anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

July 21, 2008

-Two Years Later: Same Conclusion–“Ichabod”

Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, Episcopal Church — anthill @ 10:25 am

I’m not writing new posts. This note is just to make that clear. This is now an archive of evidence and conclusions about the Episcopal Church from one observer. I’m also eliminating all comments. I don’t wish to go over things anymore. My hope is to retire soon and to withdraw from activity in the church that once made a great difference in my life.

Lambeth is going on now, and sadly, I see no hope that the Anglican Communion will exercise discipline–a biblical mark of a true church.

July 13, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Episcopal, Episcopal Church, General Convention — anthill @ 11:26 pm

Christopher Johnson beat me to this title. I will use it anyway as a classic one-word jeremiad found in one verse of most English Bibles. Now Bill Atwood has pronounced “Ichabod” in his departure from the Episcopal Church (7/31/06).

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Elect Jefferts Schori (who also pulled Mr. Johnson’s “Ichabod” trigger) has pushed me over the edge to write my last anthills post.

“Ichabod” is a Hebrew word with the sense of “bereft of glory.” Put as a sentence in the Old Testament, it is “The glory has departed.” A woman dying in childbirth gave this name to her son after hearing of the death of her husband in battle, the death of Eli, his father, and of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines (I Samuel 4:21,22). The defeat of Israel and the loss of the Ark were rightly understood by the dying mother to be the judgment of God on Israel. “Call him Ichabod; the glory has departed from Israel.”

Can God leave his people, whom he has claimed? Again and again in the Old Testament, the answer is a shocking “yes.”

Anthills let me process my thoughts and feelings leading up to the Columbus General Convention and in the aftermath. Remaining anonymous let me vent when I couldn’t go to an open window (or pulpit) and emulate Peter Finch in the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell; and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Now I must turn my full church-attention to the parish I serve and to my diocese, to see if we are walking together with the Anglican Communion. I know which way I have to go. We claim to be a “Windsor diocese,” but will we follow through when the day of decision comes? It will come and I have some work to do.

Without factoring in the resolutions in response to The Windsor Report, I have an overall impression of the General Convention based on intense observation of the whole event. I monitored a legislative committee early in the morning, attended worship, witnessed legislative sessions (Bishops and Deputies), read all the daily publications, and talked to various people.I’m going to use a rather gross illustration. If you have a weak stomach or if you are eating, skip the following. Greg Griffith will like it.


A toxicologist friend once told me about an experiment they were compelled to conduct to test for all possible traces of chemical residue in lab rats. They would quick-freeze a rat in liquid nitrogen and then put it in a blender. An analysis of the homogenized rat would reveal the presence of the chemical, no matter where it might have lodged.


My “whole rat” analysis of the General Convention is that the Episcopal Church, at its highest levels, has departed from classic Christianity. “Ichabod” can be written on a banner above it.


I did not detect the message about Jesus Christ that brought the Episcopal Church up from the ashes after the American Revolution. This message has an American Episcopalian pedigree. Even “high-church men” preached personal faith in Jesus as the way our reconciliation with God is grasped.

The gospel message that saturates the New Testament—that in Jesus Christ, God broke through into our history to make right everything that had been wrecked by human rebellion—did not ring in the halls of the Convention. Jesus Christ offering us, first of all, the forgiveness of our sins, based on his sacrificial death on the cross, vindicated by his actual resurrection from the grave, was not the heartbeat of the Convention. New life coming to us through a relationship with God through Christ, sealed by baptism, not primarily caused by baptism, did not drive the emphasis on mission to the world.

This vacuum of the New Testament gospel has now been clearly illustrated by our Presiding Bishop Elect. In two prominent interviews, Katharine Jefferts Schori has failed to mention the mission of Jesus Christ to bring eternal life to the world.

In what may go down as her greatest missed opportunity, an interviewer for Time, one of the premier news magazines in the world, asked KJS about her focus as head of this church. She listed her priorities—feeding the hungry, educating children, fighting disease. Nothing about Jesus! Jesus is absent from here stated priorities.

An interview with The Living Church, a magazine that appeals to Episcopalians in the “center” (apologies to Doug LeBlanc—it is a sarcasm quote), she came out with the same unifying mission of feeding the hungry and doing the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. No Jesus for the salvation of the world.

Jefferts Schori, the new pilot of our church, does not have Jesus on her close-in radar screen. He’s in the manual and she could readily say some words that would approach the New Testament picture. But Jesus is not on her list of mission-passions.

What filled the void created by the absence of the New Testament gospel message? My “rat shake” analysis of all resolutions passed gives a chemical reading similar to the left wing of the Democratic Party. Labor unions for migrant farm workers, opposition to any legal efforts to restrict gay civil marriage, reparations for slavery, and so on. Social justice is the gospel of the Episcopal Church at the national level.

Another question from the Time interviewer was whether Jesus was the only way to God, KJS gave a standard universalist answer with a spooky twist—he is the “vehicle to the divine” for Christians. “But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.”

I’m not even going to touch “vehicle to the divine.” You figure it out. But the throw-away solution to the tensions in “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life” is disturbing to me to the depths of my soul. Give me some nuance and mystery; don’t throw this out. Some of the largest Episcopal parishes thrive and grow year after year in large part because of the power of those words.

Christ Church, Plano (Dallas), Texas—the parish in the Episcopal Church with the largest average Sunday attendance—couldn’t take it anymore. They have given notice to leave the denomination. To the purists out there: I wrote “denomination” on purpose. The Episcopal Church has marked itself off as one more declining old-line Protestant church. That verdict will be confirmed on the world stage.

Now factor in the discharge of the resolution affirming Jesus as the only Savior. Please see my long post on this. For present purposes let it be said that the legislative committee on evangelism, after agonizing over the “systemic decline” of this church, couldn’t find it in themselves to send even a softened version of resolution D058 on “Salvation through Christ alone.” How tragically pitiful! I can’t bear it.

I conclude with a symbol. Forgive my self-referential citations, but please see my short post, “The cross in the shadows.” Apart from lingering and dear memories of friends—old and new—my fading memory of General Convention in Columbus and of the Episcopal Church will be that worship space with symbols of nature prominent and the cross hidden.

I am convinced that the Episcopal Church has confirmed a long drift away from classic Christianity. I will find my way out of it, with or without the congregation I serve, not precipitously, but deliberately and pastorally.

With great sadness, I must conclude, “Ichabod”—“the glory has departed.”

July 12, 2006


The Archbishop of Canterbury, with his advisors, and the other Primates of the Anglican Communion are evaluating the response of the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) to the requests of The Windsor Report.

Did the Episcopal Church at its General Convention rise to the opportunity offered it by the Anglican Communion? The church is currently suspended from important functions of the Communion. At stake is the restoration of the church to full fellowship.

Judge for yourself in the following documentation whether the General Convention was successful.

I will only focus on same-sex blessings and the consecration of bishops living in same-sex unions. It can be argued that the Episcopal Church came close enough on all other requests.

My opinions are in italics after the notes on General Convention’s actions. Ellipses do not remove any operative language. Documentation is identified as follows:

“WINDSOR”–The Windsor Report is the unanimous report of a diverse international commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The report includes a number of “requests,” which a fair reader would recognize as politely stated requirements if ECUSA is to have its fellowship restored with the Anglican Communion.

“PRIMATES” is shorthand for the Primates’ Meeting Communiqué, February 2005. The Archbishop of Canterbury and all the other Primates issued their affirmation of the recommendations of Windsor.

“GC-FINAL” is the final result in General Convention—June 2006.


WINDSOR, Para.134—”We recommend that…the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.”

“PRIMATES”, Para. 18. “…we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on … the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage.”

GC–FINAL–B033–”…Resolved, that this Convention … call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction 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.”

No request was included for dioceses to honor the Communion by not nominating such candidates. Nominating committees can stick their fingers in the eyes of the Communion at will, as did Newark a week after General Convention. Bishops and Standing Committees will have to be the “bad cops.” We will hold our breath at every nomination announcement and every round of consents.


WINDSOR, Para.144—”…we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization.”

PRIMATES, Para. 18. “…we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public Rites of Blessing for Same-sex unions….”

GC–FINAL—The House of Deputies soundly defeated the only resolution offered regarding same-sex blessings— A161—second resolve: “Resolved that this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time, thereby concurring with the Windsor Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to honor the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003.”

No other resolution was brought forward on same-sex blessings. No response was made to the Anglican Communion on this. The claim is being made widely that GC complied with Windsor by not authorizing rites. A number of resolutions calling for the development or authorization of rites were rejected in committee, dismissed, or allowed to die.

A bright seventh grader would understand the citations above to include the authorization by individual bishops of blessings (with diocesan rites or homegrown ones).

Let’s go ahead and disagree, but let’s not treat anyone like they are stupid.

The Archbishop of Canterbury must have had this failure to respond in mind when he wrote, “The recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report…” (“Challenge and Hope”).

Fair verdict: The Episcopal Church, at its highest level, could not find it in itself to compose an honest, adequate response to a preeminently important request from the Anglican Communion.

June 30, 2006


Filed under: Episcopal Church, General Convention — anthill @ 2:49 pm

I’m going to get off Newark soon, but Louie Crew keeps giving me stuff to work with. He has reset his General Convevtion clock to the 2009 meeting. For those of you hoping to get some great advanced travel deals, it is 1107 days away.

And it’s in Anaheim. Yes, Disneyland! Perfect! In fact a map on the Convention Center website puts the meeting place adjacent to the fantasy park. General Convention 2006 was a fantasy land. The one in three years will be worse.
The elite of the Episcopal Church—the senate of bishops and the house of choice Deputies imagine themselves to be a slice of the real Episcopal Church. But realize that the four clergy and four laypeople elected out of the tens of thousands of Episcopal church people in a diocese are almost all convention veterans or diocese insiders or big players. The election process for Deputies is fairly heartless. The auto mechanic or homemaker without a string of church credentials would have a slim chance of being elected on a platform of “a fresh voice.”

A neutral observer of GC2006 would have to admit that the gay lobby owns the event. Never again will an attempt be mounted to back away from full-bore affirmation of the gay position. Any effort to raise the question of Scripture is despised by the majority.

And after watching their people get thrown under the steamroller of “Do it for Kate,” gay leaders will be armed and dug in in 2009.

I won’t be running for Deputy to General Convention 2009. It would ruin the experience of Disneyland.

And I dare say that the Episcopal Church will look very different in three years. The leaders of classic Christianity won’t be at GC. The so-called “center” of General Convention (which is NOT the center of the Episcopal Church) better get used to their new masters.

June 29, 2006


As long as I appear to be going after Newark, here is the quote of the day from the last paragraph of Louie Crew’s post-General Convention blog post:

“Indeed, my ‘manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church,’ and I pledge to Jesus to do all I can to bring such ‘further strains on communion.’”

No comment is necessary, except to mention to newcomers that Louie is the founder of Integrity (the premier gay advocacy group in the Episcopal Church), a member of the Executive Council of the church, and Co-chair of the Nominating Committee for a bishop for the diocese of Newark.

Further background will let everyone see the aim of Crew’s words. The committee nominated a partnered gay man for bishop a day after the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote that such actions had to have serious consequences (see NEWARK STICKS FINGER IN ARCHBISHOP’S EYE).

The nomination comes less than a week after the General Convention passed, under brutal pressure from the Presiding Bishop, a call to exercise “restraint” in approving bishops whose “manner of life” would cause additional “strain” on the Anglican Communion.


Filed under: Uncategorized — anthill @ 6:04 am

An observant person alerted me to the original proposal by Louie Crew of a resolution to General Convention to allow the marriage liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer to be used for same-sex couples in church weddings.

The document is on Crew’s website.

The point here is not the resolution, which was not sent ahead for approval by its committee. The significance is that one of the endorsers is the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, partnered gay, and nominee for bishop of Newark.

I report this because the trajectory of the General Convention is toward church weddings for gays and lesbians. This quiet shift is why no last-minute resolution was attempted in the Convention addressing the Windsor request for a moratorium on same-sex blessings. It would have had no chance of passing.

The proposed resolution, to “Authorize use of marriage rite in Book of Common Prayer for Same-Sex Couples,” was introduced as follows:

Resolved, …General Convention authorizes use of the rites for Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer for same-sex couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage, and further authorizes modification of gender references in the rites to accommodate such marriages….”

Particular resolves addressed the language of the rite. For Example: “That both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman two persons.”

While reference in the resolution was to states which allow same-sex civil marriage, watch for this to be put to use elsewhere. Susan Russell’s liturgy with her partner was billed on her website as a wedding—claimed there as “traditional marriage.” The service in All Saints’ Church, Pasadena, had all the trappings and a liturgy matching the outline of the prayer book (published on the Integrity website). And California is not a state with same-sex civil marriage.

Having resisted the godly pressure from the Anglican Communion at General Convention on the issue of same-sex blessings, the Episcopal Church cannot be expected ever again seriously to debate the unique value of a marriage blessing for a man and a woman.

Consistently, we would expect a Bishop Barlowe to find a place for gay marriages in Newark if he is elected and eventually confirmed in rebellion to Resolution B033.

June 28, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church, General Convention — anthill @ 2:29 pm

From Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury on June 27, 2006 (The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today):

On the issue of practising gay bishops, there has been no such agreement, and it is not unreasonable to seek for a very much wider and deeper consensus before any change is in view, let alone foreclosing the debate by ordaining someone, whatever his personal merits, who was in a practising gay partnership.

But the decision of the Episcopal Church to elect a practicing gay man as a bishop was taken without even the American church itself (which has had quite a bit of discussion of the matter) having formally decided as a local Church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships.

Some actions – and sacramental actions in particular – just do have the effect of putting a Church outside or even across the central stream of the life they have shared with other Churches. It isn’t a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognising that actions have consequences – and that actions believed in good faith to be ‘prophetic’ in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences.

General Convention Resolution B033:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction 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.

Newark (June 28): “We dare you.”

“The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark announces the candidates for the 10th Bishop of Newark as presented by the diocesan Search/Nominating Committee.”

The list includes The Very Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Congregational Development Officer for the Diocese of California. Canon Barlowe is a prominent partnered gay man and will be a strong candidate. He knows New Jersey and Newark knows him. He served early in his vocation as Rector of Grace Church, Plainfield, New Jersey; and assistant at St. Paul’s, Westfield, New Jersey.

Realize that this decision to go forward was reviewed and confirmed after the close of General Convention. The leaders in Newark and Canon Barlowe had to give it a green light. Enough of them were present in Columbus for a quorum and a sit-down with Barlowe before everyone went home.

It is rich to remember Michael Barlowe operating in the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs and in the House of Deputies, knowing he was on the list. By the way, the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs sent forward most of the radical resolutions GC acted on.

This action by Newark is intended as much more than a testing of the waters after resolution B033. Michael Barlowe has already endured one election for Bishop (California/San Francisco) and would not allow himself to be used as window-dressing.

This is the real thing. Louie Crew, founder of Integrity and Co-chair of Newark’s nominating committee, made it to a microphone at General Convention (before debate was cut off by the majority) to oppose the final resolution calling for “restraint by not consecrating” bishops who might cause a “strain” on the Anglican Communion. Crew (and all militant gays) wanted no restrictions that even hinted that same-sex issues were in view.

This is set-up as Louie’s great last flourish. The other players in this drama also make pretty good theatre, if nothing else.

The announcement of the nominees was made by Kim Byham, President of the Standing Committee. Byham, who spoke to crucial resolutions at GC, is a partnered gay. He was part of the four-person Integrity presence at the Lambeth Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 1998.

The contact person for the Standing Committee in announcing the nominees is The Rev. Sandye Wilson. General Convention watchers will remember her as a member of the Special Legislative Committee that processed all the Windsor resolutions. Her Buddha-like silence in their sessions is fascinating to recall now. Of course the final B033 was crafted by the bishops on the committee. No Deputies are credited with joining in that resolution’s formation.

Since Ms. Wilson is the contact person, I contacted her by the email provided. I asked her:

Does Newark have a statement on how the nomination of Michael Barlowe relates to B033?

As a member of the Special Legislative Committee, do you have a position on this?

I’m sure she’s busy; she hasn’t responded yet.

Crew, Byham, Wilson, and Barlowe seem to be saying, “Let’s roll the dice and the Communion be damned.”

When I originally wrote (on May 9) about Newark’s nomination calendar, very few blogs had done anything with their plan to announce nominees for their next bishop days after General Convention. The timing was obviously spectacular, given the long lead-up in their nomination process. Ponder it on your own.

Then we had the additional spectacle of Louie Crew, Co-chair of the nominating committee interviewing candidates for Presiding Bishop for Witness magazine. Key questions for all include: “If a gay or lesbian person is elected on your watch, would you consent to the election?” and “If a gay or lesbian person is elected on your watch, would you be willing to serve as key consecrator?”

Our new Presiding Bishop-elect didn’t give him a big green light, but pledged to listen to the Holy Spirit. Jefferts Scori will be installed in time to consecrate the next bishop of Newark, so it is all very interesting. All the nominees for PB will vote on confirming the election.

One might call Dr. Crew’s journalistic effort “hedging your bets.” There is bound to be a better name for it, but I didn’t see better alternatives in the blogs.

The image came to mind of the youth chemistry set my parents once gave me. Surely such hazards are illegal now. Even without adding unauthorized reactants, I managed some pretty good eruptions.

The New York Times took early note of Newark (being across the river and all). Neela Banerjee concluded her report on the recent San Francisco bishop election by pointing readers’ interest to Newark:

In September, the Diocese of Newark will elect a new bishop. Candidates have not been announced, but given the traditions of the diocese, church experts said, one of the candidates could be openly gay or lesbian.

The media continues to get the issue wrong. The argument is about non-celibate gay candidates. An openly homosexual, but celibate person could be approved readily.

If Barlowe is not elected by the delegates to Newark’s special convention in September, what about the next diocese that does elect a non-celibate gay person? Attempts will certainly be made until it happens.

Stay tuned. It is not going to be boring.

Forgive my flippant words; but if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry as I watch The Episcopal Church, in which I am still a presbyter, sail away from the fleet, against the words of the Admiral. I’m eyeing the shore-launch, wondering if it has fuel.

P.S. Before anyone gets their shorts in a wad, I know that the Archbishop doesn’t have Admiral-like authority. But then, he isn’t a Seaman First Class either.

[Here is the timetable from the original post–with some amendments reflecting the General Convention’s actions. Note especially the next regular Primates meeting!]

Newark’s timeline in relation to General Convention is fascinating:

-February through June, 2006-–Diocese of Newark screens candidates for next bishop.

-April 7–Report of the Special Commission (Episcopal Church) on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Key sample: The theologically diverse commission who produced The Windsor Report (see para. 134), urged a moratorium on further elections and consecrations of gay bishops. The Commission recommends “very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” A suggestion of “refrain from” [such consecrations] was turned down by the commission. It can be argued that “very considerable caution” is what all dioceses exercise now in the nomination and election of a bishop.

-June 13-21–General Convention–only under huge pressure from the Presiding Bishop and PB-elect adopts soft language calling for “restraint.”

-June 28–Newark to announce nominees for next bishop

-September (date??)–meeting of “global south” Primates of the Anglican Communion.

-September 23–Special convention to elect Bishop of Newark

-October & November–Consents process

-November 4–New Presiding Bishop installed

-December 1–Bishop-Elect of Newark in office

-January 2007–Consecration before the next regular meeting of the Primates in February.

June 27, 2006


Archbishop Rowan’s reflection, released today, reveals some of the landmarks of his reaction to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.).

I have just a few thoughts at first. More later perhaps, but pressing pastoral needs and church administration chores call loudly.

The Archbishop has sketched a picture with an ocean horizon—the most distant possible—not an imaginary horizon blocked by a forest. There are items in the foreground that are clear and items in mid-perspective that are mostly hidden. It’s an agonizing picture in many ways for someone who is deeply disturbed by the General Convention’s total results.

Here is one clear foreground sentence that touches many points in the paper:

…the decision of the Episcopal Church to elect a practicing gay man as a bishop was taken without even the American church itself (which has had quite a bit of discussion of the matter) having formally decided as a local Church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships.

We have ordained as bishop for the church catholic a man living in a relationship that is sexual (Robinson’s testimony), but not sanctioned by his church.

The only attempt at General Convention to respond to The Windsor Report on this logically prior question (A161) was shot out of the sky. A large enough center was not found to even approach the subject a second time.

Dr. Williams knows full well how untenable this is in the Communion as an urgent matter. On that basis, he does seem (wishful reading on my part?) to offer an opening “for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between ‘constituent’ and ‘associated’ elements…” (under section “Future Directions”).

Join this with P.B. Elect Jefferts Schori’s image of conjoined twins that need to be separated if viable, and there might be some creative possibilities emerge in the near to intermediate future. I’m hoping to be able to express my loyalty to my centrist-Windsor-affirming bishop and, at the same time, to differentiate myself from the national Episcopal Church.

A positive result for the whole Church will take grace and imagination by everyone. I’m praying.

June 26, 2006


Filed under: Episcopal Church, General Convention — anthill @ 8:31 am

I know I’m sounding cranky after the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. And now I may sound petty, but I don’t think this is a petty thing.

A video of the “Jesus our Mother” sermon by the Presiding Bishop Elect (go to the 7:17 minute mark) zooms out to show the platform area of the worship space in the Columbus Convention Center decorated with huge photos of white flowers on hangings. The gigantic altar-table, painted robin’s-egg-blue dwarfed the clergy at it. Large candles were scaled for the space. A blank panel hanging front and center above the altar-table begged for a cross. There is a cross in the video. Write me if you find it (hint: It is not prominent).

Other photos show another cross—very small for the space, set back on the platform, and in shadows. It seemed not even to be centered on the platform.

This downsizing, down-staging, and down-lighting of the cross may have been an oversight, but I doubt it. It could be argued that the minimizing of the cross adds up with the discharge of the resolution on Jesus as Savior (see earlier post) to come to the conclusion proposed by McLuhan: “The medium is the message.”

June 25, 2006


Filed under: Episcopal Church, General Convention — anthill @ 9:44 pm

The worst moment in the General Convention of The Episcopal Church may have been the vote to discharge a resolution on salvation being through Christ alone. The move to discharge is a way to kill a resolution without voting no on it. Some resolutions are discharged because they are redundant to resolutions passed, but the Jesus resolution was killed all by itself.

Liberals laud nuance, but they seem incapable of it when faced with the opportunity of using it to find the value in the traditional teachings of classic Christianity.

The resolution deserves to be given in full here to illustrate my point:


Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII [Note–Articles of Religion—back of BCP]); and be it further

Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); and be it further

Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God’s unlimited and unending love for all persons; and be it further

Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Holy Scripture.

Reasons given for discharging this included redundancy (We’ve said this before”—in 1982!) and charges of insensitivity to other faiths. The vote on a motion to discharge, according to Virtueonline was 675 (70.5%) to 242 (29.5%).

I understand that the language of the Gospel of John is uncomfortable—Jesus claiming to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” I feel the particularity of this at every funeral I conduct, using this scripture as a standard part. Liberals hedge badly on this line from John, usually not summoning their theological imagination. All they could do at General Convention was discharge Jesus.

Here’s what I mean. Anglicans don’t go with those Christians who say that a native in the deepest reaches of the Amazon basin is condemned because he never heard about Jesus. Imagine a man who wakes up each morning an looks in wonder on the creation and thanks the Creator. This may seeks to live in the light of God. He treats his family well, he seeks justice in his village and peace with their neighbors.

An Anglican theologian with a little imagination and grace can see that God can make Jesus be “the way, the truth, and the life” for that jungle dweller. Salvation is of the Lord! How impoverished for The Episcopal Church (TEC), at a time of deep crisis for its conservative members, not to find a way to amend that resolution—using a little nuance, while not gutting the language—to reaffirm the gift to the world in Jesus Christ. How profoundly sad!

I couldn’t find any coverage of the discharge of Jesus by TEC in any mainstream media. The only treatment of it I found as a news item was at in an article by their correspondent Hans Zeiger. I don’t recommend Virtueonline in general because of David Virtue’s trademark inflammatory mode of writing (not to mention the combustible unmoderated comments), but this is the only source if you want verification of all this. Mr. Zeiger well portrays the interplay of various characters in the drama of this resolution’s slow death.

Rejection of the resolution in committee on evangelism (before the full House of Deputies voted) followed a resolution lamenting the decline in membership of TEC.

Virtueonline cites one Deputy who said it as well as can be done. The Rev. Donald Perschall, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Centralia, Illinois, said, “On top of leaving the Anglican Communion, we’ve decided to leave Jesus Christ behind as well.”

What, then, is the gospel of TEC. In an interview after her election as the next Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, listed more that a dozen aspects of our message. Not once did she include the gift to the world of eternal life through Jesus Christ. To play on Jefferts Schori being an instrument-rated pilot, this kind of salvation wasn’t even on her radar screen.

An evaluation of all the resolutions passed by General Convention will show an impressive array of liberal social action motions, but no clear affirmation of Jesus Christ as the one who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” They dismissed their chance.

It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that The Episcopal Church has no adequate message to arrest its average net loss of 700 people every week since a peak in 1965.

June 24, 2006


It would take a book to capture all that happened at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, but certain brief vignettes could provide chapter sub-headings.

The most significant of these might be Presiding Bishop Griswold on the last legislative day, testy and angry, leaning on the House of Bishops with these words: “If we don’t have something substantial before lunch” [in response to the Windsor Report], “it will be very hard for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite us to the Lambeth Conference.”

Read that sentence again. I hesitate to comment on it. It says chapters, if not volumes.

After these words, Bishop Andrus withdrew a substitute agreed to by the most liberal bishops. Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori sealed the action with a startling image of conjoined twins that cannot be separated until both are able to survive on their own. Let that one sink in also.

Her evaluation of B033 was: “My sense is that the original resolution is the best we’re going to do today.”

The House of Bishops gave approval in an uncertain voice vote. It is disputed whether a previously recognized request for a roll-call vote was quashed by Griswold. Some understand that request to apply to the withdrawn substitute. When a bishop asked about the roll call vote, the Presiding Bishop said, “The vote has been taken.” He would not be denied his resolution.

A roll call would have revealed a fascinating combination of liberal and conservative bishops rejecting the resolution—the former because it said too much; the latter because it said too little.

Bishop Jefferts Schori followed up in a highly unusual appearance in the House of Deputies with a reprise of her conjoined twins analogy.

Only after such extraordinary pressure did the House of Deputies agree to pass something (the vocabulary of the PB) about the specific requests of the Archbishop of Canterbury, found in The Windsor Report.

We await his evaluation.

One part of his thinking might drift back to the Presiding Bishop’s threat to the Bishops. Was his appeal to a profound question about submitting our autonomy to the guidance of the church catholic?

The concern that found voice—to get invited to Lambeth–should be read in the most serious light. I’m sure the Presiding Bishop was thinking of more than tea with the Archbishop. A non-invitation would be virtual excommunication.

I would write “temporary suspension,” except that never again will there be the godly pressure on The Episcopal Church that was brought to bear at this General Convention to find its way back to full communion with the the Anglican Communion.

June 23, 2006


Filed under: Episcopal Church, General Convention — anthill @ 10:13 pm

[Note on 7/11: Going with a Nevada theme, I wish to move to the nickel machines on my prediction in this post. An interview with The Living Church yesterday gave the PB-elect the perfect opportunity to expound a visionary solution to the crisis in the Episcopal Church (USA). Crisis? What crisis? How about seven dioceses and counting asking for KJS not to be their Presiding Bishop.

A direct question about the conjoined twins analogy was not engaged in this weak answer:

The image of two levels of communion has been around for a long time and will probably be around for a while longer. We are clearly in different places about human sexuality, but we also have a lot in common. I would hope that we could focus on poverty and Millennium Development Goals together.

This was a prime opportunity and she blew it. One of her bishop-backers must have gotten to her after her twins speeches and asked, “What in blazes do you think you are doing!”

So take the following with a pinch of Nevada desert sand, not with the punch I began with before.]

The punch of her words could hardly have been stronger. A striking analogy of conjoined twins, given by Presiding Bishop elect Jefferts Schori at the critical moments in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, may not have been the tipping point. Rather, her personal appeal to give her a chance with the Anglican Communion carried the votes in both houses. But the twins analogy, by all accounts, caused an absolute hush to come over more than a thousand people on the floor and in the gallery.

The image of conjoined twins lingers. I’m going to make a brief, lightly defended, prediction about Katherine Jefferts Schori. While males tend to have the hormonal burden to “take it outside” if necessary, this woman just might have the combination of grace and pragmatism to keep the “different minds” (her quote of a bishop) in this church from ruining each other.

I don’t have an impression of Frank Griswold every admitting a problem anything like conjoined twins living in this church. All was well with the vast “diverse center” (his favorite), even if nagged by pesky fringe people on the right. The insistent fringe people on the left were more organically connected.

But in her first crisis, the PB elect named the obvious diagnosis–conjoined twins, followed by the most vital question–Can they both survive after surgery?

Both twins–the larger “left and center” and the smaller “right” are both saying, “We’re fine with surgery.” Katherine Jefferts Schori may rise to the occasion and find the means to see that the operation has the best chance of success.

Afterwards, the twins can be imagined to thank God that the struggle with each other is over, bless each other, and get on with their callings. The twin on the right may even be able to reduce the Anglican division in the United States, resulting in a net improvement in the divisions of the Body of Christ.

June 22, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church — anthill @ 10:29 pm

I get it! The official name change, eliminating PECUSA, and leaving only The Episcopal Church, can be seen as a political move to position this church for coming turf wars and perception wars. Smooth! If THE Episcopal Church has claimed the very simple, direct trademark, it will be left for the entity loyal to the Anglican Communion to poke around for the second best name.

I think TEC has some possibilities (harri-TEC, being my favorite). But, beginning now, I will make every effort to spell the name out as “the ecclesial organization formerly known as ECUSA,” if only to do my little ant part in possibly irritating one or two picnickers. Hey, if Prince could do such for years, why can’t I?


Filed under: Episcopal Church, the anthills — anthill @ 11:32 am

Actually, “progressivist” is in my standard dictionary.

I’ve always been rankled by granting the label “progressive” to those who want to turn classic Christianity on its head. A strong argument can be made that true progress follows the Way of Jesus Christ as understood by orthodox Christianity.

I’m very aware that I snuck in two labels for Christianity as I and well more than a billion souls have received it. Labels are unavoidable unless you want to give tediously full descriptions every time you refer to a person’s position.

So “progressivist” looks like a good one to me. It tags the viewpoint that progress itself (as judged by some group) is the thing. It accurately marks a party in the ecclesial organization formerly known as ECUSA.


Filed under: ECUSA, Episcopal Church, General Convention — anthill @ 4:12 am

I’m trying to collect my thoughts (and wits) after the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. It will take a while.

Trying to hold a marginal parish together (if possible) will preoccupy my time for the foreseeable future. I’m pondering how this blog might fit into that task. It is unclear.

One approach will be to recycle some posts that have clear future relevance. The item that follows here needs revising in the light of final actions at GC, but that will have to wait a day or so. Sunday’s sermon and adult forum call loudly right now.

My best guess of the future of anthills is as a web-log of my steps as rector of an Episcopal church to follow God, our Savior—Jesus Christ, and the over-cited (at General Convention—more on this later) Holy Spirit.

Stay tuned, I guess. Your choice.

May 22, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, General Convention — anthill @ 10:13 am

Conservatives (I mean evangelicals, traditional anglo-catholics, and just plain conservatives) will lose the battle at General Convention. There never really was any doubt, but some events drive the point home.

And let me say that the connotation of “conservative” to me relates to the root “conserve.” Conservatives are usually slow to change, but the motive is often (not always) to conserve something valuable.

The official Episcopal News Service is easily seen to be an organ for promoting the institutional cause of ECUSA. Significant news highlighting the conservative cause is often ignored, as is news that reflects poorly on the liberal cause. I won’t bother you with my useful definition of “liberal.”

But news and talk that sparkle for the institutional cause of ECUSA go immediately to the “Top Stories” tab on the website. As I write this, the top story is Desmond Tutu receives Union Theological Seminary's highest honor. The subtitle is: “Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town delivers timely message of tolerance.”

More on this, but first, let me note the second feature—'What Witness Will We Make?' (subtitle: “Episcopal Divinity School president looks toward General Convention”). This is not a news item, but a speech given by the Right Rev. Steven Charleston, Episcopal bishop and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was speaking at an alumni function and (as ENS puts it) “raised what he considers the most important question facing the Episcopal Church today.”

I don’t expect to see a verbatim of any speech by an Anglican Communion Network Bishop between now and General Convention.

While Bishop Charleston takes shots at zealots on right and left, the thrust of this eloquent speech is clearly in the direction of the steps taken at General Convention 2003 of full inclusion of all baptized persons in all the liturgical blessings and all orders of ministry of ECUSA.

Now, back to the lead story. Archbishop Tutu is an icon of courage, conviction, and faith. He was affirmed with “thunderous applause" when he was honored with the highest award of Union Theological Seminary (N.Y.). His speech on the occasion moved from the battle over apartheid to the cause of those “oppressed” because of their “sexual orientation.”

A sidenote: Maybe one thing we will learn in the aftermath of our loss at General Convention is that gay advocates don’t agree with us on sexual orientation not being the point. For them, orientation and sexual expression are one piece of cloth. While a relatively small number of people with homosexual inclination remain celibate, the majority say, “It is my nature (orientation and more) and, by God, I will live it out.”

The punch for the Anglican world in Tutu’s speech came with these words, invoking our Lord:

"And if we really believed that our worth is intrinsic, not dependent on extrinsic attributes, would we really get so hot under the collar, threatening to breach communion over sexual orientation, because like ethnicity, like skin color and gender, it is a variable that does not affect the worth of a person?" he asked.

He said he "cannot stand silent when persons are penalized about something I believe they can do nothing about—their sexual orientation."

"I do not believe that the Jesus who was on the side of the weak and the persecuted would accept the treatment generally being meted out by us Christians to an already persecuted minority," Tutu said. "Inasmuch as you have done or not done it to the least of my sisters and brothers, you have done or not done it to me? Who are these least?"

Conservatives will lose the battle at General Convention because speeches like those of Archbishop Tutu and Bishop Charleston will capture the high ground in the hearts of Deputies and Bishops. Conservatives will appear reactionary, narrow, and stuck in the past—trying to conserve an outlook on the Bible and tradition that ECUSA long ago left behind.

May 20, 2006


In case you missed this elsewhere, here is an audio file by Kendall Harmon on the seriousness of the crisis for ECUSA and the Anglican Communion. Take the time to listen to it.

The analogy of an iceberg is sobering.

Other speeches at the same event by the bishops of the Diocese of South Carolina are also valuable.

May 19, 2006


[NOTE (after General Convention): This analysis, first published in October 2004 after the release of The Windsor Report, is quite relevant in the time after the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Those who seem confused about what the majority of the Anglican Communion may do now will find hints of one possibility here.]

Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham, England, was a member of the Lambeth Commission, which issued The Windsor Report. He is also one of a select group of English church leaders who have met with the Archbishop of Canterbury to prepare for the aftermath of ECUSA's General Convention.

Look again at an article by him for The Church Times (England) that spelled things out for ECUSA.

His very good homey illustrations don't hide his bear-trap mind. ECUSA Bishops and Deputies to GC will blow off his perspective to the harm of our church.

To understand all the recommendations in Section D (moratoria, etc.), Wright urges us to:

Note carefully what is said in the crucial paragraphs 134 and 144: We invite the persons concerned with the events in New Hampshire and New Westminster to express regret that "the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached" in the actions that were taken [my italics].

This is far more than merely saying, in effect: "We regret that some of you weren’t up to speed with modern thinking, and so have been puzzled and hurt." It is saying: "We recognise that there were proper constraints, belonging to the bonds of affection at the heart of our common life, and we went ahead and breached them." Everything else follows from this.

The initial regret statement by the Episcopal House of Bishops expressed regret for the pain they caused.

The Report of the Special Commission adds, with its Resolution A160: "We repent of any failure to consult," as if we are somewhat unclear whether that is the case. It is one of the clearest facts of this whole mess that we certainly failed to consult and then failed listen to a universal chorus of voices asking us to stop.

Wright worded the situation this way (as if in our shoes): "there were proper constraints…and we went ahead and breached them" by our actions regarding New Hampshire.

The point of Wright's words must be honored by GC as part of the moves necessary to remain in the Anglican Communion. Our best attempt so far still falls short in this key component.

Thanks to Kendall Harmon for recyling the Times article.

May 4, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, General Convention — anthill @ 7:53 pm

The Rt. Rev. John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida has published a sobering analysis in the in the May/June 2006 issue of The Southern Cross. This bishop is known as a careful reconciler. His strong words should be given full weight. I’m not even going to try to exegete his final sentence, but it shouldn’t be read without care.

What I’m interested in remembering for the weeks and months ahead is this: “Anglicanism is the test of a new way of being the church catholic. The difficult question we face in this next General convention will be our ability to sustain such a Communion.”

We are not catholic through an iron-clad structure (and The Windsor Report doesn’t call for one!). We are catholic through mutual commitment that is proved in mutual action. ECUSA broke that bond at General Convention 2003. Now is our only predictable chance to fix what we broke.

Once again, thanks Kendall Harmon for posting this for all of us.

May 2, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, General Convention — anthill @ 10:00 pm

Perhaps it is far enough away from Easter to look at some Easter sermon reflections from Gene Robinson. The Witness website has a section of Lectionary Reflections and Robinson provided the Easter installment.

He makes a move from the great stone removed from Jesus' tomb to stones that block us until we see that the resurrection has rolled them away also. Robinson offers his transformation regarding his sexuality as an example.

Years ago, my sexuality seemed like an unmovable stone in my way, a burden so huge that it seemed to threaten every thing I held dear. Accepting being gay seemed impossible; affirming and embracing it was beyond comprehension. And then just as surely as Jesus called to his friend Lazarus to "Come out!" of his tomb, Jesus called me to come out of my tomb of guilt and shame, to accept and love that part of me that he ALREADY accepted and loved [his caps].

While we might place this epiphany in a much earlier time, before his sexuality found much expression, there can hardly be a doubt that he would include his living as a gay man in his new freedom. He extolled his sexual relationship as sacramental at General Convention 2003.

The impact of this sermon reflection must be that for Gene Robinson, and for the gay advocates in ECUSA, Jesus has "already accepted and loved" gay sex in committed relationships. Heterosexual couples, in moments of boldness and clarity would be willing to make such a claim for their passion. Gays in ECUSA seek the same freedom.

Deputies will hear speeches marshaled by Integrity and The Consultation affirming, in so many words, the holiness of gay sex in committed relationships. Is this too obvious to write?

Approving Gene Robinson as a bishop for the universal church meant we accepted that his sexual relationship—his lovemaking—is regarded as holy. If you think I’m pushing the language too far, remember that he said it in hearings before General Convention 2003.

Conservatives are said to be gripped by homophobic revulsion when they balk at this point. But, any revulsion comes from the creation order hymned in the opening chapters of the Bible, affirmed by Jesus, and applied by Paul.

The gay agenda touches something foundational and they know it as well as anyone.

General Convention: Do not try to push us over a line thousands of us can’t cross.

April 30, 2006


Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 12:21 pm

How does one represent in a title the double reality of a faithful Christian living through a crisis?

On the one hand, the best-known mantra of the fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich, “all will be well,” claims a most basic truth. Through it all and after the worst, God will be present, sustaining and renewing for the individual believer.

On the other hand, the actual experience of the crisis may be painful to the extreme. “All will be well” may function as the last thread of hope a soul clings to.

All this is said for the individual; for certain human institutions, the use of the words, “all will be well,” may be part of “the big lie.”

One individual report (not a big-name personage) from the Synod of Province IV, just ended, is that the mood was “business as usual.” Resolutions attempting to press toward serious interaction with The Windsor Report were combined and replaced by a substitute resolution affirming “the spirit” of that report.

Province IV, comprising the southeastern states plus Kentucky, is arguably the most conservative of the provinces. If the watering down of the Windsor-related resolutions reflects an “all will be well” attitude, I’m afraid that doesn’t bode well for conservatives at General Convention.

Reinforcing this perception is the presence of five of the nominees for Presiding Bishop in the dioceses represented. These men are “powers” who exert their influence with words and without.

How can the outlook for conservatives at General Convention not be bleak? The Windsor Report is admitted to be the only explicit way that has been offered for keeping ECUSA in the Anglican Communion—our home in catholic Christianity.

“All will be well” seems to be the hope and prayer of those who seek to steer our church-ship into flow of the cultural mainstream. But the mantra that gives true comfort to individual believers, does not necessary apply to institutions.

If General Convention does not (and who would bet now that they will) humbly return to the Communion, then it can be predicted that a hundred thousand people would finally have had enough and walk away. There was a net loss of 27,252 people in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) in 2004–the last year reported.

The “all will be well” leaders are bolstered for such a loss. Some will welcome it. But what a tragedy that multiple tens of thousands of sincere believers—many lifetime members—will be sacrificed for a purported forward step in the ministry of invitation and reconciliation. What a sad irony!

As an ordained representative of this church, I must say I have a foreboding feeling that “all will not be well” in ECUSA.

April 28, 2006


Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA, General Convention — anthill @ 8:30 am

The retiring bishop of the Diocese of California, William Swing, has posted an essay — "The Episcopal Church in the Balance" — at the diocese website. It is about what the Episcopal Church (USA) is really facing at General Convention.

It seems to him the crisis is not about how to apply Scripture, reason, and tradition to an important moral question. Nor is it about how to approach such decisions in communion with the international family that is your home in catholic Christianity.

It is about freedom, power-struggles, and church property. You should read this whole thing. It is probably a view deep into the minds of insiders in the leadership of ECUSA.

The only part of this rant that approaches a biblical theme is the word “freedom.” But is this the freedom in Christ found in the New Testament? We don’t know from the article, because the bishop doesn’t engage the New Testament or the gospel.

Freedom as he describes it is more freedom of movement or freedom in an institutional sense.

This essay is a depressing example of not granting any legitimate issues to your opposition. Swing sees his opponents as all about power and property when it gets right down to it. They must be using Scriptural concerns as a cloak for their power-plays. Swing allows no other room for their putative issues.

The title of Swing's essay shows how seriously he means to be taken. For the senior bishop in the House of Bishops to write like this adds greatly to the bleak outlook for General Convention. Knowing that he is still the leader of the diocese which has three gay priests in partnerships nominated to replace him is downright ominous.

Thanks to CaNN for the alert.

April 26, 2006


Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 10:48 am

The platform of "The Consultation" (eleven ECUSA organizations) was published on Susan Russell’s blog of April 17.

According to Russell, the platform is “not just a legislative agenda for General Convention but a vision for the Episcopal Church — grounded in the one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism that bind us together as the Body of Christ called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

The following quote should be taken up word-for-word by those who don’t see things quite as The Consultation does:

We come to the 2006 General Convention in Columbus understanding clearly that the Episcopal Church is once again at a watershed moment in history. Now more than ever, it is critical to articulate what we believe and what we are called to do.

One only has to read between the lines a little to get the importance of this manifesto. The first “call” for the 2006 General Convention is to:

Continue the radical reformation [my italics] of the Church. [including] Remove all canonical obstacles to exercising the full baptismal ministry in the whole life of the Church.

If any Deputies to GC read the whole platform, please pay attention to the subtext that baptism, without explicit reference to vital faith in Jesus Christ, opens the way to consecration as a bishop. If I had to pick one factor that accounts for the scourge in our church, it would be bishops who give no clear testimony by their words and actions that they have a saving faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Let Deputies be clear about one more thing. Many of those who represented these eleven organizations are ready and willing to sacrifice the Anglican Communion for faithfulness to their principles. This comes out subtly in Susan Russell’s preface to the platform:

It strikes me as an extremely hopeful sign that as we move closer to Columbus and General Convention 2006 there are faithful folks at work creating a proactive platform for a vision calling us to look beyond fighting over the unity of the institutional church to proclaiming the mission of the prophetic church: Alleluia, Alleluia!

Read the platform. Search for one reference to a priority for proclaiming the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ—setting people free from the guilt and power of sin. Russell is aware of this component of our Anglican heritage. It comes out in one of her responses on her blog. But the evangelical and catholic mission of the gospel doesn’t make the list.

And let's be clear. Evangelical Episcopalians embrace the social and cultural implications of the gospel for our world (although I don't see the implications as most of the Consultation platform sees them). We are the hands and feet of Jesus in God's world.

But, if there is one thing, apart from a refusal to turn back to the Anglican Communion, that will drive me from the Episcopal Church, it is the abysmal omission at the national level of this church of evangelical priorities.

April 24, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 8:33 pm

The Rev. Dr. Leander Harding has written a thorough commentary on the official defense of ECUSA's position given at Nottingham, England in 2005.

To Set Our Hope On Christ summarized the defense to the Anglican Consultative Council by an ECUSA team regarding General Convention's actions in 2003. Significantly, that team did not back away at all from the actions of GC 2003. Thus we should not be surprised that the recent report from the Special Commission avoids recommending any true halt on directions set at the Minneapolis Convention.

Harding's work is slow going, but worth the effort.

In short, the argument that is bound to be repeated in Columbus is:

-God surprisingly and graciously went against Old Testament laws to include the Gentiles in Christ without circumcision.

-In the past thirty or forty years, ECUSA has observed holiness in the lives and ministries of gay people living in intimate relationships.

-Holiness means this is from God.

-God is doing another surprising, gracious thing which may overturn our understanding of scripture on sexual ethics.

April 23, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 9:48 pm

The Rev. Leander S. Harding, in his blog of the same name, has posted an Open Letter to the Deputies to General Convention from his diocese.

Part of what I'm feeling as GC approaches is expressed perfectly and I commend the whole letter to you.

He couches his appeal in prayer related to our defining relationship with the Anglican Communion:

It is my prayer that the General Convention will say yes to the requests contained in the Windsor Report and do so in a straightforward and unequivocal way. It is clear that rejecting the provisions of the Windsor Report would mean a break with the world-wide Anglican Communion.

One point of analysis touches a truth I recognized as I read these words: "The divisions in our Church run more through parishes than between parishes." I must guess that the forcing of the approval of a partnered-gay man as a bishop at General Convention 2003 may end up killing the church I serve. We are just barely marginal financially and more of the same from GC 2006 will predictably do us in.

Finally, this:

I want to say to you as a parish priest with long standing that the legislative victory of the last General Convention does not begin to represent the mind of our Church at the parish level. The efforts at dialogue and consensus building on this issue in our own diocese have been well- intentioned but inadequate. Many, many people in our Church and in our diocese feel profoundly that they have been neither consulted nor heard on this issue.

Read the rest and write your paraphrase to your deputies to GC 2006. Time is speeding by for our church.

April 22, 2006


Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church — anthill @ 9:03 pm

The Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, many bishops, and other leaders are banking on an appeal to the Anglican Communion to hold diversity in tension while seeking a new consensus on sexuality and to get back to a shared mission.

I am persuaded by those serious-thinking people on both “sides” of our present argument who assert that the debate over homosexuality goes way deeper than the surface issues.

Our understanding of the mission of the Church, in practical terms, is one area of deep disagreement. Related to this, we often have radically different understandings of the good news of Jesus and the meaning of reconciliation to God.

Many other foundational points could be explored, but let’s start with mission and salvation.

In a previous diocese, I was part of a weekly lectionary group with three or four other Episcopal priests. Again and again when the readings had clear statements of the call to be reconciled to God and to receive eternal life, I would ask if they saw a personal element to this salvation. Not once did they agree; always it was communal, societal salvation.

Take the readings for the third Sunday of Easter. If you are to preach, what will you preach? If you are to hear, what will you hear? With some exceptions, you will see one of the deepest divides in our church played out in the sermon.

The BCP lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary only share Luke 24:36b-48 this week. During an appearance of the risen Christ we hear:

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

This purports to give one version of “The Great Commission”—“…repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations….” Of course, those who have bought into the post-modern, neo-gnostic outlook will deconstruct this classic scripture into a power-play by the later church.

The BCP readings then have (in order of the settings) Acts 4:5-12. Peter and John are arraigned ominously before many of the same people who condemned Jesus. The leaders ask what authority they claim. Peter answers:

…this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is `the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

Another ringing proclamation of “salvation” and being “saved” (shades of Baptist-like preaching)!

Finally, in chronological order, we hear 1 John 1:1-2:2—“concerning the word of life”:

…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
…if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

“Atoning sacrifice” is the RSV/NRSV soft translation of hilasmos—translated in earlier versions by “propitiation,” with its hint of the wrath of God. This was too much for the translators of the post-WWII boom. But Leon Morris, in The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, gave a rock-solid defense of the harder translation.

So, those who follow the BCP lectionary will be confronted by three “hammers of grace” ringing our bells.

What will the preachers do with these monumental texts? Mark my words—Many will ignore them and default to the equally classic reading from Micah 4:1-5:

In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.

Some who preach will make special pleading about the world situation. Micah must be preached. But if the world were at peace, they would still find a reason (or give no reason) to bail out to Micah.

Those who follow the Revised Common Lectionary do not have such an out provided. Along with the gospel noted above, they will hear Acts 3:12-19—the episode that provoked the reading above from the BCP lectionary. And even here, the conclusion pressed on the crowd of witnesses to the healing is this:

And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

Jesus suffered to deal with the problem of sins. Repentance and a “turn to God” is the way to grasp God’s gift. This is individual salvation. Are there corporate, societal implications. Well, of course! But these begin with personal reconciliation to God.

The RCL, in chronological order, has a reading from 1 John 3:1-7:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God….
You know that [Jesus Christ] was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

All these readings are cut from whole cloth. They cohere. Will those who preach this Sunday give ringing appeals for people to be assured that they are personally reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, knowing that eternal life will further call them to serve God in the world God made? Or will these golden texts be bypassed as an anachronism?

See how it is where you worship this Sunday. You will be hearing a most basic part of the deep, defining, differences in the Episcopal Church. Two radically different gospels will be proclaimed across the ECUSA.

This post is being adapted into the beginning of a new “page” in the right column.

April 10, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA — anthill @ 9:59 pm

I've been waiting for this. Thank you Louie for coming right out with it.

CaNN gives us a link to a Louie Crew post that perfectly identifies the stakes in our debate from the gay side. Do not miss this! The stakes could not be higher.

Crew: "It is a sin against the Holy Spirit to interfere with the blessings which God has already bountifully bestowed on lesbians and gays…."

Get out your Bible — Mark 3:29 || Matt. 12:31,32; Luke 12:10. The "sin against the Holy Spirit," which I think Crew rightly interprets as a word against the Holy Spirit's work, is "the unpardonable sin." There is a connotation of determined finality in this rejection of the Spirit. Commentators suggest it is unpardonable because it doesn't seek pardon.

The claim of the holiness of certain gay unions — a main argument of the ECUSA defenders at Nottingham — is a claim that this is from the Holy Spirit. Those who speak against this are seen as guilty of an unpardonable sin.

Of course, gay supporters would allow that this can be forgiven, but only if the guilty persons repent of their words against this movement of the Spirit.

Now, consider fully who is saying this. This is not a Maury Johnson. Louie Crew is the leading gay advocate in ECUSA. He founded Integrity. He is Chair of the Newark Deputation to General Convention and a Member of Executive Council. He was nominated for President of the House of Deputies in 2003.

And consider where he said it. This was a post to the House of Bishop's and Deputies internet discussion—a forum including the best and brightest of gay advocates. It would be most interesting to hear whether anyone tried to tone down Louie's biblical allusion.

Even if Mr. Crew hesitated to connect the dots, the rest of the sentence has conservatives standing against a work of God. Not a good place to stand.
Crew's quote is one very big bit of evidence of the depth and intractability of our conflict.

April 8, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 10:52 pm

From the Report of the Special Commission on the Anglican Communion, page 17, para. 47: "The Communion is presently wrestling with the issue of same-gender sexual activity and its implications for fitness for ordination and episcopal office."

No, the Communion is not. The Archbishop of Canterbury said recently (and everyone on the Commission must know the quote by heart): “In my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully reopen the discussion as if Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 did not continue to represent the general mind of the Communion.” To not "reopen" is way, way short of "wrestling with" the issue.

But, the Commission's bare assertion then becomes their basis for not recommending a moratorium on gay consecrations. No moratorium without full promise of engagement first.

All this after the Commission accepts on the previous page that the approval of Robinson was "out of sequence, given the unresolved question of the blessing of same-sex unions." This is rich!

It is like a person convicted of DWI and awaiting sentence, requiring that the judge engage in a debate about the goodness of drinking and driving.


Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 9:00 pm

In an effort to find a new analogy in place of fudge for the apparent direction General Convention will be heading, I pictured a traffic violation stop with a twist.

What if you were pulled over by an officer, but instead of stopping, you slowed way down and even pulled onto the shoulder.

If the officer didn't think you were dangerous, she might do an O.J. and just follow for a while, possibly calling out to you on her loudspeaker. "Stop now," she would say, "There will be consequences if you continue."

But you roll on just enough to prevent her from parking her car and getting out.

You think you are being clever, but she is calling for backup and a spike-strip.

April 4, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA — anthill @ 8:02 pm

I believe I’m right that the Epistle of Jude is never scheduled for reading on Sundays in the Episcopal Lectionary. Of course, Jude is blown off by critical academia as a very late, questionable, pseudonymous writing. It is in the canon of the New Testament, yet the canon and the very idea of an authoritative canon are under renewed assault.

It feels like there is an enemy out there.

Read Jude again “for the first time” and you will see why Jude is such a threat. May he threaten us again!

This is the English Standard Version—an excellent recent translation in the AV/RSV line. [Sorry that my cut and paste has the verse numbers jammed against the first words.]

The Epistle of Jude

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

1Jude, a servant[a] of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for[b] Jesus Christ:

2May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

5Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved[c] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day– 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,[d] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

8Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12These are blemishes[e] on your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

14It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18They[f] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment[g] stained by the flesh.

24Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.


1. Jude 1:1 Or slave; Greek bondservant

2. Jude 1:1 Or by

3. Jude 1:5 Some manuscripts although you fully knew it, that the Lord who once saved

4. Jude 1:7 Greek other flesh

5. Jude 1:12 Or reefs

6. Jude 1:18 Or Christ, because they

7. Jude 1:23 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin

April 3, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, the anthills, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 10:01 pm

An exchange between Tobias Haller and Ephraim Radner on titusonenine brought into focus the choice facing the General Convention. Anthills (with an "s" added to suggest the various attitudes in our church toward the Anglican Communion) will now focus on this choice.

These words from Radner (comment #31) galvanized my thinking about what I need to do here:

…the consequences of our disagreement are quite concrete and will determine the actual shape of our church very shortly and into the future. For some of us, it will determine the shape of our professional lives. Time is running out to put aside the arguments for the present and to re-engage the Communion on its own terms, within which at some point these arguments may again be examined.

I am among the "some of us" who anticipate that choices beyond our control may "determine the shape of our professional lives."

My original purpose started getting bogged down in the details of the argument over homosexuality. I knew before but now see more clearly that we first have to get through a "meta-choice" very soon.

Most Bishops and Deputies to GC are not going to change their views on homosexuality in the two months and nine days until the convention. What will take concentration, meditation, and prayer during that period is the choice about The Windsor Report way of being the Anglican Communion.

The Bishop of Arizona now says (after his "cat out of the bag" memo) that he is "personally faced with a dilemma as he tries to balance his own concerns about the Communion against equally strong convictions in favor of autonomy and inclusion."

In the exchange in titusonenine linked above, Haller took Radner's lead and shifted to thinking about "a way forward." But then the discussion ended. Is this ominous?

Can a way be found? What are the options? What are the arguments pro and con on the possible ways forward?

My metaphor here now is a large pasture with many anthills. "The field is the world." The anthills claiming to be Anglican are, as a "fact on the ground," diverse. The crucial question is, how will they relate?

That thread on titusonenine fizzled out. If a "safe" place is needed to continue the discussion, I offer this site. I will delete comments here that don't mirror the irenic (if spirited) tone of Haller and Radner.

I will be happy to create threads to accomodate anyone with something helpful to say.

This is my new focus and it feels to me like it's on target.

[This is anthills' revised purpose statement in right column. View unrevised "pages" only in this new light.]


Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 8:45 am

“Traditional” or worse,”traditionalist,” are words that may connote a sense of uptight, moss-back, rigid, humorless commitment to the past.

Ephraim Radner has done his best to dispell that notion. An article for the Anglican Communion Institute (“If there is a future for ECUSA and the Anglican Communion, then what?”) includes this:

Now traditions can be and often are questioned and challenged; that is a part of the very “network” that maintains the bonds of the communion. But the questions and challenges, for all that, take place within and not outside this larger network, which is presumed because it is in fact real and living and defines communion as something more than a concept.

Tradition is the living, breathing, and yes, changing, “bequest” we have received. It has been challenged and should be. “Reformed and always reforming” is a watchword for more than the Reformed branch of the Reformation.

A full engagement with the tradition of interpretation of Scripture is precisely what has not happened in ECUSA. The decisions of GC 2003 were made ad hoc, without first reversing the standing position on same-sex blessings and ordinations.

Radner is not easy reading; but he is good reading. See especially the section on Scripture.

March 30, 2006


Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA — anthill @ 12:25 pm

All Episcopalians have been drawn into the actions of General Convention 2003. No one can say they are not involved in the issues facing GC 2006.

Episcopal advocates of same-sex blessings and ordinations have declared victory. They claim GC 2003 gave “permission” for same-sex blessings (see second paragraph of Integrity's plan for GC 2006, called “No Turning Back the Clock”).

We think their perception of "permission" is virtually correct. The wording adopted by General Convention declared: “We recognize 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.”

Note well the difference from a more objective alternative: “We recognize that local faith communities are […] explor[ing] and experienc[ing] liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”

This has been declared to be “recognized” within “our common life.” “Common” in this case must mean “shared.” All Episcopalians are drawn into these actions now.

And GC 2003 approved a gay man in a committed relationship being consecrated bishop of New Hampshire. Since bishops are consecrated for the whole church, V. Gene Robinson belongs to all of us.

The Primates—the presiding bishops—of the Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury have declared that these innovations have not been justified. ECUSA is in a state of suspension from the only representative body in the Anglican Communion.

All Episcopalians should take a deep interest in the debates of the General Convention. 

March 29, 2006


Titusonenine has alerted us to an interview in which N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, England, describes the ECUSA, if not the whole Anglican Communion as at a brink over the homosexuality debate.

I comment on it here just to show that the debate anthill is focused on is indeed a mountain of a problem. Conservatives are not making a mountain out of an (may I say) anthill.

Wright said: “If [ECUSA General Convention] vote to go with The Windsor Report, then that will pull the whole thing back from the brink.”

One can easily read that “the whole thing” means the crisis involving the whole Communion. This is confirmed by follow-up questions and answers.

The interviewer asked Wright if a schism in “the worldwide [Anglican] movement” is “inevitable.” The Bishop, who has many connections all over replied: “I think it is quite possible.”

He has not gotten good encouragement from contacts in the U.S. On the possibility of conforming to The Windsor Report, Wright said: “My friends in America tell me on many different sides of this issue that that's actually very unlikely….”

Also, this plea: “Please pray for Rowan Williams, because he needs prayers right now. He's got some very difficult decisions to make.”

Read the whole interview from Australia here.

We will continue to do our little bit at the anthill to try and help any Deputies who might tune in here.

March 28, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, the anthills — anthill @ 7:55 pm

The organization called “Claiming the Blessing” (CTB) has published its “Platform” for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) in June.

I testify that the hateful early comments on that blog do not represent anything I have ever heard from the most conservative Christians I know.

The platform has a section of affirmations as a foundation for the list of aims that follow. The lead affirmation is highly important for what it says and for what it doesn’t say: “We commit our lives to … the celebration of the goodness of all creatures and creation as given to us by God.”

Take this as a general theological claim and it is fine. The things, animals, and people that God is directly responsible for are good as created. We can exclude lethal parasites and such as not part of God’s direct work.

The affirmation can even form a foundation for reaching those who have wrecked the goodness of the original creation. We celebrate the goodness that is under it all; we call it forth in the name of the Creator.

A glaring omission in the affirmations is any mention of the wrecking, twisting, killing effects of sin (name it what you will). And in the listing of aims in the platform, rebellion against the Creator could have shown up as a condemnation of all promiscuity and misuse of sex (hetero and homosexual). Isn’t it relevant that the realm of sex is where some of the most heinous crimes take place?

But I wonder if there is a more subtle problem with the first affirmation. It is a part of gay dogma that being gay in many (most?) cases is not a choice. It is unhelpful for productive relationships to deny such a claim, personally made. Let us accept that a complex bundle of factors bring a person to a point of affirming, “I did not choose this.”

It is frequently asserted that a lack of choice means this is God’s intention and work. But, the experience of not having chosen a state of being does not support a logical leap to saying that God made one that way. Without drawing an equivalence of any kind other than logical, an alcoholic’s claim of genetic predisposition does not require the conclusion that God created that person an alcoholic.

I don’t know the name of this logical fallacy, but it in lay language, this is leaping to a conclusion (from a false major premise—God made me just the way I am).

There are many genetic or inter-uterine hormonal conditions that do not call out for a claim that God positively created that condition. They may rather clearly be attributed to the disorder and disease that afflicts our world.

And that brings us back to the missing word in the platform of Claiming the Blessing – fallenness. If the Bible can be compared to a jigsaw puzzle, then the themes of sin, rebellion against God, the twisting of the goodness of creation, fallenness make up many of the pieces. For these pieces to be missing from the “proclamation” of this organization calls into question its foundations.

Fallenness is a metaphor for a concrete reality. There is moral disorder in the world. It seems silly to have to assert it. This concept belongs in this platform; it fits.

Because fallenness is missing, there is no mention of redemption by Jesus’ death and resurrection, which can restore goodness to sex and to all of life. The assertion that our view on sexuality is usually bound in a coherent package with all our deepest beliefs seems to ring true here.

March 27, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, Uncategorized — anthill @ 4:27 am

A comment-question on her blog gave Susan Russell the opportunity to test a short speech for General Convention. Russell is not a Deputy herself, but will be busy guiding strategy and tactics as President of Integrity. Someone will make this speech.

It is a perfect summary of the argument made by Russell and others in Nottingham, defending the ECUSA actions of GC 2003.

For a revealing look back at that event, see this item from titusonenine (I searched for the original on Integrity’s website, but couldn’t find it). Check the first comment for an important analysis of Integrity’s claims.

It may look like I’m pick, pick, picking at Susan Russell. But, she keeps saying things that need to be taken account of. After all, she is President of Integrity.

In a comment on Russell’s March 08, 2006 blog tribute to Prof. Urban T. Holmes, “hiram” asked: “Why are you so sure that same-sex relationships are acceptable to the Lord?”

Russell’s answer / GC speech follows:

“Why am I so ‘sure’?

“1] Because of my lived experience of the spiritual fruits of love, peace, joy, patience and compassion I have seen lived out in the relationships of couples of the same gender.

“2] Because I believe the Holy Scriptures I inherit as a Christian and believe to be the Living Word of God calls the church to be as open to changing its mind on what is clean and unclean as God called Peter to be open when Cornelius came knocking on his door.


3] At the end of the day, my faith isn't based on being ‘sure’ or even being ‘right.’ Here's what Verna Dozier—one of the great 20th century Anglican saints—had to say about that:

"Doubt is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today."

If you are a GC deputy, this is the argument. Mark my words.

Commenters might imagine being the next person at a mike. Don’t rant; answer this.

[Timestamp changed from 3/16/06 to keep this post in view]

March 26, 2006


Filed under: the anthills — anthill @ 9:59 pm

Kendall Harmon found this:“A Christianity which will bear witness to God’s Word in Jesus will be a speaking, thinking, arguing, debating Christianity, which will not be afraid to engage in intellectual and philosophical contest with the prevailing dogmas of its day.”

– Oliver O’Donovan, Begotten or Made? (1984)

O’Donovan doesn’t mean these are the only modes of conversation. And, while it seems he mainly had in mind going up against the dogmas of “the world,” there is such a thing as good arguing between Christians trying to find truth. Tell me you haven’t had that pleasure.

The word “argue” comes directly out of Latin. There it can mean “prove” or “reason with.” It sometimes translates the Greek word transliterated “dialogue.” Acts 17:17 give an interesting use of this word (translated “argue” in some versions): “Paul reasoned with them in the synagogue … and in the marketplace.” This led to the famous speech in Athens citing pagan poets and philosophers, including the seminal line: “In God we live and move and have our being.”

March 22, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, Uncategorized — anthill @ 6:26 am

Richard Kew has done it again with a superb essay on the claim by same-sex advocates that God is doing “a new thing.” I made a link to a previous Kew essay. That one has a very important quote by a noted historian — Diarmaid MacCulloch.

One excerpt from the current essay:

I have raised the issue [of same-sex blessings, etc.] with one or two 'progressive' friends, and it would appear that the only approach they can come up with that gives them permission to move forward is that God is doing a new thing. That is, to assert that God is doing something that is above and beyond anything that has ever happened before in the history of monotheism, outside the canon of Scripture, and having little to do with the on going tradition and life of the church.

What this allows for is an end run on the last 4,000 years or so, and seems to obviate any need for a response to careful historical analysis, and the mindset of the church catholic through the ages. It also obviates any need to respond to careful and disciplined theological analysis that makes it very clear that a revisionist understanding of sexuality has no place in the Christian story.

If you are open to people in the debate, read this essay.

March 17, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, Uncategorized — anthill @ 12:28 am

A comment by Richard (not Kew–see next post) at "Preview of a speech for General Convention" gives a blockbuster analysis of two key points that will be made at GC by advocates of same-sex blessings.

Susan Russell–President of Integrity–cites Scripture as a “living word” (a biblical allusion) and experience as a crucial authenticating factor for change. Richard analyzes this as follows:

She seems to appeal to a concept of doctrinal development grounded in the scripture as a “living word.” What is not adequately dealt with is how we discern between true and false development. Arguably, the fundamentalism of the Southern Baptist Church is a development of biblical Christianity. But I am relatively certain that she would not accept this as an authentic development of the Christian tradition.

I might assume that the authenticity of such development is to be tested by her first point, “[her] lived experience” of homosexuality and that of others. But is individual experience an adequate arbiter of true development? If a Mormon Fundamentalist in a polygamous relationship experiences the same “spiritual fruits” as does Ms. Russell+ in her sexual life experience does that affirm that polygamy is an authentic development of the tradition?

Ultimately, an epistemological appeal to experience will deconstruct. What we call “truth” in this matter is merely the aggregate of discrete individual experiences. Thus there can be no overarching appeal to truth outside of the exercise of power.

While I’d like to debate with Richard on the conclusion that followed these words, I think he makes a piercing critique in the thoughts above.

March 16, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — anthill @ 11:42 pm

Richard Kew, a priest in the Diocese of Tennessee (ECUSA), has written an excellent (I was tempted to write “brilliant” in honor of his English birth) essay on his blog about the link between theology and the sexuality debate.

Please read the whole piece. Richard always writes well and to the point. I’ll be picking bits out of it to emphasize in coming days.

Here is a key paragraph:

“I am forced to conclude that while there could be a scad of theories that have been rustled up to legitimate this departure from Christian norms, there is no fundamental set of theological principles that can be configured to justify actions. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of Church History at Oxford, and an actively gay man, has admitted as much in an aside in his monumental work on the European Reformation. “Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of a homosexual identity” (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700, page 705). This means the only way forward is to discount Scripture and historic theology, finding other justifications for actions taken.”

March 14, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA — anthill @ 1:12 am

In her blog on March 11, Susan Russell, Senior Associate at All Saints Church, Pasadena, and President of Integrity, blasted conservative critics while promoting Holy Communion as the solution to the debates in the church. You can understand what torqued her. Some commenters on titusonenine were taking apart the liturgy of her same-sex “wedding” (her word).

Russell’s pointer from Queen Elizabeth I getting opponents to the same Communion rail is a main thrust of those seeking to get through the current crisis with no bad results. After all, in Elizabeth’s day they were arguing over transubstantiation and whether they were Roman Catholic or Protestant—really big questions. People had been burned at the stake for the controversies (Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer).

I’ve put this point in the anthill at the argument.

Russell says that if we can keep worshiping together and serving in the world together, things will be all right. This sounds lovely until you read on in Russell’s article.

First, She asserts that common worship (especially Communion) precludes having to wait for an agreement on disputed matters. Of course this is true in many situations.

The problem here is precisely that Russell’s same-sex “wedding” was an occasion of worship with Holy Communion using a very “incarnational” (my most irenic description, again, using her word) rite, arguably loaded toward its same-sex setting. It was not “common” prayer that could have been shared on an average Sunday morning by traditional Episcopalians with convictions against same-sex blessings.

Second, it seems that people with strong reservations about same-sex blessings are not joyfully welcomed at the Table after all. Russell calls some of these “revisionist neo-Puritan ideologues.” Interesting twist of the label “revisionist” also!

These people of “the conservative fringe” are busy protecting their “precious orthodoxy.” I think I’m being named because I could not have made it through her ceremony. These labels make me feel less than welcome at the reconciling Table at which Russell might preside.

There is something disturbingly inconsistent about her words in that heated name-calling.

Think through Russell’s method of holding together ECUSA. She is suggesting that those who have very strong convictions about the church not being free to bless same-sex unions, should adopt the solution of coming to the Communion rail without great concern for resolution. Meanwhile, “weddings” like Russell’s multiply, possibly with a Communion rite like her’s that includes: “From the beginning we did not trust you when you called us ‘good.’ In our arrogance, we placed ourselves outside your garden of love. Separate from you, vulnerable and unprotected, we feared one another and our diversity.”

This is very convenient for her position.

Leaders in our church who are unable to approve same-sex blessing ceremonies, may be “neo-Puritan ideologues” and “the conservative fringe,” but they aren’t stupid.

March 11, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, ECUSA — anthill @ 9:18 pm

A Google news search today (March 11) on Archbishop Rowan Williams’ letter of March 8 to the Primates of the Anglican Communion yielded 98 news items, largely based on two Associated Press articles and one British news agency.

Talk about being under surveillance! Every word counts and every statement may be picked up in minutes and spread around the world.

The official release of William’s letter is here.

Titusonenine did a Google news search the day of the press release and invited comparisons of the news coverage. Here goes one.

Comments on titusonenine here and here and here take the Williams’ letter apart pretty fairly. Please bring in morsels that catch your attention to the anthill.

It is surely significant that William’s felt compelled to include a major orientation on the sexuality crisis in his Lenten exhortation to his brother Archbishops. Leaders in ECUSA who say this is all a minor distraction from mission have missed something or are covering it up from the great center of our church.

In all of this, don’t overlook that the Primates of the Anglican Communion got the letter as original recipients. They are the readers that will directly respond to it.

From the most original source I could find, to the comments by interest groups, here is how Williams’ letter was put out to the world.

Headlines: Bypassing the most objective (“Archbishop Williams Writes to the Primates”, etc.), the most careful analysis-in-headline might be from The Christian Post—“Anglican Teachings on Homosexuality Unchanged, Canterbury Says.”

The Christian Post cites a key line from Williams’ letter: “In my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully reopen the discussion as if Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 did not continue to represent the general mind of the Communion.”

The article explains: “Resolution 1.10 upholds marriage as a union between a man and a woman and rejects the homosexual lifestyle as ‘incompatible with Scripture.’ It also calls against the ‘legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.’” The full Resolution is here.

The earliest coverage of Williams’ letter in Great Britain had a distinctly British headline picked up by several outlets: “Archbishop keen to avoid gay row.” This is likely an accurate reading of Williams’ mind.

AP’s first take on the letter, picked up very early that first day was “Archbishop of Canterbury rules out attempt to rewrite stern resolution on homosexuality.” (Boston Globe). USA Today toned this down a bit (but added a scary photo of Williams).

AP is not fully-informed about how Lambeth might unfold. From recent meetings of the Primates, it is clear that the Archbishop (in spite of his sometimes ferocious visage) cannot absolutely “rule out” anything. He can make his wishes known very clearly. He does so in his letter.

The summary of the Lambeth resolution in the first AP release is interesting: “The resolution condemning gay sex also opposed the ordination of those involved in homosexual relationships and the blessing of gay unions.” Not a lot of nuance there!

AP did catch that Lambeth will include an opportunity to hear from the Provinces on the subject of homosexuality. “It will be important to allow time for this to be presented and reflected upon in 2008,” he wrote.

In the next morph of the headline, AP changed it’s approach slightly: “Anglican leader rules out gay debate” (Washington Post, Houston, Seattle, San Jose, The Guardian (UK), and also Forbes!) The lead sentence in the article was: “The leader of the world’s Anglicans has ruled out a new debate on the church’s teaching that gay sex is “incompatible with Scripture.”

No new debate is correct, but debate at Lambeth there will be.

The Concord, NH!, Monitor had the second AP article but upped the headline ante a little—Anglican leader: No debate on gay sex.

Three gay websites turned up late on the Google search. The first simply picks up the later AP story with a slightly edgier headline. The second (from the UK and with a much friendlier photo) has a byline by a staffer who also misses the point: Archbishop dismisses gay debate. “Dismisses” sounds, well, dismissive.

It seems, rather, that the Archbishop is taking this very seriously. The writer’s read is better: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned Anglican leaders that he does not want to use the Church’s upcoming conference as a debating ground for homosexuality.”

The debate, however will be around homosexuality

The third gay treatment borders on demagoguery: Anglican head rejects attempt to rewrite antigay resolution. It is at least arguable whether the stance of the Anglican Communion is “antigay.”

Other news organs put this news under Religion news in brief (Miami,
With the summary: “The leader of the international Anglican Communion has ruled out new debate on the teaching that gay sex is ‘incompatible with Scripture.’.”

Coming late to the dance was The Living Church (online version) with the mild headline: Archbishop Williams Writes to the Primates. Bless their hearts, The Living Church seems to be trying to keep people from reading their article with the most boring title possible.

And the official Episcopal News Service may have needed extra time to decide whether to even publicize the letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primates of the whole durn Anglican Communion. They skipped his statement last month in Brazil about ECUSA needing to maintain its moratorium on consecrating bishops in same-sex unions. Odd that, seeing it was addressed directly to ECUSA!

Anyway ENS finally copied the official release of the letter with the original title (no references to sex to alert readers): “Archbishop of Canterbury sets out thinking on Lambeth” .

Silence often says something. I found nothing in Google about William’s letter in NY Times, LA Times, the Chicago papers, Atlanta, St. Louis, or some other major cities. Either our things are irrelevant there or they don’t want to get into it, or….

And finally, not because this represents my final word, but just because it is Saturday, here is the March 9 lead headline from Classic Anglican News Network (CaNN): “And now, the end is near.” Go ahead, sing on with Ol’ Blue Eyes. The lyrics are prophetic of now. Too much!

March 10, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA — anthill @ 1:14 am

I'm trying to get up to speed with items for the anthill. Here is something from the end of 2005 that will be relevant through General Convention.

The action plan for Integrity, the leading organization in ECUSA for affirming same-sex unions, is here. "No turning back the clock" is their theme. Note especially their claim that permission has been given nationally for same-sex blessings:

Truly remarkable progress has been made in the Church over the past three decades toward realizing its commitment (made in 1976) to fully include ALL the baptized in its life and ministry. Over the past two conventions particularly, we have seen this progress accelerate dramatically, as exhibited in 2003 by the confirmation of Gene Robinson’s election to the episcopate and the permission for dioceses and congregations to bless same-sex relationships.

Discussions on anthill will certainly have Integrity's goals on the radar screen.

Check out their whole site.

March 9, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, ECUSA — anthill @ 12:57 am

Recent news from The Living Church gives us as good a launching point for anthill as anything I’ve seen. Read the whole articles by way of the two links.

Living Church reports that The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury was crystal clear about the position of the Anglican Communion on same-sex blessings and related ordinations.

The online article of 02/27/2006 has the following quotes and summaries from an address to the Anglican delegates to the World Council of Churches assembly in Brazil, Feb. 17.

-“Archbishop Williams admitted he did not know what the Anglican Communion would look like 18 months from now.”

-“He bemoaned the parochialism and cultural suspicions that had rendered each side deaf to the reasoning of the other.”

-“Obedience to God and determined dialogue with one another are the ways forward through the Anglican Communion’s crisis over human sexuality.”

-He shared his belief that all Anglicans were “trying to be obedient to Christ as revealed in the scriptures.”

-The danger, Archbishop Williams said, is of “one side drifting towards a fundamentalism which is incapable of meeting the deepest spiritual needs of human beings” while the other becomes “a religious version of well-meaning Western society.”

-It will not do to present the problem “as a matter in which one side would win and the other lose” as “we need each other desperately. And that is my deepest conviction about the Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Williams said.

But the Archbishop’s wish for a middle way does not mask a clear position on same-sex blessings and ordinations of those in them.

In another article from the same occasion, The Living Church reports that Archbishop Williams “cautioned the Episcopal Church not to end the House of Bishops' moratorium on consecrating non-celibate homosexual priests to the episcopate, until the Communion is of common mind.”

-Archbishop Williams said, “On a matter where traditionally there has been a very clear teaching,” there must be “the highest degree of consensus for such a radical change.”

-At the Primates' meeting in Northern Ireland in February 2005, Archbishop Williams said: The Anglican Communion “does not see itself free to sanction same-sex blessing and the ordination of persons in same sex-relationships.

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