Here's what really happened at that Eucharist at the pro-cathedral in Los Angeles -- only Christians took communion. Some of those Christians were Indian, and they wore traditional Indian clothing. Bp. Jon Bruno did NOT apologize for Christians evangelizing Hindu people. The Indian Rite Mass is not some pagan ritual. It's from the Church of South India, which is a member of the Anglican Communion.
So can we all calm down now?
Here's what started all the fuss online [and among our diocesan leadership]:
The LA Times printed a story on January 20 reporting an Episcopal service in which Hindus and Christians took Communion together. A day later, the paper printed a correction, explaining that only Christians took Communion, and that some of those Christians were dressed in traditional Indian dress. The story with the correction inserted is here.
I knew as soon as I saw a reference to the story posted on the House of Bishops/House of Deputies list that the people in our diocese who live to trash The Episcopal Church would be ALL OVER that story.
Well, sure enough, here comes the Ad Clerum from the bishop's office:
From: Suzanne Gill
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2008 4:59 PM
Cc: Bishop Iker
Subject: Ad Clerum: Los Angeles Episcopal-Hindu service
To all clergy and convention delegates:
On Jan. 3 the Diocese of Los Angeles Web site announced an upcoming “Indian Rite Mass” to be held Saturday, Jan. 19, at St. John's Cathedral. “Spiritual leaders of the Los Angeles Hindu community will be honored guests,” the announcement said.
It continued: “This Mass will be hosted by the Bishop Diocesan J. Jon Bruno, who will take this opportunity to ask for deepening dialogue with the leaders of the Hindu community and offer an historic apology for the religious oppression that has been imposed on Hindu by many Christians.
“The Diocesan Hindu-Episcopal Dialogue Group and the Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Concerns and its chairperson, the Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, are sponsoring this service.”
The following account appeared the next day in the Los Angeles Times. Please be aware as you read that the Times printed a correction today, saying that “although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of those worshipers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress.”
[The story from Sunday's Los Angeles Times followed]
Here's the description of the same service from the LA diocesan news service:
Indian Rite Mass celebrates ties between two faiths
In a colorful rite that honored the traditions of both the Christian and Hindu faiths in India, some 260 participants gathered for an Indian Rite Mass on January 19 at St. John's Pro-Cathedral.
Bishop Chester Talton, who attended the service, read a statement from Bishop J. Jon Bruno that offered friendship to the Hindu people of the Indian community and apologized for past harsh treatment of the Indian people by Christians. Swami Sarvadevananda, a leader of the local Hindu community, accepted the apology with thanks for three years of Hindu-Episcopal dialogue through a program founded by the Rev. Gwynne Guibord, diocesan ecumenical/interfaith officer, who also assisted at the service.
Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Karen MacQueen, assisting priest at St. Paul's Church, Pomona, who also preached. She noted that the Christian minister Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Hindu philosopher and activist Mohandes Gandhi, two of the most influential religious figures of the 20th century, drew from each other's work to promote nonviolence as a powerful agent for change.
During the service, trays of flowers were offered to God, as is traditional in India. At the Eucharist, Hindu attendees were invited forward to take a flower as a sign of friendship: Indian Christians, some of whom were also in traditional garb, took part in the Eucharist.
Indian, Orthodox and traditional Western church music were offered by the choir of St. John's and two Indian bands.
The LA diocesan web site said that "The Mass is to be in the tradition of Bede Griffiths and the Indian Rite of the Church of South India."
Alan Richard "Bede" Griffiths was a British-born Benedictine monk and mystic who lived in ashrams in South India.
Here is information from the web site of The Church of South India:
"The Church of South India is the result of the union of churches of varying traditions Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Reformed--in that area. It was inaugurated in September 1947, after protracted negotiation among the churches concerned. Organized into 16 dioceses, each under the spiritual supervision of a bishop, the church as a whole is governed by a synod, which elects a moderator (presiding bishop) every 2 years. Episcopacy is thus combined with synodical government, and the church explicitly recognizes that Episcopal, Presbyterian, and congregational elements are all necessary for the church's life. The Scriptures are the ultimate standard of faith and practice. The historic creeds are accepted as interpreting the biblical faith, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper are recognized as of binding obligation."
The Church of South India is one of the four United Churches in the Anglican Communion. Its bishops participate in the Lambeth Conferences and it has representation on the Anglican Consultative Council.
Now. Is that Christian enough for you?