Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Am I Missing?

The much awaited Pentagon study on Don't Ask Don't Tell has revealed (SHOCK) that the majority of American military personnel are OK with the repeal of the discriminatory policy. The study shows that approximately 70 percent of the troops say they don't think allowing openly gay or lesbian service members to be in the military will compromise our defense forces.

Shocking, I tell you, shocking! People who face possible death and dismemberment in foreign wars being waged on behalf of corporate America are not particularly concerned with the sexual orientation of their fellow soldiers. Well, except for the Marines. According to the survey, 58 percent of Marines are opposed to the repeal of DADT.

So, let's see: polls have shown the American public is done with this discrimination in our military; the President has vowed to repeal DADT after the completion of the survey; the military itself is mostly for the repeal. And yet... and YET... the Republicans in the Senate are threatening to derail the attempt by the lame duck Congress to end DADT.

Why? Because this study didn't have the result they wanted! Well, fellas, if you didn't want them to tell you that gay service members are a non-threat to our national security, then don't ask the military to fill out a survey. That seems simple. So, what am I missing?

Are We People of Faith or People of Fear?

All of us in the No Anglican Covenant Coalition have been looking at the actions at the Church of England's General Synod with equal bits of puzzlement, sadness, annoyance, and ultimately the hopeful resolve that the spirit of God is still with all of us as we muddle our way through this period of Anglican angst.

The Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows of Lesley's Blog made this keen observation of the Archbishop's opening address:

The Archbishop’s message was clear—be afraid of rejecting the Covenant. It is the only lifeboat in the troubled sea of Anglicanism, and doing nothing or being idealistic is not an option. It is particularly ironic that Dr. Williams painted a picture of a frightening Anglican dystopia should the Covenant fail, as he and other supporters of the Covenant have been quick to accuse Covenant sceptics of “scaremongering.” It is also surprising, both in this speech and in the subsequent debate, that concerns were raised about the decline of the role of the Church of England, as well as references to its being “the mother church” that needs to set an example, whereas Covenant sceptics have been accused of being “Little Englanders.”

You can read our statement at our blog, and see the resources for our positions at our website.

I find it curious that the Archbishop evokes so much fear at a time that I would think calls for much faith.
This whole debate about the Anglican Covenant and all the attending other skirmishes that we've been having in the Anglican Communion seem to have pulled so many of the higher-ups away from their faith and trust in God, and into the place of fear and imposing limits, rules, drafts, black and white lettering of who gets to decide when one isn't Anglican enough to be part of a "covenanted" relationship. Didn't St. Paul's message this past Sunday say to the Romans, "Cast aside darkness and put on an armor of light"? That message is true for us today in the 21st century. We live in a world where we are butting up against those who are different from us all the time. Are we going to turn our faces away from our neighbor so as not to see the light of Christ in their eyes? Do we not trust that God is with us and can lead us through whatever darkness we feel is engulfing us at the moment?
The Anglican Covenant is a way of throwing in the towel and saying, "We can't trust in God that our differences and diversity are a good thing, even when it makes us uncomfortable." It seems to me that it is a lack of faith that drives this engine which is full up on its fear factor. What a way to start the season of Advent! O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Porcupines and Prickliness in the Anglican Communion

This sweet tale was sent to me over the weekend. It is called The Fable of the Porcupine:

It was the coldest winter ever... many animals died because of the cold. The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other. After awhile they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion, but the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

Moral of the story...
The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person's good qualities.

This same moral could apply to our relations among those still willing to entertain a discussion within the Anglican Communion. I'm talking about the non-GAFCON churches, specifically an appeal to our brothers and sisters in Christ in England and elsewhere who complain about the quills of our Episcopalian porcupines. No doubt, each member of the Communion has wounded some other in some way at some time. But none of those needle sticks have been, or should be seen, as so fatal that we can't recognize the Christ in one another. And given the greater needs in a world where people are starving and suffering from man-made and natural disasters, it would serve us well to stop focusing so much on the uncomfortableness of our relationships to see the common purpose and calling that we share.
Really! The world is waiting for Christians to live up to their hype about the good news, and deliver on that message. The world already knows how cold it is outside. Can't we get it together to provide some warmth?

H/T to Diana for the fable and the picture.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Endings into Beginnings

I had a fitful night of sleep last night due in part to animals that wouldn't settle down, and due in part to my mind whirring with what seemed like a dozen or so obsessive thoughts. Some of it was related to the post-Synod Anglican Covenant discussion and considering the road ahead. So much of what we are involved in right now in the life of the Anglican Communion seems so reminiscent of the kind of power struggles and "sibling rivalries" that have been with Christianity from the days of Antioch and Alexandria. And just as those times were marked with councils and arguments and claims of heresy, our times are marked by synods, conventions, arguments and claims of who has left whom.
As I was trying to get to sleep, I saw in my mind's eye a cone of swirling light piercing through the thick darkness of storm clouds and drilling its way into the earth. The word "Trinity" repeated itself and I couldn't keep from seeing how the light remained in a continuous uninterrupted motion spinning from the clouds down to the earth and back up again... with its luminescence spreading out into the edges of the clouds. Perhaps this was like a version of Jacob's ladder. I can't say for sure. But I have seen rings of light before in dreams, and it seems to be a good thing... like a ring of protection.
The readings at the end of this year's daily office and then the readings assigned for the first Sunday in Advent seem to reflect the imagery of this dream. Zechariah offers a warning that any that would wage war against Jerusalem would find their flesh, and their eyes and tongues rotting. This is coupled with Luke's gospel where Jesus is preparing to overturn the tables in the Temple:
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’--Luke 19: 41-44

Dark clouds are gathering, and Jesus knew this. And he knew, too, that many were about to be caught flat-footed and asleep because they failed to see what was before their eyes. In contrast, as we start Advent and Year A of the Church calendar, we are met by readings that bring us back into that circle of light. The prophet Isaiah calls on his audience to beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. The reading ends, "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord." The Apostle Paul adds to this by reminding the Romans to "lay aside the works of darkness and put on an armor of light." All sounds good, right? But the evangelist Matthew has Jesus reminding his listeners that its not enough to be happy that things are good. Because, as with Noah, all seemed to be going along quite well as far as everyone was concerned. And then Noah and family... with some chosen pets... got into the ark to survive the flood. This was because Noah was aware and awake. Others were not.

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. --Matt 24: 42-44

For me living in the 21st century with our 21st century struggles within the Church, these lines serve as a reminder that when we step outside that swirling light which stretches from heaven to earth and back again, we enter into the darkness that is always on the edge of the light. And when we get trapped outside the light, we are at risk of losing sight of what is good unless we work to focus our eyes, ears, minds and hearts on that source.
We may be coming to the end of relations with some members of the Anglican Communion. Certainly the statement from those in GAFCON, the ones who have been so angry for so long with the United States and Canada, that they don't like the Anglican Covenant either (but for different reasons) means that not even this document can save relations in the Communion. Perhaps it is time for us to fix our eyes on the light and not so much on the storm clouds around the light. Just a thought.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Great Chasm Is Fixed

Bishop Yellowbelly is back. But he encounters a problem in Miss Youngperson. And there is a great chasm fixed between them. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Y'know, a lot of Roman Catholics in the United States have fled to the Episcopal Church. Might we start seeing arrivals from the Church of England, too??

Giving Thanks for To Be

Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.--Deut. 26:11

The best part to me about Thanksgiving is that it is a holiday where you can eat and drink well and generally just hang with those you love, be it your blood relatives or the chosen family you've made amongst your friends. There is generally an "up tempo" kept by the commotion of cooks in the kitchen creating those culinary delights of turkey, sweet potatoes, greens and other veggies, and of course pie (and that would be apple pie with slices of cheddar cheese, please)!

All to be shared... in the same way that we share at the communion rail. That, too, is a time of thanksgiving. Like the food that we eat at the holiday table, the bread and the wine served at the Eucharist are products of the earth: wheat and grapes. In our belief system, this bounty from the earth becomes the symbolic representation of Christ. We draw together with family and strangers to remember the sacrifice Christ made for us and to give thanks for that love by coming to the table and receiving God into ourselves.

In the gospel lesson, we hear Jesus reminding his followers that the manna their ancestors ate in the wilderness was a gift of God, a banquet provided so that they may not perish, but live on in thankfulness to God.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.--John 6: 33-35

A biblical literalist might read this passage to say that only through Jesus will one never be hungry or thirsty. That is true for Christians... and it is true only if you believe that Jesus is more than the man, but is also really God. The "I am" statement is one that recalls the conversation Moses has with the burning bush in which we learn that God will be called "I am". And "I am" is the first-person singular of the verb "to be". "To be" is the state of right now, the present, that has both a past and a future but has it's primary focus on the moment. And it is in this "To be" state in which we will never be hungry and never be thirsty. This is the state of God as embodied in Christ.

On this Thanksgiving day, take a moment to pause and to be. Give thanks for the opportunity to have food and drink, friends and family. And give praise for the One who continuously provides us with a banquet out of love and compassion for the world.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perspective on General Synod

I highly recommend reading MadPriest's analysis of what happened and where do we go from here on the vote taken in the Church of England's General Synod on the Anglican Covenant. As one might have expected, many of the votes made in favor of the reception of the Covenant and sending it along to the dioceses were done with held noses, and covered eyes. In short, there are many in the Church of England who know this document is only going to cause more legalistic nightmares and create needless enemies out of brothers and sisters of Christ. Now that the final draft can be voted on at the more local level, there is a better chance that some will say, "What's all this then?". So, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other supporters of the Covenant can claim victory for now. But this discussion is definitely not done.
I attended our local interfaith Thanksgiving service last night. A couple of the speakers, an imam and a Buddhist abbot, spoke of seeing trouble and problems as portals to God as opposed to shut and locked doors. This would be the way I am approaching the ongoing months of debate on this Covenant. Time to keep plugging... or blogging... away!

General Synod Votes to Put God in a Box

The votes are in from the Church of England's General Synod and clearly the appeal of Archbishop Rowan Williams to draw lines in the sand and lithmus tests for Anglicanism prevailed. Three houses vote in England. The breakdown:

  • Bishops: 39 for, 0 against, 1 abstain
  • Clergy: 145 for, 32 against, 11 abstain
  • Laity: 147 for, 25 against, 8 abstain

This vote now sends the document on to the dioceses of CoE. It will come back again before General Synod for final approval. And so, what next? Those of us who have been blogging through the No Anglican Covenant Coalition have been laying a foundation on which to build the case for why the Covenant is not the "only way forward" as has been asserted. That education will continue as this thing snakes along.

Many thanks to those who voted in my highly unscientific poll in the right margin. I think the majority got it right: the better name for the Anglican Covenant is the UNAnglican Coup d'etat.

Prayers Ascending for...

At the top of my list, the unstoppable Anonymous Peggins (aka my mom) who is having cataract surgery today in Portsmouth, NH. May God bless and keep her and steady the hands of her surgeon, and get her on the road to healing quickly.

My friend, Agnes, who I saw last night at the Interfaith Thanksgiving service and has been through a health ordeal recently in which her doctor told her that she'd had a couple of strokes. People have inquired if Agnes, a tireless advocate and activist, would slow down. Simple answer: No. May God give her strength, wisdom, and healing so that she won't ever be forced to stop her amazing forward momentum.

And, naturally, for the Church of England General Synod. With special prayers for the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows of our No Anglican Covenant Coalition. When one is the witness to tense and seemingly senseless debates, it can do a lot to diminish the spirit and demoralize the body. I know: I covered Florida government!

For the Synod:

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and
understanding, be present with those who take counsel
in England for the renewal and mission of your Church.
Teach them in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide
them to perceive what is right, and grant them both the courage to
pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.

For Lesley as a witness, and others who are advocating our position:

O God our Father, whose Son forgave his enemies while he
was suffering shame and death: Strengthen those who suffer
for the sake of conscience; when they are accused, save them
from speaking in hate; when they are rejected, save them
from bitterness; and to us your servants, give grace to respect their
witness and to discern the truth, that our society may be
cleansed and strengthened. This we ask for the sake of Jesus
Christ, our merciful and righteous Judge. Amen.

Or... in the words that my father used to say to me when he would drop me off at the Junior High School: Don't let the bastards grind you down!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Piece by Piece: Where is the Peace?

News coming from across the pond sounds pretty glum.

In his opening address to the Church of England's General Synod, Archbishop Rowan Williams warned of the "piece by piece dissolution of the (Anglican) communion and the emergence of structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure very significantly." It is for this reason that the Archbishop is pushing for the adoption of the so-called Anglican Covenant, a document that is three parts reiteration of those "things" that make us Christian and our dreams of unity... and one part hammer to anyone who dares to do something that might ruffle the feathers of another church in the communion.

Looking again at the "piece by piece" part, I am unmoved. The facts, as I see them, are that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been trying to hold together a communion that has already crumbled. When the primates of some African churches boycott Lambeth and won't attend meetings if a certain "she" bishop from a certain church that is in a certain wealthy industrial country is invited then communion really has ended. And the Archbishop holds some responsibility for that.
He has chosen repeatedly to scold the Episcopal Church for ordaining and consecrating gay men and lesbians as bishops while remaining timid on issues of genocide against LGBT people in Africa. He specifically disinvited NH Bishop Gene Robinson to Lambeth in 2008... while putting on a show of words about having an indaba or deep listening process in the communion. How can you have a listening process when the accused party isn't even allowed to listen... let alone speak? And when the Archbishop's lackeys told our Presiding Bishop that she must carry her mitre, not wear it, because it might cause "confusion" among the CoE congregations, it was a slap heard across the pond... quite loudly and clearly. We Episcopalians were the Cinderellas to be banned from the ball.

Send in the CSI unit: I think we might find the Archbishop's fingerprints are on the hammer and chisel that have aided in the dissolution of the communion.

He expresses a concern that the break up of the communion will result in lessening the importance of the Church of England and the See of Canterbury. In what way? Because another structure involving Africa, and some other Southern Cone countries, with the support of the conservative anti-woman homophobes in this country might RIVAL Canterbury? Is this a reason to now insist on having everyone sign a punishing and punitive document? Methinks, the man is more concerned that he won't be as critical to the life of the Communion. And here I thought supporters of the covenant, who dared to call us "Little Englanders", were saying that it was a good thing to move away from having a "Mother Church" in England?! Again I say, the ABC's reluctance to stand up to the bullies of the south who are wanting out of this relationship anyway has contributed to weakening his own position.

Rather than focusing so intently upon the "pieces" that seem to be dissolving, it is time to look at the peace which passes all understanding. Even if other structures form, there is still that story in the Book of Acts where Gamaliel warns against persecuting the apostles:

For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’--Acts 5: 36-39

If a rival structure is meant to be, then it is meant to be. But it does not mean the death of the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada or The Episcopal Church USA. The only covenant required to keep the current communion of 38 nations safe is the one in which God promised God's unfailing love for us... no matter what our human frailties and disputes. That divine truth seems to be lost in the uproar and the name-calling that has engulfed this debate. And the fact that it seems to be missing makes me think that this proposed Covenant will go down in the history books as another sorry row between believers where one side won't be satisfied until the other side is called a heretic.

No matter the outcome at General Synod, God will be working God's purpose out. That is what I believe. The God that I love and have been in relationship with will continue to see freedom even when others want to put me in a gulag.

My child, if your heart is wise,
my heart too will be glad.
My soul will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.
Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always continue in the fear of the Lord.
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
--Proverbs 23: 15-18

The Heat is On....


LONDON – As the Church of England General Synod prepares to debate the proposed Anglican Covenant, a group of unlikely campaigners have worked hard to ensure that there is a serious debate about the potential risks involved.

Started just three weeks ago after online conversations among a small number of international Anglican bloggers, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has built on the work of two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, to set the shape of the debate.

“A month ago, General Synod and the entire Communion were sleepwalking into approving the Covenant without a proper discussion of the issue,” according to Coalition Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows. “In some places, the Covenant was being presented as a means to punish North American Anglicans. In Britain, the United States and Canada, it was being spun as nothing more than a dispute resolution mechanism. I’ve spoken to many Synod members who were only dimly aware of the Anglican Covenant, including one who thought we were referring to the Covenant with the Methodists.”

The week preceding the General Synod debate has seen a flood of articles criticizing the Covenant, including:

an article by Canadian canon law expert Alan Perry, challenging the assertion that the Covenant would have no impact on the constitution and canons of member churches of the Communion;

an article by the former Chancellor of the Anglican Church of Canada, a former judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench, critical of the lack of clarity regarding the disciplinary procedures in the Covenant; and

an article by the Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe challenging the idea of enhancing communion by excluding those who disagree with the majority.

In the mean time, Covenant supporters have failed to present a compelling case.

“The Lambeth establishment hurt their case by refusing even to acknowledge that people of good will can disagree about an issue as complex as the Anglican Covenant,” according to the Revd Malcolm French, the Coalition’s Canadian convenor and an accredited public relations practitioner. “Whether it was comparing criticism of the Covenant to fascism or implying that critics hadn’t read the document, Covenant supporters showed a startling contempt for honest dissent. By focussing on personal attacks instead of making any sort of pro-Covenant case, they’ve led many people to question how strong the pro-Covenant case can possibly be.”

Within the last three weeks momentum has gathered to encourage the Church of England to wake up. The first test will come tomorrow, when General Synod debates the Covenant and votes on a motion for initial approval, the first step towards final approval at a later session. Although significant canonical changes normally require a two-thirds majority, it has been determined by Lambeth Palace that the Anglican Covenant measure will only require a simple majority.

The articles referred to, and several others, can be found at: noanglicancovenant.org/resources.html
Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows (England) +44 1844 239268
Dr. Lionel Deimel (USA) +1-412-512-9087
Revd. Malcolm French (Canada) +1-306-550-2277
Revd. Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand) +64 3 981 7384
Revd. Hugh Magee +44 1334 470446

Monday, November 22, 2010

Canadian Clarity on the Anglican Covenant

Leave it to someone trained as a lawyer to find and highlight the myriad of problems with this proposed "Anglican" Covenant. This essay by the Honorable Ronald Stevenson, the retired Chancellor of the Anglican Church of Canada, does a nice job of pointing to those parts of the Covenant that the proponents simply refuse to acknowledge are problematic. The biggest objection I have is all contained in Section Four, specifically once you get to reading down to 4.2 etc. etc. which is where the document lays out a very muddy path on what happens to a Church that does something in which there is no "shared mind" in the Communion? An excellent point by Stevenson:

Strangely, nothing in the whole of section 4.2 anticipates the possibility of the Standing Committee making a declaration that an action or decision is compatible with the Covenant.

Perhaps this is because those who have created this document are so focused on our points of contention and have totally lost sight of true common bond of affection (aka God). It reminds me of the quote in the movie, "Doubt" when Sister Aloysius says, "When you take a step to address wrongdoing, you are taking a step away from God." It is clear to me that the Anglican Communion Covenant has taken many steps off that path. You can read Hon. Stevenson's essay at our Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant blog.

The Anglican Covenant: A Fictional Argument

The vote at the Church of England's General Synod is coming in a few days, and the rhetoric about this blasted "Anglican" Covenant has remained pretty much the same. Remember to vote in the column to the right: What is a better name for the Anglican Covenant! The poll is under the "Rye Beach at Sunrise" photo. We really need to help the CofE reach more truth in advertising about this proposal.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shame on the Shepherds: Political, Religious and Otherwise!

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness." --Jeremiah 23: 1-6

There are days when the Sunday lectionary speaks too much truth to our modern day world. And perhaps it is fitting that on "Christ the King Sunday" the truth, as spoken through the Scriptures, shines a bright spotlight on matters both inside, and outside, the church. A report in The Pink Paper that the United Nations has voted to revoke protections from persecution for LGBT people worldwide sent a chill down my spine. This at a time when there is increasing threats and violence against LGBT Africans and their allies. Of course, there is the pending vote in the Church of England's General Synod Wednesday on the Anglican (in name only) Covenant. Supporters of the document want us to believe it is some benign formality meant to bring cohesion to the Anglican Communion. But there has never been anything particularly cohesive about Anglicanism, and we of the loyal opposition know this is about power... and punishing particular members of the Communion who have empowered women and gay people to be fully baptized members of the Church. Mark the words of the prophet:

"It is you who have scattered my flock and driven them away and not attended to them."

The persecution and the punitive actions taken against the "others" is not the stuff of God. It is the machinations of men; frightened people who persist in the erroneous belief that if somebody else gets to have a seat at the table, there will not be enough bread and fish to go around. Do they not remember that in the loaves and fishes story, which appears across the gospels, all were fed?

"Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD."

A word to all you who have failed to be the shepherds you were supposed to be: you will be sacked, and God will, again, be the one with the final say because it is God who redeems and calls the lost and the cast aways to come home. Because the covenant made with us who you would expel and send to the gallows is the promise that God is with us always and will not give up on us. Ever. That is the covenant those of us who have known the pain of exclusion can always look to during times when the supposed shepherds have decided to abandon us to the wolves. And that is the covenant I can accept and believe in.

As we round out Year C in the lectionary, we hear the story of Christ's crucifixion between the two other condemned men. On the one side is the robber taunting Jesus; on the other side, the one who asks for mercy. And even as Christ is hanging there on the cross, he tells the one seeking mercy, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." The question I have for our modern world men and women: will you join in the punishing and persecution, or will you recognize the injustices being committed by politicians and religious leaders and speak out for justice and peace in the world?

"Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."


Saturday, November 20, 2010

For Transgender Remembrance Day

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.--Prayer for the Human Family, BCP, pg. 815

I offer up these words for all who face misunderstanding and scorn because of their gender identity and yet still get up every morning and face the world. Many have been killed for such courage. Let us all commit, again, to work toward peace and harmony among all people and end to the senseless violence that infect the creation.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Anglican Covenant and the Royal Wedding

As I have said, Mr. Catolick is one very smart puddy tat and has beaten me to the punch on this breaking news story involving Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Queen of England. I have been suspicious of this decision to announce that Prince William plans to marry his "commoner" sweetheart. Certainly that news distracts the press in England and it has an odd endorphine-producing effect on people in the United States, too. However, I missed that part about getting in the racks and thumbscrews for General Synod members needing assistance in understanding the proposed Anglican Covenant. Well done, Mr. Catolick!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The "Anglican" Covenant Name Game

The defenders of the "Anglican" Covenant say in one breath that the document is necessary to find a way to keep everyone in communion, and then they say the proposal doesn't really carry any force and we're all getting worked up about nothing. Well, either it does something or it does nothing and either way it seems unnecessary and a needless poking at people's tender sides.

At any rate, while I think it's important to realize the gravity of this issue facing the Church of England's General Synod, I don't want to lose my sense of humor about this grand plan to save our marriage to malcontents who hate gays and women. Taking one's self too seriously seems very un-Anglican to me. So please look to your right and notice the poll that I have running leading up to the vote on November 24th. I think it would help those at General Synod if they were able to consider the "final" document on the table under a different, perhaps more appropriate, name other than "Anglican Covenant". The former being much maligned at this point. Perhaps a bit of truth in advertising might help those intent on selling this bill of not-so goods. If you don't like my name recommendations, you can always tell me what you'd prefer to call it.
Remember to laugh: it will irritate the irritable even more!

Living with Discomfort

"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."--Luke 21: 9-19

It is a little hard when your service begins with the collect to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures that our blessed Father caused to have written for our learning... and then you get this gospel served up for your learning! And let's not forget the idleness in the Thessalonians reading, or the promise that Malachi gives us that the "evil doers and arrogant" are going to be burned up. (I dunno, the Florida legislature is meeting ... and there was no four-alarm fire at the Capitol.)
I have been finding myself returning to the Luke passage these past few days. I had been thinking about the need to allow God to be the one who gives me words and a wisdom as I tackle things this week. Then--bam--there it was in the gospel message on Sunday. Yes, God moves in mysterious ways! And these days I am aware of the need to do my part to follow God's lead.
That definitely feels true of writing here on the blog. There are times when I think I should be posting something, but whatever thoughts I'm having feel incomplete or too esoteric to make sense. Instead of pressing forward with what I think I should do, I take stock of how I am. And then I wait until the time is right to express myself.
Nowhere is that more true than in my recent barrage of postings on the Anglican Covenant. Working as part of a team of bloggers who are independently posting, and sharing thoughts with one another, has been both a great thing and sometimes exhausting. I have enjoyed reading what others are posting and thinking on this topic, especially the ones at "Ground Zero" aka England. And keeping up with all the latest on what is happening with this build up to the General Synod can be tiring, especially when I feel like I'm reading the same arguments over and over.
As such, please tell me, my good readers, if you feel that I am pounding you with too much of the same theme on the Covenant or other topics. That will help me immensely.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Just Take It From Me...

If you want the very direct and simple explanation for why those attending the Church of England General Synod need to vote against the "Anglican" Covenant, check out this leaflet posted on Thinking Anglicans.

Anglican ConTROLvenant

The Church of England is a week away from making the decision on whether it wants to have a Communion that lives with the discomfort caused when the wind of the Holy Spirit gets a-blowin' or whether it wants to tackle and shackle that spirit and form it into something it will call "Anglican". Stuff it into a box labeled "Covenant" and tell everybody that there is no reason to be alarmed by a document that sets up a system for kicking churches out of the Communion when they don't toe the line.
Let's be clear: the Anglican Covenant is neither Anglican nor is it a Covenant. It is an attempt to control, and you can not control the movement of time nor where God guides a church. And the whole history of the Church of England has been filled with moments in time of tension between Anglo-Catholicism and Protestant Evangelicals. So why must we rush into definitions, and contracts, and standing committees which will become more powerful and controlling if this Covenant is adopted?
My spiritual director and I were talking about this whole issue of the Covenant. As she noted, the Church seems to go through 500-year cycles of major upheaval and discord. And so, here we are in the midst of another one. And, as with other rows in the life of the Church, somebody felt the need to draw up a document that is meant to put an end to the questions. But if my experience of God has taught me anything it's that the questions never end. They only create more questions. How we live with those questions is the bigger challenge. Do we drive ourselves nuts trying to reach THE answer, or do we keep letting the questions push us to deeper inquiry? And, in the midst of all this, do we remember to re-member ourselves to the One who keeps us in this inquisitive relationship?
Do not let the current wailing and gnashing of teeth lead us into the temptation of a "fix it" like the Anglican Covenant!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Comprehensive Blog

Our band of bloggers against the Anglican Covenant has launched a new blog: Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant blog. This will allow for a better exchange of information between us and you, the interested and informed folk who have been following our various postings on this issue. There is not a whole lot up there at the moment, but I still encourage you to go check it out and listen to the wise words of Mr. Cat-o-lick. His British accent might challenge the ears of some Americans, but believe me: he's one smart puddy tat!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Anglican Communion: More Than One Man

One of the consistent worries I hear about with regard to the Church of England rejecting the proposed "Anglican" Covenant is that to say "No" to this ham-fisted document would be a rejection of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. It seems there is a desire to let this go through, so as to not hurt the man's feelings or reputation or whatever.
I think this is the wrong way to approach something which stands to deepen the divide that this document claims it wants to patch up.
The Anglican Communion, according to its own website, consists of more than 80 million Anglican/Episcopalians worldwide in 44 churches or provinces in 160 countries. The document on the table would affect all those people in all those churches in all those countries. The Archbishop of Canterbury, while the iconic figurehead of the Anglican Communion, is one man, one person, and not even the one who is the central figure of our belief and reason for being in communion in the first place, correct?
Many have also reported that the "Anglican" Covenant is the result of the actions taken in this country involving one man, Bishop Gene Robinson. If that is true, then it makes this Covenant even more egregious than I already believe that it is. Again, more than 80 million people identify as Anglican/Episcopalian. Do we need to rush into a relationship with "who's in" and "who's out" for the sake of one man... who is not Jesus Christ? This is worse odds than trying to win the Florida Lotto jackpot!
Look beyond the figure heads and see the whole picture. Remember that there would have been no "Anglican Communion" if there weren't other people and churches wanting to be connected by scripture, tradition and reason. Time to implore that last leg of the Hooker three-legged stool to this document, doncha think?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ecclesiastical Bullying

I received an email from one of my PFLAG moms with an attached article from our local newspaper.

"Focus on the Family group to sponsor student-led event against homosexuality"

The "student-led" event they reference is the annual Day of Silence held in April to highlight the serious problem of bullying and harassment of LGBT students. Exodus International, the ones who have been so instrumental in exporting homophobia to Uganda, announced they were throwing in the towel as a sponsor of the counter-protest due to the highly-publicized suicides by gay teenagers. So leave it to Focus on the Family to send the message, "We support gay teen suicide."

Again, the disturbing part of the story for me is that Focus on the Family attempts to wrap the mantle of Christ around it's pro-suicide message. They call their counter-protest "Day of Dialogue", but in fact it's a monologue equipped with Bible bats. From the website:

"The Day of Dialogue gives you, as the student, the opportunity to express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible (on homosexuality)"

Given that there is no record of Jesus ever addressing homosexuality, especially as it is in the 21st century, I'm not exactly sure what the "true model" would be. The model I see is a Jesus who loved all who drew near to him. Even eunuchs aren't beyond the love of God:

His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’ --Matthew 19:10-12
That Matthew passage may be the closest thing Jesus himself ever says on anything approaching the sexual "otherness" of his day. So, what does Focus on the Family cite? Not the words of Jesus! In fact, all of their arguments are based upon other writings in the New Testament and playing fast and loose with the gospels by interjecting Old Testament stories into the mouth of Jesus (e.g. that Jesus told the story of Adam and Eve). Truly, truly, I say to you: Jesus was speaking about much deeper and broader and pressing matters of faith in God and didn't need to recite either of the creation stories ad nauseum to his Jewish or even Gentile audiences!

What this boils down to is a rotten plot to provide a cloak of protection for the bullies this time in the name of Christianity. They are telling students to speak up and offer "alternatives" to their LGBT peers. Much in the same way that Christians were instructed to offer "alternatives" to their Jewish peers. To assert that Christian teenagers are silenced from speaking their minds is simply not true. Those Christian teenagers might get challenged. They might not hold the majority opinion in the room. But they are able to speak up. I am not aware of a kid committing suicide because they got bullied for being Christian. The same is not true for gay kids. What's the difference? I have a theory.

Gay kids, if they come out, get picked on. Gay kids, if they are in the closet, even more so because the perception is there which initiates the bullying... and so is the self-loathing that keeps them in the closet and is learned from parents, from society... and from the church.

Religion, Christianity especially, has been used as a weapon against LGBT people. Religious leaders from popes to archbishops to evangelical cowboy-boot wearing preachers consistently send messages to bullies that LGBT people are to be feared, to be seen as enemies, and to be destroyed. Every time that the Archbishop of Canterbury opens his mouth to condemn the inclusive nature of our Episcopal Church while remaining obtuse to totally mum on the attacks against LGBT people in Africa, he is giving a tacit nod to the teenager in the United States to kick the queer kid in his class. Likewise, when the preacher rails on Sunday about the "homosexual agenda" and a God who hates, he is helping to load the bullets into the gun of a teen struggling to understand her orientation in light of this judgemental and finger-wagging God who can't possibly love her. Words from the top, and from the pulpit, DO matter.

It is long since past the time for people who call themselves Christian to repent and recognize that bullying in the name of Jesus is the real abomination. It is long since past the time for people who find themselves called to serve God and the Church to counter the face of Christ consistently put forward by groups such as Focus on the Family. It is long since past the time for us to hear what Rodney King had to say: "Can't we all just get along?"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's Global Warming; Not God "Huggin' Us A Little Closer"

The man trying to be the next head of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee revealed the depth of his faith in God, and unfortunate simplistic thinking, when he spoke about global warming in 2009. John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican, referred back to Noah in Chapter 8 of Genesis as he spoke before the House subcommittee on Energy and Environment:

"As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease." Shimkus believes this is the infallible word of God and that man will not destroy the planet. But wait--there's more. 'Today we have about 388 parts per million in the atmosphere. I think in the age of dinosaurs, when we had the most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet — not too much carbon. And the cost of a cap-and-trade on the poor is now being discovered." (Cap and Trade is the Obama administration's bill to limit emissions).

I'm reminded of Tina Fey's spoof of then VP candidate Sarah Palin, explaining global warming as "God just huggin' us a little closer!" Radical right-wing Republicans have been satisfied to deny global warming is happening despite scientific evidence to the contrary. And often their reading of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is missing the key element that we are supposed to be stewards of the planet, not the plunderers. True, the promise made to Noah is that God won't try to drown us out of our existence again. But we have been given responsibility for tending to this fragile earth, our island home, and we in the U.S. as well as the other industrialized nations, have a special responsibility to NOT continue poisoning our waters and raping our landscapes. To pretend like we don't have to keep our end of that relationship to the planet is just stupid and irresponsible.

Dear God: Help! Help! Help!

Simple Thoughts of Service on Veteran's Day

One of the most interesting interviews I ever did as a reporter was when I sat down with my dad in New Hampshire one evening and had him talk to me about his experiences of World War II. He was in the U.S. Navy, teaching pilots how to fly. But because my dad questioned the safety of the aircraft, he was assigned to be a deck officer rather than fly combat missions in the Pacific. Fine by me: I think it kept him safe.

During the interview, dad and I talked about war itself. He was candid and condemned the whole idea of fighting as way of solving problems. He noted how different war was for the Navy versus the combat troops in Europe.
"There's a difference between shooting a gun and firing a cannon. You don't see the person that's gonna get hurt by the cannon. You don't ever see the people who are suffering from what you're doing."
"You aren't doing anything that really improves the world or anything of that nature. You convince yourself that you're doing a helluva good job and the other guys are doing a bad job anyhow (long pause). It makes you feel better that you're doing the right thing whereas they're doing the wrong thing."
My dad, like many other veterans of WWII, was not into the glorification and being called, "The greatest generation." I think that's important to remember on Veteran's Day. I think for the vast majority of those who have served the country as a member of the military, their service wasn't about parades and medals and hero worship. It was about fulfilling a duty and an obligation they felt for their nation. To truly honor our veterans, we should be mindful of the dangers we've asked them to endure on behalf of our country, and we should strive to end the conflicts that put them into danger. Troops are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with missing limbs and messed up psyches from having been under attack. Our government continues to think it's good military strategy to discharge men and women because of their sexual orientation without thinking about what the loss of Arabic translators might mean for our security. I see these realities on Veteran's Day and I think we could do better by these folks.
Today, I offer prayers for those who served and those are still serving in our armed forces. And I pray that our country's leadership will strive for justice and peace for our military and the world.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

EfM and the Anglican Covenant

I'm in Year Three of Education for Ministry which means that I'm spending a lot of time with my head in my hands and muttering, "Ow! Ow! Ow!" The early Christian church in the third through sixth centuries is one bitter controversy after another. Is Jesus fully human or fully divine or both? Hypostases or Hypostasis? Antioch vs. Alexandria; Arius vs. Athanasius... "Believe as I do about the "true" nature of Christ or I'll call you a heretic, and you'll get the boot" and schism, schism, schism.
As a co-mentor in my EfM group, I am also having to keep up with what the folks are reading about in the Old Testament, New Testament... and even those who are working with the various 19th and 20th century philosophers and theologians and what they are saying about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (or is it creator, redeemer, sustainer?) I find myself often times taking a figurative step back as I read and see that the pattern of human behavior and response to God seems most intent on trying to unravel the mystery or harness it or make God the justification for a conquest.
In some ways, I have a similar response to looking at the language of the Anglican Covenant. I find myself holding my head in my hands. But instead of "Ow!" I'm muttering, "Why?" There are many words in the proposed Covenant that sound great. Again, Bishop Gregory Cameron wants a debate and discussion on the merits of the text, and I will say that Part 2.2 of the Covenant says many good things. For example:
(2.2.1) to answer God’s call to undertake evangelisation and to share in the healing and reconciling mission “for our blessed but broken, hurting and fallen world”, and, with mutual accountability, to share our God-given spiritual and material resources in this task.

(2.2.2) to undertake in this mission, which is the mission of God in Christ:

(2.2.2.a) “to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God” and to bring all to repentance and faith;
(2.2.2.b) “to teach, baptize and nurture new believers”, making disciples of all nations (Mt 28.19) through the quickening power of the Holy Spirit[10] and drawing them into the one Body of Christ whose faith, calling and hope are one in the Lord (Eph 4.4-6);
(2.2.2.c) “to respond to human need by loving service”, disclosing God’s reign through humble ministry to those most needy (Mk 10.42-45; Mt 18.4; 25.31-45);
(2.2.2.d) “to seek to transform unjust structures of society” as the Church stands vigilantly with Christ proclaiming both judgment and salvation to the nations of the world, and manifesting through our actions on behalf of God’s righteousness the Spirit’s transfiguring power;
(2.2.2.e) “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth” as essential aspects of our mission in communion.

(2.2.3) to engage in this mission with humility and an openness to our own ongoing conversion in the face of our unfaithfulness and failures in witness.

To all of the above, I can say, "Yes. Check!" And I would be surprised to learn if any of the churches in the Anglican Communion are not doing these things... or at least striving to do these things... right now, without having signed onto this document.

But, just as I have said about many of the early Christians and their varying arguments about the "true" nature of Christ and the Trinity, I can go along with this person, but then they took it too far. Or, another way of I've said it, this person (or group) had a "piece" of the puzzle, but then they became so enamored with their piece that they thought it WAS the puzzle. And that's what I believe has happened with the Anglican Covenant. Because, unfortunately, churches signing this Covenant will not only be agreeing to the text of Part 2.2, they'd also have to agree to Part 4.2. And, even though the Anglican Covenant says in its introduction that it is not meant to "change the character" of our Anglican expression of Christianity (point 5 in the AC Introduction), these sections of Part 4.2 should give many pause:

(4.2.2) The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, responsible to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, shall monitor the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion on behalf of the Instruments. In this regard, the Standing Committee shall be supported by such other committees or commissions as may be mandated to assist in carrying out this function and to advise it on questions relating to the Covenant. A group of bishops will hear from those parties in the communion who can't get along with another church in the covenanting group. Why do I feel like an Olympic figure skater from the United States hoping to score points with an all-former Soviet bloc panel of judges?

(4.2.4) Where a shared mind has not been reached the matter shall be referred to the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee shall make every effort to facilitate agreement, and may take advice from such bodies as it deems appropriate to determine a view on the nature of the matter at question and those relational consequences which may result. Where appropriate, the Standing Committee shall refer the question to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting for advice. A shared mind? Oh, my! Flip back the pages in history and see how often Christians had a "shared mind" on anything!! Even those "shared minds" that gave us the decision that Christ was fully human and fully divine in one person(Council Chalcedon in 451) didn't stop having disputes. "Take advice from such bodies as it deems appropriate"? So, if we need to build a case, we'll line up more to dope slap the Primate of the offensive church?

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below. And the supporters of the Covenant try to say this won't make us the "frozen chosen" of God?

(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”. Again, how can they say there are no consequences for a covenanting Church should it do something "radical", like women bishops, or openly-gay and partnered bishops?

(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations. So now that we punish you, then what?

This last point might be the one where proponents say, "See? It's not so bad. I mean, we can't really stop anyone from doing anything!" Well, I say, placing head in hands, then we go back to the question, "Why are we doing this?"

Man, and I thought the early Christians were caught up in a whole lot of folly trying to define the undefinable God. Leave it to those involved in this Anglican Covenant to top that with defining our "common understanding" of how to be Anglicans!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Refer to the Text

Things have been heating up across the pond as the Anglican Covenant becomes the center of much discussion and debate. On the BBC, Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows was going toe-to-toe with one of the architects of the proposal, Bishop Gregory Cameron (the one who calls the opponents of the Covenant an ecclesiastical BNP). Here's a link to the BBC podcast. The portion on the Anglican Covenant is about 24 minutes into the show.

The bishop defended his characterization of the likes of me as a British Nationalist bigot by complaining that we aren't debating on the merits of the text, and that we are trying to scare people by saying it will create a centralized authority, two-tiered Communion, and allow churches and provinces in other parts of the Communion to prevent one such as The Episcopal Church from following what it believes is a Gospel of inclusion.

The truth is that many of us have posted several times on the actual words in the Covenant that support our assertions that this is a flawed document which, put in the hands of those who think "relationship" is about control, will use these words for the purposes of putting some members of the Anglican Communion in some kind of perpetual "time out".

Read the text for yourself. Think for yourself. Ask yourself, "Why is this really necessary?" Are we trying to force a relationship that has no love, no real bonds of 'affection'?

+Gene Robinson to Step Down

As I opened my email late this evening, my eyes widened when I saw the headline:
The bishop of my native New Hampshire made the announcement at the diocesan convention Saturday. It isn't immediate; he will stay on until 2013. But there will be a search to find a replacement, and much church politicking, I'm sure.
Most of the focus of this story will be (and is) on +Gene's significance as the first openly-gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed that historic moment in 2003, and the half-baked attempt to preserve the Anglican Communion through an Anglican Covenant.
But that is not my story of Gene Robinson. Mine is the one that starts in January, 1981, at the Sign of the Dove Retreat Center in central New Hampshire where I first met Rev. Gene Robinson. My confirmation class from Christ Church in Exeter had gone there as part of our preparation for the transition to Christian adulthood. I had become fixated on the phrase, "Begotten not made" in our study of the Nicene Creed, and I'd taken great pleasure in pressing priests for the answer to an unanswerable question: "Where did God come from?" Coming to the Sign of the Dove, I saw I had another priest I could test with this question. But, unlike others, Rev. Gene Robinson took delight in taking this awkward punkish kid from Exeter seriously. Rather than trying to b.s. his way past my inquiry, Gene smiled and looked me in the eyes.
"That's a great question!" he proclaimed. "I don't know where God came from. But I have faith that there is a God."
He talked to me seriously and sincerely about what that meant--having faith in the untouchable and the unknowable. We talked about confirmation and the commitment of staying with God even if we can't know the answer to "where did God come from?" I couldn't believe that a man in a black shirt and white collar had really talked to me like a person and not a stupid person at that. I was impressed, and I felt validated. So funny to have had him turn the tables on me; I was trying to test him, and he put me to the test in a kind way. He left me to think, "Do I have faith in this God?"
When I learned that Gene had been elected by my fellow Episcopalians in my home state, I was delighted and elated. Him being an openly-gay man was important, but it was far more important to me that a man had been elected bishop who had spoken so passionately with a teenager about what it means to have faith in God. That was a much bigger deal. In my opinion, the church could use many more bishops, priests and deacons who don't shy away from discussing faith with people who aren't the monied members. How one treats a child or teenager in the church goes a long way toward determining if that child will know to come back should they drift away. This, in my opinion, has been Bishop Gene's greatest contribution to the broader Church. His demeanor as a pastor has removed stumbling blocks that have stood in the way of people seeing any value to the Episcopal Church. Certainly, LGBT members of the church who have heard him or seen him have seen in +Gene that they, too, are beloved members of the body of Christ. And nothing--nothing--stands between the love of God and those seeking that love.
My prayers go out to +Gene and his husband, Mark, and my childhood diocese of New Hampshire. I know that it probably has been both a thrill and definitely sometimes a headache to be in the international spotlight. But ultimately I know that God does good work through Bishop Gene and Gene has provided good leadership to New Hampshire. Blessings!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Covenant I DO Support

Tomorrow morning, we will be celebrating the delayed All Saint's Sunday (last Sunday being All Hallow's Eve and all). Besides remembering and celebrating the lives of those who have passed on, and baptizing and welcoming new members of the family into the body of Christ, we will all be recalling our own adoption and commitment to one another in the words of the Baptismal Covenant.
The way in which it begins is something all members of the Anglican Communion ought to be familiar.

The priest, or bishop, states a question: Do you believe in God the Father?
Answer: I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

We continue in this call and response way of renewing our core beliefs in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, giving our answers in the first-person singular, a way of affirming that "Yes, I am an apostle of Christ." As good as it is to make the declarative statement of our faith and understanding of God, the Three in One, I think the next part of this covenant is one of the more moving passages in our American Book of Common Prayer.

Celebrant: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the
People: I will, with God’s help.

With God's help, I will understand that God's message imparted to the apostles was to make contact even with those who we think are "others" and break bread, share a meal, and kneel in prayer... regardless of our personal politics. When we are gathered in God, we put our differences aside. We still remain different, but our individual distinctions are of less consequence than our common bond of baptism in Christ.

Celebrant: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God’s help.

With God's help, I will recognize the times that I have put my trust in those things that will fail me (i.e. money), and remember that those things are just that: "things". Things can be fun. Things can bring me some temporary happiness. But things fade away. Like politicians who make a bunch of promises that they don't keep, things can leave me empty and disappointed. Evil... which I interpret as doing things contrary to upholding the standard commandments of "Love God, and love your neighbor"... can be hard to resist at times. If I love God, then how can I treat a fellow human being with contempt? It isn't easy. But with God's help, I will try. And when I fail, I will recognize that failure, and return to God.

Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.

With God's help, I will remember that to "proclaim by word and example" means that in my interactions with others... including the earth... my way of being needs to reflect that sense of having received the gift of eternal life and being freed from a prison of fear and doubt. Even when treading a line of uncertainty in this life, I have to tap into the certitude that the promise made to Noah, to Abraham, and up through the resurrected Christ is the truth: "I will be with you to end of the age."

Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God’s help.

With God's help, I will remember that this is a promise to seek and serve Christ in ALL persons, not just my friends. With God's help, I will remember that to be able to love my neighbor begins with being able to love myself and to see me as God sees me: a beloved, worthy of being called into this covenant with Christ through baptism.

Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
People: I will, with God’s help.

With God's help, I will commit to be one who builds up the body and not seeing those elements of the body that I don't like as some kind of diseased appendix or inflamed tonsil that has to be removed. With God's help, I will be kind enough to recognize that when a relationship has come to a place of irreconcilable differences, I will simply say, "Farewell." That, to me, is kinder than trying to force a person who will not change to change... or else.

With these statements and questions, I think the Baptismal Covenant is an eloquent, simple and truly Anglican approach to relationship. When you stand inside the sanctuary and hear this resounding of sound of "I will, with God's help," it is powerful. Even more powerful when you are standing in a place that has known the pain of schism as has St. John's. If we in the Communion could be bound together by these principles, accepting that we can only achieve them with God's help, and recognizing that our "bonds of affection" are made at our own baptism, then we could scratch the Anglican Covenant... and accept this and sign onto this statement. Really, I don't think we need to reinvent the basics of our baptismal vows. Do we?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Here's the Poll

I encourage readers to vote in the Church Times "Question of the Week" poll on the Anglican Covenant . You are just a click away from letting your voice be heard on this issue. And also go to the No Anglican Covenant Anglicans for Unity website.

H/T to Lesley for the link to the poll

When in Doubt, Call Them Names

There have been a number of posts on more conservative blogs and a comment from a bishop in Wales about the campaign to call for an end to this proposed Anglican Covenant. Apparently, if we who oppose the so-called Covenant aren't leftists trying to undo all that is right and holy, then we are being likened to the British National Party aka English racist political thugs. All because we don't agree with a proposal that threatens to create a class system in the Anglican Communion: those who sign and those who do not sign the Covenant. And if a member does sign, it will have to run its decisions by the rest of the signatories before they can do something like... ordain a woman bishop (and God forbid she be a lesbian in a relationship!).

I don't think it is "fascist" to call attention to the flaws in the Anglican Covenant. We have legitimate concerns that the language of said so-called "covenant" will provide sticks to those who want to beat back any church or province that feels the Holy Spirit moving us in a direction of being more inclusive and allowing those new souls in the church to live fully into their baptismal vows. Such debates in the church are nothing new, even within the Church of England. And, going back to Wednesday and Richard Hooker Day, the three-legged stool on which we stand has Scripture, Tradition... and Reason. From where I sit, this needs not only more careful consideration of exactly what the words in the covenant will mean when put in the hands of a legal literalist, we also need the answer to why do we need this thing any way? If the answer is based on fear of actions taken by, oh--I dunno--The Episcopal Church, that have caused discomfort and discord, that's not a good reason. That requires more of the indaba process of deep listening that occurred at the last Lambeth Conference. And that listening process must include the one who was not allowed to attend.

Finally, I think it's time everybody put their grown-up pants on and realize that we don't and won't all agree on everything, and that's OK. Calling me and others a fascist only proves our point that we are far from ready to have a relationship.

Apparently, we aren't the only ones concerned about this issue. A poll of readers of the English newspaper, The Church Times, asks the question, "Should the Church of England reject the Anglican Covenant?" As of this writing, 59% Yes, 39% No.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Stupidest State in the USA

I'm sure others out there are wanting to nominate their own state for this particular prize, but really and truly... Florida is the stupidest state in this country. We have elected a man who stole (yes, stole!!) 1.7 billion dollars from Medicare as the CEO of Columbia/HCA to be the Governor and the leader of the fourth largest state in the union. We elected a thuggish state legislator to be our junior U.S. Senator (the fact that Marco Rubio could campaign with a straight face as some king of "outsider" is ridiculous.) And in Leon County, we tossed out a champion for the environment from our County Commission, and replaced him with a football player who had never voted in an election before this year.

Unbelievable. And yet, sadly, there it is.

God has a purpose, I know. And I am trusting in God that we are kept safe from what I see as the return of darkness to Tallahassee. All we can do is pray. And let God sort it out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Church's One Foundation is NOT an Anglican Covenant

The hymn starts simply:

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.

Sometimes, it seems this is the one foundational fact that gets lost as those who are in positions of power within the church seem to think God needs their masonry skills to lay a new or different foundation. That, I believe, is one of the major flaws with the proposed Anglican Covenant.

In the need to control how the Holy Spirit is speaking in some parts of the Anglican Communion, this covenant threatens to place a gag on any member body that doesn't conform to certain beliefs on the role of women and human sexuality and concentrates power in a central body of bishops.

I have joined with an international team of Episcopal and Anglican bloggers to call on those in the Church of England's General Synod considering this "final draft" of the covenant to pay attention to some of the language in part IV:

(4.2.4) Where a shared mind has not been reached the matter shall be referred to the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee shall make every effort to facilitate agreement, and may take advice from such bodies as it deems appropriate to determine a view on the nature of the matter at question and those relational consequences which may result. Where appropriate, the Standing Committee shall refer the question to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting for advice.

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.
Even though the Archbishop of Canterbury maintains this isn't a punitive document, I don't think you can read the above as anything put punishing and punitive. Suddenly, to be "Anglican" means to submit to a central authority, or you are out. That might work for the Pope, but we took care of the question of papal supremacy with the Reformation in England. Would the CoE really want to go backward?

Or as the Rev. Canon Alan Parry, a Canadian priest and canon law expert, notes, "The proposed Anglican Covenant would freeze Anglican theology and Anglican polity at a particular moment." Locking us inside a box is not what Anglicanism is all about!

Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed, by schisms rent asunder by heresies distressed; yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, "How long?" and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.
The Archbishop and those who support the Covenant need to back down from this document. Forcing relationship will explode and those members who are currently uncomfortable with each other will only be driven further apart. Our foundation, and our future, should be in Christ, not man-made covenants.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Coming Real Soon....

Tune in tomorrow after 7:30AM for the big news breaking on Richard Hooker Day. Hint: Hooker stood for Scripture, Tradition, and Reason... something we ought to consider!

O God of truth and peace, who raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Don't Let This Happen Again...

These are just a few images from the infamous Election 2000: the night that wouldn't end a decade ago. I must have aged a couple of years as I stood out on the sidewalk in front of the Florida Supreme Court building, awaiting rulings on whether we would keep counting ballots in Florida to determine our presidential winner. As you all remember, what the Florida court said didn't matter doodly-squat to the United States Supreme Court. They took over. They declared George W. Bush the winner. And our country is still trying to recover from the idiocy that marked his presidency.
If you think partisan politics is bad now, imagine being a reporter witnessing the end of a Warren Christopher news conference and seeing the Senate Sergeants remove the American flags flanking the podium to put in two other American flags before the appearance of James Baker.
"Tommy," some of us asked the Senate employee. "What are you doing?"
The long-suffering Senate worker looked at us, the Florida members of the media, and grumbled. "Can you believe they (Democrats and Republicans) won't stand in front of each others American flags?!"
I'm not making this up. It really was that stupid. That divisive. That childish.
There is no presidential race this time around, but I am a little concerned about this being the 10th anniversary of the 37 Days of Election Night. I am trying to figure out what Florida can do this time to make itself a laughingstock. Perhaps electing a man to be Governor who ran a company that committed the largest Medicare fraud in the nation's history ($1.7billion). That, along with electing a dimwit tea partier to the U.S. Senate could seal this state into the book of Stupid forever.
The only way to prevent this is for people to go vote, and make sure that their vote did get counted. I'm tired of Democrats in this state whining about "all is lost" because Obama really did mean, "Yes, We Can... But...." Anybody should have been able to figure that out. Again, George W. Bush, the squatter President, had eight years in office. There was no way Obama, or anyone else, was going to clean up his mess in less than two years. So quit kvetching and go vote. Or else we really will have the dynamic duo of Marco Rubio and Rick Scott as the face of Florida's election 2010. And that's scary!

Monday, November 1, 2010

For All The Saints...

For a moment, put whatever is your own political persuasion aside, and just meditate on the image of a flag-draped casket with the paschal candle burning, and know that this is the love in the lyrics of the hymn "For All The Saints". This image made me cry, not just for the Ford family, but for all who have endured the loss of someone who has served the country.

May we join with all the saints in rememberance of those who have gone before, and in appreciation of those present with us, that we each continue in our journey toward unity with God. Amen.