Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The presiding bishop on varied understandings

Episcopal News Online has this reflection by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. If you've ever wondered why so many women were so overjoyed at her election, this piece of writing might give you some insight.

It sheds some light on one of the reasons so many of us have struggled to get women's voices heard in the rooms where decisions are being made. It's not because women are "better" than men, or "smarter" than men. It is because women's experience of the world differs in significant ways from that of men, and thus we often see things differently. Indeed, we often see things that are 'invisible" to the men in the room.

It's why diversity is a good thing, not a scary thing.

Varied understandings
Different lenses provide different views of Scripture
By Katharine Jefferts Schori
February 24, 2009

[Episcopal Life] The primates' meeting has come and gone, and I'm sure there will have been abundant commentary by the time this is published. I'd like to reflect on some of the deeper issues behind our conversations about sexuality, particularly the influence of our understanding of gender.

The most intriguing conversation I had in Alexandria was with a primate who asked how same-sex couples partition "roles." He literally asked if one was identified as the wife and one as the husband, and then wanted to know which one promised to obey the other in the marriage ceremony. Several of us explained that marriage in the West is most often understood as a partnership of equals, and has been for some time.

Those of you with a few more years on you may remember that the marriage service in the 1928 (and earlier versions) of the Book of Common Prayer did indeed have language about the wife obeying her husband. It's pertinent here to note that the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer is still the norm in many provinces of the Anglican Communion, and it uses the same kind of language about obeying in the marriage service.

As I traveled from the airport to the hotel where we met, I noticed that almost every woman on the street past childhood was veiled, with at least her hair covered with a scarf, and in a not-small number of cases, covered head to toe in a long, flowing garment. I even observed a couple of women whose coverings were so thorough that I couldn't even see a slit for their eyes -- the fabric must have been thin enough for them to see through, but not for others to see in. The hotel had only a handful of female employees, mostly professional women who worked behind the desk. Only a couple of them wore no scarf.

The striking thing was that the meeting room where the primates' deliberations took place, the hotel's largest and principal conference room, was bedecked with several large paintings of half-naked women. It was a space that, in normal circumstances, apparently was used only by men. I found it striking that public expectations of women are modest dress and covering, yet there is evidently a rather different attitude toward men's entertainment.

These complex and conflicting gender expectations have something significant to do with attitudes there and in other parts of the world toward male homosexuality. The greatest difficulty in many cultures, including parts of North American society, is the perception that one of the partners in such a union must be acting like a woman -- and that is most definitely not a socially desirable status! It is an attitude directly involved in the handful of scriptural references to male homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament references have more to do with abusive and exploitative behavior.

At the same time, one could readily observe public behavior in Egypt that would be identified as same-sex affection in our own culture -- women and men holding hands with others of the same gender. Yet in that culture it is seen merely to express friendship and is not associated with sexuality.

All of which is to suggest that all of us read Scripture through the lenses we have -- our cultural norms, our scientific understanding and our theological understanding of the purpose of marriage. We also privilege particular parts of Scripture in the way we build our lectionaries.

One morning at worship at the primates' meeting, we heard the reading from Corinthians that says women should be quiet in church and ask their husbands at home if they have questions (1Cor 14:33b-35). It was followed by the Gospel passage that recounts Salome and Herodias' request for the head of John the Baptist. I don't believe that section of the Gospel, alone, is ever read at Eucharist in the Episcopal Church -- because there is precious little good news in it.

I had one other pertinent encounter in Fort Worth, Texas, after the primates' meeting. I was greeting a long line of people at the end of the day of the reorganizing convention for the diocese. I spoke with a man in a wheelchair who appeared to have had a stroke.

The next person in line began by telling me that the guy in the wheelchair was a retired obstetrician/gynecologist and that "he's the most interesting gay man I know, and I'm proud to call him a friend." Rather an unusual conversation starter. And then he went on to say, "All of this is really about male supremacy, isn't it?" His words, not mine, but worth consideration.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

-- The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Manifesting the Baptismal Covenant

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth announces its 2009 Lenten Series -Manifesting the Baptismal Covenant

Lent begins on February 25 - Ash Wednesday. This year the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s Lenten series focuses on the Baptismal Covenant.

Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church. Episcopalians believe the bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble. In the Baptismal Covenant we publicly avow our belief in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and make a series of promises of how we will, with God’s help, strive to live as Christians. Episcopalians renew their Baptismal Covenant at every Baptism and several other times during the liturgical year.

Each Saturday evening in Lent, one of a number of local and national speakers, including the Rt. Rev. Jane Dixon, retired suffragan bishop of Washington, the Rev. Terry Martin, program officer for Evangelism for the Episcopal Church, and Dr. Toni Craven and the Rev. Dr. Eilene Thelig of Brite Divinity School, will address one part of the Baptismal Covenant. The series will conclude with Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, speaking on Sleeping Giant, Come Forth! The Role of the Laity in Episcopal Polity.

What: Manifesting the Baptismal Covenant

When: Each Saturday evening in Lent
5:00 – 5:30 PM: Soup, Bread & Fellowship
5:45 – 7:00 PM: Speaker
7:15 – 8:00 PM: Compline and Silent Dismissal

Where: St. Christophers Episcopal Church, 3550 Southwest Loop 820, Fort Worth, TX 76133. 817-921-4533. A reservation for the meal is requested. There is a $3 charge.

February 28 - “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”
The Rev. Mary Earle, Episcopal priest, writer, spiritual director, member of the adjunct faculty of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin

March 7 -“Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread,
and in the prayers?”
The Rev. Sam McClain, Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Stephenville, Texas

March 14 -“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” The Rev. Terry Martin, Program Officer for Evangelism for the Episcopal Church

March 21 - “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” Dr. Toni Craven, I. Wiley and Elizabeth M. Briscoe Professor of Hebrew Bible, and The Rev. Dr. Eilene Thelig, Director of Lay and Continuing Education, Brite Divinity School

March 28 - “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of
every human being?”
The Rt. Rev. Jane Dixon, Retired Suffragan Bishop of Washington

April 4 - Sleeping Giant, Come Forth! The Role of the Laity in Episcopal Polity
Bonnie Anderson, D.D., President of the House of Deputies for the Episcopal Church

For more information call St. Christophers at 817-926-8277 or visit

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another point of view

Tim Carson, senior minister at University Christian Church, has written an opinon piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about what's going on in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. University Christian Church is one of the largest in the city of Fort Worth.

Fort Worth Episcopalians engaged in struggle that’s not new in Christian history
Special to the Star-Telegram

The good bishop has it wrong. Or so I think. Which bishop, you ask? That’s the point. Which bishop indeed?

As one who is not a part of the Episcopal side of the Christian family, I look on as a concerned outsider. But perhaps that is the best vantage point to hold in the midst of a family squabble (See: "Reorganized diocese elects new bishop," Feb. 8).

There is no doubt that the unity of the whole church includes both sides of this unhappy family, because our unity — not uniformity based on sameness — is based on God’s love manifested in our common life in Christ.

But after making this most basic of Christian affirmations, we must say that this dispute, as so many others, is not new to Christian history. In fact, it is not new to any other of the living religious traditions, either.

More than once in Christian history, disagreements and conflict have eventuated in schisms, some of which led to competitions for ecclesial authority.

Will the Holy See find its home in Italy or France? Is the center of authority lodged in Rome or Constantinople? And a favorite one for Anglicans: Is it Rome or Canterbury?

And now the runoff du jour: Will the real Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth please stand up, and with it, its bishop?

In a recent advertisement in the Star-Telegram, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Jack Iker stood up, waved his hand and said, "It’s me!" He has withdrawn from the established Diocese of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. and now claims that his newly founded diocese — in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury — is the one that has been here all along.

And, therefore, it only seems right to the good bishop that all of the assets and congregations should stay with him, even if he cashes in his chips, leaves the mother ship and affiliates with an African one.

Such a lively revisionist sense of history!

I have the true faith, so I really have been here all along, here with my true church. Even though I was appointed by the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., and have withdrawn to go another direction, I am the continuing strain of the real constituted authority.

We now pause for a moment of sanity.

Bishop Iker: You just decided to leave. You were done with all that crazy Episcopal Church U.S.A. stuff. You followed your star, fine and good. But please don’t pretend that you’re the one staying and others — here all along — are the ones forming a new diocese. They are the ones continuing.

So go in peace. Take the souls who feel likewise along with you. But following the council of Jesus, take nothing more than your staff, sandals and bag on the way to your promised land.

Be blessed while you do it, but don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Or lay claim to their property and resources. No fair initiating the divorce and then expecting to the get the house as a part of the property settlement. You’ll need to find an apartment.

Other church bodies have faced this.

I know we have in my own communion. But the rule of thumb is — and one by and large supported by civil courts when it comes down to that nasty action — that the ones leaving don’t take the assets with them. They go out empty-handed because it’s their choice. Especially good church bylaws and rules of order prohibit this from happening.

It just so happened that I dropped by the convention of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth on Feb. 7.

I have to say, there were lots of Episcopalians there worshipping and acting like church. Their presiding bishop was there, as was the newly appointed provisional one. The worship included much confession, affirmation of our basic unity, prayers for healing and encouragement to be the whole church in the world. From the spirit in the place, I’d say that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

As I went forward for communion, I was served the bread by a male priest and the cup by a female priest. I have to say, it seemed just about as whole and healthy as a family can be around the table.

But what do I know? I’m not even an Episcopalian.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

We are on our way

The day dawned cloudy, the sky heavy with the promise of much-needed rain. That promise was the only one unfulfilled by the end of the day as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth elected a bishop, a Standing Committee, deputies to General Convention and filled many other offices left vacant when our former bishop and others left the Episcopal Church.

As our new Bishop Ted Gulick said, “The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is alive and well and open for business.”

The day was bookended by prayer, beginning with a joyous Eucharist at All Saints Episcopal Church. Shannon Worrell and her band of merry volunteers had made the sanctuary a flower-filled ode to joy, with white roses, lilies, and enormous hydrangeas massed at the altar, on the columns, and hung like bunting along the choir stalls. The chapel, the Parish Hall and the parlor were equally gorgeous, with flowers bedecking each large-screen TV that allowed the overflow crowd to participate in the festival Eucharist.

The woodwork gleamed and the stone walls themselves almost hummed with the sense of anticipation and joy as people gathered. People greeted one another with smiles and hugs and cries of “Did you ever believe we’d see this day?” Old campaigners and young happy Episcopalians alike beamed at one another as they sorted out tickets and badges and who was to vest where.

All Saints‘rector, Christopher Jambor, had to have been tired from the intense weeks of planning that led to this day, but you couldn’t tell it by the smile on his face and the pride with which he shone as he watched his parishioners greet worshipers, direct visiting bishops and local clergy to the correct rooms, and sort out where everyone would be sitting.

The quiet arrival of the car carrying Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori almost went unnoticed until she stepped out, and then the small crowd at the entrance broke into applause and cries of “Welcome!” She smiled and waved as she carried the bag with her vestments inside, leaving some young observers – and some older ones – almost breathless.

“She’s here! She’s really here!” a woman said. “This really IS going to happen!”

As the procession formed up, happy choir members and excited clergy almost danced in place as they awaited the signal to begin. Visiting bishops greeted one another and the day began to take on the feel of a reunion of a family too long separated one from other.

Then Bishop Katharine joined the procession. As it began moving, the crosses and candles and colorful vestments and smiles and tears of joy caused one news photographer ask me, “This is amazing. Do you guys do this every Sunday?”

As the procession entered the church, a woman turned and saw Katharine and burst into tears. Katharine stopped, put her hands on her shoulders and said, ‘Everything’s going to be all right.”
The joyful singing almost took the roof off, as the organ was joined by trumpets and tympani. The All Saints Choir outdid itself – and given that many members of that choir have been working for years to make this diocese more inclusive, singing beautifully was no small feat, considering how emotional some of them must have been.

Bishop Katharine was pitch-perfect all day, her low calm voice acting like balm to wounded people. Her sermon, which can be seen here, hit the mark exactly. One priest, a gifted preacher himself, told me later, “That woman can preach!”

No small praise coming from a man who was once one of the diocese’ leading opponents of women’s ordination.

Evidence of such growth and change was everywhere, as people began to move into the sense of happy liberation that was pervading the day.

Several people who were in the parlor told me later that just as Katharine raised her hand in the final blessing, the sun broke through the clouds and streamed in through the middle window of the chapel. And as soon as the service ended, the sun disappeared. One woman said, “My husband leaned over and said, “Did you see that light?”

As the service ended, and the clergy and choir recessed and began to gather outside the big double doors, Bishop Katherine emerged. She stepped to one side until one of the clergy asked for her blessing. As she stepped forward and raised her hand, nearly all the priests spontaneously knelt, surprising her and themselves. One of them said to me later, “I fell to my knees, undone by the power of the moment. I wasn’t expecting that, but it seemed so RIGHT.”

The delegates, clergy and visiting bishops went off to have lunch with Bishop Katharine, and everyone else headed for Trinity, where the convention was to be held.

Trinity also gleamed, with lovely flowers everywhere. Volunteers had registration so organized that there were no bottlenecks. The press was fed lunch and information, the delegates found their seats and promptly at 1:30, Bishop Katharine called this special meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth into session.

We elected Bishop Ted Gulick, installed him, and Bp. Katherine turned the chair over to him. There was much good humor throughout the business session, as delegates worked their way through the elections and resolutions necessary to get us reorganized.

Delegates approved a budget of more than $600,000, based on assessments of the five intact parishes and pledges from the displaced parishes and faith communities and the promise of $200,000 from the national Church.

It was a day of small pleasures as well as of big change. Woman after woman remarked on how nice it was to hear Bp. Gulick address us as "Sisters and brothers," and to speak of "Daughters and sons of God."

After convention adjourned, we moved into Evensong, with acolytes processing in carrying parish banners, many just completed.

We are on our way.

And I am on my way out of town. More later as I get time, and access to the Internet.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Join us as we begin anew

Join us today as we gather to bless, break, and share the Bread of Life at All Saints Episcopal Church at 10 a.m. and then again as we gather at 1:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church to elect a provisional bishop and a Standing Committee.

How? Go here and click on the "View Live Broadcast of Meeting Events" and you will be able to worship with us and watch the convention proceedings.

So join us as we begin anew.

Shield the joyous!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

How do you "release" what you do not hold?

Today, the former bishop of Fort Worth issued this statement.


FORT WORTH, Texas – In a hearing Monday, Feb. 2, the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth took action under diocesan Canon 32 to release the property and assets of four parishes from the Corporation of the diocese. The rectors and elected wardens of the four parishes were notified of the hearing and invited to attend.

The property of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Southlake, has been transferred into the name of the Rectors and Wardens of those parishes, respectively. The property of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Stephenville, will be transferred upon removal of financial encumberances in the form of building loans currently in the name of the Corporation.

As required by Canon 32, the Bishop’s Orders were issued upon determination that the Vestry and Rector in each of the four parishes has expressed an intention to remain in union with the General Convention of The Episcopal Church (USA), and that significant majorities of the congregations are in support of that intention. “It is my order, therefore,” the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker wrote to each, “that the relationship between this diocese” and each of these churches “is hereby dissolved. It is no longer in union with the Convention of this diocese and is released from its obligations as a member congregation.”

In a cover letter, Bishop Iker concluded, “Please know of my continued prayers and best wishes to you and all the other people at [these churches] in the years ahead.” The letters and Bishop’s Orders were delivered by mail this week.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was organized in 1982. It is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and the Province of the Southern Cone. The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker has served as the third diocesan Bishop of Fort Worth since 1995. The diocese enjoys companion relationships with the Dioceses of Northern Malawi and Northern Mexico.

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians issued this response:

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians is very pleased that Bishop Jack Iker has stated his intentions not to assert any claims to and authority over the people and property of these four Episcopal parishes. We are pleased that Bp. Iker has formally acknowledged that he is no longer their bishop and has no authority over them and that they are not part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Bp. Iker is no longer the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth because he left the Episcopal Church and has renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church. Because he did that, Bishop Iker has not been the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth for some time. He had no authority to initiate a Canon 32 proceeding.

Because he and other diocesan leaders have left the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the diocese will elect a new bishop and select other diocesan leaders at a special meeting of the convention of the diocese this weekend.

We continue to hold Bishop and Mrs. Iker in our prayers.

You know, I suspose this is a good sign. Maybe some tiny bits of reality are seeping through. But I'm not optimistic. Jack Iker has a whole lot of people inhabiting his delusion with him and they are constantly reinforcing one another in that delusion.

Remain alert.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What is Butt Dust???

We have all been working hard getting ready for our Special Convention. Everyone is tired and in need of a lift. These were sent to me by a friend and they made me laugh out loud. It was a nice break


What, you ask, is 'Butt dust?' Read on and you'll discover the joy in it!

These have to be original and genuine. No adult is this creative!!

JACK (age 3) was watching his Mom breast-feeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked: 'Mom, why have you got two? Is one for hot and one for cold milk?'

MELANIE (age 5) asked her Granny how old she was. Granny replied she was so old she didn't remember any more. Melanie said, 'If you don't remember you must look in the back of your panties. Mine say five to six.'

STEVEN (age 3) hugged and kissed his Mom good night. 'I love you so much that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroom window.'

BRITTANY (age 4) had an ear ache and wanted a pain killer. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a child-proof cap and she'd have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: 'How does it know it's me?'

SUSAN (age 4) was drinking juice when she got the hiccups. 'Please don't give me this juice again,' she said, 'It makes my teeth cough.'

DJ (age 4) stepped onto the bathroom scale and asked: 'How much do I cost?'

MARC (age 4) was engrossed in a young couple that were hugging and kissing in a restaurant. Without taking his eyes off them, he asked his dad: 'Why is he whispering in her mouth?'

CLINTON (age 5) was in his bedroom looking worried. When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, 'I don't know what'll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in it?'

JAMES (age 4) was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: 'The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city but his wife looked back and was turned to salt.' Concerned, James asked: 'What happened to the flea?'

TAMMY (age 4) was with her mother when they met an elderly, rather wrinkled woman her Mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, 'Why doesn't your skin fit your face?'

The Sermon I think this Mom will never forget.... this particular Sunday sermon...'Dear Lord,' the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. 'Without you, we are but dust...' He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter who was listening leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little four-year-old girl voice, 'Mom, what is butt dust?'