Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Lambeth Lobotomy


One of the most astonishing things about Lambeth 1998 was the effect on American bishops. It was as if processing into Canterbury Cathedral at the opening service turned their brains to pudding and their spines to mush.

Several of us observers began calling this phenomenon the Lambeth Lobotomy.

Any thought that they were not "the church" was drowned in the sea of purple. Any memory that church meetings are inevitably political meetings seemed to be totally gone. Any acknowledgement that voices of clergy and laypeople should be part of important decisions was absent. And any strategic thinking was done only by the conservatives who expertly took over the agenda of the conference and made it their own.

It all culminated in the "debate" on Lambeth Resolution 1.10, when the African bishops, carefully prepped by their American allies, essentially threw out all the carefully crafted work of the Lambeth human sexuality committee and took over the meeting.

American bishops sat in silence as African bishops read prepared statements comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. The rhetoric was so toxic it made me nauseous. Finally American bishops who are women couldn't listen in silence any more. Kathy Roskam and Cate Waynick spoke out in protest, pleading with their African brothers to try to understand the context in which they ministered to their LGBT congregants.

It fell on deaf ears. The playbook given to the African and Asian bishops by American conservatives was being followed to the letter, aided and abetted by Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, who lobbied for it from the chair. The resolution passed, and David Virtue and Andrew Carey burst out of the plenary tent chanting V -I -C -T -O- R -Y as if they had just won a football match. And indeed they had, only this time, the "football" was the lives and ministry of LGBT Christians.
NOTE:
Andrew Carey has taken exception to this. I accept his statement that he was not the man with Virtue and I apologize for the error. He is also correct that the debate was in the sports hall -- I think I was thinking of the marquee [tent] they will be using at this year's Lambeth. And Andrew, my last name has two r's in it.]
Dear Ms Sherod,

I was alerted to your blog article (31 March) 'Lambeth Lobotomy' by another journalist who was also in attendance at the Lambeth Conference and didn't believe your account of my actions after the human sexuality plenary. In fact, there are several inaccuracies. The plenary took place in a sports hall on the campus and not in a tent. Archbishop Eames chaired the debate and not George Carey. And I certainly did not come out of the plenary chanting 'Victory'. I was working and was not at a football match. My immediate job was to seek reaction from bishops and other bystanders after the plenary. I hope you will correct your account.

Yours,

Andrew
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The American bishops were sitting in silence at the instruction of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who had told them to listen and learn from their third world brothers -- a noble idea indeed, but hardly helpful once Lambeth was hijacked by the American Anglican Council and its anti-LGBT agenda.

As Lambeth 2008 approaches, I am not reassured by the claims that this Lambeth will not have resolutions, that there will be no "legislative" sessions. The planners assure us they have carefully arranged the bishops' schedules to keep them separated into small groups, with all of them coming together for only a few sessions. They have deliberately pushed conversations on human sexuality and the Anglican Covenant to the very last days. The thinking is, apparently, that the bishops will have spent so much quality time bonding in their small groups over Bible study that they will not allow any group of bishops to disrupt their newly forged relationships.

I do not find this convincing. Do you really think Jack Iker, Greg Venables, Bob Duncan, et al, are coming to Lambeth to learn how to be better bishops? Do you really think they are eager to "bond" with bishops who interpret scripture differently than do they? Do you really think they will give up the opportunity presented by Lambeth to simply study and hang out?

If you do, you haven't been paying attention.

What it sounds like to me is that, once again, the American bishops will work hard at doing what is asked of them by Rowan while the conservatives -- American and otherwise -- use the time to plan a strategy to take over the meeting again.

What plans are in place to prevent the hijacking of the meeting again? How much is Rowan Williams willing to give up to get his Anglican Covenant? We've already seen his willingness to dump on the Episcopal Church to appease the orthotoxic bullies. Why should I not believe he won't do it again?

I am given some hope by the behavior of the House of Bishops in recent months, as they have resisted attempts by Rowan to make them take unilateral positions without waiting for General Convention to act.

I am encouraged by Bonnie Anderson's clear-eyed take on the situation, as reported here at Episcopal Cafe:

----------------------------
A statement by Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church at Preparing for Lambeth: A Conference for Religion Writers held at Virginia Theological Seminary on May 30, 2008.

There are two dynamics that will significantly affect our bishops at the Lambeth Conference.

One is the exploration of the role of bishops and the other is the discussion of the proposed covenant.

Examination of the role of bishops:

At the opening of the Lambeth Conference in a traditional “retreat” style of brief theological reflection by the Archbishop, silence and mediation by the participants, then reflection, our bishops and all invited bishops, will reflect upon the archbishop’s words about “the bishop as a disciple of and leader in God’s mission”.

This event is a conference for bishops and it seems completely right for this topic to kick off this historic event. But I think that this topic also speaks to the Archbishop’s hope to confront what he has identified as a “major ecclesiological issue”.

I think that the Archbishop has given up trying to get our bishops to take an independent stand on the future of the moratorium of same sex blessings for instance, and is now moving to “plan B” and turning his attention to encouraging our bishops to understand their “distinctive charism” as bishops, perhaps in a new way.

I envision Archbishop Rowan pondering in, to use his word, “puzzlement” why these bishops of the Episcopal church don’t just stand up and exercise their authority as bishops like most of the rest of the bishops in the Communion do. Why would our bishops “bind themselves to future direction for the Convention?”

Some of us in TEC in the past have thought that perhaps the Archbishop and others in the Anglican Communion do not understand the baptismal covenant that we hold foundational. Perhaps they just don’t “get” the way we choose to govern ourselves; the ministers of the church as the laity, clergy and the bishops, and that at the very core of our beliefs we believe in the God- given gifts of all God’s people, none more important than the other, just gifts differing. We believe that God speaks uniquely through laity, bishops, priests and deacons. This participatory structure in our church allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment. But I think our governance is clearly understood. I just don’t think the Archbishop has much use for it.

In his Advent, 2007 letter, Archbishop Williams states:

"A somewhat complicating factor in the New Orleans statement has been the provision that any kind of moratorium is in place until General Convention provides otherwise. Since the matters at issue are those in which the bishops have a decisive voice as a House of Bishops in General Convention, puzzlement has been expressed as to why the House should apparently bind itself to future direction from the Convention. If that is indeed what this means, it is in itself a decision of some significance. It raises a major ecclesiological issue, not about some sort of autocratic Episcopal privilege but about the understanding in The Episcopal Church of the distinctive charism of bishops as an order and their responsibility for sustaining doctrinal standards. Once again, there seems to be a gap between what some in the Episcopal Church understand about the ministry of bishops and what is held elsewhere in the Communion, and this needs to be addressed."

At the Lambeth Conference, I believe that the voice of the conformed bishop will be easily heard and affirmed. The prophetic voice will not be easily heard.

Our bishops will experience a dynamic that will encourage them to guard the unity and to hold the communion together, perhaps even through the vehicle of a covenant.

The Archbishop has made it clear to our bishops that when they accepted the invitation to Lambeth, they have indicated that they are willing to work with implementation of the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a covenant. Again, in the Archbishop’s Advent letter:

I have underlined in my letter of invitation (to the Lambeth Conference) that acceptance of the invitation must be taken as implying willingness to work with those aspects of the Conference’s agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a Covenant.

A word here about the process and how the process for receiving comments on the second draft of the covenant underscores the understanding of the role of the bishops by the ABC. The people of the provinces, the clergy and laity have a voice regarding the second draft through their bishop. Unlike comments received on the first draft from all interested members of the communion, with a process for laity and clergy to give direct input, comments on the second draft are made solely, directly by bishops. The Secretary General wrote to all the primates and provincial secretaries with the St. Andrew’s Report and the Joint Standing Committee supporting resolution. There were three specific questions attached and the primate was asked to determine how to address the questions and which body was the most appropriate to answer.

The questions are:

1) Is the province able to give "in principle" commitment to the Covenant process at this time (without committing itself to the details of any text)?
2) Is it possible to give some indication of any synodical process which would have to be undertaken in order to adopt the Covenant in the fullness of time?
3) In considering the St. Andrew's Draft for an Anglican Covenant, are there any elements which would need extensive change in order to make the process of synodical adoption viable.

The input of the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church is especially important as the Anglican Communion considers the development of a covenant. The joint work of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops is the highest institutional expression of our belief that God speaks uniquely through laity, priests and deacons and bishops. It is thus crucially important that our bishops go to Lambeth knowing what we think about the current state of the proposed Anglican covenant.

------------------------------------------------------

I know many deputations have indeed met and given their bishop their input on the Covenant. I know many bishops who attended Lambeth 1998 are aware of the dangers lurking there. Best of all, I know many American bishops are talking to one another about the possibility of Lambeth being hijacked again.

The question now is, will the bishops be able to resist the effects of the Lambeth Lobotomy?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Occasions of Celebration

Here's the big news in our family these days:


Curran finishes kindergarten!

Well, here they are, Mrs. Stallard's kindergarten class at Lily B. Clayton Elementary School.

The cutie second from the left in the front row is my grandson, one of two of the best boys in the whole wide world.

This year he has learned how to read, how to write, how to work within a structured setting, and much much more. He stayed good friends with the two little girls he has known literally from birth, and made lots of new friends, including a little boy who was adopted from a Russian orphanage. He helped him learn English and in the process learned much himself.


And Gavin, who will turn 4 in July, continues to charm us all with his singing. I took this video on my phone. It is of him singing of "This lovely Planet, spinning through space. Your garden, your harbor, your holy place. Golden sun going down. Gentle blue giant, spin us around."

video

And then there is this:

Ms. Katie Sherrod receives Honorary Doctoral Degress from EDS.









This photograph shows [l to r] Mr. Kevin Johnson, The Rt. Rev. John Chane, The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston of EDS; Ms. Hellen Wangusa, Ms. Cynthia Logan Shattuck, and me.


May 25, 2008, CAMBRIDGE, MA – Episcopal Divinity School celebrated its 2008 Commencement Ceremony on May 15, 2008 at the First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Ms. Katie Sherrod, lay woman, received an honorary doctorate in recognition of her significant contributions to the struggle for a just Church and a just society. For 30 years Sherrod has worked as a journalist, writer, producer, commentator, advocate, and agitator to promote human rights, particularly combating the interlocking oppressions of racism, sexism, and heterosexism. In full, EDS conferred 39 degrees including 20 Master of Divinity, six Master of Arts in Theological Studies, six Doctor of Ministry, and two Certificates of Theological Study.

EDS was pleased to also confer honorary degrees on four other individuals who also exhibit distinguished and faithful ministries in social justice: The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Mr. Kevin Johnson, Ms. Cynthia Logan Shattuck, and Ms. Hellen Wangusa.

In the ceremony, commencement speaker, Ms. Hellen Wangusa, illustrated her strong stance in defense of issues of justice, reconciliation, and peace. Using the gospel story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, Wangusa drew parallels between this conversation and current calls for reconciliation, stating “At the well Jesus not only transcends cultural, religious, gender, and other stereotypes, but he also empowers and inspires the Samaritan woman to transcend the stereotypes her society had long defined and sustained!” She continues, “It is a place of reconciliation: the woman was reconciled to herself first. She overcame the male designation of her identity and emerged as the first to break old barriers between two Communities! The longstanding “war” between the Jews and Samaritans ended at the well.”

In closing, Wangusa urged the graduates to find ‘thirsty people,’ to recognize identity, religion, history, roots, and culture, and the importance of ‘true worship,’ and its place as a means of forming their own ministry.

Sherrod was one of the five individuals recognized with the degree, doctor of divinity, honoris causa. “EDS is proud to have recognized our 2008 honorary degree recipients for their distinguished and faithful ministry in the areas of justice, compassion, and reconciliation,” said EDS President and Dean, The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston. “These principles are at the core of EDS as we work to develop leaders for Christ’s Church and the world who will serve all of God’s people. These men and woman stand with us. By bestowing the doctor of divinity degree on each of them, we celebrate five people of vision, integrity, and gospel courage.”

Ms. Katie Sherrod, freelance writer and television producer in Fort Worth, Texas, is an outspoken advocate for women’s reproductive rights, and for battered women.

“You are a pioneer,” said Nancy Davidge, Director of Communications, who presented Sherrod with her degree.

“Your seven part series on rape in the 1970s changed the rape laws in Texas and led to the establishment of one of the first rape crisis centers in that state.” Davidge continued, “Following your example, women in newsrooms around the country began to report about rape in a transparent and compelling way, and the rape crisis movement was born in no small part due to your efforts.”



In recent years, Sherrod has been a spokesperson for full inclusion of all the baptised, including lesbians and gays, in the work and ministry of the church, and for the mainstream voice of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

“You don’t give up. Even when faced with verbal abuse, threats, and ridicule, you proclaim the Gospel message is for everyone, and especially for the least, the last, the lost, and the forgotten.”
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane was honored by The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas for his “Christ-centered commitment to justice with peace, in the Church and the wider world.” Chane was acknowledged for his work as a peace maker and human rights activist.

“You are a widely recognized strategic leader in Anglican Communion affairs, particularly dedicated to the Anglican Province of Southern Africa in their efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic.” Douglas continued, “Your commitment to peace and inter-faith understanding has involved you in major negotiations in the Middle East, specifically with President Khatami of Iran.”

Mr. Kevin Johnson, retired NBA player with the Phoenix Suns, businessman, and activist, was recognized by trustee Judy Conley, for his commitment to “children, education, and community development.” Johnson manages St. HOPE Corporation, a non-profit community development corporation designed to expand economic, education, and social opportunities for inner city communities in Arizona and California, and is the founder of St. HOPE Academy, an after school program for inner city children. In 2007, St. HOPE was recognized as “one of the nation’s leaders in ‘transformation high schools’ – the reinvention of comprehensive high schools to smaller, themed learning communities,” said Conley. “When not leading St. HOPE’s efforts, you speak regularly to universities and community groups on education, economic development, and public policy issues, as well as on the importance of being a good neighbor and giving back to communities.”

Ms. Cynthia Logan Shattuck was presented her honorary doctoral degree by Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, “for exceptional contributions to theological publishing and scholarship.” Shattuck is passionate about her work, and an entrepreneur in the religious press business. She co-edited The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer with Charles Hefling, and has published the works of authors such as Verna Dozier so that their words are accessible to a wider audience. “Several members of this faculty are indebted to you both for your editorial guidance in our own publications, as well as to for publishing other volumes frequently used in our teaching,” said Thompsett.

Ms. Hellen Grace Akwii Wangusa was recognized by The Rev. Karen Montagno, Dean of Students and Community Life, in acknowledgement of her “prophetic commitment and passion for the Church, and international human rights.” Montagno continued to illustrate how her “focus has always been on the education and the economics of the vulnerable: women, children, poor and, indigenous people.” A native of Uganda, Wangusa helped found the African Women’s Economic Policy Network, Gender and Economic Research in Africa, and the Council for Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa.


“In a 2005 speech, you described the burden of ‘dehumanizing poverty that infests your soul and your body and your being, and exposes you to the vicious powers of this world,’ and stated that eradicating poverty is not a matter of charity, but of justice,” said Montagno. As Wangusa herself has stated. “Aim higher than the MDGs goals. There are no parables in the Bible where only half were fed. Jesus tells his disciples to feed the 5000 from what they had on hand. As the Communion, we have the fish and the bread.”

About Episcopal Divinity School
Episcopal Divinity School is a respected center of study and spiritual formation for lay and ordained leaders with a strong commitment to justice, compassion, and reconciliation. EDS, formed in 1974 with the merger of Philadelphia Divinity School (founded in 1857) and Episcopal Theological School (founded in 1867), offers doctor of ministry and master’s degrees, as well as certificates in theological studies. Located on an eight acre campus just a few blocks from Harvard Yard, EDS is a member of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine eminent theological schools, seminaries, and departments of religion.
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It was a wonderful time. Cambridge was in full bloom with tulips and lilacs, so we got to enjoy Spring all over again. The best thing about it was that Gayland was with me.

I am very grateful for so much, for Curran and his brother Gavin, for Gayland's continued recovery; and for a church that is working hard to live into the Gospel imperative to love God with our whole spirit, heart and mind, and to love one another as God loves us.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Steering Committee Statement Re: Venables' Visit


Steering Committee Statement Regarding
Visit of Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables


Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America, at the invitation of Bishop Jack Iker, spoke at a special convocation of the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth on May 3 at St. Vincent’s School in Bedford.

Last November the Province had passed a resolution that would “welcome [our diocese] into the membership” of that province. At our own diocesan convention later that month, a resolution was passed directing the “Bishop and Standing Committee [to] prepare a report for this diocese on the constitutional and canonical implications and means of accepting this invitation.”

Following his remarks, Venables held a question and answer session in which he described the possible alignment of our diocese with the province on an “emergency and pastoral” basis of indefinite duration. Venables also made reference to a “larger structure coming into place in which we could all participate.”

Venables graciously and ably presented the fundamentalist case for a literal interpretation of selected scripture. He also continued to misstate the position of our presiding bishop and the Episcopal Church regarding the role of Christ in salvation and characterized Christianity as an “intolerant” faith. While emphasizing that the church is the people, he urged as to church property that, "We must retain what is rightfully ours."

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians (“Steering Committee”), recently created to support the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a constituent part of the Episcopal Church, contends that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was created by the approval of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and as with every diocese in the Episcopal Church, exists solely by virtue of its unity as part of the Episcopal Church. Should our bishop and some clergy and laity decide to leave the Episcopal Church, those Episcopalians who remain will continue to be the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and full participants in the Episcopal Church.

The Steering Committee also notes that a visit of this nature by a foreign bishop violates the call in the Windsor Report for a moratorium on interventions by bishops in provinces and dioceses other than their own. This visit ignored the objection of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who wrote to Venables requesting that he cancel his visit, calling it "an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province."

Those who plan to remain as Episcopalian can check the website of the Steering Committee of North Texas Episcopalians at www.SteeringCommitteeNTE.org and contact the Steering Committee by e-mail at inquiries@SteeringCommitteeNTE.org or by letter addressed to Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, P.O.Box 100846, Fort Worth, TX, 76185-0846.

May 4, 2008

Relevant Documents

Sections of the Windsor Report dealing with boundary violations
149. In some instances, this breach of trust has been felt so keenly that a parish or
diocese has found itself unwilling to accept the ministry of a bishop associated
with such contrary action, and has invited bishops from elsewhere in the
province or beyond to provide pastoral and sacramental oversight. In some
cases, there are primates and bishops who have acceded to these requests with or
without reference to the proper authorities of the diocese concerned. We want to
make quite clear that we fully understand the principled concerns that have led
to those actions even though we believe that they should have been handled
differently.

150. In these circumstances we call upon the church or province in question to
recognise first that dissenting groups in their midst are, like themselves, seeking
to be faithful members of the Anglican family; and second, we call upon all the
bishops concerned, both the ‘home’ bishops and the ‘intervening’ bishops as
Christian leaders and pastors to work tirelessly to rebuild the trust which has
been lost.

154. The Anglican Communion upholds the ancient norm of the Church that all the
Christians in one place should be united in their prayer, worship and the
celebration of the sacraments. The Commission believes that all Anglicans
should strive to live out this ideal. Whilst there are instances in the polity of
Anglican churches that more than one jurisdiction exists in one place, this is
something to be discouraged rather than propagated. We do not therefore favour
the establishment of parallel jurisdictions.

155. We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to
intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:
¨ to express regret for the consequences of their actions
¨ to affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
¨ to effect a moratorium on any further interventions.
We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation
with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own
care.

Letter of the Presiding Bishop to Gregory Venables

Dear Gregory,
I write to urge you not to bring further discord into The Episcopal Church. Visiting a special convocation of the Diocese of Fort Worth with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province. I ask you to consider how you might receive such a visit to your own Province from a fellow primate. The actions contemplated by some leaders in Fort Worth are profoundly uncanonical. They also prevent needed reconciliation from proceeding within this Province. I urge you to focus your pastoral ministry within your own Province. May your ministry there be fruitful.
I remain
Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jesus Loves Me But He's Not So Sure About You

Gregory Venables, presiding bishop of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, spoke to a convocation of our diocesan convention today.

I had a previous commitment and could not be there. But I've interviewed several people who were there, and a couple have given me their notes and gone over them with me. Here's their take on what happened.

Bishop Jack Iker opened by emphasizing that Archbishop [That's what they call him, although their canons call him "presiding bishop." Some priests here also call him "Your Grace.”] Venables was here at Bp. Iker's invitation and that he was not going to try to convince the diocese to join the Southern Cone.

Iker also said that he, John David Schofield, Robert Duncan and Keith Ackerman initiated the action by going to Buenos Aires last year to visit Venables at his home.

When Venables got up to speak, he said he just wanted to give the meeting information about the Anglican Communion to help the diocese in making its decisions.

Both were making the case that this was not an incursion into this province by the primate of another province. [Well, you can put your boots in the oven but that don't make 'em biscuits. I grew up in West Texas. I know a poacher when I see one.]

Everyone agreed that Venables is an urbane charming man who can be hard -- not unlike Jack Iker. Don't kid yourself. There is a steel fist in that velvet glove.

Venables is quick thinking and uses humor -- he spent a bit of time ridiculing ambiguity, for instance. As in -- if a sign says, "No Smoking," what is there about "no" that you don't understand? Should we have a discussion of what "no" means?

His little jokes were met with gales of laughter from the friendly audience. Only elected delegates and clergy were allowed to speak. Visitors and observers were allowed to watch but not ask questions. Those delegates/clergy who disagreed with him were either silent or very polite when they spoke.

Turns out that our Gregory is an old hippie. Played in a band, loved the '60s, but one day while walking on the beach he found a piece of paper asking what was his relationship to Jesus. He hasn't looked back since.

Venables said that the Southern Cone "believes in freedom," that people should have the freedom to have the church like they want it. He painted a picture of an idyllic province where they have a little bit of everything, from high masses to morning prayer parishes. According to him, the Southern Cone isn't all about rules. The only rules are God's rules, and we all know what they are, so there's no problem.

He frequently waved a bible in the air as he spoke. He said he hoped the audience had bibles with them -- turns out maybe one delegate did. He referenced Acts 2 -- [When the day of Pentecost had come,] they were all together in one place.

It all comes down, he said, to experience of Jesus. When you're following Jesus, you get to be able to recognize other people who are following Jesus. The subtext of this was quite clear -- because they look just like you.

He downplayed the issues of women and homosexuality, focusing instead on measuring orthodoxy by adherence to a biblical literalism that leaves no room for interpretation. [Or for the work of the Holy Spirit.]

He went to some pains to make it clear that the issue is NOT schism. He went back to the Reformation, which he says was over essential issues, and so was not schism. All splits since then have been over non-essential items and so were schism, and thus sinful.

What's he's talking about is NOT SCHISM. It's separation. This is separation, and "they are separating. They've walked away from us."

He made the case for the existence of Absolute Truth. Some people think differently, but there is A Truth. Jesus made this clear because he made intolerant statements, such as "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Venables said that you can no longer be free to do what you want to do once you accept Jesus. If you doubt, you are with Satan. Just look at the Garden of Eden -- Satan sows doubt. Got in a dig at Eve: “My husband may believe all that, but I’m modern!”

Venables is a biblical literalist. Sola Scriptorum. According to Venables, biblical scholarship is all just word games. The message is clear -- every time Jesus answered the question of who he is, he responds with statements that begin "I am."

Venables said that after the Reformation the West [to which he referred often, speaking as if he, a British-born and educated prelate, is not part of the West] turned to Science, to a belief in an "open universe," to "rationalism," in a drive to find a unified vision of the universe. The West made the mistake of separating what you feel in your heart with what you know with your mind. Theologians in the West followed the same false path, which led them to only two choices -- nihilism and relativism.

He said that people talk about Jesus without meaning what HE means when he says Jesus. “You sit beside another primate, and you know he’s not thinking the same things you are when he speaks of Jesus.” He talked about Christianity versus culture, about how the church has given in to the culture. He made the point that doctrinal impurity leads to moral impurity.

Why do we talk so much about sexuality? It's not "essential," but it is very important, he said.

God made male and female. Marriage is Holy Matrimony. It's all about God and what God ordained. [He made no reference to the Old Testament norm of marriage -- which was polygamy.]

He referenced Hebrews -- What we have heard. We have to be careful that we are listening to God's voice or we will drift. He made it clear that to disagree with him is moving away from what God says.

He talked about how he is treated by the "other side" [poorly] and said that while "we" have been totally aboveboard, "they" lie and are deceitful. When he asks "them" to explain what they believe, they can't do it.

[Not sure how he missed the Episcopal Church's presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council or "To Set Our Hope in Christ," written by seven theologians for the Episcopal Church in response to the Windsor Report. And he obviously hasn't talked to Susan Russell, Michael Hopkins, Elizabeth Kaeton, or Gene Robinson, who all can very eloquently talk about what they believe.]

He lamented that the Anglican Communion has no authority over us so we can resolve things. He clearly wants some power to enforce. [He did state that The Episcopal Church has no authority over Jack Iker. Hmmm. I think the House of Bishops might have something to say about that. ]

He said, "Democracy is not good when it contradicts the word of God." Jesus is the ONLY WAY.

Remember earlier he had stated that the Southern Cone believes in the freedom to have church the way you want it? Well, not if you want ordained women.

In response to a question, he said that the ordination of women is not an "essential thing." He thinks the ordination of women "happened too fast" [several hundred years is too fast?] and that the Southern Cone has not resolved that issue yet.

He believes in a physical resurrection and those who do not are not orthodox. Also made it clear that those differing from "orthodox Anglicans" don't believe in the divinity of Christ.

He doesn't think a Covenant will do what he wants -- set up an authority that can demand accountability and mete out punishments -- because it's like the Creed. People don't all believe the same things. People can say the Creeds, but you don't know if they really believe in it the same way you do. A Covenant would be open to "interpretation."

He dismissed property issues as unimportant, saying "We'll do all we can to work it out."

He said we all are not really part of the same Body. The West cannot agree with "us." The West just believes too differently from the way people like him believe.

He talked about how "they" vilify "us" and how the media always gets it wrong.

But not to worry, he said. God has not lost control. God is in control.

Control was the subtext of everything he said -- control by the proper authorities is what Venables wants, and those proper authorities clearly include him.

As a friend pointed out, "the bishop's arguments are not new. They're a rehash of the old argument between Jerusalem and Athens, between revelation and reason, a tension both St. Paul and St. John saw at once as a wonderful motor to spread the new--and mostly undefined--gospel through the Europe of their day, indeed a powerful tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

"Bishop Venables, loth to deal with ambiguity and awash in certainty, chooses to lop off half that engine and fall back on revelation--as he understands it. That has happened regularly throughout the history of the West, every timesome hitherto unchallenged 'truth'--like the divine approval of slavery--has been challenged."

NOTE: The inspiration for the title of this blog came from a song by the Austin Lounge Lizards, entitled Jesus Loves Me, But He Can't Stand You. You can read the lyrics here. As one bishop noted, "It preaches."

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Preview of Venables' Speech

A friend of mine who is blessed with more patience than I have listened to this week's address of Gregory Venables, presiding bishop of the Southern Cone, to the group calling itself the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

She sent these excerpts to me as as "preview" of what we can expect when Venables addresses our convention delegates/clergy in a special convocation tomorrow.
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"God is calling us to move on. The Lord Jesus knows where we are going and he will get us there. We are not following an institution....I don't know what the realignment will look like in a few years.....We are in Christ. Those who have left are those who have denied who Jesus is. This is not about women and human sexuality."

He went on to say the we (the neo-liberals) suffer from doctrinal impurity (false teaching). And later said we are morally impure.

Near the end of his talk he said that the problem with the Anglican Communion is that it doesn't have a pope with ultimate authority and that Rowan has no authority.

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So our own bishop calls us vigilantes and idolaters and the presiding bishop of the province to which we may go says that those of us who choose to remain in The Episcopal Church have "denied who Jesus is," and that we are morally impure.

Sure makes me want to spend more time with them.

The PB and the Pope

In the eyes of some, mostly men, in this church, our presiding bishop can do nothing right. Their latest accusation against her is that she stood up the pope when he visited the U.S.

Jan Nunley of the Episcopal News Service and an excellent reporter AND a former resident of Fort Worth and now a priest, was AT the event that some conservatives are excoriacating the PB for missing. Here's what SHE says:
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People, listen. I was there.

The Episcopal Church's Ecumenical Officer, Bishop Christopher Epting, was there.

THERE WAS NO "MEETING" WITH THE POPE.

It was an EVENT. A MEDIA event. Not much different from the Yankee Stadium Mass, except much, much smaller and no Mass.

Three hundred some odd Christian ordained and lay leaders packed like sardines into the pews of a church in Yorkville that had been spruced up for the occasion . . . The back row was filled with cameras and reporters.

His Holiness walked in, sat down, ecumenical prayers were said, hymns were sung, he delivered a 20-minute address from his chair, a dozen or so "representatives" of various faith groups were announced (including the Episcopal Bishop of New York), walked across the dais and shook the Pope's hand, exchanged a few niceties, sat back down, we prayed and sang again, and he left.

No one from the Vatican or the Archdiocese of New York was nonplussed that the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA sent a representative, and no one was nonplussed that the Presiding Bishop of TEC was represented by two Bishops--the local Episcopal Bishop, +Mark Sisk, and Bishop Epting--a member of her communications staff, and quite possibly others I did not spot in the crowd (mea maxima culpa).

Again: There was no "MEETING." No exchange of ideas and common concerns. Nothing more than "Welcome, Your Holiness, good to see you, glad to have you here, have a good time, try the cheesecake while you're here, it's fabulous." He was in, he was out, that was it.

There. Was. No. Meeting.

NO. MEETING.NONE. NADA. NO, NIX, NEIN.

This is a manufactured controversy and it's a shameful waste of bandwidth and time. There really are more important things going on in the world and in the Church (both universal and particular). Get to them, for Jesus' sake, and stop majoring in the minors. Please.

*Honestly.*

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And here is a reply from (The Rev. Cn.) Mary June Nestler of the Diocese of Utah to some of the attacks on the PB.

Posted with permission:
Friends,

Today's posting by Dr. Phillip Turner showcased on Kendall Harmon's website (The Presiding Bishop: Does She Know What She is Doing?) contains the statement "To be specific, her decline of an invitation to greet the Pope on his present visit calls into question her understanding of the office of Presiding Bishop."

I hope the following information will finally put the bed the notion that Bishop Jefferts Schori was somehow avoiding the Pope or neglecting the duties of her office. I am posting this on the HOBD list because I called the Anglican Communion Institute to get Dr. Turner's email address to write to him directly and was told they don't give it out because of "a great deal of unpleasant email traffic."

I was advised simply to fill out their online form. I think I'd rather get the facts out more widely, as I've seen allegations of her supposed "dereliction of duty" in other internet material as well.

FACT: Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish wrote to the Presiding Bishop on April 17, 2007, to invite her to come to the Diocese of Utah to lead our Spring Weekend April 18-19, 2008. The Presiding Bishop accepted.

FACT: Beginning in May, 2007, considerable efforts began in Utah to prepare for the Presiding Bishop's visit. Facilities were reserved, planning committees began meeting, and expenses relating to the visit commenced. People across the diocese marked their calendars and planned to attend.

FACT: The press release announcing the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to New York was published by the Archdiocese of New York on November 12, 2007, half a year after the Presiding Bishop accepted Utah's invitation.

The Presiding Bishop kept her long-standing commitment to the Diocese of Utah by leading our Spring Weekend as planned. She was, in fact, doing some of the work The Episcopal Church called her to do and pays her to do: visit dioceses as Presiding Bishop, teach, preside and preach, bless and encourage Episcopalians and speak to the wider community. She worked incredibly hard while in Utah to keep up with our demanding schedule. While we wish she could have been both in New York greeting the Pope and in Utah leading our conference, we are nonetheless deeply grateful that she was present with us in Salt Lake City making a visit which at every moment revealed to us what an extraordinary leader she is and how capably and prayerfully she exercises the duties of her office.

I believe authors who would criticize her for this either don't understand the facts or are plain mean-spirited.

(The Rev. Cn.) Mary June Nestler
Canon for Ministry Formation, Member of the Planning Team for the Presiding Bishop's visit to Utah C1, Diocese of Utah
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Of course, if she HAD cancelled the commitment with the Diocese of Utah to meet with the pope, they would be complaining that she was neglecting her responsibilities as presiding bishop and insulting the diocese.

Here's more information:
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I've already received several emails sent to me privately insisting that the Presiding Bishop's proper course of action would have been to cancel her visit to Utah and to meet the Pope in New York. I look forward to hearing, should it ever be planned, that the Presiding Bishop will be received at the Vatican, which will be a much more powerful visit and statement than her being one of many religious leaders to encounter him in New York.

I have just this minute received a telephone call from the office of the Papal Visit at the Archdiocese of New York in response to my call earlier today. The office gave me the following information.

The press release issued in November, 2007, announcing the Pope's visit to the U.S., did not contain specifics of the Pope's visit or even his location. "As with all papal visits, " said Ellen in the office, "the Pope's actual destination and detailed schedule are released only one month prior to the visit. We knew from the Papal Nunzio only that he would be coming to the United States in November."

Ellen also told me that the Pope did not receive any ecumenical religious leader privately on his visit to New York or Washington. She said the only opportunity would have been for our Presiding Bishop to attend the ecumenical service scheduled for Friday night, April 18th, where she would have been one of many guests.

This means, in effect, that the Presiding Bishop would have had only one month's notice of the Pope's schedule. This means, in effect, that a year's worth of planning and a great deal of expense would have had to be blown off should she have cancelled her visit to Utah--to attend a group event.

Yes, it's critically important that she and the Pope meet. I want to be the first to get the photo of the two of them! But are the critics really suggesting that an entire diocese and state be stood up and a great deal of money squandered? She was not in Utah simply, as one person suggested, to dedicated the new Episcopal Church Center of Utah. That took 20 minutes. She met with 65 civic, religious, academic, and philanthropic dignitaries, before whom and 500 others she gave an address on "Religion and Civic Life." I wish you could have seen the Roman Catholic Bishop of Utah and other religious dignitaries sitting in the front row at the Holy Eucharist and her address following. The previous day she taught 310 people for 3 hours in formal lecture and question-and-answer. She was received by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which may not seem like much compared to the Pope, but in Utah it's HUGE, and her visit was widely covered by Utah press. She met with the editorial board of the Deseret News and had private interviews with other reporters. In Utah, where the role of women is a major public and religious topic, the visit of our Presiding Bishop was major evangelism for the status of women in church and society. Some 40% of Utah Episcopalians are former members of the LDS Church, and for them the visit of a Presiding Bishop who is female was a watershed in their spiritual lives and growth--our own bishop who is a woman notwithstanding!

Yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune published this letter to the editor (with an unfortunate error stating the prayers of the people we used came from the Prayer Book). Her visit is still being praised!

http://www.sltrib.com/ci_9110971?IADID=Search-www.sltrib.com-www.sltrib.com

(The Rev. Cn.) Mary June Nestler
C1 Utah

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mark Harris Speaks on Baptism, Bishops, Politics, Mission

Mark Harris, priest of this church, author of the well-read blog Preludium, member of Executive Council and Canon of the Church of the Philippines, spoke on Saturday, April 26, at Trinity Church at the invitation of Fort Worth Via Media at an event sponsored by FWVM and Steadfast Episcopalians, a group of conservative Episcopalians.

Harris began by placing himself in context as all of the above, as an assisting priest at a parish in Lewes, Delaware that was formed in 1682; as a retired priest, and as a besotted grandfather. He has a Doctor of Divinity degree, but he uses no title on his business card as a way of breaking out of the “ranks” of Christians.

He spoke without notes for two hours.

He said that our church is in a struggle to maintain that baptism is the core, not merely an entry rite.

“Baptism is much more than that [an entry rite]. It unites us all at the core of what we are as Christians,” he said. If baptism is only an entry rite, then we end up with “ranks” of Christians, starting with the lowest – the laity – and ending with the highest – bishops, archbishops, popes.

In this system, “The more titles one gets the better, the holier one is,” Harris said.

In this way of thinking, baptism simply means, “You’re in.” The laity are “just baptized,” and do not have enough license to speak truth to the church.

But the license to speak the truth is for everyone, Harris declared. Baptism is what makes us part of the struggle.

If baptism is the core of Christianity, than that’s all we need. If baptism is the core, the “business of whether women can be priests is already solved”, as is the question of whether we ordain people with disabilities, or people with a homosexual orientation.

How can we be a church where people have different roles and give honor to our priests and bishops, but still don’t leave anyone out?

“I’m proud to be part of a church struggling with how to live into this,” Harris said. “`Laity’ means being the people of God. In a diocese like San Joaquin and Fort Worth, there is emerging a new sense of mission that is being developed by the people of God,” the laity.

“We honor our bishops because we put them there. Sometimes we have to take our lumps; we get what we get. This is part of the suffering and joys of life,” he said.

He said, “We need to be willing to a church that is political.”

He said that politics is not a dirty word or a bad thing, that politics is integral to our system – ‘we are not an absolute monarchy. We are a church that organizes itself along democratic principles.”

People having conversations about how it’s going to work – that’s what “political” means, he said.

“Politics is integral to what it means to be Christian. Politics becomes the way we work out how to become a Christian community,” he said.

He said he had heard a lot of the accusations made against Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, with whom he has worked on Executive Council.

“We don’t elect people who aren’t Christian to be the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church. We might elect quirky people, or complex people, but they are all Christian.

“I feel good about our PB. I feel she’s a fine, upstanding Christian. She is complex and informed from all her roles in her life and her gender. I am astounded by her ability to stay focused.”

He pointed out that the buildings and the heritage held in trust for the larger church by local dioceses is part of the domestic mission of The Episcopal Church, also known as The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.”

Offices of The Episcopal Church have a missionary and a fiduciary responsibility to hold that trust, he said.

These local areas [dioceses] were first states, then as the church population grew, they broke into smaller areas. There will always be an Episcopal Church as a domestic mission here, not just some “hole” left after a bishop tried to take a diocese out of TEC.

Jurisdiction by a contiguous land mass is a residue from the English system, Harris said, which has civil as well as religious implications. The earliest bishops, including Hobart, determined that wherever there was a United States of America, there would be an Episcopal Church gathered in a diocese.

So TEC has a missionary impetus to be here.

“Even if all the property was taken, even if only seven people were left, TEC would be here. This would become, if necessary, a missionary district,” he said.

Then he reminded everyone, “God is not found in the shrines. God is found in the mission.”

“Think of yourselves as a religious community. The Episcopal Church is our answer to being Christian. We are here as a religious community and the mission of the national church is to see that we remain here,” he said.

For those who want to stay in The Episcopal Church, the question they should have for Bishop Iker is, “Bishop, do you care for us? If you do care for us, how that manifest?”

He reminded the audience, “We are people under authority, not raw power.”

Bishops have authority because we give it to them.

Once you decide the power resides beyond the people who work and pray together, there is a problem.

A bishop gets his or her authority from the laity, including the clergy. When they abuse that authority, or resort to raw power to enforce their authority, they lose their authority. Such a bishop has no authentic authority any more, just raw power.

[Canon 32 is an example of raw power being used to in this way.]

Additionally, there is nothing in the canons to support moving parishes from one diocese to another as a bishop-to-bishop agreement. It must be a General Convention decision. To date, General Convention has voted “for” this arrangement only if the churches were on the borderline of two dioceses or within about five miles or less.

[None of the above applies to St. Christopher’s, All Saints, Trinity and St. Luke’s Stephenville, the four parishes Bp. Iker is trying to force to move to the Diocese of Dallas.]

Harris pleaded with those who intend to remain in The Episcopal Church to continue to reach out to those who plan to leave TEC with Bishop Iker.

“Pray for them. We know them too well to abandon them,” he said.

And he ended with this reminder: “The first piece of mission is liberating the voice of the baptized.”

That is the mission of the lay people of the diocese of Fort Worth.