Monday, December 31, 2007

Your Whole Mind

In my last posting, one of the characteristics I used to describe the schismatics was this:

They will turn on their "own" in a nanosecond if they think a person has "betrayed" the cause of patriarchy. These events are not pleasant to witness.

Well, darned if they didn't provide a perfect example of this in the last couple of days. I urge you to pay attention to these developments if you care about the future of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Those of you who have been following the drama "As The Anglican Communion Turns" during the holidays will be aware that a few of the Global South primates announced a conference to be held in Jerusalem prior to Lambeth 2008. It bears the unfortunate acronym of GAFCON, which stands for Global Anglican Future Conference. This is apparently not to be protrayed as the "anti-Lambeth" they threatened to hold, but as a "retreat" to prepare them to take over the Communion.

You think I exaggerate?

Read on.

All this has been reported on the Episcopal Cafe here.

Please also read the stories that are pointed to in their report.

You will learn that Dr. Michael Poon, described as "a respected voice of the Global Anglican South leadership," asked some questions about the proposed conference. For this, he was promptly slapped down by "a prominate Primate". To quote the Episcopal Cafe, "The trail of editing seems to indicate that the rebuke came from Archbishop Akinola in Nigeria, but was written in large part by an American based bishop connected with CANA (as reported on Thinking Anglicans) Suggestions as to the American bishop's identity include Bishops Minns or Bishop Anderson."

Which led one wag on the Thinking Anglicans site to comment:

Q: How can you tell Martyn Minns is talking?
A: Peter Akinola's lips are moving.

But this really isn't funny at all.

When Dr. Poon posted an expression of his shock and dismay at the rebuke on the Global South [GS] web site, it was promptly removed by the site managers. But Thinking Anglicans had already captured the note and published it for us all to read.

[Keep your hand on your mouse -- this drama is taking place all OVER the Internet.]

Here is part of what Dr. Poon wrote in his response to the rebuke from the GS Primate [I have added emphasis in bold] as posted on Thinking Anglicans:

"In particular, the Primates have commissioned the Theological Formation and Education Task Force to produce a draft of the theological framework for an Anglican catechism. The committee with Primate-representatives from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and South East Asia, alongside corresponding members from Northern churches endorsed by the Primates, has been working very closely together (and very hard) for the past year on this project. We have taken great care to produce a unitive and building document for the whole Communion, that it would complement the GSA theological input to the Anglican Covenant processes. We took particular care in defining orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion in the document.

"The 60-page Interim Report Anglican Catechism in Outline (ACIO), with Key Recommendations—that has received unanimous endorsement from all members— has important ramifications for Christian discipleship throughout the Communion. It will be submitted to the GSA Primates very soon. The GSA Primates who went to China in October 2007 saw an earlier draft and have commended on its work in their communiqué. They “urge [their] dioceses to make it available to all strata of leadership in preparation for its formal adoption in the first quarter of 2008”.

"According to agreed plans, it will be released it by mid February 2008, if not earlier, to the whole Communion for feedback. The Final report is due to be released by June 2008. All these plans were agreed by the Primates at least six months ago. The GSA Chair and General Secretary have received the successive drafts and were consulted on all major decisions as the draft was amended and re-crafted.

"The drafting committee met in Singapore from 11 to 14 December 2007, I believe it was in the same week as the Nairobi meeting took place. Archbishop John Chew was with us throughout the meeting and gave us vital leadership. I do not think any of us meeting in Singapore knew about the Nairobi meeting.

"I hope this sets the scene in explaining why I was shocked and saddened by the GAFCON Statement.

"I ask pose your questions gently back to you: Did you and those in Nairobi consult all GSA primates on such an important conference on Anglican future? Could there be better coordination between Global South Anglican initiatives and that of the GAFCON organizers? Are you setting up a new structure (Global Anglican) other than GSA to move the Communion forward? Would you not think given the publicity that GAFCON has attracted (quite aside from my humble questions) as splitting the Communion, how would others in the Communion perceive the ACIO Interim Report that is meant to build up the whole Communion upon the authority of the Holy Scripture when it is released? (Have you seen the document?) Would they not be prone to dismiss it off hand as another radical proposal from the Global South? This would be a great pity and great setback to the good work of the Global South Movement."


Poon's note does many things -- It makes clear that many sincere people are working very hard to bring the Communion to the view of scripture they hold as authoritative. It makes it clear that the right hand often doesn't know what the left hand is doing among the Global South organization. It asks if the GAFCON organizers are setting up a new structure [Global Anglican]. It also makes it clear that the Global South is not only writing the Anglican Covenant that they hope to impose on the entire Communion, they also are writing an Anglican catechism that will further define 'Anglican orthodoxy."

All this should concern anyone who values historic Anglicanism and its unique ability to embrace a wide spectrum of theological interpretations. The clear goal here is to freeze the entire Anglican Communion into a narrow, very conservative interpretation of scripture. This is a posture with which many in the Dioceses of San Joaquin and Fort Worth already are familiar.

Another site the Episcopal Cafe story will point you to is the blog of the Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold), who writes from England. His analysis of the methods of the schismatics is excellent. Here are some excerpts:

"Michael Poon obviously thinks he is talking to open, honest and clear Christians according to expected high standards of behaviour. The slap-down turns that against him."

The Pluralist's point of reference is the activities of Militant Tendency -- an offshoot of the Labour Party -- in Liverpool in the 1980s.

"The revolutionary approach is to tell something of what they are doing, but not all. Let's be clear with eyes open - GAFCON is the launch of a different Anglican Communion. It is not some sort of pastoral initiative for the downtrodden orthodox. That is some chaff for naive people, who expect high standards of honesty and openness. The only other function of these words of underplaying the event is to have a fall back position if they fail in the launch. However, to be clear, GAFCON will connect several African provinces and Sydney, and will set up its own Covenant or equivalent, its own organisation and its own structure. We see that in Akinola's reply to Anis revealed on Virtue Online.

"GAFCON's whole point is to stir it and get things moving, so that others have to follow on. GSA either fall in or get squeezed, as the "liberal evangelicals" are to be squeezed and indeed cut into. GAFCON would like the respectability of other bodies following on, and indeed James I. Packer gives some respectability, but following on means not dictating terms but accepting what already exists. The Militant Tendency always keeps control, no matter what official body (for example, GSA) thinks it is doing when it joins itself to some initiative already set up.

"The other point about Militants is that, actually, they love you to know what they are doing. It could be their weakness. Whilst they have subterfuge, they also want praise for being the people who made the difference. . . .So these Anglican equivalents will let you know what they are doing, leave trails - but they are also careless because of the Militant arrogance of self.

"Understand that it now suits GAFCON for Lambeth 2008 to be more liberal, for the policies announced to be compromised and reversed, and for the whole of Lambeth 2008 to be a mess.

"The reason Michael Poon received such a nasty reply is to be found in understanding the Militant Tendency approach. When friends complain, give them a punching, and they will withdraw hurt, and then come along nicely afterwards. Show your friends who is the boss."


As we enter 2008, those of us in Fort Worth and San Joaquin obviously will be following these developments. But all the rest of you who love The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion need to be staying on top of these developments.

Its not easy or fun, but it comes with loving God with your whole heart, your whole spirit, your whole strength, and your whole mind.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmastide, San Joaquin, and the power of lay people

This has been a lovely few days since Christmas Day. I've had some rare "time off" to do all the things I put off in other more frantic times.

Some of these are necessary -- as well as wonderfully satisfying -- chores such as cleaning out and organizing closets, bathroom shelves, and storage rooms. I've accumulated lots of clothing and other items to give to various resale shops run by Safe Haven and The Women's Center, as well as all those paperback books we seem to acquire in airports during delays and layovers.

I've needed these soothing chores because I've also had time to read and reflect on the happenings in the Diocese of San Joaquin, a situation we here in Fort Worth are watching closely because it's like watching our own future unfold -- a very unsettling experience, by the way.

We were probably less surprised than most at the actions of their former Episcopal bishop, John David Schofield, in announcing his takeover of St. Nicolas Church in Atwater, CA., and the firing of the rector, Fred Risard. [The best coverage of all this at Jake's place, here.]

We've witnessed -- and actually personally experienced -- equally brutal behavior on the part of our own bishop on more than one occasion. But I have to say that John David Schofield has outdone Bp. Iker in his masterful use of timing. What better way to win hearts and minds than to close a church called St. Nicholas on Christmas Day?

No, I'm not being sarcastic. Remember which hearts and minds he's trying to win. Not those of loyal Episcopalians. No, he's out to the win the steely hearts and tight little minds of THOSE-WHO-KNOW-THE-MIND-OF-GOD and who want to live in safe purity among others who agree with them -- or who will at least obey them.

If there is one piece of advice I have for the larger church, it is to please not forget who these people are.

They do not "play fair" and they follow only the canons, rules, and regulations that they find convenient at any particular time -- but they will scream to the high heavens if anyone opposing them overlooks the tiniest jot or tittle of a canon, rule, or regulation.

They are bullies, and like all bullies, they can dish it out, but they can't take it. Any one who "pushes back" is persecuting them. They have perfected the roles of victim and martyr --indeed, they relish them.

They lie.

They steal. The ones in San Joaquin are obviously are willing to steal property from a church with which they are no longer affiliated. Here in Fort Worth, Bishop Iker is consolidating his position to be able to do the same thing after the second reading to "leave" TEC.

These are people who love using warlike metaphors and who describe differences in the church as "epic battles," all-out war," and "major warfare." These are Manly Men and the Women Who Admire Them. They love cowboying swaggering princes of bishops who fear no man, and certainly no woman.

Indeed, these are men who really like women only in their "proper place," which means subservient to men and "under their direction." Like the Southern Baptists, they expect women to "submit graciously" to men in authority.

They will turn on their "own" in a nanosecond if they think a person has "betrayed" the cause of patriarchy. These events are not pleasant to witness.

Does this mean we should fear them?

Absolutely not. We should have compassion for them, love them, and wish them well as they go the way they have chosen.

Then we do what we have to do to make sure they don't take things that belong to The Episcopal Church and her members.

John David Schofield is no longer a bishop in The Episcopal Church, no matter what smarmy letters he writes or how many ways he tries to stretch the truth. He's made his choice, and now he must deal with the consequences.

One consequence is that he no longer has authority over parishes and missions of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin. But even as I write that, I know that Fred Risard's position as an ordained priest puts him in a terrible position.

This is not the case, however, with lay people.

And that's the thing -- it is the lay people of San Joaquin and soon, the lay people of Fort Worth, who will have to lead the struggle to reconstitute our dioceses.

Clergy have too many career issues at risk, and it's clear from watching San Joaquin that they are being left in a no-man's land right now while the national Church leadership wends its way through the canonical processes dealing with a bishop who abandons his see.

But while The Rev. Risard may be stymied for a time, the laity of St. Nicholas are well within their rights to ignore orders given by a bishop and a canon of the Southern Cone.

They may indeed want to change their locks and bank accounts, but they should do so only to prevent theft by foreign prelates.

I pray God will grant them the courage, heart, and will to prevail.

I don't know how it is in San Joaquin, but I know how it is here. Bishop Iker has worked long and hard to create mistrust and suspicion of those who are loyal to The Episcopal Church. By publicly humiliating those who speak out against him, by allowing others to ridicule those who disagree with him, by retaliating against clergy who have dared disagree, he has created an atmosphere of fear. This has been fertile ground in which to sow his seeds of alienation and isolation, resulting in a terrible passivity on the part of the clergy and the laity. It's like rabbits in a field hoping that if they are still enough, the predator won't notice them.

If you think I am overstating, just remember that Bp. Iker has made it clear in more than one convention address that those who oppose his policies are "demons."

Indeed, at the very first convention over which he presided, in October 1994 [just before his Recognition and Investiture as the Third Bishop of Fort Worth on January 7, 1995], he laid out the course he has followed ever since:

"But of course, there are always a few who seem to thrive on conflict and sow seeds of discord and suspicion at every turn. There is always an element of the demonic at work deep in the life of the Church --forces of destructiveness and enmity, rather than of reconciliation and healing."

In case there was any doubt to whom he was referring, he went on to say, "I will not allow the General Convention to set the agenda for this Diocese. Nor will I allow the radical feminist lobby [The Episcopal Women's Caucus] to dictate to me the priorities of this diocese. I do not need the proposed expansive language for God, because I believe in the sufficiency of the revealed religion of the bible and that Jesus taught us how to address God and all that we need to know about the nature of God. When we pray, He taught us to say "Abba," Father, and that is sufficient enough for me. Post-Christian theologies and terminologies continue to sound more like New Age Religion than New Testament Religion."

He went on for several more paragraphs, ridiculing inclusive and expansive language, and then returned to his description of how he was going to protect us all from the heresies of the awful national church.

". . .The so-called "liberal' coalition that so manipulates and controls the agenda of General Convention and the 815 establishment is not going to be imposed upon the mission and work of this Diocese. We have one agenda and one priority: the proclamation of the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the whole world, in word and deed. We will minister with love and compassion for all people, of whatever persuasion or orientation, calling them to repentance and newness of life, inviting them to become partakers with us of the risen life of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior.

". . . However, I want to be very clear that the lesbian-gay rights group called Integrity, which orchestrated so much of the General Convention, is not going to play a tune to which I will dance as the Bishop of Fort Worth. There will be no blessings of same sex relationships, nor even the study of the development of any such rites, in this Diocese. We cannot condone or bless that which God forbids. There will be no ordinations of practicing homosexuals in this Diocese, nor will such persons who have been ordained in other Dioceses be permitted by me to exercise any sacramental ministry in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Furthermore, I want to go on record today as stating that any bishop of this Church who advocates, practices or allows same sex blessings or the ordination of practicing homosexuals will not be permitted to exercise any ministry as bishop here in this Diocese. I regret to have to draw such lines in the sand, but these are painful realities of the impaired communion brought upon us by their actions, in violation of the clear teachings of this Church.

". . . the diocese is the basic unit of the Catholic Church, not the congregation, though the diocese is meant to enhance and support the work of every local congregation. The diocese, quite simply, is wherever an orthodox bishop is found, surrounded by his faithful clergy and lay people. We are a Church under the authority of our Bishop as our Father in God.

"This is our theology and that is our ecclesiology; it is an Episcopal polity, not a congregational one. We must resist efforts which seek undermine this understanding of the Catholic nature of the Church, and we must work together, all of us, to help keep this diocese sound and solid and orthodox. "

See? Jack Iker was George Bush before George Bush was George Bush.

I know this is not going to be easy, but I remain hopeful. As we move into the new year, I pray that God grants us the strength, courage, patience, compassion, and wisdom we are going to need in the coming months.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Third Day of Christmas

It's the third day of Christmas, and it's just beginning to rain, always a welcome event in Texas. It's cold -- a freeze is expected tonight.

So after running errands all day, and helping my 90-year-old Mom pick out some new shoes, I went home and collapsed. It was nice to sit in front of the fire and just hang out with my dogs and cat while waiting for Gayland to come home.

This is Simon. Yes, he's a cat, but he is also the Alpha dog. Don't ask.

Simon really likes hanging out in front of the fireplace in the farmhouse.

This is Tobit, a long-haired, wire-haired, soft-coated standard dachshund. Really.

This is Ms. Wiggles, Toby's sister.

This is Mike the border collie, a gentleman of some years who feels the cold and likes to snuggle among the pillows.

And atop the fireplace is the creche we brought back from an antique shop in Rome. We carried it home in our luggage, and to our amazement, it arrived almost intact . The donkey lost an ear, which I reattached with some glue, and it looks great.

All these photos were taken with my phone, something that still astonishes me.

But astonishment is a proper emotion on the third day of Christmas. After all, what is more astonishing than God making Godself small enough to become a human baby?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

So here we are on the second day of Christmas, recovering from the happy chaos of having the entire family -- three generations -- here for Christmas Day.

The extended family has gone home, the house has been tidied, stray toys and pieces of toys have been corralled to be returned to their respective child owners, and most of the dishes at least have been put in the dishwasher.

We're afraid to run the dishwasher because, in what has become a Sherrod family holiday tradition, the plumbing decided to act up. This time, it was the garbage disposal that decided to act up. It not only quit working, it also began to spit things back at us and kept the sink draining v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Just what we needed with twenty extra people in the house.

But Christmas itself is exactly what we needed. The Christmas pageant at our parish on Christmas Eve was particularly wonderful this year, with great hosts of angels (some very very tiny), an entire FLOCK of sheep (a couple of which got squirmy and were "controlled" by stern shepherds), and shepherds of various sizes and shapes (one of whom was so overwhelmed by it all that he was carried in his mother's arms for the entire thing.)

(Photo courtesy of Barbi Click, whose own angels are in the lower right hand corner of the photo in their lovely dresses with black velvet tops and organza skirts.)

One angel was especially dramatic, flinging an arm out to emphasize the amazing announcement he got to make to the shepherds. Mary was about a head-and-a-half taller than Joseph, and the Innkeeper came to about the waist of the Innkeeper's "wife," but they all did their parts exceedingly well.

The three kings wore bejeweled cowboy hats -- well, this IS Texas -- and followed a very stern angel carrying a very impressive star. They knelt to present their gifts, each making a terse announcement of "gold," incense" or "myrrh."

I had a great seat for this, because I was part of the "backup band and singers" for the pageant. We were there only to give musical accompaniment and add a tiny bit of oomph to the singing if needed. But the children and congregation sang lustily and joyously, welcoming the Child with great delight.

The pageant served as the readings and the sermon, so after Mary and Joseph, and the angels, and the sheep, and the shepherds, and the kings, and the Innkeeper, and the Innkeeper's wife had returned to the pews to sit with their proud families, we all shared the Eucharistic meal interspersed with all the beloved hymns of Christmastide.

We processed out singing "Joy to the World" and proceeded to the Parish Hall, where we had a fabulous birthday party for Jesus. Jesus had a "cake" made of cupcakes this year. My 3-year-old grandson Gavin loves what he calls "pupcakes" and he was thrilled to learn that Baby Jesus likes them too!

There was much hugging among the parish family. We were all so happy to set aside anxiety and worry about the future and just live in the moment.

After all, The Baby has arrived!

Once again, Hope has been born into the world.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Told Ya So

This article by Nicholas Benton headlined “Defectors from Episcopal Church Revert to Ban on Women Priests” was published today in the Falls Church [VA] News Press.

Pardon me if I say, “Told ya so.”

Of course, so did a lot of others folks. It doesn’t take a lot of insight to predict that these guys – and it’s almost completely a white male clergy-led movement – would revert to a patriarchal model that excludes women – and any man deemed unworthy, particularly gay men.

Here’s what Benton wrote about that:

Not only does it denounce homosexuality, but it turns out the new, Nigerian-linked association of defectors from the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. also rejects the notion of women in the priesthood, at least for the time being. This is the group that a majority of parishioners at historic The Falls Church voted to align with a year ago.

. . . As for the defectors, the new so-called Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), described as a “mission” of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, held a ceremony in Herndon, Virginia, last week to consecrate four new bishops, all male and two from Nigeria. The ceremony was led by CANA head Rev. Martyn Minns of Fairfax’s Truro Church, another defecting congregation.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Minns said, “At this time, the Church of Nigeria, to which we owe canonical obedience, has no provision for the ordination of women.”

By aligning with the Nigerian church, therefore, CANA repudiated a decision taken by the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. in 1976 to permit the ordination of women.

Minns added, “I am fully aware that this is a topic of concern for many clergy and congregations throughout CANA and one that produces intense reactions.”

He said he’s appointed a task force to study the matter from the standpoint of what he called “two integrities” of the issue, namely, adamant opposition to the ordination of women, on the one hand, and an array of alternatives ranging from some diminished role for women in the leadership of the church to ordination, on the other.

“We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women in the life and leadership of the church,” he said. “We will do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored.”

But Minns did not offer any further clarification on how both opponents and supporters of the ordination of women would come away happy.

This new controversy over the role of women in the church follows on what was the original “cause celebre” that led to a spate of formal defections by a small number of congregations of the Episcopal Church a year ago. That originating cause was anger over the elevation to standing as a bishop of an openly-gay clergyman in 2003.
I keep wondering what all the priests who are women in The Network think about this? Here they have been “good girls” and supported the men in authority and now their allies in CANA tell them they can expect some “diminished role” in leadership but probably not ordination.

Minns says, “We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women in the life and leadership of the church. We will do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored.”

But then there is this statement of his:

“At this time, the Church of Nigeria, to which we owe canonical obedience, has no provision for the ordination of women.”

How is he going to pull this off when the canons of his new province do not allow the ordination of women to the priesthood? How long before he starts selling women the idea that "full participation in the life and leadership of the church" means different roles for women than for men? You know, the old "separate but equal" idea.

All this makes me hope those Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth know what they signing up for when they “go with” Bishop Iker to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone – to which they will then “owe canonical obedience.” We know they don't ordain women to the priesthood, but we haven't seen their constitution and canons. One wonders what other things we'll learn.

Meanwhile, back in Falls Church, those who chose to remain with the Episcopal Church are not only thriving, they are also becoming known for their outreach to the poor and hungry.
Benton's article continues:

Meanwhile, Falls Church’s “Continuing Episcopalians,” those who voted not to defect, now number over 200 in their ranks and worship weekly at a fellowship hall of the Falls Church Presbyterian, across the street from The Falls Church, have grown their ranks and has partnered with Homestretch, Inc., a Falls Church-based non-profit dedicated to transitioning homeless families into stable living environments.

Over Thanksgiving, the “Continuing Episcopalians,” who have adopted the original name of their church, The Falls Church Episcopal Church, worked with Homestretch to prepare and deliver food baskets to a number of Homestretch families. For the Christmas holidays, F.C. Episcopal parishioners spend a day with Homestretch children shopping for and wrapping gifts for their family members. Parish families have committed to supporting six Homestretch families through the Christmas holidays and into the New Year.

Last week, Christopher Fay, executive director of Homestretch, accepted a $1,000 check from Neal M. Callander, junior warden of the F.C. Episcopal.

Robin Gardner, the mayor of the City of Falls Church, has been aligned with this “Continuing Episcopalian” group since last January. “My family and I began attending Falls Church Episcopal when it began meeting in January. The warmth, community and feeling of welcome surrounded us. God’s presence can certainly be felt in this congregation and we are blessed to be a part of this new family,” she wrote in a statement received at the News-Press this week.

“Falls Church Episcopal has become engaged in the larger Falls Church community, as well, and brings their spirit of giving to our City. They are a welcome addition and, as a citizen of Falls Church, I welcome their contributions to help those in and around Falls Church,” she added.


One group is narrowing down the list of those who can be in leadership and priestly roles.

The other is reaching out to the poor and hungry.

I know with which group I'd like to be affliated.

KJS For President?

Teresa Morrison writes on [an award-winning GLBT news site] about why she wants Katharine Jefferts Schori for president. See the whole article at


. . .Traditionalists also prefer their priests male (of the U.S. Episcopal Church’s 110 dioceses, San Joaquin is one of three that bars women from ordination, the other two being the aforementioned fledgling breakaway dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy), so it must have really rankled their sense of gendered righteousness when Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected in June 2006 as presiding bishop of the national body, making her the first woman to so lead the church. Complicating matters further, Bishop Jefferts Schori supports ordaining partnered gays and lesbians. And if there are just a few things up with which Anglican traditionalists will not put, gay-consecrating upstart lady priests certainly make the short list.

See, even when we’re talking about how it’s not all about the gays, there we are, mucking about in the margins. But it is difficult to miss the fact that we gays seem to put a bit of a crinkle in Bishop Schofield’s clerical collar. His diocese markedly stopped tithing to the national church after the consecration of Bishop Robinson. Meanwhile, his cathedral runs a ministry for those struggling with what Schofield calls “sexual brokenness,” a term, he says, that very much includes homosexuality. In his address to the clergy before the secession vote, he attributed a recent marked drop in Episcopalian service attendance to the “sexual innovations of the church.”

Bishop Schofield went on to tell the assembled clergy and lay members, “As bishops we have been able to provide a buffer for our people from the innovations that abound in dioceses all around us. A quick trip north, south, east, or west is all that it takes to wonder if we’re in the same church with those folks.”

I don’t need to move from the chair I’m sitting in to wonder whether Bishop Schofield and I are on the same planet, especially when he says, in deference to those who would vote against his ecclesiastical revolution, that he “know[s] what it feels like to be a minority.”

Admittedly, as a non-Christian lesbian, I can never fully appreciate the pain felt by a straight white Christian man in the United States. Given the discrimination Bishop Schofield must confront every day, it’s fortunate that he’s protected by a federal hate-crimes law so that he can’t be attacked for his religious beliefs or his white race -- not like I can be attacked for my “sexual brokenness,” as our Congress just freshly affirmed.

I firmly believe that within a generation the antigay hate speech Bishop Schofield so freely espouses will receive as little tolerance as we do today, and I look forward to a time when men like him will wish they had quietly harbored hatred rather than staking their reputations on it. Meanwhile, Bishop Jefferts Schori and other proponents of inclusion will be credited with having furthered the integrity of their faith institutions as dynamic, relevant forces in the 21st century.

Non-Episcopalian gays and lesbians might not think we have a dog in this fight, but we all have a vested interest in the outcome. We find ourselves in a very rare position here, one so unfamiliar to LGBT people we can scarcely grasp its significance: In the determination of the U.S. Episcopal Church to take a stand for our equality and inclusion, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose, while the folks fighting for us risk their political and financial footing in the Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian body in the world, which is far more sympathetic toward your Bishops Schofield than to the progressive platform embraced by Bishop Jefferts Schori and the majority of her church’s 2.5 million members.

We never asked Episcopalians to take up our fight. Rather, it seems, their spiritual path has led them to believe that we aren’t any less deserving of ministry or recognition or even consecration simply because we happen to be unpopular sexual minorities. I wish that weren’t an extraordinary concept in 2007, but it is. And Bishop Jefferts Schori has hardly blinked in a year of denominational strife that has seen her character and her commitment to her religious office questioned, challenged, dismissed, and maligned.

In this age of gay bashing from all sides, it isn’t often we encounter a religious leader—or any leader—willing to bulldog for our rights, especially when faced with such a potentially high cost to herself and the institution she represents. What I wouldn’t give for such genuine representation in our elected officials.

When I consider the trail of broken promises left by those we helped to elect, Bishop Jefferts Schori's position becomes that much more remarkable. Reacting to the secession vote in San Joaquin, she not only refused to retreat from her position, she reiterated it: “We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership.”

I keep meaning to bake that woman a cake.

In my fruitless search for a presidential candidate who not only believes in my essential equality but is willing to say it out loud and stand by his or her position when the inevitable attacks come down, I wonder if any money I may have set aside to donate to that elusive candidate’s campaign might not be better spent tithing to the Episcopal Church. At least there I know my support will go toward furthering my rights, not sending them to the back of the bus—or throwing them under it.

This article made my day, and reminded my why I'm proud to be an Episcopalian.
Which would you rather be -- known for those whose inclusion in the life and worship of the church you fight, or known because of those whose very existence in the church you oppose?
At the heart of the arguments of the Schofields, the Ikers and the Duncans is the idea that some humans are less worthy than others -- specifically women and all gay men and transgendered and bisexual people -- and can therefore be barred from full participation in the life and worship of the church by those who are worthy, namely straight white men. God enters into this discussion only as a weapon with which to bash the less worthy.
And that's why they will ultimately fail.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Letter to the Editor

Below is a letter to the editor published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Monday, Dec. 17.

I sent it in reply to a letter which repeated the same 'accusation" against the presiding bishop that Bishop Jack Iker and his followers have been using since before she was seated as presiding bishop. They always say this about her in tones that imply that she also kills kittens and sacrifices small children to Satan.


Richard Kahle of Arlington claims the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, has said Jesus Christ is not the only path to God.

Here’s a surprise for Mr. Kahle -- the Pope believes the same thing, as does the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Here is the Q&A from the Time Magazine interview shortly after her election as presiding bishop:

Q. “Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?”
A. “We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God would not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.”

This view is similar to that of Vatican II, namely that Jesus Christ is the final self-revelation of God in the world, but that salvation is possible outside of the Christian Church.

In a recent interview with a group of teen journalists, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked, “Do you believe other faiths are valid?”

He replied, “Everyone has a right to their own faith. For example, I have met many Muslims and have learned a lot from them. However, I want people of other faiths to respect my conviction as I respect theirs.”

As for Mr. Kahle’s other statements, The Episcopal Church has never recognized gay marriages, nor has it authorized rites for the blessing of same sex unions. It remains a member of the Anglican Communion, which is not a church but a group of autonomous provinces in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop has no power in or authority over any province in the communion except The Church of England.

In The Episcopal Church, diocesan canons are trumped by national canons, which state that all property is held in trust for the national church. Anyone trying to take that property should expect to be held accountable.

Katie Sherrod

Now the bishop's supporters are escalating to "She [Katharine Jefferts Schori] has denied the divinity of Christ." One man asked loudly at a forum at my parish on Sunday what the rector was going to to do when -- not if -- when she made it canon law that all of us had to deny the divinity of Christ.

Do you detect a note of hysteria here?

One wonders why, if they are so convinced of the Godly necessity of schism, they have to lie about the presiding bishop to shore up their "case."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The ABC's Advent Letter

I am so over the Archbishop of Canterbury. Instrument of Communion, my eye.

His Advent message is the same as that of the Windsor Report -- the institution is more important than the baptized.

It is clear that he sees his job as keeping the Anglican Communion intact -- at least until he's out of office -- and he's willing to sacrifice not only his own integrity, but also lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people to do that job.

The scapegoating of Gene Robinson -- the only bishop named in the document -- continues, as does his silence on the subject of the persecution of LGBT people in the provinces of those primates making the most noise. While he offers a rebuke to those clerics invading TEC, not one of the offending primates or bishops is named.

The attack on The Episcopal Church continues. Canada is mentioned in passing only as also condemning the incursions in their province. Otherwise Canada is apparently being given a pass on its moves toward full acceptance of all the baptized into the life and ministry of the church. I'm glad for them.

The misunderstanding of our polity continues, with Rowan professing impatience at the way the House of Bishop defers to General Convention. It is increasingly clear that he has no use for the voice of the laity in the decision-making processes of TEC or in the councils of the larger communion, and he clearly abhors the democratic nature of TEC.

However, Rowan does value the will of the majority in special cases, as when he claims a majority of the provinces in the communion still think TEC hasn't done enough to exclude LGBT people to satisfy their homophobic interpretation of Scripture.

Sadly, he's become more wedded to the Windsor Report, not less. He appears to be elevating it to the level of Holy Writ, just as the right-wingers did before they gave up on it.

This Advent letter is as flawed as is the Windsor Report, which is full of bad history and worse reporting. And like the Windsor Report, it makes much of another flawed document, Lambeth resolution 1.10 on human sexuality. I was covering Lambeth when that resolution was debated and voted on. The whole process was corrupted and it resulted in a resolution that in no way can be said to have any integrity, much less authority. If it is to be the sole "point of reference" for discussions on human sexuality, we are all wasting our time.

Rowan persists in maintaining that there are large numbers of disaffected Episcopalians, when the truth is they represent a tiny part of TEC. He points to "the Windsor bishops" as the way forward, but the "Windsor bishops" themselves are not a cohesive bunch and their numbers drop with each meeting they've had. And now their numbers are even fewer, since I am assuming that Jack Iker no longer consider himself a "Windsor bishop."

Rowan Williams has rendered himself irrelevant.

I used to care about the Anglican Communion, because I thought it had something wonderful to give to the world -- a model of living in loving fellowship while holding differences. But Rowan appears to be wanting to recreate it in the image of Rome.

Well, I've been there, done that, don't want to do it again.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Living in an autumnal time

Flight cancellations, weather delays, and mysterious alarm lights in airplane cockpits meant it took us two whole days to get home from Barcelona, days spent seeing much more of airports than we needed.

We finally arrived in Fort Worth on my birthday, Dec. 4, to find that Autumn also had arrived.

We have glorious red Japanese maples in one corner of the garden with others glowing gold in another corner. There is tree in the front yard that is a beautiful copper color and one that is bright yellow. It is perfectly lovely.

Yes, I know we're nearly to the Winter Solstice, but this is Texas, where there may or may not be a Fall. This year, it's been so warm so long that I have iris blooming in the Chapel Garden. While we were away there was a cold snap that included some snow flurries [when I was child, I thought snow flurries were little white birds]. In the five days we've been home, the temperatures have soared into the 80s and dropped down into the high 30s.

Ah, yes, Texas, where the weather is never boring and where one never ever puts away one's summer wardrobe because one might need it in January.

Church is never boring here either, especially these days, as we all await the response to the actions of the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin's vote to "leave" The Episcopal Church. We here in Fort Worth are watching with extreme interest, for obvious reasons. Bishop Katharine's statement that "The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership," provided much reassurance to loyal Episcopalians.

We are living in an autumnal time. We long ago left behind any summer of hope that reconciliation could happen here. Our leadership long ago made it clear that they sought capitulation, not reconciliation.

So now we are walking through rustling leaves of dead hopes. The dust from the desiccation fills the air, making our eyes tear.

Grief, dread, and anxiety swirl around with every gust of oratory. For sure, we all place our hope in Christ, but right now, reassurance from more earthly authorities is greatly needed and appreciated.

We are in an ugly in-between place, where our bishop says he's still in The Episcopal Church so no charges can be brought against him while at the same time he's exerting huge pressure on clergy to commit to going to the Southern Cone with him after next year's vote. Those who have made it clear that they want to remain in TEC are under even more pressure to acknowledge the legitimacy of diocesan convention's actions by playing along with the Alice-in-Wonderland Canon 32 in which they have to petition the diocese to let them "leave" the diocese to "return" to TEC.

One priest described the process as being forced to board a ship and sailing off to sea, then having to petition the captain for permission to return to shore.

"I don't want to leave in the first place,' one priest said.

Those clergy committed to Bp. Iker's plans are putting huge pressures on lay people to toe the line. Lay people who want to remain in TEC but who are in parishes whose clergy are committed to going with the bishop are feeling terribly isolated and abandoned. Their clergy essentially tell them to "shut up," that they will not be allowed to defend TEC because it's defending heresy.

Fort Worth Via Media is working overtime, trying to reach out to such folk and provide them with a community in which hope can grow.

For the past two nights, I've had the same dream: I'm in a big cold place that echoes with emptiness. I am overwhelmed with grief, lying curled up on the floor, sobbing. Then I feel two warm arms enfold me, and hold me close, and a voice murmuring, "It's all right. All will be well."

I look up and see that Gene Robinson is holding me. He smiles and says, "Look who else is here."

It's Katharine, along with some other bishops of the church.

And a feeling of hope pervades the empty space.