Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Do lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and trans-gendered persons deserve to be treated with full dignity in Christian community?Are their committed relationships with others of the same gender blessed by God?
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Meanwhile, a handful flew to Pittsburgh to continue plotting the usurpation, if not complete demise of our "lost" Church. It apparently wasn't worth their time or effort to stay present with the House of Bishops and engage in the hard conversation of what kind of statement the House will offer the Church next Tuesday...or even just submit a humble hand to recovery efforts in New Orleans. Perhaps they have made plans to help in other ways instead. I hope so.
Tomorrow, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria stands up in Wheaton, Illinois, apparently to speak to those sympathetic with his clear view that we are a raving bunch of heretics and need a Christian revival. He flew to his destination without any hello in New Orleans, and, it seems, not even a single word to the Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago.
And framing all of this for me today is a marvelous piece from the Church Times by Giles Fraser, where he writes in part:
Call me old-fashioned, but I think the diocese is necessarily a geographical unit. It is geographical because communities are necessarily geographical. It may be the web that is responsible for the idea of non-geographical communities. On the web, I can be a member of a discussion group for dachshund-lovers, Star Wars fanatics, or like-minded Christians. But these are virtual communities, not real ones.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Most Reverend Sir, Honored Guests from the Communion,
I am Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California. I have been given the grace of serving a diocese that encompasses enormous diversity, both in what we call the natural environment, and also in what we might call human ecology. I grew up in the American South where to my consciousness human diversity was cast in terms of Black and White.
In the California Bay Area the societal parameters for inclusion, outside even the concerns of the Church, are wide ranging: gender, ethnicity, economic, and sexual orientation. All of these parameters have received intense attention in the civil society, and have also been the concerns of the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area.
With respect to sexual orientation, it must be said that the Episcopal Church is the main refuge for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people who are seeking to lead a Christian life. These people are primarily not natives of the Bay Area, they come from all over the United States and indeed the world. They have come to San Francisco and the Bay Area seeking a life where they are not subjected to discrimination and violence, where they can lead normal lives, and in some cases, Christian lives. It is my responsibility to provide a context for this search for holiness of life.
It is also important to say here that the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area is immeasurably enriched by the presence of LGBT people in our parishes and missions. These are gifted, faithful Christian people, lay and ordained, passionate about their faith and church. It is hard to imagine what the Diocese of California would be like without these great people, but I can get something of a picture by remembering the many places I’ve lived from which they have come to the Bay Area, places where they were barred from employment, pushed out of their homes and families, and yes, found cold welcome in churches, and tragically in some instances, were subjected to physical violence. For every one of these men and women enlivening the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of California there are empty places all over the United States where their graceful presences are missing.
This is also true for me regarding Gene Robinson. He has helped this body of bishops of the Church with intelligence, passion, humility and great courage over the past four years, and I know he has served his diocese in the same manner. I hope, simply, that there will not be a Gene-shaped space at the Lambeth Conference where the living child of God Gene should be.
News and Blogging of the Day:
Our beloved Grandmère Mimi reflects on her impressions of the opening HoB Eucharist.
Rowan Cantuar roundly rejects any notion that September 30th is the deadline for an "ultimatum" and closes with a hopeful note.
The Church of Wales defers on the draft Anglican Covenant, not ready to accept it in its present form.
Mark Harris reflects briefly on the "frustration" of the Network bishops leaving the House of Bishops meeting before the dust behind the Archbishop of Canterbury's carriage settles.
and Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona offers his perspective on the meeting thus far.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
- The Archbishop of Wales raises serious concerns about the draft in its present form.
- Our own Bishop Marc has outlined his concerns as well.
- A group of five bishops have offered the House a 98-page report, which concludes:
The Anglican Communion already enjoys a Constitution that has served us well. The novel idea of a Covenant is out of order unless the Anglican Constitution is employed and properly amended or replaced. The fundamental issue in the current conflict, the most important and lasting reality, is not the matter of theological innovation, but the proposals and actions that would revolutionize the Anglican Constitution.
- Jim Naughton has offered an important overview and analysis of the situation.
- Friend and colleague John Kirkley responds to Jim's thoughts.
- Sister Joan Chittister has brought her Benedictine eyes to the situation.
- It's generally understood that our Presiding Bishop is bringing a counter-proposal for the Primates' scheme for alternative oversight to the HoB meeting. Episcopal Life Online reports today that eight bishops have agreed to serve as "episcopal visitors" in lieu of the Presiding Bishop, in dioceses that requested alternative oversight. Fr. Jake offers a first take. The story accompanied with commentary is also over at The Lead.
- The Lead posts that, according to local news reports, Bishop Jenkins of Louisiana and ten others will bring a resolution to the House of Bishop's meeting calling for assent to the recommendations of the Primates. John Kirkley questions the reasoning behind Bishop Jenkins' published arguments for this position over at meditatio.
- Since this item is getting the most focus in the press, I'll post a link here to epiScope: House of Bishops Day One, which is tracking articles as they are published.
- Bishop Duncan Gray writes about being a Windsor Bishop and remaining part of the Episcopal Church.
- From The Guardian, Andrew Brown links, in a rather dark piece, Rowan Williams' recent work on a book about Dostoevsky with the present situation in the Anglican Communion.
- And for my two cents, I argue over at Daily Episcopalian that a major task of leadership for our bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury at this meeting is to keep the present controversy in proper perspective.
Prayers be with all of them in the ensuing hours.
I have updated the Anglican/Episcopal timeline here to reflect recent events.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Finally, last Wednesday, I was privileged to be elected Rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, California, where I have been serving for the past year as priest-in-charge ("Long-Term Interim"). So Hiroko, Daniel, and I are planning to stick around these here parts for quite sometime with some really loving and (thankfully) patient people!
Thursday, September 06, 2007
A word to Bishop Spong from a (not so humble) parish priest: No thank you!
While many of us who agree with Bishop Spong on some matters and disagree with him on others have learned to tune out his condescending style, at this stage, I frankly cannot see how this point scoring is helpful. In fact, I worry that it undermines the very witness that is needed to effectively address the concerns that I and many others share with him.
There are so many better counterpoints to play against the hateful rhetoric that has been spewing forth in recent days. All the best prayers for our House of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury in that regard.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Fr. Jake, Susan Russell, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Greg Griffith, and Kendall Harmon have all joined in repudiating outrageous statements reportedly coming from the episcopate in Nigeria. The real hatred and violence of rhetoric in parts of the Anglican Communion is now being shouted from the rooftops, it seems.
I am struck by the self-fulfilling prophecy, almost apocalyptic in tone, that this September is already coming to embody for the greater Church. It is a bold, raw moment for true Christians to step forward and show the light of Christ to one another. . . or to recoil into the darkness of schism and vituperation.
This will provide a true measure of the Archbishop of Canterbury and, to a lesser degree, our House of Bishops, and their sisters and brothers across the Communion.
Who will stand and be counted, indeed?
We watch, pray, and speak with hope of our God in Christ, who is the light "when all other lights have gone out."
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
. . . for former members of The Episcopal Church . . .
. . . who have now joined the Church of Kenya:
My brothers, you are entering the Episcopal ministry within the Anglican Communion at a time when the Communion is being severely challenged in each of the three related areas of the patristic tradition concerning Episcopal ministry. I refer to:
* The maintenance of eucharistic communion
* Continuity and apostolic teaching.
* Oversight of the churches.
The present impaired state of the Communion is due mainly to actions taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States of America in respect of human sexuality with special reference to the consecration of a bishop living in an opened homosexual relationship. The actions of the Episcopal Church have created a situation in which some Anglicans in the United States and throughout most of the Provinces of the Communion are convinced that the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is clear in its teaching and must take precedent over culture. Holding fast to this belief, they cannot accommodate those who believe the contrary. The issue is not primarily on of sexuality but one which seeks to answer the question "which relationships correspond to God’s ordering of life, and violate it?" It is a division of opinion between those of us who firmly believe that homosexual practice violates the order of life give by God in scripture and those who seek by various mean to justify what scripture does not hounour. We, in the Global South, whole heartedly support the position outlined by Richard Hays in ‘The Moral Vision of the New Testament:’
‘Paul singles out homosexual intercourse for special attention because he regards it as providing a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God’s created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together to be fruitful and multiply. When human beings ‘exchange’ these created roles for homosexual intercourse, they embody the spiritual condition of those who have ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie.’
We believe that faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ prevents us from compromising the truth so clearly revealed in holy scripture.
And upon this the entire ecclesiological framework of communion, apostolic ministry, and oversight seems placed.
Despite all this, it is acknowledged that the current disagreement is a "division of opinion."
Is it to this that our House of Bishops must rationally and carefully respond? Thankfully, no. But then Gomez was instrumental in the Windsor Report as well as the more recent draft Anglican Covenant. He is not a minor player in the present crisis. So if this is indeed the substance behind the demands made by the Global South Primates through the most recent Communiqué, we have truly left the realms of faithful and rational disagreement altogether.
I do not envy the new bishops just consecrated in Nairobi. They have been handed, and have taken, if the Archbishop's words are to be understood at face value, the episcopacy entirely on the merits of a narrow argument over sexual ethics. Somehow, fidelity to this one way or another is equated in toto with fidelity to Christ. That seems to me to get the cart entirely before the horse. It makes Christ so small next to the specter of "homosexual practice." That is truly a mistake of proportion. Surely Christ for the good Archbishop is bigger than that. I dare say, Christ might be big enough to even belong as well to those of us who conscientiously and prayerfully disagree with the stance that Gomez++, Nzimi++, and other Global South Primates have taken . . . and then together have hung, if not hanged, the Communion upon it.
The question remains: why this particular ethical question, when any of us could name well over a dozen (many pertaining to sexuality) that have been disputed in the Anglican Communion and greater Church for years and some centuries?
I do not agree with the Archbishop's theological or scriptural interpretation, of course. But this is not my point here.
Rather, it is this:
Would I ever want to take up any ministry, regardless of the Order, under the auspices of a narrow and now clearly destructive contention over Christian ethics?
The answer is a simple no.
When I took up my vows of priestly ordination, it was to respond to the calling of Christ and the Church, and not really against or for any one particular issue or a particular understanding of a portion of biblical texts, but about embracing the whole of Scripture as "containing all things necessary for salvation." It was about furthering a life-long Christian vocation by following the lead of the Trinity through the discipline of Orders in the Church.
Archbishop Gomez, probably in an effort to make ecclesiastical-political hay out of a controversial action, hands these new bishops a sermon that seems to me quite sad, simply for its confining the reason for these irregular consecrations to a single issue. In doing so, it makes the present impasse almost cosmic, and relegates the potential for grace in this mess to hardly an afterthought.
And it begs the long-asked question: once the sexuality issue is settled for these new bishops and their flocks (in some ways it already is settled through a purifying march away from all who disagree with them) well what then? What will be left? In twenty years, will they look back and relish a sermon that implies their ordained ministry was re-defined by opposition to homosexuality?
I certainly hope not. To do so would be patently absurd.
My university chaplain warned me once never to define myself or my work by what or whom I am against.
These seem to me wise words for all of us in a contentious time.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Meanwhile, some refreshing clarity is emerging from a number of stalwart bloggers. Here, for what it's worth, is what I have been reading:
First is this piece by Robert J. Brooks over at Episcopal Majority. It addresses the desire of some to expel The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, but more than that explores where the real constitutional authority resides as far as the Communion itself goes. In a word: look to the Anglican Communion Council. Fr. Jake offers a take on this analysis, and lots of commentary follows.
A second is a biblically rooted, pastoral, unflinching and at times scathing reflection by a colleague and neighbor, Rob Gieselmann, who honored me with a glimpse of an early draft before he posted it. I've already quibbled with him over some of the argumentation; indeed, as Jim Naughton writes, Rob has something to offend everyone; but the theme of his writing -- that we should all endeavor to handle the ongoing "crisis" with charity -- seems more than sound to me. Take a look.
Third, Tobias Haller is unfolding an argument on the matter of human sexuality, the manifesting question in all of this. Truly a Hooker scholar and a classical Anglican in the very best sense, Tobias' careful, cool, and pithy analysis is virtually unequaled in the blogosphere at present. His treatment has invited even a refreshingly civil conversation with Matt Kennedy of Stand Firm fame. It's well worth watching where this goes. Despite some efforts, including my own rather inept one, to widen the topic of conversation, Tobias will (quite rightly) not be deterred from a very focused and erudite treatment of the scriptural and theological questions at hand.
When all is said and done by the powers that be on all sides, prayers remain with our bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Communion as a whole.
May Christian hearts and charity prevail, and, indeed, may the will of God.