Friday, June 30, 2006

My two-word review: Awe! Some!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I'm sure a good deal of it is nostalgia. I was only three years old when the first film in the series came out. I remember when my parents' friend Spencer brought over the album with the silver shield on the cover. We listened to it and he was so enthusiastic about wanting to see the film as soon as it came out. I loved the movie too.

I am glad this new incarnation continued the series rather than reinvent it. Superman Returns is supposed to occur five years after Superman II. I really appreciate the small continuities--like John Williams' theme music, the same appearance of the titles, the choice for a traditional suit, and ending the movie in the same way each of the others did--with superman flying in space.

I thought Brandon Routh as the main character was a wonderful choice. he was very good. And his voice sounded very much like Christopher Reeve, especially when he would say "Uh, Lois." I also enjoyed the story and the action sequences. I liked the pondering moments and the Father-Son theme. I also got a big kick out of the sonic boom as he would fly off.

It is time for heros again, especially one who stands for truth, justice, and the American way.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Finding unity in our diversity

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Today is the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul, and so it is on this occasion that we commemorate the dual apostolic foundation of the Roman See. Though they sometimes butted heads, and even though Paul once had to openly rebuke Peter, they stood side-by-side in their final witness for truth.

Rome was regarded as the pre-eminent apostolic see not just because it was the final resting place of Peter--the leader of the Twelve. But also because it was the final resting place of Paul, the great evangelist with a convert's heart, who turned from a life of persecution when he encountered the risen Christ and became persecuted himself for Christ's sake.

Their common martyrdom would found the capital of the City of God. It would mark the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 11). But unlike the legend of Romulus and Remus, they would not spill each other's blood, but work together in the service of the gospel as a planter of churches and as a pastor of souls.

Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that thy Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by thy Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Bishop Schori on theological issues

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
In reading Bishop Schori's biography, I noted that she served for a short time as Dean of the Good Samaritan School of Theology in Oregon and as Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Oregon State University. This is in addition to her former career as a scientist. Certainly, I thought, we were getting an intelligent Presiding Bishop (whatever her take on church controversies) who would be able to speak theologically with other Anglican leaders.

Then I listened to her first press conference after being elected Presiding Bishop. She had to field a number of tough questions from the press. George Conger from The Living Church asked her about the appeal from Fort Worth (and now others) for "alternative primatial oversight" and asked, "What are the theological underpinnings you see at play?" And her response was, as reported by The Living Church:

Speaking at a press conference after her election, Bishop Jefferts Schori said she "hoped to be able to deal" with requests "pastorally" from traditionalists not to act as chief consecrator of new bishops opposed to the ordination of women. She would also seek to respond theologically by addressing the "heresy of Donatism. The actor in a sacramental act, the validity of the sacramental act is not dependent on the holiness or qualities of the actor," she explained.

Wow! Was she just caught off guard and couldn't think of a theological answer? Was she so politically charged that she couldn't bear to address it and instead pastorally accuses traditionalists of heresy? Or is she just so clueless that she has no idea what theological issues are involved in the question of ordaining women?

Allow me to explain. The charge of Donatism is a common one. For those who may not be familiar, the Donatists (named after Donatus Magnus) were a sect in Northern Africa in the fourth century who did not recognize the validity of the sacraments celebrated by those clergy who compromised their faith and witness during the Diocletian persecution. The Donatists said those clergy had forsaken their moral right and power to function in the ministry by their immoral and traitorous betrayal of the faith and of their flocks. One could see their point, but the Church responded that their view was heretical, for Christ is the true minister of all the sacraments. St Augustine of Hippo articulated the true theological understanding that the grace or validity of the sacrament is not dependent upon the moral character of the celebrant (otherwise, how could we be certain of any sacramental grace).

However, this is totally irrelevant to the question of women's ordination (WO). The opponents of WO do not argue that women are too immoral to confect the sacraments, or that the bishops who ordained them were too treasonous to do so. The issue rather has to do with sacramental theology. Each sacrament ("an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as a sure and certain means whereby we receive that grace") has two parts--matter and form. The matter is the "stuff" that is used (i.e., water, oil, bread and wine). The form is what is done with that "stuff" (i.e., immersion, prayers, etc). In two of the sacraments, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony, the matter (the "stuff") is the people involved (i.e., the man being ordained and the man and woman being married).

Two General Conventions that took place in Minneapolis essentially made the same statement in this regard--that men and women are sacramentally interchangeable. That it doesn't matter if a man or woman is ordained. That it doesn't matter if a woman marries a woman, a man marries a man, or even if a woman marries a man. But is this God's plan? Certainly not as we see his will revealed in Scripture and Tradition.

In Holy Orders, the matter of the sacrament is a baptized man, because he is essentially being set apart by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue the Lord's priestly ministry in the world by functioning as another Christ (sacerdos alter Christus). It is not a new issue for the Church to consider. St Thomas Aquinas deals with the question here in his Summa Theologica. Since Christ was male, "other Christs" must be male. For although there is no longer the separation of Jew and Gentile, male and female in the economy of salvation (see Galatians 3:28), male and female are still two unique and equally dignified ways of being human in the created order, and it is the sin of Adam (the head of the human race) which the second Adam (Christ) came to redeem and recapitulate.

It is a theological position that goes back to the beginning, that a woman cannot function as a true image of Christ the way a man can. Even before there was any priesthood, it was the fathers (the "patriarchs") who functioned as priests on behalf of their families. Women cannot be priests, but not because they are immoral or untalented. It is because they cannot be spiritual fathers. Thus, Gene Robinson truly is a bishop of the Catholic Church, whereas Katharine Schori is not. Even if she were (in God's providence) truly ordained, we could never know it. It is thus not "sacramental" since there can be nothing "sure and certain" about the sacraments celebrated by a priest who may or may not really be a priest at all.

If there is a heretical theology at work here, it is not on part of the opponents of WO. It would instead be on the part of those who insist that women must be ordained for theological reasons (and not for reasons of social equality championed in the Women's Moment). To insist theologically that women must be ordained in order to fully image the humanity of Christ is to really say that Jesus was in some androgynous. Ironically, this ends up being a denial of the full humanity of Christ, who was male. In that sacred manhood, there is no lack of humanness nor of a redemptive claim upon all humanity.

Bishop Schori also gave a fascinating interview on the Diane Rehm Show (who certainly does not have a voice for radio). But I didn't hear a lot of depth there either. A one point, her comments on the show likened the Bible's strong prohibitions against same-sex relationships to not mixing fabrics, by saying, "It comes from a different understanding about right order in the world." The same comment might also seem to apply to her view of the Bible's statements about apostolic ministry. And so they are just as easily dismissed.

The "Alternative Primatial Oversight" ticker

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
1. Diocese of Fort Worth (6/19)
2. Diocese of San Joaquin (6/24)
3. Diocese of Springfield (6/26)
4. Diocese of South Carolina (6/28)
5. Diocese of Pittsburgh (6/28)
6. Diocese of Central Florida (6/29)
7. Diocese of Dallas* (7/3)

*asking for direct primatial oversight from Canterbury

In related news,
Big Parishes Leaving ECUSA (aka TEC)

1. Christ Church, Plano TX (6/24)
2. Christ Church, San Antonio (7/16)
Note: It was incorrectly reported in The Washington Times that Truro Church, Fairfax VA and the Falls Church in Falls Church, VA are leaving. That may eventually happen, but no such decision or announcement has been made.

Monday, June 26, 2006

In veneration of the Mother of God

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The rood of the Church of the Advent, Boston. Christ is on the cross in the center with his closest folowers below. On the right is the Apostle John; on the left is the Theotokos.

In our study of John's gospel during Sunday School this past spring, one of the things that came up was John's reverence for Mary, in the way that she was never mentioned by name, but instead usually referred to as "the mother of Jesus." Here is a list of all the possible references to the Virgin Mary in John's writings.

John 2:1 "On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there."

John 2:3 "When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine'."

John 2:5 "His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you'."

John 2:12 "After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days."

John 6:42 "They said, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, "I have come down from heaven"?'"

John 19:25 "but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."

John 19:26-27 "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home."

2 John 1:1 "The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth"

2 John 1:5 "And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another."

Revelation 11:19--12:1 "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Or to put it another way . . .

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Is it possible that we live in a world where there are no coincidences?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Your GenCon 75 Roundup

Isn't the internet wonderful? . . . all this information at your fingertips.

Video Links related to GenCon 75
Kendall Harmon--on Windsor resolutions
Kendall Harmon--after PB election
Michael Howell--deputy on A160
David Roseberry--after PB election
Andrew Carey--on the GenCon process
Bp Katharine Schori on CNN
Press Conference for new Presiding Bishop
Andrew Carey--on Abp William's statement
Bp Bob Duncan--on dioceses responding to new PB
Carey and Harmon--on A161 vote
Matt Kennedy and Michael Howe
George Conger and Andrew Carey
Network Press Conf 1--Bp Duncan
Network Press Conf 2--Bp Iker
Network Press Conf 3--Bps Iker and Schofield
Final Interview with Bp Jack Iker
Final Interview with Susan Russell
Final Interview with Kendall Harmon

And just for fun, more videos
Betty Butterfield on those Episcopalians
Jesus comments through a psychic

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
GenCon Resolutions worth watching
Resolutions not marked "passed" or "failed" ended in committee

A095--Gay and Lesbian Affirmation (passed)
A126--Covenant for Communion in Mission
A129--Affirm Creation and Evolution (passed)
A137--Inclusive Language
A139--Celebration of Women's Ministries (passed)
A159--Commitment to Interdependence (passed)
A160--Expression of Regret (passed)
A161--Election of Bishops (failed)
A162--Public Rites of Blessing
A163--Pastoral Care and DEPO (passed)
A164--Commitment to the Millenium Development Goals
A165--Commit to Windsor & Listening Process (passed)
A166--Anglican Covenant Process (passed)
A167--"Full & Equal Claim" for all Baptized (passed)
A168--Human Rights for "Homosexual Persons"
A169--Quadrilateral and Exercise of Ministry

B002--Response to Global Warming (passed)
B012--Episcopal Church and the State of Israel
B014--War in Iraq
B023--Evangelism-Response to Decline (passed)
B024--Celebrating Bonn-Vienna Agreement (passed)
B026--Policy on Affiliation
B031--Structure for Unity
B032--Separate and Independent Status (passed)
B033--On Election of Bishops (passed)

C001--Anti-Jewish Prejudice in Liturgy (passed)
C004--Response to Windsor Report
C009--Importance of Anglican Communion
C010--General Convention Site Choices
C014--Response to Windsor Report
C020--Baptism is Full Initiation
C025--Affirmation of Windsor Report
C027--Reaffirm Membership in Anglican Comm
C032--Health Care for All Americans
C037--Affirming the Windsor Report
C038--WR and the Anglican Communion
C039--Response to Windsor Report
C040--Support Biblical Literacy (passed)
C042--Affirm Windsor Report
C044--Baptism is Full Initiation
C048--Religious Coalition Reproductive Choice
C049--Executive Council and RCRC

D002--Public Policy on Tobacco
D005-- Homosexual Criminalization (passed)
D016--Military Strike on Iran
D017--Marriage Rite for Same-Sex (failed)
D023--Principles for End-of-Life Decisions
D028--Close Guantanamo Prison
D029--Call for Listening and Respect
D032--Response to Anglican Communion
D038--Consecration of Canon Beisner (passed)
D044--Dissassociation from Church in Nigeria
D045--"Equally Applicable" ordination (passed)
D049--Separating Church and Civil Marriage
D050--Pastoral Care and DEPO
D051--Rites for Same-Sex Blessing
D054--Rites to Bless Mutuality and Fidelity
D058--Salvation through Christ Alone
D063--Membership in RCRC
D064--Marriage Equality
D066--Endorse Lambeth Sexuality Resolution
D067--Married Life of the Ordained
D069--Supreme Authority of Scripture (passed)
D072--Substitute for A160
D073--Assylum for Lesbians and Gays
D084--Uphold Communion for Baptized (passed)
D094--Appreciation for PB-Elect (passed)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Happy Feast

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Putting aside for the moment the heated controversy of whether it should be called our "patronal feast" or our "titular feast" (I come down on the side of the latter, in full compliance with Ritual Notes), it has been a happy feast. It was also wonderful to serve as a deacon again for the liturgy, wearing the dalmatic I was ordained in.

We were so blessed to have Fr Beste with us last year before his untimely passing. It was a pleasure to welcome the second Rector of St. Alban's, Arlington, Fr Dennis Smart (pictured below). I enjoyed the anecdotes that he shared, and there were several people who had not had the opportunity to visit with him in a long while.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Saint Alban, Protomartyr of Britain

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Today is the feast of title for my parish. Tonight at 6:30pm we will have a special Mass in honor of our patron saint, with the second Rector of the parish, Fr Dennis Smart, as our guest preacher. The Venerable Bede, priest-monk of Jarrow, recorded the story of Alban the Martyr in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

Chapter 7: The martyrdom of Saint Alban and his companions, who shed their life-blood for Christ at this time.

In this country occurred the suffering of Saint Alban, of whom the priest Fortunatus in his Praise of Virgins, in which he mentions all the blessed martyrs who came to God from every part of the world, says: “In fertile Britain’s land / Was noble Alban born.”

When these unbelieving Emperors were issuing savage edicts against all Christians, Alban, as yet a pagan, gave shelter to a Christian priest fleeing from his pursuers. And when he observed this man’s unbroken activity of prayer and vigil, he was suddenly touched by the grace of God and began to follow the priest’s example of faith and devotion. Gradually instructed by his teaching of salvation, Alban renounced the darkness of idolatry, and sincerely accepted Christ. But when the priest had lived in his house some days, word came to the ears of the evil ruler that Christ’s confessor, whose place of martyrdom had not yet been appointed, lay hidden in Alban’s house. Accordingly he gave orders to his soldiers to make a thorough search, and when they arrived at the martyr’s house, holy Alban, wearing the priest’s long cloak, at once surrendered himself in the place of his guest and teacher, and was led bound before the judge.

When Alban was brought in, the judge happened to be standing before an altar, offering sacrifice to devils. Seeing Alban, he was furious that he had presumed to put himself in such hazard by surrendering himself to the soldiers in place of his guest, and ordered him to be dragged before the idols where he stood. “Since you have chosen to conceal a sacrilegious rebel,” he said, “rather than surrender him to my soldiers to pay the well-deserved penalty for his blasphemy against our gods you shall undergo all the tortures due to him if you dare to abandon the practice of our religion.” But Saint Alban, who had freely confessed himself a Christian to the enemies of the Faith, was unmoved by these threats, and armed with spiritual strength, openly refused to obey this order. “What is your family and race?” demanded the judge. “How does my family concern you?” replied Alban; “, and carry out Christian rites.” “I demand to know your name,” insisted the judge, “tell me at once.” “My parents named me Alban,” he answered, “and I worship and adore the living and true God, who created all things.” The judge was very angry, and said: “If you want to enjoy eternal life, sacrifice at once to the great gods.” Alban replied: “You are offering these sacrifices to devils, who cannot help their suppliants, nor answer their prayers and vows. On the contrary, whosoever offers sacrifice to idols is doomed to the pains of hell.”

Incensed at this reply, the judge ordered God’s holy confessor Alban to be flogged by the executioners, declaring that he would shake his constancy of heart by wounds, since words had no effect. But, for Christ’s sake, he bore the most horrible torments patiently and even gladly, and when the judge saw that no torture could break him or make him renounce the worship of Christ, he ordered his immediate decapitation. Led out to execution, the saint came to a river which flowed swiftly between the wall of the town and the arena where he was to die. There he saw a great crowd of men and women of all ages and conditions, who were doubtless moved by God’s will to attend the death of his blessed confessor and martyr. This crowd had collected in such numbers and so blocked the bridge that he could hardly have crossed that evening, and so many people had come out from the city that the judge was left unattended. Saint Alban, who ardently desired a speedy martyrdom, approached the river, and as he raised his eyes to heaven in prayer, the river ran dry in its bed and left him a way to cross. When among others the appointed executioner himself saw this, he was so moved in spirit that he hurried to meet Alban at the place of execution, and throwing down his drawn sword, fell at his feet, begging that he might be thought worthy to die with the martyr if he could not die in his place.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

While this man changed from a persecutor to a companion in the true Faith, and other executioners hesi-tated to pick up his sword from the ground, the most reverend confessor of God ascended a hill about five hundred paces from the arena, accompanied by the crowd. This hill, a lovely spot as befitted the occasion, was clad in a gay mantle of many kinds of flowers. Here was neither cliff nor crag, but a gentle rising slope made smooth by nature, its beauty providing a worthy place to be hallowed by a martyr’s blood. As he reached the summit, holy Alban asked God to give him water, and at once a perennial spring bubbled up at his feet—a sign to all present that it was at the martyr’s prayer that the river also had dried in its course. For it was not likely that the martyr who had dried up the waters of the river should lack water on a hill-top unless he willed it so. But the river, having performed its due service, gave proof of its obedience, and returned to its natural course. Here, then, the gallant martyr met his death, and received the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. But the man whose impious hands struck off that pious head was not permitted to boast of his deed, for as the martyr’s head fell, the executioner’s eyes dropped out on the ground.

The soldier who had been moved by divine intuition to refuse to slay God’s confessor was beheaded at the same time as Alban. And although he had not received the purification of Baptism, there was no doubt that he was cleansed by the shedding of his own blood, and rendered fit to enter the kingdom of heaven. Astonished by these many strange miracles, the judge called a halt to the persecution, and whereas he had formerly fought to crush devotion to Christ, he now began to honour the death of his saints.

Saint Alban suffered on the twenty-second day of June near the city of Verulamium, which the English now call Verlamacaestir or Vaeclingacaestir [now called the city of St. Albans—ed.]. Here, when the peace of Christian times was restored, a beautiful church worthy of his martyrdom was built, where sick folk are healed and frequent miracles take place to this day.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In the same persecution suffered Aaron and Julius, citizens of the City of Legions, and many others of both sexes throughout the land. After they had endured many horrible physical tortures, death brought an end to the struggle, and their souls entered the joys of the heavenly City.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Alban triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Bp Griswold's speech to the Convention

We are here assembled, to devise, as the Lord shall give us wisdom, the most prudent and effectual means and measures of building up the Churches with which we are connected; of promoting the salvation of mankind, and of enlarging the kingdom of the blessed Redeemer. We are here assembled, to “banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines, contrary to God’s Word;” to preserve and enforcea pure worship and godly discipline; and to diffuse, among all ranks of people, the knowledge of Christ, and the practice of true godliness.

Such should be the object, and such the result of our present deliberations. How great then should be our solicitude; how earnest and devout our prayers, that the Lord, by his Spirit, will be with us; that he will “save us from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice;” that “of his great mercy he will vouchsafe so to direct, sanctify, and govern us in our present work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that (through our faithful exertions) the comfortable Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed;” that we may have wisdom to devise, and zeal to pursue whatever will tend to the promotion of true religion; that we may “stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” Let no selfish, interested motives, or worldly considerations affect our judgments, or divert our views from that work of our Divine Master, now committed to our care. With souls united, and with hearts raised to God, let us most deliberately proceed to the business of this Convention, each member, according to his station and office, attentively considering what the Spirit saith.

You can read it all here.

Of course, that's not yesterday's speech by Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, it's from the speech of Presiding Bishop Alexander V. Griswold to the General Convention in 1817.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And what about Fort Worth?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
A lot of ink and emails relating to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Fort Worth have been written during the days of this General Convention. It is a lot of material to digest. In the interest of better understanding, I thought it might be helpful to put the major points together to help us sort through the confusion.

As many are familiar, the Diocese of Fort Worth has officially resisted innovations in faith and practice in the Episcopal Church (most notably, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate and the blessing of same-sex unions).

When Canon Vicky Imogene Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, Fort Worth was among many in the church who saw it as a departure from catholic faith and practice (because Robinson was divorced and living in an unrepentant sexual relationship with another man and could not thereby be a guardian of the faith and a "wholesome example to the flock" as is required of a bishop). Although the Episcopal Church was explicitly and repeatedly warned through each of the Anglican "instruments of unity" (including our own Presiding Bishop's unanimous statement along with the other primates) not to proceed, we proceeded.

After the consecration of Bishop Robinson, a Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes was formed upon the suggestion of Dr Rowan Williams, modeled after the "Confessing Church" in Germany. The Diocese of Fort Worth became a founding member of the resulting Anglican Communion Network, which "allows Episcopalians to remain in communion with the vast majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion who have declared either impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA)."

Also, in the communique from the Anglican Primates' Meeting of February 2005, they stated: "15. In order to protect the integrity and legitimate needs of groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces, we recommend that the Archbishop of Canterbury appoint, as a matter of urgency, a panel of reference to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions made by any churches for such members in line with the recommendation in the Primates' Statement of October 2003. Equally, during this period we commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions." After that Panel of Reference was formed, Fort Worth submitted its appeal based upon the attempt of the Episcopal Church to bypass the process of "open reception" in 1997 and enforce the ordination of women in every diocese.

On Sunday, 18 June, the House of Bishops elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the next Presiding Bishop (a nine-year term beginning this November). In Bishop Iker's official statement in response to the election, he noted, "Her election signals a continuation of the policies of the outgoing Presiding Bishop, namely support for the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions, practices which have divided the Episcopal Church, impaired our relationship with a majority of other Provinces, and brought the Anglican Communion to the breaking point. The fact that her ordination as a bishop is not recognized or accepted by a large portion of the Communion introduces an additional element of division and impairment."

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth also responded with a unanimous resolution stating: "The Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth appeal in good faith to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative Primatial oversight and Pastoral Care following the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of the EpiscopChurch. Thishis action is taken as a cooperative member of the Anglican Communion Network in light of the Windsor Report and its recommendations."

It is clear that the two other dioceses that do not ordain women as priests and bishops will follow with a similar action, although they could not at the moment because their standing committees are not present at the Convention. Other Network dioceses that do ordain women as priests may or may not make a similar appeal.

The Times of London characterized it accurately in a report by Ruth Gledhill with the headline: "Episcopal church unravels as Fort Worth appeals for 'alternative primatial oversight'." However, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram mischaracterized the move with a front page story by David Cohen with the headline: "Diocese votes to leave church." Hopefully, this can be corrected as the email to clergy in the diocese stated:

To the Clergy:
Bishop Iker has sent the following message to David Cohen at the Star-Telegram. I have called Mr. Cohen's number and stressed to him that he has caused distress to thousands of people who look to Bishop Iker as their pastoral leader. We will pursue a retraction.
Suzanne Gill
Your article "Diocese Votes to Leave Church" is seriously in error.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has made no such decision. That decision could only be made by the Annual Convention of the Diocese which meets in November.
We have asked for the alternative oversight and pastoral care of an orthodox primate of the Anglican Communion, but this is a pastoral arrangement, not a legal one, and the request has been made in full accord with official church procedures.
Our Diocese is still a full member of The Episcopal Church, and I would appreciate a retraction and correction in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. You have misinformed your readers.
Thank you.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth

It is my view that this appeal by the Standing Committee should be seen and understood as an extension of the 2005 appeal to the Panel of Reference. That also explains why it was made by the Diocese of Fort Worth, and not by the Network. This new appeal became necessary in view of both the problematic selection of a female primate for the diocese (who would hold the power of episcopal office but not necessarily the sacramental power of a bishop in the FW view) and in view of several indications from the 75th General Convention's responses to the Windsor Report that it chooses to "walk away" from the Anglican Communion (to say to the rest of the Anglican world that Fort Worth doesn't want to walk away).

Will Fort Worth be left behind? We will soon see. On the last day of the Convention (the time of this writing), a final effort will be made to salvage some resolution of compliance with the Windsor Report and fellowship with the Anglican Communion in a joint session. Presiding Bishop Griswold has urged action on this point as well as humility and restraint from those who would rather the Episcopal Church go it alone with his special address in which he noted: "Unless there is a clear perception on the part of our Anglican brothers and sisters that they have been taken seriously in their concerns, it will be impossible to have any genuine conversation. Therefore there will be no conversion and the bonds of affection which undergird communion will be further strained." Griswold later stated, "We must now act with generosity and imagination so that our actions are a clearer reflection of the willingness of the majority of us to relinquish something in order to serve a larger purpose. As your Presiding Bishop and chief pastor, I now ask both houses to consider the following resolution. I do so knowing that consideration in the House of Deputies may require special action. Resolution B033, "On the Election of Bishops." 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." Word is it just passed both Houses. But then a decent number of liberal bishops signed a statement saying they could not in good conscience abide by it. The President of Integrity seemed pretty dissapointed by the Convention as you can see in a video segment here.

The problem is also that the Convention consented to the consecration of Canon Barry Beisner, whose "manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." Take a look at the last sentence in this report on the Beisner resolution. Bishop Vincent Warner of Olympia voiced the concerns of many when stating at one hearing on the Windsor Report resolution, "I regret the pain, but I do not regret the action…I affirm it." The Archbishop of Canterbury responded with a official statement, noting, "It is not yet clear how far the resolutions passed this week and today represent the adoption by the Episcopal Church of all the proposals set out in the Windsor Report. The wider Communion will therefore need to reflect carefully on the significance of what has been decided before we respond more fully." The Network bishops posted their own statement here. Video segments of Bishop Iker talking with the press can be seen here and here and here. Have things turned around? As they say, talk is cheap. We can only hope and pray that this it is part of the beginning of conversion for the church rather than dissolution.

Where would "alternative primatial oversight" leave Fort Worth? First of all, it would leave Fort Worth as both a member diocese in the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) and also a diocese in communion with the Anglican Communion for the moment. How is the appeal being viewed by ECUSA? Bishop Griswold said he will "let the Panel of Reference make a decision" on the matter in a post-Convention press conference and Bishop Schori seems at least initially inclined to be open to the idea by her statement of wanting to "bend over backwards" accommodate those who might disagree with her policies. If this appeal is fully implemented that would mean "alternative primatial oversight" for a diocese in conflict with its own province.

That alternative oversight would last for the nine years of Schori's term as Presiding Bishop. After that time, i assume the diocese (as a member of ECUSA) would automatically come back under the normal oversight of the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA. Of course, the situation could be totally different by that time, so who knows. I supposed the biggest concern would be whether ECUSA would have returned to the Anglican Communion at that time or not.

Who would be the alternative primate? It is anyone's guess. It could be the Anglican primate of Canada or Mexico, but I don't see that as being likely. It could be a primate of the global south, some of whom have already taken on oversight for some ECUSA parishes who have left hostile dioceses. African bishops did publish a response to the General Convention in which they noted: "We are . . . saddened that the reports to date of your elections and actions suggest that you are unable to embrace the essential recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqué necessary for the healing of our divisions. . . . At our meeting in Kampala we have committed ourselves to study very carefully all of your various actions and statements. When we meet with other Primates from the Global South in September, we shall present our concerted pastoral and structural response. We assure all those Scripturally faithful dioceses and congregations alienated and marginalised within your Provincial structure that we have heard their cries."

The "alternative primate" could be the Archbishop of York, newly seated at the primate's meeting. Of course, it could be the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, and that seems to be the preference. This is not without precedence. There are several dioceses and clusters of dioceses in the Anglican Communion which are not a part of any province, but instead have a one-on-one relationship with Canterbury (such as the Diocese of Bermuda, the Church of Ceylon, the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church of Portugal and the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The missing text

It happens every other year. This time, it's during the final days of the General Convention. Morning and Evening prayer is offered daily for the bishops and deputies. But as occurs from time to time in the lectionary, a passage is omitted from the otherwise continuous reading through a book of scripture at the Daily Office. This is an example; note the difference for stopping and starting between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Epistle Lessons for Proper 6, Year 2
Romans 1:1-15 on Monday
Romans 1:16-25 on Tuesday
Romans 1:28--2:11 on Wednesday
Romans 2:12-24 on Thursday
Romans 2:25--3:8 on Friday

Something's missing. What happened to Romans 1:26-27? Why was it censored? See if you can guess first, then click on the passage.

Monday, June 19, 2006

All the [bad] news that's fit to print

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Bp Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada, next Presiding Bishop, who took the time to note in her first sermon before the Convention as PB-elect, "Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation and we are his children."

Just when things were starting to look a little positive. . . .

This General Convention was expected to give the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report's question of whether it will "choose to walk away" from the Anglican Communion. Both sides have been vocal about clarity on the matter, rather than having some statement meant to appease all. Archbishop William Temple once said, “The Church must be very clear in its public pronouncements so that she may be very pastoral in her application.”

Some of the resolutions (such as A160) dealing with the matter were reworded in committee to use Windor's language and to be more direct in expressing our regret and asking for forgiveness for actions taken at the last General Convention. But then on Sunday, we elected a new Presiding Bishop. But not just anyone. By the slimmest possible margin, the House of Bishops elected Bp Katharine Schori of Nevada--the most left-wing candidate possible.

"I'm thrilled," said the Rev'd Susan Russell, the president of Integrity (an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, and transgendered Episcopalians) in a statement from the New York Times.

Not only is Bishop Schori the most vocal supporter Integrity and of clergy in same-sex relationships and the blessing of same-sex relationships (she has permitted them in her diocese), she is does not exactly have a great track record on a bishop's duty of guarding the apostolic deposit of faith. Word is that she brought in retired Bishop Jack Spong to conduct a clergy conference in 2004 (who is famous for saying things like, "The theistic idea of God is not only in this day and age unbelievable, it is immoral" and denounces the doctrine of the atonement as "divine child abuse.")

This certainly does not ease international tensions. Added to that is the difficulty that not all of the provinces in the Anglican Communion ackowledge the theological possibility of ordaining women to the episcopate. "Bp Jack Iker of Fort Worth noted, "The fact that her ordination as a bishop is not recognized or accepted by a large portion of the Communion introduces an additional element of division and impairment." She will be joining a group of Anglican primates in which she will be considered a bishop by some, but not by others.

The Archbishop of Canterbury noted in the official statement from Lambeth Palace: "Her election will undoubtedly have an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican Primates; and it also brings into focus some continuing issues in several of our ecumenical dialogues." In contrast, a member of the House of Deputies speaking in favor of the election of Bp Schori stated, "The Anglican Communion is not ready for it, but we are."

On Monday morning, the unanimous statement from the Fort Worth was read to both houses of Convention: "The Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth appeal in good faith to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative Primatial oversight and Pastoral Care following the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. This action is taken as a cooperative member of the Anglican Communion Network in light of the Windsor Report and its recommendations." Neither house made any response. In the House of Deputies, Deputy Coyle of the Diocese of Central Florida rose to say that, despite differences of practice, his diocesan deputation wanted to express its support for the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Also of interest, Bp Michael Ingham of New Westminster (Canada), the first Anglican diocese to officially authorized same-sex blessings, was seated with the deputation from Massachusetts as a visitor to the floor of the house and was greeted by a standing ovation when he was introduced.

Resolution A095, "Gay and Lesbian Affirmation," was adopted by the bishops. It calls for protection and expansion of civil rights (family leave, employee benefits, etc.) for gay and lesbian individuals and same-gender couples, and for "the 75th General Convention oppose any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions." I suppose that would include the proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment" which is designed to take away the power of courts to redefine marriage and give it back to the people.

Resolution C010, on site choices for future General Conventions, also passed. It suggests (the language was changed from "directs") that the planning committee not propose as a site for any future General Convention any city in a state that "prohibits domestic partnerships" or associated rights. Currently, 43 states have passed marriage amendments, including Texas.

Still to come at the Convention, both Houses will consent to the election of Canon Barry Beisner as Bishop of Northern California. The problem is that he's been twice divorced and is in his third marriage. This is in light of the Windsor Report calling for a moratorium on new bishops whose manner of life represents a challenge to communion. See Resolution D038 for the interesting minority report about this episcopal election.

Resolution D058 on reaffirming "salvation through Christ alone" will be discharged from committee and will not come up for a vote.

On a lighter note (just kidding), Resolution C001 ("Anti-Jewish Prejudice in Liturgical Texts") passed with a large majority. It provides for the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to collect and prepare teaching materials for use in congregations where anti-Semitism develops as a result of exposure to scriptural or liturgical texts. So now, we must censor all the "anti-Jewish" (?) elements of the Bible from public exposure and suppress any liturgical texts that pray for salvation for the Jewish people (although I am pretty sure there are none of those left). The commission is to report its progress in 2009.

Is enough enough?
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
In an outspoken interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Bishop of Rochester (UK), the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said that divisions between liberals and conservatives were so profound that a compromise was no longer possible. He increased the pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take firm action against the liberal American leadership. He noted, "Anglicans are used to fudging things sometimes, but I think this is a matter of such seriousness that fudge won't do."

Bp Nazir-Ali continued: "Sometimes you have to recognise that there are two irreconcilable positions and you have to choose between them. The right choice is in line with the Bible and the Church's teaching down the ages, not some new-fangled religion we have invented to respond to the 21st century. My fear is that the Church of England has made a number of moves in the liberal, Protestant direction. That gives me concerns that the Bible will become less important and that the Church is moving away from its traditional Catholic order. If you move in that direction you become a kind of options Church, where you live by preferences." He also said, "Nobody wants a split, but if you think you have virtually two religions in a single Church something has got to give sometime." He suggested the point of no return had been passed, and effectively challenged Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury to recognize that fact.

A word to priests for Father's Day

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
On Sunday, greeting parishioners after Mass, one wished me a happy Father's Day. As I was about to explain that I actually haven't fathered any children, he explained, "After all, you are our father." So that led me reflect a little bit on priesthood and fatherhood. It is no coincidence that we call our parish priests "Father." We might even say that this development (which comes out of the monastic tradition) was inevitable.

St Paul recognized that family relationship through his ministry when he noted, "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Corinthians 4:15). Of course, there have not always been priests (Christian or Jewish), but there have always been fathers. The Greek word from which we get "priest" essentially means a family or community "elder." In the beginning, from Adam and through the time of the patriarchs, it was the fathers (according to God's order and design)who functioned as the priests of their clan, teaching the faith and offering sacrifice and leading worship for their families. That is a part of a father's responsibility. In the family God has gathered together called the Church, he has set apart certain men to function in this way as fathers for that spiritual family--to teach the faith and to offer sacrifice for them and to lead their worship.

To my fellow priests: We often speak of Mary’s role in the priestly vocation, but we should not let Joseph’s role go unnoticed. As he did for Jesus, Joseph (patron of fathers) also models fatherhood for us. When parishioners call us “Father,” will that mean something special, or will it just be a pious title? Fathers guide the growth and formation of those they raise. Like Joseph, God entrusts us with those whom we have not created. They may have been born from another, but we are to be the one God wants to look after them. Will our fatherly love reveal to them our heavenly Father? Like Joseph, we will probably not see the fruit of our labors. But like Abraham, our fatherhood will extend to many more people than you could imagine. People will be placed in our fatherly care for a reason. We won’t always know God’s whole purpose, nor may we live to see the fruit of our labors, but nevertheless, like Joseph, we will be called by God to serve faithfully.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A church as lovely as a tree

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
BTW, that's me in the garth at Nashotah House.

Homily for 18 June (Proper 6)

With the commemoration of the risen Christ ascending into heaven, and the birth and empowerment of the Church at Pentecost, followed by a celebration of the Church’s heritage of the Catholic Faith on Trinity Sunday, now the interior of the church is spotted with green, and we turn our attention to the kingdom that God has planted in our very midst and is even now bringing forth life and giving growth. So we now look at the parables of Jesus, and seek to learn lessons about how to be the kind of Christians that God would have us be.

"With what shall we compare the kingdom of God?" Today we begin with the story of the kingdom as a tree. Thinking of a tree, the story begins long ago, when our collective memory began, living in the lush garden of earthly delights, made for the king’s pleasure. We are told in Genesis 2:8-9, "And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he has formed. And out of the ground, the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

You are familiar with the story. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, in their vanity, distrusted and envied God our Father, transgressing the only law, partaking of the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Their knowledge came by experience; where once they had only known good, now they had tasted of evil—an appealing but bitter fruit. In his mercy, God did not want them to continue forever in this state of sin, so they were removed from the tree of life and cast from the king’s garden. With time for repentance, access to that tree would be restored.

It is perhaps from that early memory and longing that the Patriarchs of Israel naturally worshipped in the outdoor shrines of a sacred grove of trees. Of all places, the whisper of God would be best heard under a tree. When Abraham entered Canaan, his family stopped at Shechem. There, at a sacred tree—the oak of Moreh—Abram sees God who reveals, "I will give this land to your family." Abraham planted a grove of trees as Beersheeba. The Lord appeared to him again at the oak of Mamre in the guise of three angels who signified for the Christian Church the divine persons of the Trinity. The Isarealite thought it fitting bury the revered Prophetess Deborah close the Lord’s dwelling, under the oak tree at Bethel. Need we be reminded how the Lord first appeared to Moses?

These ancient trees were dressed with hangings to signify God’s presence (see 2 Kings 23:7). Graham Hancock, former reporter for the Economist gave this description of the sacred groves of the Qemant, a judaized animist group in Ethiopia: "Gnarled and massive, the acacia was so ancient that it would have been easy to believe it stood there for hundreds and perhaps even for thousands of years. . . . what made this site so different from any other place of worship I had come across in my travels—was the fact that every branch of the tree to a height of about six feet off the ground had been festooned with woven strips of vari-coloured cloth. Rustling in the wind, these waving pennants and ribbons seemed to whisper and murmur—almost as if they were seeking to impart a message." You can imagine how it this ancient tree would recall the voice of God calling out from the flames of fire in the midst of a bush.

A tree (which can wither, be pruned, or even chopped down) is also used as a sign of God’s judgment throughout the scriptures. In our Old Testament reading today, the tree illustrates God’s prophetic warning against the nations. In this oracle against Egypt, Ezekiel warns Pharaoh of his impending downfall. Using the imagery of a magnificent cedar tree, Ezekiel compares Egypt’s inevitable demise to that of Assyria, saying because "its heart was proud of its height", the Lord made an example of the tree by allowing it to be cut down and destroyed by foreigners.

The fall of this once mighty tree serves as a warning to Egypt and others that would "grow to lofty height or set their tops among the clouds". Ultimately, the lesson of Assyria’s fall contained hope for Judah’s rise, but the rebuilding would have to be done in humble obedience to the Lord’s revealed purposes as the planter and grower. God will not accept our replacement tree—that is the sin which goes back Eden. And he may in righteous judgment give our attempts to make our own church apart from his will over to those who are foreign to the values of the gospel, to be cut down and trampled upon like that great cedar of Lebanon. But he does offer us redemption, seeking to graft us into his own tree of life. He plants this tree with the seeds of the gospel, waters it with grace, and tends this tree with his guidance and fatherly discipline, as St John described, pruning off dead branches that do not bear the fruits of the Spirit’s life within them.

In today’s gospel from St Mark, Jesus gives us first a parable of the seeds, pointing to the growth of God’s Kingdom as a divine mystery rather than as the result of human accomplishment. The one who scatters the seeds does nothing about its growth. He sleeps at night and rises in the morning to observe that seemingly without effort, the grain is ripe. He then takes his sickle to harvest the crop. In like manner, the seeds of the Kingdom have been planted through the ministry of Jesus, and will inevitably produce a harvest that the disciples must reap, so they are to be ready when the crop is ripe for harvest.

Jesus’ second parable, about a mustard seed, shows how great things come from small and seemingly unpromising beginnings. A mustard seed is so small that it is barely visible—yet the mustard plant itself grows much larger than plants from larger seeds and spreads quickly. We cannot explain how God's Kingdom, like the mustard seed, is able to grow to so many times its original size and so rapidly. We can only say that it is the Lord's doing.

By proclaiming that God’s Kingdom is like a mustard seed, Jesus is declaring his confidence that the work he has begun will grow and sustain life. The shrub grows so large that "birds of the air can make nests in its shade". What might appear to others as a pesky little weed is really the beginning of God’s new garden. Unlike the lofty tree in the passage from Ezekiel for today, the mustard plant is a symbol of God’s grace and abundance rather than of pride and judgment.

Jesus has proclaimed that the Kingdom is near; yet its fullest manifestation is in the future. And the same holds true for us. The divine King has raised wonderful things in his garden, yet there is more watering and pruning and growth to come in this new Eden, surrounding that tree of life in the midst of the garden.

Remember we said before that the tree of life from Eden would be restored to us. In God’s time, we came to see that tree as the life-giving cross of Christ. Indeed, we may say that the tree of life is Christ himself. Solomon’s bride, the Sulamite woman, sings of her lover in Song of Songs 2:3, "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste."

An early American folksong also captured this idea, sung by the bride of Christ (the Church): "The tree of life my soul hath seen, / Laden with fruit, and always green: / The trees of nature fruitless be / Compared with Christ the apple tree." The tree of Christ brings grace and healing to hurt and suffering, undoing the wound of sin, bringing life where death once reigned. St Peter wrote, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Pet 2:23).

One of the earliest Anglo-Saxon poems (the "Dream of the Rood") calls it the the "triumph-tree" on which the great warrior conquered sin and death winning for us the victory of salvation by shedding his blood. As we in God’s household are the mystical Body of the living Christ—living members joined to the Son—so also we are grafted into the tree of life, into Christ, the living and true vine, to live and grow and bear his fruit. It is through Jesus that we bring forth life and give growth.

One thing that intrigued American poet Joyce Kilmer, is the tree’s constant and intimate communion with God. Before such a powerfully reverent creation, he can only sense his own inadequacy and weakness. We humans can produce wonderful, eloquent poetry, but what is a poem, which emerges from our frail quills; compared to the timeless wisdom embodied in a something like a tree, a simple yet infinitely complex creation wrought by the marvelous hand of God? So it is with the mystery of the Catholic Church—the marvelous Kingdom of God in paradise, in heaven, and on earth. It is a fruitful green tree which the Lord himself has created, planted, watered, and raised up in bodily growth to his glory.

With that application in mind, let us consider again Kilmer’s words:

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing brest;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,
A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain,
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Only God can make a church.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

You can't pay me to go to church?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
From this week's Synthesis lectionary study:

It's an odd headline at best: "Author Wins Atheist in eBay Auction." We're all accustomed to bizarre eBay offerings: the toasted cheese sandwich (partially eaten) with the alleged image of Jesus' face on it; the selling of foreheads and bare noggins as advertising space to the highest bidder. What could be stranger?

Lori Smith tells us in Publishers Weekly's online Religion BookLine: Jim Henderson, former pastor and author of a. k. a. "Lost": Discovering Ways to Connect with the People Jesus Misses Most (WaterBrook, 2005), bid $504.00 on eBay in February to win the right to send Chicago atheist Hemant Mehta to church. Mehta, who was raised in Jainism and had never been to a Christian church, offered to attend one service for every $10 bid. "I thought it would be a good opportunity to put my [atheist] beliefs under scrutiny," he told RBL.

Henderson asked Mehta to attend 10 or 15 services, blog about his experiences (click here), and handle any media interviews that arose out of the experience. "I am not using this particular project to convert Hemant," Henderson said. "I am hiring him to help me gather information so that Christians can get better reality about how to approach people like this." Having visited about seven churches so far, Mehta said he has been surprised to find church "a nice place to be."

Henderson is executive director of, an organization aimed at "helping Christians not be jerks, or helping Christians be normal," he said, especially when it comes to evangelism. In his book, Henderson details a new approach to evangelism, which he describes as "getting Christians connecting again with non-Christians in authentic, human, doable and enjoyable ways." Mehta and Henderson have been approached by several publishers about doing a joint book.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Vacation Bible School

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
We just completed the closing Mass for Vacation Bible School at St. Alban's this week. The theme was "Fiesta! Viva Jesus!." Melisa and I decorated the background wall you see on the right. Many people worked hard to pull this off and did a wonderful job.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A blogging bishop after my own heart

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
As an English major, I have longed for someone else to say what Dallas Bishop James Stanton noted on his GenCon blog yesterday:

Bishops voted to "urge and encourage" gender equality. (D024) They wanted to see that women and men were equally participating at all levels of the life of the Church. Actually, what they wanted was "sex equality"--"gender" is a grammatical term, as in masculine and feminine nouns, etc.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Thou gavest them bread from heaven, alleluia.
Containing within itself all sweetness, alleluia.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Today is Corpus Christi (Latin for the "Body of Christ"), a feast commemorating the institution of the Holy Eucharist. It occurs on the first Thursday following Trinity Sunday and mirrors Holy Thursday when the Last Supper took place. Corpus Christi is a solemnity in the Roman Catholic Church (observed on the following Sunday in the United States), but is also celebrated officially and unofficially throughout the Anglican Communion. In some Catholic countries it is a national holiday and a traditional time to perform cycles of mystery plays.

The appearance of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar was primarily due to the petitions of the 13th century Augustinian nun Saint Juliana of Liège. From her youth she claimed that God had been instructing her to establish a feast day for the Eucharist and later in life petitioned the learned Dominican Hugh of St-Cher, Jacques Pantaléon (Archdeacon of Liège and later Pope Urban IV) and Robert de Thorete, Prince-Bishop of Liège. At that time bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, so in 1246 Bishop Robert convened a synod and ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held each year thereafter. The celebration of Corpus Christi only became widespread after both Juliana and Bishop Robert had died. In 1264, Jacques Pantaléon, now Pope Urban IV, issued the papal bull Transiturus in which Corpus Christi was made a feast day for the whole Latin Church. New propers for the celebration were written by St Thomas Aquinas.

In high school, I would go to Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle (pictured below) on their titular feast. At that time, they would have a Dominican Latin Mass at 8am followed by a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the neighborhood, returning to the church for Benediction. They have just completed a restoration project, most importantly removing the whitewash paint from the brick interior walls of the church.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The closing paragraphs of the Windsor Statement on the Eucharist (1971) of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission state:

11. The Lord who thus comes to his people in the power of the Holy Spirit is the Lord of glory. In the Eucharistic celebration we anticipate the joys of the age to come. By the transforming action of the Spirit of God, earthly bread and wine become the heavenly manna and the new wine, the eschatological banquet for the new man: elements of the first creation become pledges and first fruits of the new heaven and the new earth.

12. We believe that we have reached substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist. Although we are all conditioned by the traditional ways in which we have expressed and practised our Eucharistic faith, we are convinced that if there are any remaining points of disagreement they can be resolved on the principles here established. We acknowledge a variety of theological approaches within both our communions. But we have seen it as our task to find a way of advancing together beyond the doctrinal disagreements of the past. It is our hope that in view of the agreement which we have reached on Eucharistic faith, this doctrine will no longer constitute an obstacle to the unity we seek.

Getting your GenCon 75 news fix

If you want to keep up with the goings on at the 75th General Convention, here are a wealth of sources for news and information.

Diocese of Fort Worth (click on the side for the delegation's updates)

Fr Christopher Cantrell's blog (FW delegation)

Dallas Bishop James Stanton's blog

Ruth Glendhill's Blog from the Times of London

titusonenine (Canon Kendall Harmon's blog, many news links)

Stand Firm (includes Fr Matt Kennnedy's GenCon liveblog)

babyblueonline (Mary Ailes' blog)

S Carolina Deputy Lydia Evans' blog

Episcopal News Service

General Convention Daily (newspaper)

General Convention Nightly (video webcast)

ENS audio podcasts

GenCon 75 Legislation (regularly updated)

The (green) Blue Book (report to Convention)

The Windsor Report

A word on Widsor compliance from Dr NT Wright, Bp of Durham

The Living Church (independent Episcopal news magazine)

Virtuousity Online (news and conservative analysis)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The 75th General Convention

Now for a little tongue-in-cheek poll. The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (GenCon 75) has just begun and will continue in session for about a week. Only the Democratic Party holds a larger convention. Cetainly nothing could top the last one for sensational news, but this one may have surprises of its own.

Which picture will best characterize the upcoming General Convention?

1 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
2 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
3 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
4 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
5 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
6 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
7 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
8 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
9 Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
10Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
11Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
12Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
13Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
14Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
15Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
16Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
17Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
18Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
19Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
20Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
21Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Daily reports from our diocesan delegation can be found here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The role and spirit of Church councils

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
From the weekly column of Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago:

A few months ago, the current Bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, offered an interpretation of the Second Vatican Council that merits close attention. The Council was called in order to give genuinely new impetus to the Church’s mission in the world. In order to overcome within the Church anything that might impede or obscure the Church’s mission, the Council called for an updating or renewal in the Church’s life. Aggiornamento,” which is Italian for updating, was not, however, intended to mean that the Church should simply accommodate herself to the world. Ecclesiastical renewal is not a form of self-secularization. Pope Benedict says of those who took this path: “They have underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions of the modern epoch.”

Pope Benedict contrasted two interpretations of the Council. One is a story of discontinuity and rupture with the Church’s past. It is as if the Church after the Council was a new, a different Church from all that had gone before. Where the texts of the Council did not support this interpretation, they were put aside in the name of the “spirit” of the Council. This is not to deny that a “spirit” of a meeting is always more than the texts it produces; it is to say that the Church’s development from one age to the next cannot be in contradiction with her apostolic origins. Among those arguing for rupture, some Americans found attractive the idea that a Council can reconstitute the Church with a mandate from the “people,” understood as separate from their pastors. But the essential structures of the Church come from Christ, and the bishops of Vatican II had no mandate from Christ to make a new Church or destroy the nature of their own apostolic office. The more authentic interpretation of Vatican II, according to our Holy Father, sees the renewal or reform rooted in the tradition that links the Church to her apostolic origins.

You can read the whole thing here. If you say to our Roman brethren, "The Lord be with you," they will soon be responding,

"And with your spirit."

I suppose its always works this way, but I noticed that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will be meeting in Los Angeles at the same time as the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The top order of business begins with the Bishops' Committee for the Liturgy (BCL) considering proposed amendments to the new translation of the Order of Mass. The final final debate and vote on the English translation ("the Grey Book") of the editio typica tertia of the Missale Romanum will take place on Thursday.

A number of free translations will be brought back into conformity with the Latin original, in response to directives from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship. Some of the highlights are: returning the response "et cum spiritu tuo" to "And with your spirit," the new translation of the Gloria, the return to the Latinates "I believe" and "consubstantial" in the Nicene Creed, corrections to the translations of the Sanctus ("Holy is the Lord God of Hosts"), and a more accurate and beautiful translation of the Roman Canon (except for the horrible mistranslation of pro multis in the institution narrative as "for all").

Meeting with the Moderator

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Bishop Bob Duncan, who currently serves as the moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes in the US, took time to meet with the clergy of Fort Worth at Camp Crucis back on the Feast of the Visitation. It was a very positive talk, despite the gravity of concerns about the church in our day. I think we all appreciated the opportunity to listen to Bishop Duncan and his interesting in hearing from us. Here are a few of the major points I brought back with me from His Grace's talk and the discussion that followed.

* "Moderation doesn't work anymore." This was the biggest indicator that things in the Anglican scene have changed. We are accustomed to moving toward a compromise on any given problem. That probably won't work in this situation. We have now tossed out the baby and savored the bathwater. Our tradition was shaped as a via media ("middle way") between Roman and Genevan Christianity. That via media produced a Christian synthesis. However, in the current situation, we are pursuing a via media between the Gospel and secularism. That leaves you with a worldly synthesis, not a Christian one. Thus, moderation doesn't work anymore. I have noticed that those on the revisionist side have come more and more vocally to the same conclusion as well, except that for them it is the desire to no longer attempt a compromise with traditional faith and practice.

* "The decisive moment has already passed." There have been several critical moments in the story of the Episcopal Church's decline, and Duncan acknowledged that others might come to a different conclusion about which event was most critical. But because of the nature of the international response (i.e., that "communion has been torn at its deepest level," according to the Windsor Report), he sees the consecration of Vickie Gene Robinson as that decisive moment. The importance of that understanding is that we should not be watching and waiting for some "big thing" to happen at the next general convention or at some other moment. The "big thing" has already happened. The question now is whether it will end up being a turning point in the Anglican journey.

* There is a need more than ever for clergy to be wholesome examples to the flock. A large part of the decline involves a crisis in leadership. The executive model has taken over the episcopate and many rectorates. Clergy held themselves less and less accountable on matters of faith and practice. The change in the marriage canon allowing the possibility for divorce and remarriage for the first time has led to a compromised leadership. Now we even have bishops who have been married three or four times. The meaning of marriage has always been love. Ducan pointed out the problem in Anglican thought in the 1920s that began to replace the purpose of marriage with pleasure rather than procreation. Today's problems are a natural progression of that line of thought. Conservatives also need to voice regret and repentance for our complicity in these problems. The primary charge of the clergy is the care of their flock--it is a sacred responsibility. They are to be wholesome examples to the flock. They are to practice and teach the doctrines and disciplines of the gospel, and to banish all erroneous and harmful teaching. And they are to protect and nurture the flock at all cost.

* The prayer book tradition had taken the role of a universal magisterium in the Anglican Communion, but because of the breakdown in that common prayer tradition, it can no longer fulfill that role. This point was made in the introduction to Aidan Nichols' The Panther and the Hind. Although most provinces developed their own edition of the Book of Common Prayer, they were substantially the same--both in thought and language. The period of liturgical revisionism in the past few decades has left each province with multiple rites and options within their liturgies, often more than one official liturgical book. The liturgies themselves no longer characterize the theology that was standard in the common prayer tradition. Where once each faction and tradition appealed to the same Prayer Book to keep them together, there is no longer that common authority to serve as a unifying factor. The unfortunate side of liturgical revision is that it has institutionalized our fractures and undermined our theology. There is a need for a new common authority. In response to this, I suggested that it may be time to be vocal about calling for the end of schism which has plagued our tradition for 500 years. It may take another 500 years to realize that, but it would give direction to the moment for restructuring and realignment within the Anglican Communion that has been in process for the past century.

Duncan was clear about the call to be faithful in a time of crisis. He encouraged us all to nurture and guard the flock entrusted to us. It is time to reverse a pattern of unfaithfulness and division. So many problems became overwhelming because we thought we could solve them ourselves. It is time to trust in the Lord.

Also, you can read Suzanne Gill's report on the gathering in the Living Church.