Monday, December 25, 2006
The donkey and one of the sheep got to sit in Curran’s stocking, and the red, green and blue crayons apparently were under arrest, because they were last seen tucked into the back seat of the toy police car.
Christmas morning with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old is interesting.
We had double “A” batteries, plenty of “D” batteries, but only one triple "A" battery, and wouldn’t you know it? Gavin’s new train track required fourteen triple “A” batteries.
We now have at least a year’s supply of plastic twist ties, because every toy comes encased in a clamshell made of plastic that will withstand a nuclear blast; with every tiny piece secured with a twist tie. There are an average of 18 twist ties per package. It takes a minimum of ten minutes to get access to each toy AFTER it’s been opened – all the while a very impatient, excited child is getting more and more upset.
So buy stock in packaging companies. They must be doing well, at least until some frustrated parents take the CEOs hostage and demand an end to the torture.
Gavin sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, and wanted to know where the cake was. Curran explained that Jesus was just a tiny baby, and tiny babies couldn’t eat cake.
“Well, then,” Gavin said in the spirit of the season. “I’ll eat it for Jesus.”
He made do with a sugar cookie shaped like a star.
About noon, Gavin made the tour of everyone in the house, asking each of us, “Are you happy?” Everyone responded with a “yes.”
Then Gavin went over to the fire truck, leaned down, and whispered something to Baby Jesus.
I suspect he was reporting that the birthday had been a success, even if there was no cake.
Won’t he like the Epiphany party!
Monday, December 04, 2006
Yes, you CAN hit your brother, but if you do, you WILL be in time out.
Yes, you CAN throw food on the floor, but if you do, you WILL clean it up and mop the floor.
This is a lesson that many adults in The Episcopal Church have somehow missed.
Their version of this lesson is, “I get to do anything I want, make any mess I want, say anything I want, change any rules I want, ignore any vows I took, shirk any responsibilities I have, and still get to be a full member of the church with all the privileges that pertain to that membership. And I get to do this because I’m right and pure and you’re not and if you try to make me follow the rules I will scream and whine and hold my breath ‘til I turn blue.”
Well, maybe that last part is a bit over the top, but not by much.
As evidence, I offer the reaction of various Network bishops to the Presiding Bishop’s gentle but firm letter to the bishop of San Joaquin. She made it quite clear that yes, he COULD lead his diocese in the direction of schism, but if he did so, there WOULD be consequences. She pointed out that he took a vow to uphold the constitution and canons of the church and that if he broke that vow, there would be price to pay.
Well, you’d have thought she’d threatened to burn him at the stake. How DARE she point out that if you break the rules, you pay a price!
The conservative blogs erupted. Most of them call her “Mrs. Schori,” as if this will somehow reduce her authority. Some of them call her other things. John David Schofield called her a heretic in his convention address.
Frankly, it’s kinda fun to watch.
Since it was formed, The Network of Whining Privileged White Men has perfected the art of playing the victim. Can’t the rest of us see how the heretical majority in the TEC is persecuting them? They told us frequently how they are suffering terribly for their principled stand against the apostates in The Episcopal Church. But they were going to persevere because this was spiritual war!
David Anderson even announced in a televised interview in Columbus that leaving would be too easy. It was more fun to stay and fight.
Well, that might be so when no one fights back.
Until very recently – that would be Nov. 4, 2006 -- no one did fight back. One had to work hard to see any reason for the alleged suffering of the Network boys. They hadn’t suffered any consequences for acting like spoiled brats, and I think they really really really believed they never would.
But buck up guys. You are being offered an opportunity to act like adults of God, instead of brats of God.
You can choose to take a stand and then suffer the consequences of that stand like a man!
Or you can choose to experience the power of transformative love and mutual respect.
It’s not hard. The Presiding Bishop made it clear how it works – you have to follow the rules.
Note she did not say you have to agree with all of us. She did not say you have to like all of us. She did not say you couldn’t work as hard as possible within our polity to change things in the church. What you can’t do anymore is break the rules without consequences.
There’s a name for this process.
It’s called growing up.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Today this ad ran in the local Fort Worth newspaper.
That was not the case in the offices of the Diocese of Fort Worth, whose leadership has requested “alternate primatial oversight.”
But very many Episcopalians in Fort Worth did celebrate Katharine’s investiture. For us, it was a huge gift of hope, something that’s been in short supply around here for a long time.
People who have hope are much more likely to have courage. Hence, the willingness to go public with their joy over Katharine's being Presiding Bishop.
Our diocesan convention is this weekend. Our leadership wants delegates to approve their request for ALPO and to vote to withdraw from Province VII – a move many believe is illegal. All these are actions meant to further disassociate our diocese from The Episcopal Church.
Many of us have been working hard for years to keep our parishes and this diocese in TEC. We are outnumbered on the floor of convention, but increasingly I believe we are gaining numbers in the pews. This always has been a clergy-led movement, and in this diocese clericalism is rampant. People have been trained for decades that “father knows best.” Many of our clergy are really good at stirring up fear and anger at the mean ol’national church.
But people are getting really tired of the constant negativity and whining. They want to get on with the work of the church. They don’t want to bash their gay and lesbian neighbors. Women’s ordination is no longer a big deal with most people here. Parishes are realizing that they are families, worshipping communities in which relationships – with God and with one another -- matter more than scoring political or so-called theological points.
They don’t want to be made “pure” at the cost of losing part of their “family.”
Even so, I predict that the resolutions seeking to distance us from TEC will pass. There’s too big a “lock” on the delegates’ votes. Our leadership is fond of martial images and they’ve been marketing this “war” for a long time. Maybe too long.
I think this will be a case of winning the battle while losing the war.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
“Why?” he asked.
“I’m going to the investiture of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman presiding bishop and the first woman primate in the Anglican Communion.”
“Oh. Does God know?"
“Yes,” I said, “God knows. God will be there.”
“Is it alright with God?”
“Yes, it is very alright with God,” I said.
“Is it alright with you, GrandMom?” he asked.
“Yes, it is alright with me.”
“Then it’s alright with me!” he exclaimed, and leaped into my arms.
I was tickled by this exchange, as any grandmother would be. It’s nice to know he is interested in what both God and I think.
But it also grieved me that at age 4 he’s already picked up on the fact that God might have a problem with a female presiding bishop.
It’s because he lives in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Here, even though both his parents and his grandparents think the ordination of women is one of the best things that the Episcopal Church has ever done, topped only by the election, approval and consecration of Gene Robinson, this child already has been infected by the toxic fumes of misogyny.
And why wouldn’t he? He never sees a woman presiding at the altar at our parish except for rare special occasions when we import one. He knows “Father Fred” and “Father Bill” and knows that his beloved Da is “Father Pool.” But he never sees women in clerical garb unless Deacon Janet happens to be about.
He knows that the bishop doesn’t “like” women priests because he’s heard us talk about it. Like most children, he doesn’t miss a thing when adults are in conversation.
He’s four. His brother is two.
They are why I get exasperated when people from elsewhere in the church tell me to be “patient.”
I really don’t what to one day be holding a great grandchild who asks of women in churchly authority, “Is it alright with God?”
Monday, November 06, 2006
It is Hope, and it’s come home.
It moved in with the wind of the Holy Spirit, filling the National Cathedral with a palpable presence.
You could not only feel it, you could see it. It was in the streamers flying above our heads. It was in the dancing feet. It was in the flames on the candles and in the smoke of the smudgers.
We breathed it in and felt it homesteading our hearts.
I suspect it made its presence felt at different times for different people. For me, it was when Katharine called us all home.
I’ve felt like a homeless child in the church for a long time. Where I live, a lot of people feel that way for very different reasons. But Katharine reminded us that our natural home is our home in God. And there’s a table there we all can share. All we have to do is come to the table.
We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to judge. We don’t have to change each other’s minds. We got our seat at the table when we were baptized. When we go there, they have to take us in.
Katharine also reminded us that at our baptisms we were given a job – to not only come home, but to make a home for everyone else on earth. Everyone, not just those who agree with me or who think like I think or love like I love. Everyone.
“None of us can be fully at home, at rest, enjoying shalom, unless all the world is as well,” Katharine said.
And I thought, it’s no wonder so many in our church feel homeless, uneasy, unhappy. We’ve spent too much energy drawing lines in the sand, arguing over who’s in and who’s out, instead of working to find ways to bring us all in, warts and all.
We seem to be unable to trust God to sort it out.
It’s no wonder we are in pain. We’re wounding each other daily.
What if we stopped?
What if we stopped all the politics, dropped all the resolutions, and silenced the war-like rhetoric? What if we trusted in God to sort it out?
What if we cared more for the “other’s’ health and well being than for our own?
“The ability of any of us to enjoy shalom depends on the health of our neighbors. If some do not have the opportunity for health or wholeness, then none of us can enjoy true and perfect holiness,” Katharine said.
What keeps us from shalom? Apathy and fear. But apathy and fear cannot withstand hope -- hope in God in Jesus.
Katharine said, “If God in Jesus has made captivity captive, has taken fear hostage, it is for the liberation and flourishing of hope.”
She ended her sermon by saying, “God had spoken that dream in us, let us rejoice! Let us join the raucous throngs in creation, the sea creatures and the geological features who leap for joy at the vision of all creation restored, restored to proper relationship, to all creation come home at last. May that scripture be fulfilled in our hearing and in our doing. Shalom, my friends, shalom.” And we all responded, “Shalom.”
After the service was over, my husband and I turned to leave the balcony where we were seated, and he said, “Look!”
There on the stone floor of the north balcony was a ladybug, heading toward the stairs with the rest of us.
He picked her up and handed her to me. We smiled at one another, for we’ve known since childhood that finding a ladybug in your house is good luck. It was a silly little thing, but somehow the presence of that small creature lifted my heart even more. It was as if this small beetle represented “the raucous throngs” of all of God’s creatures present in the Cathedral.
I carried her down the stairs and across to the south door to carefully deposit her on a bush outside.
Then I walked back in to stand in line in hopes of greeting Katherine, who was standing at the font greeting everyone. And the inevitable happened -- after the euphoria of participating in such a wonderful worship service, there came the cold bite of reality. We have to return home to Fort Worth, to a very different church experience.
My heart began its familiar ache.
So I asked her for a blessing to take home.
I carry it with me now, resident in my peaceful heart, alongside hope.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Yesterday, my daughter, my grandsons and I saw it, that thing with feathers.
It was whooping cranes on the wing, one of the best embodiments of hope I can think of.
Actually, we heard them before we saw them. The loud, rattling kar-r-r-o-o-o that gives them their name caught our attention immediately.
“What is that?” asked my daughter as the strange cries began filling the sky above the house.
We all looked up. There almost directly above the house were several very large white cranes circling and wheeling and crying out to one another.
“It’s the whooping cranes!” Daniella and I said simultaneously.
Both of us had just read the day before in the local paper that the whooping cranes are migrating from Canada into Texas beginning this week. The paper warned that while they would be traveling through North Texas, sightings of them would be rare. But sure enough, by the grace of God, about 25 of the between 230 and 240 whooping cranes who winter around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas flew right over our house.
I called out to my husband to come right now, so he could see them too. We made sure the boys could see them, and tried to explain why the grownups were so excited about “de big white birds,” as 2-year-old Gavin described them.
Why were we so excited?
Because we almost lost them forever.
All my life, I’ve read of the heroic efforts to keep the whooping cranes from extinction. When I was a child, there were less than 50 of them alive in the world.
According to the International Crane Foundation, “the only remaining natural, self-sustaining flock of whooping cranes breeds in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories, Canada and winters in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (Texas).
The ICF reports that, “This flock reached a low of only sixteen birds in the winter of 1941-1942, and numbered under 35 birds over the next two decades. By 2003 there were almost 200 birds in the flock. The population migrates during both spring and fall through a relatively narrow (80-300 km wide) corridor between Aransas and Wood Buffalo.”
So you can see why state and federal wildlife officials are working overtime to alert hunters all over Texas that the five-foot-tall birds would be flying this month so DO NOT SHOOT THEM. It is a federal misdemeanor to shoot a whooping crane, even by accident. The paper said the last known shooting of a whooping crane was in November 2003 at a reservoir near Ennis.
“`The hunter, who was fined and jailed, said he thought he was aiming at a sandhill crane, which is gray, not white,’ said Tom Stehn, whooping-crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who is stationed at Aransas.”
As I gazed up at the amazing aerial ballet going on above my house, I could only be amazed that anyone’s first reaction on seeing these birds would be to shoot them. My instinct was to drop to my knees and give thanks.
The Star-Telegram story said, “Last year, 214 whooping cranes landed at the refuge . . . With the recent death of one bird, there are a record 499 whooping cranes in North America, Stehn said. It is a "remarkable comeback" for the continent's tallest bird, whose population was 15 in 1941, he said.”
But the whooping crane still comes in third, behind the ivory-billed woodpecker and the California condor among endangered birds, according to the National Audubon Society.
According to the paper, most of the whooping cranes will move into Texas in November and will begin their 2,500-mile return to Canada between late March and early April.
I hope we are blessed to see more of these graceful vulnerable beauties.
Pray for their safe journey.
To see photos of whooping cranes go to the International Crane Foundation at
Monday, October 16, 2006
In those days, police referred to its victims as “battered women.” Most district attorneys’ offices would prosecute the batterer only if the wife agreed to divorce him.
That is, if the police even bothered to arrest him. Usually one officer would walk the man around the block to “cool him off” while the other office stayed with the woman to find out what she did “to set him off” and to urge her not to do that again.
After all, if she’d just “act right,” everything would be OK.
Any of this sound familiar?
You can see why many women’s advocates felt it was important to do some educating of the police, DAs, and the public. That’s why October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In some places it’s called Domestic Violence Prevention Month.
In either case, the drive is to encourage people to get involved in domestic violence prevention efforts and to intervene if they know someone in an abusive relationship.
Episcopalians should pay close attention to these education efforts, because our church is in an abusive relationship.
Here are the warning signs:
· Abusers use emotional abuse. They put you down in many ways, make you feel bad about yourself, call you names, try to make you think you’re “crazy, play mind games, humiliate you and make you feel guilty.
· Abusers use coercion and threats. They make or carry out threats to do something to hurt you. They threaten to leave you, to commit suicide or to report you to authorities without cause. They make you drop charges. They make you do illegal things.
· Abusers use economic abuse. They take your money. They refuse to give you money. They prevent you from getting a job. They make you ask for money. They won’t let you know about the family money or let you have access to the family income.
· Abusers use gender privilege. They treat you like a servant. They make all the big decisions. They act like “master of the castle.” They define “men’s” and “women’s” roles.
· Abusers use intimidation. They make you afraid by using looks, gestures and actions. They smash things. They abuse pets. They display weapons.
· Abusers use the children. They make you feel guilty about the children. They use the children to relay messages. They use visitation to harass you. They threaten to take the children away from you.
· Abusers use isolation. They control what you do, whom you see and talk to, what you read and where you go. They limit your outside involvement. They use jealousy to justify actions.
· Abusers minimize, deny, blame. They make light of the abuse. They don’t take your concern seriously. They say the abuse didn’t happen. They shift responsibility for abusive behavior to you.
From the Texas Council on Family Violence http://www.tcfv.org/
For national information, go to Family Violence Prevention Fund at http://www.endabuse.org/
This list could well be a strategy memo for those conservatives who are determined to wreck the Episcopal Church and/or to replace it with their own “purified” NeoPuritan version.
One can go down the list and check it off.
Uses emotional abuse and calls you names? Try “pagan” and “revisionist” and “heretic.”
Tries to make you feel guilty? Try claiming that Christians are being killed in majority Muslim countries because TEC elected and confirmed an honestly gay man.
Plays mind games? Try claiming that Lambeth resolutions have the power of laws, or that TEC has been “kicked out of” the Anglican Communion, or that the Windsor Report is some kind of judgment from on high against us.
Uses coercion and threats? Try threats of leaving, again and again and again and again.
Uses economic abuse. Try withholding money from the national church.
Uses gender privilege. Surely I don’t have to explain this one.
You do it. Go down the list and see what you come up with.
So. Once it is determined someone is in an abusive relationship, what happens next?
The number one thing to do is GET AWAY FROM YOUR ABUSER.
Trying to placate or appease abusers never works.
What does work is separating yourself from the abuser and then using the rule of law to remove him from a position where he can abuse you, to keep him from abusing you again, and to keep safe others being hurt.
What part of this does our church leadership not understand?
Those of us in places like Fort Worth really want to know. For at least fifteen years those of us in the Diocese of Fort Worth who support the ordination of women and the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life and work of the church have been trying to get some help, or least encouragement, from the national church as our diocesan leadership moved year after year to isolate and separate us more and more from the national church. The Episcopal Women's Caucus, Integrity and Claiming the Blessing are the only organizations in the church who responded to our cries for help. Only now that the same issues we’ve been struggling with here are threatening the larger church is the national church finally paying attention.
Reminds me of the mousetrap story:
A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package containing a mousetrap. Rushing to the farmyard, the worried mouse proclaimed the warning.
"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"
The chicken clucked and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."
The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."
The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."
So, the mouse sadly returned to the house to face the farmer's mousetrap-- alone.
That very night the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey was heard throughout the house. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.
The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.
But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.
Then the farmer's wife died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.
The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.
St. Paul could have told this story. It’s about what hurts one part of the body hurts us all. When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.
It’s time to name the abuse, use the laws to contain or punish the abusers, and to help those suffering under the abuse.
To do less is to become complicit in your own abuse.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
SPEECH TO DALLAS VIA MEDIA
OCT. 1, 2006
First of all, I want it on record that I’m not here tonight to give THE answer to the problems plaguing the Anglican Communion.
But as a long time observer of secular and churchly politics, what I CAN do is offer some information and analysis.
Much of this will be bullet points, so I can cover as much information as possible in the time we have.
First, the Windsor Report:
Our church is now moving through what many describe as a time of turmoil. There are those who are working hard to keep things as stirred up as possible in the wake of the actions of General Convention 2003. One tool they are using to great effect is the Windsor Report. They make loud and repeated demands that The Episcopal Church “submit” to it and use disinformation to stir up as much anxiety as possible.
So information is our best weapon against the fog of words being put out by those threatening schism.
Here are facts:
* The Anglican Communion is not a church. It is a fellowship of highly autonomous provinces.
* The Archbishop of Canterbury has no power to do anything or order any action taken in any province of the Anglican Communion except the Church of England.
*Lambeth has no legislative power. In “The Study of Anglicanism,” John Booty and Stephen Sykes wrote, “The Lambeth Conference has remained a deliberating body convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whatever the respect according to its deliberations, it has no canonical or constitutional status.”
* Lambeth degrees are not only not binding, they are reversable. In 1920, Lambeth issued a resolution strongly forbidding birth control. At its very next meeting in 1930, Lambeth reversed itself. In 1888, Lambeth held that polygamists could not be received for baptism until they became monogamous. In 1988 Lambeth said that polygamists could be baptized but could not take another wife as long as any of their wives were living -- offering pastoral means to resolve the polygamy issue in those Provinces whose cultures condone it.
* The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting were first grouped in the 1997 Virginia Report which preceded Lambeth 1998. In that report these entities were called “World-Wide Instruments of Communion” in a chapter discussing ideas that the bishops at Lambeth might choose to explore. The authors of the Windsor Report introduced the term “Instruments of Unity” for the first time in 2004.
* The Primates have met regularly only since 1979. At that first meeting, the Primates themselves defined the meeting’s purpose as “not being a higher synod but a clearing house for ideas and experience through free expression, the fruits of which the Primates might convey to their churches.”
* Who decides who is a member of the Anglican Communion and who is not? We might look for an answer in the Canons of the Church of England. Rule 54(5) of the Church Representative Rules provides that “if any question arises whether a Church is in communion with the Church of England, it shall be conclusively determined for the purposes of these rules by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.”
Archbishop Robin Eames, Chairman of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, says in his introduction:
"This report is not a judgment. It is part of a process. It is part of a
pilgrimage toward healing and reconciliation."
Let’s repeat that – it’s a report. It’s not a judgment. It’s not legislation. It’s not Holy Writ. You can’t submit to a report.
[Note: Since this speech was given, The Most Reverend Barry Morgan, “Archbishop of Wales and one of the drafters of the Windsor Report said in his September Presidential Address, "... we did not have in mind a covenant that was prescriptive and detailed and intrusive. What we did have in mind was what ECUSA did at its convention in July."]
Now for the Windsor Report itself. This Report that is being held over the head of The Episcopal Church like some flaming sword of a vengeful god is a very flawed document that focuses so tightly on Institutional Preservation that I fear it leaves no room for the workings of the Holy Spirit.
It does recognize that The Episcopal Church and the Canadian Church acted within the bounds of their Canons and Constitution, but after that, it goes downhill.
The Windsor Report – according to its own creators – was supposed to start a discussion, not end one. But it did so in such a clumsy ham fisted way that it short-circuited the discussion it hoped for.
Among its deficiencies is its laughably inaccurate account of the history of the ordination of women and its reception in the Communion. It also skates very lightly indeed over the way the Communion historically has dealt with anyone other than white males.
It proposes a completely un-Anglican confessional document and calls for a highly centralized non-elected authority of clerics to run the Anglican Communion. It also calls for a convoluted process by which all Episcopal elections anywhere – and one assumes appointments in the places where bishops are appointed, not elected – would have to be approved by the entire Communion, as would other controversial matters. One assumes this unelected Curia would get to decide what is “controversial” and what it not.
And, as we all know -- it calls on The Episcopal Church to impose indefinite moratoria on the episcopal election of any more gay people living in committed relationships and on same-sex unions, quite offensively placing the entire burden on one small of group of our sisters and brothers in Christ.
So deficient is this document that at their first meeting after it was issued, the Primates dismissed it as “inadequate” as did all – all – of the conservative groups in The Episcopal Church.
It was only after they realized that the Windsor Report was all they were going to get out of Lambeth that they began to represent it as a legislative judgment passed on The Episcopal Church by the rest of the Communion.
But no matter how much sturm und drang they keep raising, and no matter how many meetings various groups of bishops may have, the General Convention is the only body in The Episcopal Church with the authority to respond to the Windsor Report.
Bonnie Anderson, the new President of the House of Deputies points out in her recent letter in response to the Camp Allen meeting and the Kigali Statement that “The Windsor Report was issued as one part of a process. The responsibility for the response to the Windsor Report belongs to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, a bicameral legislature with representation from lay and clergy as well as bishops. At the 75th General Convention, our response was made. Our bishops certainly can and do meet together. However, when decisions affecting the whole Episcopal Church are made, representatives of the whole Episcopal Church need to be present for the conversations as well as the possible decision making.”
The Windsor Report was written to the whole communion, not just The Episcopal Church. Its purpose was not to explore the subject of homosexuality, but to explore ways to remain in communion with one another while holding serious disagreements.
To this end, it strongly urged bishops to stop interfering in provinces and dioceses other than their own.
It also repeated the urgings of Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998 for the entire communion to engage in a listening process in which they would listen to the experience of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ.
Out of that list, the Episcopal Church has done more to participate in – or if you prefer, to “comply” with -- the Windsor Process than any other province.
So when bishops start calling themselves “”Windsor compliant” because they forbid same sex blessings and have condemned the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, one might ask about the listening process in their dioceses and the letters they have written to admonish fellow bishops who have continued to make extra-territorial incursions – such as ordaining a priest of the Episcopal Church a bishop in the Church of Nigeria with the mandate to minister to people in The Episcopal Church.
Unless they have done all these things, they are not “Windsor compliant.” Our bishops are not “Windsor compliant.” They are “partially Windsor compliant.” You and I live in “partially Windsor compliant’ dioceses.
Events began overtaking the WR within weeks of it being issued. Many Primates ignored its request that Primates not interfere with the business of Provinces not their own. Meetings in Cairo and Pittsburgh made it clear that many already had decided to split from The Episcopal Church no matter what General Convention did in Columbus.
So it was no surprise that many began to fling accusations that General Convention “thumbed its nose” at the Windsor Report even before Convention was over. This is not helpful. Such rhetoric insults the hard thoughtful and prayerful work done by bishops, priests and deputies on the resolutions dealing with the report. Yes, GC 2006 didn't do absolutely everything that the WR suggested, but as several have noted, neither has anyone else. As many have pointed out, we're more “Windsor Compliant” than most.
The last minute passage of B033 was handled badly, and many people felt spiritually beat up, not only by the passage of the resolution, but by the manner it which it was presented and the pressure put on both houses by the presiding bishop and the presiding bishop elect.
And within minutes of its passage, conservatives were issuing loud complaints that it was not enough to satisfy them.
I believe the most faithful want to work this out. But I also believe the reason so many Episcopalians are instinctively uneasy with The Windsor Report is that it is a very institutional-centered document reflecting the highly hierarchical nature of some Provinces of our Communion. For instance, it has taken more than three years for much of the Communion to "get" that we elect bishops, we don't appoint them. This is the kind of misunderstanding that has caused the Scottish Episcopal Church and New Zealand and Australia to share our skepticism.
Another reason for this unease for us, I believe, is our Baptismal Covenant, which since 1979 has become part of our spiritual DNA.
As a friend of mine pointed out, unlike the very hierarchical Windsor Report, the Baptismal Covenant is crafted to reflect a pre-hierarchical Church: the Church of Paul, where we have different functions rather than more or less power.
That's a very significant distinction.
The Windsor Report is all about the institutional church, not about the Gospel. It’s good to remember that Jesus never envisioned a "church" at all: he preached exclusively about the Kingdom of God.
So when people say – as many have in the wake of General Convention – that “the Baptismal Covenant trumps Windsor" they are saying that "Jesus and Paul trump religious institutions".
Another reason for our unease is that the recommendations of the WR are being so obviously selectively accepted and selectively "enforced."
Which brings me to the impact the Windsor Report has had on the leadership of Rowan Williams.
The Archbishop of Canterbury apparently has no problem with everyone being “partially Windsor compliant.” Michael Russell has pointed out that while Rowan has made some mild statements about stopping foreign incursions by some bishops in Africa, he has never strongly encouraged them to stop the incursions nor has he even suggested they initiate a meaningful listening process. Williams’ worst sin of omission is his shameful failure to challenge the actions of the Church of Nigeria in its vociferous support of the criminalization of homosexuality in Nigeria – laws that can lead to the imprisonment and death of gay and lesbian people, as well as the imprisonment of anyone who speaks out in their behalf!
All of his admonitions have been aimed at The Episcopal Church, and to a lesser degree, The Anglican Church in Canada. But if anyone has thumbed its nose at the Windsor Report, it is those in the Anglican Communion who have ignored the provisions of the report aimed at them. The Episcopal Church is at least struggling with it.
What the Archbishop of Canterbury has tried to do is articulate in his indirect oh-so-British way is that he has no authority to make anyone do anything outside the Church of England, so he’d like us to work this out amongst ourselves.
Because no matter how much some Primates may act like it, there is no actual structure to enforce decisions made by any extra-national group in the World Wide Anglican Communion.
In the end, the integrity of The Windsor Report has been lost because the Archbishop of Canterbury has held us to one standard and the rest of the Anglican Communion to another.
Now to CAMP ALLEN.
I think there are two reasons why the announcement of the meeting at Camp Allen raised concerns.
One was that it was bishops only who were meeting, and Episcopalians always get nervous when bishops are in a room by themselves. It increases the chances of bishops behaving badly.
And two, the admissions test. Bishops were required to accept as doctrinal and authoritative not only the recommendations of The Windsor Report but also the actions of Lambeth. Michael Russell reminded us that physics and other sciences teach us that outcomes are often quite controlled by initial conditions.
The truth is, as Ann Fontaine pointed out on the HOB/D list, Camp Allen was just a group of 21 bishops who have an opinion. Bishops are welcome to meet and to lobby the church in whatever direction they wish. She pointed out that that is what those who have worked for full inclusion of women in all orders of ministry and gays' and lesbians' full participation in the church have done. Their view has prevailed within the rules of order and the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. That has outraged many who were used to having things done “their’ way.
Camp Allen looked to many like yet another attempt at an end run to achieve goals they couldn’t get at General Convention. But there is no "body" that can enforce what they want except General Convention.
Jim Stockton of Austin figured out that, with five additions, these were very same bishops who signed off in April of 2005 on the urgent plea to the ABC, thereby contradicting their participation less than a month earlier in the House of Bishops Covenant Statement.
Two of the new additions were new bishops following in their predecessors' footsteps: Lillibridge following Folts and Love following Herzog. Keith ackerman of Quincy was no surprise. The only two ‘new” names since April 2005 are Mark MacDonald of Alaska and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island. And so far, with the exception of Ackerman, these names merely represent the bishops, not the dioceses. This distinction is very likely to be addressed at upcoming diocesan councils and conventions.
I fear that instead of being reconciling, this was a meeting aimed at further dividing The Episcopal Church. More than one person pointed out that the most shameful part of the Camp Allen statement is that it includes no acknowledgement of the responsibility of the African bishops to respect the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori. The lack of an affirmation of her election by the non-Network bishops present is inexcusable.
Jim Stockton's analysis of The Camp Allen meeting pointed out that it also had to affect the meeting the ++PB and ++PB elect had in New York. While they are working to come up with a pastoral solution for those distressed by Katharine’s election, the Camp Allen meeting was working to divide the church into Windsor compliant and Windsor non-compliant camps.
Moreover, Camp Allen was gathered around an agenda that dismisses the obligation of dioceses and their bishops to abide by the Constitution and Canons of the Church.
One observer described it as “an attempt to construct an alliance comprised of those bishops fiercely committed to a puritan revision of the Episcopal Church with those bishops who have recognized their own misgivings around certain policies of the Church and who are willing to entertain non-canonical means of challenging them.”
After all, claiming the right to seek direct relationships with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Primates, effectively inviting the ABC to violate jurisdictional boundaries, is in direct contradiction of the recommendations the WR.
It has been pointed out that trying to create a new category of bishops entitled 'Windsor Compliant,' and to foment non-compliance to our Constitution and Canons is to foment also non-compliance with the spirit and letter of the ever-exalted Windsor Report. “The only compliance left is compliance to one's own prejudices.”
Here is what Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has to say about the Camp Allen meeting:
“With regard to the gathering in Texas, advance and follow-up information about this meeting suggest an involvement by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is important for you to know that the Texas meeting was in no way held at the Archbishop's initiative nor was it planned in collaboration with him. The two bishops from the Church of England did not attend as delegates of the Archbishop, nor were they empowered to speak on his behalf except to give the message that "the bishops meeting are bishops of the Catholic Church in the Anglican Communion."
“The letter from Texas said it is the clear sense of the signers that "the General Convention of 2006 did not adequately respond to the request made of the Episcopal Church by the Communion through the Windsor Report and the Primates at Dromantine." It says that this view is "consistent with the Archbishop of Canterbury's Holy Cross Day letter to the Primates." Given the very nuanced and cautious way in which the Archbishop expresses himself, I think it is important here to refer back to that letter and what Rowan actually said, and I quote: "It is also clear that the Episcopal Church has taken very seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report; but the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response to the Dromantine requests. The advisory group has spent much time in examining these resolutions in great detail, and its sense is that although some aspects of these requests have been fully dealt with, there remain some that have not."
“I note here that Archbishop Robin Eames, Chairman of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, says in his introduction: "This report is not a judgment. It is part of a process. It is part of a pilgrimage toward healing and reconciliation." As such, I believe the "Windsor process" is a process of mutual growth which calls for patience, mutual understanding and generosity of spirit rather than stark submission.
“It also needs to be said that the assessment of the responses of the Episcopal Church to the Windsor process is not the responsibility of self-chosen groups within the Communion. At the April 2006 meeting of the Joint Standing Committee of the primates and the Anglican Consultative Council a small working group drawn from different parts of the Communion was identified to consider the actions and decisions of our General Convention. They will communicate to both the Joint Standing Committee and then the Primates Meeting in February. The Archbishop has repeatedly underscored the need to allow this process to unfold.
“The General Convention in Resolution A165 affirmed our commitment to the Windsor process. From my perspective, being faithful to the Windsor process – and the Covenant process which is integral to it – calls for patience and rules out actions which would preempt their orderly unfolding. In my view, portions of the Kigali statement that take issue with the actions of the Episcopal Church in advance of hearing from the advisory group, and before the Covenant has an opportunity to be developed, are inconsistent with the Windsor process, as are continuing incursions of bishops from other provinces into our dioceses. Patience and respect for one another and our provincial structures are required on the part of us all.”
And that brings us to the KIGALI STATEMENT
Perhaps the best response to the meeting in Kigali came from Bonnie Anderson, the president of the House of Deputies.
She wrote: “The Global South Primates who recently met at Kigali have a right to meet, but
no right to make decisions for the Anglican Communion. They have expressed concern about the perceived unilateral actions taken the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003. However, their statement is truly a unilateral act.”
She points out that, “In their statement they distance themselves from Bishop Jefferts Schori for holding views that are similar to those held by Bishop Griswold, Bishop Browning before and other Primates currently. There is nothing unique in her views. What is unique is her gender in the circle of primates. That seems to be their biggest objection. I note with sadness that the Kigali communiqué does not extend the courtesy of referring to Bishop Jefferts Schori as a bishop, where everyone else is referred to with titles. It adds a low note that is not worthy of the faith espoused in the document.”
Here it is important to point out that questions are emerging as to just how many bishops who were at the meeting in Kigali actually signed on to this statement, or indeed, even knew about it. Anglican Church of Southern Africa Archbishop Ndungane has said that while he and Canon Livingstone Ngewu were present in Kigali, neither of them was made aware even of the possibility of a communiqué in the name of the Primates of the Global South, prior to its release. That was followed by a September 28 statement from the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) which clarified that its Prime Bishop, the Most Rev. Ignacio C. Soliba, "did not attend the meeting and was not a signatory to the so-called Kigali Communiqué." There are 38 Provinces in the Anglican Communion. So now we’re down from 20 primates to 18. That’s not even half of the provinces in the Communion, must less a majority. The Philippine statement also offered greetings on behalf of the province to Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori and welcomed her election. "The Episcopal Church in the Philippines will extend an invitation for her to visit the Philippines in early 2008 for the renewal of our historical ties and covenant relationship," the statement said.
However many Primates really signed on to the statement and the question of just how much of the Communion really is in tune with the statement, it DOES raise concerns.
This is interference in the Episcopal Church's affairs of the most outrageous sort - essentially this communiqué asks for an alternate Primate to be sent from the Episcopal Church.
The Communique also proposes active planning for a structure that they clearly intend to be accepted as the official Anglican province representing the USA.
The Episcopal Majority spoke for many of us when they said that most of us were – and still are -- hoping that the various actors within Anglicanism were in good faith looking for a solution to our present difficulties. If the meeting in Kigali doesn’t obliterate that hope, it certainly dims it. The meeting revealed a large group within the Church determined to mold the Communion in their neo-Puritan image.
Forget the Windsor Process. The Rt. Reverend Peter Akinola and his Global South buddies want to establish a new Anglicanism.
The Episcopal Majority blogsite has very clearly laid out how it looks:
They plan to soon produce an Anglican Covenant, their definitive statement of what Anglicanism is.
They were at work even before the official process, prompted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, began. Indeed, their document is almost finished. It certainly will adhere strictly to their stated views on homosexuality – which is "an evil" and a "perversion," according to their statements. Further, they will forbid the ordination of homosexuals to the diaconate and clergy, even though the Windsor Report never suggested they should be.
They will submit this material to the official Anglican Covenant Committee chaired by the Rt. Rev. Drexel Gomez, an outspoken supporter of an Anglican realignment who opposes the inclusion of gay men and lesbians in the Church.
The communiqué also discussed alternative primatial oversight. According to the process currently in place, these matters and others dealing with similar conflicts were to be referred to the Panel of Reference set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury. According to the communiqué this matter will now be taken up by "the Global South Steering Committee" to "develop a proposal identifying the ways by which the requested Primatial oversight can be adequately provided." The Committee will "meet with the leadership of the dioceses requesting Alternative Primatial Oversight, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Network and the ‘Windsor Dioceses’."
Why are they doing this? Because of the "slow response from the Panel of Reference." Not only have they dismissed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s panel, they have decided the Archbishop himself is now one of many to be consulted in the matter of primatial oversight.
The communiqué then speaks of their intent to set up, under their sole guidance, a parallel ecclesiastical structure in America:
"We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA. We have asked the Global South Steering Committee to develop such a proposal in consultation with the appropriate instruments of unity of the Communion. We understand the serious implications of this determination. We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to
historic Anglican faith.”
The communiqué announced, "At the next meeting of the Primates in February 2007 some of us will not be able to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a primate at the table with us. Others will be in impaired communion with her as a representative of The Episcopal Church."
The alliance arrogantly demands that some other bishop represent the Episcopal Church.
The best thing that can be said about the Kigali Statement is that it has given us clarity. First, any hope that there can be some accommodation with Archbishop Akinola over the matters which divide us is gone. Many are beginning to fear that the trajectory set by Akinola is more likely to end up looking like extremist fundamentalist Islam and Christianity than anything Anglican.
One primate who was at the meeting -- Archbishop Ndungane, shares these concerns:
“I am unable to understand why there seems to be a deliberate intention to undermine the due processes of the Anglican Communion and the integrity of the Instruments of Unity, while at the same time we commit ourselves to upholding Anglican identity, of which these, as they have continued to evolve over the years in response to changing needs, are an intrinsic part. Thus, for example, recent meetings of the Primates, in which the Global South played a very full part, requested various actions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, which he has been assiduous in pursuing; such as setting up the Lambeth Commission, the Panel of Reference, and now the Covenant Design Group. Yet there seems to be an urgency to obtain particular outcomes in advance, pre-empting the proper outworking of the bodies for which we called.
“I must also say that I am disturbed by the apparent zeal for action to be taken against those deemed not in compliance with Lambeth Resolution 1:10, with a readiness to disregard ancient norms of observing diocesan autonomy. Though this was upheld within the Windsor Report’s recommendations, it is of course a practice that was adopted in earliest times by the universal church . . .We are in danger of giving the impression of being loyal Anglicans, and loyal members of God’s One, Holy and Apostolic Church, only where, and insofar, it suits us!
“I am also more than a little wary of calling into question the election processes of another Province in the way the Communiqué suggests, in relation to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. This introduces a completely new dimension into our relationships within the Communion, the reciprocal implications of which we have not considered.
“An added concern for me is the apparent marginalization of laity, clergy and bishops in the debate within the Global South. I long for a consultative process that fully engages the whole Body of Christ . . . Primates do not have sole monopoly on wisdom and knowledge at this crucial time, nor indeed at any other!
“And so I also offer a call to my brother Primates, that we step back from the brink at which the Kigali Communiqué appears to place us.”
And here is what our own Frank Griswold has to say about Kigali:
“The communiqué from Kigali recommends that there be a separate ecclesial body within our province. The suggestion of such a division raises profound questions about the nature of the church, its ordering and its oversight. I further believe such a division would open the way to multiple divisions across other provinces of the Communion, and any sense of a coherent mission would sink into chaos. Such a recommendation appears to be an effort to preempt the Windsor process and acting upon it would create a fact on the ground, making healing and reconciliation – the stated goal of the Windsor process – that much more difficult to achieve.
“Having said that, I am well aware that some within our own Episcopal Church are working to achieve such an end. Efforts, some more overt than others, toward this end have been underway since before the 1998 Lambeth Conference …
“The Kigali communiqué questions Bishop Jefferts Schori's ability to represent all of our dioceses. The role of primates is to bear witness as fully as possible to the life and complexities of their own provinces. I have sought to bring to the primates' meetings the wide range of opinions and the consequent tensions within our own church. I have every confidence that Katharine will do the same. Furthermore,” Griswold says, “the voices from dioceses that the Kigali communiqué fears will not be heard seem to be well represented among the primates themselves.”
I agree with Michael Russell that our problems boil down to – and I know this is completely simplistic -- We've never done it that way and Most people don't approve. Like many in The Episcopal Church I personally do not think that the Church exceeds her authority by ordaining or blessing the relationships of gay and lesbians. Homosexuality is not a moral condition. It is an existential one. This means the behavior is only immoral if it is not done in love and mutuality and with consent -- as is the case with heterosexuals.
Otherwise those two criteria -- we’ve never done it this way and most people don’t approve -- are the same we used for approving slavery, racism and the subjugation of women. As Micheal reminded us, just because 70% of the Anglican Communion lives in cultures that stress the subordination of women doesn't make it right, any more than the suggestion that 70 percent of the Anglican Communion does not include gay and lesbians in the life and ministry of the church makes that right.
Something new is emerging. That means we live in a scary time. We must be careful not to let fear over ride faith in a loving God.
We have two things on which to hang our hope for the future.
One is the rule of law.
The job of those in the Via Media is to keep the issue of the rule of law in front of every one -- all of us, liberal, conservative, moderate – all of us.
And the second, of course, is our faith in a loving God.
I want to close by talking about what I consider the issue that underlies the Windsor Report, the Camp Allen meeting and the Kigali statement -- and that is impaired communion.
It’s a phrase that’s tossed around with alarming ease these days for such a serious matter. It’s always presented as a prelude to that other serious sin – schism.
I’m very familiar with the phrase, because every since it was founded, my diocese has been in “impaired” or “broken” communion with all bishops who ordain women, with all Primates who ordain women, with all bishops who are women and, of course, with all priests who are women.
We are in broken or impaired communion with Bishop Gene Robinson and with all bishops and deputies who voted to confirm his election.
We are in broken or impaired communion with all bishops who participated in his consecration. We are in broken or impaired communion with any bishop anywhere who allows same-sex blessings and with any priest anywhere who performs one.
We also are out of communion with any male priests ordained by bishops who are women.
EXCEPT, we are in communion with any of the above who are in the Network.
It gets confusing.
Now some of the primates are saying they are not in communion with our presiding bishop elect. To say that many of the Primates either cannot be in communion or are in "impaired communion" with Katharine Jefferts Schori represents what the English group Inclusive Church calls “a theological and ecclesiological nonsense. . . The sacrament of Holy Communion is a sacrament given to us by God. It is not capable of impairment.”
We who trust in God must give thanks to God for the gift of communion; it is as the Body of Christ that we exist. Communion is God’s gift to give, not ours to hand out only to those of which we approve or with which we agree.
The place where this comes clear to me is the altar rail. If my bishop is celebrating, I make a point to take communion from his hand, because we are in communion with one another whether we like it or not. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. That doesn’t mean we have to like each other – but we are commanded to love one another.
If we can strive to do that, and more importantly, trust in a God who loves us beyond all we deserve or can understand, all will be well.
All manner of things will be well.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
I am hosting this essay written by Bryan Taylor, a lay man in the Diocese of Fort Worth, because he raises interesting points about Bishop Don Wimberly's meeting at Camp Allen.
Reconciliation Doublespeak: Factionalism Unites
by Bryan Taylor
Like Peter Parker waking up as Spiderman after being bitten by a genetically engineered spider, the Windsor Report has acquired special super-powers and skipped over years if not decades of evolution to become Some Great Thing. Forget the process of reception so carefully described in the first Eames Commission Report and reiterated in the Windsor Report itself. In a matter of a few months, it has gone from a report with an invitation into a process and recommendations for going forward, to a dogmatic formula and a set of demands which may be used (selectively) for judging entire churches as well as various bishops, dioceses and so on, based on their "compliance" or lack thereof. Shazzam! A report wakes up as Holy Writ!
Episcopalians who love their church and who live in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are used to having our bishop Jack Iker supported in almost every depressing particular by our neighboring Bishop James Stanton of Dallas. Imagine our shock when another neighbor of ours, Don Wimberly of Texas, was found propping up our Jack and doing it under the dubious rubric of "Windsor-compliant" bishops! Read Iker's statement in The Living Church (17 July 2006). It's not about Windsor for him, except coincidentally; it's still all about women!
But Bishop Wimberly and a lot of others are worked up about Windsor. On August 11th ENS reported that Bishop Wimberly had issued invitations for a consultation for bishops (only) to be held 19-22 September at Camp Allen. He stated, "It remains my intention to stay within the Episcopal Church and a part of the Anglican Communion even though I don't believe General Convention's response to the Windsor Report was sufficient." He further claimed to have "invited a number of bishops (representing a diversity of opinions) who are firmly committed to the Windsor Report . . . "
But how diverse is this group, and how serious about reconciliation can it really be?
In the April 2006 Texas Episcopalian, Bishop Wimberly wrote, "Scripture doesn't let me off the hook as a Christian by allowing me to alienate those who don't agree with me. I have always tried to reach out to those who agree with me and those who do not because we are One in the body of Christ. There can be no disagreement about this. The Windsor Report says clearly that the Scriptures speak about unity and mission. This must remain our focus as One Church. It would be easy if we could open our Bibles and have Jesus answer the issue of sexuality for us but he didn't." ("The Scriptures and Anglicanism, Part II")
But Bishop Wimberly’s proposed consultation is deeply flawed and ought to be rejected.
First, Bishop Wimberly has elevated not only the Windsor Report but a number of other very recent documents to an exclusionary, dogmatic status. He has leapt over any seemly or judicious process of reception as to their value and concluded they are the basis for reconciliation and the confessional admission price for participating in his discussion group.
In order to be invited, or to invite oneself, other bishops must agree that Lambeth 1.10, the Windsor Report, and the Dromantine Primates' Communique are doctrinally binding and the means--apparently the only means--forward. Implicit, too, is an acceptance of the notion that there'll be an Anglican Covenant ("Thresholds for an Anglican Covenant" is one of the five points on the meeting's agenda), and the even more novel idea of a two-tier Anglican Communion made up of "constituent" provinces in good standing and second-class "associates."
Any bishop who starts deciding who has a place at the table to discuss unity and reconciliation based on these premises is ignoring the very innovative and novel nature of these documents and their recommendations, and making them into super-dogmatic "tests of fellowship." He's also ignoring what the Archbishop of Canterbury himself said were the limits of what he could do, and the amount of time it necessarily would take--years, not months--to flesh out all these proposals. How does that promote unity and reconciliation?
Secondly, Bishop Wimberly's paradigm is sharply at odds with what he wrote in April and his stated intentions for this Camp Allen gathering. I agree that the Gospel does not allow us to alienate those who don't agree with us, if we understand "alienate" in the more precise sense of making someone a stranger, an alien to our fellowship, excluded from our processes. But by making these premises conditional for any other bishops to participate in the Camp Allen consultation, he has deliberately and very concretely excluded all bishops who have reservations about the status he assigns these recent pronouncements (all from outside, "alien" to, our polity), including the very bishops he disagrees with. Apparently the reconciliation of Jack Iker is vitally important, while the reconciliation of "Windsor non-compliant" bishops is irrelevant.
This is not a move to foster reconciliation; it is a move to foment factionalism. It does not seek to find common ground in the center and build outward. It seeks rather to consolidate the adherents of one position into a body that intends to act as broker for the entire Church. The common ground is a distressingly situational kind of purity test for getting to participate in the discussion at all. This is not Anglicanism as it has been historically understood.
And where is this all going anyway? One only has to look at the rest of the agenda, as reported by ENS, which calls for:
* "development of a leadership council for links with Canterbury and the Meeting of Primates," implying that none of our existing structures can do this.
* "a commitment to common action," which might mean lobbying and organizing for General Convention and such, or it might mean far more.
* discussion of "thresholds for an Anglican Covenant"
and last, and most troubling,
* CARE OF CLERGY AND PARISHES NOT REPRESENTED BY "WINDSOR BISHOPS" (All caps not in original.)
Here we have a presupposition that clergy and parishes need help of some kind of "care" if their bishops aren't "Windsor-compliant." This already has been the excuse for interventions by foreign bishops and retired bishops in some of our dioceses in recent years. These have been roundly condemned by Lambeth, Windsor, the House of Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and violate our traditional understandings of episcopacy going back to Nicea.
And why do we need another "leadership council for links with Canterbury and the Primates"? Are the House of Bishops, the Executive Council, and other interim bodies of the General Convention not up to the task of developing proposals for an Anglican Covenant? After all, they have been elected to represent the Episcopal Church's interests with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglicans abroad.
We enjoy a very open, democratic polity in the Episcopal Church. It may be imperfect and slower than we might wish, but those of us who understand it, cherish it. Although we don't express it as overtly, we cherish in that polity the principles enshrined in our American Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, association and assembly, of the press, of worship. We want a free marketplace of ideas. Therefore we have always had an array of parachurch organizations of all sorts, but many of a fairly explicit political nature. A democratic system can tolerate, indeed it must tolerate, organizations that lobby for and against important issues facing the Church. We have had Episcopal Church Women, Episcopal Women's Caucus, Integrity, the Prayer Book Society, the Urban Bishops Caucus, the Irenaeus Fellowship and many others besides, at all points on the spectrum. They come and they go. As long as their efforts are directed at the legitimate decision-making bodies of our Church, their presence can be tolerated and even affirmed.
But they have gone out of bounds when their overt or covert purposes involve the undermining of our constitutional order and our decision-making institutions in favor of structures or processes that better suit them, on whatever basis.
In short, Bishop Wimberly's "Windsor-compliant" consultation is proposed as an alternative to BOTH the legitimate structures of our polity AND the pre-schismatic structures of the Anglican Communion Network. If the latter is an insurrection (they have used the term "guerilla war"), this looks like the prelude to a coup. It doesn't set up a rival body outside the Episcopal Church, it sets up one within, empowering itself to be the legitimate "Windsor-compliant" broker, effectively dealing out our Presiding Bishop, General Convention, the rest of the Bishops and everyone else until they've made a deal we'll all have to accept. This is unity and reconciliation?
Whatever his true motivation and intentions, Bishop Wimberly is playing the wrong game on the wrong field. This consultation ought not be held on the terms set forth. Bishops who support the integrity of their church should stay away, and the people should ignore its pronouncements if they are at all consistent with these deeply flawed premises.
And one last thing. There's a complaint before the Title IV Review Committee against Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin. The same charges could certainly be made against Bishop Iker and others, and very possibly will be. According to the canons, any eventual sanctions in such a case must be approved by the three most senior bishops with jurisdiction, and Bishop Wimberly is one of those three. (ENS 31 July 2006) His impartiality is brought into serious doubt by his support of Bishop Iker at the meeting in NYC this week (or anywhere else), and by the terms he has set for his Camp Allen meeting. He should therefore choose: either cancel the consultation and refrain from participating in activities with Iker and the other Network bishops, or publicly pledge NOW to recuse himself from the disciplinary process, if these complaints move forward.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
In the story the reporter tells of encounters those who lost loved ones had with their husbands, wives, sons and daughters on Sept. 10, ordinary moments that became instantly more precious than jewels the next day.
It’s a moving story, and it resonates with me, even though I lost no one I knew on Sept. 11. What I lost was what all of us lost that day – complacency. What we gained was the unquestioned understanding that those we love could vanish in an instant.
Our theoretical understanding of mortality became a knowing lodged in the gut.
It changed me. I suspect it changed all of us.
My husband and I were three states away from home that day. Even though we knew our family was safe, as soon as we could we rented a car and drove 1200 miles through a day and a night to get home to see them, to touch them, to hold them. What our minds knew didn’t affect what our hearts and bodies needed.
Like everyone else, we watched and listened to hours of news coverage, hours of heartbreak and anguish and terrible loss. This is the thing that most strongly remains with me:
News story after story reported that, when they knew they were going to die, people in those towers and on those planes had one thought – to tell the people they loved that they loved them. Countless cell phone messages were left with goodbyes consisting of “I love you.”
Yes, unimaginable hate caused those planes to crash into buildings and into the ground. Yes, out of the ashes and wreckage arose waves of anguish -- but so did waves of love.
All of us alive that day were as indelibly marked by that loss and love as we would have been if our foreheads wore permanent thumbprints of ashes. For months afterward, it was Ash Wednesday everyday for everyone.
I think of that as I watch my two grandsons, ages 4 and 2. They have lived their entire lives in a post 9/11 world.
I can remember a “before” and an “after.” They cannot.
I wonder what it’s like for them. Do we love them differently, more fiercely, than we would have if 9/11 had not happened? Are we more protective? Are we more appreciative of every milestone – the first smiles, the first steps, the first words – than we would have been before?
I cannot know the answers to these questions, of course.
What I do know is that they are surrounded by adults who know in their guts how precious these and all children are. They are surrounded by people who know how fragile life can be in a much deeper way than we did five years ago.
Most importantly they are surrounded by people still unafraid to love, even though we witnessed the terrible risk of loving on that heartbreaking morning filled with ashes.
The terrorists get so much so wrong. Perhaps the thing they get the most wrong is their belief that hate can defeat love.
Every cell phone call from those burning towers and falling planes taught us just how wrong that is.
Yes, people and planes and buildings turn to ashes, and hearts break.
But love arises.
In spite of the ashes.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
I am the only girl in a family of four children. My three brothers and I — to our consternation and amusement -- still occasionally play out disputes that arose in our childhood. That has made watching my two grandsons negotiate the shoals of siblinghood very interesting. I keep wondering which of their disputes will reappear in their adulthood.
Curran was two and a half when his little brother was born. He was pretty thrilled about the baby finally arriving, because he had talked to Gavin through his mommy’s belly button for months.
But he was a little shocked to find that Gavin was coming home from the hospital with Mommy, and, indeed, was going to live with them.
When we all arrived at their home from the hospital, I watched Curran walk all through the house, looking worried.
‘What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Well, Gramommy, we don’t have a bedroom for Gavin. He’s just going to have to sleep on the porch.”
So his mommy explained that Gavin was going to sleep in the same room as Curran, in the crib that he, Curran, had left when he moved into his “big boy” bed several months before.
“Remember? The crib is a baby bed, and Gavin is a baby,” his mommy said.
Curran agreed that that would work, and he volunteered to watch over his baby brother and “keep him safe.” Then he pinched Gavin to wake him up so he could tell him that.
Gavin is now two. Their relationship, like that of most siblings, alternates between heartwarming sweetness and outright violence.
Once when a teething Gavin was fussing and very unhappy, Curran offered him his [Curran’s] beloved blue blanket. Talk about a gift of love! Curran’s “bu bankie” is his beloved refuge, his comfort when he’s upset, his security as he sleeps. His mother has to time the laundering of the “bu bankie” very carefully indeed. So his offering it to his unhappy baby brother made all the observing adults tear up a bit.
Gavin was an early talker. Before he was two, he had mastered the phrases necessary to any little brother, as in ‘Mine!” and “No!’ and ‘I do it myself,” and, of course, the most essential sentence of all -- “Curran did it.”
He and Curran both think the funniest word in the world is “poop.” Indeed, they can sing songs that contain only that word. I think this is a boy thing.
Curran, now four and a half, does indeed try to keep Gavin “safe”, usually by issuing orders in a very grownup voice. He teaches Gavin all manner of things, including words that Curran is forbidden to say. Then when Gavin dutifully repeats the “bad” word, Curran tells on him.
But he also tries to explain the world to him and I’ve learned a lot from listening in. I learned that Curran knows that the smallest bone in our bodies is in our ears – he learned that at summer “camp.” I learned that Curran knows that some bugs turn into butterflies and some turn into moths, but that other bugs are just bugs – they don’t turn into anything. As Curran put it, “They’re just bugs ‘til they die.”
I watched as he showed Gavin “roly poly” bugs (also called pill bugs or sow bugs). He told Gavin they were teensy tiny armadillos – and you know, that is exactly what they look like.
But all is not sweetness and light.
Whenever the crawling Gavin did something Curran didn’t like, he would tell Gavin he was a “bad baby.” Try as they might, his mother and father could not get him to stop doing that.
But what goes around comes around.
Both my grandsons have red hair, and they have the quick tempers that often accompany such fiery locks.
Once Curran lost his temper at Gavin and hit him. I put Curran into “time out,” which means Curran has to sit on a chair in the room off our living room for several minutes. So as Curran is sitting there, Gavin toddles to the door, leans in, points at Curran and proclaims, ‘Bad baby! Bad baby!”
Take that, older brother!
But Gavin didn’t leave it at that. A couple of days later Gavin got mad at his mommy. He looked her right in the eye and said, “You a bad baby.”
His mother nearly fell down she was laughing so hard.
From that time on, whenever Gavin is mad at one of us, he tells us we are “bad babies.”
But now he does it because he knows it makes us laugh.
Gavin is learning to stand his ground and defend his toys against his big brother, but he also is quick to stand in solidarity with Curran against the grownups. If Curran is negotiating for a Popsicle, Gavin is his loyal backup, ramping up the cuteness factor by the bucket load.
But if Curran finishes his Popsicle first and tries to grab Gavin’s, Gavin will defend it with as great vigor, screaming, “Mine! Mine!” until an adult intervenes.
They are surrounded by adults who adore them, but both Curran and Gavin have figured out that my husband, their “Da,” is their greatest ally, since he dotes on them and never disciplines them. As a grandfather, he is a total and complete pushover.
That’s why, when one them gets in big trouble at either our house or at home, they announce, ‘I want my Da!”
They know when to bring in the big gun.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
It’s even better when your 4-year-old grandson goes with you.
We saw Cars.
Curran loves all things with wheels these days, and I’ve loved cars all my life, so this was the perfect movie for the two of us. Once again, Pixar Studios works its magic. The story of the redemption of racecar Lighting McQueen is enchanting, funny, poignant, and just exactly silly enough. Anyone who has ever sworn her car has a personality will love this movie. Anyone who has ever sworn AT his car will love this movie.
I think a love of cars is in my genes.
My paternal grandfather loved cars. When he was flush he owned big expensive cars and bought them for his sons when they went to college.
My father loved exotic cars all his life. He raced sports cars in amateur road races put on by the Sports Car Club of America. At various times he owned Jaguars, an Aston Martin and that pinnacle of every car lover’s dream -- a Ferrari. It was red, of course.
He infected all four of his children with this love of cars. When we are all together, the talk inevitably turns to talk of cars. More exactly, we talk of driving cars.
There is something sleekly satisfying about driving a splendid machine that does what it was made to do very very well. I will never forget driving my dad’s Ferrari on a deserted stretch of a long straight West Texas highway that allowed me to reach a speed I will not divulge, but which caused the telephone poles outside to flash by so fast they disappeared. Inside the car, however, everything was smooth, calm and quiet. This car was simply doing what it was made to do.
My father taught us all the importance of driving well and driving safely. He also taught us to care for our cars, however mundane or exotic they might be. He was able to afford expensive cars, but he loved driving almost any car that ran well. It was the experience he loved, I think.
Since people in West Texas have to drive long distances to get just about everywhere, I guess it was a good thing he loved to drive. In the early days of his medical practice, he had to drive 60 miles one way to the nearest hospital. He and my mom thought nothing of driving more than 300 miles to El Paso for a party, only to come back the next day.
One of my nicest memories of childhood is of sitting in back seat while my parents drove for hours through the night, my little brother sleeping beside me. My parents’ voices drifted back to me as I gazed out the window at the dark landscape and the bright night sky.
The moon often was so brilliant that the mesquite trees threw gnarly moon shadows on the road. In that sparsely populated part of West Texas, the stars were so bright they could hold their own even against a full moon. I would gaze at them and make up stories until I got lost between waking dreams and sleeping dreams.
And always, there was this otherworldly sense of being safely contained in this car moving across a sleeping land, our small band of travelers heading somewhere in another time, another place, another life. Anything was possible.
And I think that’s why I love cars. They embody for me the possibility of adventure. Within them is contained the potential for heading out to somewhere new, somewhere wonderful.
All you have to do is get in, and drive.
Friday, July 07, 2006
We tried to create a “diverse center” by throwing aside the dignity and ministries of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers.
We tried to build a bridge to Lambeth on the bodies of LGBT Episcopalians.
We tried to “create space for healing” by throwing some of our brothers and sisters out of the boat.
We tried to become “Windsor compliant” instead of focusing on being Gospel compliant.
And all of this because we were force fed the bread of anxiety and became agents of fear instead of agents of hope. There was way too much talk of “sacrifice” and “crucifixion” and none at all about resurrection.
From Day One, a small number of noisy conservatives were pumping fear into the Convention as hard as they could. English archbishops were flown in from England to add to the pressure. When the British bishops weren’t there in person, they were issuing letters of warning, which were quickly passed around by the conservative minority.
It almost didn’t work. This Convention was very clear that it did not want to go back on human sexuality justice issues. Finally on the last day the presiding bishop used the ugliest kind of coercion and distortion of process to get what he wanted and thought he needed.
In his address to the joint session of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, Frank Griswold tried to anger “the center” by telling them that “the fringes” had manipulated them. He made it clear that the “fringes” included LGBT people who are participating fully in the life and ministry of the church and want to continue to do so.
We-have-to-do-this-or-we-won’t-be-invited-to-Lambeth became his ultimatum. Then he brought out his biggest gun of all, Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori. Give Katharine what she needs to be at the table was the plea. The bishops caved.
And when Jefferts Schori was invited to speak to the House of Deputies, the deputies caved.
Fear triumphed over hope, appeasement trumped truth, bullying replaced leadership.
It was spiritual violence – to my LGBT sisters and brothers, to the bishops, to the deputies.
And all for what?
Within minutes, conservative Episcopalians were saying it wasn’t enough. To their credit, they had also said this on the floor of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. All along, they’ve said it wasn’t enough. In fact, nothing the General Convention could have done short of stripping Gene Robinson of his office, throwing him and all LGBT people back into the closet and locking the door, and then handing the leadership of the church over to Peter Akinola assisted by Bob Duncan would have satisfied them.
Why are we surprised? Appeasing bullies never works.
We had a chance to say, “We in the Episcopal Church value being part of the Anglican Communion. We love it and wish to remain a vital part of it. However, we are not of one mind on the issues presented in the Windsor Report. We are working out our own consensus on this. Please give us grace and time in which to work this out in the context of our polity. And then let us bring our lived experience in dealing with these painful issues to the Communion as our gift.”
That would have been the truth.
It would have shown respect for the Anglican Communion and for the decisions the bulk of people in this church support. It would have shown respect to the shrinking number of conservatives who are in pain over the direction of The Episcopal Church and it would have shown respect for LGBT people and their allies.
If Katharine Jefferts Schori walks across that bridge to Lambeth, I pray that she will say this to the rest of the Communion.
The Episcopal Church’s struggle to extend the life of the church to all the baptized is a gift.
Let us celebrate that struggle, work to live into it, and give witness to it in the larger Anglican Communion.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I know, because the ads for Father’s Day are everywhere.
They are in my e-mail, on billboards, on the side of buses, in store windows, in magazines, in newspapers, on television, on the radio – there is nowhere one can hide from reminders of Father’s Day.
And every one of them feels like a stab in the heart.
My father, Dr. Alan Sherrod, died last summer, one month after Father’s Day. He was 89 and had been becoming more and more frail. Still, against all reason, his death caught us all by surprise. He was such a monumental figure in our lives that I guess we expected he would be there forever.
He had eluded death so many times. During World War II doctors told my mother to take him home to die when he contracted TB in the Army. But he fooled them, just as he fooled all the doctors who told us time and again to come home, because he was about to die from various heart problems, or cancer, or an aneurysm. He practiced medicine for nearly 50 years, played saxophone in a jazz band, raced sport cars, traveled the world with my mother and loved life to the hilt. He cheated death for so long that I guess we thought he always would.
As we’ve moved through the months since his death, grief has traveled with us. The journey is a familiar one to any person who has lost someone they love – the first day after the death, the first week, month. His birthday. Their wedding anniversary – it would have been their 63rd year together. The first Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter without him were especially hard.
At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has offered prayers and rites for remembering the departed among Liturgies for Rites of Passage, saying, “The service for The Burial of The Dead focuses on the bereaved, offering a public gathering in which to lament. It also opens the prospect of growth in the hope of resurrection. . . Our Christian faith assures us that death does not sever the bonds of love, but that our relationships live in faith and hope until the day when we will see God face to face in the presence of those we love who went before us.”
The prayers and collects are “for particular anniversaries making the journey of grief’s healing.”
There are prayers for a week, a month and year after death; for Coming Home Without a Departed Loved One; for Giving Away Belongings of a Departed Loved One; for Visiting a Graveside; for The Birthday of a Departed Loved One; On Visiting the Site Where a Loved One was Last Encountered; On Grieving a Violent Death; and For a Child Who Dies by Violence.
With the exception of the last one – which I also appreciate – my mother and my brothers and I would have benefited from these prayers as we moved through our grief. It often is a lonely journey. We would have felt comforted by the thought that the Church was moving with us.
These prayers will help make that happen for all grieving families.
As for my family, on July 12, we will pray this prayer:
A Year After Death
God of the living, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life; we have lived a year without Alan.Throughout the time of the turning earth, sun and moon, you have shown us signs of your wonders: the Christmas star of Bethlehem, Easter's empty tomb, and the tongues of Pentecost fire, which speak of your glory and goodness to all creation. We have counted days of sorrow, laughter and endurance in our journey through grief's stages. Now we declare that even though we still feel bruised by the pain of our loss, life continues. You give us yourself in moments of grace, transforming us through your love. We thank you for the distance you have brought us during our year of healing, and ask you to help us become ever more whole in years to come. Keep Alan present in our hearts, and may we honor his memory, embracing each new day with courage and faith, through Christ, in the Spirit, we pray. Amen.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
One of the things I love most about the Episcopal Church is the Baptismal Covenant. At the Easter Vigil and each time we have a baptism in my parish, I savor the words as we all reaffirm our baptismal vows.
These sentences and responses are the living trellis on which the vine of my days can grow up toward the light. Rooted deep in the Gospel and fed by the wisdom of the Hebrew Scriptures, these several sentences are among the supports on which I lean as I struggle to discern the best path through life’s challenges, large and small.
They are among the strongest calls to prophetic, even revolutionary actions I have ever read. I believe it is this Baptismal Covenant that has impelled the Episcopal Church ever forward on its slow and painful journey to include all the baptized fully in the life of the church as it continues the struggle to overcome the sins of racisms and sexism, and most recently, heterosexism.
A button from 1976 acknowledged this: “Either ordain women or stop baptizing them.”
Short, powerful and to the point. Either we are marked as Christ’s own forever, or we’re not. Either we are brought fully into the life of the Church, or we’re not.
Today that button might read, “Either ordain LGBT people or stop baptizing them.” Or perhaps, “Either bless committed unions of LGBT people or stop baptizing them.”
There are no asterisks in the Baptismal liturgy, no place where the priest announces, “I baptize this person in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .unless, of course, he or she turns out to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.”
This reality is acknowledged in One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call, the report of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. But in the end, the recommendations of the report betray that reality. I believe that is because the premises upon which the Special Commission was charged to base its work are flawed.
One cannot read the report without realizing the huge amount of hard work that went into it and acknowledging that the intentions of those who did that hard work were the best.
Indeed, the report is exactly what it was designed to be – a response to the Windsor Report. But the Windsor Report itself is a seriously flawed document. Andrew Linzey, a Senior Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University, has pointed out that the Windsor Report “failed Anglicanism. Instead of embracing comprehensiveness and diversity, it pursued fictions of ‘unity’ (interpreted as uniformity), ‘interdependence’ (meaning ‘not giving offence’), and championed ‘instruments of unity’ (fostering centralized control), and proposed a future ‘covenant’ (to implement canon law worldwide).”
The Windsor Report offers a ridiculously inaccurate history of the ordination of women, and it fails to acknowledge that the Episcopal Church has been “doing the theology” of human sexuality for more than 40 years. Worst of all, in no place does it even suggest the Holy Spirit might have had a role in these 40-year-long discussions.
That is because it is a document devoted to institutional preservation, and as such, it buys into the worldview of those who are most loudly threatening the institution. Most significantly, it buys into the idea that the worldwide Anglican Communion is in need of being doctrinally purified, something it says can only be accomplished by establishing a centralized curia with powers to punish and exclude those who do not conform.
These ideas are most decidedly un-Anglican. Indeed, they threaten to destroy the genius of Anglicanism, a communion based on relationships, not law, on common worship, not doctrinal purity.
The Windsor Report sells the Anglican birthright for a bowl of appeasement, and anyone who has ever dealt with bullies can tell you appeasement never works. It only goads them on to more demands as they sense weakness.
This same appeasement resides in the several resolutions offered by the Special Commission to give General Convention a place to start its discussion of how to respond to the Windsor Report. Worse, One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call undermines its own integrity by not acknowledging the faithfulness of LGBT people in the face of blatant abuse in the Anglican Communion since Lambeth ‘98 and the 2003 General Convention. In some parts of the Communion LGBT people are being arrested and killed.
Resolutions A160 (Expression of Regret), A161 (Election of Bishops), and A162 (Public Rites) are especially offensive. Resolution A160 not only introduces language of repentance that implies the actions of 2003 were wrong and sinful, but it also says outright that the Episcopal Church is guilty of not consulting with others in the Communion. That is simply inaccurate.
Listening to and hearing the arguments of those who disagreed with the actions on GC 2003 is not the same thing as agreeing with those arguments. Consultation does not mean capitulation. And to express repentance for the actions of 2003 insults the painstaking prayerful work of that Convention in its decision-making, and worse, implies a turning back from a prophetic work of inclusion and justice.
Resolution A161 is offensive in that it seeks to interfere directly in diocesan episcopal elections. It offers a criteria of winnowing out those candidates “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church” that could eliminate all female candidates as well as those who drink alcohol. The Episcopal Church’s process for electing bishops works. Don’t mess with it.
Resolution A162 is the worse of all. It essentially tells our LGBT brothers and sisters to move to the back of the church – indeed it practically opens the closet door. We will welcome you in our churches, and we’ll even be nice to you in private but we won’t publicly pray for you. Can someone explain to me how this honors our vow to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
And then there is Resolution A166 (Anglican Covenant), which supports our participation in a process to develop an Anglican Covenant. I agree we want to be at the table at any such discussions.
But our role should be to steadfastly make sure any such Anglican Covenant is based in historic Anglicanism, not in a desire for a centralized doctrinally pure church so narrow it has no room for the Holy Spirit. Appeasing bullies never works.