to come here and honor him," said McGee. "He gave the greatest gift he could possible give -- his life."

The Rev. Polk Van Zandt of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma said Daniels has been given a "Black Letter Day," which sets aside a day each year to honor his memory.

Van Zandt said others given "Black Letter Days" include nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale and author C.S. Lewis, but added that Saturday's commemoration was "more than just about him."

"This is also about all the martyrs of Alabama," said Van Zandt, who alluded to honors bestowed Saturday on several others who were killed during the civil rights era.

Also included in the commemoration were four girls killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and Viola Liuzzo, who was shot to death by Ku Klux Klansmen in Lowndes County a few months before Daniels was killed

.

Daniels was a native of Keene, New Hampshire, and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. The VMI archives writes about Daniels in this way:

In August 1965 Daniels and 22 others were arrested for participating in a voter rights demonstration in Fort Deposit, Alabama, and transferred to the county jail in nearby Hayneville. Shortly after being released on August 20, Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest, and Daniels accompanied two black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, to a Hayneville store to buy a soda. They were met on the steps by Tom Coleman, a construction worker and part-time deputy sheriff, who was carrying a shotgun. Coleman aimed his gun at sixteen year old Ruby Sales; Daniels pushed her to the ground in order to protect her, saving her life. The shotgun blast killed Daniels instantly; Morrisroe was seriously wounded. When he heard of the tragedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels."

In the years since his death, Daniels' selfless act has been recognized in many ways. Two books have been written about his life, and a documentary was produced in 1999. The Episcopal Church added the date of his death to its Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and in England's Canterbury Cathedral, Daniels name is among the fifteen honored in the Chapel of Martyrs.

And:
At VMI, the Board of Visitors voted in 1997 to establish the Jonathan M. Daniels '61 Humanitarian Award. The award emphasizes the virtue of humanitarian public service and recognizes individuals who have made significant personal sacrifices to protect or improve the lives of others. The inaugural presentation was made to President James Earl Carter in 2001; the second award was presented to Ambassador Andrew Young in 2006.

In addition, one of only four named archways in the VMI Barracks is dedicated to Daniels, as is a memorial courtyard.

The feast commemorating Jonathan Daniels is August 14

Here are two other remembrances: here and here.

Episcopal seminaries join hands

The seminaries of The Episcopal Church are reflecting on how to meet the challenges of education and finances in the 21st century. In their current discussion, Convenor of the Deans meeting, The Very Rev. and Dean Ward Ewing of General Theological Seminary, said, "All the deans' conversations come down to two questions: "How do we work better among ourselves?" and "How do we really serve the Episcopal Church and build a structure that provides mutual insight into how we do theological education in the church that's emerging today."

According to a story by Mary Frances Schjonberg in Episcopal Life Online:

Financial difficulties and drastic changes in the role of the Christian church in society are prompting the leaders of the 11 seminaries connected with the Episcopal Church to reconsider theological education.
The seminaries' Council of Deans has met three times this year already, twice more than its normal annual meeting, to discuss issues facing the seminaries.
While the seminary deans have not always fully cooperated, Ewing said "the idea that we are going to start working together in a more significant way is simply building on a history of very mutual support over the last few years."

Jefferts Schori told ENS that she is "delighted at the work the deans are doing together."

"There has been a remarkable shift from a culture of competition to one of cooperation, a shift which represents the best of our tradition," she said. "Each part of the body, with its different gifts, and working together, can build up the whole. I believe that a new vision for the work of the Episcopal seminaries will include a variety of modes of providing theological education for a variety of ministries within and beyond the church.

"All of it is about an expanded sense of mission, and I expect that this church and the larger community will be abundantly blessed by the work of these seminaries and their leaders."

During their June meeting at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, the deans used the process of appreciative inquiry to consider each seminary's strengths. They then discussed how those strengths might be used "in a cooperative way that supports all of us," Ewing said.

He said distance learning and online education, Spanish-language ministry training, work with congregations and dioceses engaged in total ministry and shared-leadership models of ministry were high on the list. Church Divinity School of the Pacific president and dean Donn Morgan, who was the council's convener when these conversations began, said another fruitful place for collaboration was seen in the international networks some seminaries have established.


Read it all here

This certainly a change from previous eras and an exciting development. What other ideas can be offered to the seminaries for their future?

Bonnie Anderson to visit Fort Worth and Dallas

The DallasNews Religion blog reports that Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies will be visiting Fort Worth and Dallas, September 8th and 9th. The press release about her visit reports:

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, will be in Fort Worth on Saturday, September 8, 2007, for “Episcopalians for the Future,” an event sponsored by Fort Worth Via Media in conjunction with Brite Divinity School.

“Episcopalians for the Future” will meet from 8:30 to 2:30 at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni and Visitors Center, 2820 Stadium Drive, on the TCU campus. Ms. Anderson will speak in the morning, followed by three sessions:

• Who's In and Who's Out? -- A Primer on the Anglican Communion.

• Autonomous, Bicameral, and Canonical -- The ABCs of The Episcopal Church.

• How Many Episcopalians does it take to… No joke, an action plan for the future.

The day will end with a question-and-answer session with Ms. Anderson. This forum is open to all individuals interested in the future of the Episcopal Church. People can register online at www.fwviamedia.org.

There will be opportunities for reporters to interview Ms. Anderson. Lunch will be available for the media.

In accepting the invitation to speak in Fort Worth, Anderson stated, “I welcome this opportunity to be in the diocese to meet with those in the diocese who love the Episcopal Church and support God's ministry of reconciliation and healing in a troubled world. The leadership of the Episcopal Church has been paying close attention to the events in the Diocese of Fort Worth and will continue to work with and support faithful Episcopalians. I look forward to renewing acquaintances and meeting others who want to live out their baptismal vows of proclaiming the Good News, seeking Jesus Christ in all persons and striving for justice and peace.”


Church of the Transfiguration will host her in Dallas.

Read it all here.

ECVA exhibit featured on TEC webpage

The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts organization (ECVA), the group that provides the art here on the Cafe in our "Art Blog" section and that we use interstitially around the site, has a new exhibit featured on the primary denominational site of the Episcopal Church (TEC):

" A new gallery of works by Episcopal artists, titled 'Saints & Family' was launched this week on the homepage of Episcopal Church's web site.

The images and icons span the history of the Christian church, beginning with the announcement of the birth of Jesus through to the present decade. As with the preceding gallery, 'The Faces of Christ,' which debuted with the unveiling of the church's redesigned web site two years ago, members of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts collaborated in the development of this new gallery.

'These images and icons of saints and Jesus' family invite us into an intimate space where we see the sacred and human come together in art,' says the curator's statement that accompanies the gallery. 'A mother holds her tender, holy child. A father fishes with his Savior son. Cousins comfort each other and point to a new way. An apostle pauses, inspired, imprisoned. An abbess and abbot lead their flocks wisely. A Cheyenne chief and Chinese priest embrace the Word. A freed slave leads us to deeper truths.'

All who are depicted in the art are celebrated in the church's calendar each year, either on major feast days or in the propers in the Book of Common Prayer that commemorates the lives of martyrs, missionaries, pastors, theologians, teachers and monastics.

Five of the selections of art were featured in the Visual Prelude, a series of works from many Episcopal artists shown on a giant screen preceding daily worship at the 2006 General Convention last summer. All of the art has been created by members of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts or for Episcopal worship spaces."

Read the rest: Episcopal Life Online - ARTS

ERD ready to help with Peruvian earthquake disaster

Episcopal Relief and Development, the primary disaster relief agency within the Episcopal Church has the following announcement on it's website:

"Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) offers support for the people affected by a destructive earthquake that struck the Ica region of Peru yesterday.

On Wednesday evening at 6:40pm (7:40 p.m. EDT), a fierce 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook the coastal province of Ica, located 165 miles south of Lima, Peru’s capital city. The quake has killed at least 336 people in the province and one in Lima and more than 700 people were injured. Among those killed were 17 worshipers at the Senor de Luren church in Ica who were attending evening mass when the quake struck.

Rescuers are having difficulty reaching Ica due to fallen power lines and damage to the Pan-American Highway. In Lima, tremors caused office buildings to rattle briefly and a few homes collapsed in the city center. Telephone and mobile phone service were also disconnected due to downed power lines.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has declared a state of emergency in the Ica province and is sending three cabinet ministers to inspect the worst affected areas of the province.

Our staff is in communication with ERD’s partners in Latin America to identify needs. ERD stands ready to provide emergency aid as needs are identified.

Please pray for those affected by this terrible disaster"

Read the rest here.

Episcopal priest kidnapped - updated

Episcopal Life Online reports:

The Diocese of Colombia has made an urgent plea for the release of one of its priests, the Rev. Ricardo Morales Gaviria, who was abducted August 20 by outlaw militias.

Writing on behalf of the diocese, Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez condemned the abduction and reminded the culprits of their responsibility, under the Human Rights Declaration, to respect and guard Gaviria's life and safety.

Gaviria, 65, has registered as a candidate for Mayor, but it is unclear whether or not this was a motive for the abduction.

Duque called upon all local, regional, and national authorities to do everything in their power to ensure Gaviria's safe return and appealed to any Colombians who may have information to come forward.

"Gaviria has been a Priest in this Church for more than 20 years caring for the people of the Municipality of Líbano (Tolima), and in devotion to Christ ministering to the elderly and vulnerable," said Duque, a trial attorney and specialist in social sciences.

Read it all here.

We offer prayers for his safety and return to his family.

UPDATE: Episcopal Life Online reports: The Colombian priest, the Rev. Ricardo Morales Gaviria, who was abducted August 20 by outlaw militias has been found disoriented and heavily drugged, Colombia Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez confirmed August 21. Read it here.

Feeling the vibe

Laguna Hills, California priest, the Rev. Norm Freeman listened to his spiritual director in 1994 at General Theological Seminary when he said, "God calls the whole person and all of their experiences – so that one can have a life of meaning and service at same time." Leaving the life of an "A-list" professional musician for the life of a priest Freeman thought he would have to sacrifice music for the priesthood. Now with a growing church, he plays on Sundays, for its jazz mass and he tours at times with people like Barbara Streisand.

Tom Berg, writing in the Orange County Register says:

He stands in an empty church, practicing. Always practicing. Ninety minutes every day, two mallets in each hand. They fall gently on an old vibraphone he once rolled through the streets of Manhattan in another life. Another time. Back then a long-haired Norm Freeman played Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden.

Now? He plays for a hundred people here. A hundred there. He leans over the instrument: Soft strains of "Stardust" lift to the vaulted church ceiling.
It's hard to believe he once played with the thrash-metal band Metallica. Or at the MTV Music Awards. Or on Saturday Night Live.

"Trying to prove myself in the music business ultimately left me feeling empty," says Freeman, 55, a husband and father of two. "It was from that place that I started a spiritual quest."

Now, each Sunday, this man who once played with Pavarotti, Paul McCartney and Leonard Bernstein plays the 9:30 a.m. service at St. George's Episcopal Church.

Read the article and hear Freeman's music here

Bishop Sisk on the real question before us

Bishop Mark Sisk, of the Diocese of New York has written a letter to his diocese about some of the issues facing the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church's relationship to the Communion. The blog "Admiral of Morality" has the full statement, which reads in part:

"The presenting question is: Will the Communion survive in its present form or won't it? To state the obvious: no one can answer that question with certainty. My personal guess is that the Communion will emerge from these struggles, changed but recognizable. I say this not because I think that the issues before us will simply drift away like smoke after a fire. I say this because the long history of the Church suggests a strong tendency to adapt to challenging circumstances rather than break apart over them. Following the American Revolution we in The Episcopal Church were left with no bishops and an unwillingness on the part of the Church of England to help us resolve that crisis. Yet, ultimately, a way was found to restore our claim to apostolic orders, and, in due course, we realized that by that act the Anglican Communion had been born.

The deeper question is this: Just what exactly is the problem anyway? Surprising to many people, serious-minded folks give very different answers. For some, perhaps for most, the answer as conceived by them is a simple matter of sexual morality: right or wrong. Others couch this dispute in terms of the authority of Scripture. Still others argue that not only does Scripture not speak with one voice to the actual question that is before us, but also the insights of science and experience of our faithful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—integral members of our community—cannot simply be ignored. Yet others see this dispute through the lens of authority: Who has the right to decide? This, in turn, pushes others to state the problems in terms of polity—that is, the way we organize ourselves to make decisions and, at least by inference, obligate others by those decisions. And all this debate takes place within the context of a world of different contexts, a world which seems busily occupied in dividing and re-dividing itself along the countless fissures that are found in the bedrock of the human community.

In my view, it is a mistake to despair at all about this conflict. I am convinced that God works through our struggles to bring us, if we are faithful and charitable in those struggles, ever closer to the Divine Life that unifies all creation. We have no reason to despair. We have nothing to fear. We live in the arms of God's abiding love. God is working in us the Divine will. Through it all, I am convinced that our Episcopal Church has been strengthened, and I have confidence that the larger Anglican Communion, in whatever form it takes, will be strengthened as well."

Read the rest here: Admiral of Morality: The Bishop of New York: "The Presenting Question"

Something to offend everyone

The Episcopal Call to Love, by the Rev. Rob Gieselmann has something to offend Anglicans of every sensibility. That's what makes it worth reading. In six relatively brief chapters, Rob gives us his take on the current conflict in the Communion and suggests a way forward.

Here is a sample of this thinking:

You might defend your actions by noting how harshly Jesus spoke to the religious leaders who imagined they owned the truth. But, let’s be clear: you aren’t Jesus. What gives you the right to claim truth? And worse, if you listen closely, you might hear in your own voice echoes of the same religious leaders Jesus excoriated.

It is time for each of us to stop sounding like we own the truth. And just so you will know, as I so arrogantly write these sentences, I fall to my knees (at this moment, I bow my knee, even as I write), and ask for forgiveness, and God’s grace, and for the truth of Christ to emerge despite my cold heart.

Some of you will say, when a human right is at stake, stake a claim. I’ve heard that argument, and I’ve heard the comparison to slavery and civil rights. First of all, not all homosexual behavior is about human right. Indeed, I’m still waiting for apologists to stop lumping all homosexuality into the same pail, as though all homosexual behavior activity is acceptable. At the least, we can and should agree that some homosexual activity is patently unacceptable, just like some heterosexual activity is patently unacceptable.

To be sure, a human right may be at stake, and if so, a claim is worth staking. However, I’m looking for those who will promote the cause like Abraham Lincoln promoted freedom to slaves. He agonized over the division of the Union. He prayed passionately before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, and he genuinely lamented the fracture of the Union and absolved the South at the end of it all.

To the homosexuals among us I would say, Isn’t patience in order? After all, how long did it take you to come to terms with your own sexuality? Can you reasonably expect heterosexuals to make the transition faster than you did?

Others of you will say sin is sin, and God says homosexual behavior is sin. I’ve heard that argument, and I’ve heard that God won’t bless the Church that condones egregious sin. Okay. Why is it, then, that we don’t talk about more popular forms of sin: cheating on taxes, adultery, fornication, or – watch out, here – keeping holy the Sabbath? Even if you are right, and all homosexual behavior is sin (a discussion worth continuing for many reasons, but not here), the issue shouldn’t split the church, unless you’re ready for the Church to split over these other issues, as well. I’m looking for honesty among the more conservative among us, an admission that, for the most part, Scripture is being manipulated to hide prejudice—plain, good, old-fashioned prejudice (a/k/a homophobia). It is time to own it.

Have a look.

Rob, a former lawyer, has served at St. Luke's in Cleveland, Tennessee; St. Paul's near Chestertown, Maryland; and is now rector at Christ Church in Sausalito, California.

San Joaquin pushes back convention; in 'wait-and-see' mode

The Living Church reports Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin has pushed back the date of the diocese's convention from October to December:

The Rev. Van McCalister, public relations officer for the diocese, said the change in date was primarily made to give the voting members of convention time for prayer and careful consideration of the unusually large number of important events scheduled this fall. These include the fall meeting of the House of Bishops, at which the bishops are expected to consider requests made of The Episcopal Church by the primates of the Anglican Communion.

“We are very aware of the fact that this is a very important transitional moment, no matter how the vote goes,” Fr. McCalister said. “We’re just in a ‘wait-and-see’ mode right now, however.”

Last year diocesan clergy and lay delegates approved the first reading of controversial changes to remove language acknowledging the diocese as a constituent part of The Episcopal Church from its constitution and canons. In order to be approved, the changes must pass at two consecutive conventions. If approved it is possible that the diocese would face a legal challenge.
...
In June, the national Executive Council approved a resolution declaring “null and void” changes by several dioceses, including San Joaquin, to qualify their accession to national church bylaws. David Booth Beers, the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor, and the House of Bishop’s Task Force on Property Disputes are also on record in opposition to such changes.

Fr. Snell said he was not certain that clergy and lay delegates would spend much time considering how national church leaders would react after the final vote on the proposed canonical changes. Civil litigation could have far-reaching implications.

Read it all here.

The Right Rev. John-David Schofield is a member of the Anglican Communion Network.

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind and the morning papers

A sampling of the headlines average Episcopalians across the country are reading this morning:

The Washington Post and the LA Times relied on the AP report. Between the coasts this AP report is what most casual followers of events will read in their local paper.

I found no evidence this morning that the story was picked up by the British press.

Episcopal Church Center reorganizes for service and collaboration

Collaboration and service to dioceses, churches and members are the core values of the reorganization of the Church Center. 815 Second Avenue in New York City will no longer be the only center of church management and support. Los Angeles, Atlanta, a Pacific NW center and a Midwest center are to be added to the existing offices in Washington, DC, Miami, Austin, TX, and Ambler, PA.

Raising levels of service to dioceses, congregations, and individuals -- "equipping people to use their gifts" -- is at the heart of recommendations to reorganize work based at the Episcopal Church Center, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a September 5 presentation to staff.

The goal "is to use the gifts and skills of the staff for the good of the whole Church," she noted, inviting participants in the staff-wide assembly to contemplate in new ways what it means to take on the "role of servant leaders" for the Episcopal Church, formed of 110 dioceses configured in some 16 nations and territories.

"This is about being the body of Christ," Jefferts Schori added, underscoring that healthy bodies are capable of demonstrating flexibility, adaptability, and "building new connections." Every member of Christ's body is valued and essential, she said.

The Presiding Bishop said the reorganization would facilitate "excellence in management," encourage "churchwide thinking in all mission programs," and be "responsive and supportive of those who lead ministries." She emphasized that the reorganization "is not about budget cutting" but about establishing the best possible deployment of personnel; "it is about effectiveness and servant leadership."

A second task force

"the Working Group for an Inspired, Trained and Innovative Workforce" -- a group of co-workers who have identified ways to encourage professional excellence -- [was] presented by Bernice Lucas, a communication deputy at the Church Center who is also general manager of Episcopal Books and Resources.

Lucas, a Church Center employee for some 18 years, said the recommendations underscore areas including encouraging professional and personal growth and development; employee incentives, awards and rewards; and corporate growth and development, all grounded in stated core values.

The core values begin with the Prayer Book's call to "respect the dignity of every human being" and include "commitment to excellence as a team," striving "to be inventive, innovative, inspired and flexible," Lucas said.

Read it all here

Standing room only

It was standing room only for the students of Trinity Prepartory School of Winter Park, Florida, who put on their production of La Cage aux Folles at the Universal Orlando Theater. Adam Hetrik of Playbill News wrote:

La Cage aux Folles, which was not a part of Trinity Preparatory school's regular theatre schedule, was offered as a summer intensive open to all local high school students, not only those enrolled at Trinity Preparatory School. The program was designed to provide students with a credit for a fine arts requirement by bringing in local theatre professionals in order to allow students the experience of a professional rehearsal and production process.

When the show was publicized at the start of the school year, controversy erupted.

(The) parents and students were aware of the musical's content. Having previously produced A Chorus Line at Trinity Prep, a musical with many progressive central themes, (Department head Janine) Papin hoped audiences and the school were willing to go on the latest journey with her.

However, when Bishop John Howe, head of the Diocese of Central Florida, read of Trinity Preparatory's intended presentation of La Cage aux Folles in a local paper, a letter was sent "officially requesting" the school's headmaster to cancel the production.

The cancellation might have been the end, but news of the move brought forward both a flood of protest and offers from area theater companies and arts groups to put on the show. Playbill reported that the students received at least 15 offers to stage the production. After negotiations it was decided to hold the production at Universal Orlando, but without the official sponsorship of Trinity Prep. Read more here.

Tanya Caldwell of the Orlando Sentinel reported that over 300 people attended the performance on opening night.

The students took the show to Orlando Repertory Theatre after a week of debate about whether the bishop overstepped his bounds or held his moral ground. At least three other theaters also opened their doors to the group.

At least 300 parents, peers and neighbors arrived for the opening night, laughing at the jokes, smiling during the solos and whistling as grinning drag queens danced across the stage.

The Broadway musical has won several awards and was later tuned into an American movie called The Birdcage, which starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. La Cage features a gay couple in which one partner runs a French nightclub and the other performs there as a drag queen. The couple has been together for 20 years but make changes when their son bring home his fiancee and her conservative parents.

According to Playbill, Bishop Howe issued the following statement:

"We regret that the scheduling of this performance has been interpreted as a departure from our 40-year history as an Episcopal school. The students who worked hard to prepare for this play had neither a political nor social agenda."

Papin, who is unable to comment publicly on the production due to school administration restrictions, issued the following statement in an official Trinity Prep press release:

"I am quite proud of the students' tenacity and determination through this very difficult process. And I am thrilled that the students will get to perform the show on which they have worked so very hard. I am so grateful to all who supported our students' work."

"Great love of Heaven, deep dignity"

Every Tuesday night, The Rev. Canon David Bauman dons a black outfit. Not a formal black clerical suit. Not a cassock with red piping Instead, he puts on a black "gi" with red Chinese characters that read "Great Love of Heaven, Deep Dignity." Bauman teaches martial arts to children, adults, and those with special needs as an extension of his parish's ministry.

Bauman, rector of Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church of Placentia, California, teaches a form of martial arts known as Tang Soo Do. The Orange Country Register tells his story in an article by Adam Townsend.

"The old traditions in martial arts – it was a religious pursuit," said the Rev. David Baumann, sitting in the church office before his Tuesday night class. "Only in the past couple of decades was it viewed as a sport. We have taken the traditional style of martial arts and turned it into a Christian discipline."

And:

In his class, he trains kids from the age of 4 to adults in their 50s and 60s.

The class – which is limited to 34 with dozens on the waiting list – begins with a prayer recited in unison.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," the class says, quoting Galatians.

Maria Pickering of Yorba Linda has been attending the class for about two years, and this night, she has her son Jacob Pickering, 11, and Emily Pickering, 4, with her.

"I've done karate before," she said. "I wanted my kids to do karate that is centered on God."

"I like it better than the other ones I go to because they actually teach you and help you learn it," added Jacob.

The martial arts classmates agree that Baumann has a knack for teaching, whether it's kids like Jacob and his mom, or the dozens of physically and mentally disabled students he's taught over the years. Bauman said he has used the class as a sort of therapy to help some get over years of childhood abuse.

Baumann, a fourth-degree black belt who has been training for more than 20 years, started out as a gymnast. He said he's always been interested in "the spiritual aspects of physical activity."

"Western culture tends to divide the mind, body and spirit," Baumann said. "If you want to work at your body, you go to the gym and lift weights; if you want to work on your mind you take a class; if you want to work on your spirit, you learn how to meditate or get into religion."

Canon Bauman reflects on his ministry and some of what his martial arts have taught him in his blog:

Numbers and popularity apparently mean very little to God. Only rarely, if ever, has he depended on numbers to win a battle. Usually, it’s the contrary. We are called simply to believe in him, trust in him, hold fast, and when called to do so uphold the truth. This is strength, the only strength that matters and is reliable.

Episcopalians at Pentagon and 9/11

Episcopalians at the Pentagon began holding services during Lent 1987. The mid-week services were well received, and continued after Easter, with local clergy and military chaplains stationed in the area joining the rotation. Lucy Chumbley of the Washington Window, published by the Diocese of Washington, DC., writes about this ministry and the aftermath of the events of 9/11.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, John Symons was sitting at his desk in the Pentagon’s outermost ring when he heard a “big thud – and I knew what had happened.”

So he shut down his computer, turned off the coffee machine and the lights, closed up his office and left the building.

The next day, Symons – a contractor systems analyst who is a parishioner at St. John’s, Norwood – was back at his desk in the still-burning building.

The Pentagon, which continued to smolder for five days, was filled with acrid smoke. But just after noon, as was his custom, Symons made his way through the wide corridors to room 5B1059, the small auditorium where the Pentagon Episcopal Community had gathered each Wednesday since 1987 to celebrate the Eucharist.

“I wasn’t sure who would be there,” he said. “But I set up, and [Lt. Col.] Chris Cunningham came in.”

Standing together, with smoke in the air and soot on the altar, the two men read the Great Litany from the Book of Common Prayer.

Have mercy upon us. Spare us, good Lord. Good Lord, deliver us. We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord. Have mercy upon us. Grant us thy peace. O Christ, hear us.

“That’s the beauty of the prayer book,” Symons said, noting that after this experience, Cunningham entered the seminary and is now associate rector at St. Peter’s Church in Purcellville, Va.

Read it all here

Salty returns

Our old friend the Salty Vicar, who gave up blogging to have a life, has written a perceptive response to Bishop JohnShelby Spong's recent open letter to Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury.

He writes:

The issues of the U.S. Episcopal Church, I suspect, are not the issues of the Anglican Communion. My concerns include things like how am I going to pay for my secretary or the air conditioning or my after school program, and why isn’t anyone coming to my cool ultra-progressive church? It isn’t that people don’t approve of me or my parish; in my area everyone knows where we stand and they love what we’re doing. They’re just in a time and money crunch, as so many of us are today.

Gay rights is just one of many issues that needs work in a hypercapitalist country. And in fact, I believe we’re ahead of the game in that department. Good leaders in the Episcopal Church do not worry about sexuality—we’ve already decided that gay people are a full part of the church. Now how about turning our attention to some other challenges, like the growing blight of mega-churches and the budget shortfalls that make it tougher and tougher to pay for the basic upkeep of church buildings?

Spong is wrong to assume that this fight is Rowan’s. The fight in the Episcopal Church is ours. It’s great that the Archbishop is coming, the Archbishop is coming. To be honest, that’s all he needed to do. But the work that has to be done is here. And we don’t need him to do it for us, or to give us the thumbs up.

What have we done?

The New York Times this morning offers its readers an overview of the House of Bishop meeting taking place later this week with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Standing Committee and the Standing Comittee of the Anglican Consultative Council. Regular readers of The Lead may find little news in the article. Bishop Parsley was interviewed and here is that portion of the article:

[S]ome bishops, including some theological conservatives, take issue with outsiders telling the American church what to do.

“I think they’re pushing us because they want to polarize the issue,” said Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama, who did not vote for Bishop Robinson’s consecration. “The primates want us to say that we don’t approve public rites of blessing, and we have not done that. They don’t want us to approve gay bishops in committed relationships, and the 2006 general convention resolution makes that unlikely. Basically, what I’m saying is that what they are asking is essentially already the case.”


Read it here.

This week's news

The House of Bishops meets this week with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council in New Orleans. Information is likely to be scarce and anxiety high. In such situations, the significance of whatever little information is available is frequently blown out of proportion, so reader beware.

Be wary of leaks that purport to be news, but are actually the interpretation of a single (possibly unnamed) participant. Remember that because a certain piece of information is leaked does not in and of itself make that information significant.

Be wary too of people who claim to know what Rowan Williams is thinking, or understand what he must do.

If this event is similar to previous gatherings, conservative Web sites and publications may have news earlier than those on the left as bishops on the right have a better understanding of the importance of using sympathetic media outlets to a) maintain an atmosphere of crisis, and b) set the agenda for the mainstream press.

Toward the end of the week keep an eye on the activities of Archbishops Akinola of Nigeria and Orombi of Uganda, both of whom just happen to be in the country this week.

Finally, don't forget that simply because people would really like something significant to happen in New Orleans doesn't mean that something will. (Or, if something significant does happen, we may not know about it until the archbishop and the joint standing committee make a statement of as yet unknown content at some as yet unknown time.)

That last bit of advice may be hard to hold on to. There are a lot of reporters heading to New Orleans later this week. They all have to justify their travel by producing stories that suggest that the trip was worth it. But the truth is that none of them and none of us know whether it will be. So if after all of this is over and you read for the umpteenth time that the "rift" has "widened" don't believe it unless there are identifiable new developments.

The Jenkins resolution

From this morning's New Orleans Times-Picayune

[Bishop Charles] Jenkins said he and 10 co-signers will offer a resolution that tracks the overseas primates' wishes: banning same-sex rites, ending ordination of gay bishops, and establishing some kind of alternative Episcopal leadership for conservative congregations.

But he said his highest priority is to hold the communion together even with its divisions.

"The most devastating thing, and the thing I do not want to see happen, is that there becomes two Anglican communions in North America," he said. "It is a sickness unto death. If we claim to be a catholic body, this is a temptation to which we cannot give in.

"On a more pragmatic level, those who will be hurt the most by this are the poor," he said. "We are involved heavily around the world in ministries of relief and development. And I don't think we have the luxury of giving in to our self-absorption on this issue, and taking that energy and those resources away from the poor."

He said he and other bishops have informally discussed new forms of keeping conservatives and liberals inside the church.

He said two models might take off on slight measures of diversity in Roman Catholicism: one in which religious orders with their own governance run certain Catholic parishes, and another in which Eastern-rite Catholics conduct their own forms of worship and governance while remaining in full communion with Rome.

And there's also this:

Bishop Charles Jenkins of the Diocese of Louisiana asked each to bring a gift of $10,000 to be divided between Louisiana and Mississippi.

Many will, he said Tuesday -- and [Bishop-elect] Mark Lawrence of South Carolina has pledged to arrive with a gift of $100,000, Jenkins said.

News, news, news

News. News News. Reports from everywhere. Have a look at what the mainstream media is saying about the House of Bishops meeting that began this morning in New Orleans.

Rachel Zoll has written a strum and drang free story for the Associated Press.

Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today has also overcome the temptation to suggest that the sky is not only falling, but will in fact land before the end of the month.

Rebecca Trounson of The Los Angeles Times features these two quote:

And in a recent telephone interview, Jefferts Schori said that despite the approaching deadline, the Episcopal Church would "continue to be the church on Oct. 1 and in November and beyond." She said she did not expect major changes in the church's relationships within the communion as a result of the meeting.

And:

The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, said Wednesday that he did not expect those decisions to be overturned at the bishops' meeting. "I don't believe we have the power to go beyond that before the General Convention," he said. "And if the primates think some magic change will occur in the House of Bishops and the national church in which we say we rescind everything, that's not going to happen."

The Chicago Tribune and Raleigh News and Observer have local angles.

The Telegraph is overhyping the situation, although this paragraph is insightful:

But he is aware that even if he does achieve a form of words that placates moderates, conservative hardliners may still reject the deal and to force damaging new splits by boycotting the ten-yearly Conference of Anglican bishops in Canterbury.

And Andrew Brown ends his commentary on the Guardian Web site with this pearl:

The Anglican Communion contains a majority of primates who take a Grand Inquisitor's view of politics; and some who would be happy to hand over heretics or at least homosexuals to the secular arm for punishment; some who encourage the belief that they can perform miracles, more or less, when their people need it; and plenty who use or threaten to use the power of money and modern science to expand their client base.

Rowan Williams, like Christ, renounces these powers; but when an Archbishop renounces powers he does not abolish them, he hands them to his enemies. Like Christ in the parable, Rowan's response to the Grand Inquisitors of the world is to kiss them on their bloodless lips and then slip out into darkness and obscurity through the door they have held open for him. When Christ kisses him, the inquisitor is touched in his heart but his beliefs and his actions do not change. Fresh heretics will burn when morning comes.


From New Orleans: Eight bishops agree to serve as "episcopal visitors"

Eight bishops agree to serve as 'episcopal visitors'
by Bob Williams

[Episcopal News Service, New Orleans] Eight bishops have accepted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's invitation to serve as "episcopal visitors" to dioceses that have requested this provision.

At her request, the Presiding Bishop's canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, advised Episcopal News Service of this measure the evening of September 19. The announcement preceded the opening plenary session of the House of Bishops' September 20-25 meeting in New Orleans. Robertson said Jefferts Schori expected to announce the names of the eight bishops during that session, which is devoted to the bishops' private conversation with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and is closed to the public and media.

Jefferts Schori has conferred with Williams about the invitations, which she extended after a process of consultation with bishops in the Episcopal Church, Robertson said.

"All eight are true bridge-builders who empathize with the concerns and needs of dioceses that are struggling with the issues of the current time," Robertson said, adding that "while all are sympathetic to to these concerns, each is clear that the Presiding Bishop's ultimate goal is reconciliation."

The eight are active diocesan bishops Frank Brookhart of Montana, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina (based in Columbia, S.C.), John Howe of Central Florida (based in Orlando), Gary Lillibridge of West Texas (based in San Antonio), Michael Smith of North Dakota, James Stanton of Dallas, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, together with retired Connecticut Bishop Clarence Coleridge.

Robertson said all have agreed to serve as official "episcopal visitors" (the lowercase adjective referring generally to bishops and their ministries rather than the church's denomination), or to provide "Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" (DEPO), an option provided by the House of Bishops' March 2004 statement "Caring for All the Churches" and a concept affirmed by the General Convention in 2006.

Jefferts Schori's invitation to the eight bishops seeks to delegate the first of three primary canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop, that of visiting each of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses during each Presiding Bishop's nine-year term. The Presiding Bishop's other two principal canonical roles are to "take order" for ordaining and consecrating bishops, and to oversee certain disciplinary actions as needed.

The Presiding Bishop's invitation to the eight bishops "offers opportunities for dioceses to have an episcopal visitor other than herself," Robertson said.

"This gives dioceses the pastoral guidance and care they need while remaining faithful and loyal members of the Episcopal Church," he said. "It is also the Presiding Bishop's hope that at some point in the future she would be invited to visit these dioceses."

The action is "a significant effort at building a bridge while still honoring our uniquely American polity," Robertson said.

He added that Jefferts Schori is "comfortable letting the details be worked out by the bishops involved."

From among the Episcopal Church's 110 total dioceses, six stand by requests
initiated in 2006 for pastoral oversight other than that of the current Presiding Bishop. Those dioceses are Central Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy (based in Peoria, Illinois), Springfield (Illinois), and San Joaquin (based in Fresno, California). A similar request by the Diocese of Dallas was later modified.

In all of these dioceses there has been expressed opposition to the 2003 election and ordination as diocesan bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and lives in a long-standing committed relationship with his male partner.

In three of these dioceses -- Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin -- the bishops have not ordained women despite the General Convention's 1976 authorization to do so.

-- Canon Robert Williams is director of Episcopal Life Media, the new communication group that includes the Episcopal News Service.

Day 1

Updated: Interestingly, the Thursday night AP story quotes from the item below.

Not a lot to report from our friends who were in the room. At House of Bishops meetings, the bishops all sit at assigned tables with colleagues whom they have sat with at previous meetings. At tables this morning they were asked what were their greatest hopes and greatest fears for the meeting. Each table answered these questions and reported back to the meeting.

I am a little shaky on the time sequence here, but at some point during the course of the day, Archbishop Williams suggested that the Episcopal Church needed to exercise greater concern for its catholicity. Bishop Michael Curry at some later point replied that catholicity, by definition, cannot be built upon the exclusion of one class of people.

The archbishop made it clear that he believed the Episcopal Church had acted preemptively in consecrating Bishop Robinson.

In the afternoon Archbishop Williams asked the bishops how far they were willing to go to assure the rest of the Anglican Communion that the Church will refrain from a) consecrating another openly gay bishop and b) authorizing rites of blessing for same-sex unions. He also asked whether the bishops are willing to share episcopal responsibilities with other bishops when necessary.

The answer to those questions must ultimately be embodied in resolutions. For perusing other blogs, I sense that not much news was committed at the news conference.

From Episcopal Life Online news from the press conference.

Archbishop of Canterbury gets a taste of New Orleans

From Episcopal News Service

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested September 20 during an ecumenical service at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that New Orleans's recovery could remake the city into God's image of the holy city.

Noting the service's reading from Zechariah 8:3-13, Williams said that the image of the holy city is not based on strength of a city's arts community, business sector, educational offerings, or social-welfare programs.

"What makes a great, godly city is that it is a safe place for older people to sit and children to play in the streets," he said, adding that few people live in that kind of city anywhere in the world today.

Earlier in the day, Williams visited the site of a former Walgreens drugstore in the lower Ninth Ward to bless what will become the new home of the Church of All Souls, founded in New Orleans' lower Ninth after Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood devastated the neighborhood. The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana helped to plant the church at the invitation of the neighborhood.

Williams said that, like the rainbow was a promise of God's everlasting presence after the Flood, the All Souls effort is a sign that "God hasn't gone away and God's people haven't gone away."

Read it all.

Day 2

Updated, revised, corrected

A very partial account of the second day of the House of Bishops meeting based on conversations with three persons present in the meetings:

Today the House of Bishops heard from members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

The speakers included Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis, Jerusalem and the Middle East, whose presentation was leaked to conservative bloggers and is available here, Chancellor Philippa Amable of West Africa, Bishop James Tengatenga of Central Africa, Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia.

Anis was the most confrontational. The bishops we spoke with were depressed by his presentation because it contrasted so sharply with the flexibility expressed in private conversation by other members of the delegation.

Ms. Amable, who attended the recent conference of African and Episcopal bishops convened by Trinity Church Wall Street in Spain, spoke, among others things, about the profound differences between American and west African cultures. She told the bishops that heterosexual monogamy was the “norm” and that they had to realize that the majority of the Primates did not “resonate” to the views of the Episcopal Church.

After Bishop Tengatenga’s presentation, Archbishop Aspinall reviewed the contents of the Dar es Salaam communique. Archbishop Morgan spoke about the breadth of beliefs and practices regarding human sexuality in Wales, and said the Episcopal Church was not alone in struggling with this issue.

One bishop we spoke with said a member of the Joint Standing Committee had offered a private apology for Archbishop Anis’ remarks.

All three of the people we spoke with said the mood of the bishops after the morning session was glum because most of the speakers seemed to be pushing them toward an either or choice between conscience and unity.

But Archbishop Rowan Williams, at an early afternoon press conference, suggested there was room for compromise:

“Despite what has been claimed, there is no ‘ultimatum’ involved. The primates asked for a response by September 30 simply because we were aware that this was the meeting of the house likely to be formulating such a response. The ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee will be reading and digesting what the bishops have to say, and will let me know their thoughts on it early next week. After this I shall be sharing what they say, along with my own assessments, with the primates and others, inviting their advice in the next couple of weeks.

Williams also said that it was only natural that there would be a variety interpretations of the communiqué among the 38 Primates of the Communion, but that he did not read it as a set of demands, and that he did not see September 30 as a “deadline.”

(I suggested that the deadline had "lost some of its luster" in an article published on Monday.)

I am not certain about this, but I believe the deadline for submitting resolutions to be considered on Monday was at 4 or 5 p. m. Central time. There are numerous resolutions to be considered, and the Presiding Bishop and the leaders of the House may find it challenging to do them all justice. As one bishop said: This is a big sandbox and everybody has brought their favorite toys.

Bishop Steenson resigns; to become Catholic

In a letter to diocesan clergy the Bishop of Rio Grande, The Right Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, has said he will resign at the end of the year and become a Catholic. He spoke with The Living Church:

The bishop has been the diocesan in the Albuquerque-based diocese since 2005.
...
He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Nashotah House and the Board of Directors of the Living Church Foundation.
...
He called the bishops’ meeting last March “a profoundly disturbing experience for me. I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association. This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England … honestly, I did not recognize the church that this House described on that occasion.”

Regarding his move to the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Steenson said, “I believe that the Lord now calls me in this direction. It amazes me, after all of these years, what a radical journey of faith this must necessarily be. To some it seems foolish; to others disloyal; to others an abandonment.”

Bishop Steenson will be the third bishop of The Episcopal Church to become a Roman Catholic this year. Bishop Dan Herzog of Albany moved shortly after his retirement in January. Bishop Clarence C. Pope, retired Bishop of Fort Worth, returned to Roman Catholicism in August.


Read the Living Church report here.

ENS also has a report here:

Just days before his letter, Steenson helped broker a deal that allowed a majority of the members of the diocese's Pro Cathedral Episcopal Church of St. Clement in El Paso, Texas, to sever ties with the diocese and the Episcopal Church and buy the cathedral property for $2 million.
...
Steenson's resignation had been rumored for weeks, with speculation that he would join the Roman Catholic Church.
...
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is due to travel from New Orleans at the close of the House of Bishops meeting to attend Rio Grande's annual clergy conference on the afternoon of September 25.
Bishop Steenson's letter to the clergy is available here at Titus 1:19.

Senior Anglican officials crafting resolution with bishops Jenkins, Chane, Bruno, Parsley

Stephen Bates reporting for The Guardian

The compromise being worked on over the weekend has seen the US moderate conservative bishops Charles Jenkins of Louisiana and Henry Parsley of Alabama working with liberals Jon Bruno of California and John Chane of Washington DC and Canons Kenneth Kearon [Secretary General of the Anglican Communion ] and Gregory Cameron [Deputy Secretary General], of the Anglican communion council, on a formal statement that would keep the majority of US bishops together.

The resolution would also allow dioceses out of sympathy with the church's leadership to seek their own Episcopal oversight and also for the setting up of a pastoral council with foreign representatives.


About the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury Bates writes,
Dr Williams, who attended the bishops' meeting last Thursday and Friday, was strongly critical of African attempts to recruit dissident parishes in the US and rejected Nigerian bishops' calls to postpone next year's Lambeth conference of the world's Anglican bishops, due to be held in Canterbury next July.
...
He called on US conservatives not to leave their church, saying: "We are inevitably in the business of compromise...if we are able to get this right, to live with it in some structure, in a godly way, we will have done something for the whole Christian community."

More:
American conservative bishops complained that the archbishop refused to see them, or return their calls during his stay. A handful have now left the meeting and are planning to re-gather in Pittsburgh this week to discuss strategy, which is likely to include seeking oversight from an African province. Their leader, Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, predicted that about five of the US church's 112 dioceses would seek to affiliate outside the US.

Read it here.

Works in progress

(Updated again) The House of Bishops are working on two different documents, both of which are very time consuming: a pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church and a resolution in response to the Primates.

The pastoral letter is directed to Episcopal Church describing what they have been up to, what they have learned and what they would like us to continue to do as a church. This is what was discussed in open session this afternoon. Steve Waring writes about it in the Living Church here. This letter will be finished tomorrow.

The other document they are working on is a resolution that is drafted in response to the questions directed to the Bishops by the Primates in the Communique from Dar es Salaam. This is the so-called Jenkins-Chane resolution. This has been discussed in closed session and has not been released. This is the actual response to the Primates. It must be voted up or down and then, if passed, sent along to Primates Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Living Church also writes about it here.

The Joint Standing Committee and Anglican Consultative Council met in closed session this morning as well. It is not known what they discussed, but in the same Living Church article, some of the members appeared in the room during the open session.

Conservative blogs Stand Firm and Baby Blue Online live blogged during the open session and recorded copies of the initial drafts of the mind of the house letter. These may be found here, here and here. Keep in mind that these notes are of a preliminary nature and cannot of necessity give us a complete picture.

As soon as we get a copy of either document, we will make it available. In the meantime, there is a media briefing at 4 pm CDT, where we hope to learn more.

Monday afternoon update

Summarizing the days work as drawing from their experience with the poor and displaced in New Orleans, the Episcopal News Service reports that Mondays work in forming a statement to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion was guided by "solidarity with the disenfranchised."

The Rev. Patricia McCaughan writes the following for the Episcopal News Service:

Bishops suggested strengthening language regarding the incursion of overseas bishops into dioceses other than their own, and dividing the lengthy draft into two separate documents. One text would deal specifically with hurricane relief and the other with the response to the Primates' communiqué issued in February.

Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana and numerous others suggested that a statement be developed to highlight the need for justice work in all dioceses on issues such as racism, classism, as well as the failed response for hurricane victims. Another document would deal with the response to the February Primates' communiqué.

Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Jr. of Ohio said "Resolution B033 is the most honest expression of where the Episcopal Church stands" while
asking to clarify language about the blessing of same-gender unions. B033 called for the exercise of restraint when consecrating bishops "whose manner of life" presents a challenge to the wider communion.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles also said that the resolution needs to be clearer in saying "that we're going to abide by the decisions of General Convention."

Bishop Wayne Wright of Delaware, who chaired the writing committee, cautioned that the discussion was about a "draft only" and that a final statement would not be released until it had been adopted on September 25 by the bishops. The document itself was withheld and its contents embargoed until it can be finalized.

"This is only a draft," Wright emphasized. "Tomorrow we will perfect and adopt it and then it will be released."

The document is expected to serve as a response to the Primates' communiqué. After receiving the initial draft, bishops conferred with one another briefly at their tables. Some bishops then moved to microphones to offer responses frequently interrupted with applause and encouragement.

"This process represents what is best about the Episcopal Church and how our bishops work together; our meetings are open and we work together as colleagues to develop a statement that will express fully our minds and our hearts," committee chair Wright said.

Bishop Barry Beisner of Northern California called for strengthening of language regarding bishops' incursions into geographic dioceses other than their own. "General Convention voted for resolution B033 and we stand by what they did," he told bishops.

Discussion also arose reflecting on the Bishop's experience visiting the hurricane ravaged areas of the Central Gulf Coast.

After spending a day involved in hurricane rebuilding and recovery efforts, bishops said they were "shocked and outraged" at conditions in New Orleans and Mississippi, including delayed and in some cases nonexistent rebuilding and recovery efforts.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina voiced his own sense of "fury at dishonest contractors' exploitation" of hurricane victims, many of whom two years later still face overwhelming devastation. His remarks were heartily applauded.

Monday evening summary

There were no documents released today, but the Episcopal News Service describes the arduous process for what was done today at the House of Bishops in New Orleans.

After a day of mostly closed-door and overtime sessions, Episcopal bishops on September 24 said they'd made "enormous progress" toward a productive response to the concerns of Anglican Primates.

"This is a continuing process of discernment and clarification of the relationship of the Episcopal Church with the whole Anglican Communion" as regards church polity, the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and other issues arising from that decision, Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico told reporters at an evening news conference.

"Through this process we have proven the quality of life of this church in which we can talk openly with each other and in which we can differ but also pray together," he added.

He was joined by Bishop J. Neil Alexander of Atlanta and Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, who called earlier reports about a draft document inaccurate. "There is no draft at this point," Alexander said emphatically. "We've made enormous progress today in building a very strong and broad consensus in the House of Bishops but we still have work to do."

And:

Despite repeated efforts to focus the news conference on issues of human sexuality and possible schism, the bishops emphasized that the tone of their conversations are respectful, and their goal is to develop a clear, concise response for the Primates without reversing support for gay and lesbian people.

"Are we going to withdraw our support of gay and lesbian people in the church -- no," Bruno said. "They are fully enfranchised members of our body." But he added: "Are we going to do anything to exacerbate this situation? No, we won't, and we're waiting to see how our response will be received."

Alvarez agreed, adding that is an "issue of justice, love and the Gospel. That's not something you turn back."

Read the rest here. Here is the Living Church article covering the same territory.

God's work on the Gulf Coast

One benefit of holding the House of Bishops meeting, which concludes today, in New Orleans, was to focus attention on the Church's participation in rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

To wit:

BILOXI, Miss. - The Rev. Jane Bearden has lived in Massachusetts for 23 years, but when Hurricane Katrina swept through the region of her birth, she felt the tug of her childhood home.So earlier this year, Bearden sold her house in Georgetown, bid farewell to the parish in Methuen she had been overseeing, and moved to Biloxi to attempt an unusual experiment in hurricane relief - the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is employing her for at least two years to work as a priest at a historic parish whose seaside building was one of six Episcopal churches along the Mississippi coast that were demolished by the devastating storm of August 2005.

Bearden's move is the most visible sign of an intensive effort by the Massachusetts diocese to pour resources into this region; the diocese says it has sent several hundred volunteers to work repairing houses here, it has raised $250,000 for the region, and a Boston-based bishop, Roy F. "Bud" Cederholm Jr., has visited six times. One Massachusetts parish, in Winchester, held a shrimp boil to raise money for the hurting shrimping industry here; others have purchased Home Depot and Wal-Mart gift cards to send to people trying to rebuild their homes; and the Massachusetts diocese has launched an organization, Samaritans Now, made up of healthcare workers to provide medical relief.

Read Michael Paulson's story in The Boston Globe.

The Episcopal Communicators also got into the act.

Joint Standing Committee departs

The members of the Joint Standing Commitee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative (a group desperately in need of a shorter nickname) have decamped for the airport. It would have been nice if the House of Bishops had managed to get them something to respond to while they were still in town. I have a vague sense from just a couple of conversations that the tension at the moment is not so much between liberals and conservatives as it is between those who think the bishops need to say something definitive about the election of gay bishops and the blessing of same sex relationships and those who don't.

Please submit nicknames for the Joint Standing Committee by commenting on this item. News bloggers for the Episcopal Cafe and their families are not eligible.

Bishop Epting predicts a long day

Bishop Christopher Epting believes it may take all day for the House of Bishops to finish work on a response to the Dar es Salaam communique and a letter to the Church. Read his blog, "That We All May Be One."

Note here, that he only expresses "hope" that the house will finish the job:

We have most of today (Tuesday) to get this done and I have hope that we will indeed complete our work. It’s a very difficult task, given the diversity of this House, but that very diversity is part of the richness of the Episcopal Church and, at least historically, Anglicanism.

During General Convention when conservatives suggested that the Episcopal Church was thumbing its nose at the Anglican Communion, I disagreed, pointing out that thumbing your nose requires enough coordination to get your hand to your face.

I am praying for an improvement in the House of Bishops' gross motor skills.

Saying too much?

Update: closing session getting underway.

When the House of Bishops reconvenes, it will vote on a resolution of "seven or eight" bullet points written in resolution style followed by about a page and a half of explanatory langauge. I am told that there is general agreement on the bullet points, but that some bishops feel the explanatory language says more than is necessary, and raises issues that don't need to be addressed. The PB thinks they can wrap this up by the 5 p. m. Eucharist.

Piecing it together

The House of Bishops is preparing to receive the resolutions from the drafting committee. Bishop Wayne Wright of Delaware is currently reading the first of two documents. The document he is reading doesn't contain the "response" to the Anglican Communion. I will be adding to this file as I receive more information from friends and colleagues in New Orleans.

Bishop Jefferts Schori is preparing to read the response, but currently Bishop Jenkins is reading a resolution on racism.

Episcope is live blogging.

The resolutions via EpiScope

In accordance with our Lord's prayer and A159 and Great Commission and in gratitude for the Holy Spirit's gift of reconciliation, we offer the following...with the hope of mending the tear in the fabric of our common life.

1 Cor 9:19-23

The House of Bishops expresses thanks to the AbC and JSC for accepting our invitation. Honored and assisted us in our discernment. Reminder of unity. Much of our meeting time in discernment.

Responses

Common discernment of God's call includes all

We reconfirm that B033 of GC 2006 calls upon us to exercise restraint in consents.

We pledge not to authorize public rites for same-sex blessings.

Commend Episcopal Visitors plan.

Deplore incursions by foreign primates and call for them to cease.

Support PB in consultation.

Call for listening process.

Support AbC in desire for Bishop of NH to participate in Lambeth.

Unequivocal support for civil rights for lgbts.

House of Bishops passes compromise resolution

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church has passed the following statement by a voice vote with only a single voice in opposition. A printer-friendly version is here.

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners:

In accordance with Our Lord's high priestly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to The Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings."
1 Corinthians 9:23.

Introduction

The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention.

Summary

  • We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election Of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."
  • We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.
  • We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.
  • We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops and call for them to end.
  • We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.
  • We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.
  • We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.
  • We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.

Discussion

Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention
The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." (1) The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

Blessing of Same-Sex Unions
We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, "…[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."

Episcopal Visitors
We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal Church.

Incursions by Uninvited Bishops
We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such incursions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.

Communion-wide Consultation
In their communiqué of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council reiterated our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless, we recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

The Listening Process
The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the Church's conversation about human sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and to participating with others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches, and so is well-placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

The Lambeth Conference
Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.

Justice and Dignity for Gay and Lesbian Persons
It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy that does violence to them, encourages violence toward them, or violates their dignity as children of God. We call all our partners in the Anglican Communion to recommit to this effort. As we stated at the conclusion of our meeting in March 2007: "We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God."
------
(1) The Communion Sub-Group noted that "the resolution uses the language of 'restraint', and the group noted that there has been considerable discussion since General Convention about the exact force of that word. By requiring that the restraint must be expressed in a particular way--'by not consenting...', however, the resolution is calling for a precise response, which complies with the force of the recommendation of the Windsor Report." The group also noted "that while the Windsor Report restricted its recommendation to candidates for the episcopate who were living in a same gender union, the resolution at General Convention widened this stricture to apply to a range of lifestyles which present a wider challenge. The group welcomed this widening of the principle, which was also recommended by the Windsor Report, and commend it to the Communion."

House of Bishops: stories and reactions

Updated at 9:15 p.m.
Updated at 12:00 a.m.

The first set of stories and responses are beginning to appear.

Rachel Zoll of AP in the first of several stories she will file writes:

Episcopal leaders, pressured to roll back their support for gays to keep the world Anglican family from crumbling, affirmed Tuesday that they will "exercise restraint" in approving another gay bishop.

The bishops also pledged not to approve an official prayer for blessing same-gender couples and insisted a majority of bishops do not allow priests to bless the couples in their parishes.


It's all here.

Stephen Bates of the Guardian writes:

A slender lifeline was offered to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his attempt to keep the worldwide Anglican communion intact, when Episcopal bishops pledged at a meeting in New Orleans yesterday to maintain a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and authorising blessings services for gay couples.

While the statement may satisfy parts of the Anglican communion, and just be enough for the archbishop to sell to other church provinces, it was being dismissed last night by conservative evangelicals as inadequate.

Read him here.

AFP, meanwhile, has gotten the story entirely wrong. The Times-Picayune also gets it wrong, I think, although less egregiously so. It's just that Bruce Nolan writes as though he knows the mind of the Primates regarding our response. And I don't think the Primates know it themselves yet.

Reuters has quotes from Bishops Gene Robinson and Bruce MacPherson who are in surprising agreement.

The New York Times is saying Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church's Orders:

Bishops of the Episcopal Church on Tuesday rejected demands by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion to roll back the church’s liberal stance on homosexuality, increasing the possibility of fracture within the communion and the Episcopal Church itself.

The article relies on Canon Kendall Harmon of South Carolina and Martyn Minns, a bishop in the Nigerian church, for its slant on the news. It does quote Episcopal Cafe's Jim Naughton for a different point of view.


Click "Read more" to see Integrity's statement, which includes:

The bishops were pressured by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international guests to comply with the primate's demands. The bishops struggled mightily amongst themselves to achieve a clear consensus on how to respond. Integrity is gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward.

Read more »

House of Bishops: stories and reactions (II)

Final update: 11:00 AM (updating ceased)

NOTE: This post will be updated throughout the morning. It picks up coverage of "House of Bishops: stories and reactions" where Part I left off.

Chicago Tribune: (Attention headline writer: "Episcopals," we're not.)

The statement issued by bishops Tuesday followed private meetings with Williams last week and days of wrangling and hand-wringing over drafts, while a committee of Williams' advisers waited just down the hall. Behind closed doors, those advisers often counseled the bishops on what it would take to maintain their relationship with the Anglican Communion.
...
"This resolution really is the result of finding common ground to stand on," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said. "Not everyone was 100 percent happy with every word in this document, as you might imagine, but together we believe that we have found a place that all of us can stand together."

That optimism stunned some American conservatives, who said the document was too little too late and predicted a schism in the church, with 77 million members worldwide, by the end of the year.
...
It is unclear how the statement will affect the candidacy of Rev. Tracey Lind, a lesbian in a committed relationship and a finalist to become Chicago's next Episcopal bishop.


The Living Church:
Very few members of the House of Bishops’ canvassed by The Living Church expressed complete satisfaction with the final version of their “Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners,” released at the conclusion of their Sept. 20-25 meeting. But in the end there was only one ‘no’ voice vote registered and it didn’t belong to a traditionalist.

Boston Globe:
Bishop John W. Howe of Central Florida, one of the most conservative bishops present at the meeting in New Orleans, said last night that he did not vote for the statement because it did not bar blessings of same-sex unions outright, but that he also thought that, among the Anglican primates, as leaders of provinces are called, "the majority will find it acceptable." Howe, asked if he would try to remove his diocese from the Episcopal Church, said "absolutely not."

"I think we did better than I expected," he said.


The Times-Picayune:
"I would say the House of Bishops has acquiesced to the primates' concerns," said Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins, a conservative who has worked to avoid a break-up of the communion.

"I believe the Anglican Communion is saved for those who want to remain in it," he said.

By several accounts Jenkins, and Washington, D.C., Bishop John Chane and Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno, both liberals, played key roles in fashioning the resolution the bishops passed.


Los Angeles Times

Ekklesia:

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) in the UK has expressed "disappointment" at the compromise on the Anglican gay row agreed by the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in the United States - saying it will not halt division or stop the ministry of LGBT people.

But Changing Attitudes is upbeat in its statement:

The response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church 'to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners' gives encouragement to members of Changing Attitude and our brothers and sisters in Integrity, representing LGBT people in many parts of our Communion.
The Telegraph:
[The resolution will] be seized on by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, as evidence that the American Church has sufficiently reversed its pro-gay agenda to escape punitive action. Dr Williams is now expected to call the bluff of hardline conservatives who have threatened to boycott next year's showcase Lambeth Conference in Canterbury if the liberal American bishops are also there.

ENS has a story on the role of the Joint Standing Committee in the process, and other business it accomplished while in New Orleans.

AP's Rachel Zoll filed another story on the resolution.

At his blog Wayne Floyd writes

It appears to have been Rowan Williams who planted the idea at the House of Bishops meetings that, in his words, “one can say you accept gay and lesbian persons as the Body of Christ and turn right around and raise questions about their eligibility for active roles in the Church.” And so they did. Turn right around.

Church Times: (strikeouts and insertions are mine)
The statement confirms the Church’s moratorium on the appointment [election and consent] of any more partnered homosexuals [as bishops] (the statement uses the phrase “non-celibate”); and it reiterates the Church-wide ban on formal blessings for same-sex couples.

The Times:
Bishops in the Episcopal Church in the US went as far as they could last night to avoid schism in the Anglican Church with a pledge not to consecrate any more openly gay bishops. They also pledged not to authorise same-sex blessings, even though such services take place regularly on an unofficial basis, as they do in England and elsewhere in the West.
...
That the US bishops have gone as far as they have represents a triumph for the strategy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who addressed them in private on Thursday and Friday of last week. It is also a tribute to the leadership of the US Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Anglican Resistance writes:
"Fear not." The angel said it. Jesus said it, again and again.

Ecubishop writes:
In my last post I said something like “Now, over to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates and the ACC.” And it’s a good thing we can take a deep breath and let other prayerful and thoughtful people in our Communion consider what we have done. For those who will do their theology by press release (rather than by prayerful thought) this will be a confusing exercise.

The Fresno Bee gives us a variety of reactions from persons in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Dan Martins and Chris Wells conclude "It was time for a Hail Mary pass. Instead, they punted." Robert P. Imbelli concludes "I confess that my eyes grow dim when I encounter bureaucratic legalese, but to my Catholic 'sensibilities' it looks like a 'Hail Mary' pass, wafted aloft in the hope that Rowan's outstretched arms can haul it in."

The Canadian Anglican Journal's story is headlined "U.S. bishops echo General Convention in message to Anglican Communion."

House of Bishops: stories and reactions (III)

Updated 3:30 PM

Note: Part I here, Part II here.

The Australian newspaper reports:

Opinion is split among the Anglican church's Australian leaders over the US church's decision to maintain its moratorium on ordaining non-celibate gay priests as bishops and ban blessing same-sex unions.

Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, a member of the Primates' Standing Committee, who addressed the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church at its New Orleans meeting, said the US church had "responded positively" to worldwide concerns it had been asked to address. Careful analysis was required, he said. "My initial reaction based both on my preliminary reading of the document and on my first-hand conversations with many of the bishops involved is that the house has responded positively."

Sydney's conservative evangelical Archbishop Peter Jensen disagreed....It is understood Sydney Anglicans are awaiting the response of the anti-gay clergy faction Global South to the US church's latest pronouncement.

He said it a day before the Response of the House of Bishops, but what the Primus of Scotland says stands as a reaction:

It was very obvious at the recent meeting of Anglican Primates that the vast majority wish to stay with an Anglican church that is open and welcoming and prepared to live with difference. This is Anglican mainstream and we have to make it clear that it represents majority opinion among church leaders. Attempts to try to turn the Communion into something that is controlled from the centre, with expulsion the result of disagreement, will fail.

Doug LeBlanc at Covenant-Communion:

I wish both sides would give more than lip service to the disciplines of the Windsor Report. This much seems clear, several years into the Windsor discussion: Neither side is prepared to be fully Windsor-compliant. Neither side is prepared to make that level of sacrifice. I consider that an indictment of us all.This statement is, I think, proof that the House of Bishops is savvy enough to do what it must — and precious little more — to stay firmly planted at the table of the Anglican Communion.

Like some others, the Anglican Scotist comments that the Response is not timelessly poetic and it didn't need to be.

Tobias says get rid of Resolution 1.10.

Mad Priest has a surprisingly modulated response.

At Inclusive Church blog Giles Goddard concludes: "It seems to me and to those I've spoken to in the UK that the Bishops have done a good thing. They have gone the extra mile to meet ++Rowan's desire to hold the Communion together and to keep talking."

Thinking Anglicans draws our attention to a statement by Graham Kings of Fulcrum, an evangelical group in the UK that counts Bishop N. T. Wright as one of its benefactors:

On a first reading, this statement is very significant and seems to go further and be more encouraging than many conservatives thought to be likely. The Presiding Bishop, and others who have worked hard with her from various traditions, deserve thanks for gathering support for an almost unanimous statement.
Thanksgiving in All Things has a reflection which includes this quotation: "I had thought that Episcopalians were leading the way, but now I see the privilege of The Episcopal Church for the first time. We Lutherans may just get there ahead of you."

TIME is not convinced the bishops found the magic formula.

AP has another story out, this time with some global reaction:

The spokesman of the Anglican Church of Uganda, Aron Mwesigye, said the American bishops "deserve to be appreciated for making such a good decision. I also appeal to the gay bishops to repent and come out to live normal lives."

But Rt. Rev. Stephen Njihia Mwangi, the second-most senior official of the Anglican Church of Kenya, questioned the timing of the statement.... "I don't think they are serious about what they mean. I think the timing seems to suggest that this is just a technical thing to ensure that the Lambeth conference goes ahead," Mwangi told The Associated Press, referring to the once-a-decade meeting which brings together all the bishops in the Anglican world.

Bishop David Beetge, vicar general of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said he welcomed the decision "for the simple reason it gives us more space and time to talk to each other."

"It is a very generous step and a good step, and I think it shows willingness to dialogue with other parties," he said.

The Religion News Service story is here.

House of Bishops: VOD

For the true Episcopal news junkie, video on demand from the recently completed meeting of the House of Bishops. Watch the final news conference, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's message to the Church and the bishops' day of service.

Tobias Haller, to no one's surprise

Sometimes in trying to figure out what one thinks, one comes across someone who has already thought it.

Bonnie Anderson's response

So now that we've seen a number of Bishops' responses and many reactions around the blogosphere, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson encourages all Episcopalians to engage in "careful reading, reflection and discussion," and to study the document carefully, then engage their Bishops in conversation. And to pray for all.

The bishops spoke on a number of other issues and I commend their entire statement to you for study. I also suggest that you study a companion statement offered by the bishops, which speaks about the context of their time on the Gulf Coast and how what they saw influenced and renews their call to the mission of the Episcopal Church. That statement and other resolutions passed by the bishops are being perfected and should be posted on the church's website soon.

After you have studied the bishops' statements and resolutions, it is my request and hope that you will give your own response to your bishop(s) regarding his/her work at the meeting in New Orleans. Thank them for their ministry and leadership. Encourage them to continue to be in partnership and communication with you. Laity, clergy and bishops are strengthened for God's mission as we work closely together to follow the way of the cross. Hold the people of the Gulf Coast, The Episcopal Church, all provinces of the Anglican Communion, bishops, laity and clergy in your daily prayers.

'Tis here.

PEP has concerns

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) asks whether or not the statements made at the House of Bishops' meeting make adequate provision for people such as themselves: progressive believers who are being marginalized in Anglican Communion Network dioceses:

Of particular concern to PEP, however, is the fact that the episcopal visitors plan makes no provision for connecting to the wider Episcopal Church loyal Episcopalians in dioceses (such as Pittsburgh) that have requested “alternative primatial oversight.” “Many of us celebrated the election of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori,” explained PEP board member and blogger Dr. Lionel Deimel. “Should our bishop accept an episcopal visitor, those of us who have been most vocal in support of our church would be isolated from it and subject to even less respect within our diocese than we are now.”

The full statement is found here.

No turning back

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told a standing room only forum at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco "All people - including gay and lesbian Christians and non-Christians - are deserving of the fullest regard of the church.... "We're not going backward."

Jefferts Schori and California Bishop Marc Andrus spoke in an hour-long forum moderated by Cathedral Dean, the Very Rev. Alan Jones. While, as Jones said in a question that ""A schism of sorts seems inevitable," Jefferts Schori and other Episcopal bishops believe the Anglican Communion is defined by tolerance for a wide set of beliefs. They believe the communion should continue to minister to a variety of views.

According the San Francisco Chronicle, Jefferts Schori referred to the parable of the shepherd who goes searching for one lost sheep when she said "The pastor's job as shepherd is to mind the whole flock...I am continually, prayerfully reminded of those who are wandering off. The job of the church is to reach ever wider to include the whole."

The Episcopal News Service reports that Jefferts Schori described the House of Bishops reiteration of the stances of the General Convention as "not going backward, but willing to pause" in its consideration of full inclusion of lesbian and gay persons in the life and ministries of the Episcopal Church. "We reiterated our understanding that all gay and lesbian persons" are deserving "of the fullest regard of the Church," she said.

"We live in the hope that there will be full inclusion," she told reporters in a news conference before the forum talk, calling anything less "not lamentable, but egregious."

While Grace Church had invited Jefferts Schori and Andrus to come to the cathedral over a year ago, well before the primates meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last February, the visit--commemorating the feast of St. Michael and All Angel's--fell on the date that the Primates set as the deadline for the House of Bishops to clarify it's position on the consecration of partnered gay and lesbian bishops, same-sex blessings and the care of conservative dioceses. Some conservative bishops and groups within the Church considered the requests and ultimatum and treated the deadline as an absolute, which the Anglican Communion Office denied.

You can read the San Francisco Chronicle report here, this is the Episcopal News Service report and here is a link to a podcast of the actual forum provided by Grace Cathedral.

Big heart, little parish, local controversy

Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church of Cave Creek, Arizona, describes itself as a "little church with a big heart." That big heart has drawn it into the heart of both local and national controversy about migration and day-laborers.

KNXV-TV 13 of Phoenix reports that the parish was asked seven years ago by a parishioner, who was also vice-mayor of the community at the time, to provide a place for migrant day-laborers to connect with potential employers, as well as to receive basic hospitality, food, shelter and to connect with other services. The ministry would also help the city by getting the migrants off the public streets and into a safe space.

Recently, Arizona has enacted legislation meant to crack down on the use of undocumented day-laborers. The town of Cave Creek also passed an anti-loitering ordinance and an ordinance toughening the penalty for illegally stopping a motor-vehicle, all in an effort to banish migrant workers from their streets. The Arizona Republic reports that the local sheriff did not even wait for the new ordinances to take effect and starting arresting migrant workers a week before the laws took effect.

KNXV reports that as vehicles driven by employers and day-laborers left church property, Maricopa County Sheriffs Deputies pulled over the vehicles and arrested day laborer they identified as illegal aliens.

The Rev. Glenn Jenks, Rector of Good Shepherd of the Hills told the Arizona Republic that that . the ordinances and the arrests are shortsighted.

"This may make the sheriff look tough, but it's not in the best interest of the community," Jenks said.

The parish has temporarily stopped the employment aspect of the day worker program while the parish weighs it's options, according to the television station.

According the parish website, the Day Worker Program is self-supporting through a $1 registration fee from the day workers and donations to the program. The program is designed to connect day laborers with employers, and day laborers also maintain the grounds of the church at no charge. Breakfast is provided daily and lunch once a week through volunteers from the parish, neighboring churches and the community. In 2005-06, 110 day workers registered, 70 found permanent work and 35 come to the program daily. Through the program, 7 area physicians, pharmacists and dentists provided 42 people with discounted medical appointments. Good Shepherd of the Hills is a Jubilee Center.

KNXV-TV: Valley church reaches out to immigrants but sherrif could stop it.

Here is the page from the parish website that describes their local outreach programs.

This is where you can learn more about Jubilee Ministries of the Episcopal Church. Here is the mission statement of Jubilee Ministries.

Last week, the New York Times reported how towns that passed tough anti-immigration laws have begun to rethink their position, including Riverside, New Jersey, which saw legal expenses go up and local business quickly decline after their law was passed.

History lesson

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh recently compared the prospect of some Episcopal dioceses leaving the Episcopal Church for a new jurisdiction with what occurred during the American Civil War and in the response of the dioceses who found themselves in the Confederate States of America. He may want to re-think that analogy.

During a recent interview given to the PBS/WNET program "Religion & Ethics Newsweekely" the following exchange took place:

Q: How complicated will it be for you to separate a diocese from the Episcopal Church, as you've announced -- the diocese of Pittsburgh?

A: The last time that Episcopal dioceses separated from the Episcopal Church was in the American Civil War. Nine dioceses actually separated for a period of years. When the war was over the Episcopal Church came back together. There was an important social issue, I mean the whole issue of slavery divided the nation. The North and the South were divided. When the issue was settled the church came back together. Where we are right now is seeing the church moving in two distinctly different directions on issues of Christian morality quite different than the slavery issue. What our diocese and a number of other dioceses are going to have to do is try to figure out, okay, we joined, we federated. Can we break that federation? Again, the whole purpose of it is not because we've changed, but the Episcopal Church is so radically changed we as a diocese in order not to embrace that change or be forced into that change are saying the best course forward for us is to let them go their way and the way in which we will operate is in alignment with another province in another part of the world that still upholds what the worldwide Christian church, what worldwide Anglicans believe and teach and want to share.

Fr. Tobias Haller, BSG, on his blog "In a Godward Direction" offers this history lesson:

Bishop Duncan’s account is telling both for what he omits and what he includes. First of all, from The Episcopal Church’s perspective, those southern dioceses were not “separated” — their bishops were “absent” but the roll was still called down yonder wherever the General Convention met.

More importantly, the rationale given for the separation by the separationists was the importance of defending the integrity of the national church. Since the Confederacy was a new nation, it was necessary for a new national church to be constituted for this new nation — just exactly as it had been “necessary” for the The Episcopal Church to separate from the Church of England at the creation of the United States, as the preface to our first BCP notes. Civil War veteran chaplain, and historian of The Episcopal Church, Archdeacon Charles C. Tiffany recorded the actions of the first Confederate Conclave:

It was unanimously resolved that the secession of the Southern States from the United States, and the formation of the government of the Confederate States, rendered necessary an independent organization of the dioceses within the seceded States. (496*)

So the reason for the “division” in the church was not disagreement over slavery, but the concept of the integrity of a national church — the very thing Duncan’s movement contradicts.

While in the North, the General Convention and the House of Bishops simply called the roll of all the dioceses including the absent ones, there was no move to punish or disband the dioceses that were in the Confederated States, even though there was some minority feeling towards this, it was never acted upon. On the other hand, the dioceses of the Confederate States understood themselves to be in a new nation and acted accordingly.

Reading the history of the actual separation and reunion of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Confederate States reveal questions that had to be settled at that time in that time of separation and re-unification, which clearly contradict the assumptions of the recent Common Cause gathering.

A quick Google search will direct one to a reprint by Project Canterbury of a History of the Church the Confederate States, written by Bishop Joseph Blount of South Carolina in 1912. While there were at first several views about the status of the several dioceses, the prevailing view was that the church of the new nation should have a new governing body and its own polity.

Bishop Leonidas Polk of Louisiana wrote in 1861

We are still one in Faith, in purpose and in Hope; but political changes, forced upon us by a stern necessity, have occurred, which have placed our Dioceses in a position requiring consultation as to our future ecclesiastical relations. It is better that these relations should be arranged by the common consent of all the Dioceses within the Confederate States than by the independent action of each Diocese. The one will probably lead to harmonious action, the other might produce inconvenient diversity.

He later wrote:

Our separation from our brethren of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States has been effected because we must follow our nationality. Not because there has been any difference of opinion as to Christian Doctrine or Catholic usage. Upon these points we are still one. With us it is a separation, not division, certainly not alienation. And there is no reason why, if we should find the union of our Dioceses under one National Church impracticable, we should cease to feel for each other the respect and regard with which purity of manners, high principle, and manly devotion to truth, never fail to inspire generous minds."

The New York Times published the words of the words of Bishop Thomas David of South Carolina who said to his diocesan convention in 1862 that the administrative union with the PECUSA was broken, that was all:

The whole subject is simply a case of jurisdiction.It involves no article of faith, no spiritual condition or office.The Creeds all preexisted our present condition.

Polk, who became a Confederate General, put forward the idea that each diocese was of right an independent entity but this was an idea that the other Southern Bishops firmly rejected. Ironically, it was Polk himself who was the first to call for common action among the several southern dioceses. Every bishop in the South, each in his own way, argued that "church follows nationality."

More than one Bishop wrote that should the political situation change, they hoped that they could reunite their dioceses with the PECUSA.

About slavery, Haller writes,

To our shame, slavery was not the issue that “divided” the church — the church had, on the contrary, refused to take a national position on slavery in the interests of keeping the peace.... Thus, by allowing for local option on the question of slavery, The Episcopal Church was enabled to remain united, until the matter boiled over in the secular arena.

Finally, it is fascinating to me to see that Bishop Duncan appears to think that our present divisions over sexuality are of quite a different moral significance — and obviously far more important — than the question of slavery. It seems to me that this sad past chapter of our national history offers little to support his present pressure for division.

The short history of the PEC-CSA, with its General Council and the consecration of a Bishop for Alabama, the formation of the Diocese of Arkansas and their oversight of the manner of worship, shows that even in the independently minded South under the dire circumstances of civil war, the Church was more than a mere federation of dioceses.

Have you commited sodomy lately?

Carol Towarincky in the Philadelphia Daily News:

Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The word "sodomy" comes from the idea that homosexual sex was the sin for which God destroyed the inhabitants of these two ancient cities.

The story is told in Genesis (19). The men of Sodom surrounded Lot's house and demanded that he let them rape two heavenly messengers whom he had invited into his home. Lot refused, instead offering the men sex with his unmarried daughters.

The "traditional" interpretation of the story turns out to be a relatively modern one not shared by the ancient Hebrews. The "iniquity" of Sodom was long understood to represent the failure to offer hospitality to visitors, a matter of life and death in desert societies. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel (16:49), Sodom's sins were "pride, fullness of bread, an abundance of idleness" and a failure to help the poor and needy.

But the context of the Sodom story supports another interpretation: In the verses immediately before it, God has already decided to destroy the city, but Abraham exacts a promise that it will be spared if 10 men are found to be innocent. If the sin of Sodom was homosexuality, and all the men were guilty of it, why would Lot think his daughters would satisfy them? And does saving Lot mean God approved of his willingness to let his daughters be raped?

Jewish legends about Sodom, called "midrash," make the same point, describing the crimes of the Sodomites as over-the-top greed and cruelty to visitors.

If the very source of the word sodomy is based on a misreading of the Bible, how much else have the traditionalists misunderstood?

Plenty.

Read it all here.

Defections, faithful remnants, sales, and property disputes

Reports from the dioceses:

Diocese of Central Florida. Bishop Howe writes,

If you must leave, for conscience sake, I will do all in my power to make your leaving amicable. But when you make the decision to leave you immediately cease being a member of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Central Florida. You immediately cease having any say in decisions regarding any congregation of the Diocese or its property.

Diocese of Georgia. Bishop Louttit writes,
October 2, 2007-- I have just been informed that the rector and wardens of Christ Church, Savannah have voted to leave the Episcopal Church. It is important to clarify the ecclesiastical structure of our denomination. Parishes in our church are not separate congregations but are integral and constituent parts of a diocese and of the larger church. Should some individuals in a parish decide they can no longer be Episcopalians, that in no way changes the fact that Christ Church is and will remain a parish of the Episcopal Church in this diocese and will continue to occupy its present facilities.
Diocese of Rio Grande. Bishop Steenson writes in "A Godly Judgement",
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has stated her insistence that the new congregation which is formed once the Episcopal congregation is duly dissolved does not affiliate with any other constituent Province or Diocese of the Anglican Communion. I hereby communicate her expectation to the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry and the new congregation that will be formed, and I ask them in good faith to honor this. I recognize, however, that this may be a matter to come before the Instruments of the Anglican Communion and that its ultimate resolution may lie with one or more of these Instruments.

The Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (extract from The Living Church)
Asked if she were satisfied with the agreement by the Diocese of the Rio Grande to sell St. Clement Pro-Cathedral in El Paso, Texas, to the congregation, Bishop Schori said she had recommended two stipulations.

“I’ve told them that my two concerns are that the congregation not set up as another part of the Anglican Communion and that there is some reasonable assurance that it’s a fair sale,” she said.

The Joint Standing Committee Report: some flashpoints

Our nominations for the passages of The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion Report on The Episcopal Church House of Bishops of Meeting in New Orleans include:

On same-sex blessings
(page 6 of the pdf):

The Episcopal Church has acknowledged in the past, however, that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions”. In answer to the way in which this resolution was understood in the Windsor Report, it has been said that this statement was to be understood descriptively of a reality current in 2003 and not as permissive, and the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion prior to the 75th General Convention (2006) specifically denied that it was intended to authorise such rites.

It needs to be made clear however that we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority “until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action, a qualification which is in line with the limits that the Constitution of The Episcopal Church places upon the bishops.

On this basis, we understand the statement of the House of Bishops in New Orleans to have met the request of the Windsor Report in that the Bishops have declared “a moratorium on all such public Rites”19, and the request of the Primates at Dar es Salaam that the bishops should “make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses” since we have their pledge explicitly in those terms.

The interpretation of the phrase: "the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority" will be hotly disputed. Does that constitute a prohibition? Is it opaque on purpose? Note also the phrase "On this basis" at the beginning of the last paragraph in the quotation.

Conclusion to Part One
(page 9)

By their answers to these two questions, we believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them in the Windsor Report, and on which clarifications were sought by 30th September 2007, and given the necessary assurances sought of them.

Obviously the breakaway right and the Primates aligned with Akinola will dispute this. Will others join them?

Regarding incursions by Primates of other provinces
(Page 11--the second sentence):

At Dar es Salaam, the primates sought to address these matters by proposing that The Episcopal Church turn to a particular group of bishops living and ministering within its life, who had publicly declared that they accepted both the standard of teaching expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and were unreservedly committed to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. In other words, the primates were indicating to those who felt alienated from the leadership of The Episcopal Church that there were identifiable bishops within The Episcopal Church able to meet the needs identified by the groups seeking alternative pastoral provision without the need for “foreign intervention”.

A pretty straightforward repudiation of the Peter Akinola/Henry Orombi/Benjamin Nzimbi/Emmanuel Kolini incursions that won't sit well on the separatist right.

Support for Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's "episcopal visitors"
(Pages 11 and 12)

In her opening remarks to the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori indicated to the assembled bishops that she had appointed eight Episcopal Visitors. ... We believe that these initiatives offer a viable basis on which to proceed. Bishop Jefferts Schori indicated that she deliberately left open and flexible the operation of the ministry of the Episcopal Visitors, believing that it was best for the visitor and the diocesan bishop concerned to work out an acceptable scheme. The Presiding Bishop laid down only two conditions: first, that such Episcopal visitors did not encourage dioceses or parishes to leave the Episcopal Church, and second, that the Episcopal Visitors would report occasionally to the Presiding Bishop. By leaving this ministry flexible for negotiation and development, we believe that the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties, could meet their needs.

Another blow to separatists.

Law suits
(page 12):

We are dismayed as a Joint Standing Committee by the continuing use of the law courts in this situation, and request that the Archbishop of Canterbury use his influence to persuade parties to discontinue actions in law on the basis set out in the primates’ Communiqué.

A plea unlikely to be heard by either side, except when there is a tactical advantage in appearing to be the more peaceable party.

The Pastoral Council Scheme from Dar es Salaam is dead, but the Panel of Reference may be resurrected.
(page 13):

We believe that the House of Bishops is correct in identifying that the co-operation and participation of the wider Communion, in a way which respects the integrity of the American Province, is an important element in addressing questions of pastoral oversight for those seeking alternative provision. We also believe that a body which could facilitate such consultation and partnership would meet the intent of the Pastoral Council envisaged by the Primates in their Communiqué. We encourage all the Instruments of Communion to participate in a discussion with the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of The Episcopal Church to discern a way in which to meet both the intentions behind the proposals in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué and this statement by the House of Bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury may wish to revisit the work and mandate of “The Panel of Reference” and to explore whether this body, or a reconstituted version of it, may have a part to play in this respect.

It is difficult to believe that the Committee sees potential in the PofR, which is disliked and mistrusted by left and right. The acknowledgment that the Pastoral Council Scheme, foisted on the world by the Anglican Communion Institute violated the integrity of a member province of the Communion is most welcome, however.

The flashpoint among flashpoints as far as the separatists are concerned
Page 14

As a Joint Standing Committee, we do not see how certain primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying regard to them.

"In good conscience" is very, very strong language. And not to put too fine a point on it, on Page 15, the Committee quotes the previous Archbishop of Canterbury George's Carey who wrote that the bishops consecrated for the Anglican Mission in America during his tenure were no bishops of the Anglican Communion, and in the following paragraph adds:

The current instances of consecrations which have been taking place in African Provinces with respect to “missionary initiatives” in North America would seem to fall into the same category. We understand that, in addition to contravening the authorities quoted above, the consecrations took place either without consultation with or even against the counsel of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

That's enough for now. There is ample language in this document to trouble proponents of the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the sacramental life of the Church as well. More on that tomorrow.

Update: one member of the Joint Standing Committee who disagrees with this report has made his voice heard. Is it maybe just a little curious that Bishop Mouneer Anis could not get his comments to the writers of the Standing Committee report in time for inclusion, but was able to get them into the hands of the Times of London two hours after the report was published?

Episcopal Church featured on "In the Life"

American Public Televison's news and features program In the Life kicks off its 16th season with a report on the crisis in the Episcopal Church. The 15 minute report focuses on the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and will no doubt make a major media star of Calvary Episcopal Church rector, the Rev. Harold Lewis. Watch it now. Or find out when it is airing in your area.

The big push?

The Anglican Scotist analyzes the Campaign to Frighten Rowan (CaFRow) currently being conducted by the Anglican right. Bishop Michael Nazir Ali is the latest campaigner to issue a most likely empty threat to "boycott" the Lambeth Conference. The campaign is foundering, however. Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in African rebuffed Archbishop Peter Akinola's attempt to organize a continent-wide boycott at their recent meeting, and some bishops from Akinola's own province, the Church of Nigeria, have already accepted their invitations.

The Scotist's prediction:

[W]hether they leave soon for a new communion of their own devising, or waffle and wrangle some more--and it seems to me this type of pressure will continue as long as it can be ginned up by the usual suspects--this is the high-water mark. The big bombs yet to fall--Fort Worth and others trying to leave--will not yield the hoped for results, separation and replacement, because there isn't sufficient support in the [Church of England], as that would require being willing to split the CoE: the quitters becoming disestablished. The big bombs will fall in all likelihood, and there will be a big crash, but that will not qualitatively shift the situation.

"Legal Help Requested"

Katie Sherrod writes of the difficulties Episcopalians are having finding help from the national church office as they struggle to remain in the Episcopal Church while living in dioceses planning on leaving.

After describing the situation in the Diocese of Fort Worth, she write of her frustration as she and others in the diocese seek guidance in how to respond:

"I confess to being baffled at how much difficulty we are having getting legal advice on all this from the national church. What’s more, they don't say, 'Well, we can't help until you get your own lawyer,' or 'Here are the steps you need to take before we can help you,' or 'Jump through these hoops to prove you are worthy of our help.'

We would gladly do whatever we need to do -- if we had the slightest idea what that is.

We are not canon lawyers. The lawyers we are talking with are not canon lawyers and will have to do research on this. Texas courts are very reluctant to intervene in a church fight and, we are told by lawyers here, they always defer to the canons of hierarchal churches. Well, that sounds good. But nothing I've been able to find talks about what to do when a bishop is trying to take everything in a diocese with him.

That changes the dynamic in ways 815 doesn't seem to grasp.
Everyone tells us it will have to be fought out in court. OK. But when? And by whom? And with what money? And what should we be doing in the meantime?

Most of the clergy here are in the bishop’s pocket. Those who are not are few, and pretty beat up.

So it is us lay people [basically Fort Worth Via Media] who are struggling to find ways to stay in TEC. We do not have diocesan resources to help us, and few of the parishes are willing to use their resources to help us. Trinity, my parish, is clear it wants to stay in TEC but it’s not getting any more help than FWVM is getting."

Read the rest here: Desert's Child: Legal Help Requested

At the Cathedral: Pop Music, Politics And Prayers for Peace

Linton Weeks writes in The Washington Post:

It was the coolest of church coffeehouses.

"Thanks for coming to give peace a chance," David Crosby told the crowd of more than 2,500 at Washington National Cathedral, before he and Graham Nash launched into "Lay Me Down."

To kick off last night's Pray for Peace concert, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington and the evening's emcee, quoted Nash: "No person has the right to take another person's life in the name of God." Churches and religions should be instruments of peace, not war, he said.

When people gather to pray for peace, "what you are praying for is an end to war," Chane said. He said it was not an antiwar event, but a moment to call on nations to lay down all arms. "War," he said, "is the ultimate declaration of human failure. What we are saying is: Enough is enough."

Read it all. CBS has a story, too.

Living in tension

The Rev. Matthew Dutton-Gillett has written a new essay for The Episcopal Majority. He says:

If Anglicanism falls apart, with “conservatives” going their way and “liberals” going their way, the world will not be surprised. Because that is exactly what human beings do and have done over and over again throughout history. They choose sides, they throw rocks at their enemies and they ultimately split up – or else destroy one party to the conflict. Most of the world will not see the break up of the Anglican Communion as a great heroic defense of Truth. They will see it as a failure even among Christian people to live any better with each other than the rest of humanity. The falling apart of the Anglican Communion will not be an evangelistic triumph for the True Faith. It will be a conspicuous example of the inability of the followers of Jesus to actually follow him.

Read it all.

Falling in love with the Episcopal Church

Emily Garcia, writing in the Daily Princetonian, reflects on her journey in faith as she discovers the Episcopal Church as a place where she finds love and redemption.

I joined the confirmation class, not because I wanted to be confirmed but because I had so many questions. As I kept learning, however, I started to fall in love. I cannot even express what it was like to learn that perhaps all my questions were not signs of sinfulness or fault; I can't begin to explain the overwhelming and startling joy at encountering a God who did not look at me only to see where I had failed, but who accepted me and called me to higher places. On Easter morning I was baptized. Four weeks later, on Good Shepherd Sunday, I was confirmed, and officially, happily, enthusiastically joined the Anglican Communion.

I have found in the Anglican Church a long sweep of tradition and a wide spectrum of beliefs and doctrines, all centered around a message of love and redemption. I have found an intellectual engagement with Scripture and theology that is balanced precariously but perpetually with a sincere spiritual yearning for holiness. To be fair, not all of my interest and passion for "religion" (i.e. God) arose solely from having joined the Anglican Church; rather, it is in this particular expression of Christianity that I have found my home. It is the place where I have found safety and acceptance enough to explore myself and the world, and to continue the journey toward knowing God.

Read the essay here

Quincy stays...for now

The Diocese of Quincy decided at last weekends convention not to depart from the Episcopal Church...for now. According to an Associated Press report in the Chicago Tribune, the Rev. John Spencer, spoke for the Diocese when he said "We didn't make any formal changes in our relationship with the [U.S.] Episcopal Church this weekend."

Spencer said the delegates "focused primarily on our worship together, our time together as a diocese and family, and our focus on ministry work around the globe. We took a number of actions that will open up possibilities for the diocese over the course of the coming year to examine and consider relationships with other parts of the Anglican community."

The Journal Star of Peoria reports that while several resolutions seeking separation and realignment were discussed, none were acted on. Instead,

Diocesan leaders are waiting to see what actions other dioceses take at their annual gatherings, he said.

Also being awaited are reactions by archbishops from around the world to actions taken in late September by The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. The Anglican leaders had asked the U.S. bishops earlier this year to clarify their stand on blessings of same-sex unions and consecrating noncelibate homosexual bishops.

Spencer said diocesan leaders also are waiting to see who will attend next year's scheduled Lambeth Conference in England, a meeting of Anglican Communion archbishops and bishops from around the world held once every 10 years.

So for now, at least, it appears that this diocese has decided to pause for a season to discern their role in the Episcopal Church.

Uganda not CANA invited to Pittsburgh

The keynote speaker at the upcoming Convention in the Diocese of Pittsburgh will be former Episcopal Priest and now Ugandan Bishop John Guernsey. He will speak to a Convention that will consider two resolutions representing opposite approaches to the future relationship of the Diocese to the Episcopal Church.

Guernsey was consecrated Bishop last September in Kampala, Uganda and is charged with leading the 33 former-Episcopal Churches that have become apart of the Province of Uganda. Last September, Guernsey led his parish out of the Diocese of Virginia and into the Ugandan church.

The two proposed resolutions offer opposite directions for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Resolution Two would restore the Constitution of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to the language that existed in 2004: that the Diocese is a constituent member of the Episcopal Church and "accedes to, recognizes, and adopts the Constitution and Canons of that Church, and acknowledges its authority accordingly."

The other resolution, numbered One, would emphasize the Dioceses separation from the Episcopal Church and further would allow the Diocese to welcome into membership congregations that are not within the geographical boundaries of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The movers of the Resolution Two note that they are following the lead of Bishop John Howe of Central Florida.

The Executive Council passed its statement on the unconstitutionality of the 2004 Pittsburgh amendment after a full discussion and with the full support of its Chancellor, Sally Johnson, Esqr. The measure was brought forward from the Committee on National Concerns after full discussion there. At least six members of Executive Council are trained in the law and all supported this Executive Council resolution. Recently Bishop John Howe of Central Florida, (a founding member of the Anglican Communion Network) ruled out of order a proposal to add a qualification to the accession clause of that diocese because it was beyond the power of the diocese to change the clause. He had sought advice from 15 individuals, both liberal and conservative, including the two chancellors of the diocese of Central Florida and those of the dioceses of Utah, Colorado, and Upper South Carolina, the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, the Chancellor to the Executive Council, the past parliamentarian of the House of Bishops, four bishops with legal background (including Bishop William Wantland), and several other bishops and a leading expert on parliamentary procedure. This group overwhelmingly supported Bishop Howe's ruling that it is beyond the power of a diocese to alter the accession statement once the diocesan constitution has been accepted by General Convention. Thus the weight of legal opinion in the church has confirmed that our diocesan convention exceeded its powers in 2004. Leaving a statement which is null and void in the text of the Constitution and Canons is to confuse unnecessarily those who turn to the document for guidance.

No explanation is offered for the purpose or intent of Resolution One, but it is clear that instead of seeking a relationship with a Primate outside of the Episcopal Church, the movers wish the Diocese of Pittsburgh to become an independent body that exists parallel to the Episcopal Church, with the power to welcome into its jurisdiction any church outside of the Pennsylvania counties that comprise that diocese as long as they "meet all other requirements set forth in the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for canonical admission."

The motion also creates provision for an extra-diocesan synod or convention.

It is interesting to note that in choosing the speaker they have and in putting forward a resolution which would radically redraw the relationship of Diocese to Province, that they have decided not to align with an existing African Province such as CANA, that the Diocese is not seeking to be under the authority of any other African-ordained American bishop, and would also be in a position to create a new denominational structure separate from the Episcopal Church but building on the congregations, dioceses and past mission of the Episcopal Church.

Passing Resolution One would most assuredly create a legal and pastoral conflict for both the Diocese and the Episcopal Church. If it passes, it may indicate that, despite the warnings and preferences of the Archbishop of Canterbury, they are ready to provoke the long-anticipated showdown.

Read the Announcement of Convention here.
Resolution One is here.
Resolution Two is here.

Splitsville: justifying schism in Pittsburgh

The Diocese of Pittsburgh will be considering a resolution to completely sever ties with the Episcopal Church. The link to their "Resolution A" did not include an explanation, but was given out at pre-convention hearings and posted on the Diocesan web-site.

On page 2 of the explanation, the supporters answer the question "Does the Diocese have the authority to enact Resolution One?" in this way:

The Diocese is acting within its own canonical and constitutional structures. The governing documents of the diocese lay out a clear path for changing the Constitution of the diocese. The proposed Resolution One follows that course exactly and allows the diocese to make decisions about its future in good order.

The Episcopal Church has no authority over its dioceses.
It is by Diocese that consent is given to bishops, and by Diocese that they are elected. The Executive Council is given no constitutional or canonical authority to overrule the constitutional decisions of a Diocese.

There is no national executive department. The role of the Presiding Bishop is principally ceremonial or gathering.

The canons of the Episcopal Church do not assign any authority to the General Convention or to the Presiding Bishop over the Dioceses. In the last General Convention legislation that “directed” a Diocese to do something, was regularly and intentionally changed to “urge” or “request.”

There is no National Court that has jurisdiction over a Diocese, only a Court for the Trial of a Bishop and Provincial Courts of Review (Clergy Discipline). Attempts at several General Conventions to establish such a Court have been rejected.

Contribution to the budget of the Episcopal Church is free-will.

The Constitution and Canons are silent on the matter of a Diocese disaffiliating.

In the case of nine southern dioceses disaffiliating in 1861, no action was ever taken against them, nor was any legislation ever adopted to block it from happening again. While we do not sympathize with the cause of those dioceses, the precedent is clear.

The Dennis Canon alone attempts to establish national authority over property held by parishes. It does not appear to give The Episcopal Church any claim over diocesan property. It is a general principle of law that such a trust cannot be established without the consent of those affected.

Three parishes of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and before its founding of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, existed prior to the creation of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

The changes would:

1. Allow the Diocese of Pittsburgh itself to define itself as a member of the Anglican Communion.

2. Reserve to the Diocese the choice of a Province and Primate not as a constitutional matter but as a matter of canon. In other words, they can choose to change Provinces on very short notice with only a majority vote at one convention required.

Article I, Section 2, secures the right of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to establish its Provincial alignment by canon. It does not alter the alignment. Dis-affiliation from The Episcopal Church and re-alignment with another Province would be achieved by a canon passed at the time of adoption at the second reading.

3. Any Primate or Province that would take on Pittsburgh would have to accept the fact that Pittsburgh has constitutionally defined for them the manner and form of their representation at their convention or synod. Pittsburgh will send four lay and four clergy deputies whether that Province is structured that way or not.

The vision of those who support Resolution One is that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is, in effect, its own denomination with a reach far beyond its own historic borders, that affiliates with a Primate and Province of their own choosing, according to a vote of the Diocesan Convention.

The Resolution does not recognize that the Diocese was formed by the authority of the General Convention itself. It has until fairly recently abided by the actions of General Convention and in so doing has heretofore recognized the authority of the Convention over their life and work. While the explanation states that the Episcopal Church does not have any authority over it, it also defines the Book of Common Prayer as a foundational document that new parishes must adhere to. Neither the resolution nor the explanation defines who selects and authorizes the Book of Common Prayer. That is because the Episcopal Church clearly states the process for adopting the BCP and Pittsburgh has adhered to it. This is only one weakness in their logic.

The goal of the supporters of this Resolution are clear that its purpose is to maintain "the culture of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh into the future" because that to them "eminently preferable to having our culture supplanted by the present culture of the Episcopal Church."

The handout, in PDF format, may be found here.

You may also find the FAQs for Resolution One here..

Taking a stand ... in the middle of the road

A group of clergy from the Diocese of Georgia have published a statement in Savannah Morning News that speaks to the decision by the leadership of Christ Church, Savannah to attempt to affiliate as a congregation of the Anglican Province of Uganda.

"Traffic is coming at you both ways if you stand in the middle of the road, or as Episcopalians call it, taking the middle path, the via media.

Standing in the middle, whether it be in traffic or two conflicting views can be a risky business, but it is how Episcopalians and most of their Anglican brothers and sisters have chosen to live. In fact much of what is being said about the Episcopal Church, from whatever direction the traffic is flowing can be very misleading. Read the Bible, read our prayer book and speak with a member of our clergy to discover the real facts about who we are and what we believe.

The apostle Paul said to do all things in moderation. That doesn't mean being 'luke-warm.

'We accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and we believe that fundamentalism, polarization and the secularizing of religion are dangerous for one's spiritual health. We continue to stand for listening to one another, being inclusive, taking our history seriously, taking Scripture seriously, and engaging mystery and paradox.

We adhere to the ancient Creeds of the Church and we believe Holy Scripture is the inspired Word of God containing all things necessary for salvation. We further believe that the Sacraments provide a sure and certain means of God's grace. We accept the checks and balances of a church structure and practice that include the ancient tradition of bishops, priests, deacons and laity. All of this keeps local vestries (boards) and clergy from going off the deep end.

All this being said, as in any denomination, there are many individuals, both leaders and parishioners, who hold a variety of beliefs, but in the Episcopal Church no one individual, no one vestry, no one leader, may dictate or pretend to represent the exclusive Faith of the Church. We recognize along with the apostle Paul that we all see through a glass darkly. But if we can make an effort to take one another seriously and listen to each other as fellow members of The Body of Christ, we might all see a bit more clearly and charitably.

We in the Episcopal Church are willing to risk, that at the end of the day, we might be convicted, of being too compassionate, rather than too judgmental; too inclusive rather than too exclusive; too moderate rather than too extremist. We are willing to take the risk of standing in the via media.

Are you willing to take that risk? Come and see who we really are.

Visit an Episcopal Church on Sunday. Come to a Bible study or forum at a local Episcopal church. Everyone is welcome, regardless of denomination, religion, political party, lifestyle or race. Step out of the fast lane (or slow) and step into the via media."

Read the rest, and see the full list of signatories here.

Hat-tip to Episcope for the pointer to the article!

Loyalists in Network dioceses seek assistance

The Living Church reports, "Loyalist Episcopalians in dioceses affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network feel isolated and lack access to important information to help them plan for their future, said Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, during brief introductory remarks to Executive Council, Oct. 26 in Dearborn, Michigan. .... Many of the questions relate to how these persons will remain connected if their dioceses realize plans to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church. ... No decisions were made following Mrs. Anderson's address and it was uncertain how much time the council would spend on these issues."

Read it all here.

Executive Council responds to the draft covenant

The Executive Council took several actions at its recent meeting one of which was to make public its response to the Draft Anglican Covenant. Some excerpts from that response:

The tensions of the present moment notwithstanding, we believe that there is a strong common identity that unites Anglicans worldwide. Anglicanism flourishes in geographical and cultural contexts of remarkable diversity. Yet we share a distinctive character that is familiar wherever it is found. Anglicans embrace a provisionality that argues for freedom in non-essential matters and humility in those matters where faithful Christians may err. We share a profound desire that the church be comprehensive of all sorts and conditions of people, and that it bring both justice and the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all. At our best, we are characterized by a genuine pastoral sensitivity to those with whom we have differences and by a profound respect for all people. In our lives together, we delight in a particular love of liturgical worship and the sacramental life of the church in all its various expressions....
...
In this age of globalization and post-colonialism, our Anglican identity fosters a powerful and creative dynamic between the particular and the universal, the local and the global, the contextual and the catholic. The question then, before Anglicans today, is: how can we live more deeply into what God, in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is calling us to be in the variety of our local circumstances while, at the same time, remaining in unity with sisters and brothers in Christ who live in different circumstances? How can Anglicanism move beyond the confines of a mono-cultural privileged, English-speaking church of the West to a multicultural and global plurality of post-colonial churches without losing a sense of our common purpose and identity? What role can an Anglican covenant play in negotiating the life of the Anglican Communion lived between the local and the global?
...
Our study process has led us to the conclusion that The Episcopal Church, as with the Executive Council, is not of one mind as to the efficacy of this particular Draft Covenant in either form or content. Furthermore, some parts of the Covenant have received broad endorsement within The Episcopal Church, whereas other parts have engendered vigorous debate and opposition. Recognizing this diversity of opinion, we will now discuss each section of the Draft Anglican Covenant, seeking to be responsible to the variety of opinions within our church.
...
While some of our members consider the draft adequate as it stands, the majority believe that we must work in the hope that the final form of this document will provide a better means of engaging one another respectfully and with mutual regard, as we seek to agree on essential matters of faith and order while celebrating our differences.
Read it all here.

Mark Harris has some reflections here. (See, too, his pre-council post here.) Context: Harris writes,

I was part of the working group that produced this paper and it was received and by resolution became the response of Executive Council. Because Executive Council was mandated by General Convention to do this work it becomes an (not the) official response of The Episcopal Church. Hopefully it will be read by the Covenant Design Group and will become a contribution to its work.

The Episcopal Church enters the home building business

65,000 homes were lost due Hurricane Katrina and many of the deplaced are still living in FEMA trailers. The Hattiesburg American reports on a non-profit joint venture with participation by The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Missisippi:

"By the end of the first year of operations, Unity Homes expects to have produced 250 houses and employ 70 people," Vallette said. "Within three years, we plan to be building at least 500 houses per year, with a production and field staff of over 125 people."

The company is a nonprofit business that partners with Episcopal Relief and Development, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, Vallette said.

Some of the homes built will go to people who meet income requirements, and by 2009 100 of them will go to a program to help single mothers with home ownership.


Read it here. Check out this earlier Episcopal Life story about the venture and the Hallelujah Housing program.

The contributions of Episcopalians have been recognized elsewhere. Check out this post-Katrina progress report from the New York Times titled "Building on Faith." Excerpts:

About 105,000 dwellings, 71 percent of the housing stock, were damaged or destroyed in Orleans Parish by Hurricane Katrina, said Gregory C. Rigamer, a New Orleans demographics expert. About 56 percent of the city’s population has returned, Mr. Rigamer said, but resettlement has been erratic. In the Lower Ninth Ward, for instance, just 7 percent of residents have come back.
...
It is unclear exactly how much housing religiously affiliated groups and churches have built since last year, when most began their efforts. But interviews with five of the groups — Providence Community Housing, Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers of America, the Episcopal Diocese of New Orleans Jericho Road Project and First Evangelist Baptist Church — showed that since 2006, about 350 housing units have come onto the market, a pace officers at the groups said should accelerate as they acquire more property and line up financing.

There's more about the Jericho Road project here.

Discussing the work of executive council

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson review the work and decisions of Executive Council at the conclusion of its October 26-28 meeting in Dearborn, Michigan.

A video stream of the interview, conducted by executive editor of Episcopal Life Media, the Rev. Jan Nunley, is available here.

A house dividing?

Updated. Again This is convention season in the Episcopal Church, and most will be conducting the routine business of mission, but in Pittsburgh they will be weighing the question of whether the Diocese will even remain in the Episcopal Church or attempt to strike out on their own.

Kecia Bal of the JohnstownTribune-Democrat writes:

Episcopalians nationwide are watching as leaders and delegates of the Episcopal Church’s Pittsburgh Diocese converge on Johnstown today to consider separating from their national affiliation.

“It is like my parents are getting divorced,” said Cindy Leap, parishioner at St. Mark’s Episcopalian Church in Johnstown. “I have to pick whether to go with my mommy or daddy.”

The Convention will vote on the first reading of constitutional changes that would attempt to separate the Diocese from the Episcopal Church, becoming its own free-standing entity, allow the Diocese to pick the Primate of their choice from around the Anglican Communion, and welcome into membership congregations that are not within the geographical boundaries of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Such declarations have been considered null and void and this week, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, wrote a letter to the Rt. Rev. Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, stating that she is "aware of other of [his] statements and actions in recent months that demonstrate an intention to lead [his] diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from The Episcopal Church." She goes on to say

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.

It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop.

People in the diocese who are in favor of the split see this as a matter of conscience.

The first reading of Resolution 1, which would change the constitution to prepare the diocese to leave the Episcopal Church and choose their own primate is reported to have passed.

Luminous Darkness has posted the results:

The Diocese of Pittsburgh voted just now to leave the Episcopal Church, not in so many words, but that is the spirit of Resolution 1 at the Diocesan Convention. The Resolution says several things, but the most important points are that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is free to choose its own Provincial alignment by canon and that it may contain parishes outside its historical geographic boundaries. The majority was not staggering, but in the lay order was approximately 66% in favor and 33% against and in the clerical order, 82% in favor and 18% against.

That blog also quotes Bishop Duncan's words to moderates and his view of what will happen next.

If Resolution One passes, our work in the year ahead would likely include determination of the Province with which the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh might re-align, development of acceptable options available to minority congregations, and negotiation, both nationally and with plaintiffs locally, about a mediated alternative to continuing or escalating litigation.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has posted Bishop Bob Duncan's written response to The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori:

Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.

Episcopal Church is not divisible

Bishops thinking of leading their dioceses out of The Episcopal Church seem to have missed lessons on church history somewhere along the line. The Diocese of Pittsburgh's vote on Resolution 1, as reported in A House Dividing yesterday is based on the idea that Dioceses are free standing entities. This reading of history has no basis in fact according to scholars of American history.

In 1959, James Allen (Jim) Dator, Professor, and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote a dissertation on The Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Confederal, Federal, or Unitary?. It was accepted by the Faculty of the Graduate School (School of Government) of The American University, Washington, DC, in 1959 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

The complete dissertation is here

In October of 2004, he wrote:

As the introduction to my dissertation clearly states, I wrote this dissertation to resolve a constitutional conundrum that personally perplexed and interested me, and not because I had any a priori preference for one outcome over others. Moreover I was not involved in any actual controversy in the Church, and I don't recall that it was in fact an especially hot topic at the time, though the matter has always been in dispute. It was just that, as a political scientist (and Anglican) who had to write a doctoral dissertation about something I decided to write it on this issue since I wanted to know what the fundamental structure of the PECUSA was, having read so many conflicting statements about it. I was also interested in the emerging topic of "private governance" and saw this dissertation as a contribution to that field.

I started my dissertation out by reviewing the extensive history of differences of opinion (and strident conflicts) within PECUSA about whether the government is confederal, federal or unitary (and these terms were often specifically used over the history of the controversies).

I then did what I believed no one had done before--carefully defined what the three terms (confederal, federal, or unitary) actually meant, so that I could determine what the case truly was (important in part because historically people often used the terms very loosely, as I showed, and thus misleadingly for people reading the comments later).

Then, on page 53 and 54, after carefully reviewing the various drafts of a constitution for PECUSA, and the Church's Constitution as adopted on October 2, 1789, I conclude two things:

(1) The Church's constitution was NOT made in imitation of the US Constitution. Thus, while the US Constitution is a federal system, giving the states certain rights and the central government other rights, "there is not explicit in the Church's Constitution of 1789 any definition of a division of powers [between the dioceses and the General Convention], even though the framers of that Constitution had models of both the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution before them" (p. 53).

(2) PECUSA was created as a unitary and not a federal government: "In summary, neither Bishop White's "Case", nor the "Fundamental Principles" of 1784, nor the "General Ecclesiastical Constitution" of 1785, nor the "General Constitution of 1786," nor the Constitution of 1789 provided explicitly for a constitutional division of powers. Such a division of powers is an essential manifestation of both federal and confederal governments. Neither is there any other evidence to indicate that the Constitution is one of a confederation. Indeed, as far as the written Constitution is explicitly concerned, the Church's government is unitary" (p. 54).

This was not changed subsequently: "An examination of the constitutional amendments accepted by the General Convention [from 1789-1959] shows that no section has been added to the Constitution either for the specific or incidental purpose of affirming or denying the federal or confederal (p. 54) structure of the Church or of a division of powers between the central and diocesan governments" (p. 55). The original unitary structure still stands.

His notes continue below:

Read more »

2000 in 90 minutes

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, spoke at the convention of the Diocese of Vermont and 90 minutes into her talk, gave a figure that startled Daniel Barlow of the Rutland Herald.

"Two thousand children across the world have died since I began speaking here today," Jefferts Schori said.

The 53-year-old presiding bishop, the first woman elected by the Episcopal Church to that position, met with supporters and fans at the Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont in Burlington and put the plight of the poor and hungry around the world front and center.

For nearly two hours, Jefferts Schori spoke of the need for both the United States and its community of churches to make a concerted effort to reduce poverty and hunger and boost educational and health efforts across the globe.

She urged members of the church to invest in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a lofty measure adopted by nearly 200 nations that aims to reduce world poverty by half by 2015.

The blog Blazing Indiscretions described "a weekend of celebration."

It's a weekend of celebration in Vermont. This morning nearly 350 people gathered at St Paul's Cathedral in Burlington as the Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, preached and presided at the Eucharist on the Feast of Richard Hooker and the 175th convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont (and the 216th of the Episcopal Church in Vermont!).

The Presiding Bishop urged the church to focus less on what divides and more on the mission that unites us.

"Obviously a handful of our church leaders are still upset and would like to see the church never ordain and never baptize a gay or lesbian person," she said. "We need to refocus on more life-and-death issues like starvation, education, medical care."

Read more: epiScope "+KJS in Vermont" and "more +KJS in Vermont."

Bishop Robinson isn't the real issue

An article in the Concord Monitor claims that the real issue in the Episcopal Church isn't the election and consecration of an openly gay bishop. The author argues that the actual problem is that the Episcopal Church is not being able to respond to the real challenges it is facing in a rapidly changing world because conservative voices keep the focus on Robinson rather than on the larger issues.

From the beginning of the article:

"Is the Episcopal Church's impending schism really about the theological rift that sprung up after the consecration of its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire?

Or is the brouhaha really about a church in battle with itself about how to be financially solvent and theologically relevant in today's competitive religious marketplace?

Last weekend, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted in favor of separating from the national church over theological beliefs on homosexuality. 'What we're trying to do is state clearly in the United States for the authority of Scripture,' Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said after the vote.

But 'authority of Scripture' doesn't hold weight here because the Episcopal Church has always been challenged on this issue.

In the 1970s, the argument for authority of Scripture came up with the ordination of women - and so, too, did the threat of a schism. But in 1989, the church consecrated its first female bishop, Barbara Harris."

Read the rest here.

The Confederacy of Duncan's

The Rev. Harold Lewis, Rector of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh writes of Bishop Duncan's "New Confederacy"

If indeed the Episcopalians seeking realignment can be seen as the new Confederacy, we can take some comfort in the knowledge that the old Confederacy and the church that it spawned were short-lived. Already there is dissension in the ranks. In this diocese, although we could not tell by their behavior at Convention, there are several clergy and lay leaders from conserving” parishes who have indicated to the bishop that when push comes to shove, they will not join ranks with the Realigners, and will instead remain in the Episcopal Church. Beyond the bounds of the Diocese, other Realigners are seeking different paths. The bishop of Fort Worth, for example, whose diocese is a member of the Network, has indicated that his diocese will only realign with a province which does not recognize the ordination of women. One religious body which is a member of the newly formed group called Common Cause is reportedly considering a petition to the Holy See. Such, historically, has been the fate of religious organizations formed in protest against other religious organizations.

For the foreseeable future, the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh are living in a situation not unlike that of a couple who have decided to divorce, but who for whatever set of reasons, still share a residence. But it is actually worse than that. For whereas some couples may actually recognize that their marriage has failed but have no animosity toward each other, the conservative party sees itself as the wronged party in the marriage who has informed the progressive party in this Diocese that they have sullied the marriage because we follow a different Gospel and a different Lord.

Lewis' essay is well worth the read in its entirety. Thinking Anglicans has it all here. The original is from the current issue of Agape (pdf), the Calvary parish newsletter.

Pittsburgh conservative warns against schism

Jerry Bowyer is an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He thinks that the Episcopal Church "made a terrible mistake when it installed Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2004." And he says the answer is not found in schism which would, in his view, "break more commandments."

In an essay he wrote for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, he describes his discussion with his wife, a reader at St. Stephen's, McKeesport, PA, who was instructed by Bishop Duncan to no longer pray for the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

This directive placed his wife, along with many other laity, in a bind. Bowyer's advice was

"that Katharine was elected lawfully under the standards of the Episcopal Church. Robert was using his authority to tell her to disregard Katharine's authority. When there is a disruption in the chain of authority, I said, "look to the highest authority." He said, "Love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you." If you should pray for your enemies, should you not pray even more for friends with whom you disagree?"

Bowyer has read the scriptures and understands tradition and believes that "secession is not the biblical pattern of resistance to flawed authority."
Are my fellow conservatives fully aware of the biblical and patristic teachings on schism? How do they justify a break with the Episcopal Church to which they have literally sworn loyalty? How do they justify taking Episcopal property with them? Given Paul's command to the first-century Corinthian Church not to address church issues in secular courts, how do they justify the inevitable legal battles that accompany a schism? How much will the litigation cost? Will the money come from our offerings?

There are moral questions, too. If we break with the Episcopal Church in America over gay priests, how can we then align ourselves with African bishops who tolerate polygamist priests? Paul says that a church leader is to be "the husband of one wife." Do we think that the word "husband" is inerrant but the word "one" is not?

If the Episcopal Church really has become apostate and its current leaders really are enemies of God, then how can we justify leaving the church, its resources and its sheep in their care? If not, how can we justify this separation?

Yes, there are times when it's necessary to leave one authority for another. When the New Testament writers were forced to deal with this issue, they concluded that they were compelled to obey higher authority at all times, except when it commanded them to disobey God. Roman Emperors were monstrous beasts. The church preached against them and prayed for them to repent, but Christians still obeyed the law. It wasn't until Rome ordered them to stop preaching the gospel and to offer sacrifices to Caesar that the early church was forced to disobey.

By analogy, New Hampshire can install a whole pride of gay bishops, but we don't break our oath of loyalty to the Episcopal Church until they order us to start installing them here.

Until then, the pattern of David and Jesus holds: Be faithful. Be patient. Be active in good works. And be in prayer for all in authority ... "for Katharine, our presiding bishop; Robert and Henry, our bishops; and Jay, our priest, I pray. Lord, hear our prayer."

Read: Jerry Bowyer: The Pittsburgh Schism.

Hat tip to epiScope for pointing us to this important essay.

Day in court arrives

A long-awaited court date has arrived in Virginia. The Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church go to court to prevent the eleven congregations that comprise the Anglican District of Virginia, a part of the Nigerian-based Convocation of Anglicans in North America, from retaining Episcopal Church property when members of these congregations voted to depart the Episcopal Church and come under the jurisdiction of another Anglican province namely the Church of Nigeria (Anglican).

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports

Lawyers for Virginia’s Episcopal Church and about a dozen splinter congregations will wrangle in court Tuesday over a key legal issue at the core of which side ultimately gains control of tens of millions of dollars worth of disputed property.

This week’s trial, which will weigh both sides’ interpretation of religious property rights statutes in Virginia code, represents a major step in a legal dispute that could last well into next year.

It began last December and January when 11 conservative Virginia Episcopal churches voted to split from the Diocese of Virginia. The break, which culminated decades of ideological disagreement, came after the consecration of a gay bishop in New England four years ago.

The dissident churches — which include the Truro in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church - joined an Anglican sect affiliated with a conservative African archbishop.
The diocese sought soon afterward to reclaim eight properties held by the dissident churches in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

The Washington Times reports:

The case is informally referred to as "57-9" in many documents because the coming hearing is based on Virginia Code Section 57-9. This says when a diocese or a denomination experiences a "division," members of a congregation may determine by majority vote which side of the division to join, along with their property.

"This case is literally historic, because it's based on a statute enacted by the Virginia legislature during the Civil War," said Mary McReynolds, one of 24 lawyers involved on CANA's side of the dispute. "The Virginia division statute is unusual, and my understanding is there are not many situations in the country that allow this."

Thus, many of the documents filed by the breakaway churches talk of 1860s splits among Baptists and Presbyterians over slavery and secession, including an 1867 article in the New York Times.

The "Multi-Circuit Episcopal Church Litigation," as the case is formally called, is a consolidation of 22 separate court cases. The trial is scheduled to last six days, and has amassed 15 feet of filings, stored in kelly-green cases in the records room two floors below the fifth floor of the courthouse, and is expected to feature a number of star witnesses.

Back in January, after the first congregations voted to secede and retain the buildings they occupied, Virginia attorney William Etherington wrote in the Richmond Times that


In the Colonial era, the Church of England was the established church of the Virginia Colony. The disestablishment of the church followed the Revolution, and the new commonwealth asserted that the properties were properties of Virginia. The properties were subsequently conveyed to trustees - under the predecessor of current Virginia Code Title 57 - who held the properties for the use of the parishes and for the benefit of the newly constituted Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church, which is now the rule of Canon I.7.4; the trustees are fiduciaries for the diocese and the Episcopal Church.

Recent stories have characterized the current dispute as one of property ownership. In reality, the property questions are but an adjunct to a larger question that relates to church governance. Litigation probably will result favorably for the diocese, most likely not by affirmative decision, but rather by a civil court's refusal to accept subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. Historically, civil courts have deferred to ecclesiastical authorities when disputes arose within hierarchical churches.

And

The Virginia Supreme Court - in its 1985 decision in Reid v. Gholson, reaffirmed in Cha v. Korean Presbyterian Church of Washington in 2001 - acknowledged the hierarchical-congregational distinction, holding that hierarchical churches are guided by a body of internally developed canon or ecclesiastical law. The decisions of such churches under their internal laws may be promulgated as matters of faith and considered entirely independent of civil authority. Persons who become members of such churches accept their internal rules and decisions of their tribunals.

For that reason, the court held that civil courts must treat a decision of a governing body or internal tribunal of a hierarchical church as an ecclesiastical determination constitutionally immune from judicial review. This is the Doctrine of Church Autonomy, derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ... [The U.S. Supreme Court in 1871] recognized that the dispute ... at issue - although sounding like a property dispute - was really about which group would select pastoral leaders to inculcate the faith among parishioners. Essentially, it was a request for a civil court to side with one theological faction over another.

The Times report says that the diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church "have filed 67 documents undergirding their case and are calling in 19 witnesses. They include Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee; Canon Samuel Van Culin, former secretary-general to the Anglican Consultative Council in London for 11 years, now working at the Washington Cathedral; church historian Robert Bruce Mullin; seminary professors Ian Douglas and the Rev. Katherine Grieb; and David Beers, chancellor to the Episcopal Church."

And in response the ADV has "filed 174 documents and the names of 17 witnesses. They include Penn State professor Philip Jenkins, a scholar of Pentecostal Christianity and other emerging religious movements in what's known as the 'Global South,' a term he coined."

A complete outline of the legal dispute to date, including the initial filings by the CANA congregations that sparked the suits are found here.

Iker gets hot under the collar

Jan Nunley writing in Episcopal Life Online under the headline, "Fort Worth bishop responds to warning letter from Jefferts Schori"

In his reply, Iker termed Jefferts Schori's letter "highly inappropriate" and "threatening," and claimed that it "appears designed to intimidate" delegates to the diocesan convention.
...
Fort Worth's diocesan convention meets November 16-17 to consider the first reading of a constitutional amendment that would remove accession to the Constitution and Canons of General Convention, as well as several canonical amendments that eliminate mention of the Episcopal Church.

Iker has publicly endorsed the changes and declared his intention to separate the Fort Worth diocese from the Episcopal Church.
...
The Presiding Bishop could ask the Title IV Review Committee to consider whether the bishops supporting those constitutional changes have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. If the committee agreed that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant before the matter went to the full House of Bishops. If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop could depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. There is no appeal and no right of formal trial outside of a hearing before the House of Bishops.

Members of congregations remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary. An assisting bishop would be appointed until a search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated. A lawsuit could be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.


Read it all here.

Iker's letter is here. An extract:

I must remind you that 25 years ago this month, the newly formed Diocese of Fort Worth voluntarily voted to enter into union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. If circumstances warrant it, we can likewise, by voluntary vote, terminate that relationship. Your aggressive, dictatorial posturing has no place in that decision.

The Diocese of Fort Worth is a creation of The Episcopal Church. It was formed as many new dioceses are as an administrative division of a large diocese. See the history of the Diocese of Dallas.

The presiding bishop's letter to Iker is here.

The bestowal of the American Episcopate

On this date in 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated bishop in Aberdeen, Scotland "by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. He thus became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles. ... The Episcopal Church of Scotland ... had no recognition by the government, and for some time operated under serious legal disablities. However, since it had no connection with the government, it was free to consecrate Seabury without government permission, and it did. This is why you see a Cross of St. Andrew on the Episcopal Church flag." (James Kiefer, source)

The Church of England had provided no bishops for the colonies prior to the Revolution and it was not prepared to do so afterwards. The consecration of Seabury was a key to the formation of the Episcopal Church. Its relationship to the Anglican Communion was figured out later. The Anglican Communion, it seems, is familiar with conflict.

Today's Speaking to the Soul quotes Seabury on the practice of weekly communion. Seabury's private communion office, closely based on the Scottish rite, is here at justus. As bishop of Connecticut, Seabury was stern with certain of the clergy in the diocese "who neglect that Holy Office." He signed An Ernest Persuasion "By the Right Reverend Father in GOD, SAMUEL, their Diocesan Bishop."

Flooding in Mexico, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic

11/13/2007

In the southern Mexican state of Tabasco, a week of heavy rainfall caused massive flooding, killing one person and forcing nearly a million people to escape the rising waters by seeking higher ground. In neighboring Chiapas, four people were killed and 7,000 were evacuated due to floods.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited the region and offered “all help humanly possible” to the more than 300,000 Tabasco residents whose homes were flooded or damaged and to the thousands of farmers whose entire harvests were destroyed....


11/6/07
Hurricane Noel, originally a tropical storm that grew to a Category 1 hurricane, swept across the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas, and Cuba causing severe flooding and mudslides killing at least 140 people. The storm is now the deadliest to hit the Atlantic region during the 2007 hurricane season....
Episcopal Relief and Development is responding. For ways to help follow either link above. Or go to er-d.org.

Rescinding the invitation

Susan Russell has the story of how Bishop Dabney Smith of the Diocese of Southwest Florida withdrew permission he had previously granted for Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to speak at a Sarasota church. Bishop Smith has apparently taken a lesson from the Jeffrey John chapter of the Rowan Williams playbook entitled, "How to Alienate your Supporters without Placating your Adversaries."

The bishop has decided that it is too politically costly to allow the listening process, recommended in Lambeth Resolution 1.10, to take place in his jurisdiction. Here is how the rector of the church which had invited Robinson explained Smith's decision to his parish:

Bishop Smith said he took this action because of all the heat he is getting. Previously Bishop Smith had given his permission for the visit and said it was not a problem for him although he anticipated a reaction. He told me that it has been more of a reaction than he anticipated.

Smith's decision raises the larger question of which Episcopal bishops will be permitted to speak at churches in the Tampa/ St. Petersburgh area. Does a bishop who participated in Robinson's consecration pass muster? How about a bishop who voted with the majority in affirming Robinson's election? Is any speaker subject to cancellation if sufficient outrage can be generated, or just the gay ones?

The church awaits clarification on these issues from Bishop Smith, or whichever group is now making up his mind for him.

In the meantime, the disenchanted can buy this button.

Tobias Haller: "Fission"

Tobias Haller writes about two of the topics of the moment in the Episcopal Church, the movement by the Diocese of Fort Worth to separate from the Episcopal Church, and the trial ongoing in Virginia to block similar actions taken by a group of parishes to associate with Anglicans connected to Nigeria.

He writes of the Fort Worth situation:

"The Diocese of Fort Worth is in the process of considering a resolution that includes a clause ‘dissociating itself from the moral, theological, and disciplinary innovations of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.’ What form this dissociation might take remains unknown, although there has been a move afoot to realign the diocese with the Church of the Southern Cone.

There is a procedure for clergy to transfer their membership to other provinces of the Anglican Communion. Many have made use of this in recent times. There is also a procedure for a priest or deacon or bishop to renounce the Ministry of The Episcopal Church. There is no procedure for a diocese to do so. It appears that the intent of the Bishop and some of the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth is to separate the diocese itself from the discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church. This has all of the appearance of renunciation and abandonment on their part — not of the faith of the Church, but, as the Canon says, ‘the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church’; that is, The Episcopal Church. Two out of three appear to be at play in this current proposed action.

The Bishop and Clergy of Fort Worth cannot have it both ways. They are either under the discipline of TEC, or they reject it; and rejection, in this case, constitutes abandonment."

And of the situation in Virginia and the arguments being made in court regarding the act of division in a congregation (which is a legal concept under Virginia state law):

It appears to me that they have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick — or the branch. The statute uses “division” to refer to decisions made by a church hierarchy to split itself into two or more denominations — as happened during the Civil War with a number of American churches, though, significantly, not with The Episcopal Church, which never recognized the separate establishment of a Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America any more than the Congress recognized the legitimate establishment of the Confederate States themselves.

The dissident parishes are claiming that the word “division” can be applied to the present state of disagreement in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. This argument, which I find it hard to believe anyone could take seriously, would, if applied consistently, lead to the total dissolution of any church in which there was any significant level of disagreement on any given topic.

Read the rest here.

San Joaquin invited to join Province of Southern Cone

This news release appeared on the Diocese of San Joaquin's website:

"The Diocese of San Joaquin today announced that the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America has extended an invitation to offer the Diocese membership on an emergency and pastoral basis.

The announcement comes three weeks before the Diocese is scheduled hear the second and final reading of Constitutional changes first adopted on December 2, 2006. Should the second reading of the Constitutional changes be approved at the Diocesan Convention on December 8, 2007, the Diocese is free to accept the invitation to align with the Province of the Southern Cone and remain a diocese with full membership within the Anglican Communion.

According to the Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, ‘We welcome the invitation extended by the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. The invitation assures the Diocese’s place in the Anglican Communion and full communion with the See of Canterbury.’"

The pastoral letter says that this emergency provision will remain in place

Until the Episcopal Church:
  • repents and complies with the requests of the Windsor Report;
  • respects the conscience of the parishes and dioceses which wish to adhere to the theological, moral and pastoral norms of the Anglican Communion, once held also by the Episcopal Church;
  • and its Presiding Bishop and officers cease to pursue and intimidate these dioceses and parishes by means of lawsuits, confiscations and depositions;

Or

Until adequate, effective and acceptable alternative primatial and episcopal oversight be offered as recommended by the Primates in Dar Es Salaam;

Or

Until the Archbishop of Canterbury takes clear action and responds effectively to the legitimate and urgent concerns of the “alienated” parishes and dioceses of The Episcopal Church offering pastoral leadership to protect them;

Read the full text and the Pastoral letter here.

Reaching out for peace

Episcopal bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington recently visited Iran to discuss the points of contact between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and found among the theology students there an interest in peaceful reconciliation.

In a profile published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, James Giannini of the Copley News Service writes:

Between trips to the Middle East and Africa to across the United States, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., and former dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego, has been busy.

His most recent venture: Iran, where he met with religious officials to discuss similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“We're all monotheists, and that means we share a tremendous amount theologically in common, which I find fascinating,” Chane said. “The Virgin Mary is venerated more times in Iran than in the gospels, and they celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday.”

Chane was amazed at the interest in theology among students he met at Iranian universities. While Iran is seen as being hostile toward the United States, he said he found people in search of a peaceful relationship. Chane plans to return in April to continue discussions on religion and terrorism.

Read: "Episcopal Bishop Reaches Out for Peace."

Read more, including links to audio interviews about the relationship between Islam and Christianity here.

"State of the Church" interim report

Identity. Mission. Organization. These are the three things that Episcopal News Service is reporting are being addressed in an interim report issued by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. In this report the Committee addresses concerns about the decline in attendance and participation in the church, a trend that is affecting all the mainline denominations in one form or another.


"Who are we?" the report asks. "What does it mean to be an Episcopalian? What are our core values? How are we differentiated from other Christian faith traditions? What are our strengths and weaknesses? Where are our opportunities?"

Described as a "brief assessment of facts and trends," the report points out that "marvelous work goes forward at all levels of our church, often understated, and not fully appreciated, but truly transforming in nature."

The report notes that the Episcopal Church's experience of declining membership and attendance is "similar to other mainline Protestant denominations in the United States." Declining membership and attendance levels mean "we need a plan for action at all of our organizational levels -- parish and diocese, as well as the Episcopal Church Center."

"We recognize that the Episcopal Church does not routinely gather important demographic data, and that we must look to supplemental sources of data and qualitative information to obtain the best understanding that we can of the life and times of our church," said Alfred D. Price, committee chair. "That has meant examining the results of other national surveys and studies in which we have participated in recent years with other mainline Protestant denominations."

The ENS article, with links to the interim report as well as the committee's report to the 75th General Convention, is here.

For those who remain

Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies (a body of the General Convention), has issued a statement today after a long consultation with her Council of Advice. Part of her statement concerned the care of Episcopalians in dioceses that are attempting to affiliate with different Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

In her statement she said:

"'I have learned during my travels throughout our church that there are Episcopalians in every one of those disaffected dioceses who need our prayers and our support,' Anderson said in her statement. 'I was very moved by the conversations I have had this year with such Episcopalians in the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and San Joaquin.'

We also considered how the church can best create the safest space possible for the largest number of Episcopalians to remain in our church and continue to use their gifts to further God's mission in our world."

There were no details in her statement about what this support might look like.

The remainder of the statement spoke to the details of the organization of the next General Convention which will meet in the summer of 2009.

Her full statement can be found here.

Bishop Schofield explains it all

Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin has apparenlty been consulting the same lawyers as the Bush-Cheney administration and has received the same advice: the constitution allows you to claim whatever powers you desire. How else to explain the curious argument he presented to delegates at his convention today in urging them to vote to secede from the Episcopal Church?

The Living Church reports:

Legally there is nothing to prevent the Diocese of San Joaquin seeking primatial oversight outside The Episcopal Church, Bishop Schofield said. In all likelihood, General Convention will amend its constitution and canons to prevent dioceses from breaking union with it. Since changes to the San Joaquin diocesan constitution require approval by two consecutive diocesan conventions, there will probably not be time to try again before the window of opportunity is closed, he said.

We should know some time today whether the remainder of the diocese is as unaware of what the constitution actually says: which is that all power in these matters resides with the General Convention. The window the bishop speaks of does not exist.

San Joaquin heads south

Reuters writes the story as follows:

An entire California diocese of the U.S. Episcopal Church voted to secede on Saturday in a historic split following years of disagreement over the church's expanding support for gay and women's rights

You can read it all here.

But the fact is that dioceses can't leave the Church because it is the Church which creates dioceses, and not dioceses which create the Church. What happened today is that somewhere in the vicinity of 7,500 members decided to leave the 2.2 million member Episcopal Church. That they chose to make their decision collectively does not alter the fact that they leave as individuals. At least five congregations remain, and it will be up to the Church to reconstitute the diocese.

Next the delegates will decide whether to align themselves with the tiny province of the Southern Cone, which is based in Argentina. The Southern Cone has previously laid claim to the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, but its claim is not recognized by the Anglican Communion,

Faithful remnant

Updated: Father Jake has weighed in.
Updated again: Other news sources (see end of post)
And again: Tobias Haller writes of The Immaculate Deception and the Vacant See.

Episcopal News Service carries reaction to the vote by delegates to the Diocese of San Joaquin's annual convention to leave the Episcopal Church.

"The Episcopal Church receives with sadness the news that some members of this church have made a decision to leave this church," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership."

And

Nancy Key, a co-founder of 'Remain Episcopal,' said those who wished to remain in the Episcopal Church have felt marginalized and maligned.

"It feels like spiritual violence," said Key, a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Fresno, which has chosen to remain within the Episcopal Church. "All we want to do is be in the Episcopal Church that actively ordains women and is inclusive," she said. San Joaquin is among three dioceses that refuse to ordain or deploy women priests. The others are Fort Worth and the Peoria, Illinois-based Diocese of Quincy.

Read it all.

UPDATE:
Diocese splits - Sacramento Bee

Organizers decided on an unusual method for taking the vote. They sent delegates who favored the split to one side of the room, and opponents to the other side. ... Delegates also approved constitutional amendments, including an expansion of the diocese's 14-county boundaries to enable other parishes on the fringes to join in the split.

US Church splits over gay rights - BBC
Diocese Breaks With Episcopal Church - AP
Episcopal Diocese Votes to Secede From Church - NYT
Church votes to secede - Stockton Record
Episcopal diocese secedes in rift over gays - Los Angeles Times
Episcopal fold loses 1st diocese - in valley - San Francisco Chronicle

Marc Andrus, bishop of the Diocese of California, a 27,000-member group in the Bay Area, said it plans to help the national church rebuild in San Joaquin. "This is a small group of Episcopalians who have chosen to align themselves in a different way," Andrus said. "It's a choice that saddens me but it is not tragic in light of things we as a church and the world address....

See, also, this article in the Living Church prior to the vote.

Worshipping God in uncertain times

UPDATE: See below for news of the letter from Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies.

At least five congregations of 47 parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, including Holy Family and others in Lodi, Stockton and Hanford, have distanced themselves from the decisions and said they planned to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Here is a report from the LA Times describing what it was like in those places this past Sunday.

One day after the Diocese of San Joaquin became the first in the country to break ties with the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Keith Axberg sought to reassure and cheer up his congregation, the only one in this city that is expected to remain with the national church.

"There are things that are going to take time and much we don't know," said Axberg, rector of Holy Family Episcopal Church in northeast Fresno. "But our purpose is to gather here to worship God . . . and I'm thankful you are here."

And:

At Holy Family, a simple, modern church with white walls and a peaked roof, a larger-than-typical crowd attended Sunday morning services, including visitors and newcomers who said they were drawn by the congregation's loyalist stance.

"I felt I needed to be here today to support Episcopalians," said Joan Pitcock, a former professional golfer who said she usually attended another Fresno Episcopal church, St. Columba, but was considering switching to Holy Family. "It's nice to have this church to go to."

Elly Row, whose Episcopal church in Madera was closed by the diocese in 2004, has attended Holy Family ever since. She said she was saddened by the split, but glad her new church would remain with the national body.

"I can't believe all the churches that are going the other way," Row said.

"We all believe in God and I can't believe that he would look down on people who aren't just exactly alike. This church welcomes everyone," she said.

Richard Jennings, a vestry board member at Holy Family, said he knew many in the parish were anxious about the future. But he said he found himself surprisingly relieved Sunday that the vote, after months of anticipation, had been taken, even though he and others had deeply opposed its outcome.

"It's like a boil that's been there a long time and you have to lance it to heal," said Jennings, a dentist. "Now we can do that."

Another parishioner, George Wade, agreed. "The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is very much alive, despite what everyone thinks," Wade said. "We're going to be growing in fertile ground now that the weeds are gone."


And, last,
Axberg, Holy Family's rector since 2003, urged his congregation Sunday not to worry about the future. He told them about the convention votes and answered a few questions about steps likely to be taken by the national church.

Finally, he asked them to pray for all involved in the diocese's continuing struggle, including for Schofield.

First one, then all, rose to applaud their priest.

Read the rest: LA Times- Some parishes won't secede.

UPDATE:
President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson writes following the voting in the Diocese of San Joaquin to assure the Diocese and its faithful members that they are still supported by the leadership of the Episcopal Church. She highlights the need for prayer and safe space for those who remain in the Episcopal Church. Read it all here

The press reads The Letter

Reporters had their hands full yesterday trying to figure out how to pull a "lede" out of the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter about the state of the Anglican Communion. He dumped cold water on everybody, so how to determine which side was wetter?

Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times played it this way:

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, sent a lengthy letter to the members of his warring Anglican Communion on Friday, saying that both sides had violated the Communion’s boundaries and put the church in crisis.

He criticized the American branch, the Episcopal Church, for departing from the Communion’s consensus on Scripture by ordaining an openly gay bishop and blessing same-sex unions, “in the name of the church.”

But the archbishop faulted conservative prelates in Africa, Asia and Latin America for annexing American parishes and an entire California diocese that have recently left the Episcopal Church, and for ordaining conservative Americans as bishops and priests.

Read it all.

Tom Heneghan of Reuters took a similar tack in his story headlined "No Anglican consensus."

Steve Bates of the Guardian, filling in for his successor, emphasized Williams' criticism of conservatives, while Ruth Gledhill looked at the other side of the coin. [Added: The unabridged version of Bates' article is here.]

Robert Barr of the Associated Press, meanwhile, focused on Williams' reiteration of his decision not to invite Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to the Lambeth Conference.

Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph began with the warning that bishops who boycott the Lambeth conference could be excluded from senior counsels of the church.

Rebecca Trounson of the Los Angeles Times focused on the archbishop's call for mediation in view of the lack of consensus in the communion.

One thing I've picked up in conversations with reporters is how weary they are of covering this story, and what a difficult time they have in determining the significance of any given event. Many of them fervently wish the story would go away.

Is you is or is you ain't my bishop?

(Updated) The Rev. Fred Risard, vicar of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Atwater, California, Diocese of San Joaquin wrote a letter to Bishop John-David Schofield asking for clarification about his status as a bishop in the Episcopal Church when he heard that the Bishop was planning to come to his church this weekend.

The Episcopal News Service reported that Risard noted in his December 20 letter to Schofield that St. Nicholas had "already had the pleasure of your annual visitation for 2007." So the need for this second, unannounced visit was unclear.

Bishop Schofield said that, as of the last diocesan convention on December 8th where a vote was made for the diocese to join the Province of the Southern Cone, he is no longer a Bishop of the Episcopal Church but now a bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone.

St. Nicholas is one of the churches in the diocese that has chosen to remain in the Episcopal Church, and they have purchased advertising in the local press to reassure the community that "the Episcopal Church is still present in the Merced area, where ALL are welcome to worship and do the work of the Mission."

Risard wrote:

We would like you to state to us your pastoral and canonical relationship with St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, and myself. You publicly stated at our diocesan convention that you no longer are the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and instead you are a Bishop within the Province of the Southern Cone.

The Vicar welcomes Bishop Schofield either as a worshiper sitting in the pews, as a visiting foreign prelate with no liturgical function or as a diocesan bishop ready to repent and reconcile with his congregation. He was also asked if he would join in the work of the mission to distribute groceries to the poor in advance of Christmas.

"Will you be coming as our Episcopal Bishop, having repented of your actions at Diocesan Convention, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation? Or will you be coming to worship as a visiting foreign Bishop seeking to reconcile with your former congregation and Vicar, and, following the Mass, to join us as we take groceries and coats to the poor?"

There is some concern that purpose of the sudden visit is for the Bishop to attempt to remove Father Risard from his role as vicar or perhaps to close the mission.

"Is it his intention to support the mission congregations in their call to worship and to serve the poor or does he want to close it? He needs to go on record about what he's doing."

Attorney Mike Glass, an attorney representing the congregations and individual members who desire to remain Episcopalian says "in all fairness, if the Presiding Bishop has asked for a clarification and hasn't received one, I think that the priests in the Diocese of San Joaquin are entitled to know, too." Glass added that priests may be rightly concerned about violating church canons by allowing Schofield to preside in their congregations.

As a mission, the Bishop of the diocese is the rector of the congregation, but if Schofield has, as he has said publicly, now withdrawn from the Episcopal Church and is a Bishop of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, then it appears to be the case that the mission is without a rector at the moment. The situation is at best ambiguous. Glass said "Until...clarification comes from either the Episcopal Church's canonical processes or from the bishop himself, perhaps the bishop ought to refrain from attempting to exercise any episcopal authority."

According to ENS, Father Risard sent copies of his letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore (whom Jefferts Schori appointed to provide an ongoing pastoral presence to the continuing Episcopalians in the diocese).

The Episcopal Majority says:

We join the The Rev. Fred Risard in his puzzlement. The former Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin has made it clear that he is no longer a part of the Episcopal Church. Now that he is a bishop in a Latin American diocese, we are perplexed that he would want to exercise episcopal jurisdiction in an Episcopal church.

Kudos to Father Risard for asking the pertinent question.

Read the rest: ENS: SAN JOAQUIN: Atwater vicar asks bishop to clarify planned visit

Ugandan priest in Tampa Palms

The Tampa Tribune features a Ugandan priest who leads Grace Episcopal Church in Tampa Palms.

Growing up in Uganda, the Rev. Benjamin Twinamaani studied the Bible every day. He fell in love with the passages and, despite opposition from some of his countrymen, made a commitment to Christianity. Walking to church, Twinamaani dreamed of one day preaching God's word to others.

In 1992, he traveled to the United States to study theology. In 2000, he graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and took his place in the Episcopal Church.

Today, Twinamaani is the head priest at Grace Episcopal Church in Tampa Palms. He describes the church:

It is a young church. It is only 14 years old. We have a young congregation. Our average age is 35, which is unusual for the Episcopal Church. Twenty-five percent of our church members are under 18. We have about 250 people attending service each week.

We have a very small space. We want to expand.

What is the church's role in the community?

We want to be the church that anchors the Tampa Palms community, whether it is for the people's spiritual life, education for the children or recreation. We used to have trails here for biking and jogging. I want to reopen them.
Although Twinamaani keeps a busy schedule as priest and pastor as well as managing the business of the church, he says, "I take Friday off every week to spend with my family. My eldest is 6, then 4, then 4 months. At home, when I walk into the door, all work must remain outside."

Read it all here.

Church moves to reconstitute the Diocese of San Joaquin

Episcopal Church News Service has news of the steps underway now to minister to the Episcopalians who live in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

"From Sonora to Bakersfield, from Stockton to Fresno, a growing number of remaining Episcopalians—those who opposed a December vote to realign the Central California Valley Diocese of San Joaquin with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone—are meeting in homes, community centers and other churches, excited to be 'moving on' to evangelism, mission and Gospel good news.

Fed up with years of rancor over the ordination of women and gays, they say healing is emerging after initial grief and loss over the split. So are new congregations. 'They are preparing to reconstitute the diocese; it's heartwarming because it's been a long haul for them,' said the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as a pastoral presence in the interim.

Also affirming, Moore said, is observing a flood of 'support for them (which) has come from all over the world and being able to watch the church rise up and to say, 'You do not have to do this alone, we will do whatever we have to do to help you move forward.' '

The Presiding Bishop's canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, agrees: 'We want to reassure all continuing Episcopalians in San Joaquin that we will continue to be there for them as the larger Church.'

Moore will be among those offering support and encouragement at a January 26 gathering in Fresno planned for continuing Episcopalians. Also present there will be House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and representatives of Remain Episcopal, a group dedicated to reconstituting the diocese and advancing the Episcopal Church's ongoing ministries in the region.

Anderson commended the faithful laity and clergy for their 'sheer grace and hopeful courage to refrain and reconstruct the diocese and to listen to what God is calling them to do at this time in our history.

'The Episcopal Church at large has a unique opportunity to encourage and support these faithful Episcopalians,' said Anderson who keynoted a 2007 mission conference in San Joaquin."

Read the rest here.

Moving Forward, Welcoming All

Remain Episcopal in the Diocese of San Joaquin is sponsoring a "listening tour" and an all day gathering designed to help Episcopalians in their diocese understand the steps ahead as they work to maintain an Episcopal presence in the Diocese, whose bishop and convention voted to secede from the Episcopal Church and become part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Remain Episcopal describes the listening tour:

The Rev. Canon Bob Moore, appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as an interim pastoral presence in the Diocese of San Joaquin, will make a 5-day "Listening Tour" of the central valley.

From January 21st through the 25th, Canon Bob will travel the valley meeting with both clergy and laity who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin. At stops in Stockton, Lodi, Fresno, Hanford, Bakersfield, and other towns in between, Canon Bob will listen to the stories, concerns and hopes of the Episcopal faithful in San Joaquin. To assure that your parish, clergy or laity group is included in the Listening Tour, please contact us at contact@remainepiscopal.org.

Their website also describes the conference, called "Moving Forward, Welcoming All."

At the conclusion of the Listening Tour, the Rev. Canon Bob Moore, interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, will keynote a day-long gathering at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford on Saturday, January 26th, 2008. Canon Bob will be joined by special guest Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. This will be Bonnie's second visit to San Joaquin following an event in Lodi held in February, 2007. Both Canon Bob and Bonnie will address those gathered and have additional time set aside to take questions.

Attorney Michael O. Glass, who respresents both congregations and individuals within the diocese, will provide pertinent legal information followed by a Q & A session. Remain Episcopal co-founder, Nancy Key, sees the gathering as "an opportunity to tell people in the diocese who do want to stay in the Episcopal Church what are the next steps. It will answer their questions from a pastoral and legal standpoint because they're hungry for information."

The title of this event, "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" expresses the desire of the Remain Episcopal membership that their diocese be rebuilt with an inclusive and Christ-centered message of love and alvation, rather than a judgmental attitude that demands schism. We hope many will experience the joy of reconnecting with the national church in a spirit of mutual respect, and the prospect of a renewed mission for Jesus Christ as experienced in and through the Episcopal Church.

The event will be held at Church of the Saviour, a historic parish that has confirmed its commitment to stay within the Episcopal Church. The gathering will be held in the sanctuary - a beautiful red brick building built in 1910 with a memorable stained glass window above the altar. Also on the grounds is the lovely old chapel, dating back to 1883, which was recently restored. It will be a great location. Directions to Church of the Saviour.

The exact schedule for the day-long event on Saturday, January 26th is still being fine tuned. Please check back as additional details will be posted when available. For questions, or to RSVP your reservation, please email contact@remainepiscopal.org.

Read the rest here.

Hat tip to Fr. Jake.

Directors appointed for new mission centers

Three priests have been chosen to head up three new mission centers as part of the reorganization taking place at the church's national headquarters in New York City, according to Episcopal News Service:

Continuing to reorganize the Episcopal Church Center staff to achieve new levels of service and collaboration, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has named directors for three of four new churchwide Centers for Mission.

Director for the new Advocacy Center is the Rev. Canon Brian J. Grieves, who has led Peace and Justice Ministries at the Church Center since 1988. Concurrently, Grieves will serve as interim director of mission, the Presiding Bishop said, until completion of the search for a successor to the Rev. James Lemler, who has accepted a new position as rector of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Rev. Suzanne E. Watson, the Church Center's staff officer for congregational development, will lead its new Center for Evangelism and Congregational Life, and the Rev. Margaret Rollins Rose, the Church Center's director of women's ministries, is director for the new Center for Mission Leadership, the Presiding Bishop said.

The complete article, with bios for each of the new directors, is here.


An interesting sidebar: Watson administers a blog with resources for small churches. Check it out here.

Presiding Bishop acts to formally inhibit Bishop Schofield

Updated

The Episcopal News Service has this news this evening:

"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on January 11 inhibited Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield.

In the text of the inhibition, Jefferts Schori wrote: 'I hereby inhibit the said Bishop Schofield and order that from and after 5:00 p.m. PST, Friday, January 11, 2008, he cease from exercising the gifts of ordination in the ordained ministry of this Church; and pursuant to Canon IV.15, I order him from and after that time to cease all 'episcopal, ministerial, and canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of San Joaquin,' until this Inhibition is terminated pursuant to Canon IV.9(2) or superseded by decision of the House of Bishops.'

Jefferts Schori acted after the Title IV Review Committee certified that Schofield had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.

On January 9, Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, wrote to Jefferts Schori, telling her that the nine-member committee had met that day and that a majority agreed that the documentation provided to them 'demonstrated that Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church.'

Jefferts Schori needed, in accordance with Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 1, the consent of the three senior bishops of the church with jurisdiction (as opposed to being retired or not in diocesan seats) to issue the inhibition. She noted in the inhibition that Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas gave their consents January 11.

'I think what is crucial for us is that the bishop was presented with potential consequences of his actions long ago and repeatedly, and now the review committee has indeed made their determination, which will go forward to the House of Bishops,' the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS. 'The three senior bishops have given their consent to his inhibition and, again, the ministry of the Episcopal Church continues and moves forward.'"

Read the rest here.

In related news, the Episcopal Church has moved to support the Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin. The ENS story is here.

Saturday morning update

San Jose Mercury - Episcopal Church bans bishop for 2 mos. after he pushed secession

Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of news reports.

Reactions to the Certification of Abandonment

An article from Episcopal Line Online this afternoon compiles reactions to yesterday's announcement that the Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee had certified Bishop Robert Duncan has abandoned the communion of the church. It also clarifies for the uninitiated what the next steps are.

Here are some of the documents:

* Certification of the Review Committee and documents 'the committee received submissions alleging Duncan's abandonment of communion from "counsel representing individuals who are either clergy or communicants in the Diocese of Pittsburgh" and from the Presiding Bishop's chancellor, David Beers, and his colleague, Mary E. Kostel.' (40 pages, PDF images)

* A brief response from Duncan.

* Statement of support for Duncan from Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker dated January 16.


The following excerpts from today's ELO may help readers follow the next steps, and make the distinction amongst certification of abandonment, inhibition and consent of the House of Bishops:

[The Presiding Bishop's] letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House's three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

"On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops," Jefferts Schori wrote.

"[In due course I shall forward the Review Committee's to the House of Bishops for its consideration.] Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter," the Presiding Bishop wrote in her letter.

"I would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church," Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter to Duncan.
...
The time limit to which Jefferts Schori referred is a two-month period afforded to bishops subject to such a certification to retract their acts, demonstrate that the facts alleged in certification are false, or renounce their orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7.

Links in the ELO article. Bracketed material is original to the Presiding Bishop's letter and is included here to underscore that the matter next goes to the House of Bishops.

From Canon IV.9 Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop:

[I]t shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to present the matter to the House of Bishops at the next regular or special meeting of the House. If the House, by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote, shall give its consent, the Presiding Bishop shall depose the Bishop from the Ministry, and pronounce and record in the presence of two or more Bishops that the Bishop has been so deposed.

Bonnie Anderson to visit Albany

Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies (of the General Convention) will be visiting the Diocese of Albany over the weekend. While invited by Albany Via Media, this visit includes participation by the diocesan bishop (Bill Love), which is unusual for these sorts of visits previously.

According to the article in the Times Union, this is being billed as an intentional bridge-building event that is explicitly seeking ways to find reconciliation.

From the report in the Times Union:

"The highest-ranking lay officer of the national Episcopal Church will be in Albany Saturday for an event organized to build bridges between different wings of the church.

Episcopal House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson will speak at 2 p.m. at St. Andrew's Church, focusing on the state of the church and the broader Anglican Communion -- and how that affects the Albany diocese.
 
The address will be preceded at 1 p.m. by a celebration of the Eucharist, led by Albany Bishop William Love.

'This is the first time since Bill Love became bishop that a high-ranking representative of the national church has met with the bishop and with other Albany Episcopalians in a public forum,' said Robert Dodd, president of Albany Via Media.

Albany Via Media, the group sponsoring Saturday's event, is made up of liberal-to-moderate local Episcopalians who want to keep the Albany diocese in communion with the national church."

Read the rest here.

We are one in Jesus

Last Saturday, Episcopalian in the Diocese of Albany prayed together, listened to each other, and reached across the divide that afflicts the church these days/ They were trying to build trust and find a new way to negotiate strongly held visions of how to respond to the Gospel.

Albany Via Media invited both Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, and Diocesan bishop The Rt. Rev. William Love to take part in a gathering called "'Can we talk?': Faith and Diversity in the Episcopal Church" which took place last Saturday afternoon at St. Andrew's Church, Albany.

Robert Dodd, President of Albany Via Media said “We would like to begin the process of reconciliation.”

Time-Warner's Capital News 9 channel says:

Dodd says it is time to talk and on Saturday, the President of the Episcopal House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, the Bishop of Albany, William Love, and Reverend James Brooks-McDonald of St. Stephens in Schenectady did just that, spending hours with parishioners at a forum in Albany.

“It's about being together in tension and having different viewpoints in the Episcopal Church and still remain in communion together,” Anderson said.

“I hate to see the Episcopal Church break apart. We all don't agree on the same things,” said Brooks-McDonald. “But can we live together in our disagreement?”

Marc Perry of the Albany Times-Union reported on the gathering:

Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, challenged the more than 200 people gathered at St. Andrew's in Albany to come up with a model for the national church of how believers of different views can communicate.

"You cannot get on with God's work until you trust each other," Anderson said.

Division has fractured the church since the 2003 consecration of V. Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop. Speakers at Saturday's event -- a service led by Love followed by a question-and-answer session -- stressed unity and communication. But the exchanges were sometimes tense.

The event was organized by Albany Via Media, a group of liberal-to-moderate local Episcopalians. Members generally disagree with Love's opposition to ordaining gay clergy and blessing same-sex marriages, and they want the Albany diocese to remain in communion with the national church.

"We talk about the struggles of the church, and we seem to think that it all has to do with sex," Love said during his sermon. "That's only a symptom of something much deeper. That issue much deeper is God's word. How is it to be understood? How is it to be interpreted? How is it to be lived out?"

Some speakers told the bishop they felt shut out of diocesan events and publications. Some criticized links to conservative religious Internet sites on the diocesan Web page. One said he wasn't comfortable being referred to as a "sodomite" or "heretic" on a Web site recommended by the diocese.

Love said he could check the policy regarding links. He also suggested that if the speaker found the material offensive, "Don't read it."

That drew loud disapproval from the audience and, later in the session, an apology from Love.

Anderson's visit attracted attention on several religious Web sites. Some commentators expressed disappointment Love would even participate. On one Web site billed as a place for "traditional Anglicanism in America" and linked to on Albany's diocesan Web page, a commentator wrote of the bishop: "He may be operating under the adage, 'Keep your friends close -- and your enemies closer.' "

In interviews at St. Andrew's Saturday, though, people on both sides of the ideological divide gave the bishop credit for showing up. A lot of credit.

"This is true Anglicanism, where you come together even with a divergence of views," said David Kennison, senior warden at St. George's Church in Schenectady and a former Albany Via Media board member.

The Rev. Peter Schofield, a conservative from Christ Church in Schenectady, said he feels Albany Via Media has been "very disruptive in the diocese." But he, too, praised Saturday's service.

"If we did worship together a lot more often than we do, I think we'd have a lot less problems," he said. "We're all one in Jesus."

Read: A fractured church seeking common faith.

Read another article by Perry written before the event here.

This is the Albany Via Media page.

Here is the Capital News 9 story with a link to the video of their story.

Keeping cool

A brief profile of Katharine Jefferts Schori describes how she keeps her cool in a very stressful job.
Daniel Burke of Religious News Service says even those who disagree with her notice how focused and unflappable she can be.

"She's centered and intense," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a well-regarded conservative theologian from South Carolina. "You get a sense when she answers a question that she's trying to channel all her passion in one place."

About a year after her installation as Presiding Bishop, Jefferts Schori describes the "steep learning curve" that came with this new ministry.

"It's been a year of a steep learning curve," she said in an interview Wednesday (Jan. 16). "But it's been a delightful privilege to travel around and see the ways in which the church is fully engaged in its mission."

Part of that mission, Jefferts Schori said, is demonstrating how a diverse community can "value the person and positions of others who disagree with us."

Her historic election in 2006, when she became the first woman to lead a national province of the worldwide Anglican Communion since the Church of England was founded in the mid-1500s, immediately riled traditionalist parts of the church, even as women rejoiced.

Inevitably, any discussion of this first year in office must turn to the dissent and departure of parishes opposed to either women clergy or the ordination of homosexuals or both. Recent disciplinary actions against Bishops who have taken their dioceses the Episcopal Church or are preparing to have highlighted how sharp the situation is.

"She has the hardest job in the world," said Diana Butler Bass, an Episcopalian and author of "Christianity for the Rest of Us," who had high praise for Jefferts Schori's leadership. "What a terrible time to come into a job."

It would be easier to let U.S. conservatives secede to join another Anglican province without a fight, said Jefferts Schori, "but I don't think that's a faithful thing to do."

Episcopal leaders are stewards of church property and assets, protecting past generations' legacies and passing them on to future Episcopalians, according to the presiding bishop. Allowing congregations to walk away with church property condones "bad behavior," she said.

"In a sense it's related to the old ecclesiastical behavior toward child abuse," when priests essentially looked the other way, she said.

"Bad behavior must be confronted."

The column also quotes others who believe her style to be too heavy-handed such as the Rev. Neal Michell, canon for strategic development in the Diocese of Dallas.

Read: Beliefnet.com: Episcopal Bishop Keeps Her Cool in the Hot Seat

On a listening process

The Rev. Thomas Woodward, who writes for The Episcopal Majority blog, was invited to speak with members of the Fort Worth Via Media about "remaining Episcopal." Before he did so, he asked Bishop Iker if they could meet and discuss whether Iker had concerns over his visit. He has written about the experience, noting his appreciation for the meeting and summarizing several insights about what it's like to be in dialog with someone from the other side of the aisle, so to speak:

First, what a joy it is when two people, so opposed on so many critical issues and concerns, can spend time relating to the best in the other with the best of ourselves. That is not the whole truth, but it is part of the truth. Second, I do not discount the hurt and sometimes the humiliation my friends and others in Fort Worth have suffered when +Jack has stepped over the line, nor the havoc his beliefs and attitudes about women’s ordination and our “Anglican agonies” have wreaked. Third, at this point the two of us are in the same church and attempting to follow the same Lord. Fourth, there is certainly pain when we encounter the worst in each other, but the pain is worse when we encounter their best, for it is then that the deep ache sets in as we wait for a time when our several wounds are healed and our fears are stopped in such a way that our best is our consistent selves. We are obviously not there yet.

The reflection is here.

Post-partisan Episcopalians?

In a recent column, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post raised a question about the Democratic Party that is also relevant to liberal Episcopalians:

One of the most interesting contrasts between last year's State of the Union address and this year's has nothing to do with President Bush. It involves the transformed tone of the Democratic response, from partisan lion to post-partisan lamb.

And this, in turn, reflects a schism in Democratic thinking -- to what extent to be the party of fighters and to what extent the party of Kumbaya -- that is being played out most prominently in the presidential race.

Last year's Democratic response came from Jim Webb, the newly elected, perennially pugnacious senator from Virginia. A former Reagan administration official turned populist, antiwar Democrat, Webb's most recent book, about the Scottish-Irish influence on America, was "Born Fighting." His speech lived up to type.

Webb invoked the memory of Teddy Roosevelt taking on the robber barons and Dwight Eisenhower ending the Korean War: "These presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this president to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way."

Flash forward to Monday night. For a brash male senator speaking from Washington, substitute a soothing female governor, Kansan Kathleen Sebelius, speaking from the heartland. Both Webb and Sebelius were new faces, from purple (Virginia) and red (Kansas) states, but their messages could not have been more different.

Seated in front of a flickering fire, with a colorful spray of flowers beside her, Sebelius was assertively post-partisan -- so much so that some Democratic lawmakers grumbled afterward that there was not enough mention of their accomplishments.

"I'm a Democrat, but tonight, it really doesn't matter whether you think of yourself as a Democrat or a Republican or an independent. Or none of the above," Sebelius began. "In this time, normally reserved for the partisan response, I hope to offer you something more -- an American response." Instead of Webb's bellicose challenge to lead or step aside, Sebelius's message was more accommodating: "Join us, Mr. President." Americans, she said, "aren't afraid to face difficult choices. But we have no more patience for divisive politics."

(The rest is here.)

How should liberals respond to the facts that the long-predicted global schism seems to be shrinking, and that key conservative priests in the dioceses of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh are deserting their schismatic bishops is an open quesiton. One can simultaneously delight in the fact that increasing numbers of conservative Episcopalians are choosing to remain in the Church, while worrying that in certain dioceses, this might mean that gays and women will continue to be marginalized, and diocesan leaders will continue to work with groups such as the Institute on Religion and Democracy to destabilize the church.

The Church Awakens: an online exhibit

The Archives of the Episcopal Church announces an electronic publication and online exhibit entitled, The Church Awakens: African Americans and the Struggle for Justice. The multimedia exhibit, covers the period of enslavement to the present, with emphasis on the Civil Rights era.

Figures such as Absalom Jones, George Bragg, Pauli Murray, Jonathan Daniels, and Charles Lawrence are featured along with Church organizations such as the American Church Institute, the Conference of Church Workers, and the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. Audio recordings include interviews with figures as diverse as Langston Hughes and Jackie Robinson.

Read more »

Church tat

Café essayist Heidi Shott of the Diocese of Maine wonders whether she has sited the first-ever "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" tattoo. If so, the Canadian's beat us to it.

Seabury-Western ceases residential MDiv program

Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, one of 11 accredited seminaries in the Episcopal Church, has decided to stop offering a residential Masters of Divinity degree, and to enter a period of discernment about its future.

The letter sent by the Very Rev. Gary R. Hall, Ph. D, dean of Seabury-Western, follows.

Read more »

"Episcopal Life" newspaper to function without editor

Episcopal Life, the Episcopal Church's monthly newspaper, which circulates 250,000 copies, is going to attempt to operate without an editor, a decision that was apparently reached without consulting the paper's board of governors, its numerous diocesan printing partners, or anyone who has ever edited a newspaper.

Jim DeLa, director of communications in the Diocese of Southwest Florida, and President of Episcopal Communicators, is urging reconsideration, and wrote this letter to his membership.

Dear Communicators:

Through sources that shall remain confidential, I’ve learned there will be no search for a new editor for Episcopal Life. A memo from Linda Watt, the COO of the church, informed the Episcopal Life Board of Governors in a memo, which they were planning to make public today.

It is shocking and incomprehensible to think that the 815 management team believes Episcopal Life can be edited effectively by committee as it has been since Jerry Hames’ retirement. The quality of editing and reporting has slipped below what we should expect from our national newspaper. The Board of Governors, whose job it is to serve as advisors and ombudsmen for the paper, was never consulted before the decision was made.

At a time when we need more voices and perspectives on the issues of the day, it is disappointing to see that the management of the Episcopal Church is doing all it can to limit that conversation and dilute what was once a journalistic endeavor to be proud of.

I encourage everyone with similar concerns to write to Ms. Watt at lwatt@episcopalchurch.org and voice them to her.

Sincerely,
Jim DeLa
President
Episcopal Communicators

The memo announcing the decision was forwarded to the paper's board of governor's last night by an administrative assistant at Episcopal Church Center. It was the first time that most of the board learned that suspending the search for an editor was a possibility.

Read Linda Watt's memo by clicking Read more.

Two cents from a diocesan communications officer:

Throughout the church, communications people are frequently treated not as professionals with hard-won expertise, but as clerks with software skills who can cobble together a passable sentence. This is true in many dioceses, and it is true on the national level as well. The leadership of our Church repeatedly makes important decisions about communications--a field in which few of them have expertise--without consulting anyone with a background in the field. Then they get together and wonder why they are having such a hard time getting the Church's message out.

The disrespectful manner in which the Episcopal Life board of governors was treated in this situation sends a clear message that the Church's leadership does not value the work nor the opinion of diocesan communicators. I say this as someone whose bishop treats him well, and whose diocesan newspaper is not printed in partnership with Episcopal Life. I'm unaffected by the decision not to name a new editor, but I am tired of watching hardworking, underappreciated colleagues in other dioceses treated as though they haven't got a thought in their heads worth hearing.

Jim Naughton

For two more cents, read this letter by Herb Gunn, editor of The Record in the Diocese of Michigan.

Update at 4:40 pm: the news is buried in the sixth paragraph of this article from ELO. Note the language:

In order to operate within the 2008 budget approved in mid-February by Executive Council, ELM has agreed to a request to suspend at this time the current search for a full-time editor for the Episcopal Life monthly newspaper, Williams said.

(Emphasis added) A request from whom? This is a "mistakes were made" kind of construction, and deserves the same sort of skeptical response.

It does raise a question, though: Was the money for an editor in the budget and got cut out? Or was it never in there in the first place?

Update: 5:25 pm.

Melodie Woerman of the Diocese of Kansas has this response to the story:

[C] ontrary to the implication in the third graf of this news story, the Board of Governors had no part in this decision. We were informed of it in an e-mail only late yesterday. We did discuss a number of items at our December meeting, but nothing like this was part of it. We stressed the need for an editor search to proceed in a timely fashion. Frankly, I'm appalled and embarrassed that the Board was included in this story as if we'd been involved. That implication is entirely false.

Melodie Woerman

Province 7 representative, Episcopal Life Board of Governors

UPDATE: February 26
From Scott Gunn, of the Board of Governors, Governors Attempt to Govern"

Statement from the Board of Governors of Episcopal Life Media
February 26, 2008

As was recently announced via Episcopal Life Online, the search for a full-time editor for Episcopal Life has been suspended. The Board of Governors of Episcopal Life Media consulted yesterday with Linda Watt, Chief Operating Officer, and Bob Williams, Director of Communications, to discuss this decision. While there will always be tension between mission and budgetary constraints, as a Board we are committed to maintaining excellence in church communications and journalistic integrity.

Despite the changing nature of communications – between print and online platforms – we believe an independent editor is critical to effective church communications. We will continue to work with the staff at the Episcopal Church Center to craft a solution that both meets the church's budgetary needs and addresses continued commitment to communications.

The Rev. Scott Gunn, Province I
The Rev. Timothy Schenck, Province II
Sharon Tillman, Province III
Eugene Willard, Province IV
Martha Wright, Province V
The Rev. Jamie Parsley, Province VI
Melodie Woerman, Province VII
The Rev. Richard Snyder, Province VIII

Read more »

A new plan emerges

There have been a number of reports in the last 24 hours that a new plan is being developed to manage the conflict within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Bishop John Howe, in response to what he describes as "inaccurate" presentations of the details, has written a public letter laying out the details of plan as it now stands.

According to Bishop Howe, the details of the plan are at present:

"Communion Partners

In the context of the Episcopal Visitors concept announced by the Presiding Bishop at the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans, a number of us have reflected a need for a larger gathering which we are calling Communion Partners. We believe such a gathering will afford us the opportunity for mutual support, accountability and fellowship; and present an important sign of our connectedness in and vision for the Anglican Communion as it moves through this time of stress and renewal.

Purpose:

  • To provide a visible link for those concerned to the Anglican Communion

    Many within our dioceses and in congregations in other dioceses seek to be assured of their connection to the Anglican Communion. Traditionally, this has been understood in terms of bishop-to-bishop relationships. Communion Partners fleshes out this connection in a significant and symbolic way.

  • To provide fellowship, support and a forum for mutual concerns between bishops

    The Bishops who have been designated Episcopal Visitors together with others who might well consider being included in this number share many concerns about the Anglican Communion and its future, and look to work together with Primates and Bishops from the Global South. In addition, we believe we all have need of mutual encouragement, prayer, and reassurance. The Communion Partners will be a forum for these kinds of relationships.

  • To provide a partnership to work toward the Anglican Covenant and according to Windsor principles

    The Bishops will work together according to the principles outlined in the Windsor Report and seek a comprehensive Anglican Covenant at the Lambeth Conference and beyond."

The reports to which Bishop Howe is responding can be found linked at Thinking Anglicans.

You can read the full text of the letter below:

Read more »

Bexley Hall closes Rochester campus

The Living Church reports that Bexley Hall, one of the eleven accredited Episcopal seminaries in the US, is closing their Rochester, NY, campus and concentrating their M.Div. program at their site in Columbus, Ohio.

The class of seminary students graduating in May will be the last for Bexley Hall Seminary’s Rochester, N.Y., campus which will be closed. Bexley Hall remains committed to a three-year residential seminary program at its Columbus, Ohio campus, according to the Very Rev. John R. Kevern, dean of Bexley Hall.

The decision to close the Rochester campus was based in part on changing demographics, Dean Kevern told The Living Church. Another factor was the more stringent standards the Rochester campus would have to meet when its accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools came up for renewal in 2012.

Read: The Living Church: Bexley Hall to Close Rochester Campus

South Indian bishop backs equal rights to resources

Bishop George Ninan tends to divide people into two groups: those who have political freedom and economic opportunity and those who have had their God-given rights taken away.

Since he's an Anglican bishop from South India, one might think he would see people as Christian or Hindu or Muslim. Or that he might see those from South India as being distinct from other Indians or even other Asians.

But Ninan's world view has been shaped by speaking out on behalf of oppressed people of many faiths and cultures - and by being threatened by several governments.

"In a just society, people are not only created equal, but have equal rights to resources," he said.

After a career fighting injustice across Asia, the 73-year-old Ninan is spending his "retirement" in Rockland County, serving as priest-in-charge for two congregations that meet at All Saints Episcopal Church in Valley Cottage.

Read it all here.

HT to Kendall Harmon of T:19

Kenyan priest builds community in Boston area

Accounts of violence in Kenya are more than just news stories to The Rev. Joseph Ngotho; they are the latest news about the fate of his homeland and his dispossessed family according to a Lynn, Masschusetts news source.

"We've been struggling for years because of poor leadership." Ngotho received a traditional Anglican religious education in Kenya. He continued his education after moving to the United States 12 years ago and has ministered to his countrymen at St. Stephen's for five years.

The debate in the last several years over openly gay Episcopal Church leaders prompted some Kenyans to endorse a rift between the Anglican and Episcopal Church.

Ngotho has tried to help his St. Stephens parishioners understand that more issues unite than divide them, including struggles to overcome poverty and racial and gender injustices.

Read it all here.

More San Joaquin congregations opt to remain

Updated

Episcopal Life reports:

A growing number of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are opting to remain within the Episcopal Church (TEC), as the Fresno-based diocese prepares for an anticipated March 29 special convention that would elect a provisional bishop.
...
The Presiding Bishop appointed [the Rev. Canon Bob] Moore, and later the Rev. Canon Brian Cox, as an interim pastoral presence to continuing Episcopalians after 42 of 47 diocesan congregations voted in December to leave TEC and to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

In the absence of ecclesiastical authority, the Rev. Mark Hall, rector of St. Anne's Church in Stockton and the senior active priest in San Joaquin, is also serving as temporary diocesan administrator.
...
Membership in the continuing diocese is growing with 17 congregations remaining with TEC and the possibility of more coming on board. "Some are start-up and some are continuing congregations," Hall said. About five others are also considering continuing with TEC, added Hall, who is a steering committee member.

Delegates to the anticipated March 29 convention will, in addition to electing a provisional bishop, also elect the standing committee, deputies to General Convention, provincial representatives and diocesan officers.

Michael Glass, a San Rafael attorney who represents many of the continuing Episcopalians, said Title III. Canon 13, Section 1 provides for the election of the provisional bishop "in consultation with the Presiding Bishop."

Glass predicted additional congregations will also "come out of the woodwork" and decide to remain with TEC after the election.
...
Getting the word out has been a significant challenge, said St. Anne's Hall. "Because of the nature of how things have been … people were kept from talking to each other and … we've been marginalized." He said that Episcopal Life's monthly newspaper and other church-wide publications were unavailable within most of the diocese for at least a decade.

See also this earlier post today on the Southern Cone.

Thursday morning update

Remain Episcopal page on the March 29 convention here.

The Living Church has a story here.

Bishop Sisk responds to New Yorker's story on Paul Moore

Bishop Mark Sisk of New York has written to members of his diocese about a story in The New Yorker magazine by Honor Moore in which she revealed that her father, the late Bishop Paul Moore, had an affair with a man during his marraige. To read the letter click "Read more."

The key paragraph follows:

But there is more. It appears as well that Bishop Moore violated his ordination vows in another respect. The long term extra-marital relationship that his daughter describes was begun, according to her account, with a young man who had come to the Bishop for counseling. That inappropriate relationship is a fundamental violation of an ordained person’s vow to minister to the needs of those entrusted to his or her care; never is this more so than when working with the vulnerable who have come seeking pastoral care. Sadly the violation of trust that Ms Moore reports is consistent with behavior recorded in complaints about Bishop Moore’s exploitative behavior received by the office of the Bishop of New York. As Canon Law required, the concerns of those complainants (who wished their identities held in confidence) were duly conveyed to the then Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning for disposition.

Read more »

The wisdom of the combat weary

The Rev. Dr. Paul Zahl, new rector of All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, Md., was once a partisan in the struggle for the control of the Episcopal Church. No more. In his installation sermon, "Love Among the Ruins: A Vision for Our Future," he draws on the lyrics of Crosby, Stills and Nash and Brian Wilson (Midnight's Another Day) before concluding that the only way forward lies in "walking away from anything else but the question: What is love?"

When is a sermon just a sermon?

Updated

New York Episcopalians reflected on the paradoxes of blindness and sight coming from the Gospel of the Day, a task made more poignant in light of the revelation that the late Bishop of New York lived a secret life.

The New York Times reports:

As is customary during Lent, the sermon at St. John the Divine Cathedral on Sunday touched on the themes of seen and unseen truths, knowing and not knowing what is before one’s very eyes.

It was not intended as a veiled reference to the disclosure this week that Paul Moore Jr., the late, revered Episcopal bishop who became a national figure of liberal Christian activism from the cathedral’s pulpit in the 1970s and ’80s, had lived a secret gay life.

“I’m an old English major, and I can overlay meanings on anything, but in this case it was just the Sunday sermon,” said the Rev. James A. Kowalski, who delivered the words.

In an elegiac article in the March 3 issue of The New Yorker magazine titled “The Bishop’s Daughter,” the poet Honor Moore describes her father, Bishop Moore, who died in 2003 at 83, as alternately passionate and elusive, capable of deep “religious emotion,” yet just beyond her emotional reach. It was only after he died, she said, that she fully realized that he had had gay relationships during his two marriages, the first of which produced his nine children.

Read: The New York Times: A Bishop Unveiled God’s Secrets While Keeping His Own

See also Life with Bishop Paul Moore and Bishop Sisk responds to New Yorker's story in the Cafe.

Monday afternoon update
- Episcopal Life has Bishop Sisk responds to revelations about predecessor.

Monday evening update - Honor Moore's article in New Yorker is now available here.

Retired bishop Otis Charles, who came out as a gay man a few years ago, writes to Bishop Sisk here.

Editor sought for Episcopal Life

Updated. Episcopal Life media is seeking an editor for Episcopal Life monthly. A restructured job posting appeared on the Episcopal Church website today. Earlier past presidents of Episcopal Communicators wrote an appeal to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson addressing what they called "a crisis in confidence" regarding the Episcopal Church's communications operations.

Six former presidents of the Episcopal Communicators issued an urgent appeal to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, on Monday, March 3, requesting that an editor for Episcopal Life be sought and that the two church leaders work with the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church to address “a crisis in confidence” regarding the Episcopal Church’s communications operation. In their letter to the leaders of the two houses of General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the former presidents called for deeper collaboration with the principal networks of Episcopal Church communications, including the Standing Commission and also the Episcopal Communicators organization, the Episcopal Life Board of Governors and the 36 Episcopal Life printing partners.

“Episcopal Life requires an editor who can balance the differing needs of both the Episcopal Church Center management and the publication’s readers, and present news and information ‘without fear or favor’—which has been an historic quality of the newspaper since its founding 18 years ago,” the former presidents said in their request. The six former presidents of the Episcopal Communicators are: Laurie Wozniak (2004-2007) from the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York; Carol Barnwell (2001-2004) from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas; Herb Gunn (1998-2001) from the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan; Sarah Moore (1995-98) presently living in the Diocese of Southwest Florida,; James Thrall (1992-95), presently living in the Diocese of North Carolina; and Mary Lee Simpson (1989-1992), presently living in the Diocese of North Carolina.

The Episcopal Communicators is an organization of communicators across the Episcopal Church that was founded 35 years ago as a way to promote and encourage broad-based communication, a clear distinction between church promotion and religious journalism, and a significant role for diocesan and church communicators to impact the communication strategy of the Episcopal Church.

Episcopal Life Online writes:

"The Board of Governors of Episcopal Life Media is both pleased and energized that the search for an ELM editor has been re-opened," said board chairman Eugene Willard. "We look forward to continuing good cooperation and consultation in our church's multi-layered communications system."

"The restructured position will serve the Episcopal Church in a far more comprehensive way in developing and shaping content across print and electronic platforms," said Robert Williams, Episcopal Church communication director. "We at ELM are grateful for the strong support of the Board of Governors and Church Center senior staff officers who have assisted in making this strengthened position possible."

In this restructured role, the editor will produce the Episcopal Life Monthly newspaper and guide coverage and content integration supporting the Episcopal Life Online website, its daily email editions, and the Episcopal Life Weekly parish-leaflet inserts, working collaboratively with current online and print editorial staff.

Job posting for the Editor of Episcopal Life Monthly is found here.

ELD: Editor sought for Episcopal Life.

Scott Gunn, a member of the Board of Governors of Episcopal Life, has a blog post here.

A media briefing from the House of Bishops meeting

This media briefing comes courtesy of Neva Rae Fox of the Church's communications office. The briefing officers were: the Rt. Rev Richard Chang, vice president of the House of Bishops and retired bishop of Hawai'i and Bishop Robert O'Neill of Colorado:

The first session of the House of Bishops began at 3 pm with prayer, songful praise, and announcements.

- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori welcomed the House and introduced new bishops: Mary Gray-Reeves of El Camino; Dan Edwards of Nevada; Kee Sloan, Suffragan Bishop of Alabama; Mark Lawrence of South Carolina; Jeff Lee of Chicago; and Steve Lane, Bishop-Elect of Maine (whose consents have been received). Prince Singh has been elected bishop of Rochester but his consent process has not been completed.

- Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori shared her hopes for the upcoming Lambeth Conference: "that we go with a sacrificial attitude open to one another, expecting divine encounters," that "we are willing to embrace the pain of difference as a sign of hope" and that "we avoid pre- judgments."

"I hope we build bridges for greater mission engagement," she said.

- Ed Little of Northern Indiana, chair of the HOB Planning Committee, noted, "Our agenda during this meeting will weave in and out of discussions about the Lambeth Conference."

- There was a presentation on the historical perspective of Lambeth by the Rev. Paula D. Nesbitt, Ph.D. of the diocese of California; and an update on current plans by the Rt. Rev. Miguel Tamayo of Cuba and a member of the Lambeth Planning Committee.

In his presentation, Tamayo said that the stated goals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Design Committee for the Lambeth Conference are "to equip bishops to be more effective leaders in God's mission and to strengthen the Anglican Communion."

- Eucharist was celebrated following the afternoon session.

- After dinner, the evening session will be devoted to a Lambeth discussion with the afternoon speakers along with Don Wimberly of Texas, John Chane of Washington (DC), Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, and Robert O'Neill of Colorado. The session will begin with a discussion of the question posed by Nesbitt in the afternoon: Have we reached a 'tipping point' toward a new way of striving toward social change?

Daily briefings will appear at Episcopal Life Online here.

House of Bishops media notes - March 8

Read the Daily Account from the House of Bishops for Saturday, March 8 at ENS here.

Media briefers for Saturday, March 8, 2008 were: The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, and The Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf, Bishop of Rhode Island.

Bishop Epting has some reflections from the retreat.

House of Bishops media notes - March 9

From Episcopal Life Online:

The members of the House of Bishops gathered for Eucharist on Sunday morning. The celebrant and preacher was the Rev. Brian Cox, who used today's lesson from the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John, the raising of Lazarus, to challenge the bishops to see how new life can be raised in the midst of chaos.

The faith-based reconciliation presentation which had begun on Saturday continued this evening, led by the Rev. Canon Brian Cox of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Hon. Joanne O'Donnell of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

O'Donnell reviewed one of the core values of faith-based reconciliation, which is submission to God, the principle of sovereignty.

Acknowledging God's sovereignty is the single-most important element of faith-based reconciliation, she noted. The basis of unity in the sovereignty of God is harmony, diversity and community.

"Unity is not uniformity," O'Donnell said.

Facing the difficulties in the Episcopal Church, she said. "We find unity in the person of Jesus Christ." Pointing out that she and Cox are quite different - he a conservative priest and she a liberal layperson -- she noted, "Despite our differences, Jesus unites us."

Read the rest at Episcopal Life Online: Daily Account from the House of Bishops for Sunday, March 9

An Open Letter to the House of Bishops from the Rev. Susan Russel, President of Integrity may be found here.

Bishop Epting reflects on Reconciliation and the Transformation of Human Hearts here.

Episcopal seminaries under stress

The webzine, Inside Higher Ed has an extensive story on the financial difficulties facing Episcopal seminaries. The story follows up on recent announcements of adjustments at EDS, Bexley Hall and Seabury-Western, but looks at the bigger picture and relies on interviews with several in the business including the Rev. Canon John L.C. Mitman, executive director of The Society for the Increase of the Ministry, the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary, and others.

Read it all here.

An extract:

[A typical seminarian starts] with $63,000 or so in average debt upon entering a profession where $45,500 is the average beginning compensation.

Contributing to the costs are the reality that many of the Episcopal seminaries are located in exceptionally expensive places to live: Manhattan, Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., for instance.

“There’s still the residential seminary point of view — and I have some sympathy with it because that’s what I came out of certainly, in my own background — that you lose that Christian formation piece that comes in living in community with the same people for three years,” said Reverend Mitman. With the advent of “virtual communities,” he said, “Much of the church is concerned that we’re losing a lot of the substance of theological education training and formation. But a big driver behind all of this is the whole problem of indebtedness.”

The Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary (the largest of the Episcopal seminaries), offered another combination of drivers at work. Among the challenges to the residential M.Div. model, he said, are an increasing number of individuals coming to the ministry as a second career — who face practical difficulties when it comes to relocating — and an increasing reliance on training at more ecumenical divinity schools as opposed to the 11 Episcopal seminaries. Thirdly, in many small towns with small congregations, church leaders can’t leave town for training; their town, Reverend Markham said, simply can’t spare them.

An earlier report on the seminary consolidation and cooperation is here.

Schofield deposed

Updated

ENS reports:

The House of Bishops voted March 12 to consent to the deposition from the ordained ministry of the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, and the Rt. Rev. William Jackson Cox, bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Maryland, resigned.

Members of the House of Bishops are preparing a statement regarding these actions and for release after a March 12 afternoon session.

The process used to work through these resolutions took into account the importance of prayer and careful reflection before each vote was taken.

Specifically, in both cases the House was first led in prayer by a chaplain, followed by small-group discussion, and then plenary discussion. After this, voting commenced. Each vote was cast clearly in the majority, with some nay votes, and some abstentions.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asked the bishops assembled "to continue to reach out" in pastoral care to both Schofield and Cox.

"Abandoning the Communion of this Church does not meet we abandon a person as a member of the Body of Christ," Jefferts Schori said.

Full texts of the resolutions follow. Each resolution was considered and voted upon separately. The resolution pertaining to Schofield was acted upon first.

RESOLUTION

RESOLVED, that pursuant to Canon IV.9.2 of the Episcopal Church, the House of Bishops hereby consents to the Deposition from the ordained ministry of the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin.

EXPLANATION: On January 9, 2008, the Title IV Review Committee certified to the Presiding Bishop, pursuant to Canon IV.9.1, that the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, has repudiated the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church and has abandoned the Communion of the Church by, inter alia, departing from the Episcopal Church and purporting to take his Diocese with him into affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone. In the intervening two months since the Presiding Bishop gave notice to Bishop Schofield of the foregoing certification, Bishop Schofield has failed to submit to the Presiding Bishop sufficient retraction or denial of the actions found by the Title IV Review Committee. Accordingly, the Presiding Bishop has presented the matter to the House of Bishops and requested consent to Bishop Schofield's Deposition.

RESOLUTION

RESOLVED, that pursuant to Canon IV.9.2 of the Episcopal Church, the House of Bishops hereby consents to the Deposition from the ordained ministry of the Rt. Rev. William Jackson Cox, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Maryland, resigned.

EXPLANATION: On May 29, 2007, the Title IV Review Committee certified to the Presiding Bishop, pursuant to Canon IV.9.1, that the Rt. Rev. William Jackson Cox, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Maryland, resigned, has repudiated the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church and has abandoned the Communion of the Church by, inter alia, departing from the Episcopal Church and stating his intention to continue to perform episcopal acts solely under the oversight and jurisdiction of a bishop outside the Episcopal Church without conforming to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. In the intervening two months since the Presiding Bishop gave notice to Bishop Cox of the foregoing certification, Bishop Cox has failed to submit to the Presiding Bishop sufficient retraction or denial of the actions found by the Title IV Review Committee. Accordingly, the Presiding Bishop has presented the matter to the House of Bishops and requested consent to Bishop Cox's Deposition.
_____

A link to the ENS article is now available.

Monday afternoon update

A press release for Schofield is available here. “I am still an active Anglican bishop, and I continue to be the bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin,” Schofield said.

The Anglican Communion Network reacts, asserting "there is no question that both Bishop Cox and Bishop Schofield remain bishops in the Anglican Communion and will continue in ministry."

The House of Bishop's Statement:

Calling on the reconciling love of our Lord Jesus Christ and mindful of our call to be servants of one another and of the mission and ministry of the whole church, we have taken the action of consenting to the deposition of our two brother bishops, John-David Schofield and William Cox. This outcome was is the painful culmination of a lengthy process of conciliation and review led by two Presiding Bishops. While earnest voices were raised asking if there were other alternatives at this time, the conclusion of the House of Bishops is that this action is based on the facts presented to us and is necessary for the ongoing integrity of The Episcopal Church. We seek also to respond to the needs of the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin. We are saddened by what we believe to be this necessary action and we have taken it only after deep prayer and serious conversation. We also wish to express our continuing commitment to work for reconciliation with our brothers and the People of God who have been the recipients of their pastoral leadership and care through the years.

If you only have time for one report on San Joaquin...

...Rebecca Trounson's article in The Los Angeles Times is probably the one to read. She notes that while an overwhelming majority of delegates to San Joaquin's convention in December approved the break with the Episcopal Church, at least 2,300 of an estimated 8,800 parishioners in the diocese have chosen to remain with the national church.

The Stockton Record provides some coverage of actual members of the diocese, as does the Associated Press.

No one seems to have contacted Lambeth Palace about the status of former bishop John-David Schofield's invitation to the Lambeth Conference yet.

Bishops report

Two bishops have posted their reflections on the House of Bishops most recent meeting in Texas. Bishop Chris Epting writes of the reaction of the House to the news that Bishop Gene Robinson would not be invited to attend the Lambeth Conference. Bishop Kirk Smith writes additionally of the action to depose two other bishops during the meeting.

Bishop Epting's report which speaks of the controversy regarding Robinson's invitation also includes his reflections on the Covenant process in the Anglican Communion:

"The most painful session was learning that our brother Gene Robinson’s (and our) request for him to be included in the Lambeth Conference in some official way has been rejected by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Even his request simply to pray with his brother and sister bishops during the retreat and during Bible studies. Unbelievable! We will surely make a statement expressing our dismay and sadness at this decision. And we will find ways to stay connected with him during the Conference.

Heard reports on theological education, a proposed new medical insurance program, reorganization at the Church Center, and work on the Title IV disciplinary canons for clergy.  Last night we spent some time discussing the new draft of a ‘Proposed Anglican Covenant.’

There are the usual concerns about the constitutional and legal implications of signing on to an international set of ‘canons’ which might jeopardize our ability to say legitimately that we are ‘autonomous’ (make our own laws/canons). And concerns about ‘power to the Primates’ on doctrinal and other issues. Concerns about too much emphasis on ‘Church of England formularies’ (i.e. 1662 Prayer Book, 39 Articles, their Ordinal) rather than referring more broadly to ‘Anglican formularies.’

Personally, I think we can deal with all those matters. Draft 2 is clearly moving in the right direction. We are to work with it more at Lambeth, the writing team will then prepare a 3rd Draft which will go to the Anglican Consultative Council. If they reject it, it will go back for more work. If they accept it, we will begin the process of having it voted on in the 38 Provinces.

I think there is time for us to improve the document still further. It is clear to me that some kind of Anglican Covenant will be put forth and ultimately signed. The only question is…will we be part of it?"

Read the rest of Bishop Epting's post here.

Bishop Smith also highlights the emotional reactions to the news that Bishop Robinson would not be invited. Smith goes on to speak about the votes to depose Bishops John David Schofield and William Cox:

The other sad moment in our time together came when we took action to depose two bishops of the church who had violated their ordination vows by working to take parishes out of the Episcopal Church, Bishop John-David Scofield of San Joaquin, and Bishop William Cox, retired Suffragan of Maryland. This action was taken after long moments of prayer and silence reflection on the floor of the house. All of us wished to be as charitable and forgiving as possible, but the fact remains that both bishops have worked for many years to separate themselves from our church and in doing so have cause great harm to their dioceses. We consider our action to be a recognition of an existing situation, and not a punitive action.

Many of the presentations we heard focused, appropriately enough, on reconciliation and on our need to go to the Lambeth conference in as open, humble, and cooperative way as possible. We spent an entire learning about “faith-based reconciliation” and how it has been successfully practiced in our own church in around the world. We also renewed our commitment to anti-racism training.

As always, there were a number of practical items. We can expect, for example, some changes in our clergy medical insurance program that should result in considerable savings. We also received some training in dealing with media which will come in handy when we are interviewed by reporters this summer.

You can read Bishop Smith's full reflection here.

UPDATE: Bishop Tom Breidenthal and Bishop Ken Price of the Diocese of Southern Ohio have their reflections posted here.

House of Bishops' votes valid, chancellor confirms

Episcopal News Service
March 15, 2008

House of Bishops' votes valid, chancellor confirms [Episcopal News Service]

The Presiding Bishop's chancellor has confirmed the validity of votes taken in the House of Bishops on March 12, correcting an erroneous report published online March 14 by The Living Church News Service. Chancellor David Booth Beers said votes consenting to the deposition of bishops John-David Schofield and William Cox conformed to the canons. "In consultation with the House of Bishops' parliamentarian prior to the vote," Beers said, "we both agreed that the canon meant a majority of all those present and entitled to vote, because it is clear from the canon that the vote had to be taken at a meeting, unlike the situation where you poll the whole House of Bishops by mail. Therefore, it is our position that the vote was in order." A quorum had been determined at the meeting by the House of Bishops' secretary, Kenneth Price, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

Duncan hires an attorney

Updated Monday evening

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, disputes the charge that he has abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church and has retained an attorney to answer the charges.

According to a news release from the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

In his response, Bishop Duncan rejected the claim that he had abandoned communion. “I state that I consider myself ‘fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church,’” he wrote. He went on to say. “I have striven to follow the Lord Jesus with all my heart and mind and soul and strength, all the while relying on God’s grace to accomplish what my sinfulness and brokenness otherwise prevent.” And “I have kept my ordination vows – all of them – to the best of my ability, including the vow I made on 28 October 1972 to ‘banish and drive away all strange and erroneous doctrines contrary to God’s Word.’”

Here is a PDF of Bishop Duncan's letter to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Here is the letter from Duncan's lawyer to the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop.

Lionel Deimel responds to Bishop Duncan's letter here.

Here is our report of the original finding of the Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee.

Updated Monday evening 3/17/08

ENS has a report here. An excerpt:

Duncan's response lists eight ways he says show that he is "fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church." Among them is the statement that he has "made no submission to any other authority or jurisdiction."

Duncan, who is moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, also noted that he has "gathered Anglican fragments together from one hundred and thirty-five years of Episcopal Church division, vastly increasing understanding and cooperation, though preserving the jurisdictional independence of all."

In late September, Duncan chaired a meeting of a related organization, the Common Cause Council of Bishops during which the group said it would spend what was then the next 15 months developing "an Anglican union," which they anticipate will be recognized by some Anglican Communion Primates and provinces. Information about the actions taken at this meeting was included in the material submitted to the Title IV Review Committee, the committee of bishops, priests and laity that considers allegations of abandonment of communion.


Lionel Deimel has written a commentary on Bishop Duncan's letter here.

He writes:

5. I have made no submission to any other authority or jurisdiction.

Again, doing so might bolster the abandonment case, but no one has suggested that Duncan did what he here asserts here he did not do. What he has been doing, however, is working to create a new jurisdiction. His actions suggest that he intends to lead such a jurisdiction, one that is either parallel to The Episcopal Church or a replacement, in the Anglican Communion, for The Episcopal Church.

6. I have gathered Anglican fragments together from one hundred and thirty-five years of Episcopal Church division, vastly increasing understanding and cooperation, though preserving the jurisdictional independence of all.

Finally, in this item, Duncan comes close to addressing the actual charges against him. Ironically, he construes his infractions as virtues. It is not his job, of course, to unite the various “continuing” Episcopal churches, but doing so is not clearly a bad thing. The actual allegation, however, is that Duncan is uniting the various splinter churches to form a jurisdictional rival of The Episcopal Church. Item 6 is actually a partial admission of guilt. Duncan fails to note that the unity he is working to create does not include unity with The Episcopal Church.

Trinity's "third sacred space" survey

Trinity Church, Wall Street is undertaking a survey to evaluate and improve their web-site, which they call their "third sacred space."

Trinity Church and St. Paul's Chapel in New York City are well-known for their history – George Washington prayed at St. Paul's and Alexander Hamilton rests in Trinity's churchyard. Both churches survived September 11. We also have a ground-breaking "third sacred space" – our website. We broadcast weekly worship services and concerts online to thousands of people around the world, and provide on-demand videos of conversations with today's leading thinkers, and many other events. We even have a blogging priest! We need your help to keep our website revolutionary. Visit our website, look around a bit, and then take a quick online survey. In appreciation, we'll make a charitable donation. See what the revolution is about and tell us how to keep it going at www.trinitywallstreet.org.

With a Bishop on Easter in New Hampshire

The Guardian sent Riazat Butt to spend Easter weekend in New Hampshire with Bishop Gene Robinson. She writes about him doing what Bishops do: visiting parishes, preaching in an ecumenical Good Friday service, and visiting a prison. She gives a glimpse of what it is like both at home and in the home diocese for a bishop, his partner and the people of his diocese.

The small state of New Hampshire remains largely untouched by international disputes. "I wish people could see me for a bishop. It is tiring, I must say," he sighed, referring to the squabbling between rival camps. "On the one hand I would like to be known as Bishop Gene Robinson but it's an accident of history that I'm the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican communion. I've learned to live with that."

His parishioners are unfazed about receiving communion from one of the most controversial clerics in the world, with some admitting that they paid scant attention to what was happening in the Anglican communion.

At All Saints Church, Littleton, Heather McIntire, who had baked brownies for the Maundy Thursday supper, said her main concern was going to a church that was welcoming and friendly. "I happen to be divorced and some churches don't like that. In a small town, people see you on your own and rumours fly. This church is non-judgmental, it's inclusive, and I feel like I belong here," she said.

The following day in Colebrook, a depressed rural town with a population of several thousand, Robinson shared the pulpit with preachers from other denominations, including Methodist, Roman Catholic and Protestant. There were no rainbow flags or protesters to welcome him.

New Hampshire does not, as one resident pointed out, have a "big, gay liberal agenda". It has problems with unemployment, poverty and spousal abuse. Its people are mostly white and, in the more remote areas of the state, they are working class with traditional values.

Marlyn Neary, vicar of St Stephen's, left Roman Catholicism 40 years ago to join the Episcopal Church. She has five cousins who are gay or lesbian. "I didn't see a lot [of homosexuality] until after Gene was elected. I was very much on the fence as to what caused people to be homosexual. I became more aware after 2003 [when Robinson became bishop]. It's made my relationship with them a little better."

Robinson is the only Bishop to be excluded from the Lambeth conference, although he will still go as a member of the public and has some events planned. He and Archbishop Rowan Williams have only met once, and he cannot talk about where or what was said.

"I don't know if it was Rowan's intention to divide the US house of bishops but he's done the very thing he was trying to avoid through his action or lack of action. It mystifies me that he has never commented on statements Akinola [the Archbishop of Nigeria] has made about homosexuality," he said.

Robinson has met Williams only once, although he has had three one-to-one encounters with the US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. For two years after he was elected, Robinson tried to meet the archbishop, who finally relented but would not receive Robinson at his official residence. "He wanted to meet in a secret location and I was not told where until after I got on the plane from the US."

Both men agreed to keep the contents of the meeting private and Robinson would only describe the atmosphere as cordial. "I felt sad for him. He was caught in a difficult situation and didn't know how to lead the church through it. But I don't think we need an archbishop in a role of leadership. We need an archbishop to symbolise unity," he said.

See: The Guardian: Gay bishop's mission to unite.

See also Thinking Anglicans Easter in New Hampshire.

Court rules for diocese

ENS:

The Supreme Court of Queens County, New York, recently ruled that the property of St. James' Episcopal Church, Elmhurst, is held in trust for the Diocese of Long Island and the Episcopal Church.
...
The dissidents relied heavily on the fact that the parish was originally established as a part of the Church of England, arguing that the parish predated the Episcopal Church and they were therefore independent of the church and free to leave. St. James Church was founded in 1704 and officially chartered in 1761 by King George III. It was the first parish in Elmhurst, called Newtown in colonial times.
...
The court rejected the dissidents' claim and ruled that St. James became an Episcopal parish after the American Revolution, and has existed as a part of the Episcopal Church, subject to its authority, since that time. The court noted that St. James, along with other New York parishes of similar status, petitioned the New York state legislature in 1793 to be allowed to incorporate as a parish of the Episcopal Church.

The court also said that the vestry members became ineligible to continue on the vestry or act on the parish's behalf after disaffiliating from the Episcopal Church. Following earlier New York cases, including the most recent decision involving the Diocese of Rochester, the court explicitly rejected the dissidents' arguments in this case that the Episcopal Church is not really hierarchical. The term hierarchical, in this sense, means that parishes are subject to the constitution, canons, rules and decisions of their dioceses and of the Episcopal Church as a whole.

It also rejected the dissidents' claim that Canon I.7(4), which states that all parish property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the diocese, constituted a new policy.

Read it all here.

This weekend in San Joaquin

Episcopal News Service has posted an article that details what folks might expect to happen this weekend in the Diocese of San Joaquin:

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin are gathering in Stockton, California, March 28 to take two major steps in reorganizing the diocese. The first step will be a "service for healing and forgiveness" at the Episcopal Church of St. Anne in Stockton, the temporary home of the diocese. House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson will preside at the service and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will lead the litany for healing. The Presiding Bishop and a number of other clergy will be available to anoint people during the service.

Prior to the service, St. Anne's will host a reception for Jefferts Schori and Anderson. After the service, the Presiding Bishop will engage members of the diocese in a question-and-answer session at the church.

The Rev. Mark Hall, St. Anne's rector and acting diocesan administrator, told ENS that interest in the healing service is keen. Based on registrations, he estimates about 350 people will attend -- a number that will stretch the seating capacity of St. Anne's.

"We have people we haven't heard from in years calling and saying they want to be part of it," he said.

Hall said that while there is a "lot of joy" in the diocese at the moment and some people may be feeling "somewhat vindicated," the healing service is important.

Following the service:

The second reorganizing step will come the following day, March 29, at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Lodi when the diocese gathers for a special one-day convention.

“As the faithful people of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin gather this weekend, it marks a sign of hope for the future," the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS. "As specified in Canon III.13.1, the Presiding Bishop will be present to consult with the Convention about a provisional bishop.

"However, her presence and that of the President of the House of Deputies is also a reminder of the larger Church which stands with, prays for, and supports the people of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin as they move forward in mission and ministry."

Canon III.13.1 states in part that "a Diocese without a Bishop may, by an act of its Convention, and in consultation with the Presiding Bishop, be placed under the provisional charge and authority of a Bishop of another Diocese or of a resigned Bishop."

Delegates to the special convention will be asked to consent to the Presiding Bishop's recommendation of Bishop Jerry Lamb as provisional bishop of the diocese. Lamb, 67, retired as bishop of the Diocese of Northern California in 2007 and most recently served as interim bishop in the Diocese of Nevada.

The rest of the article is here.

UCC fights back

The United Church of Christ is leagues ahead of The Episcopal Church in its efforts to establish and protect a distinctive Christian indentity. Today's full page advertisement in The New York Times, prompted by the controversy surrounding Sen. Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is just the latest example of the UCC's aggressive approach to refuting its detractors. Our passive Church has yet to grasp the danger in allowing its opponents to define it. We are also behind the UCC in our understanding of viral issue-oriented fundraising, as a nugget from this story makes clear:

An online campaign to raise $120,000 to purchase the ad began on March 27. In less than a week, UCC members, churches and Conferences had gathered enough money to pay for the ad.

Imagine what might have been accomplished had the folks calling the shots for the UCC been calling the shots in our Church after the consecration of Gene Robinson. It's painful to consider how little we did with that phenomenal opportunity to reach out to people who appreciated what we had done.

(Meanwhile, Dan Burke of Religion News Service has a two-part (1, 2) interview with UCC leader the Rev. John Thomas)

Judge rules: Advantage CANA

Updated 8:27 a. m.

The ruling is here. The Diocese of Virginia's response is here. At least one newspaper has erroneously reported that in making this ruling, the court has awarded the breakaway congregations the property. That is not the case, and the diocesan release clears that up well.

We will be updating throughout the day.

Judge Randy Bellows writes:

The Court finds that the evidence presented at trial establishes that the definition of "division" as that term is used in 57-9(A) is in fact that assigned to it by the CANA Congregations, which is "[a] split ... or rupture in a religious denomination that involve[s] the separation of a group of congregations, clergy, or members from the church, and the formation of an alternative polity that disaffiliating members could join."81 (CANA Congregations Opening Post-Trial Mem.7.) In so concluding, the Court first looks to the language of the statute.

And:

Finally, ECUSAjDiocese argue that the CANA Congregations' definition of division would permit a division to be "foisted upon [a hierarchical church] by the acts of a few disgruntled individuals." See Post-Trial Reply Br. for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese 5 n.3. The CANA Congregations' definition, argues ECUSAjDiocese, would make the division statute too "easily applicable." The Court finds no merit in this position. The CANA Congregations' definition requires three major and coordinated occurrences: 1.} a "split" or "rupture" in a religious denomination; 2.} "the separation of a group of congregations, clergy, or members from the church;" and 3.} the formation of an "alternative polity that disaffiliating members could join." The ECUSAjDiocese is correct that division, under 57-9(A}, ought not be "easy." Under the CANA Congregations' definition, it is not.

And:

it blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude, especially given the involvement of numerous churches in states across the country, the participation of hundreds of church leaders, both lay and pastoral, who have found themselves "taking sides" against their brethren, the determination by thousands of church members in Virginia and elsewhere to "walk apart" in the language of the Church, the creation of new and substantial religious entities, such as CANA, with their own structures and disciplines, the rapidity with which the ECUSA's problems became that of the Anglican Communion, and the consequent impact-in some cases the extraordinary impact-on its provinces around the world, and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of a level of distress among many church members so profound and wrenching as to lead them to cast votes in an attempt to disaffiliate from a church which has been their home and heritage throughout their lives, and often back for generations. Whatever may be the precise threshold for a dispute to constitute a division under 57-9(A), what occurred here qualifies. For the foregoing reasons, this Court finds that the CANA Congregations have properly invoked 57-9(A). Further proceedings will take place in accordance with the Order issued today.

What next?

For the reasons stated in the Letter Opinion issued today, hereby incorporated by reference, the Court finds that the Plaintiff Congregations in the above-entitled matters have properly invoked Va. Code § 57-9(A). The Court further ORDERS and schedules the following: The Court hereby schedules oral argument for lOam on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, on the following three issues:

1.) Whether 57-9(A), as interpreted by this Court, violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution;

2.) Whether 57-9(A), as interpreted by this Court, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

3.) Whether 57-9(A), as interpreted by this Court, violates the religious freedom provisions of the Virginia Constitution.

On May 28th, 2008, the Court will hear from the Diocese, ECUSA, the CANA Congregations, and the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia (amicus).

In its response, the diocese said:

In its opinion, the Court explicitly acknowledged that constitutional issues remain and there will be a hearing on those issues on May 28, 2008. At issue is the government’s ability to intrude into the freedom of the Episcopal Church and other churches to organize and govern themselves according to their faith and doctrine. We strongly believe that, while we may have theological disagreements within the Episcopal Church, those disagreements are ours to resolve according to our faith and governance.

Background on the case is here.

Updated 10:25 a.m.

Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of links including press releases from the Anglican District of Virginia and CANA.

Summary
The only way in which this Court could find a “division” not to exist among the pertinent entities in this case is to define the term so narrowly and restrictively as to effectively define the term out of existence. The ECUSA and the Diocese urge upon this Court just such a definition and further assert that any definition other than the one for which they argue would render the statute unconstitutional. The Court rejects this invitation. Whether or not it is true that only the ECUSA’s and the Diocese’s proposed definition can save 57-9(A) from constitutional infirmity, there is no constitutional principle of which this Court is aware that would permit, let alone require, the Court to adopt a definition for a statutory term that is plainly unwarranted. Rather, the definition of “division” adopted by this Court is a definition which the Court finds to be consistent with the language of the statute, its purpose and history, and the very limited caselaw that exists. Given this definition, the Court finds that the evidence of a “division” within the Diocese, the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion is not only compelling, but overwhelming. As to the other issues in principal controversy, the Court finds the Anglican Communion to be a “church or religious society.” The Court finds each of the CANA Congregations to have been attached to the Anglican Communion. Finally, the Court finds that the term “branch” must be defined far more broadly than the interpretation placed upon that term by ECUSA and the Diocese and that, as properly defined, CANA, ADV, the American Arm of the Church of Uganda, the Church of Nigeria, the ECUSA, and the Diocese, are all branches of the Anglican Communion and, further, CANA and ADV are branches of ECUSA and the Diocese.

Update 10:45 a.m.

AP reports at WTOPnews:

In an opinion released late Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows ruled that Virginia's Civil War-era "division statute" applies to the lawsuit. The language in that law is favorable to the departing congregations.

The judge still has to decide whether the state law is constitutional and whether the departing congregations properly conducted their votes to realign.

Update 2:45 p.m.

AP reports at Richmond Times Dispatch, "The judge is still a long way from deciding who ultimately controls church property."

Washington Post:

Scott Ward, an attorney for several of the congregations, noted that the state statute calls itself "conclusive" and said that might ultimately render a fall trial unnecessary.

But Henry Burt, a spokesman for the diocese, said his side believes that ownership of church property is determined by other things, including a denomination's laws and deeds and the history of how the property has been managed and controlled over time.

Some faith groups said the ruling could impact other religious organizations in Virginia. The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy called it "chilling."

Update: 3:15 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Concerning the Virginia Court Ruling
From the Office of the Presiding Bishop

"We are obviously disappointed in yesterday's ruling by the trial judge against the Episcopal Church and the Diocese that involved one Virginia statutory issue in the case. While we believe that the Court's conclusion that Virginia's unusual "division" statute applies to the current situation in the Diocese, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is incorrect, there will time enough in the future to seek review of that decision if it becomes necessary. In the meantime, we shall present to the Court at the scheduled argument in May our contention that if the statute means what the Court has held, it plainly deprives the Episcopal Church and the Diocese, as well as all hierarchical churches, of their historic constitutional rights to structure their polity free from governmental interference and thus violates the First Amendment and cannot be enforced.

"We also note that this decision does not bar the contentions of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese regarding control over the property of the departing congregations that will be presented to the Court in the fall."

Neva Rae Fox
Program Officer, Public Affairs
The Episcopal Church
212-716-6080
Mobile: 917-478-5659

ENS analysis here.

TIME has a story.

UPDATE: April 4, 6 p.m.
Letter from The Rt Rev Peter J Lee of the Diocese of Virginia follows below (link):

UPDATE: April 5, 9 a.m.
The New York Times reports here.

Read more »

It is written....

Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh has a prophecy. He writes, in the magazine of Trinity Cathedral of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, that 2008 is "the year of of the Gate." And through this gate will march the true church carrying forward a new reformation.

In Hebrew, the number eight is rendered by the letter CHET, which is depicted in the form of a GATE.

The number eight is related to new starts and new life in the Scriptures – the most notable being the resurrection of Jesus which occurred on the eighth day…Eight is the number of the gate…

And I sensed the Holy Spirit saying simply this: 2008 is the year of the open gate. Prepare to pass through the gate. There are new beginnings ahead for those who have been waiting patiently for their moment to come. Obstacles are being removed. The Father is breaking his children out of a sense of captivity to past restrictions. The anointing for new beginnings is on many in this year. The time of frustration and exile is coming to an end. This is the Lord’s time for his people to rise up and follow him through the gates of opportunity. New starts are looming. Many are on the point of experiencing the new life that convergence brings. And the true church even though it will know many trials – is on the point of experiencing new life, a new season of vitality and creativity, a brand new Reformation.

Fr. Jake says that the Bishop is using the language of prophecy to mobilize his supporters in the diocese and the Common Cause Partnership/Network to break from the Episcopal Church and a Canterbury-centered Anglican Communion this year.

Translation...go ahead and leave TEC for another Province...thus saith the Lord.

I have some serious problems with such "prophecies." First of all, it is based on the premise that the future has already been fully determined. That simply cannot be, as I've previously discussed.

Second of all, I find it very odd that the same group who is constantly repeating; "The bible said it, I believe it, that ends it," would now give authority to this rather unusual form of additional divine revelation.

And finally, I find the use of such a "prophecy" by the Bishop to be a form of spiritual manipulation. If God has already given his blessing on the upcoming schism, then there's nothing to discuss, right? It is no longer a debatable point. It is God's will. Not only do we not have to talk about it, we don't even have to think about it anymore.

And, of course, anyone who speaks against this prophecy will have proven themselves to be against God's will. They will be identified as the enemy, and must not only be silenced, but must be cut from the community, so that they do not contaminate others with their apostacy.

Bishop Duncan was found to have abandoned the Communion of this church in January but was not inhibited from ministry at the time by three senior bishops of the Church.

At the time, Bishop Wimberly explained that he did not consent to inhibition because

We did not consent to the request for Bishop Duncan because the Diocese of Pittsburgh has not held their annual convention yet and therefore has not formalized any change to their membership within the Episcopal Church, as the Diocese of San Joaquin had.

The question is if, in invoking prophecy, if the Bishop of Pittsburgh is getting ready to attempt to formally remove his Diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Letter from The Falls Church Episcopal

The Senior Warden and the Priest In Charge at The Falls Church Episcopal have issued a statement to members of the Episcopal Church in Falls Church VA concerning the rulings by Judge Bellows on the property case of the Virginia churches. In discussing the meaning of the ruling Senior Warden William Fetsch and The Rev. Michael Pipkin say:

What does all of this mean?
The bottom line is that there has been no decision on the ultimate questions of property or assets. Despite what many are writing in the press and what you may read on the internet, the Circuit Court opinion does not reach ultimate questions of disposition of property. These issues are scheduled for trial in October 2008. What happened today is only a small step on this long road toward finality.

While some are declaring this as a victory for “their side,” Judge Bellows’ opinion reminds us that we remain Brothers and Sisters of the Anglican Communion. We are ultimately saddened not by the loss of this case, but in the sadness that is a schism of the Body of Christ.

For the civil courts to look into our Church, which is the Body of Christ, and to declare it divided is ultimately a very sad thing – and certainly NO victory for anyone. And yet, in the brokenness of this moment, in our sadness and in their joy, Jesus is alive and present, and the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through us all.

As for us at The Falls Church Episcopal, we have a lot of work to do, and none of it has anything to do with who owns 115 E. Fairfax Street. There are many in our neighborhood who are in need of the Christian message of love and community that we claim as followers of an incarnate God.

With or without today’s decision, we remain the Church – we will continue to worship, and we will continue to reach out to those in need. We will provide for the needy, minister to the sick, comfort the mournful, and we will strive for justice and peace among all people.
In our work as the Church, we will continue to partner with local organizations, such as Homestretch, and we will develop partnerships with other Falls Church congregations – Episcopal or otherwise – as we meet our Lord in the faces of our neighbors.

While we are may be saddened by today’s events, we are reminded of the need, now more than ever, to proclaim our presence in Falls Church, and to reach out ever more diligently.

In the days ahead you will surely be provided the opportunity to discuss this with friends, family, and neighbors. I urge you to discuss these events, keeping in mind the charity, love, and peace that our Lord showed in his own Passion. I also urge you to invite your friends, families, and neighbors to join us as we continue to grow and proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ!

The complete joint statement of Rev. Michael Pipkin and Senior Warden Bill Fetsch with The Falls Church Episcopal and a triumphal letter from John Yates of the CANA congregation can be found here.

Spiritual leaders' valuable vision

The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be in Seattle this week for a national Episcopal conference, "Healing Our Planet Earth: Singing a New Song of Hope." Joel Connelly provides readers of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer with this background. It is positive and yet closes with a tough question:

[Jefferts] Schori is, in a sense, returning home with her Seattle trip. She was raised in Lake City, converted from Catholicism to the Episcopal Church with her family and was an oceanographer before receiving a call to the priesthood. She has climbed 9,415-foot Mount Stuart.

She is here for the kind of event that represents renewal to many in her flock, while others see invasive secular issues capturing the church.

It's a national conference titled "Healing Our Planet Earth: Singing a New Song of Hope."

Schori is not hesitant to embrace science, even linking it to revelation.

"As an oceanographer, I practiced a discipline that understands that no life form can be studied in isolation from its surroundings: As a Christian, I continue to practice a discipline that understands that God created all beings to live in relationship with each other and the rest of creation," she said in a written statement.

"Science has revealed to us unequivocally that climate change and global warming are real, and caused in significant party by human activity.

"These changes are a threat not only to the goodness of God's creation but to all of humanity."

The conference will hear from the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, a seminary dean and former Alaska bishop who heralds "The Genesis Covenant."

The covenant is an interfaith effort that calls on religious communities to make a "public commitment" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50 percent in the next 10 years.

Not even our solemn, secular greens -- the Sightline Institute and Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club -- dare talk of such an ambitious goal.

Here's the problem: How do you make a bigger impact when fewer people are in the pews?

Read it all here.

Check out the conference website here. The Presiding Bishop will speak Friday and Saturday.

Episcopal communicators meet in Seattle

Updated: 4:13 p.m. ET

Some of our number have been in Seattle this weekend, not for the numerous faith conferences and festivals but for the Episcopal Communicators Conference. Exploring the theme of ""Emerging Communications for an Emerging Church," several speakers talked about the role of communications in ministry in these times:

In the conference's keynote address, author and scholar Diana Butler Bass told the gathering that communicators, as people who tell the story of the Episcopal Church, can be the "bards" of a historic chapter in the denomination's life.

Episcopal Diocese of Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel, speaking during the conference's April 9 opening banquet at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus, told participants that he prayed they would not be "mere spectators" to the changing Episcopal Church but that they would teach the church.

The Episcopal Life Online coverage includes more detailed recaps of the speakers and is available here.

The Very Rev. Nicholas Knisley, liveblogging at the event, provides his notes from the David Domke plenary session here and a link to his Twitter page, where he'd jot notes in an interactive space during the sessions, here.

The 28th Annual Polly Bond Award recipients are listed in a 38-page PDF document linked here. It should be noted that The Daily Episcopalian received an Award of Excellence for Web Writing and the Cafe got two honorable mentions for online publications/webzines, one for the Daily Episcopalian and the other for our Art Blog.

Update: ELO has additional coverage from last night here. It includes more coverage on Domke and some notes on the Rev. Matthew Moretz' presentation on new media and social media tools, such as YouTube.

Late to Matthew's party

We are awfully late to this party, but fortunately, it is still in full swing. Father Matthew Moretz's You Tube ministry is among the most creative evangelism and formation efforts under way in the Episcopal Church. Visit him here. He's currenlty in the midst of a series on the sacraments, and these pieces are both edgy and substantive--Have a look at the video on Baptism. You will never look at being "received" into a congregation the same way again.--but don't miss earlier installments like the Scripture, Tradition and Reason puppet show, the Super Mario Carrilon or the Episcopal Sign Switch.

He gave a plenary session and a few workshops at the annual meeting of Episcopal Communicators in Seattle last week and drew big crowds. So perhaps we will see some video blogging on church-related sites in the not-too-distant future.

Parish nurses offer needed ministry

Parish nurses are a growing ministry in the Episcopal and other churches. The Grand Haven Tribune, in Michigan, reports on how a local college is supporting education of nurse to serve in this ministry.

While many churches have had nurses as volunteers for years and years, a Calvin College church nursing program encourages nurses to create staff positions in their congregations. Since the Parish Nurse Basic Preparation Program began in 2003, 113 registered nurses have gone through the 36-hour course.

Suzan Couzens said her organization, the Grand Rapids Area Health Ministry Consortium, now works with close to 50 parish nurses compared with just seven in 2002.

"In our health care system, the need is increasing for nurses to be in churches," she said. "The system is complicated, resources becoming less and less, and the church is being asked to step up more and more — and they're not prepared."

Ferrysburg Community Church Pastor Nate Visker said unpaid nurses organize blood pressure checks and host a flu shot clinic each year.

"I don't even watch the medical dramas, so I have no medical knowledge," he said. "These ladies are both (registered nurses), so they can answer medical questions that would be dangerous for me to address."

Other tasks taken on by parish nurses include initiating health programs and education, calling on the elderly, developing support groups, and sometimes acting as patient advocates, according to Calvin College professor Bethany Gordon.

"Health is often related to body, mind and spirit, and I think we're in a unique position as the church where we can look at this as holistic health," Gordon said. "In everything we do, we are looking at integrating our faith with our health."

Karen Nisja from St. John's Episcopal Church in Grand Haven ... went through the Calvin College program. ... people are starting to become more aware in what a valuable role it can play in church ministry. It really does follow the model of Jesus in healing.

National Episcopal Health Ministries offers support, training and sharing of resources to congregation and parish nurse programs. Click here for more information.

Bishops of Ohio keep their promise

The Episcopal Bishops of Ohio have spoken with one voice in support of proposed legislation before the Ohio State Legislature that would protect the civil rights of homosexual persons in Ohio in housing and employment.

Bishop Breidenthal wrote an e-mail to his diocese and clergy:

A Message From the Bishop's Office
April 21, 2008
Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Today Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop Price and I, along with the three assisting bishops of the Diocese of Ohio, have submitted a memorandum to the Ohio State Legislature as they consider current legislation that would protect the civil rights of homosexual persons in the State of Ohio, particularly as regards equal access to housing and employment (House Bill 502 and Senate Bill 305). The text of the memorandum is as follows:

*To: Members of the Ohio State Legislature

From: The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth Jr. Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price Jr., Bishop Suffragan of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. David C. Bowman, Assisting Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. William D. Persell, Assisting Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Arthur B. Williams, Jr., Assisting Bishop of Ohio

Re: Statement of Support for Civil Rights for Gay and Lesbian Persons in Ohio

Legislation currently before the Ohio State Legislature seeks to secure equal access to housing and employment opportunities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. The Episcopal Church has stated unequivocally that the civil rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, must be upheld and protected. As the bishops of the two Episcopal dioceses in Ohio, we strongly support the enactment of laws that further this goal in our state. We pray that the demands of justice and equity will guide you as you consider this opportunity to extend a small measure of protection and dignity to our brothers and sisters in the GLBT community.

* I am very pleased that the bishops of our two dioceses have been able to speak with one voice on this matter. While there is a wide range of perspective and conviction in our Church and Diocese on issues related to human sexuality, there is and must be consistent advocacy for the civil rights of all people. This is well reflected in Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention (1976) which states that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church," and A071, which states that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality." In 2003 our own diocesan convention resolved that "it is the intent of this Diocese that all persons be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or theological stance" (R-2003-03).

We must never flag in our efforts to insist on such equal respect and dignity. This includes working to protect such basic rights as equal access to housing and employment.

Yours in Christ,

+Tom Breidenthal

Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

Running a marathon for the MDGs

The Rev. Tim Schenck, who blogs at Clergy Family Confidential, ran in the Boston Marathon yesterday to raise money to fight global hunger. He finished in 4:20:12. You can support Tim's cause by visiting the Tufts' Marathon Challenge Web site.

And since he ran 26 miles to earn it, we are including a plug for Tim's upcoming book, What Size Are God's Shoes: Kids, Chaos and the Spiritual Life.

And now the good people at All Saints, Briarcliff Mannor, N. Y., can have their rector back.

Commemorating Thurgood Marshall

In 2006, the Diocese of Washington asked the General Convention to include Thurgood Marshall in the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The request was referred to a church commission, and will be reconsidered at the 2009 Convention

But those who support Marshall's cause can hold a Eucharist in his honor next month, perhaps on May 17, the date that the diocese proposes establishing as his feast. (and the anniversary of his victory in the landmark school desergregation case, Brown. v. Board of Education.

For background on the diocese's effort read these two stories from the Washington Window.

The resolution recommending Marshall's inclusion that was passed by the Convention of the Diocese of Washington, and a biography put together by St. Augustine's, Marshall home parish in Washington, D. C. are also available.

To find the propers of the day, and suggestions for hymns, click on read more.

Read more »

Exploring a shameful legacy

Stephan Salilsbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes:

Old Black Alice, who died in 1802 at the wondrous age of 116, remembered well lighting the pipe of William Penn, when the proprietor and slave owner needed a puff.

She remembered attending nascent Christ Church at a time when the nave ceiling was so low she could touch it with the tips of her weathered, slender fingers.

She remembered it all: working the boats of Dunk's Ferry to help white passengers across the river during the day. And working secretly at night to help fellow slaves disappear across the water to freedom.

When Alice died, she was mourned and eulogized as the keeper of the city's memory, a long-lived resident whose life was intertwined with the lives and deaths of the city, a teller of history who saw much and forgot little and passed it all down to eager and younger listeners.

Now Christ Church, where Alice was a parishioner for decade after decade (never attaining freedom herself, despite helping many achieve theirs), has decided to make her life and stories the centerpiece of a new effort to dramatize the city's early experience with slavery.

Read it all.

Fort Worth Episcopalians organize a steering committee

A steering committee comprised of Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church should the Diocesan Convention and the Bishop of Fort Worth succeed in passing resolutions that attempt to join that diocese with another province of the Anglican Communion.

Katie Sherrod writes in her blog, Desert's Child, that

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians has been formed to assist those who wish to remain Episcopalians if Bishop Jack Iker tries to achieve his publicly stated goal of taking the diocese out of The Episcopal Church [TEC] and aligning it with another province of the Anglican Communion.

It is these Episcopalians who will, with the help of the leadership of The Episcopal Church, reconstitute the diocese after the bishop leaves TEC.

The work that led to the formation of the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians began immediately after the adjournment of the most recent convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

At that convention, delegates passed the first of two required “readings” of canonical changes aimed at "taking the diocese out of The Episcopal Church." These actions were taken at the urging of the diocesan leadership, including Bishop Jack L. Iker. The second reading will take place at the diocesan convention in November 2008, unless re-scheduled by Bishop Iker.


At that convention, delegates passed the first of two required “readings” of canonical changes aimed at "taking the diocese out of The Episcopal Church." These actions were taken at the urging of the diocesan leadership, including Bishop Jack L. Iker. The second reading will take place at the diocesan convention in November 2008, unless re-scheduled by Bishop Iker.

In the wake of the first vote, many people immediately set to work to identify and empower those who intend to remain Episcopalians.

Primary among these has been the already-existing Fort Worth Via Media. It has been joined by daughter organizations North Texans Remain Episcopal in the northern part of the diocese and Remain Episcopal of Granbury in the southwestern part of the diocese as well as by a group in the mid-cities area and a group of diocesan clergy. Another recently formed group is Steadfast Episcopalians, organized explicitly to reach out to conservative Episcopalians. There were also individuals representing almost all parishes and missions who had self-identified as wishing to remain Episcopalian.

These groups and individuals realized they needed to work together, so they have formed an umbrella organization called the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians. Walter Cabe is president and Courtland Moore is vice president. Margaret Mieuli is treasurer and Bruce Coggin is the committee’s clerk. Other executive committee members are George Komechak, Kathleen Wells, Victoria Prescott and Fred Barber.

According to Komechak, "The primary objectives of this combined group are to remain in the Episcopal Church and to continue the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a constituent part of the Episcopal Church. This umbrella organization has been officially recognized as a Texas nonprofit corporation by the Secretary of State. Bylaws have been adopted and a Statement of Mission and Beliefs has been developed for release to the public. Identifying additional persons in diocesan parishes and missions who support staying in the Episcopal Church is one of the Steering Committee’s first items of business. "

Read the rest here.

Statement of Mission and Beliefs

Steering Committee

North Texas Episcopalians

We are committed to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a fully participating, constituent part of the Episcopal Church. Recognizing that the church has need of everyone, we will work to ensure that everyone is welcome and that diversity is celebrated in this diocese. We will look for the image of God in everyone, most particularly with those who differ from us, and we will always seek to reflect in our lives the love and charity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We recognize the Episcopal Church of the United States as the American expression of Anglicanism and will remain members of it.

We affirm the hierarchical structure of the Episcopal Church as critical to its polity. We recognize the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies as central to our orderly governance. Moreover we honor the ministry of our Presiding Bishop and Primate.

We will work to identify faithful Episcopalians and provide encouragement and pastoral care for those who do not want to leave the Episcopal Church. We invite the laity to help develop our vision and to implement it in a lively partnership with our clergy. We will resist efforts to remove parishes, property or assets from the Episcopal Church.

We treasure the splendid diversity of the Episcopal Church, and we faithfully pledge to hold open a place in it for those with differing points of view. To anyone who feels torn, confused or marginalized, or who has left the church, we invite you to come home. You are needed.

We seek prayerfully to reconcile with any who contemplate leaving the Episcopal Church by inviting them into dialogue, by listening to them with open hearts and minds and by affirming that they too are valued members of this great church.

We pledge ourselves to Christian service, striving to do all such good works as God has prepared for us to walk in, and seeking always to build up the Body of Christ where we live, where we work and where we worship.

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians (Steering Committee)

The Steering Committee represents Episcopalians in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth who in and through the Episcopal Church celebrate and proclaim the gracious love of Jesus Christ for all people. The Steering Committee governing board is composed of clergy and lay representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, including members of Fort Worth Via Media, Steadfast Episcopalians, North Texans Remain Episcopal and Remain Episcopal Granbury.

Williams won't allow Robinson to function as priest in England

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning.

Sources familiar with the email say Williams cites the Windsor Report and recent statements from the Primates Meeting in refusing to grant Robinson permission to exercise his priestly functions during his current trip to England, or during the trip he plans during the Lambeth Conference in July and August.

The Windsor Report does not discuss the ordination of a candidate in a gay relationship to the priesthood, and it is priestly, rather than episcopal functions that Robinson had sought permission to perform. The primates' statements, similarly, have objected to Robinson's episcopacy, not his priesthood.

Several provinces in the Communion ordain gay and lesbian candidates without requiring a vow of celibacy. It is unclear whether the Church of England forbids these priests from exercising their functions within its jurisdiction as a matter of policy, or whether Williams' ban extends only to Robinson. Many gay English priests live with their partners, but are expected to remain celibate.

The email, which came to Robinson through a Lambeth official, says Williams believes that giving Robinson permission to preach and preside at the Eucharist would be construed as an acceptance of the ministry of a controversial figure within the Communion.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who gave his support to a failed legislative attempt to limit the rights of Nigerian gays and their supporters to speak, assemble and worship God collectively. Akinola has yet to respond to an Atlantic magazine article which suggests he may have had prior knowledge of plans for retributive violence against Muslims in his country that resulted in the massacre of more than 650 people in Yelwa, Nigeria.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa and one of the authors of the Windsor Report. Malango dismissed without reason the ecclesiastical court convened to try pro-Mugabe Bishop Nolbert Kunonga for incitement to murder and other charges.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, who has now claimed as his own, churches in three others provinces in the Anglican Communion (Brazil, Canada and the United States). Nor has he denined permission to preach and preside to Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emanuel Kolini of Rwanda, or Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, all of whom have ignored the Windsor Report's plea not to claim churches within other provinces of the Communion.

Sources who have read the email say Williams expresses sorrow for the way the ban on Robinson must appear to the bishop and his supporters, but says he is acting for the good of the Church and the Communion.

At Church Times Blog, Dave Walker advances the story in the legal direction:

Questions are being asked as to whether Lambeth Palace has the authority to stop Gene Robinson from preaching if he is invited to do so by the incumbent of a parish. Legal minds have been perusing the Canons of the Church of England and it appears that he would have a strong case for being able to preach if invited.

However, Gene Robinson has ruled out preaching without the permission of the Archbishop. From the Hardtalk [TV] interview (only available for a week) on the BBC [Robinson said]: "In the past he has... declined to give me permission to preach and to celebrate the Holy Communion and I would never do so without his permission."

Read Walker's post here.

Earlier in the day Bishop Robinson had said on BBC Radio that God was "very disappointed" in Williams for his failure to confront Akinola over his treatment of gays. Read here. Listen here.

The PB writes at Pentecost

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to the Church in advance of Pentecost. The letter is available on Episcope. This passage may stir some discussion among those who parse her every utterance for evidence of heresy.

Jesus is Lord. In the same sense that early Christians proclaimed that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord, remember that no one else - not any hierarch, not any ecclesiastical official, not any one of you - is Lord. We belong to God, whom we know in Jesus, and there is no other place where we find the ground of our identity.

They bless boats, don't they?

Boating season is getting under way in the northern United States, and priests on Lake Erie's Ohio shoreline have wisely found a way to make themselves present in marking this rite of spring. There are few things that knit congergation and community together better than shared rituals, as these two accounts from Ohio make clear.

Bishop Robinson's book launch

The Mad Priest presents a report from the UK launch party of Bishop Gene Robinson's new book, In the Eye of the Storm.

Correspondent Mary Clara writes of Robinson:

Looking ahead to the Conference itself, he does plan to be there in the public areas surrounding the meetings and available for conversation. He reported that bishops of The Episcopal Church plan to host two evening events at which other bishops and their spouses will be invited to come and meet him. He emphasized the importance of opportunities of this kind to reach out to the great numbers of people in the broad middle, who do not want to exclude, judge or harm those who are different, but who, perhaps because they haven’t had direct experience of LGBT people living normal lives, are “not yet ready to celebrate us”.

Knock three times

A reporter for the Hartford Courant describes how the priest-in-charge of Bishop Seabury Church, who was appointed by the Bishop of Connecticut, is locked out of his congregation and is not recognized by the current vestry of the parish. They say the parish has joined CANA and the Church of Nigeria, and wishes no further connection to the Diocese of Connecticut.

When the Rev. David Cannon, the priest-in-charge of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, showed up to start his job two weeks ago, he walked around the outside of the building, trying every door. All locked.

He could hear people moving around inside, so he knocked. No answer.

Eventually, Cannon found his way to the office building, adjacent to the church, where he called out for the Rev. Ronald Gauss, who still heads the parish in defiance of Episcopal officials. The two men have known each other for many years — were on friendly terms, even — and Gauss knew why Cannon was there, but that didn't make this any easier.

Cannon was there to take over Gauss' church — and Gauss was having none of it.

"I wanted access to the church. I wanted the books, the keys, the right to celebrate communion there," Cannon said. "I asked not once, not twice, but three times. I was refused all three times."

Not that Cannon was surprised. Gauss and the 780 members of Bishop Seabury have made it perfectly clear that they feel little allegiance to the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, which appointed Cannon as priest-in-charge on Feb. 29.

And...

Bishop Seabury is one of six Connecticut churches with either severed or strained ties to the diocese — a deterioration sparked by Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith's support of the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire.

Since that time, Bishop Seabury has drawn further and further from the Episcopal Church, voting last January to leave the diocese and join the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA), a self-described missionary effort in the U.S. sponsored by the Church of Nigeria.

But they're not ready to give up the keys to the building — putting the congregation on a collision course with Episcopalian authority in Connecticut.

Gauss disagrees with some aspects of Cannon's description of his recent visit to the church — he said the priest never asked for the keys, for example — but both men acknowledge that what started as a disagreement about the interpretation of Scripture has escalated — or sunk — into a battle over property rights.

"The issue is, who owns the building? That's not going to be settled by Ron Gauss or David Cannon," Gauss said. "That's going to be settled in a court of law."

Cannon's appointment — and his presence at Bishop Seabury that April morning — made it clear that Bishop Smith believes the property belongs to the diocese. In January, Smith ordered the congregation to vacate the property by Jan. 20 and dismissed its church leaders.

The congregation responded on Jan. 20 by defying that order, refusing to leave and re-electing the leaders.

Gauss wants to transfer his canonical residence to Nigeria. The Bishop of the diocese is weighing whether Gauss has instead abandoned the communion of this church. As for Cannon, he says:

Cannon, who retired in 1999 after serving as a vicar of St. James in Preston for 35 years, said he just wants to do the job that's been assigned to him.

"I don't have a dog in this fight...My job is to try to care for any of the folks at Bishop Seabury who wish to remain loyal members of the Episcopal Diocese under our canons and constitutions. I may not find anybody, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try."

Read: The Hartford Courant: Episcopalian Split Comes Down To Locked Groton Church

Bishop Robinson on Today


NBC's summary of the interview is here.

Myanmar relief , Farm Bill critique

Two related items this morning from Episcopal Life Online.


In Myanmar, Episcopal Relief and Development responds to Cyclone Nargis - Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is responding to Cyclone Nargis and providing churches and individuals with an opportunity to help those affected by the deadly disaster.
...
ERD has established relationships with local partners in Myanmar to get assistance quickly to many of the most vulnerable people.
...
Churches can use a downloadable bulletin insert, to inform and encourage members to help.

To help people affected by the cyclone in Myanmar, make a donation to ERD's "Myanmar & Cyclone Response" online here, or by calling 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development "Myanmar & Cyclone Response" P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.


Presiding Bishop urges congressional defeat, presidential veto of Farm Bill - She writes,

As we are learning more each day about the widening food crisis around the world and the deepening economic problems threatening the poor and those living on the margins at home, it is fundamentally wrong for Congressional leaders to seek passage of a farm bill that harms American family farmers and significantly exacerbates poverty and suffering around the world.
[...]
This week, after months of closed-door negotiations, House and Senate leaders unveiled a package that corrects none of the significant inequities in the current system and, remarkably, goes further than current law in exacerbating human need around the world. Particularly at a time when American attention is focused on the international food crisis, the farm bill "compromise" announced by House and Senate leadership is a moral failure of the highest order.

President Bush immediately vowed to veto the Farm Bill compromise:
"This bill increases subsidies to farmers at a time of record farm income," Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said. The negotiators "have done a disservice to taxpayers."
...
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports the bill. Congressional leaders plan to bring it to the House and Senate floors next week for votes that could test the depth of support for it.

The package, the product of weeks of closed-door bargaining, is stuffed with plums for key constituencies.
...
[A]dministration officials cited a number of problems, including new protections for sugar beet and sugar cane growers that will require the government to buy excess quantities of Mexican sugar and resell it to ethanol plants at a loss.

An editor gets baptized

From the Richmond Times Dispatch

A generous call to communion during a sermon last November gently demanded of an intruding inquirer something more of himself. The small voice was heard. And as he slept he dreamed a dream. Subsequent lessons taught that Scripture, reason, and tradition comprise a foundation firm yet not confining. There is much to be said for the temperament of a prayer-book people. Pew aerobics iron out the kinks. The decision was made, or, to put it perhaps more accurately, at last understood.

"The candidates for baptism will now be presented." Bishop and rector performed the rite. As sponsor, a friend of many years stood nearby. While man may be a creature of doubt, of the rightness of Sunday's bow at the font the doubts were none. "Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace."

The Episcopal Church practices infant baptism. This child of God is 58.

Todd Culbertson is the editor of the editorial pages of the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Tom, we receive you into the household of God.

Diocese of Virginia has more "friends" in court

From the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which is locked in a legal battle over church property with breakway congregations:

Over the past four days, eight more religious denominations and judicatories, as well as the two other Virginia Episcopal dioceses have asked the Court to allow them to join the Amici Curiae brief supporting the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in recognizing that the §57-9 division statute is unconstitutional. All churches in Virginia are threatened by this statute, which discriminates against hierarchical churches in favor of congregational ones, in violation of their faith and the right of churches to structure and govern themselves based on their religious beliefs. All churches in Virginia must have the right to structure themselves according to their faith beliefs without the intrusion of the government.

The following denominations joined the Amici brief on May 12 and 15, 2008:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), by Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
The General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists
The National Capital Presbytery, by The Rev. Dr. G. Wilson Gunn, Jr., General Presbyter
The Presbytery of Eastern Virginia, by Elder Donald F. Bickhart, Stated Clerk
The Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Metropolitan Washington DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Virlina District Board—Church of the Brethren, Inc.
The Mid-Atlantic II Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia
The Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia

They join the following denominations, which filed the Amici Curiae brief on April 24, 2008:

The United Methodist Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
The Worldwide Church of God
The Rt. Rev. Charlene Kammerer, Bishop of the Virginia Council of the United Methodist Church
W. Clark Williams, Chancellor of the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Of especial note, the Seventh-day Adventists, despite not being directly threatened by the statute, recognize the dangers inherent in the law, namely “the ultimate and very real danger posed to all religious groups if the legislature is permitted to resolve property rights by reference to inherently religious criteria, much less to ‘defer’ to the rules of some religious groups but not others.” (Motion for Leave to Join Brief of Amicus Curiae, page 3)

As the Episcopal Dioceses of Southern and Southwestern Virginia point out in their filing, “A statute that singles out the legally binding organizational documents and property arrangements of churches whose property is titled in trustees, and permits a court to invalidate those provisions on grounds not applicable to other types of religious or secular organizations or entities, cannot pass Constitutional muster.” (Motion of the Dioceses of Southern Virginia and Southwestern Virginia for Leave to Join Amici Brief, page 6).

By making these filings, these denominations and dioceses support the Diocese of Virginia’s and the Episcopal Church’s argument that matters of faith, governance and doctrine are to be free from government interference. This statute is clearly at odds with and uniquely hostile to the concept of religious freedom. We hope that the Court will recognize that the statute is an attack on America’s First Freedom and thus unconstitutional.

To read these motions in their entirety, visit http://www.thediocese.net/press/pressroom.shtml and click on “Property Dispute.”

Direct access to Property Dispute page here. Scroll to the end for latest briefs.

ENS provides further background to this story. See also our story on the scheduled trial that appeared earlier this week.

A conversation in Pittsburgh

The Rev. Dr. Jay Geisler, a member of the group of conservative clergy that declared to the diocese and its bishop that they intend to remain in The Episcopal Church, was invited to be guest speaker at a meeting of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh meeting last week, and his visit occasioned a useful exchange of ideas, writes Lionel Deimel.

Acknowledging that conservatives have sought a place of “safety” within The Episcopal Church, Geisler offered his own solution, at least for the short term. As a mechanism to avoid schism and lessen conflict, he explained that he would like to see the establishment of a non-geographic diocese of conservative parishes within the church, led by a conservative bishop. He admitted that this plan is problematic. He did not say what effect he thought such an innovation would have on Pittsburgh, an interesting question, in retrospect, that no one pursued. He related that Bishop Duncan had discouraged him from advocating his plan because it would, in Duncan’s words, “weaken our position.”

This was an interesting revelation. I do not favor the non-geographic diocese “solution,” but not for the same reason that Duncan opposes it. (I will have more to say about this another time.) Duncan’s opposition, I think, is to any reconciliation or mechanism that gives even the appearance of unity, since such a scheme would ease tensions in the church and blunt his efforts to engineer a schism that ultimately could place him in the position of leader of his own Anglican province in North America.

Read it all.

Orombi writes back

Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi wrote back to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who wrote to him on May 12, saying that the congregation he visited in Savannah, Georgia, on Wednesday is not part of the Episcopal Church nor the Diocese of Georgia but is a parish in the Church in Uganda.

Episcopal New Service says:

Jefferts Schori criticized Orombi's planned May 14 visit to the historic Christ Church because he had not sought the invitation of Episcopal Bishop of Georgia Henry Louttit. These actions, she said in her letter, "violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions."

Orombi met May 14 with clergy and laity who voted in October 2007 to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church. The group continues to occupy historic Christ Church, Savannah, while the continuing Episcopal congregation meets at Savannah's Church of St. Michael and All Angels. Christ Church dates from 1733.

"I am not visiting a church in the Diocese of Georgia," Orombi said in a May 14 letter addressed to Jefferts Schori, which her office confirmed had been received. "Were I to visit a congregation within [The Episcopal Church], I would certainly observe the courtesy of contacting the local bishop. Since, however, I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda, I feel very free to visit them and encourage them through the Word of God."

Orombi's letter is a summary of the argument justifying the Primate of one province cherry-picking parishes from another province.

He says, like others who have crossed provincial boundaries to serve separated congregations, that they are not crossing boundaries since these churches have joined their province.

Orombi claims that this crisis that causes an outside province to take over the Episcopal parish is the fault of the Episcopal Church generally and Jefferts Schori in particular.

Finally, he says that none of the above matters because, according The Windsor Report, there is no "moral equivalence" between crossing provincial boundaries and taking over another provinces churches and the ordination of a homosexual bishop.

In short, it's not an incursion because the parish is ours not yours; but, even if it is an incursion, it doesn't matter because it's all your fault.

While the argument breaks no new ground, at least Orombi took the time to write back.

Read the rest here.

Turning away from Jesus

On the cover of Harpers Magazine is Garret Keizer's article called "Turning Away Jesus: Gay rights and the war for the Episcopal Church." Keizer discusses the effect of sexuality battles in the Episcopal Church on our mission, and asks questions about whether our attention on these issues helps us ignore other gospel mandates.

Here is the first of two excerpts that we are re-printing with permission from Harpers:

For me it is the methods more than the motives [of realignment leaders] that invite scrutiny, and the similarity of these methods to those of corporate culture that has the most to say to readers outside the church. What is “provincial realignment” at bottom, if not the ecclesiastical version of a corporate merger? What is “alternative oversight” if not church talk for a hostile takeover? For that matter, how far is “hostile takeover” from the sort of church talk that makes frequent reference to the mission statement, the growth chart, and evangelism’s “market share”? Martyn Minns, Peter Akinola’s irregularly consecrated missionary bishop to the breakaway churches of the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America, told me that he had learned more during his years at Mobil Oil Corporation than he’d ever learned in the seminary. I suspect that is a much less exceptional statement than either Bishop Minns or the rest of us would care to admit.

I was more surprised when I asked Minns what writers in the Anglican tradition had most influenced him, to have him cite Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christianity and Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. Friedman’s status as an Anglican aside, this is a ways from Richard Hooker. This is sola scriptura with a weird appendix, Matthew Mark and Mega-trends—and it is this aspect of the “global crisis” in Anglicanism and of the cant attending it that one would expect to be of greatest concern to any person marching under the flag of orthodoxy: this reverential awe for the “global forces” that we ourselves animate, the idols that speak with your voice. The global dynamics of Anglican realignment work in a manner not unlike the global dynamics of outsourcing and extraordinary rendition: the Galilean carpenter (or the Kabul cab driver) has his part to play and his cross to bear, but it’s the little Caesars calling the shots.”

We will publish another excerpt later this afternoon.

There are other quotes on the blog Alive on All Channels: Turning from Jesus.

The Harpers cover story is available by subscription only here.

Turning away from Jesus (part II)

Here is the second excerpt from Garret Keizer's cover story in the latest Harpers Magazine called "Turning Away Jesus: Gay rights and the war for the Episcopal Church." which we are posting with permission from Harpers.

Garret Keizer writes:

I loved Martyn Minns, who offered to say a prayer for the success of my assignment (I didn’t refuse), just as I loved Colin Coward, who helped my wife and me buy our first tickets on the London Tube. And I wished Henry Orombi could have heard Coward describe his devotion the Office of Morning and Evening Prayer and that Coward could have heard Orombi’s deep voice—perhaps all the most resonant in the ears of a gay man—when I asked him what he saw of value in the Anglican tradition and he said without a moment’s pause, “It’s beautiful.”

Most of all, I wish that everyone I talked to could have met the anonymous (as I promised) village curate I met in England, who said she knew, as a woman and as a disabled person, as a child who was always the last picked for teams, what it means to be prejudged and excluded, and who said she would try to minister in a loving way to any gay or lesbian person or couple who came to her church, but that on the rightness of blessing same-sex unions, she was simply not sure, and that it was difficult for her—so palpably difficult that I knew I’d ruined the rest of day just by asking—“to sit her and say I don’t know.” And I’d like to gather all the most strident of those I met in a nice tight pack around her and invite the one who is without doubt to cast the first stone.


The Harpers cover story is available by subscription only here.

The first excerpt may be found here.

Realignment Reconsidered

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has published “Realignment Reconsidered,” a point-by-point rebuttal to the 8-page handout from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment.” It is available as a PDF file on PEP’s website.

On April 22, the Diocese of Pittsburgh posted “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment” on its Parish Toolbox Web site. Pittsburgh Episcopalians should understand that this document is not so much de-signed to inform, as to influence. We believe that those who rely on the answers in the diocese’s FAQ may be putting themselves and their par-ishes at great risk. You will find alternative answers here that we think are more helpful and realistic. We understand that many in this diocese discount any document from Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. Schism is a serious business, however, and it should not be undertaken lightly or with incomplete information. Things may not be exactly as you have been led to believe.

Lionel Deimel writes about the context of the new document on his blog:

Some background of today’s announcement: On April 22, the Diocese of Pittsburgh posted “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment” on its Parish Toolbox Web site. That 8-page document distills the message Bishop Duncan has been delivering to individual parishes in his recent campaign to shore up support for his plan to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church.

Reading “FAQ” is a visit to a looking-glass world in which facts and logic are, shall I say, malleable. For example, question 4 asks: “If the Diocese chooses to realign, what would the immediate consequences be for individual … clergy?” The answer offered by the diocese is the following: “Clergy would need to enter a new retirement plan and would be clergy of the province that the Diocese joins instead of clergy of The Episcopal Church.” Even John-David Schofield, bold as he was in engineering the “realignment” of the Diocese of San Joaquin, was not so presumptuous as to suggest that his diocesan convention could undo the ordination vows of individual priests or deacons.

And...

It is difficult to identify a question and answer from the new document as being typical, but an example will at least provide a sense of what the Diocese of Pittsburgh has been saying and how we have tried to correct the record. Question 5 from “FAQ” reads as follows:
Can a congregation “opt out” of diocesan realignment? What would happen to the a) parishes who do not wish to realign, and b) clergy who do not wish to realign?

a) Parishes would be given time to consider whether to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh by changing the “accession” in their by-laws. The Diocese would work with parishes to make such a decision as conflict-free and charitable as possible.

b) Clergy would apply to the Bishop for letters dimissory (transfer letters) from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh to whatever entity the leadership of the Episcopal Church sets up.

Our answer is the following (PEP answers are all set in italics):

It is clear from the experience of the Diocese of San Joaquin that any parish that wants to remain in The Episcopal Church need only declare that intention. Likewise, clergy who want to stay in The Episcopal Church will not need to execute any sort of transfer or require anyone’s permission to do so, especially not that of a bishop who no longer holds authority in the church. Failure of a parish to declare its intention to remain an Episcopal parish could be construed as indicative of an intention to leave the church and could expose it to litigation by The Episcopal Church to recover parish property.

It is the position of The Episcopal Church, supported overwhelmingly by diocesan chancellors and legal scholars, that a diocese cannot properly remove its accession clause from its constitution, nor can it remove itself from The Episcopal Church. There will continue to be an Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh that is part of The Episcopal Church, but it will have new leadership. There will be no need for any parish remaining in The Episcopal Church to amend its bylaws, since there would be no conflict in acceding to the constitution and canons of the diocese that remains in The Episcopal Church.

Legal precedent for the inability of Episcopal Church parishes to remove parish property from The Episcopal Church is strong. Such matters are largely governed by state law, and a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in the St. James the Less case—a case about which the diocese has largely been silent—gives little reason for realigning parishes to think that they can long remain in control of parish property. Changing parish bylaws will be unavailing.

PEP’s biggest challenge will be getting “Realignment Reconsidered” into the hands of those willing at least to consider arguments at odds with statements made by their bishop. Proponents of realignment have demonized Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh at least as much as they have demonized The Episcopal Church, which makes it difficult for any PEP document to get a fair hearing in much of the Pittsburgh diocese.

Read the whole PDF here and Deimel's reflections here. This is PEP's announcement and website.

Shall we gather at the river

As part of her three-day visit of the Diocese of Kentucky, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori led a tent meeting, Episcopal style. She presided over baptisms, confirmations and a communion service amid a blend of formal liturgy and an informal atmosphere reminiscent of Kentucky's frontier revivals, including hymns such as "Shall We Gather at the River."

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports:

She has studied deep-sea creatures as an oceanographer, piloted her own planes, become the first female leader of the Episcopal Church and traveled the world trying to resolve the controversies touched off by her denomination's ordination of an openly gay bishop.

But for Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, yesterday marked something new. She acknowledged it was the first time she had ever led a tent revival.

And...

The service in Leitchfield took place at the diocese's All Saints Retreat and Conference Center, located along the Rough River.

Jefferts Schori baptized four people, confirmed several others and presided over communion.

"Each part of God's church has its own context," Jefferts Schori said in an interview yesterday morning, applauding the effort to express the Gospel "in a way that could be understood by the people who live there. It's not just language, but it's musical idiom and visual support."

Her itinerary also includes worship services yesterday in Paducah and today in Louisville.

Read about it here.

Virginia law threatens hierarchical churches

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has produced a cogent media release for reporters covering the May 28 hearing on the constitutionality of the law at issue in the case involving the diocese and breakaway parishes that have joined Archbishop Peter Akinola's Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Read more »

Episcopal Church airs "Put Your Faith to Work" ads

Highlighting community outreach across the Episcopal Church and the theme "Put Your Faith to Work," new print and video advertisements are scheduled to debut starting May 22 for a summer run in public media.

The first of a series of print ads -- headlined "Get Closer to God.
Slice Carrots," -- is scheduled to appear in USA Today May 22-23. The accompanying video spot is targeted for the CNN Headline News/Airport Channel during peak holiday travel times, including the Memorial Day weekend.

The full story is here.

Two unrequested cents worth of commentary follows:

I am always delighted whenever any arm of the Church does advertising of any sort. It is a sign that at least a few people recognize that we need to employ new strategies in our attempts to reverse the declining numerical fortunes of our Church. I like the "hands on" theme of this ad, and appreciate that those who planned the campaign have managed to pull this off even though there is no dedicated line for advertising in the budget passed by the General Convention.

But there are a few things I hope we will consider in our next venture: Church leaders and communications professionals only learned that these ads existed last night. We've had no time to spread the word about them, no time to prepare our clergy and congregations for the questions that the ads might occassion. Generally an organization that is about to run national advertising preps its local affiliates on the campaign long before it appears, so the local units can participate fully in spreading the message. That hasn't happened here.

I'm also wondering about the timing of this campaign. Perhaps those who planned it know something I don't, but I was under the impression that Back to School, Advent and Lent were the best times to air church ads, and summer was the worst.

All that said, it's good to see any organized energy viz. evangelism emanating from Episcopal Church Center. Two cheers!

From Utah to Myanmar

From KSL TV in Salt Lake City:

Getting help for cyclone victims in Myanmar has been difficult, but one church in Utah has been in the country since the cyclone hit and has a very good relationship with the people there.

Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah has been to Myanmar twice. The church has a sister diocese there, and this past February she took a group to distribute aid to a region in the north.

The story is here.

Virginia's allies

The Washington Post covers a story we've discussed earlier. The hearing on the constitutionality of the law in question will be held on Wednesday in Fairfax County.

A half-dozen national Protestant denominations are supporting the Episcopal Church in a multimillion-dollar Virginia property dispute, saying a state law at the heart of the case could threaten them, too.

The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA), among others, have filed court briefs in the past few weeks supporting the Episcopal Church, which is fighting 11 breakaway Virginia congregations that say the national church has become too liberal on issues from salvation to sexuality. Majorities of those congregations voted to leave and are now in Fairfax County Circuit Court over who gets to keep the property.

Bishop Robinson talks about civil union ceremony

Bishop Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew will have a civil union ceremony in June. Religious News Service spoke with Bishop Robinson about the ceremony and how this very personal day is a both a sign of hope and a cause for consternation, depending on who one speaks to, in the Anglican Communion.

Q: How are the ceremony plans coming together?

A: We're very, very much looking forward to it. The first part will be a civil ceremony that will be presided over by our lawyer, and then we'll proceed with the service of Holy Communion in which we give thanks to God for showing up in our relationship.

Q: You came under fire not too long ago for saying you always wanted to be a "June bride." Do you now wish you had chosen different words?

A: Yeah, yes and no. On the one hand, it's just a sign of how little humor there is in this whole debate. What I was trying to say is that all of us grow up wanting our relationships to be affirmed by our friends, and gay and lesbian people are no different.

Q: Are you calling this a wedding, or a civil union, or a commitment ceremony or something else?

A: One of the things that drives me nuts is that everyone in the press calls it a wedding, and they say we're honeymooning in Lambeth. Of all the places I'd want to go on a honeymoon, Lambeth is the last place I'd think of.

Bishop Robinson talks about the timing of the ceremony and it's significance.

Q: The Lambeth Conference is coming up this summer, and you said in the book that if you did your ceremony before Lambeth, it would be seen as offensive, and if you did it after Lambeth, people would think you didn't care what Lambeth had just decided. So does it matter when you do it?

A: It does. The real reason we're doing it now is that death threats have already started coming in from England and at our home answering machine. I am simply not willing to travel to the Lambeth Conference this summer and put my life in danger without putting into place the protections for my beloved partner and my daughter and granddaughters that a civil union affords us. It's simply that simple.

Q: So you're getting death threats and you weren't officially invited to Lambeth anyway. Why go? Wouldn't it be safer to just stay home?

A: It almost always would be easier not to follow what you discern to be God's call. Even if it is dangerous, the Anglican Communion should not be allowed to meet without the reminder that bishops are meant to serve all of God's people, including gay and lesbian people. Our voices will be there to remind them of that.

Q: Obviously this is a personal ceremony between you and your partner. But you're doing it in a public way. What's the message for the wider church, or the nation?

A: First of all, I do this because I love my partner and I'm committed to him for life. Mark and I have been together for 20 years, and this service will be in thanksgiving for God showing up during those 20 years, as well as in the future. We could have sneaked off to the town clerk's office and solemnized our union and it would be legal, but that's not how we're built.

I'm keenly aware that what I'm about to do was absolutely unthinkable when I was growing up. Gay and lesbian kids today need to know that their relationships can have the kind of affirmation from the culture and the church that they deserve.

Read the rest: Religious News Service: Gay bishop discusses civil union

Op-eds outline two sides of Virginia dispute

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has published two op-ed pieces that outline the essential arguments in the current court case of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia vs. CANA and the Anglican District of Virginia.

The perspective of the Episcopal Church is written by The Rev. Dr. David Cox, David Cox, who holds a Ph.D. in theology and is author of 'Priesthood in a New Millennium,' a study in Anglican ecclesiology.

Taking CANA's side is the Rt. Rev. David Bena, who is a contact bishop in the Anglican District of Virginia and suffragan bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

Saying "Don't Let the Courts Dictate Theology," Cox writes:

When congregations in Northern Virginia and elsewhere seceded from the Episcopal Church, they did two things: First, they took a theological step, not simply because of why they seceded, but also in the very act of seceding.

Second, their act effectually altered the ecclesiology that they had earlier accepted. These dissenters claim to remain "Anglican" by joining themselves to another Anglican entity, under bishops in Africa or South America. To do so, though, by congregational vote is suddenly to adopt a Congregationalist ecclesiology which is contrary to the Episcopal tradition. They made a momentous theological change.

Aside from the fact that these two theologies don't mix, what's relevant for the judiciary is that this is a theological issue. It is at heart a conflict of ecclesiology.

Theology, though, is profoundly not a matter for courts in the United States to decide. For secular judges to determine whether a congregation may or may not depart from its denomination is to enter into an ecclesiological debate. To find for the plaintiffs would say to the Episcopal Church, "you must now follow a free-church ecclesiology." But in so doing, the court would thereby establish a particular form of church governance that is foreign to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion -- even, ironically, to those Anglican provinces that are now accepting these parishes.

In other words, the government would be establishing a religion. And if government can apply these standards to the Episcopal Church, then it can do so to Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Orthodox, and other faiths that vary from free-church ecclesiology. For that reason, denominations from the Methodist, A.M.E. Zion, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and even Seventh-Day Adventist traditions have filed briefs supporting the Diocese of Virginia.

To enter into this debate is inherently to "do theology" and, in the end, risk specifying how people should live their faith. Barring some clear violation of law (as with polygamy), under the First Amendment the government simply may not regulate the faith and order of a religious organization. It cannot, must not dictate a doctrine of God, or a doctrine of the church. Not in America.

Bena says that the Diocese of Virginia is "attacking the faithful:"

Our congregations simply wished to remain faithful to the historic teachings of the Anglican Communion and could not in good conscience follow the revisionist direction of the Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese walked away from us and the worldwide Anglican Communion by choosing to reinterpret Scripture on a number of issues. They sued us when we refused to follow them on that prodigal path.

Read the two columns here and here.

Bishop-elect of Texas

The second youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church was elected Saturday in Texas. The Rev. C. Andrew Doyle will, upon receiving the proper consents, be the ninth Bishop of Texas. And he's a blogger.

Episcopal News Service reports:

The Rev. C. Andrew Doyle was elected May 24 to be the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Doyle, 41, is a native of the diocese who has spent his entire ordained ministry in the diocese. He is currently canon to the ordinary for Texas Bishop Don Wimberly. Doyle describes himself in his autobiographical sketch as having grown up "High Church Anglo-Catholic." He and his wife JoAnne are the parents of Caisa, 11, and Zoë, 6.

He earned the Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1995, was ordained deacon in the Diocese of Texas later that year and ordained a priest in 1996. Doyle served at St. Stephen's School in Austin, Texas; Christ Church in Temple, Texas; and St. Francis Episcopal Church in College Station before becoming canon to the ordinary in 2003.

Doyle was elected on the fourth ballot from among six nominees. He received 264 of 481 votes in the lay order and 128 of 247 in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 241 lay votes and 124 clergy.

Read more here and here.

Doyle is blogging his experience here.

Staying involved

As noted earlier on The Lead, Douglas LeBlanc describes the encounter between Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina and thinks it is a good model for how conservatives can maintain their place in Episcopal Church and be sure that the church takes seriously our commitment to value and keep the conservative voice at the table.

He writes in Episcopal Church Online:

I think these two hours of audio are a good model for how conservative dioceses may stand for what they believe in. For that matter, these sessions are a model for how some conservative parishes might receive their bishop -- in addition to celebrating the Holy Eucharist together -- during a regular visitation. (I realize the diocese did not schedule the Holy Eucharist during the Presiding Bishop's visit. I'll leave the moral outrage about that to others.)

I think such open exchanges make a few important points:

* Some conservatives have made it clear that they feel driven, whether by conscience or theology or the promptings of the Holy Spirit, to leave the Episcopal Church. With our continuing presence, we make clear that we are neither leaving nor threatening to leave.
* We care about doctrine. In South Carolina, that doctrine sounds like a lively mixture of stout Reformation evangelicalism (which has a clear Anglican precedent in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion) and Anglo- Catholicism (which has an equally clear precedent in Anglican history). When it feels as though our beliefs clash with something we hear from leaders of the broader church, we will not be afraid to identify the conflict.
* Conservatives hear frequently that our voices are an important part of the Episcopal Church. One great way to test that assertion is to speak up about what we believe. In short, we will respect our church's declarations of inclusion by being ourselves. We will trust God, in the fullness of time, to resolve those matters that divide us.

Read the rest here.

A plague on both your houses

Garret Keizer's essay [link, subscribers only] appearing in the June 2008 issue Harpers Magazine, continues to impress. Diane Winston, the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California writes:

"Turning Away from Jesus: Gay Rights and the War for the Episcopal Church" (link currently malfunctioning?) in the June issue of Harper's gave me the chills. It was that good.

The magazine sat on my desk for over a week. I'd look at the cover (a detail from a Prague altarpiece), and put it down, loath to read yet another piece about the Episcopal sex crisis. Thanks in no small part to the mainstream media, homosexuality has been the defining issue for Episcopalians (as well as Methodists and Presbyterians) for the past 20 years. As a result, mainline Protestantism's (potentially) prophetic voice has been drowned out in the debate over who can sleep with whom and still do God's work. Yes, it's a big deal but so is the war in Iraq, public education, the environment, New Orleans, poverty and the imperial presidency. At times, I wonder if it's an easier fight than the ones with less obvious (depending on your side) heroes and villains,

Evidently Garret Keizer agrees: "How does a Christian population implicated in militarism, usury, sweatshop labor, and environmental rape find a way to sleep at night? Apparently, by making a very big deal out of not sleeping with Gene Robinson [the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, a gay man, whose election to the episcopacy is the focal point of current divisions between so-called liberals and conservatives domestically and abroad]. Or on the flip side, by making approval of Gene Robinson the litmus test of progressive integrity, a stance that I have good reason to believe would impress no one so little as Gene Robinson."

Read the rest of Winston's thoughts here.

The Lead has excerpts from Keizer's essay here and here.

Virginia church property case focuses on constitutional issues

The Episcopal Church and a number of other religious denominations squared off in court yesterday against 11 breakaway congregations and the Virginia attorney general's office over the constitutionality of a Civil War-era state law governing religious property disputes.

Coverage is here, here and here.

I attended the hearing and was struck by the careful, probing questions of Judge Randy Bellows, by the quality of lawyering on both sides (although Virginia Solicitor General William E. Thro seems to form very strong opinions before mastering basic facts, such as the name of the Episcopal Church's property canon--it's Dennis, not Dean--and how authority is distributed within the church) and by the intellectual rigorousness of the hearing.

It seems that the case could turn on whether the state has made sufficient provisions in its laws for hierarchical churches to hold property in a way that honors the church's polity. In the Episcopal Church, many parishes hold their property in trust for their dioceses. The Virginia law isn't comfortable with that. It wants the diocese to hold property in the name of the bishop or another official, or else via a corporation.

It seems obvious to this Episcopalian that putting all property in the name of the diocese would tip the carefully constructed and unevenly maintained balance of power within our Church decisively toward the bishop and away from the laity and clergy, and that this constitutes an infringement of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. But it wasn't clear to me that the Diocese of Virginia’s lawyers made that point as strongly as they could have. Assertions by the breakaway congregations and the state that the church held property as it did out of administrative convenience, and that changing the nature in which we hold property was primarily an administrative matter weren't countered as forcefully as they could have been.

Another argument, advanced most effectively by the diocese's "friends," including a number of religious denominations, holds that whether the law places too great a burden on the diocese is immaterial because in making the law the state created a special standard for adjudicating religious property disputes, while no similar standard exists for adjudicating similar disputes within secular organizations such as labor unions or fraternal organizations. As a result, this argument goes, the state deprives the religious organizations of the legal protections available to secular organizations (such as having the question of property resolved within the organization via a study of the deed to the property and reference to the organization's own bylaws) and thereby discriminates against the church.

Three things seemed certain: Judge Bellows’ ruling will be appealed; he is well aware of this; and the ruling will be so tightly tethered to Virginia law that it is unlikely to affect litigation elsewhere.

I heard speculation that the ruling would be released in late June or early July.

Lambeth invite for provisional bishop of San Joaquin

From Bishop Jerry Lamb:

I received great news three days ago from the office of the manager of the Lambeth Conference [Sue Parks]. The e-mail says "we are expecting you at the Lambeth Conference". I was wondering when the invitation would arrive or even, some days, if it would ever come to Jane and me. Well, it is here and we are making plans to attend....

I am pleased to be going, but I am more pleased because this a clear sign from the Anglican Communion that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is the only Anglican Diocese in all of inland Central California. I received this invitation because I am your Bishop and, therefore, entitled to attend the Lambeth Conference as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read the rest. Has former Bishop Schofield's invitation been sent? Retracted?

Welcome to Covenant Week

Today the Café begins a week-long examination of the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant. On each of the next five days, a member of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies will discuss a section of the proposed covenant on Daily Episcopalian.

A study guide from The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is also available.

In today's installment, Tobias S. Haller considers Section One of the covenant.

Related stories:

  • Deputies to study draft covenant
  • Bonnie Anderson on Rowan Williams and "the distinctive charism of bishops".
  • Dixon and Vatican rep talk on CNN

    Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon was on CNN-Europe discussing the recent Vatican decree that any Roman Catholic participating in the ordination of a woman would be automatically excommunicated.

    While not discussing the particulars of Roman Catholic teaching or discipline, she describes the experience of women in the Episcopal Church and some of the theology behind our understanding of ordination that leads our Church to accepting the ministry of ordained women.

    See it here.

    Presiding Bishop calls for day of prayer for Lambeth Conference

    Via epiScope:

    In a letter to the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called for a day of prayer for the Lambeth Conference.

    June 4, 2008
    To the people of The Episcopal Church:

    As we move toward a great gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion, I call this whole Church to a Day of Prayer on 22 June. The Lambeth Conference represents one important way of building connections and relationships between churches in vastly different contexts, and reminding us of the varied nature of the Body of Christ. I would bid your prayers for openness of spirit, vulnerability of heart, and eagerness of mind, that we might all learn to see the Spirit at work in the other. I bid your prayers for a peaceful spirit, a lessening of tension, and a real willingness to work together for the good of God’s whole creation.

    As many of you know, the Anglican Communion is one of the largest networks of human connection in the world. Churches are to be found beyond the ends of paved or dirt roads, ministering to and with people in isolated and difficult situations. That far-flung network is the result, in part, of seeds planted by a colonial missionary history. The fruit that has resulted is diverse and local, and indeed, unpalatable to some in other parts of the world. Our task at the Lambeth Conference is to engage that diverse harvest, discover its blessings and challenges, and commit ourselves to the future of this network. We must begin to examine the fruit of our colonial history, in a transparent way and with great humility, if we are ever going to heal the wounds of the past, which continue into the present. With God’s help, that is possible. I ask your prayers. I can think of no better starting place than the prayer for the Church (BCP p 515):

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

    I remain
    Your servant in Christ,
    +Katharine Jefferts Schori

    Nicely done, Bishop Smith

    The Anglican Communion has been keen to insure that conservative Episcopalians have "alternate" episcopal options that allow them to minimize contact with liberal bishops. But to date, Rowan Williams, Tom Wright and company have shown no such pastoral sensitivity to liberal church members in conservative dioceses--or, for that matter, to gay Christians in provinces that actively persecute them. Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota, however, understands that accommodation is a two way street. He writes to his diocese:

    June 4, 2008

    Dear Friends:

    *I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace *(Ephesians 4:1-3).* *

    I am pleased to announce that Bishop Carol Gallagher has accepted my invitation to assist in providing episcopal pastoral care in the Diocese of North Dakota. She has agreed to reach out especially to congregations and clergy who feel alienated and hurt by me due to different understandings of human sexuality. I am most grateful for Bishop Gallagher's assistance. .... View her blog at mamabishop.blogspot.com.

    We find ourselves in the midst of a discernment process, seeking the mind of Christ, about whether the Holy Spirit is leading us to new understandings of human sexuality or not. As this discernment continues through the canonical processes of The Episcopal Church and the conciliar processes of the Anglican Communion, I urge patience, kindness and respect in our dealings with one another. I also pray our energies will be focused on
    engaging the mission of the church as we are sent into the world to serve the poor and to share our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am,

    Yours in Christ,

    +Michael Smith


    Update, Thursday afternoon: The ELO reports.

    The situation in Pittsburgh

    Last week Mark Harris posted some thoughts on what this fall might bring to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. There are rumblings being heard from various quarters of the Episcopal Church (including the House of Bishops) that are calling for Bishop Robert Duncan (the bishop of Pittsburgh) to be formally inhibited and then deposed because of his actions in that diocese and in the Episcopal Church.

    Mark's post was motivated by a statement that the Standing Committee of the Diocese (who would be the official authority in the diocese should the bishop be removed) was willing and able to step in and run the diocese in his absence. The problem is that the Standing Committee fully supports the bishop's actions and there is no expectation that their leadership would be any different than his has been.

    Various voices from around the Communion left comments on Mark's article. But there was a particularly disturbing post by Joan Gunderson, a parishioner of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and active voice in PEP (Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh) who have opposed the recent trajectory of the diocese.

    Joan writes and explains just how little change can be expected if the Standing Committee takes charge. She also points out that Bishop Duncan and his assistant bishop have been granted land and retirement homes and money that is expected to be safe from any punishment that should be meted upon them by a Church court.

    Joan says:

    "The situation in Pittsburgh is such that even if Bishop Duncan were to be deposed at a House of Bishops meeting in September, the Standing Committee would go forward with the vote at convention to eliminate the accession clause from the diocesan canons. In fact, the diocesan leadership decided at its spring leadership retreat to move the convention forward to the first weekend in October (usually first weekend in November) so that there would be less time between such a deposition and the convention.

    Please note that Bishop Duncan has assured himself of a comfortable transition. He has built a retirement house on land owned by the diocese and he and his wife have been deeded (as of November 2007) a life interest estate (to the longest lived survivor) in that house. The diocese also loaned Bishop Duncan the money to build that house (terms not in the public record.) In addition we understand that he AND Bishop Scriven have signed consultant contracts with the diocese for two years at full pay which will go into effect SHOULD BISHOP DUNCAN BE DEPOSED.

    The Standing Committee has an overwhelming majority that supports 'realignment,' but there is one member who signed a public letter saying he was not realigning. This person is working hard to encourage parishes to stay in TEC. Trying to bring members of the standing committee up on charges before 'realignment' would be useless because the group ('The Array') that would conduct any Title IV proceedings is itself packed with supporters of realignment. Furthermore, there is no provision for trying the 4 lay members of Standing Committee.

    However, rest assured that there are people planning for the future of the EPISCOPAL diocese of Pittsburgh. The group doing the planning represents the full cross section of those who will still be Episcopalians AFTER convention. This includes clergy and parishes who until this year have voted for all the measures put forward by those now pushing 'realignment.' We are a larger group than you might think."

    Later on David Wilson, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, President of that Standing Committee and a supporter of Bishop Duncan's writes with this small correction to Joan's words:

    Just to set the record straight, the consultancy contracts are for one year not two and also include Canon Mary Hays as well as the two bishops

    Mark's original post and the comments quoted above can be found here.

    Bishop Duncan's deposition would likely follow a vote by the Diocese of Pittsburgh to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The resolutions that would empower this action can be already found in the Diocesan web site.

    Bishop Robinson & Mark Andrew celebrate civil union

    The Concord Monitor reports that Bishop Gene Robinson and his longtime partner Mark Andrew were united in a private civil union ceremony on Saturday, June 7 at St. Paul's Church, Concord before attorney Ronna Wise, a justice of the peace.

    Robinson and Andrew, a state employee, live in Weare and have been together 20 years. Barwell said the pair decided to have a civil union now for a couple of reasons.

    Civil unions became available in New Hampshire just this year. More critically, Robinson has been getting death threats as he prepares to leave next month for England. Should anything happen to Robinson, he wanted Andrew and his two daughters from a previous marriage to have legal protections available under the law, Barwell said.

    Those protections include rights to benefits and to be involved in medical decisions.

    Robinson and Andrew celebrated their civil union first and a religious service of thanksgiving after, Barwell said. The Rev. Canon Timothy Rich, who works with Robinson at the diocese, presided at the Eucharist. The Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, a nonprofit that advocates for gay inclusion in the Episcopal Church, preached.

    Both Robinson's and Andrew's family members attended.

    Robinson told the Christian Century:

    "I'm certainly not going to put myself at physical risk without providing my partner with the protections that civil law provides," he said. "That's no more and no less than any husband or wife would want to do for his or her spouse."

    Concord Monitor article here.

    Christian Century profile here.

    The Rev. Irene Monroe writing in The Advocate reports here with lots of photos.

    Afterward, during the reception and dinner that took place at Canterbury Shaker Village, Susan Russell gave a 5-minute video interview, which can be found here. Watch it below.

    Read more »

    Trial begins today

    The Ecclesiastical Trial of the Right Reverend Charles E. Bennison, Jr., Bishop of Pennsylvania began today.

    The charges outlined in the Presentment dated October 29, 2007 by the then Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, accuse the Bishop of concealing the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl by his brother, also a priest, who worked for him in a California parish in the 1970s.

    The Associated Press reports:

    The church indictment, called a presentment, charges that Bennison reacted "passively and self-protectively" and "failed to take obvious, essential steps to investigate his brother's actions, protect the girl from further abuse, and find out whether other children were in danger."

    The church indictment also charges that Bennison continued to "fail in his duties" by knowing about the abuse but not stopping his brother's 1974 ordination. John Bennison, who never faced criminal charges, left the priesthood two years ago.

    The Standing Committee of the Diocese describes the composition of the panel and the process of an ecclesiastical trial here:

    The trial will be held at the Philadelphia Marriott, 12th and Market Streets and is expected to take four days. The Court for the Trial of a Bishop consists of five Bishops, two Priests and two adult lay communicants chosen by the General Convention:

    The Rt. Rev. Andrew Donnan Smith, Bishop of Connecticut (Chair)
    The Rt. Rev. Bruce Edward Caldwell, Bishop of Wyoming
    The Rt. Rev. Gordon Paul Scruton, Bishop of Western Massachusetts
    The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri
    The Rt. Rev. Catherine Elizabeth Waynick, Bishop of Indianapolis
    The Rev. Marjorie Ann Menaul, Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
    The Rev. Karen Anita Brown Montagno, Diocese of Massachusetts
    Ms. Maria Campbell, Birmingham, Alabama
    Ms. June Freeman, Akron, Ohio

    Within 30 days of the conclusion of the trial, the Court votes as to whether the Bishop committed a canonical offense. For a judgment to be entered against the Bishop, a vote of 2/3 of the members of the Court is required. If fewer than 2/3rds of the members concur in the finding, the Presentment is dismissed.

    If there is a vote of a canonical offense, the Bishop, Church Attorney, each Complainant and each Victim will have 30 days to provide the Court with comments regarding the sentence to be imposed.

    The Court then votes upon the sentence, which also requires a 2/3rd vote. The Judgment and Sentence are then communicated to each party listed above plus the Standing Committee.

    After entry of the Final Judgment, the Bishop may appeal within 30 days to the Court of Review of the Trial of a Bishop. This is a different group of individuals and consists of 9 Bishops elected by the House of Bishops. The Presiding Judge of the Court, upon receiving the Notice of Appeal, shall appoint within 60 days the time for the Hearing on the Appeal.

    Read the AP Story here and the Diocesan Web-page here.

    Earlier The Lead coverage here.

    Misson Priorities

    Episcopal Life Online reports that Executive Council, meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, proposed mission priorities for the 2010-2012 triennium.

    Executive Council Resolution 017 proposes five priorities to guide the work of PB&F [General Convention's Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance]:

    * Doing Justice and Alleviating Poverty;
    * Claiming Our Identity;
    * Growing Congregations;
    * Strengthening Governance and Foundations for Mission; and
    * Promoting Anglican Partnerships.

    Proposing the mission priorities is part of an on-going process that culminates in the General Convention passing a budget for the upcoming triennium. Council proposes a triennial budget PB&F, which presents a triennial budget for General Convention's approval. The process for developing a budget to propose to the 76th General Convention, which meets in July 2009 in Anaheim, California, is significantly different that that used for previous budgets.

    The budget priorities Council approved June 15 arose from a process begun at the Council's March 2007 meeting in Portland, Oregon, when Resolution AF020 called for a task force to evaluate Council's role and participation in the process of preparing a proposed triennial budget and recommend ways for Council's four standing committees to have "meaningful input into the process."

    Based on that task force's suggestions, Council passed Resolution AF031 in June 2007 calling for a budget committee to oversee Council's preparation of a proposed budget. The resolution also called for each Council standing committee to "assess the needs and opportunities facing the ministry areas under that Committee's oversight" and "to identify the key goals and mission priorities for such ministry areas for the 2010-2012 Triennium." That work is what resulted in Resolution EC017.

    Budget Committee chair Josephine Hicks told Council that the next step is for the Church Center's management team to gather budget proposals based on these priorities from Church Center staff and the church's committees, commissions, agencies and boards (CCABs).

    PB&F chair Pan Adams, who sits in on Council's Administration and Finance Committee meetings, told ENS that the entire process is aimed at developing a proposed 2010-2012 budget that "expresses the mission of the church."

    "What we're trying to do is show the church how the dollars spent directly effect the people in the pews," she said.

    Adams also said that the process will allow Episcopalians to comment on the budget at key points leading up and including the budget hearings in Anaheim.

    Read the rest here.

    Will the real Diocese of Pittsburgh please stand up?

    The Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, has registered a new nonprofit Pennsylvania corporation named “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh," apparently so that he can claim that he is the rightful leader of the diocese in the event that he is deposed by the House of Bishops.

    The Rev. Harold Lewis, writing in the newsletter of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, suspects that new corporation is a part of a plan to claim Episcopal Church property as part of “realignment.”

    Lionel Deimel writes in his blog:

    In any case, the move by the bishop was, until very recently, not known to any members of the Board of Trustees or Diocesan Council, as far as I can tell. The bishop is said to have been advised by his chancellor to file the incorporation to protect diocesan property. (The stated purpose of the new corporation is “[u]pholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”)

    For historical reasons that I do not pretend to understand, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has existed for all of his history as an unincorporated entity and has, from all I can tell, been none the worse for wear as a result. (The Board of Trustees of the diocese, on the other hand, is explicitly incorporated.) So why is “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh” now being incorporated? Presumably, it is to give the bishop, who is likely to be deposed by The Episcopal Church before he can “realign” the diocese, a better claim to be the legitimate leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    It has long been clear that Duncan subscribes to the legal theory that The Episcopal Church is a voluntary federation of dioceses. According to this theory, a diocese can, at any time, choose to leave the federation. Here is not the place to explain why this notion is demented, but I invite the reader to think of the relationship of South Carolina to the United States before the Civil War. In any case, it is clear that the good bishop thinks that he can remove the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh from its parent church and have it still be the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. (See “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment.”) Presumably, he will claim that the preëxisting diocese is the one being incorporated, and that he is in control of it. Although I am not a lawyer, I suspect that this is a stretch.

    More importantly, the incorporation may largely be irrelevant. In Calvary’s lawsuit, an agreement was reached concerning ownership of diocesan property and the procedures by which property might be alienated from the diocese. In that agreement, “Diocese” is defined as “the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.” It is unclear how “Diocese” in that agreement could possibly refer to any entity, by whatever name, that is not in The Episcopal Church. “Realignment,” however, by definition, requires the removal of the diocese from The Episcopal Church. (For more information about the stipulation in the Calvary lawsuit, see question 4 in Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh’s “Realignment Reconsidered.”)

    Read: Agape: "What's in a name?"

    See also: Lionel Deimel "Which Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh?"

    And Pittsburgh Update here.

    Church center communication director to step down

    ENS:

    Canon Robert Williams, who in July will mark four years as senior director in the Episcopal Church Center's Communication Office, has chosen to step down from this position effective August 15, Chief Operating Officer Linda E. Watt announced June 25.
    ...
    Plans call for naming an interim director and the subsequent selection of a successor through a search process that consults widely with communication stakeholders across the church, Watt said.
    ...
    Williams, 47, served as one of the Episcopal Church's principal spokespersons, notably during the 2004 Windsor Report release, the Anglican Consultative Council's 2005 meeting in Nottingham, the 2006 General Convention at which Jefferts Schori was elected Presiding Bishop, and the Anglican Primates' 2007 meeting in Dar es Salaam.
    ...
    As editor of the Lambeth Conference's daily newspaper in 1998, Williams gained experience that will assist in interpreting events of this summer's similar gathering in Canterbury.
    Read it here.

    CANA wins another round

    A Virginia circuit court judge has ruled that the statute governing possession of church property in case of a division is consititutional. An appeal to the state's Supreme Court is likely.

    Judge Randy Bellows' opinion concludes:

    Today, this Court finds that 57-9(A), as applied, is constitutional. Specifically, this Court finds that the statute, as applied in the instant case, does not violate the Free Exercise or Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment, nor does it violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, nor does it violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

    For 141 years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has had a statute available to congregations experiencing divisions for the purpose of resolving church property disputes. 57-9(A) did not parachute into this dispute from a clear blue sky. Its existence cannot have been a surprise to any party to this litigation, each of whom is charged with knowledge of its contents and, more significantly, its import. That the Commonwealth of Virginia, in enacting and reenacting a "division" statute, may be unique among our fellow states is of no considerable moment, for in a federalist system each State is free to determine its own path for the resolution of church property disputes within constitutional boundaries. Whether 57-9(A) would be constitutional absent the ability of a church to hold property in forms that would place such property beyond the reach of 57-9(A) is a hypothetical question which this Court need not address; the Code of Virginia most certainly does provide for such alternative forms of church property ownership. That the Diocese availed itself of this alternative ownership in some cases but chose not to do so in others (and not in the instant cases) does not turn a constitutional statute into an unconstitutional one. Nor is the statute rendered unconstitutional because it requires this Court to make factual findings in a matter involving religious organizations. It is not mere semantics to observe that there is a difference-a constitutionally significant difference-between a finding involving a religious organization and a religious finding. While it is true of course that 57-9(A) requires the Court to make factual findings involving religious entities, each of those findings are secular in nature. Hence, for this and all the other reasons cited in this Opinion, 57-9(A) is constitutiona1.69

    The diocese statement reads:

    Today’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Division Statute in Virginia is regrettable and reaches beyond the Episcopal Church to all hierarchical churches in the Commonwealth. We continue to believe that this Division Statute is clearly at odds with and uniquely hostile to religious freedom, the First Amendment and prior U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court rulings. We are unwavering in these beliefs and will explore fully every option available to restore constitutional and legal protections for all churches in Virginia.

    The Diocese remains steadfast in its commitment to current and future generations of loyal Episcopalians and will continue to pursue every legal option available to ensure that they will be able to worship in the churches their Episcopal ancestors built.


    The CANA press release states:
    “We are pleased with Judge Bellows’ ruling today. After meticulous examination, the judge ruled to uphold the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute against all of the Free Exercise, Establishment, Equal Protection, and Takings Clause challenges raised by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Diocese of Virginia. The Division Statute states that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when a group of congregations divide from the denomination. Therefore, TEC and Diocese had no legal right to our property. We have maintained all along that our churches’ own trustees hold title for the benefit of these congregations. It’s also gratifying to see the judge recognize that the statute means what it says—it’s ‘conclusive’ of ownership. We’re thrilled to see this litigation nearing an end,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV.

    The Opinion can be read here:
    Court Issues Opinion on Division Statute Constitutionality and Other Statutory Issues (June 27).

    Updated with Reuters.

    Updated with Washington Post.

    The Presiding Bishop responds to GAFCON

    Updated with Reuters report.

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responds to the GAFCON statement:


    Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON. Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable. This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers. Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve the hungry and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships with others across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of the gospel. We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth Conference for constructive conversation, inspired prayer, and relational encounters.

    AP interviews Presiding Bishop

    Rachel Zoll interviewed Katherine Jefferts Schori on the eve of the Lambeth Conference of bishops of the Anglican Communion. The Presiding Bishop stayed on message.

    Read more »

    Why one person decides to stay

    The Rev. Jim Simons is the rector of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Ligonier Pennsylvania (which is part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.) Jim has served at various times in his ministry on the board of the American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He's also been a member of the President of the House of Deputies Council of Advice for the past two presidents. He is an Episcopal priest with deep and strong ties to the theological right in the Anglican Communion.

    And he's going to remain an Episcopalian.

    Jim explains his reasons for deciding to do this in a pastoral letter to his congregation.

    He writes, in part:

    "I am aware that there is much that is wrong in the Episcopal Church, much that needs to be corrected. I believe that I, as an ordained member of the church, and we, as a congregation of the same church, have a responsibility to stand for the faith once received. My vision for my ministry and that of St. Michael's is to continue to be that witness. At the same time I believe that there is much strength and health in the Episcopal Church. It is tempting to take the more extreme anecdotes about the church and universalize them, but that would not accurately describe the wider reality. It is my observation that the vast majority of people in the pews, and those who lead them, are creedal Christians who believe what the church has always believed.

    Will such a witness lead to reform? I can't guarantee it. But I do know that if we leave the Episcopal Church without such a witness, it will be the poorer for it."

    Jim does not believe this decision is going to be an easy one to live out for himself or his congregation. But he is committed to this course.

    Read the full article here.

    Terry Martin listens

    Updated 9 PM to add ELO link

    Terry Martin (known by many as Father Jake) has a new job and a new blog Father T. Listens to the World. He explains:

    My name is Terry Martin, also known as "Fr. T." I currently serve as the Program Officer for Evangelism at the Episcopal Church Center. I'm new to this position, so I need your help in discovering creative and innovative strategies for evangelism. Let's talk.

    Read more »