Friday, December 28, 2007

Interview with Katharine

State of Belief will run an interview with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori on radio programs on December 29-30. The program blurb states:
Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori helps us get an in depth look at the conflict that’s rattling the Episcopal Church in the United States. Will the issues of gay marriage and homosexual clergy cause the Church to split apart in 2008?
The interview was conducted by the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy (from the Southern Baptist Convention) for the Interfaith Alliance "just before Christmas" in New York City. The host begins with a background piece, then turns to "the current state of the Episcopal Church" and the question of whether the Anglican Communion will experience a schism.

The program will air December 29 and 30th by radio, but it is available here: The program runs about 36 minutes. It's a fine interview, and I am glad to hear our Presiding Bishop speak again in her own voice. It's a relief to hear her, but remember: This was an interview conducted a few days ago, and it's directed to a global audience – not just to the "hot" issues that concern so many of us in the Episcopal Church.

I've just now listened to it one time through. She touches upon many critical issues: women's ordination, the conflict surrounding Bishop Robinson's consecration, differences within the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Williams' stance, the role of money and political lobbying organizations in the current debate, the mission of the Episcopal Church, how to live with our current divisions, and many other topics in this wide-ranging interview. She speaks explicitly (albeit briefly) about the struggles within San Joaquin.

This is one of the very finest interviews I've heard or seen with our Presiding Bishop. I'm grateful for it, and I think it's especially helpful for us to hear at this juncture. I encourage all of you to give it a listen.

I'll try to listen to it again tomorrow and – if there is interest – to provide a bit more detail about it.

BTW, I am having problems linking directly to the program through hyperlinks, but this seems to work:

On Preludium

Mark Harris had better watch out! If his PhotoChop skills keep improving at the current rate, he's really going to tick-off the current master of PhotoChoppery. Mark's most recent – and one of his best to date – offering is here. It's a gloss on Jesus' statement to his disciples (from John 16:12): “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."

The Tempter is working hard on me, for I would dearly love to post Mark's graphic here and bask in some of his reflected glory. But I shall exercise restraint. I will not copy his work here; instead, I send you over there to set his sitemeter to spinning even faster. Oh, but the temptation . . . ! Must. Stand. Firm. Against. Temptation.

Thanks, Mark! This is a gift to the Church.

P.S. While you're visiting that page at Preludium, do be sure to read the comments. One "Brian F" actually writes this:
As regards using that quote to sustain the idea of ongoing revelation, you need to remember the context in which Jesus spoke those words. He was speaking to the twelve disciples in the Upper Room on the last night he had with them, not to us. He knew he was going to see them again after his resurrection, which they didn't know at the time. This gave him another 40 days or so to fill them on all the details which would have only made sense to them after his resurrection, which are now recorded in Scripture, not continuing to be revealed to us.
That's right! God's revelation stopped cold on the day of Christ's Ascension. I now know that's true, because the "orthodox" BrianF tells me so. Thus, all those innovations we've cooked up since the year 33 C.E. are heresy. I had never heard the interpretation that BrianF offers there. I. Am. Gobsmacked.

This Just In from Atwater

So far, I have not seen any photographs of John-David Schofield from last Sunday's service at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church. You remember: that's the service in which the former Bishop of San Joaquin revealed his true nature. But I am ever patrolling the blogosphere, and I just found this one of former bishop Schofield. I understand it was taken in the sacristy at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church.

Funny Pictures

Many thanks to ICanHasCheezburger.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dig Deep

All right. Here we are, on the 2nd day of Christmas. It's time for us all to dig a little deeper for the City of God Appeal, being organized by MadPriest with complicity of That Kaeton Woman.

The OCICBW... Community Christmas Appeal is raising money to help support ministry being done by the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro. Full details about the project and how to send your gifts can be found HERE.

Now we're on Day 27 of the project, and MadPriest reports:

We did not receive any donations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That is only as it should have been. There are some days on which it is right and proper to concentrate on things near to home. However, today things started to move forward again and our new total is:


The appeal will run until the 6th. January, 2008 at which point the PayPal facility will close.

As MadPriest reports here, the funds will be used primarily to support the children's ministry at Cidade de Deus. Some funds have already been transferred, and used for songbooks and mass settings for children. [Update 12/27: See comments below for MadPriest's correction on those funds; I misread Father Eduardo's letter.] Father Eduardo also provides a marvelous video of some of the kids singing at the Christmas celebration; view the video posted today at MadPriest's site.

Get yourself over there and donate. Or, if you've already given, give a little more. The PayPal link makes it uber-easy. You know you want to. And you'll feel great about it.

Alphabet Soup Thickens

Global South to Toot another Horn

Several of us who have been following the Anglican blogosphere will recall the "third trumpet" announcement of some "Global South" primates in October 2005 and a "fourth" in September 2007. It appears they're tuning-up for another trumpet-blast in June 2008, shortly before the meeting of Anglican Communion bishops at Lambeth. We now have another group to add to the "Alphabet Soup" of Anglican dissidents: GAFCON.

StandFirm carried this story, posted on Christmas Day as a gift (I suppose) to the Anglican Communion:


Orthodox Primates with other leading bishops from across the globe are to invite fellow Bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to a unique eight-day event, to be known as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2008.

The event, which was agreed at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi last week, will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church’s faith. The Holy Land is the planned venue. From 15-22 June 2008, Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings of the church will make pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where Christ was born, ministered, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, sent his Holy Spirit, and where the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out, to strengthen them for what they believe will be difficult days ahead.

At the meeting were Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Donald Mtetemela (Tanzania), Peter Jensen (Sydney), Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria); Bishop Don Harvey (Canada), Bishop Bill Atwood (Kenya) representing Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone) , Bishop Bob Duncan (Anglican Communion Network ), Bishop Martyn Minns (Convocation of Anglicans in North America ), Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India and England) and Canon Dr Chris Sugden (England). Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester, England), Bishop Wallace Benn (Lewes, England) were consulted by telephone. These leaders represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world.

Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables said “While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith. Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith. Rather than being subject to the continued chaos and compromise that have dramatically impeded Anglican mission, GAFCON will seek to clarify God’s call at this time and build a network of cooperation for Global mission.”

The gathering set in motion a Global Anglican Future Conference: A Gospel of Power and Transformation. The vision, according to Archbishop Nzimbi is to inform and inspire invited leaders "to seek transformation in our own lives and help impact communities and societies through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Bishops and their wives, clergy and laity, including the next generation of young leaders will attend GAFCON. The GAFCON website is

Canon Chris Sugden added: "While this conference is not a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, it will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth. There was no other place to meet at this critical time for the future of the Church than in the Holy Land.”

I heartily support meetings that help to support mission and ministry throughout the Anglican Communion. As you may recall, just such a meeting was held in July 2007 in Madrid, Spain, at a one-week event called “Walking to Emmaus: Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times.” The meeting was announced by ENS. Trinity Wall Street featured the conference, with video postcards from several participants. ENS carried a follow-up story. According to the Anglican Journal, 32 African bishops and 24 North American bishops attended. I know that my own bishop attended, as we have an active and fruitful covenant relationship with the Diocese of Lui in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. Bishop Jon Bruno (Los Angeles) was one of the few to offer a report after the conference. I applaud any effort for the churches of the Anglican Communion to reach out and communicate about mission and ministry.

My disquiet is that whereas the July 2007 meeting involved a widely diverse group, I have a hunch that the meeting announced for June 2008 is intentionally exclusive. There is no indication how the list of invitees will be developed. I fear it will be on the one-issue basis of "opposition to gay people." Of course, I could be wrong. I hope I will be proved so.

I am troubled that this meeting "was agreed at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi last week." Who knew such a meeting was occurring? But the press statement above provides the answer, as does the FAQ of their website, which states: "The Global Anglican Future Conference is being called by those who took part in the Nairobi Consultation." And who participated in that consultation?

  • Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Donald Mtetemela (Tanzania)
  • Archbishop Peter Jensen (Sydney) and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria)
  • Bishop Don Harvey (Canada) and Bishop Bill Atwood (Kenya) who also represented Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone)
  • Bishop Bob Duncan (Anglican Communion Network and Common Cause USA.) and Bishop Martyn Minns (Convocation of Anglicans in North America)
  • Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India) and Canon Dr Chris Sugden (England)
  • Bishop Michael Nazir Ali (Rochester, England) and Bishop Wallace Benn (Lewes, England) were consulted and also form part of the Leadership Team.
I note that some of these purported bishops are neither recognized by nor in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury – notably "bishops" Harvey, Atwood, and Minns. But if they are about furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then so be it. And I note that "Bishop Bob Duncan" is included as a representative of the ACN and "Common Cause" (whatever that may turn out to be), rather than a bishop of the Episcopal Church. But ok. Whatever. I understand that these folks don't think the Episcopal Church can possibly have anything to contribute in a discussion of global mission. I disagree profoundly. But I know where these guys are coming from. O.K. Whatever.

I observe that the press release stresses that "Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings of the church" will be involved. Why are they making this point? Is it really important? Aren't we all about mission? That point strikes me as a little bit bizarre.

I do think it's funny that they feel the need to state that "these leaders represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world." It reminds me of evangelical Protestants' fixation on head-counting. And it leads me to reflect: A vote was taken as to whether to crucify Jesus or Barrabas; the vote was overwhelming: "Crucify Jesus!" But o.k.. Whatever. If it makes them feel better to claim some super-majority, then I won't argue. As others have observed, the Episcopal Church is undergoing a sort of crucifixion, as it refuses to bow to the dominant U.S. and worldwide culture's hatred of gay men and lesbians. I firmly believe our church will come out stronger after this schism is past.

I find it increasingly amusing that the "Global South" leaders more and more quote the white British colonial primate Venables. But maybe that's just me.

I am perplexed by Venables' statement: “While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith." Why, of course! And that's the shared mission and shared faith that the Diocese of Missouri (TEC) and the Diocese of Lui (Episcopal Church of the Sudan) are living-out day after day. Duh! That's why both our dioceses were present in Madrid. We share a zeal to preach the Gospel, to bring comfort to the suffering, to heal the sick, to support people in living holy lives. That's why we're trying to bring clean drinking water to Lui and why we're trying to support the priests in Lui and why we're bringing people from Lui to speak to the people of Missouri. We have found that we share a common faith. Does Bishop Venables – or anybody else – doubt that?

I would like for Bishop Venables to explain what are "the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith." It occurs to me that, not so long ago, a "central and unchanging tenet" of the Christian faith was that non-white people weren't fully human; in fact, in the U.S., Christians happily counted African-Americans as being 3/5 human. I wonder what Bishop Venables means by his statement, what central and unchanging faith is being challenged.

Archbishop Nzimbi hopes to "inform and inspire invited leaders." I look forward to learning what leaders will be invited. But the invitation list has already been limited. The group plans to invite "bishops and their wives," as well as clergy and laity. Clearly, no female bishops will be invited. I wonder whether any female priests will be included.

Finally, the group and Canon Sugden raise the prospect that this conference will be "a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference." You know what? I really couldn't care less. If these folks want to have a purified gathering, that's ok with me. Sad. But ok. It's their choice if they decide to absent themselves from Lambeth.

Addendum (12.26.07): Count on Mark Harris for fine analysis. He offers his thoughts on GAFCON here.

Peace and Outrage

A member of the HoBD listserv called our attention to this video depicting social change through peaceful resistance. It's a montage of non-violent peacemakers, set to the music of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings

Take a look, when you have about 9 minutes to sit quietly.

You know what struck me about it? The images of Gandhi, MLK, Mandela and Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and all the other leaders of peaceful resistance. They beamed with a beatific joy or sometimes a steadfast resolve, but I didn't see blazing anger in their faces.

It made me think of the state of high outrage in which many of us have been living for quite a while against those who seem to be trying to destroy the Episcopal Church we love and against those who are attacking our integrity and our very lives. Outrage at the primates. At the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the former bishop of San Joaquin. At the Network and other dissidents. Sometimes even at our own Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.

Wormwood's Doxy is taking a break from the blogs. She writes:

I have enjoyed the recent Anglican fray too much. I have found myself addicted to the high of being outraged. I suspect this is not healthy for my soul---and that it explains the spiritual dryness I've been feeling lately.
I'm not taking a break from the blogs or from blogging. I don't think I've enjoyed the Anglican fray; God knows, I pray constantly for it to end. But I think my New Year's resolution needs to have something to do with working a bit harder to show the light of Christ and a little less addiction to outrage.

Lord, in your mercy . . .

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Gleanings

I spent a pleasant Christmas morning doing some blog-surfing, and found several wonderful gifts.

Simple Massing Priest tells a delightful tale at "Searching for the Christ Child." He begins: "The title isn't quite so allegorical as you think. We actually spent about ten minutes before the Christmas Eve service desperately seeking the Baby Jesus for the main crèche at the parish where I serve as interim priest." Read it all. I think they have the coolest approach to "staging" the events through Christmastide.

The Nativity
Lorenzo Lotto, 1523
(Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art)
I confess: I nicked this image from Grandmère Mimi, who has such refined taste.

Caminante shares her Christmas Eve sermon. Here are just a few excerpts.

In the form of a child, God comes to humanity. Jesus — the crossroads where God’s descending road and humanity’s ascending road meet — the bearer of hope, the redeemer and reconciler of us all, our saviour, comes to us tonight as a vulnerable child. In this child we find our hope, something that at times can be as fragile and vulnerable as a child.

And this:

In the nativity, Christ comes first in great humility but this is in anticipation of his coming again in majesty and glory.

It is this point that is crucial to our understanding of Christmas. There is more to Christmas than a baby in a crib in a stable. For we stay but a moment at the crib before moving on. What happens at the nativity that we remember tonight is but the beginning of the complete coming of Christ, and the whole of God’s saving act in Christ. Christ is God turned to us in grace and salvation. We remember at the crib the cross and the resurrection as well.

Christmas calls a community back to its origins by remembering Jesus’ own beginnings as a human child, a prophet of God’s reign. What the parish celebrates during this season is not primarily a birthday, but the beginning of a decisive new phase in the tempestuous history of God’s hunger for human companions. … Christmas does not ask us to pretend we are back in Bethlehem, kneeling before a crib; it asks us to recognize that the wood of the crib became the wood of the cross.

Do go read the entire text, especially Caminante's marvelous paean to hope in the concluding movement of her sermon.

+ + +

Add Father Jake's Christmas Eve sermon to your must-read list, too. Here are just a few sections that caught my heart and my imagination.

Jesus doesn’t have to do anything to be a reason for us to rejoice. Just being born is enough.

We sometimes refer to the birth of Jesus as “the Incarnation” – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. For me, this is the reason I’m a Christian. Actually, it’s the only reason I even pay any attention to organized religion.

The whole idea of God seems to me to be at best an interesting philosophical concept, and at worst not much more than wishful thinking. I’m a creature who has been destined to dwell in this world; the world of physical laws, with real life consequences if those laws are not respected. It is through hard work and sheer determination that we who trod this earth have made ourselves into the masters of this physical realm. Talk of a God who dwells some place in heaven doesn’t really have much impact on the real world, from my perspective. Let God rule heaven. But down here on earth, we’ve got work to do, and this God stuff is just a distraction, and maybe even a waste of time.

But, when God chooses to enter the physical realm, to walk among us, work alongside us, to share the joy and the pain of being a creature trapped in this world, now that gets my attention.


When God chose to take on human form, he wasn’t just pretending. He wasn’t acting out some role in a divine drama. Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, chose to completely surrender his power and glory to be born like any other baby, with the same needs and limits as any other newborn child. Wow.

That means that God knows what it means to be hungry and helpless, knows how it feels to be held when confused and afraid, knows what it means to be fully dependent on others for every aspect of existence.

This is a real flesh and blood baby we’re talking about, not some manifestation of wishful thinking. This is not an indifferent God dwelling somewhere up and heaven. Heaven and earth have been joined. There is no longer any separation between us and God. That is the source of our wonder and awe on this holy night.

+ + + + +

In the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas sermon (posted at the Episcopal Café), he has a wonderful phrase about St. John of the Cross using poetry and folksong "to convey the biblical story of the love affair between God and creation." The core of his message recaps a poem sequence in which John of the Cross tells "the story of the world from the beginning to the first Christmas – but very daringly telling this story from God’s point of view."

God was living eternally in heaven, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with perfect love flowing uninterrupted between them. And out of the sheer overflowing energy of his love, God the Father decides that he will create a ‘Bride’ for his Son. The imagery is powerful and direct: there will be someone created who will be able, says God the Father, to ‘sit down and eat bread with us at one table, the same bread that I eat.’

And so the world is made as a home for the Bride. Who is this Bride? It is the whole world of beings who are capable of love and understanding, the angels and the human race. In the rich diversity of the world, the heavens and the earth together, God makes an environment in which love and intelligence may grow, until they are capable of receiving the full impact of God’s presence. And so the world waits for the moment when God can at last descend and – in a beautiful turning upside-down of the earlier image – can sit at the same table and share the same bread as created beings.

As the ages pass on earth, the longing grows and intensifies for this moment to arrive; and at last God the Father tells the Son that it is time for him to meet his Bride face to face on earth, so that, as he looks at her directly, she may reflect his own likeness. When God has become human, then humanity will recognise in his face, in Jesus’ face, its own true nature and destiny. And the angels sing at the wedding in Bethlehem, the marriage of heaven and earth, where, in the haunting final stanza of the great poetic sequence, humanity senses the joy of God himself, and the only one in the scene who is weeping is the child, the child who is God in the flesh: ‘The tears of man in God, the gladness in man, the sorrow and the joy that used to be such strangers to each other.’

Then the Archbishop offers these reflections:

The coming of Christ is not first and foremost a response to human crisis; there is remarkably little about sin in these verses. . . . But the vision takes us further back into God’s purpose. The whole point of creation is that there should be persons, made up of spirit and body, in God’s image and likeness . . . who are capable of intimacy with God – not so that God can gain something but so that these created beings may live in joy. And God’s way of making sure that this joy is fully available is to join humanity on earth so that human beings may recognise what they are and what they are for. . . .

We are right to think about the seriousness of sin, in other words; but we see it properly and in perspective only when we have our eyes firmly on the greatness and unchanging purpose of God’s eternal plan for the marriage of heaven and earth. It is a perspective that is necessary when our own sins or those of a failing and suffering world fill the horizon for us, so that we can hardly believe the situation can be transformed. For if God’s purpose is what it is, and if God has the power and freedom to enter our world and meet us face to face, there is nothing that can destroy that initial divine vision of what the world is for and what we human beings are for. . . .

The world around us is created as a framework within which we may learn the first beginnings of growing up towards what God wants for us. It is the way it is so that we can be directed towards God. And so this is how we must see the world. Yes, it exists in one sense for humanity’s sake; but it exists in its own independence and beauty for humanity’s sake – not as a warehouse of resources to serve humanity’s selfishness. To grasp that God has made the material world, ‘composed’, says John of the Cross, ‘of infinite differences’, so that human beings can see his glory is to accept that the diversity and mysteriousness of the world around is something precious in itself. To reduce this diversity and to try and empty out the mysteriousness is to fail to allow God to speak through the things of creation as he means to.

Every person and every diverse sort of person exists for a unique joy, the joy of being who they are in relation to God, a joy which each person will experience differently. And when I encounter another, I encounter one who is called to such a unique joy; my relation with them is part of God’s purpose in bringing that joy to perfection – in me and in the other. This doesn’t rule out the tension and conflict that are unavoidable in human affairs – sometimes we challenge each other precisely so that we can break through what it is in each other that gets in the way of God’s joy, so that we can set each other free for this joy.

This, surely, is where peace on earth, the peace the angels promise to the shepherds, begins, here and nowhere else, here where we understand what human beings are for and what they can do for each other. The delighted reverence and amazement we should have towards the things of creation is intensified many times where human beings are concerned. And if peace is to be more than a pause in open conflict, it must be grounded in this passionate amazed reverence for others.

The birth of Jesus, in which that power which holds the universe together in coherence takes shape in history as a single human body and soul, is an event of cosmic importance. It announces that creation as a whole has found its purpose and meaning, and that the flowing together of all things for the joyful transfiguration of our humanity is at last made visible on earth.

‘So God henceforth will be human, and human beings caught up in God. He will walk around in their company, eat with them and drink with them. He will stay with them always, the same for ever alongside them, until this world is wrapped up and done with’.

Y'know … when he is speaking as a pastor and not as some sort of "instrument of unity," the Archbishop is clear, insightful, and (IMNSHO) magnificent.

+ + + +

[Thanks to Elizabeth, from whom I nicked this just-perfect image.]

There's a phrase I recall, about "breaking open the Scriptures for us." Caminante, Father Jake, and Archbishop Williams did that for me quite movingly today. I give thanks for them – and for all the clergy who work so hard during this Advent and now Christmas season to help us understand the great mystery of God's choosing to dwell among and within us.

May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christmas blessings to you all.

Angelou: Amazing Peace

Jan Dunnavant+, a priest in our church, shared this poem today on the HoBD list. It speaks to me.

Amazing Peace
A Christmas Poem

by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Floodwaters await in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and gray and threatening.

We question ourselves. What have we done to so affront nature?
We interrogate and worry God.
Are you there? Are you there, really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension,
Christmas enters,

Streaming lights of joy,
ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.

The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season,

Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Floodwaters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us as we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children.
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth, brightening all things,
Even hate, which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.

The word is Peace.

It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.

Not just the absence of war.
But true Peace.

A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.

We beckon this good season to wait awhile with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come. Peace.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.

We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
implore you to stay awhile with us
so we may learn by your shimmering light
how to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices to celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.


We look at our world and speak the word aloud.


We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:

Peace, My Brother.

Peace, My Sister.

Peace, My Soul.

What Would Jesus Buy?

I intended to post this piece a few days ago, during Advent, but I fell behind. I will post it now, even though today's Christmas Eve reflections and tonight's two Christmas Eve services have given me some further insight. I'll hope to share those further thoughts in the next day or two.

Tonight, as I drove home at 12:30 a.m. from church, seeing all the businesses shut down, all the retail stores closed and dark, this strikes me as perhaps relevant still.

My friend Seamus sent me a link to this story from U.S. News & World Report. It continues the little rant I've been doing about the consumerism that has overtaken our culture, as has been so clearly manifest in the "Christmas" shopapalooza. Here's some of the text:

If you're feeling overwhelmed by shopping this month, What Would Jesus Buy? is the movie for you. By equating elaborate gift giving with consumerism gone wild, it will help you justify the impulse to stop buying presents altogether.

Morgan Spurlock, who also brought us the documentary Super Size Me, produced the film that follows the character "Reverend Billy" . . . , leader of the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, across the United States in an attempt to get people to retire their plastic and, instead, simply enjoy each other's company over the holidays. . . .

The film saves some of its wrath for consumers themselves. Against a backdrop of disturbing video clips of shoppers running each other over to get to Black Friday sales, the narrator tells us that the U.S. household savings rate is below zero for the first time since the Great Depression and that Americans spend five hours a week shopping and only one hour a week on religion or spiritual time. [Emphasis added]

The U.S. News site has a trailer for the What Would Jesus Buy? movie. I can't say I'm a fan of "Reverend Billy," nor am I encouraging you to see the movie.

But that one statement struck me: "Americans spend five hours a week shopping and only one hour a week on religion or spiritual time." Let that sink in. We spend five hours on our material necessities or indulgences and – on average – one hour with God and God's people.

Something is very, very out of whack.

I don't think of myself as a "shopper." I avoid malls like the plague. So when I first read that statistic, I felt "righteous distance." But I would have to agree that in the little errands I run to the grocery story, hardware store, and popping into my local java joint, I probably do spend five hours a week shopping.

However, I am not one of those who expects God or church to take merely 60-75 minutes of my life on Sunday morning. The best and happiest minutes of my life each week are the ones I spend in church. Typically, I go to Sunday morning services (and other church events) like a woman dying of thirst. I know that's an important time for me to nourish my soul; it's important time that helps me keep me centered in the rest of my week.

It seems to me that – while we are spending more time in malls and stores – many of us are more aware that there is an empty space in our lives. What can fill that emptiness? You know my answer. I believe we need to shift the balance – with more time in church, with God, with Christian friends, on spiritual matters.

This makes me think, though, of the many people I know who never go to church. What do they do to center their lives – to connect to the source of our being? I was one of them, for about twenty years, after I shook the dust of my feet from the increasingly fundamentalist church in which I had been raised, and before the Episcopal Church found me and God got hold of me again.

What must Christmas mean to the people who don't spend their days and weeks in Christian community or some other intentionally spiritual practice?

More about that later.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Friday Night

I'm mindful that tonight is Christmas Eve. I attended our 5:00 "family service," and I intend shortly to go to the Festival Eucharist at 11:00. But I'm betwixt and between, wanting to blog, and with quite a backlog of things I want to post. So I'm posting this one, which I wrote Friday night. I expect I'll do some more catch-up tonight and tomorrow.

I hope I can offer an update. A couple of friends took photographs, but so far I haven't been able to retrieve those photos for uploading. So the photos here are stock ones from our cathedral.

Ordinations at the Cathedral

For a couple or three years, a member of our parish has been in the discernment process. For longer than that, people in our parish and diocese had been asking him, "Why don't you become a priest??" Marshall was one of those folks for whom it is true that sometimes one doesn't just hear God's call, but one is called out by the community. Friday night, he took the first step, as he was ordained to the transitional diaconate at our cathedral.

As soon as I learned that he was to be ordained on December 21, I planned to be at his ordination. But then another marvelous thing happened: The Cathedral staff asked me to serve as subdeacon in this service, in which Marshall and three others would be ordained to the transitional diaconate. Of course I said "YES!" as soon as I was asked.

We made Marshall a deacon Friday night at the Cathedral.

And part of me would wish to write about what that meant for him. But I cannot write for him. I cannot guess what thoughts were flowing through his mind and spirit.

So please forgive me for talking, instead, about my participation in that liturgy.

It was my honor and privilege to be asked to serve as subdeacon in the liturgy in which we made Marshall and three others deacons.

I got to the cathedral and was ready for instruction at 5:00. A marvelous man (whom I hadn't met before, except that we had corresponded on the diocesan Oasis listserv) was assigned to run me through my paces, familiarize me with the Cathedral's customary, etc. So we walked through the procession stuff first. Then we focused on my role and responsibilities during the Eucharist and so were up at the high altar by about 5:30 ... when the "rehearsal" began. But I wasn't part of the "rehearsal"; it was simply 60 or so people sitting in the first few rows of the nave being told what the ordinands, presenters, vested clergy, etc. must do. Meanwhile, Todd and I were up at the altar, "practicing" my role as subdeacon. While we did so, various folks were passing by: the archdeacon (with whom I travelled to Lui in southern Sudan last year), the priest who was preaching, various other clergy and ministers ... many of whom I happily greeted with a bear-hug. The same thing happened when we were all lining up in procession: lots of meets and greets of folks whom I really like.

Actually, this was funny for me: I hadn't been prepared to see and hug so many folks from throughout the diocese. Relationships have been built bit by bit and year by year, but 'til Friday night I really didn't realize how many folks I've come to know and with whom I've connected. It was quite the love-fest.

What an awesome, marvelous night it was! The ordination liturgy was just marvelous. Standing at the table with our bishop (Wayne Smith) and his deacon (my friend Susan Naylor) during the Eucharist was a higher-than-high for me! I was comfortable in my subdeacon role, and got much kudos from some of our liturgy-nazis. Apparently, I did ok in my new role.

Some of you may recall that my re-entry to the Episcopal Church, following my "sabbatical from the church" after GC 06 and its odious resolution B033 was via Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis. Trinity is the parish I attend when I am in St. Louis on Sundays, and I love the priest there: the Rev. Anne Kelsey. She was the preacher for this ordination, and her sermon was one of the best I've ever heard. She spoke to all of us, but her challenge and charge and encouragement to the new deacons was just perfect – and of the chill-bump variety. (It's online here. Go listen to it! There's a bit of an electronic buzz in the background, but the sermon is worth it.)

Another highlight of the service was that I had a perfect seat from which to see Marshall take his vows. His seriousness, his humility were awesome to me. In our ordinations, we set people apart for special ministry. As I sat there, watching Marshall go through the examination and take his vows, and finally seeing the bishop place his hands on the candidates, I was powerfully impressed by the change that was happening to him, the mission and ministry he is accepting.

Over the past many months, I've been fairly active in engaging the Big Issues facing the Anglican Communion. But this event brought it all closer to home. Come what may for the worldwide Anglican Communion, we are still carrying on as usual. Deacons and priests are being made. The ancient prayers are being offered. We are sending these people out to minister to the world – to place their hands into our wounded places, and to proclaim the good news of the "yes" that God speaks to us over and over again.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


The Once and Future "No-Show"

The Bakersfield Californian is carrying a story called, "Local Leader has Vision for Future." They've been giving star coverage to Mark Lawrence (bishop-elect of the diocese of South Carolina) for quite a while, and this is the latest entry. Read the whole article.

Here's what caught my attention:
He said that, with the exception of a couple of occasions, he has not preached church politics from his pulpit at St. Paul’s.

“I use the pulpit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

He did, however, at one time defend “the San Joaquin Diocesan Standing Committee’s posture for an appeal for an alternative primatial oversight,” by a leader other than Jefferts Schori.

“That was not a move to leave the Episcopal Church,” Lawrence said. “That was the overture that seven or so dioceses were asking from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“At that time, the question was, ‘How can we differentiate ourselves in such a way from the leadership in the Episcopal Church in order that we may maintain our place within the Episcopal Church?’” he said.
Uh-huh. He wasn't trying to leave the Episcopal Church. He just wanted a different primate than the rest of the church has.

And now we're going to admit this man into the leadership of the Episcopal Church.

Yeah. Right. Whatever.

The article continues:
Lawrence said he did not vote in the Dec. 8 diocesan convention, during which San Joaquin overwhelmingly supported a separation from the Episcopal Church. He was on sabbatical in North Carolina at the time, he said.

“The Diocese of San Joaquin made their vote out of the integrity of their specific situation,” Lawrence said.

When asked whether he would have chosen to remain in the Episcopal Church or vote to follow the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield into the Anglican Communion with direct oversight from a South American Anglican province, Lawrence replied:

“I do not know because, in reality, I haven’t had to face that situation. No one knows what they’d do in that set of circumstances.”
As we all know, Father Lawrence conveniently was absent from the 2006 convention in which San Joaquin took its first move to change the constitution in preparation for leaving the Episcopal Church. Now it is revealed that he just happened to miss the December 8 convention, too, in which the former diocese of San Joaquin voted to leave the Episcopal Church. Two hugely historic votes. And he just happened to miss both of them.

Reckon his notable absences had anything to with a desire to minimize controversy so he could get the fuschia shirt and the pointy hat in the church he hates?

I don't know about you. But I do know about me. If such a momentous vote were being taken in my diocese, I would move heaven and earth and the airline schedules to be sure I was there to cast my vote. If the airlines weren't flying, I'd rent a car and drive cross-country to cast my vote. I've taken such steps for personal reasons in past times – times that absolutely required my presence.

This Lawrence man seems to have an amazing propensity for missing important discussions and votes. If he had been at the Council of Nicea, would he have been out on a smoke break or shopping for bon-bons when the vote was taken? The man hasn't even donned the fuschia shirt, and he's already mastered the art of equivocation. Say what you will, he's a quick study.

It appears he has mastered the art of duplicity (also known as "plausible deniability") that former Episcopal bishop Schofield and President Richard Nixon modeled.

I believe we now have further evidence that "we" should not have consented to Lawrence's election in South Carolina. If the man can't say San Joaquin was flat wrong in pretending to leave the Episcopal Church, then woe betide the future in South Carolina under his "leadership."

When South Carolina was seeking consents, I did my best in lobbying my bishop and standing committee to vote "no." But these good Midwesterners seem to have the vice of trusting scoundrels. I fervently hope time will prove me wrong, and prove their trust was right.

Of course, I could be wrong ... And, frankly, I pray that I am.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chasing Archbishop Akinola

Julia Duin, of the Washington Times, has written some of the most sympathetic (even fawning) articles in favor of the dissidents in the Episcopal Church and the schismatics who have gone to Nigeria (via CANA) or the Southern Cone. Imagine my surprise to read her blog account of "Chasing Archbishop Akinola." It's a riot! Apparently, this man has better handlers and tighter security than the President of the United States, and more like the Pope.

Having tried and failed several times to schedule an interview with Akinola, Duin attends the CANA Church of the Epiphany service, at which Akinola was consecrating four more "Nigerian" bishops on December 9th.

Archbishop Akinola during the procession into the Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, Va., where CANA consecrated four new bishops. (Photo by Kelly Oliver, CRC Public Relations)

Here's a snippet of Julia "Nancy Drew" Duin's diligent and creative efforts to reach Akinola at church that day:

As the service ended, the musicians struck up "The Church's One Foundation" and all the clergy prepared to recess out the back door into a reception area. I positioned myself just outside the sanctuary so I could catch his eye. As Archbishop Akinola processed out, I saw he was surrounded by a phalanx of people in front, alongside and in back of him, who were marching him through the reception area and down a hallway. I followed.

The archbishop stopped in front of a door while the phalanx protectively grouped itself around him. Then he disappeared. It took me a few seconds to realize he'd slipped up a back stairway. As the door was blocked by the phalanx, I headed back into the reception area and down another hallway where I found a second stairway. Racing up that, I began heading down the hall toward Bishop Minns' office — where I knew the archbishop must be hiding out.

But, horrors, into the hallway strode Bishop Minns himself. Spotting me, plus possibly other folks who wanted to see the archbishop, he zipped into his office and shut the door. Stationed outside was a priest from the Falls Church — one of the local congregations that has departed the Episcopal Church.

I showed up at Bishop Minns' door and the priest/bodyguard, who happened to be built like a football player, blocked my way. "I'm sorry, Julia," he said, "but … " as he maneuvered me toward an exit door. Well, hmmm. What's a reporter to do? Unless I wanted to start a rumble or use tear gas, my options were limited.

Here's the conclusion of her article:
What is it about us journalists that Archbishop Akinola is so afraid of? Does he not trust himself with us? Or don't his subordinates trust him? This is an era of tape recordings and video, so misquotes can be proven and dispatched with very quickly. Or, more troubling, doesn't the archbishop consider himself accountable? Apparently not.
A grateful hat-tip to Simon Sarmiento and Thinking Anglicans for this link.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No Girls Allowed

The Falls Church [VA] News Press carries this story about the work of the CANA Anglicans. Their story was headlined: "Defectors from Episcopal Church Revert to Ban on Women Priests."

Never mind that the recently-minted bishop Minns says he can hold his "two integrities." While trying to hold two integrities, apparently he has to throw one of them into the dustbin.

The article begins:

Not only does it denounce homosexuality, but it turns out the new, Nigerian-linked association of defectors from the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. also rejects the notion of women in the priesthood, at least for the time being. This is the group that a majority of parishioners at historic The Falls Church voted to align with a year ago.

But while this group, which currently occupies the facilities at The Falls Church pending the outcome of a lawsuit next month, has stepped back from gender and sexual equality, those who did not vote to defect, calling themselves “Continuing Episcopalians,” have become a thriving force in the City of Falls Church. Gathering to worship “off site” weekly, they’ve most recently struck a partnership with a local non-profit to help disadvantaged families over the holidays that has been hailed by Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner.

As for the defectors, the new so-called Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), described as a “mission” of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, held a ceremony in Herndon, Virginia, last week to consecrate four new bishops, all male and two from Nigeria. The ceremony was led by CANA head Rev. Martyn Minns of Fairfax’s Truro Church, another defecting congregation.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Minns said, “At this time, the Church of Nigeria, to which we owe canonical obedience, has no provision for the ordination of women.”

By aligning with the Nigerian church, therefore, CANA repudiated a decision taken by the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. in 1976 to permit the ordination of women.

Minns added, “I am fully aware that this is a topic of concern for many clergy and congregations throughout CANA and one that produces intense reactions.”

He said he’s appointed a task force to study the matter from the standpoint of what he called “two integrities” of the issue, namely, adamant opposition to the ordination of women, on the one hand, and an array of alternatives ranging from some diminished role for women in the leadership of the church to ordination, on the other.
“We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women in the life and leadership of the church,” he said. “We will do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored.”

But Minns did not offer any further clarification on how both opponents and supporters of the ordination of women would come away happy.

I wonder. How do the women in CANA and its affiliates – including the women who are priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh – feel about this development? Are those women beginning to accept that (according to their new overseers) they were "ontologically incapable" of having been made priests in the first place? Are they beginning to recognize that their "female parts" make them as hated as are the homosexuals in those dioceses? It will be interesting to see what comes of the women who are priests – or are they now "priests in quotation marks"? – in those schismatic dioceses.

Hat-tip to Ann for the link to this article.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Alphabet Soup

Back on my essay regarding Schofield's Ex-Gay Closet , Mary Ailes objected to my admittedly too-short and flippant synopsis of the history of the schismatics. I've asked some friends and correspondents to help me fill in the background.

Larry reminds us:

Foundations Daily was the daily Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) journal covering the proceedings of the 1994 General Convention in Indianapolis. It was not the official newspaper of that convention, or of the Episcopal Church's media. ESA was a conservative and schismatic group, of which John-David Schofield and many of the other players in the present conflict were leaders; their pet peeves were/are ordination of women, acceptance of LGBT people in the life of the Church, and the ordination thereof.While ESA has ceased to exist, the same leadership has persisted in other succeeding organizational incarnations, such as Forward in Faith North America.
My friend, Pamela Darling, has provided this brief summary of the recent history of schismatics in the Episcopal Church. Several of you will recognize Pam's name, as she was Special Assistant to the President of the House of Deputies (Dr. Pamela Chinnis) from 1991-2000. Pam is also the author of New Wine (Cowley, 1994). She provides this "genealogy" of some groups that have splintered-off from the Episcopal Church, and she graciously gave me permission to quote her. I'm grateful, since she is so much more knowledgeable than I.

[Note: I was not able to find URL references to the early schismatic groups, as their activities pre-date the availability of Web references.]
The genealogy of the various "traditionalist" organizations is complex and getting more so, partly because of disagreements on matters such as the ordination of women, partly because of strategic differences, partly because of personal animosities.

Over the years there have been many organizations opposed to actions of the Episcopal Church. The leadership includes great overlap, as one organization morphed into another. A family tree of the major ones active in the 20th century would show: ACU > ECM > EU + ESA > FiF + many evangelical groups.

The American Church Union (ACU) was a high church group very active in the 1960s and early '70s in the fight against the ordination of women and the 1979 BCP. It was joined politically with the Prayer Book Society (PBS), a more evangelical group which also opposed the BCP and the ordination of women. Prior the 1973 General Convention, the opposition to women's ordination was coordinated by the Coalition/Fellowship of Concerned Churchman (CCC/FCC).

Evangelical & Catholic Mission (ECM) formed in 1976, after women's ordination was approved, and included some of the ACU and PBS folks. The ACU gradually disappeared, but the PBS continued. ECM was committed to remaining within the Episcopal Church.

Called by the FCC, the 1977 Congress in St Louis brought together these folks plus many others who were unhappy with the new prayer book, the ordination of women, or both. Some formed the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which has splintered into many other groups (with many bishops) in the years since. Others supported the ECM as a way to work for change within the church.

In 1987, a political action group called Episcopalians United for Revelation, Renewal and Reformation (EURRR, or simply EU) was established, connected with the then-new Trinity seminary in Pittsburgh. It was evangelical, and drew some folks from the ECM because EU supported the ordination of women (lukewarmly), but opposed women bishops, inclusive language, abortion and homosexuality.

In September 1988 Barbara Harris was elected suffragan bishop of Massachusetts. EU rallied in opposition and the ECM declared "the final crisis" of the church, calling for a "synod" in Fort Worth. The 1989 Fort Worth Synod established the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA), involving most of the ECM folks who had not departed for EU. The leadership of ESA was very similar to that of ECM, and ECM folded its tents.

In 1991, ESA created a "Missionary Diocese" for hard-liners, led by a retired TEC bishop; it left TEC the next year.

In June 1999, staunch Anglo-Catholic opponents of women's ordination created – from the remains of ESA – a group linked with the English organization, Forward in Faith, calling the USA group Forward in Faith, North America (FiF/NA). Other less Anglo-Catholic groups gathered steam, some for and some against women's ordination.

In 2000, two American Episcopal clergy were ordained in Singapore by bishops from Rwanda and the Province of South East Asia, for a new entity called the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA).

Players on the scene today arise from this contrarian environment. Splits and combinations can often be traced to the personalities and ambitions of individual leaders. The list of founding members of the Common Cause Partnership (CCP), established in October 2007, included both "continuing" churches and organizations still functioning within TEC: the American Anglican Council (AAC); the Anglican Communion Network (ACN); the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA); the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC); the Anglican Province of America (APA); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA); the Anglican Essentials Federation (AEF); Forward in Faith, North America (FIF/NA); and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).
Reading this brief history, I am reminded of Elizabeth Kaeton's oft-repeated mantra: Dead Wood Splinters. And this cartoon from Dave Walker illustrates it well. cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Now, I find it especially hilarious that CANA bishop Martyn Minns is willing to "live into the tension" of "two integrities" within the current schismatic group. Folks like Kendall Harmon and StandFirm have quoted the Fairfax Times article about the latest "Anglican" consecrations, which stated:

The Episcopal Church has allowed for the ordination of women since its 1976 General Convention but Minns said that CANA [. . . ] is currently split on the issue.

The four new bishops consecrated on Sunday were all male.

“I am fully aware that this is a topic of concern for many clergy and congregations throughout CANA and one that produces intense reactions,” Minns said Thursday.
He informed the audience that he has appointed a task force to address the two “integrities” of the issue – those who believe women should not be ordained and those who feel women can serve in some yet undefined capacity, perhaps including priesthood, congregational oversight and serving as bishops, or perhaps not.

“We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women, in the life and leadership of the church. We will do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored,” he stated.

To me, this is hilarious.

The leaders of the Common Cause Partnership met this week, and they have issued their communiqué. (Episcopal News Service carried the story here.) They are trying to assemble those who embrace the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and those who find it heretical … those who happily ordain women and those who insist that women are "ontologically incapable" of becoming priests … those who worship in a high Anglo-Catholic style and those who worship by waving their hands in the air or falling down on the floor as they are "slain in the Spirit."

What's the one and only thread that binds together all the splinters that Pam Darling has outlined? They all agree to hate the homosexuals.

Let's hear it for the Common Cause.

Update/Edit 12.21.07: In the comments below, Ann observes that the Anglican Centrist gives a history of the various groups here. It's well worth reading. My post here is talking more about the "genealogy" of the groups; his talks about the "politics" of the groups and how they aligned. It's well worth taking a trip over there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Assault on Christmas

Ann Fontaine is one of my favorite writers, bloggers, and correspondents. She posted her Advent 3 sermon at What the Tide Brings In. The whole sermon is worth reading.

You may remember my rant about the Christmas hoop-la in the U.S. here and here. Thus, I especially appreciated this part of Ann's sermon:

Today I received this letter in my email - usually I delete them but I found this one spoke to our readings - especially James.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas (slightly edited for Episcopalians)

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are removing My name from the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year -- it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually the time of pagan festival. Of course, I do appreciate being remembered at any time.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, here's how: GET ALONG WITH EACH AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on... If it bothers you that the town where you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen in your own front yard and put out your own Nativity scene. If all of My followers did that, there wouldn't be any need for a display in the town square because there would already be so many all around your community.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made ALL trees. You can remember Me any time you see ANY tree. Decorate a grapevine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten what I said, look up John 15: 1- 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wishlist.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President to complain about the wording on the White House cards this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then do it! It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. People in your town will attempt to take their own lives this season because they feel so alone and hopeless. Since you don't know who they are, give everyone you meet a warm smile -- it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit-picking about what retailers call this holiday, be patient with the people who work for them. Give each a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support organizations like Episcopal Relief and Development, who are working for better lives for refugees, prisoners, people suffering from diseases that are easily curable with a small amount of money, giving tools and resources so people can support their families.

9. There are individuals and families in your town who will not only have no "Christmas" tree, but also no presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, take some food and gifts to a charity who will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do or say things that you wouldn't do or say in My presence. Remember -- When you speak badly of my children, you are speaking badly of Me; when you treat each other badly, you do the same to Me. Let people know by your words and actions that you are one of Mine.

Don't get so worked up about what you think are slights about me that occur in the material world. I am God and I can take care of Myself. I am not diminished by those things.

Instead, simply love Me and do what I have asked you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love.

It reminds me of the stupid memo we received recently from our Governor, giving all us state employees permission to say "Merry Christmas" to our co-workers and clients. What a piece of politically-motivated hooey! People in my office have been wishing one another "Merry Christmas" since the day after Thanksgiving. … Not me, of course. I'm still striving to dig deep into the season of Advent. I'll save my "Merry Christmas" greetings for December 25, as God intended. … But this Governor with aspirations to higher office expects he can score some evangelical "bona fides" points with his useless little memo.

As far as I can tell, Christmas out here in the heartland is not under attack by any godless heathens, atheists, or secular humanists. The real assault is coming from supposed "Christians" who think it's more important to put a nativity scene on the courthouse square than to care for the hopeless people in their own communities. The assault is coming from "Christians" who must buy the latest electronic device (costing hundreds of dollars) for themselves or their children, while tossing a ten-spot into the offering plate. The assault comes from "Christians" who are quite willing to spend several hours at the mall, who then grumble if the Sunday service goes more than 75 minutes.

Who's assaulting Christmas?

Oh! and lest you think I'm just a grouchy old Grinch: I'm writing this while listening to NPR with some marvelous medieval and Renaissance-era Christmas music. I find it holy and inspirational and altogether uplifting. I do not find it uplifting to hear Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer on the commercial radio stations, nor Jingle Bell Rock in the retail establishments around here. I ask you: Who's taking Christ out of Christmas??

Let's have a little reverence in this most holy of seasons, shall we?


I subscribe to only two daily feeds. One is Barbara Crafton's "almost-daily" E-mo series, and the other is Lane Denson's "Out of Nowhere." I really love the one he published today: "Closets."

The story about the Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth seems to have caught Lane's attention. The story broke in the Dallas Morning News on December 2, and has been reported in several other places, including the Christian Post, the Baptist Press, and the dear MadPriest's site.

Here's Lane's unique take on the whole thing.
There’s a Baptist church over in Ft Worth, Texas, celebrating its 125th anniversary. A part of the celebration is to make a pictorial directory. You’d think that’s simple enough, but the elders are struggling with what has become for them a monumental question. It has to do with photographs and whether to include them.

It seems to be an inclusive church, and as such sets an example. But they’re debating whether the directory should go ahead and include pictures of gay couples, or gay people individually, but not as couples, or even as families, or just whether to avoid the problem altogether by leaving out individual and family photos entirely. I suppose it’s as it should be that they aren’t so much closing the door on anybody, but they aren’t all that specially proud about it and apparently don’t want anybody to know all about it.

So, what if they do include photos of everybody? How will they know who’s who? And what if they prove to be wrong about somebody? Actually, they just might be overlooking a good thing.

All would surely agree that church can be said to be just one big prayer meeting, especially on Sundays. And remember what Jesus said about when you pray, not to stand around carrying on in public on the street corners, but pray, instead, in a convenient closet. If you try to decide how to make a big church more like a closet so you could pray there like Jesus said, it would seem to me that gays and lesbians would be of considerable help. Imagine the experience they could bring to bear on this rather well-known Jesus requirement. And in the doing, just think about how much the church elders could learn about closets if only they would ask. As for photographs, Jesus never said much about that either.
I love ya, man!!

Of course, I nicked the above image from MadPriest, simply because he's a genius, and because I have the gift of admiring genius ... in MadPriest and in Lane Denson, among others.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Least Favorite Things

It's been a long, tiring week. I'm rather sick of the whole thing.

I can just imagine Julie Andrews singing, "These are a few of my least favorite things . . ."

I know it doesn't scan, but bear with me.

I'm tired of . . .

. . . tinpot dictators in mitres

. . . "reporters" who don't bother to get the basic facts of the story, much less the grammar

. . . posturing and grandstanding on all sides

. . . the false equity of attributing excesses to all sides when it's clearly one side that's gone over the top

. . . blaming God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit for what humans have decided to do for their own convenience

. . . Calvinists masquerading as Anglicans

. . . Narcissists masquerading as Episcopalians

. . . spineless boys in pointy hats

. . . Primates and primate wannabes

. . . sophomoric frat-boy humor from adolescents in collars

. . . dolorous pronouncements of doom and sadness from closet cases in collars

. . . gluttons in collars proclaiming that homosexuality is merely the indulgence of an appetite

. . . strained analogies to works by CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien

. . . obsequious worship of CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien

. . . obsequious worship of Bob Dylan or some other rock god by conservatives trying to look hip for their kids

. . . conservatives trying to look hip while they rail against Baby Boomers and declare that nothing good has happened since 1959

. . . ex-Marxist red diaper babies who talk neo-conservative but walk like Lenin and Stalin

. . . priests who announce they are "renouncing" TEC when what they're really doing is taking "30-and-out" retirement with full benefits, sacrificing nothing

. . . white Southerners who suddenly make common cause with Africans (with Oxbridge accents), but wouldn't give an African-American the time of day

. . . Africans who don' t have much use for African-Americans either

. . . people who are sure the voice of the majority is the voice of God, until they're in the minority

. . . people who are sure the voice of the minority is the voice of God, until they're in the majority

. . . straight people who spend more time thinking about homosexual sex than homosexuals do

. . . people who just started reading the Bible last year who think they know more about it than the people who've spent a lifetime studying it

. . . Episcopalians with a high sense of entitlement

Add your own.

[Update 12/17/07: Do read the comments. Some of them are much better than my initial offerings.]

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cavalcade of Bad Nativities

Hooray! The Cavalcade of Bad Nativities is back, thanks to Sarah, over at Going Jesus. Her piquant comments are as good as (and often better than) the nativities she depicts.

Here's one of my "favorites" so far.

It appears she's posting a new one each day. So add this to your daily blog-reading.

Hat-tip to Lee for letting me know the 2007 cavalcade is now open for business.


What do you think is the lynchpin of Christian morality or (put another way) of moral orthodoxy? I tend to think first of the Great Commandments that Jesus gave us in Matthew: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But now, having read David Virtue's recent essay, I see I've been oh so wrong. The Great One hath spake:

By giving a pass to The Episcopal Church, Williams has effectively nullified Lambeth 1:10, the lynchpin of Anglican moral orthodoxy, a resolution that was overwhelmingly passed by the bishops of the church in 1998.
Yes, there you have it. For Anglicans of a certain stripe, the lynchpin of moral orthodoxy is Lambeth 1.10. Is that a hoot or what?

As Elizabeth+ often says: Ya just can't make this stuff up!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Feast and Famine

Remember my rant a while back about the obscenity that is the typical American expression of Christmas? While surfing today, I came across this marvelous image constructed by ePisc0pal0oza.

That juxtaposition pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

It speaks to our American (and Western) excess in the midst of a world of want.

I am struck – on this day when the Archbishop of Canterbury issued his "Advent message" – that we Anglicans are still quibbling over trifles while most of the world lies in want.

ePisc0pal0oza, this really is a case where one image is worth a thousand words. Well done!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Venables and Schofield

I take it as part of my job to "patrol the blogosphere," and part of that job requires my checking out what they're doing at TEC-hating sites like "Virtue" and StandFirm.

Imagine my hilarity when I found this tonight at Virtue. David Virtue writes, after the San Joaquin vote:

I spoke with Archbishop Venables in the Argentine [sic] by phone this week and he seemed very humbled by it all. There was not a hint of pleasure or one-upmanship in the whole discussion. He was, in fact, somewhat saddened that what he was doing was what needed to be done. He is NOT trying to upstage the Archbishop of Canterbury or send him any "message". All he is doing is rescuing flocks from false shepherds -- out of necessity.
Help me understand this.

Back in October, Archbishop Rowan Williams wrote to Episcopal Bishop John Howe that as long as one is in a diocese that's in communion with Canterbury, one's place within the Anglican Communion is secure. Bishop Howe used that letter to assure his diocese there's no need to flee to another province. [Some of you will recall that Williams' letter was so bizarre that his office later issued a clarification here.]

But Bishop Cavalcanti of Recife (in Brazil) fled to the Southern Cone back in mid-2005, and – as a result – was not invited to the Lambeth Conference. In other words, neither he nor his faux diocese is in communion with Canterbury.

Now, in an effort to be an "orthodox Anglican," Schofield has taken the one step that seems clearly to put oneself outside the Anglican Communion.

Can somebody explain this to me?


Postscript: Incidentally, in that same story, Virtue plagiarizes the story I broke here yesterday. Of course, he doesn't credit me, nor does he cite the source I found. But that's nothing new. Even Greg Griffith at StandFirm has gone ballistic a couple of times over Virtue's unrepentant plagiaristic lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Schofield's Ex-Gay Closet

I expect most of you bloggers have site meters from which you get some information about who is visiting your site. I have one, too. It has been interesting to me to see that – especially in the past ten days or so (since Bishop Schofield took many of his "true believers" out of the Episcopal Church) – many hits to my site are coming from people doing a Web search on terms like "Schofield gay" or "Bishop Schofield celibate homosexual." They land on my site because of this essay I posted back on November 22, 2006.

Back when I posted that essay, I took a lot of flak. My site statistics went through the roof. Right-wing folks charged me with slander or libel for daring to state that Bishop John-David Schofield was a "celibate homosexual." The folks who stole the Episcopal Majority domain name called me "TEM's Loose Cannon." The very sick woman in Canada called it a lie, and said I should be "charged with libel and defamation." The gang at StandFirm had the funniest article: "Lisa Fox Hits Bottom, Digs." Fortunately, even Brad Drell and Greg Griffith (of StandFirm) confirmed my story that Bishop Schofield is a recovering (or celibate) homosexual. [Drell's confirmation is only available on the WayBack Machine because of his blog changeover; his link no longer works.]

Some of them kept hammering away. They challenged me to come up with "proof positive." Apparently, it wasn't enough that various people (ranging from Brad Drell to Elizabeth Kaeton) had heard Bishop John-David Schofield brag he was a "celibate homosexual" who had "exorcised" homosexuality from other men. They wanted a smoking gun.

At the time I wrote my essay, I had plenty of verbal and anecdotal evidence. Today I found one part of that "smoking gun" in print.

Digging through some archives, today I found another story that is helpful. It appeared in the 1994/95 issue of the Voice of Integrity newsletter. Before you open this link, remember that back in the early 1990s, the dissidents had created an organization they called the "Episcopal Synod of America" or ESA. [Now they call themselves by names like the "Anglican Communion Network" or the "American Anglican Council" or "CANA," but it's really the same people harping on the same tired old themes, especially the "TEC is apostate" theme.] Back then, the ESA issued a daily newsletter during General Convention, to keep the faithful informed.

Here is the article I found in the Fall 1994/Winter 1995 issue of The Voice of Integrity, gleaned from the ESA convention journal. Click on the image to see the full-size page.

Here's a cropped-down transcript of the article. Click on it to see it larger, or trust this transcript I've prepared:

Bishop Outs Himself in Interview

One member of the Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy who strongly opposed the study of blessings was Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin. In an amazingly frank interview with Foundations Daily, the ESA journal at convention, Schofield said his opposition was based on his own experience at New Creation Ministries, an "ex-gay" program in Fresno. Although Bishop Schofield had previously told members of his clergy that he was a "cured homosexual," this is believed to be the first time he did so in print, albeit not as explicitly. He said he could not support "liturgies which purport to celebrate a lifestyle which I have seen as destructive." The article continues: "Bishop Schofield sees 'waverers' falling into the homosexual lifestyle because of the 'mixed message' which the Church is giving them." The article concludes with a Schofield statement that could have been made by Integrity: "The Church will be held responsible ultimately for the lives that have been destroyed, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically."
I return where I started. I am willing to recognize that Bishop Schofield is not a "practicing homosexual." But I remain perplexed by the self-loathing that has led him to take such a virulent stand against gay men and lesbians in our church.

I recognize that I was born and raised to be a right proper racist. I recognize that I have not yet shed all the vestiges of my early-and-deeply-ingrained racism. The best I can do is to recognize it when I see it.

I wonder what demons Bishop Schofield is still fighting, as he deals with his "recovering homosexual" identity. To be sure, he hates homosexuals even more than he hates the women whom he will not ordain to the priesthood.

Now, at least, we have some facts about his "ex-gay" identity.

= = = = = = = = =

Addendum 12/19/07: BabyBlue [a.k.a. Mary Ailes] commented here that I had been sloppy in my references to the earlier schismatic movements in (and out of) the Episcopal Church. She was entirely correct. I have spent some a few days doing my research, and have now posted Alphabet Soup, in which I tried a bit harder to pull the threads together.