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.

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June 22, 2006

-ANTHILLS–BACK, BUT WORKING UNDERGROUND

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

-WHY CONSERVATIVES WILL LOSE AT GENERAL CONVENTION

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

-THE SHAPE OF THE ICEBERG

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

-BISHOP WRIGHT ON THE WINDSOR REPORT (FROM 2004)

[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

-SOBERING WORDS FROM BISHOP LIPSCOMB

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

-A LINE MANY CAN’T CROSS

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

-ALL WILL / NOT BE WELL

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

-A SWING AND A MISS

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

-GENERAL CONVENTION AS WATERSHED

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

-ECUSA’S OFFICIAL DEFENSE

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

-A PLEA TO G.C. DEPUTIES

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 10, 2006

-THE UNPARDONABLE SIN

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

-PLEA BARGAIN

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.

-TRAFFIC VIOLATION ROLLING STOP

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

-READ JUDE AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME

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.

Footnotes:

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

-THE CHOICE FOR GC

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.]

-TRADITION ALIVE

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

-THE SITUATION OF ALL EPISCOPALIANS

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

-BISHOP WRIGHT SEES US AT BRINK

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

-GAY GC AGENDA

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

-PREVIEW OF A SPEECH FOR GENERAL CONVENTION

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.

and

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 22, 2006

-KEW REDUX

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

-AN OUTSTANDING ANALYSIS

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 14, 2006

-SUSAN RUSSELL BELIES HER OWN METHOD OF RECONCILIATION

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

ARCHBISHOP TOUCHES NEWS NERVE

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

OLD NEWS, BUT RELEVANT

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

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ADDRESSES CRISIS

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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