Saturday, January 20, 2007

"It's a Justice Issue"

Oh, Really?

For a while now, I've been pondering a question and lacking the nerve to raise it in public. But today I'm inspired by a courageous and thoughtful essay over at Leaning Toward Justice. In his "Comments on Moving Forward in the Church," Jeff (whom I don't know, except as a reader of his blog) courageously raises a question that, he acknowledges, "is bound to stir up a bunch of heated anger from my GLBT brothers and sisters." That's been the source of my hesitation, too: concern not just about the response of lesbians and gay men, but of the many courageous straight folks who have been very articulate supporters.

Here's the problem I have. I hear many important groups like Integrity and Claiming the Blessing argue that full inclusion of gay men and lesbians in our church is "a justice issue." And many of the people I value very greatly in our church also say "It's a justice issue."

But I don't get it. And I wonder: What memo did I not get that I still don't "get" this argument? (By the way, I also never got my own copy of the homosexual agenda, so – obviously – I'm not on the really significant mailing lists.)

It seems to me that the people of God should indeed be working for justice in the civil arena. Dr. King immediately springs to mind as a person who, working out of a deep spiritual base, called for greater justice in our nation's laws. When Christians work through legislative mechanisms for social policies and funding that are "just," I believe they are doing the work of our Lord. Some draw upon their spiritual resources to work on the "liberal" side, and some – drawing from equally valid depths of concern – work on the "conservative" side. [Thanks, TomF, for making me recognize that.] In such cases, the individual's spirituality informs his or her civic action. I understand that. And so I understand that many Christians should and do call for an end to legislation that deprives gay people of civil rights. As Jeff wrote: "I couldn’t agree more that the church needs to be on the front lines of justice."

Conversely, I am way beyond appalled when supposedly Christian leaders advocate the abridgement of civil rights. As people like Dobson and Phelps do in our country, and as Akinola is doing most egregiously in Nigeria. I see no difference between their work and the work of those passing Sharia laws in predominantly-Muslim countries. When church doctrine begins to govern civil society, we are in for nothing but trouble. But I digress . . .

It seems to me that when the Hebrew prophets like Amos and Micah called for "justice to roll down like mighty waters," they were calling for a society in which justice would prevail. Amen to them! Surely it is our call as Christians to see that the "least of these" are cared for. It is our job to see that the weak are protected and that dignity is afforded to all people, since all are created in God's image.

Then I turn to the situation within the church – and more specifically, within our own Episcopal Church. Jeff put it quite clearly when he wrote: "I do not for one minute think we should sit back and yield any of our equality. I just wonder whether or not the church is the right place to be talking about it in such black and white terms."

Let me cut to the chase: I do not see how it is "a justice issue" for this middle-aged lesbian to be allowed to serve as a crucifer or Eucharistic minister or member of the vestry. I don't see how it is a "justice" issue that gay men and lesbians be ordained as deacons and priests or consecrated as bishops. I don't see how it is a "justice" issue if I should find my beloved and seek the church's blessing upon our union. I believe it is a scriptural issue, a biblical issue, and a spiritual issue. But I still fail to see how it is a "justice" issue.

"Justice" is something I seek and which I hope to receive in the civic realm. It's a matter of governance and polity and "rights" and protection from oppression in the civic realm.

But my life within my church is not about "rights." In the church, I seek spiritual discernment and charity – not justice. If arguments are to be made – and they have been, and it appears that still more must be made – for allowing gay people to participate fully in the life and sacraments of the church, then should they not be made from scriptural and spiritual bases, rather than from claims of "justice"?

And it seems to me that such scriptural arguments have indeed been made. To Set our Hope on Christ made the arguments. So did the Claiming the Blessing Theology Statement. Authors and theologians like Peter Gomes and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have searched the Scriptures, and found no prohibition for full inclusion of gay men and lesbians in our church and in all orders of ministry.

Further, I think more and more people in our church have changed their minds after spiritual discernment and seeking. Parish by parish and person by person, individuals' perceptions have been transformed as they have become acquainted with faithful Christians who are gay and compared those lives with the Biblical record. They have rightly perceived the "fruits of the Spirit" in their Christian brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, and hearts and minds have been transformed and opened. I certainly have been blessed to see that happening even within my parish.

Paul makes a wise observation: "Fighting only keeps people where they are – it does not help move our agenda forward over the long term, even though it may yield short-term advances."

I'll close with a few other excerpts from his blog:

But the church is a place to build relationships, not tear them down. The next logical question, of course, is how we, as GLBT people, can build up our own relationships when we do not have full equality. What is our recourse when the church that is supposed to work for justice doesn’t do that?

Again, I think it is to work relationally. It is working for the long-term, laying the foundation for change and trusting the Holy Spirit to work within our enemies to embrace those changes over the long-term.

And this:

Yield equality? Never. God created all of us, and the church has a responsibility to work to ensure that we are all treated with justice. End the discussion and start acting? Not if it means that the foundation for the church–community and spiritual development for all, even those whom it is painful or inconvenient for us to accept–is diminished. But absolutely if it means acting in a Christian manner and finding a solution which can provide both community and justice– I believe that is the prophetic framework of the church that God intends for us to seek. We just haven’t worked hard enough at finding it.
At the risk of making many people angry, I ask: What is the distinction between civil rights and the justice of scripture? And how do we solve such a thorny question within our church?

I expect many of you have thought more deeply about this matter than I have. I hope you'll help me understand the basis from which those who say "It's a justice issue!" are speaking within our church.

I don't mean to be "breaking ranks." But, like Jeff, I fully expect to catch some flak by asking this question.

Addendum: What kind of synchronicity is happening in the liberal Episcopalian blogosphere? Just after posting this piece, I read JM's latest post at Another Episcopalian Blog; JM has had a Solomonic dream. Let's keep talking.


The "Seven Things" Meme

Saint Pat has tagged me with a most challenging meme. (You're merciless, Pat!) I've seen other memes. They ask easy questions. This one is going to reveal what a common dolt I am. Ah well, so be it.

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies
There are a couple – depending on the person and the level of generosity I'm feeling at the moment.
One that I often give to cat-lovers like me is May Sarton's The Fur Person. It's simple. But I like it.
For truly special people of a liturgical and Anglican bent, my giveaway book is the New Zealand Prayer Book. But given its hefty price, this one only goes to select people.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music
This one's easy. It's Aaron Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man. I grew up in a tiny town in very modest circumstances. My parents listened to The Platters, The Limeliters, Mahalia Jackson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and lots of country music. I went 600 miles away to college in an urban area, and in my first week there, they took us freshmen to the symphony orchestra. They opened with Fanfare for the Common Man. I can still remember how I sat transfixed, leaned forward into the music. It was my first exposure to classical music. I've grown to love other pieces in the intervening decades. But I still remember how that evening opened me up to a whole 'nother world of music.
Mind you, it didn't change the way I or others listened to music in the dorm. There, we were still blasting and singing along with Jerry Jeff Walker's "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother."

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue
I'd love to pretend that it's some marvelous, significant, classic movie. But I can't. There are two movies that I can't seem to quit watching. One is Ordinary People, partly because it shows me a more healthy family than the one I grew up in. The other is Ghost.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief
There are many of them, actually. I suspend my disbelief quite easily when watching performances. But I'll mention a couple.
From the time I saw the first Prime Suspect on PBS, it's been Helen Mirren. Long before she became popular, I said I could happily watch her read the phone book.
On the other end of the spectrum, there's Arnold Schwarzenegger, the John Wayne of our time. You just know that the bad guys can't hurt him. There's a scene in True Lies where he's being shot at from all directions, and is "taking cover" (if you could call it that) behind ... wait for it ... a lightpole. And he gives this quick grin toward the camera, letting all of us know he'll come out of this just fine. Now, sadly, I am having a hard time suspending my disbelief in his current long-running role as governor of California. I long for the days when he was fighting off the bad guys.

5. Name a work of art you’d like to live with
Any of Henry Moore's sculptures. Of course, I'd need a much larger house to accommodate them.
Or just about any of Edward Weston's photographs.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life
Anything written or said by George W. Bush. They are complete fiction. And they sure do have a horrible impact on my life.

7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh
Does anybody else remember this horrible, politically incorrect joke that ends:
"Would I?" [aka "wood eye"]
"Hare lip!"
You either remember this one or you don't. And you need to have a 12-year-old sense of humor to appreciate it.

So … now … challenged to tag some other unsuspecting bloggers … I tag Ann, Catherine, Tom Woodward (who really ought to do more blogging!), Elizabeth Kaeton (who will shock me if she responds), and the Admiral of Morality.

And if you want to observe a true master at work, go see Brother Causticus' responses to the meme.

Update: Well, dog my cats! Both Ann+ and Elizabeth+ have answered the challenge. Click on the "Comments" to see their responses.

Yes, Elizabeth, I am officially in a state of shock! I did not expect you to take up this silly challenge. My hat's off to you. But I don't know what it's going to take for me to recover from this huge shock. Thanks, my sistuh!


Another "keeper," courtesy of Lane Denson:

The State of the Union speech and Groundhog Day this year each come within only a few days of the other.

Air America Radio took note of this coincidence and pointed out that "It is an ironic juxtaposition of events that the one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication while the other involves a groundhog."
Read it all at Out of Nowhere.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Without Further Comment

I've tried, and so far I think I've succeeded, in not taking potshots at the current U.S. regime. But this one came in my mailbox today [Thanks, Seamus!] and I just cannot resist posting it. I don't think it needs caption or further comment. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Herding Cats

Eileen (a new voice in the Episcopal blogosphere) gives us all a treat by posting this marvelous video. [Hat-tip to my adored MadPriest for noticing it before I did!] Go and view it. C'mon! Just do it! Eileen will love the rush on her sitemeter!!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bottom Feeders: Badge of Honor

It appears some of the conservatives really do have a sense of humor!

Imagine my surprise to discover the bottom feeders have now claimed this appellation as a badge of honor, creating a CafePress page where you can buy their merchandise. You can buy Bottom Feeder t-shirts, coffee mugs, and so on with the bottom-feeder graphic displayed at left.

And the truly motivated can even buy buttons or magnets proclaiming membership in the Vast Conservative Anglican Conspiracy (displayed here at right).

Hats off to these folks! Really! It's good to see a bit of humor breaking out on the right. Good on them!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Enough is Enough"

At Caught by the Light, Richard (a priest of our church) declares: "Enough is enough."

He provides a good summary of some of the current developments in the Communion, and a passionate call for us to "get on with it" – with the work of mission and ministry, no matter what various bishops and primates in the wider Anglican Communion might say about us Episcopalians.

He also summarizes related commentaries on this matter:

Mark Harris offers a pithy, comprehensive manifesto. Jim Naughton poses a question of stewardship the current conflict raises, and whether the Anglican Communion, to put it bluntly, is worth it. The Bishops of Nigeria (once again) call on The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion to see it their way, or else. And Fr. Jake points to the growing evidence that we are looking squarely in the face of institutionalized evil using even the unsuspecting in a game to undermine the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Go, read. Richard has managed to roll-up several commentaries that I had tried to take in. And be sure to read the comments, in which he offers further insights about the toll this is taking on our Church's mission and ministry.

Brother Causticus

On the Panel of Reference

Brother Causticus has weighed-in, not so much on the Panel of Reference's report on Fort Worth, but on the response from Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (included in this ENS report) and on people's responses to her response.

His explanation of the "Dallas Plan" (which the POR endorsed) is simpler and clearer than most others have offered. In a nutshell:
the Bishop of Fort Worth’s practice of sending women seeking Holy Orders down the freeway to his brother bishop in Dallas so as to avoid laying hands – in an episcopal manner, BC hastens to add – upon those possessed of a putative call, but lacking the requisite Y chromosome.
(Obviously, he has the gift of brevity which continues to elude me.)

There are so many brilliant rhetorical flourishes in his essay that it is difficult for me to select a mere handful. But this one is surely a contender. Observing that the POR called for Our ++Katharine to make a response to their report, he explains: for "the 'hate Kate' consortium … anything other than text messaging Bishop Duncan 'just kidding! keys 2 815 under mat lol' would be an inadequate response."

There's much to enjoy in Brother Causticus' turn of phrase and marvelous wit. But, like all good satire, there's also much that can sting. I'm not quite ready to put him in the Satirists Hall of Fame alongside Swift and Twain, but he's working his way there. He does us all a service. Go read Texas Hold 'Em.

Knisely on the Anglican Covenant

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

The Rev. Nick Knisely provides important information about The Proposed Anglican Covenant. He has sought information about the process whereby the Church of England could "sign on" to the covenant being drafted. Because the CofE is an "established" church, he reports, "should the Covenant pass the Church of England Synod, it would then have to be adopted by the British Parliament as well."

Thus, he says, "the covenant is only useful if it is able to be adopted. . . . [U]nless the covenant is fairly mild in its language and intentionally irenic in intent - there's little chance that a broad majority of the Provinces of the Communion will adopt it."

All this leaves the Rev. Knisely optimistic about the covenant design process. I've found his writings to be intelligent and centrist, and I hope he is right about this. Go and read his full remarks.

It also strikes me as odd that if the covenant document is not mild and irenic, we could see quite an ironic result: the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury forced into second-class status in the Anglican Communion.

Now we're getting down to brass tacks.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wall Street on Nigeria

Nobody has ever accused The Wall Street Journal of being a lap-dog of the radical left. So I was amazed to find this article on page A1 of the January 12 edition of the Journal: "In Nigeria, a Bill to Punish Gays Divides a Family." The article puts a face on two men in Nigeria, both of whom are ministers of the Gospel: a father (the Rev. Augustus Olakunle Macaulay) who is supporting the law that would jail gay people and their supporters, and his son (the Rev. Rowland Jide Macaulay) who has recognized he is gay and is ministering to gay Nigerians.

While Nigerian Archbishop Akinola declares there are no homosexuals in Nigeria, the Wall Street Journal reports: "Gay men and lesbians are becoming more visible, even as their society, which is hostile to homosexuality, threatens to become still less tolerant of them." The WSJ reports:

Homosexual sex is already punishable by up to 14 years in prison -- or death by stoning in the Muslim north, though that Shariah sentence is rarely meted out.

The sweeping new bill [advocated by Archbishop Akinola] would punish by up to five years in prison anyone who enters into a gay marriage, "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same-sex marriage" or is "involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings." The U.S. State Department has denounced the bill, proposed in January last year, as a violation of basic freedoms.

But the bill is widely expected to pass. It is supported by most mainstream Christian and Muslim clergy in Nigeria, including Peter Akinola, the Anglican archbishop who is leading an international revolt of conservative Episcopalians angry about the ordination of gay priests and the consecration of gay unions.

Read the complete article. It says so much more than I have excerpted here! Read how both father and son are endeavoring to minister to Christians in their care. Read how the son has been subjected to hatred and rejection from both his father and his son. This story gives the lie to much that we are hearing from the supposedly monolithic "Global South." It puts an incarnational face on the abstractions that are being thrown about by folks like the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Panel of Reference, and our primates and bishops.

Anglicans Can Reject Women Priests

London's Daily Telegraph got the headline exactly right: "Anglicans Can Reject Women Priests," they proclaimed in an article posted January 10. Click here to read the entire article.

I wonder if the Archbishop of Canterbury is feeling proud now of the Communion that he is nominally "leading." He and the Panel of Reference may be proud of the way they are pondering how many angels can dance on the head of the pin. Perhaps they are proud of the deep theological analysis in which they are engaged.

But the secular world is hearing the message loud and clear, and the message is: women are dispensable. The Archbishop of Canterbury is quite happy to sacrifice women and gays on the altar of "unity." So is the Panel of Reference.

I wait to see how our Presiding Bishop and Executive Council will respond.

The Incarnational Experience

Many of us Episcopalians talk about how we are an incarnational people, deeply transformed by and committed to the power of the incarnation. It certainly has been true in my faith journey that I am more informed by the power of the living Christ than with the literalist readings of Scripture.

Katie Sherrod, a layperson in the diocese of Fort Worth, offers powerful words in a new essay, The Power of the Incarnational Experience. She describes several experiences where women have covertly exercised their ministry as priests in the diocese of Fort Worth (in which women are forbidden to exercise their priestly ministries). I was particularly struck by these parts of her essay:
The result of all of these incarnational experiences is that there is a strong and growing number of people here who not only support the ordination of women, but who want to experience it on a regular basis. That’s why Bp. Iker fears and will not allow a real process of reception to happen here.
Bishop Iker does not believe women can be bishops, of course. But he is always quick to assure his female colleagues in the House of Bishops and the priests who are women in the Network that his rejection of their orders is “nothing personal.” But of course, it is personal. Bishop Clarence Pope [Iker's predecessor in Fort Worth] illustrated how personal when he dramatically left the Episcopal Church for the Church in Rome. He soon came quietly back, telling people in Fort Worth he had to return because Rome would not recognize the validity of his orders and that just too painful for him to endure. The irony was lost on him.
Do yourself a favor. Go read the complete essay here.

Yes, I am still seething about the report of the Panel of Reference, which foolishly and blithely believes that the "Dallas Plan" is working just hunky-dory in Fort Worth. Thank God that Katie Sherrod and others are willing to remind us of the real, incarnate experience of people living under Iker's woman-hating regime.


Denson Does it Again

Lane Denson, a priest in Tennessee, distributes essays almost daily in his Out of Nowhere series. The more I read his essays, the more I enjoy him and them. He outdid himself this week in a piece entitled "Doublecross." With his permission, I reprint it here in full.

Old Bishop Dan Corrigan, once-upon-a-time head of the one-time Home Department up at 815 [headquarters of the Episcopal Church], would poke fun at his episcopal colleagues who had a penchant for adding a + mark to their signatures. He'd call them "Plus John," "Plus Frank," etc. With archbishops now adding on ++, it's a wonder what he'd call them. Double-crossers?

I saw recently where somebody had actually tagged the Archbishop of Canterbury, himself, with three. I guess that approaches Calvary more nearly, though I'm not so sure if that's the intention.

H L Mencken once defined an archbishop as a Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Jesus. There seem to be more of them around of late, a few taking quite an interest in us Episcopalians. Some have even begun tweaking with our canons, saying, of all things, that they're too ambiguous. (Next time you need a definition for irony, try "one Anglican calling another Anglican ambiguous.")

Our polity, admittedly clumsy though it may be, has never seemed all that clear or probably even necessary to our colleagues in the overseas provinces. If it's any comfort, neither is it all that clear to us. Democracy is messy. Nevertheless, it's our tireless attempt to accomplish justice by legislating grace, oxymoronic as it may seem.

Our generally conventional system probably comes across from outside our jurisdiction as more than just geographically foreign. When some of those other primates begin to catch the gist of how much more collegial it is than pontifical, it may well scare their purple socks off. Under those circumstances, one might need all the pluses one can get.

= = = =
If you want to subscribe to the Rev. Denson's essays, send a blank email to <> or go to this Webpage. His essays are archived at the Out of Nowhere website.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Changing the Subject

The Reverend Susan Russell has been on retreat this week, and now returns to the blogosphere with a most powerful commentary. Click there and read that. Commenting on some of the zaniness, she offers a most sane commentary, which reads in part:

But hi-ho, hi-ho, it's back to work I go ... and checking in on what I missed over at Kendall Harmon's titusonenine, I was impressed by the energy engendered around this Connecticut letter to the editor writer who not only named the truth about the current contretemps but called the paper to account for buying the Schismatic Spin hook-line-and-sinker. Calling the report “sadly one sided and misinformed” the writer went on to object to the reactionary fringe dominating the story and for being “treated as if their bigoted opinions represented a significant portion of the Episcopal Church” concluding:

“The Episcopal Church is moving ahead into the 21st century and if a few squirm and holler the media should be savvy enough not to be a pawn of their ploys. Please research your stories and present more than one warped view of what is going on.”

My response was (predictably): “And let the people say, AMEN!”

Kendall’s was (equally predictably): “Foul!”

But his “foul” came with the kind of energy one saves for those challenges that hit a nerve … and in this case Mr. Hartford Connecticut hit a big one. In two simple sentences he managed to undermine the house of sand on which this schism is built causing Canon Harmon, one of its chief architects, to resort to the strategy found on page 2 of “Media Training 101”: reframe the message you don’t want to respond to.
Read the entire essay at the Rev. Russell's blog.

Still More on the Panel of Reference

Barbi Click has written her own response to the Panel of Reference.

She says in part:

This panel – without benefit of having “listened” or even spoken to any involved – felt compelled to issue a decree. Trial without jury? Royal edict? Papal Bull? Whatever.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth sent a letter to the Panel requesting that he wants to make sure that whoever is elected after he retires (in how many years???) does not have to ordain women if he feels they are genetically impaired. The infamous “Dallas Plan” was used as a salve to soothe those whose feminine feathers might be ruffled. Forget the important fact that no women were accepted into the ordination process this last year. (and please…leave off with the no one has a right to be accepted…we all know that it is a process to eliminate the will of humans as well as to discern the will of God)

In the midst of all of this is a thought – if the Diocese of Dallas doesn’t even want its own women, how in the world would this diocese be an alternative to Fort Worth? Why not just go ahead and suggest that any women seeking ordination from Fort Worth go on to Quincy or San Joaquin??? However, I digress.

In turn, the group Fort Worth Via Media, concerned with remaining as full members of The Episcopal Church, sent a letter to the Panel protesting the initial letter sent by the bishop and requested that no action be taken on it. ( Seventeen months later, without having conversed or even acknowledged that there might be a conflicting opinion, obviously believing that all is well in Fort Worth land except for a few irrational dissidents, the Panel spoke in favor of the poor victimized bishop and his future replacement. No one should have to suffer the priestly ministrations of a woman.
Go read the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More on the Panel of Reference

I think I've been around long enough to recognize a wolf in sheep's clothing. And that's exactly what the Panel of Reference is.

I am sorry that other duties have kept me from posting a new entry in the last couple of days. Well … actually, I am not sorry. I am trying to support a revolution in this wild and crazy church of ours. And all my energies have gone into that venture. The passage of time has not made me less disgusted by the slipshod work of the Panel of Reference (POR); if anything, it has made me more aware that they failed abysmally.

But I am back at last, and I want to point you to some of the very best commentary I have seen on the Panel of Reference's response to the Diocese of Fort Worth.

London's Daily Telegraph got the headline exactly right yesterday: "Anglicans Can Reject Women Priests," they proclaimed. That is precisely the message that the Panel of Reference broadcast to the world. And by his massively flawed failure of leadership, that is the message that the Archbishop of Canterbury is allowing to be spread around the world. The Panel of Reference told every province in the Anglican Communion that no province has the authority to exercise its own ministry or discernment within its own borders. Throwing out 500 years of Anglican tradition, the POR seeks to establish a Roman-style curia to govern the Anglican Communion. And the inept Archbishop of Canterbury trims his beard while allowing this travesty to occur.

I am struck that MadPriest had pretty much the same take as I did on the POR's report: he, too, seems to think this is the end of the Anglican Communion. Never mind MadPriest's screenname. He's not actually "mad"; in fact, I believe he is among the most sane commentators on the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church who is speaking today.

You must also go read Jim Naughton's thoughts at the Daily Episcopalian. In one post, he asks whether we Episcopalians in the U.S. are harming our mission and ministry by clinging to the "Anglican" label – inasmuch as that name is increasingly associated with racism, misogyny, and homophobia. He asks, "Is it worth it? Are we killing our Church to save the Communion?" This is a question we all need to ponder. In a follow-up, he asks why the Episcopal Church continues to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to support a structure that is bent on our destruction. Jim asks hard questions. Go and read – not just about this current issue, but also because he is perhaps the finest journalist in the Episcopal Church.

Over at Preludium, Mark Harris is also asking hard questions. Go and read his "Drip, Drip, Drip" – about the Panel of Reference and the recently announced composition of the Covenant Design Group.

As always, Thinking Anglicans does a superb of gathering news from a wide variety of sources. Click on this page to get "breaking news" about the Panel of Reference report. But click back to Thinking Anglicans regularly to stay abreast of all the significant news in the Anglican Communion. It should be on everyone's "daily reading" favorites.

The Episcopal News Service issued a press release so moderate that I can only believe every staff member at our church headquarters had to be heavily medicated to write and release it. It is truly "fair and balanced," when I would have wished they had come out swinging. I understand why they cannot do so, and that it makes them better Episcopalians than I am.

Those are the more temperate responses to the Panel of Reference's report. Now let me give you the more passionate ones.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, it won't surprise you to hear that Elizabeth Kaeton's comments made me shout "Amen!"

God bless 'em, Integrity has also weighed-in with a commentary. While Integrity is primarily devoted to the issues associated with homophobia in our church, and of claiming the rightful place of gay men and lesbians in our church, they rightly see that the Panel of Reference's attack on ordained women is part and parcel of the larger struggle for respect for all baptized Christians in our church.

What is most profoundly and sadly missing in all this commentary? It's the voices of the women of Fort Worth who have been denied access to the ordination process and the men who would support their access to the ordained ministry. For reasons that many of us can well understand, very few people in the Diocese of Fort Worth feel willing able to speak out. One notable exception is Katie Sherrod. Go and read her entry at "It's All About Gender." She has the nerve to report what nobody else has … so far as I have seen: the Panel of Reference was a sham. They did not do any research. They did not talk with people in Fort Worth. And they did not choose to see what Iker's misogynism has cost the people and parishes in that pitiful diocese.

The more I read, the angrier I become. It becomes more and more clear that Iker simply hates women. He is inflicting his totalitarian regime upon Fort Worth. The Panel of Reference bought Iker's glib lies hook, line, and sinker. And – with Jim Naughton – I am moved to wonder why in the world we would want to associate our Episcopal Church with this hate-mongering thing that the Anglican Communion is morphing into.

When the "primates" of the Anglican Communion meet in Tanzania next month, I think I'll be singing my little "Brer Rabbit" chant: "Oh no! Please don't throw me out of the Anglican Communion!"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Communion Coup

The hot news popping in the Episcopal blogosphere this afternoon is that the Panel of Reference (assembled at the urging of the angry primates meeting in February 2005 in the aftermath of the Windsor Report) has issued its response to the appeal from the diocese of Fort Worth. You can read the full report here.

The panel's decision in a nutshell is this: The Diocese of Fort Worth must be allowed to bar all women from ordained ministry. The Episcopal Church must allow Fort Worth to continue choosing bishops who oppose the ministry of women. And no one anywhere must be compelled to recognize the ordained ministry of women – whether she be the local deacon, a priest of our church, a female bishop, or even our own Presiding Bishop. Oh! and the Panel thinks we've been picking on the poor, pitiful diocese of Fort Worth, and we must cut it out right now. (Never mind that Fort Worth has absented itself from the counsels of the church for several years now. They haven't even been at the table to be picked-on.)

As ENS reports, the Diocese of Fort Worth has long been at odds with the Episcopal Church and was the first of seven dioceses to ask for a relationship with an Anglican Communion primate other than Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, who had been elected the day before Iker and the diocese made its request.

You can read Iker's response on the diocesan website here.

The panel's report is chilling. Its audacity in seeking to dictate policy and polity to the Episcopal Church is opposed to 500 years of Anglican tradition. Apparently, the chickens of the Windsor Report have now come home to roost. The Panel of Reference has arrogated to itself the power to determine who can and who cannot be ordained in the Episcopal Church, which parts of our constitution and canons we may and may not enforce.

It's a farce, of course.

The fact is, they have no such power. Nor does the Archbishop of Canterbury, who apparently has no spine except the one he can suck from panels, commissions, and primatial commiques. The more I hear from England, the more I want to cleave to our General Convention and let the Anglican Communion move its headquarters to Nigeria.

The Anglican Communion is supposedly a body of autonomous provinces in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. If our church allows this panel to dictate any part of our behavior, then the Church in Nigeria, the Church in Uganda, the church in Ireland, and every other province must be ready to have a pseudo-curia dictate its internal policy and polity. Every province of the Anglican Communion would have to subject its constitution, canons, and local decisions to the authority of some Anglican-wide body. I cannot imagine that happening. If anything, the mistake the Episcopal Church has made is in taking the Windsor Report seriously; and – make no mistake – ours is the only church that has yet done so.

The Episcopal Church has repeatedly asked to continue dialogue with the rest of the Anglican Communion about the divisive issues currently before us. We have not sought to impose our decisions on any other province; we simply seek to follow the Gospel of Christ as we have discerned it together. I now begin to think that was a mistake. Perhaps we should simply be as adamant and self-righteous as the primate of Nigeria. … No, I don't really believe that. But it certainly is a tempting stance.

My thoughts here are fairly uninformed and off-the-cuff. If you want to read really good commentary, go to Elizabeth Kaeton's Telling Secrets. And I'll post other commentaries here in the coming hours.

A couple centuries ago, the radical Americans conducted a "tea party" in the Boston harbor. I'm about ready to have another one. Anyone want to meet me in Boston?

Update: The Episcopal News Service has posted this story with some very fine analysis and background information. I have added some of their links to my posting above.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Complaint Choirs

This morning, as usual, I began my day listening to NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. They aired a story, Complaint Choirs, Voicing Displeasure, that discussed a YouTube video I saw a while back. When you have about 7 minutes, go watch and listen to the Complaint Choir of Helsinki. The music is lovely, the choir is great, and the lyrics (with English subtitles) are incredibly mundane: "Nice shirts get discoloured in the wash, but ugly shirts never do." "Christmas season starts earlier every year." "My dreams are boring." Something about the dissonance between the beautiful music and the mundane complaints is just brilliant.

Brother Causticus

Brother Causticus, who casts his gimlet eye upon all of us in the Epicopal/Anglican community, has been all too quiet for nearly three weeks. Since December 20, he has kept his devoted readers in pained suspense, as we waited to hear the outcome of the chaos that had broken out in his parish's St. Euphemesius Day procession.

In last night's post , he explains his too-long silence:

In keeping with his avowal to speak unless things are perfectly unspeakable, BC has kept silent in the face of bleak goings-on here, there, and, it would seem, everywhere ....
If you haven't yet discovered Brother Causticus, you're in for a treat. Read, mark, and inwardly digest his wisdom at TitusOneTen.

Brother Ethelmertz

In a podcast (dated June 21, 2006) from the Holy Monastery of Little Rutherlbert on the Isle of Trabango-Mabui, Brother Ethelmertz addresses deep questions: What would Jesus do today? For instance, "What to do when your grandson comes home from school with a nelly boy who keeps singing Barbra Streisand songs?"

He then addresses questions arising from our 2006 General Convention. He is astonished that we are just now addressing the question of gay bishops. Referring to all our bishops, he asks, "Does the American church, the Nigerian church really think that those boys were the first to be called up for the football team? I don't think so! I think they were in practicing the organ." And he wonders: if we chase all the gay guys out of the Episcopal Church, who will handle the interior decoration, plan the dinner menus, and (perhaps most important) who will be left to play the organ?

Perhaps the funniest bit comes in stark text at the end of the video:

June 2006
The Episcopal Church of America
Elects a Woman as Boss Lady

Minutes Later
She Urges the Church
Not to Elect Controversial Bishops

Tea to Follow . . .

A very big "thank-you" to Ann for introducing me to Brother Ethelmertz. Go and watch.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Many are Members, but Few are Episcopalians

The Washington Post today has posted a most intriguing story with more information about the two leading breakaway parishes in Virginia that voted last month (along with several of their missions) to leave the Episcopal Church.

As the Post observes, one reason the parishes' vote received such attention is that they "are two of the Washington area's most wealthy, historic and prestigious congregations. Their pews are studded on Sunday mornings with such regulars as Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former CIA director Porter J. Goss." The story explains that the two parishes are charismatic and have been drifting away from the Episcopal mainstream for some 30 years. Episcopalian bloggers have also observed that many of the leaders of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and American Anglican Council also call these parishes home.

Most amazing is this section of the article:

At least two-thirds of the worshipers are Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists, and there is no pressure on them to be confirmed as Episcopalians, said the Rev. Rick Wright, associate rector.
I am shocked, but not surprised, by this revelation. I am, however, incensed that these people who are not even Episcopalians are daring to tell faithful, committed, and confirmed Episcopalians what it means to be Anglican. What a travesty!

Several bloggers have weighed-in on this revelation.

Jim Naughton (at the Daily Episcopalian) says: "[M]any of the folks in these congregations are not Episcopalians. I don't have a problem with that, but it seems to me that it relieves us of the responsibility of listening to these folks when they start lecturing us about what it means to be truly Anglican."

Over at Father Jake's, "Dennis" gave voice to the view that surely most regular Episcopalians share:

I am deeply troubled by the thought that a congregation could hold a vote to leave (even though congregations can't leave - only individuals) where the majority of voters were not Episcopalians. There has been wide play given in the press that these were breakaway Episcopalians - now it turns out that they weren't Episcopalians, just people who regularly attended these parishes. This really and truly bothers me.
On a related note, several people have asked whether the votes in the dissident Virginia parishes were canonical. That is, were the votes cast by actual Episcopalians? Or were they cast by Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians who like to dress up in brightly colored vestments?

The Admiral of Morality has a couple of snappy comments, too.

The Post also reports:
As Truro and The Falls Church adopted a conservative approach, dissenting members retreated to more liberal Episcopal churches in the area, such as Christ Church Alexandria. New worshipers, many of them born-again Christians who had grown disillusioned with their denominations, streamed in.
This helps to explain why these parishes' vote to leave the Episcopal Church was so lop-sided. They had already chased out mainstream Episcopalians.

The Post article continues:

"I tend to feel very comfortable rubbing shoulders with folks at McLean Bible or Columbia Baptist . . . that are real orthodox, evangelical, biblical churches," said Truro's chief warden, or lay leader, Jim Oakes, referring to two Northern Virginia megachurches. "We share core beliefs. I think I would be more comfortable with them than with anyone I might run into at an Episcopal Diocesan Council meeting."

I find it difficult to respond. The senior warden of a nominally Episcopal parish is more comfortable with the fundamentalist megachurches in his area than with other Episcopalians? I would humbly suggest he should have gone and joined one of those churches rather than seeking to steal the assets of a venerable old Episcopal parish.

Do read the entire article. Here are a few other snippets worth noting:
Unlike many Episcopal churches nationally, neither Truro nor The Falls Church was active in supporting the civil rights movement or in protesting the Vietnam War.

Beginning in the 1970s, though, Truro embraced the antiabortion movement. It also started a program to help those who wanted to leave what it calls the "homosexual lifestyle."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year's Resolutions for Cats

I think this little ditty has made the rounds several times over the last few years, but it struck my funny-bone and I'm in need of a laugh, so I am posting it here anyway. But, frankly, I despair of my cats' keeping such strict resolutions.

My human will never let me eat her pet hamster, and I am at peace with that.

I will not slurp fish food from the surface of the aquarium.

I will not eat large numbers of assorted bugs, then come home and throw them up so the humans can see that I'm getting plenty of roughage.

I will not lean way over to drink out of the tub, fall in, and then head straight to the box of clumping cat litter. (It took forever to get the stuff out of my fur.)

I will not use the bathtub to store live mice for late-night snacks.

We will not play "Herd of Thundering Wildebeests Stampeding Across the Plains of the Serengeti" over any humans' bed while they're trying to sleep.

I cannot leap through closed windows to catch birds outside. If I forget this and bonk my head on the window and fall behind the couch in my attempt, I will not get up and do the same thing again.

I will not assume the patio door is open when I race outside to chase leaves.

I will not stick my paw into any container to see if there is something in it. If I do, I will not hiss and scratch when my human has to shave me to get the rubber cement out of my fur.

If I bite the cactus, it will bite back.

When it rains, it will be raining on all sides of the house. It is not necessary to check every door.

I will not play "dead cat on the stairs" while people are trying to bring in groceries or laundry, or else one of these days, it will really come true.

When the humans play darts, I will not leap into the air and attempt to catch them.

I will not swat my human's head repeatedly when she is on the family room floor trying to do sit-ups.

When my human is typing at the computer, her forearms are not a hammock.

Computer and TV screens do not exist to backlight my lovely tail.

I will not puff my entire body to twice its size for no reason after my human has watched a horror movie.

I will not stand on the bathroom counter, stare down the hall, and growl at nothing after my human has watched the X-Files.

I will not drag dirty socks onto the bed at night and then yell at the top of my lungs so that my humans can admire my "kill."

I will not perch on my human's chest in the middle of the night and stare until she wakes up.

I will not walk on the keyboard when my human is writing important adagfsg gdjag ;ln.

If I must claw my human I will l not do it in such a way that the scars resemble a botched suicide attempt.

If I must give a present to my human guests, my toy mouse is much more socially acceptable than a big live bug, even if it isn't as tasty.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

There They Go Again

I bet you learned from your parents or grandparents the same truism I did: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

I now have a different take on that proverb, tailored for our current disputes in the Episcopal Church: "You can displease all Episcopalians some of the time (though it'll take some effort). And you can displease some Episcopalians all of the time. But you can easily displease all the disaffected right-wing faux Episcopalians all of the time."

Because our illustrious governor chose to make Missouri one of two states in the nation that ignored President Bush's call to make Tuesday a national day of mourning, I was hard at work in my office and could not see President Ford's funeral at the National Cathedral yesterday. However, I read the Reverend Robert Certain's sermon and thought it quite "meet and right" for the occasion.

Not so at the supposedly civil TitusOneNine! They have spent the past 24+ hours fulminating against the homily and against the Gospel reading.

Never mind that the Ford family apparently chose the readings. The nattering nabobs of Episcopal negativism [to re-strike a timely phrase] see a vast left-wing conspiracy in the fact that the reading from John's Gospel ended just before the phrase "No one comes to the Father but by me." Most hilariously, they seem to see the hand of She Who Must Not be Named (a.k.a. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori) in that curtailment.

I am most dismayed at their virulent attacks against the Rev. Certain's homily. He delivered a simple, humble, and respectful sermon for a man whom he (apparently) had grown to know well. I can't say I "know" the Rev. Certain. But, by virtue of my work at The Episcopal Majority, I have had occasion to have some frank exchanges with him. He has challenged me, and has challenged The Episcopal Majority to be more moderate.

If you want to read the Rev. Certain's definition of what it means to be a moderate – and of the difficulty of being a moderate in this day in the Episcopal Church – go to his parish website and read his "Moderation in All Things," written (as I understand it) early in the 2006 General Convention. Everything he cites in that essay is a tenet I can fully support. Surely most reasonable Episcopalians could!

So I am dismayed that the right-wingers have chosen to attack him and the funeral service out of hand.

You know, these folks have gone so far over the edge that it is downright laughable. I'm moving beyond anger at the right-wing of our Church, and beginning to see them as actors in a Mel Brooks farce on what it means to be Episcopalians. In the Cold War days, some folks saw a "Commie under every bed." Now, it seems, the misnamed "orthodox" see a reappraiser under every bed, behind every door, and beneath every clerical stole. They need to relax.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What's In ... What's Out

I must give credit to The Rev. Robert Russell Smith, Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Perryville, Maryland (Diocese of Easton), for this one. He sent it to me on New Year's Day, and I wanted to share it. He gave his permission.

Yes, it's somewhat flippant and glib. Ah well ... too bad .... I haven't claimed to be a moderate ... though I sometimes play one on TV.

What's In and What's Out in 2007 for The Episcopal Church

Katharine Jefferts Schori is in ... Peter Akinola is out
Diocese of Nevada is in ... Province of Nigeria is out
David Booth Beers is in ... John-David Schofield is out
Gene Robinson is in ... Bob Duncan is out
Out of the closet is in ... In the closet is out
Robin Williams is in ... Rowan Williams is (apparently) out
Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian is in ... 7% of Episcopalians are out
Jon Bruno is in ... Jack Iker is out
Mark Beckwith is in ... Peter Beckwith is out
Peter Lee is in ... Truro Parish is out
Diocese of Virginia is in ... Diocese of San Joaquin is out
Diocese of South Carolina is in ... Diocese of South Carolina is out
Mark Lawrence is in ... Mark Lawrence is out
Seeking partners for peace is in ... Waging reconciliation is out
The Episcopal Majority is in ... American Anglican Council is out
The Three-Legged Stool is in ... Sola Scriptura is out
Challenging the wider Church is in ... Exercising restraint is out
Do Justice is in ... The Windsor Report is out
The Church's One Foundation is in ... The Two-Tiered Anglican Communion is out
TitusOneTen is in ... TitusOneNine is out
[Thanks to Mark for that one!]

I invite you to add your own candidates for "what's in" and "what's out" in the comments section.

More on Ford

I've already made my comment on the elaborate funeral rituals surrounding the death of President Gerald Ford. And I take some comfort that in NPR's Weekend Edition this past weekend, one of the commentators noted that the funeral observances were going to be full of the kind of pomp and ceremony that he had explicitly eschewed. So please, hear that I was not the only one struck by the dissonance of his life vs. his funeral rituals.

I did not realize what an active Episcopalian he was, until ENS highlighted that fact.

But like many bloggers today, I was struck by this portion of the Rev. Robert Certain's homily at the National Cathedral. He shared this recollection:

Early this past summer, as I prepared to leave for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, President Ford’s concern was for the church he loved. He asked me if we would face schism. After we discussed the various issues we would consider, particularly concerns about human sexuality and the leadership of women, he said he did not think they should be divisive for anyone who lived by the Great Commandments to love God and neighbor. He then asked me to work for reconciliation within the Church. I assured him I would, just as he had worked for reconciliation within the nation thirty years ago.

The full text of the Rev. Certain's funeral homily is available here.

Would that Gerald Ford's passion for reconciliation take hold in the Episcopal Church today!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sudan Missioner to TEC: Get a Grip!

Let me begin by warning that this entry is going to be way, way too long for a proper blog entry. If you do not have a passion for the kind of real-life, in-person relationships that our Episcopal Church has made with dioceses and parishes in the so-called Global South, this will probably just bore you to tears, and you should move along. But this one has incensed me, and I cannot find a way to shorten it. Read on only if you are highly motivated.

Some of you know that I was one of our diocesan missioners to the Diocese of Lui in southern Sudan in early 2006. I blogged extensively about that visit over on LuiNotes. That mission changed my life in ways that I am still realizing.

Sometime after I got home, I discovered the writings of the Rev. Lauren Stanley, who has spent about 18 months as missioner in the Diocese of Renk, also in southern Sudan. She went as a missioner from St. Alban's Church in the Diocese of Virginia, and was there when the Archbishop of Canterbury visited to consecrate St. Matthew's Cathedral in Renk in March 2006.

In this photograph, the Rt. Rev. Francis Gray (Assisting Bishop of Virginia), the Rev. Lauren Stanley, and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams are shown at the consecration of St. Matthew's Cathedral in the southern Sudanese diocese of Renk.

Apparently, the Rev. Stanley has now returned home to Virginia for a time. And, even more powerfully than I felt when I returned home from a mere two weeks in southern Sudan, she is incensed at the quibbling she has found upon her return home to the U.S.

Here is the article she has written, which was published December 23rd on page B6 of The Daily Herald (and perhaps in other newspapers):

Church Dispute Gets In The Way Of God's Love
Lauren R. Stanley - Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service

For the last year and a half, I have lived in South Sudan, seeing first-hand what it means to be a Christian in that divided land where death is a daily occurrence. I have served with faithful Episcopalians, trying to help the Church there move from the survival mode it endured during 21 years of civil war to self-reliance and care for its people in this time of uneasy peace.

It has not been easy for Episcopalians in Sudan for many, many years. The Church has been clinging by its very fingertips to its existence. War, famine, drought, disease, oppression -- none of those could stop the Church from proclaiming the core of the Gospel: that God loves us, now and forever.

So it has been with a heavy heart that having returned recently to the United States, I see my own Church, the one that has nurtured and nourished me for the last 15 years, the one that sent me forth as a missionary to Sudan, torn apart by arguments over sexuality and so-called biblical inerrancy.

In the week, nine parishes in the Diocese of Virginia alone have decided to leave the Episcopal Church. The leaders of those congregations claim that the national Church has erred and strayed too far from what they claim is the unvarnished and clear truth. After periods of "discernment," these congregations, totaling only 7 percent of the Diocese of Virginia, and a minute number of Episcopalians nationwide, have made big splashes in the media for leaving. Most are claiming to align themselves with African bishops, whom they believe are better, more faithful leaders.

To complicate matters, the parishes that are leaving also want to take all their property with them, some of it quite valuable. It is theirs, they claim, because they are the only ones who being true to the Scriptures.

Church law says otherwise, meaning that long, brutal legal battles in civil courts are in the offing.

Not only do their arguments not make sense, they also miss the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ they are supposed to be preaching. The departing parishes never talk about God's inclusive love, only their own exclusion of those who disagree with them.
In Sudan, as in much of Africa, we argue over Scriptures with as much vehemence as any American. But those arguments are not the ones that dominate our lives; in Sudan, we worry more -- much more -- about the survival of our people. How are we going to feed them? Educate them? Provide health care? Bring peace to a war-torn land that seems poised on the edge of yet another war?

In Sudan, we are fighting for our very lives.

In the United States, we are fighting over how to interpret words written by mere mortals centuries ago.

In Sudan, people battle hunger, disease, land mines left over from the war, militias and bandits who pull people off buses and shoot them dead in broad daylight.

In the United States, people battle over who knows the mind of Christ the best.

In Sudan, the Church leads the way in breaking down the barriers of tribalism and ethnic hatred.

In the United States, the departing parishes lead the way in throwing up barriers of hatred and homophobism.

To be clear: I know very well what it means to be in disagreement with my Church. I was born and bred to the Roman Catholic faith; even after deciding I would have to leave the Church of my birth, it took years before I had the courage to actually do so. But when I left, I did so cleanly and without attempting to take anything with me. I could not change what Rome promulgated as the faith, so I did the only thing I could to maintain my own integrity: I left behind all I knew and had been taught, even though schism is one of the worst heresies to commit in the Roman Catholic Church.

If the Episcopalians who have voted to leave feel they must do so, I honor their commitment. I know their pain, and pray that they can find holiness in another setting.

But I cannot for the life of me understand why these parishes think they can take everything with them. I cannot understand why these parishes feel it is fine to call into question the salvation of those who remain in the Church.

I cannot find any integrity in filing lawsuits. I cannot understand why those leaving have not heeded the advice of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, with whom many are aligning and who told them last year that if they were to leave, they were to do so cleanly, forsaking their pay, their pensions and their buildings.

Most of all, I cannot understand how anyone can ignore the truth of what Virginia Bishop Peter James Lee has said all along in this dispute: We could ALL be wrong.

Even the Episcopal Church in Sudan, which disagrees with actions taken in the American Church in the last three years, understands this last part. In January, the Sudanese Church said that although it condemned some actions of the American Church, it wanted both churches to continue to walk together, because we are all sinners. More important to the Sudanese was the fact that the American Church had walked with it throughout the long, deadly national civil war. Now, in its time of need, the Sudanese said, they would walk with us through our own small version of a church civil war. Because there is a chance that indeed, we could all be wrong.

Those leaving the Episcopal Church claim they must do so to survive.

They seem to forget that in many parts of the world, the Church is concerned with REAL survival.

And in those areas where REAL survival is at stake, the Gospel that is preached is one of inclusiveness and love, because only inclusiveness and love can overcome the hatred that has left millions of Sudanese dead in the last 50 years.

Hatred has no place in the Sudanese Church.

It has no place in the American Church either.

God's love -- and how that is lived out -- is the ONLY thing that counts.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an appointed missionary serving in the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan. She is temporarily serving in the United
Now, having read her impassioned statement – the statement from this woman who has "lived on the ground" with our Sudanese brothers and sisters for a year and a half – who is begging the Episcopal Church to focus on the real and big issues – the Gospel imperatives given to us by our own Lord – compare her statement with the following.

Apparently her statement did not sit well with David C. Anderson, the President of the well-funded American Anglican Council. While he sits safely in his think-tank in Washington, D.C., plotting the destruction of the Episcopal Church, here is the response he made to the Rev. Stanley's essay.

Although many of us on the orthodox side of the aisle would agree with the author of this piece, Lauren Stanley, on the horrific situation of those in Sudan (and a few other places), and the difficulties that our American problems add to those they already have, the author's domestic assessment is, I would argue, absolutely off base. The telling sentence occurs at the very bottom of the article: The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an appointed missionary. Appointed by whom? TEC/VA. Paid for by whom? TEC/VA. Loyal to which side of the schism no matter what? TEC/VA. It is like the drug studies done by the drug funded research groups. The thumb is on the scale.

We believe our property belongs to us, and yours to you. If you paid for it, it is yours. If a joint equity was entered into in acquiring it, then there is joint equity. If we paid for it, it is ours. It is a divorce, if you will, and we will leave with what is ours. We have so far made no common property claims on the NYC property, camps and conference centers, and other communal assets, however if TEC continues the Beers scorched earth policy that could obviously change, since litigation always increases the embitterment in divorces and schisms.

The damage to the overseas missions could obviously come to an immediate end if both sides of the domestic situation could agree on relative equity in property and peaceful separation. David Booth Beers does not seem to wish that. I believe a win-win situation is possible if the principles [sic] are willing.

Have a Happy New Year.

David Anderson

I reply in utter astonishment. I wonder whether David Anderson has ever visited the parishes in Africa where people are dying of hunger, thirst, the lack of safe drinking water, the scourge of preventable diseases. Does he have no comprehension of the fact that the Episcopal Church of the Sudan – while expressing strong disagreement with the decisions of the Episcopal Church of the U.S. – could nonetheless express continued willingness to partner with us in mission? Indeed, my own diocese is still in partnership and full communion with the diocese of Lui in southern Sudan.

No, for David Anderson, the Rev. Stanley's year and a half spent in the Sudan – and her indictment of our privileged quibbles over the fine points of doctrinal orthodoxy – are all to be dismissed out of hand because the good people of the Diocese of Virginia have supported her faithful work in the Sudan. Apparently, because her work has been funded by "apostates," her work and ministry are to be dismissed out of hand. Her witness is to be dismissed because the tainted money of the Diocese of Virginia has supported her work there. How dare he?

For David Anderson, there is an "orthodox" people on "his" side and a "heretical or apostate" people on "the other side." Canon Anderson, have you no shame? When people are dying, and Christians are offering them a drink of water or a crust of bread, you can still declaim that it is all about the "orthodox" vs. the "heretics"?

Canon Anderson, have you -- at last -- absolutely no shame?

I am disgusted! I am way beyond disgusted by this man and his organization and his minions and his little factotums.

I believe our Lord Jesus Christ made it pretty clear that a cup of water given in His name mattered much more than the sanctimonious prayers of the Pharisees. Sign me up on the side of the Rev. Stanley ... and put me as far as possible from David Anderson and his lackies.