anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

July 13, 2006

-“ICHABOD” TOO

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.

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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.

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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.

MY EVIDENCE

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.”

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July 12, 2006

-DID GENERAL CONVENTION MEET WINDSOR’S REQUESTS?

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.

REGARDING THE CONSECRATION OF FUTURE BISHOPS LIVING IN SAME-SEX UNIONS

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.

REGARDING THE BLESSING OF SAME-SEX UNIONS

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

-GAY LOBBY OWNS GENERAL CONVENTION 2009

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

-L.CREW VOWS TO CAUSE STRAIN ON ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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.

June 28, 2006

-NEWARK STICKS FINGER IN ARCHBISHOP’S EYE

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 FIRST SKETCH

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

-THE CROSS IN THE SHADOWS

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

-DISCHARGING JESUS AS THE ONLY SAVIOR

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:

D058–SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST ALONE

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 www.virtueonline.org 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

-GRISWOLD–LAMBETH INVITATION HANGS IN BALANCE

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

-PB KATHARINE MAY SURPRISE US ALL

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

-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 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.

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