Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Grand Realignment

a.k.a. The Mouse that Roared

Folks on the right side of the aisle are bruiting the news that "the Anglican realignment is beginning," thanks to a meeting that ENS reported here. A whole bunch of formerly Episcopal bishops (and bishops with very disparate theological views) are seeking to kick up a ruckus.

They range from Episcopalians who despise TEC for admitting gay/lesbian participation … to folks who left the Episcopal Church over women's ordination, who hate TEC and gay/lesbian participation … to folks who left the Episcopal Church over the 1979 prayer book who hate TEC and gay/lesbian participation. [Hmmmm … Notice what's "common" about the "Common Cause"?]

Some of them say that the 1979 prayer book is a heresy. Some say that a woman can no more consecrate the eucharist than a monkey can turn a tree into an ocean. But they are all getting together because … they have a common enemy. And the common enemy is the Episcopal Church that admits some limited role for gay and lesbian Christians. That is the "Common Cause" in the "Common Cause Partnership."

They are trying to pretend that they represent some huge global partnership. But let us look closely at the groups and organizations that comprise the "Common Cause Partnership." The membership list is here.

What we see in that list are some bishops who have been chafing at the bit to leave the Episcopal Church, some bishops who left the Episcopal Church a hundred years ago (such as the Reformed Episcopal Church), some who left in the late '70s over the ordination of women (such as FIF/NA), and several advocacy organizations (such as the AAC) that have been spurring-on the "realignment."

When I first saw their news release today, I thought something very big was afoot. However, then I began looking into the foundations of this "Grand Old Plan." And it looks to me like it is nothing more than the same old players reconstituting themselves under yet another alphabet-soup name.

I found myself asking these questions:

Where is the website of the Common Cause Partnership? The "Network" published the statement. It's been picked up by allies such as T19, SF, and the AAC. Do others in the "partnership" have websites and, if so, have they bruited the statement as Duncan has? If not, why not?

Why hasn't the Common Cause Partnership (so far as I know) established a website? For godsakes, they are pretending to establish a whole new faux Anglican (Comm)union. Wouldn't you think they'd at least have a shared website, while they work out a way to share clergy and episcopal elections??

Several folks have better insights than I.

Writing at the Episcopal Café, Nick Knisely reminds us:
There are a couple of observations to keep in mind when reading this document. First, note the absence of the Kenyan and Ugandan missionary bishops from the statement. Second that there is some question whether or not the entire body of Network dioceses are in support of this statement, to say nothing at the moment of the Windsor bishops or the Camp Allen bishops (parties along a spectrum on the "conservative" side of the Episcopal Church.) Finally there are some groups present here that I'm told have not been traditionally understood as Anglicans.
The Rev. Susan Russell responded:
These folks change organizational names more often than I change the kitty lit[t]er.
Best of all, Jim Naughton wrote in a private message (and gave me permission to quote him):
"They are throwing a blanket over a litter of chihuahuas and trying to make the world believe there's a lion under there."
For me, there is some relief that the schismatics may finally be leaving the rest of us alone to go on being the church.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Do you remember the tests we had to take as children?

The test would give us a list of three items, and we had to choose the one that was not like the other two.

For instance, we might be given pig … cow … pecan. Of course, "pecan" didn't belong, for the other two were animals.

The House of Bishops has given us just the same kind of quiz this week. Listen to these three soundbytes from their statement, and tell me which one is the non sequitur:

A: "The House of Bishops . . . . call[s] upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains."

B: "We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action."

C: "We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church."

Are you confused? Let me make it simpler. They said:
A. We won't let any honest gay/lesbian priest be consecrated as a bishop.
B. We won't allow blessings of gay/lesbian unions be celebrated publicly.
C. All the queers in our church are "full and equal participants" in our church.

I think the answer is pretty simple. The answer that does not "fit" is "C." Either the bishops were lying when they said yes to "a" and "b," or they lied when they voted for "c."

Since all but one of our bishops voted "yes" to the whole statement, then all the others all liars. You cannot say "yes" to A and B, and also "yes" to C. It's impossible.

If we are "full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church," then gay/lesbian priests can be considered as bishops and our relationships can be blessed within the church. In saying "yes" to all three resolutions, our bishops are revealed as the sycophantic liars they are. It is much more important that they have tea with the Queen than that they be our honest pastors.

Frankly, I would rather my bishop had voted clearly on A, B, and C.

No doubt, the bishops marched happily away from New Orleans.

In my view, they marched away with a bowlful of pottage. Frankly, I hope it chokes them.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Radical Notions

Folks as diverse as Father Jake and Kendall Harmon are inviting and suggesting "radical proposals" to break the stalemate in our church. (But then this morning Bishop Howe has offered one of his own, which looks a lot more like banishment than compromise.)

One commonality in many of these proposals (and even in the Tanzanian communiqué) is that the conservatives want TEC to stop all the litigation. I'd like to see it stop, too, so we could all spend the money on mission. But it would be pretty silly as a unilateral move. Why would we simply watch parishes walk away with church property? (See Bill Easter's essay that goes beyond the usual arguments.)

So here's my radical notion: Have TEC and the dioceses cease all current litigation and start no new litigation against parishes that have voted to leave, provided that the dissident majority in the parish allows the faithful Episcopal minority to continue to worship and meet in the building. Share all the vestments, prayer books, etc. Work out a schedule so that both groups could worship at reasonable times. Each vestry and would still meet in the church. Develop an equitable cost-sharing system, whereby there would be proportional contributions to the costs of maintenance, mortgage, utilities, and so on. Maybe they could even share the organist's services; Lord knows good ones are in short supply.

Maybe both congregations would grow. One might decline, while the other grows. The smaller might eventually be able to move out into a church building of its own. Or maybe – God willing! – in a few years, the two congregations would reunite. Who knows? Let the Gamaliel principle operate.

Wouldn't this be good stewardship in which both "sides" come out "winners"?

This doesn't address the bigger issues that are out there. And I'm sure there are more intricacies that would complicate this – which I'm overlooking. But this seems to be like a good-faith gesture that would be charitable.

What say you?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

God's Grace Given Sacramentally

Episcopal Life Online has posted video coverage of the Friday press conference online. There was one interchange that – as far as I can tell – nobody else has discussed or highlighted. It occurs about ¾ of the way through "Part 2" of the conference.

Some dissidents have left the Episcopal Church, aligning with other Anglican provinces. Truro and The Falls Church in Virginia got a great deal of attention when they aligned with the Church of Nigeria (Anglican). A member of Truro Church, Mary Ailes (who blogs at Baby Blue), was present at the press conference. I was struck by her question and the response from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Here is my transcription of the online version.

[Remember this typography is mine alone. I've transcribed the words – word by word – but it's difficult to know where all the commas and periods and quotation marks belong. It's difficult to translate spoken English into written English.]

Q (Mary Ailes): My name is Mary Ailes. I'm with Good News magazine. And I'm a member of Truro Church in Fairfax. My question has to do with one of the things that we have heard often from the Episcopal leadership is that we are free to go but we have to leave the buildings behind and how that often comes across to someone like me is "We have no need of you, but we have need of your building." What would you say, your Grace, to those of us who are wanting to remain Anglican but cannot at this time – in good conscience – remain Episcopalian? What would you say?

A (Archbishop Williams): Two things. First, I would say, "Start by looking for arrangements and situations within what's there," because the grace of God is given even through very, very imperfect organizations, and even if you think the Episcopal Church is a hopelessly imperfect organization – like many others – the question I would want to ask is, "But isn't God's grace still given sacramentally there? Isn't that presence active?" So I'd be rather slower than I think some of your friends have been to look for solutions elsewhere.

Here are the things that strike me about this interchange.

Isn't the Archbishop challenging the conservatives to consider that they may be committing the Donatist heresy? When he raises the question of the validity of the sacraments, that is what I hear.

Isn't the Archbishop telling Americans that he cannot support their flights to other provinces of the Anglican Communion? That is what I hear, in his encouragement to "start by looking for arrangements and situations within what's there."

It seems that Mary Ailes was asking the Archbishop to give approval to those who "want to remain Anglican but cannot … remain Episcopalian." And it sounds to me like the Archbishop gave no quarter on that point.

How do the rest of you "read" that part of the press conference interchange?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sanctity of Marriage

Last night I penned an essay about the marriage practices in a certain African diocese I know, and I posted it here. When I woke this morning, I realized that it could cause them harm. So I pulled my essay offline.

Then I sent a note to my bishop, who is deeply and passionately committed to and involved with that African diocese. I asked him, "Do you think my remarks might harm our friends in that diocese?" I would not want to do that. So I invited my bishop to give me a godly admonition one way or the other. And I trust his judgment.

But isn't this sad? I wanted to write about what I have seen in that African diocese and how their cultural practices differ from ours. I appealed that the Anglican Communion should be big enough to encompass us both. But when I woke this morning, I realized that some folks might use my essay to beat up on that diocese.

So I pulled my essay offline.

If you saw my essay during the 12 hours it was online, you know what I'm talking about.

If you didn't ... Well, I'm waiting for my bishop to tell me whether he thinks it's safe to publish my essay. I trust his judgment.

And isn't that terribly sad? I pulled my essay not because I feared it could hurt me, but because I feared it might hurt my friends in Africa who don't have access to the blogosphere.
About a year ago, I attended a diocesan meeting when I still had a paralyzed hand, but I was furiously making notes as best I could. At the end of the meeting, I saw my bishop and he said, "Please don't blog this." He was right. And I didn't blog it.
For all that I seem a renegade, I recognize that some folks have a wider and wiser perspective than I do. When I hear from my bishop, I may re-post the essay I wrote last night.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Drive-By Journalism

Over on the conservative blogs, much has been made of the stance of North Carolina bishop Michael Curry, based on this news story.

The newspaper headline reads:

Bishop in full support of gays
Curry will help set Episcopal position
Yonat Shimron's fluffy news story begins:

Episcopal bishops gather today in New Orleans to consider their response to leaders of the parent church who want them to back down from their commitment to gays and lesbians.

One North Carolina bishop will bring a clear message: Don't do it.

But here's the funny thing: Bishop Curry didn't say that. In fact, the only hard quote from him in the story is this one:

"People have had an opportunity to prayerfully reflect on what kind of people we want to be," said Curry, who has held four meetings across the diocese to listen to people's views. "We want to be like Jesus. We want to love everybody."
Maybe Bishop Curry is adamantly opposed to the Tanzanian Communiqué; I suspect he is. I think he is indeed in full support of gay men and lesbians in our church. I have no idea whether he "will help set [the] Episcopal position." But the so-called "journalist" offers not a single quotation nor a single shred of evidence backing up the newspaper headline. Shoddy work. Shoddy, shoddy work.

It won't surprise you to learn that the reactionaries who post and comment here and here are going ballistic, despite any real information about Bishop Curry's plans or views.

That's not really what I wanted to write about this evening. I want to talk about the other oft-quoted snippet from the story. I'll save that for my next post.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Very many of us bloggers share the news from the Anglican Communion and offer our commentary on it.

But I am seeing a new thing in the last few days. Some folks have moved from reporting into prophesying and mind-reading. It seems to me that the conservative blogs are doing this most. Maybe progressive bloggers are doing it, too, and I'm just not noting them. Posts like this and this are examples. Their commenters – and the commenters at T19 – are following the lead of the blogmasters, and engaging in their own mind-reading and prognosticating. They're even attributing motives to people they don't even know. This mystifies me.

I understand commenting on the news. I do it myself, when I have the time. But these folks have moved into rumor-mongering, mind-reading, and prophesying about what will happen in New Orleans. It's not just StandFirm. It's happening all over the conservative blogosphere.

I just cannot see that is healthy.

I pledge this to you: I will try to report news that comes my way. But I vow to eschew soothsaying and mind-reading. I hope all my blog-buddies will make the same pledge.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Mind Boggles

The bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) apparently are now asking Archbishop Williams to cancel the Lambeth Conference next year because they fear for their safety. Their "open letter" has been all over the Web, including at Thinking Anglicans, Father Jake's, Preludium, and The Lead; there is fine commentary at all those sites.

First, let me say I am getting sick and tired of these "open letters." I was not amused when Bishop Spong sent his "open letter" to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Much as Bishop Spong's comments echoed my own beliefs, I thought it was tawdry for one person to publish a letter to his "friend" on the Web. That's worse than heresy and apostasy; that's just bad manners. [Let those who have tongues in cheek hear.]

Second, let me say this open letter from the Nigerian bishops has me confused. I thought the Nigerians were boycotting Lambeth because the wrong people were being invited and the right ones weren't. [Didn't Jesus have a parable about that? I'm sure I read it somewhere.]

But that was yesterday.

Today they are in fear for their very lives because of the quietly protesting or placard-waving gays who might show up, continuing to believe we're full members of the body of Christ.

Here's how it looks to me.

If Akinola has his way with the legislation in Nigeria, and I went to Nigeria to speak in favor of human rights for gay men and lesbians, I could be arrested and put in jail for 5 years. Gene Robinson received so many death threats he had to wear Kevlar to his consecration. In Nigeria, Davis Mac-Iyalla receives death threats from Nigeria's Anglican "Christians."

The Nigerian bishops are now quavering in the face of placards. Do they have some deep-seated fear of paper-cuts?

(By the way, perhaps the protest in Wheaton next week will give Akinola a little practice in facing dissent.)

If I'm understanding it, the Nigerian bishops want the right to imprison homosexuals and their straight supporters. Their Archbishop calls us "lower than dogs." But they want the right not to have those views challenged peacefully at Lambeth.

Can somebody help me understand this?


I've had a busy couple of weeks working for The Episcopal Majority. We've had some great stuff submitted to us. But it has required all the waking hours when I'm not at my day job.

Due to popular acclaim, we decided to put Tom Woodward's series of essays, "The Undermining of the Episcopal Church," into a print publication. [Click here for parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.] That's been an all-consuming project for me. Today we picked it up from the printer. It's being distributed to a small group now, but eventually will be available more widely. Watch The Episcopal Majority site for details.

Meanwhile, news in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion has been flying faster than I can possibly comment. I cannot believe how many ridiculous stories have appeared in the last few days. White American guys being consecrated in Africa to serve the "indigenous" population … Episcopal bishops threatening to take their dioceses out of the Episcopal Church … The bishop of Fort Worth accusing our President of the House of Deputies for something like "boundary violation" when she met with faithful Episcopalians in Fort Worth … And now the Nigerian bishops asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to cancel Lambeth 2008 because they fear for their safety.

I have a hunch that these blow-hards see the image at right when they look in the mirror. They lack a sense of irony, don't they?

Every day, it seems increasingly like the spin doctors on the right have fallen through Alice's looking glass. I can't keep up. Thank God for folks like Father Jake, Mark Harris, Thinking Anglicans, and the good folks over at The Lead. I don't know how they keep up! But they sure do.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

A few things are becoming a little bit clearer this week, as various bloggers have commented on Nigerian bishop Orama's declaration that homosexuals and lesbians "are inhuman. . . . insane, satanic and are not fit to live ...."

At StandFirm, Matt Kennedy offers a half-hearted defense of the Nigerian bishop. Kennedy says: "we are all by nature objects of wrath." Here is the whole paragraph:

While it is certainly true that no human being is “fit to live” and in fact we are all by nature objects of wrath, it is not at all right to single out homosexual offenders alone. We are all worthy of condemnation.
I think Jonathan Edwards would gather Matt into his bosom. I grew up in that same "God really hates us all" mentality.

Fortunately, I have grown to believe that God loves us -- all of us -- with a fierce love beyond our wildest imagining -- with a love so deep that He sent his very Son to live among us to redeem us, and that God desires holy lives for all of us. Thanks be to God for redeeming us, and rescuing me from that 17th century worldview.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lest You Doubt

Several sources in the Episcopalian blogiverse have published this comment of the Anglican Bishop of Uyo (Nigeria), Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, who said:
"Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God's purpose for man,'' the Bishop said.
"… Are not fit to live"! Hear that, conservatives? These are the clerics with whom you have allied yourselves. This is a bishop in Akinola's church. He thinks gay men and lesbian are "not fit to live." Do you really want to ally yourselves with people like this?

Is there any wonder so many of us are so adamant – when a bishop of the Anglican Communion would say such a thing?

Read it all here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Just My Amanuensis

Chatter continues about the authorship of Archbishop Akinola's "agonizing journey" missive. (I already said my piece here.)

George Conger reports, "Bishop Minns told The Church of England Newspaper he served in a secretarial capacity as Archbishop Akinola’s amanuensis, and did not write the pastoral as claimed by the Church Times."

I feel a song comin' on.

Just My Amanuensis
(with apologies to The Temptations)

Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by.
I say to myself, "You're such a lucky guy."
To have a Church like her
is truly a dream come true.
Out of all of the bishops in the world
she belongs to you . . .

But it was just my amanuensis
running away with me.
It was just my amanuensis
running away with me . . .

Soon we'll be in communion . . .
and raise a parish family.
In a cozy, little home out in the country
with two dioceses, maybe three.
I tell you, I can visualize it all.
This couldn't be a dream for too real it all seems.

But it was just my amanuensis – once again –
running away with me.
I tell you it was just my amanuensis
running away with me . . .

Every night, on my knees I pray,
"Dear Lord, hear my plea . . .
don't ever let another take her budget from me
or I will surely die . . ."
Ooh, her cash is heavenly;
when her property enfolds me,
I hear a tender hymnody . . .
but in reality, she doesn't even know me.

Just my amanuensis – once again –
running away with me.
Tell you it was just my amanuensis
running away with me.
I'll never get her, but I can't forget her.
Just my amanuensis . . .
–ooh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah –
running away with me.