Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lambeth Thoughts

The bishops at the Lambeth Conference have been talking a great deal about an "Anglican Covenant." Never mind that this arises from the Windsor Report, which never had any real authority. Never mind that no representative body has asked for a written covenant. The "primates" are all het-up to have a confessional document, and now their agenda has oozed into the bishops' meeting. A report commissioned by the Archbishop and issued by a very few people has now taken on the odor of Holy Writ. I don't really understand why or how that happened, but almost everybody who wears a purple shirt seems to believe that The Windsor Report and The Holy Bible now warrant nearly equivalent attention.

So the Windsor Report that nobody really authorized has now called for an Anglican Covenant which nobody has authorized. Neither of those idols has any authority ... except that the whole Anglican Communion has been dancing to their tunes.

So they have been commanding a fair bit of attention.

Please read Bishop Carol Gallagher's marvelous comments on "constancy and covenant." Because she is "only" a suffragan bishop, she's not at Lambeth, but she well articulates what I have been sensing about the move toward a legal "covenant." Let me quote at length the opening of her essay:

We have a cat named Darla (the dog's name is Petey) who has just turned six months. She is still a kitten in some senses but she is approaching that age when she will be considered fully grown. The dog and the cat (both girls) love to play together, fighting without hurting and chasing each other around then flopping down and sleeping side by side. They are constant in their companionship. And every morning, Darla, without fail, will scratch on our bedroom door for admittance, and find her favorite spot on the bed, rubbing her nose against who ever might be closest by. Constancy in relationship. She is persistent and soft, willing at all times to be cuddled and scratched. Petey likewise follows me around, sits in the office with me and want to go for rides in the car, especially to the train station when Mark is commuting home. Constancy and faithfulness. Yes, they respond to us because we feed them and care for them, but there is something more. The bond is deeper.

The conversation at Lambeth has been focused on Covenant. I am concerned that covenant is how we legislate when we don't have the desire for constancy and faithfulness. We have decided that prescribing a written remedy is better than finding a way to be constant in our love and care for one another. We maybe haven't fed each other enough, we haven't depended upon each other enough, we haven't wanted the companionship enough to evoke constancy and faithfulness. Have we spent enough time listening to each other, both in demands and in purring, in light and in darkness? Have we held each other close as the world closed in around us? Constancy and faithfulness don't need a covenant, they need a loving desire for the presence of others.

At The Lead, Jim Naughton wonders:
If, like me, you are beginning to worry that this interminable dispute is bad for the member provinces of the Anglican Communion--that we may be damaging churches in order to save the organization to which they belong--then you may take a dimmer view. Is it possible that relationships among members of the Communion would actually improve if the Communion did not exist? That is what I am starting to wonder.
Mark Harris expects the Anglican Communion to die in its present form, that something new may be born:
Something is going to give soon, and it will not be pretty. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Afterwards there will be a place of refreshment. But afterwards we can get on with the things that make each of our churches an instrument of God's unfolding will for the people of God.
I have watched the events of the Anglican Communion too closely over the past five years. Frankly, I am ready for the present reality of the Anglican Communion to die. It has become a mechanism of oppression and death. Nowadays, I do not want to admit to being an "Anglican," for that term has become synonymous with a sexuality-obsessed mechanism of hatred. Too often now, when talking with friends, I have to clarify that I am an Episcopalian, but not an "Anglican," for I have to distance myself from the hatemongers who have captured the "Anglican" brand.

Please God, let something new and life-giving arise from the ashes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rowan Puzzles Me

I have read and re-read Archbishop Rowan Williams' "presidential address" at Lambeth. I am reminded me of the times when I graded English papers and had to say "A good effort, but it doesn't hold together." I appreciate what he tried to do.

Here's the thing that struck me today.

Rowan tries to cast the Anglican Communion as a family:

Some have expressed unhappiness about the ‘legalism’ implied in a covenant. But we should be clear that good law is about guaranteeing consistence and fairness in a community; and also that in a community like the Anglican family, it can only work when there is free acceptance.
"Free acceptance"? What kind of "free acceptance" does he see within this Anglican Communion? All I hear is people from the "right" calling us heretics, and people from the "left" asking for more forbearance.

What is Archbishop Williams' solution? How does he want to reform the Anglican Communion, tie the bonds more tightly? How does he want to bind us more closely to one another? By slamming a legal system onto the Anglican Communion, by enforcing a juridical covenant upon the Communion, by enforcing a code of legalism on the Anglican Communion. He wants to take the Windsor Report and move it up to the status of Holy Writ.

Sorry, but I'm not buying it.

Is this guy bipolar or something?

Maybe that's how things work in Rowan Williams' family, but it's not how it works in my family. In my family, I have a lot of people whom I don't much like. But we are family. It never once occurred to me that we should establish a written, legal document to govern our interactions.

No. We muddle along, trusting the family bonds.

I appreciate what Rowan Williams tried to say and do in his "presidential address." But I believe he has completely missed the point. His response to the "family dispute" is to establish a hateful legal contract. I think he correctly framed the dispute. But I believe he is totally, completely, and fatally missing the mark when he tries to suggest a solution. He rightly sees we are having a family feud. But he is completely off the mark, and he reveals his paternalism, when he tries to suggest that the solution is a legal contract that will send the scapegoats off into the wild.

So near ... and yet so far.

Clashing of Cultures

Deborah Goldfeder, a member of our diocese and a nurse and spiritual sister, spent six months in the Diocese of Lui (southern Sudan) in 2006. I cannot begin here to tell her whole story; only she can tell that story.

What I can say now is that when I landed in Lui, Deb had already been there about three months, and she was a sister to me. She did more than anyone else to help me understand the culture of our friends in Lui. ... And, someday, when I tell the story I haven't yet told about my time in Lui, Deb figures in it very large.

During the six months Deb served in Lui, she posted several of her stories on her parish website. But this one has always caught my attention. With Deb's permission, I am posting it here. It says much about the Sudanese view of marriage. And it says much about those of us who don't fit into the Sudanese view of marriage.

Clashing of Cultures
Deb Goldfeder
June 2007

“Mama Deborah, how many children you have?” “I never had any children.” “Oh! Sorry!”

That conversation took place time and time again in Lui. People were always curious about my life in America but I suspect questioning how many children I had revealed more about the Sudanese people than my answers did about me. They didn’t understand how my husband would permit me to travel so far away from him. That he was home and looking out for his father was beyond their comprehension especially since there were no daughters at home to help him out. Admittedly, Ron took on a great many more responsibilities while I was gone but I never doubted he would manage nor did he.

The people working at the compound were laughing one morning about a visiting Egyptian-American couple who had come to the hospital for a month. The man was a physician but his wife had no medical training. Still she came to the hospital with him. They occasionally walked to work and were seen holding hands. It was scandalous! No Sudanese woman would be seen walking with her husband let alone holding hands with him. Only rarely did I know which woman was married to which man. I finally decided they must be married to the one they were never seen with! I never saw anyone kiss anyone else—not even a mother kissing her child. It just didn’t happen, at least not in public.

In recent memory, marriages were arranged between families but now people are at least able to choose the ones they will marry. The elders of the families must approve the marriage and the leaders of the community decide if it will take place. They must assure that they are not related to each other. There is a dowry that must be paid (in cash, cattle, tools or arrows) to compensate the families for the loss of their labors. Then the bride must live and work in the husband’s family compound for four days without eating! She had to do this to prove that she was strong enough to manage through the hard times to come. When I tried to explain what weddings were like in America, I might have been speaking Greek. Our cultures are very different. Our world views are very different, too. Imagine marrying someone for romantic reasons! Ridiculous! A honeymoon spent laboring for your mother-in-law without eating? Absurd!

I was asked about a woman who was unmarried that came from America. Where is her husband? She never married, I replied. Oh. There was a woman surgeon from America who had been asked many times where her husband was. She said during a sermon at chapel one morning that she asked God that very question all the time, “God, where is my husband?” The Sudanese giggled at her question but they would have another solution to the problem. If no marriage could be arranged for her, she could be a co-wife or she would live in another family member’s compound. She certainly wouldn’t be working as a surgeon and living independently.

The doctor with whom I worked was the resident expert with ultrasounds so I found myself helping him after pediatric rounds. We saw many women who were having abdominal pain. Their husbands would bring them to the doctor for a “scan” regularly but we rarely found anything wrong with them. I came to understand that these women were having fertility problems and were desperate for any hope they would become pregnant. One was a member of the family of a nurse with whom I worked and he begged me to counsel her. He was concerned for her mental status but she never returned to meet with me. Folk remedies would be tried, too. Some families took in children when they were orphaned but there weren’t formal adoptions nor were there orphanages. The children were accepted into families because families needed children.

Children (especially girl children) worked from the time they understood directions.
They carried loads of sticks on their heads, pounded bricks into powder to make red paint for houses, worked in gardens, carried water when they could lift the cans onto their heads, carried their little brothers on their hips until they could walk and any other task they could manage. Mothers needed these helpers in order to manage the compounds. The young people also helped to care for the elders in the community. It was not an option to choose not to have children! When you consider that half the children die before the age of five and many more die from war and famine, one might have eight children but only see two grow into adulthood and have their own children.

We in the Episcopal Church USA are facing conflict from within our own communion and from the Anglican Communion at large. Nigerian Archbishop Akinola has recently named an American bishop for breakaway congregations here in the US. The Nigerian Archbishop can point to laws of Moses and writings of Paul that say that homosexual behavior is against God’s will. We on the other side can point to all the things that Jesus said about homosexuality (nothing at all) and say how right we are about God’s law. Gay people here have asked me about their brothers and sisters in Sudan and, I can honestly say, that while I believe that (like here) some 10% of the population was gay, I never saw any I could identify. It just wasn’t an option. Gay unions, they believe, would not produce children. It was, if you will forgive the pun, inconceivable in the Sudanese world view and probably in the world view of most of Africa.

I have strongly supported the Oasis community here and I believe that unions between two men or two women can reveal God’s love to our community just as that between a man and a woman but that is my world view and not the world view of Akinola or some others. They believe I am wrong and I am certain they are! But that doesn’t get us anywhere. We must listen to each other and we must not say that we have no need for each other. We have to remember our own histories and witness to others about our experiences. It will take time and courage on both sides of the conversation.

You see, a family in Sudan without children, my friends finally explained to me, “…is a family that is already dead.” “Oh, sorry!”

Where Next?

I have written here quite openly about my frustrations about the Sudanese Archbishop's comments and what that may mean for my continued relationship with the Diocese of Lui (in southern Sudan). I was caught short and breathless by a comment that a friend made to me personally. She said:

Why I think Missouri should stay in relationship with Sudan – I read your friend the priest - letter – think of 2 people – I immediately thought of that gay or lesbian person in the Sudan who might receive a glimmer of hope meeting you – you might not even know she shook your hand while you were there – but she knows and holds that moment as a ray of light in a very scary night.
That comment took my breath away. And I'll confess it made me realize I had been focusing too much on "me-me-me." My hurt. My anger.

It felt very weird for me to spend time in southern Sudan. I wasn't overtly gay. God knows I desperately tried to fit in. But I know I'm a lesbian. Throughout my time there, I kinda felt like I had a purple "L" on my forehead. No matter how much I tried to fit in, I knew I was different.

And the people of Lui continually reminded me I was different. They were forever asking me, "Where is your husband?" or "Who is your husband?" I kept saying I didn't have one. They would ask me if I had children. I had to say I had none. They were unfailingly polite, but it always felt to me like they went away shaking their heads. How could a 50-year-old woman have no husband and no children?? Because I wanted to honor them and not cause a ruckus, I never took the conversation further. Maybe this is my fault. Perhaps I should have told them who and what I am, rather than saying I have no husband and no children. At the time, I was just trying to avoid being scandalous.

Thank you for reminding me of the larger scope.

Our bishop has already agreed to squeeze in a meeting with the Companion Diocese Committee right after he returns from Lambeth. I am truly grateful. Many people in our diocese are feeling angry now. I am committed to finding a way to make it not "either/or" but "both/and." We have to find a way to continue to support our friends in Lui while also honoring the gay men and lesbians in our diocese. How to do that? I do not yet know. But I believe that both the friends in Lui and my friends in Missouri deserve to be honored and respected.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Would I Leave TEC?

Others are playing the parlor game I suggested last night, and I'm glad they are. I'm sure there are other, powerful voices, but these are just a few I have noticed tonight.

Cany (who is definitely more than "Just Another Black Sheep") tells a moving story about how he found his way back to the Episcopal Church, only to contemplate having to separate from it. Read it all here, but I found this especially moving:

There is a hollow place in my heart in typing this, reading the words that I myself am typing about my potential for leaving a church I have come to so love and respect. I don't let things go easily. This will be no different. I will have to reflect carefully and pray a lot over the many, many months to come. I can kneel at the rail with those who fully disagree with me. I cannot, however, belong to a church that doesn't respect all people and/or which does not include all people in every level of its Episcopacy.The simple matter of it is, however, that if TEC truly does not welcome all because of "who" someone is, then I don't belong there, either. While I am straight, if those who are not are not treated as I am, I simply cannot abide that, spiritually. Reject them, reject me.While some have chattered that Lambeth makes little difference, I do not share that view. I am fully set to accept that TEC leaves or is tossed out of the Anglican Communion or is considered an impaired Communion member. I can live with that. I cannot, however, live with TEC that rejects full inclusion in our church.
Even MadPriest quits fooling around and gets very, very serious here. He suggests the bishops at Lambeth face two options and "option one" is "going for a policy, wrapped up disingenuously in claims of unity and democracy, that excludes gay people from full personhood and membership of the Church." He concludes:

The problem for those of us in the Anglican Church who are not bishops is that, should our leaders go for option one we will all become complicit in their treachery and responsible for all future acts of violence against gay people, just as I would have been guilty for the deaths in Iraq had I voted for Blair a second time. This will become even more acute if we are forced by the proposed "Inquisition" to keep quiet about our own views. If regarding gay couples as sinful is made an equivalent doctrine to believing in the Incarnation of Christ, any Anglican of integrity will have just two choices: to leave the church they love or to publicly condemn the doctrines of the Church until the Inquisition throws them out.
I was also moved by the commentary offered by James here, at The Three Legged Stool:

I really like the bit [quoting Damian Thompson in Monday's Telegraph] “Yet hope springs eternal in the Anglican breast.” I really, really like that because it is so true. And why is it true, because Jesus goes before us and we follow in his steps.
The sad thing, though, is that Thompson, a Roman Catholic, and most of the press do not realize that this is not over sexuality or even gender: it is over power, who wields it (abuses it), and who is abused by it.
I wonder, is this the last Lambeth Conference?
I have not yet read all the analysis that has followed from the Windsor Group's "third reflection." But I certainly am not sanguine about their proposal. They demand that TEC and other churches step back from the Gospel as we have heard it, in order to cave in to the terror and hatred of the reactionaries. [Yes, I call them "reactionaries" intentionally.] Maybe the bishops gathered at Lambeth will concur with them. Maybe my own bishop will vote with them. If that happens, I will have to re-evaluate my participation in the Episcopal Church.

And let me remind you that I did that back in 2006. I took a sabbatical from TEC. I tried to find another church that offered me the faith, the faithfulness, the liturgy that I had found in TEC. I couldn't find it. If the bishops at Lambeth go with this proposal from the Windsor Group, I now recognize I will not find another church I can attend. There just aren't any out there. Instead, I will have to join the growing number of people who observe Sunday mornings at Starbucks with the New York Times.

I pray most fervently that my bishop and many other bishops will save me from that abysmal, secular retreat. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but I mean it: I pray that the bishops at Lambeth will save the Anglican Communion.

Mind you, I'm ready to ditch it. If the bishops at Lambeth cave in to the papers being offered by the Windsor Group, the Anglican Communion will be dead, and I will move on. But I hope and pray they will find another way.

The Episcopal Church was my last, best hope against fundamentalist Christianity of either the Roman or the Protestant kind. I pray the bishops at Lambeth will keep steering the middle course. But, tonight, I am not optimistic.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Are You Ready? (Part 2)

Gut-Check Time

I've given the "news" or rumor below. Time will tell how accurate Jonathan Wynne-Jones was in the Sunday evening Telegraph.

But let's play "what-if."

If the price of TEC's remaining in the Anglican Communion is to agree to no more gay/lesbian bishops and no more same-sex blessings/marriages, are you willing to pay it?

I am not.

I liked David Walker's comment (on Thinking Anglicans) that "as Anglicans our mission is to enculture the gospel along with evangelising the culture." I trust the Sudanese (and most others) to do so faithfully, as they discern the Spirit's guidance. If they do not trust us equally, then no covenant, no canon law will fix that.

It will be time to say goodbye.

Mind you, I do not believe our bishops have the authority to sign any such "covenant" or make any such promise. Thank God, in the Episcopal Church, laypeople and the other clergy have a voice. Only our General Convention has the power to make such binding promises. (Yes, the bishops can block the House of Deputies if they wish, but woe be unto them . . . )

If our bishops were to sign onto such a covenant, then shame on them for being sucked into Rowan's "all bishops all the time" Lambeth conference design. It surely is no accident that their first sessions after the retreat focused on the role of the episcopate.

But what if, in exchange for our acquiescence, Lambeth [which, of course, has no legislative power] placed analogous constraints on the episcopi vagantes? Nope, not even then. Marauding primates and bishops have poached parishes even within dioceses of so-called "orthodox" bishops, bishops who voted against +Robinson's consecration.

I've said it before, and I may have to say it again: Of all the provinces that have been in the klieg lights since Windsor, TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada are about the only provinces that are truly "Windsor-compliant." We have not consecrated any other gay/lesbian bishops. We have not authorized a rite for same-sex blessings. Our forbearance, our "exercise of restraint" (to recall the odious resolution B033 passed in 2006) has not done one red-hot thing to cool the onslaught of the so-called orthodox. Nothing will ever be enough for them. Any step of forbearance we take will be seen as a sign of weakness.

So, enough!

TEC bishops in Canterbury: Please, I beg you! remember the church that called you out and raised you up. Stand firm to what you know you have seen in the lives of your clergy and laypeople, including your gay and lesbian people. We are faithful people, seeking to heed the Gospel and seeking to reach out to a broken world.

We have had enough of the calls for restraint, of Katharine's asking us to stand in a "crucified place." We have spent too much time, far too much money, and a truly obscene amount of energy on this issue. If this next week is the moment of decision, then let it come. If they do not want us in the "inner circle," then let us be cast out. Let us not lose the soul of our beloved church for a bowl of pottage.

So then, what does this mean about TEC's relationships with other Anglican provinces and dioceses? I hope it will mean nothing. I would hope that my Diocese of Missouri could continue in some form of relationship with the Diocese of Lui in Sudan. We would still share a common heritage and the same Gospel. If it is helpful, then let the Sudanese "cast a bright white line" between "their Gospel" and "ours." I know it's the same Gospel. But when I stood with "Pastor January" [Yes, that is his real name] in 2006 in a Sudanese Moru village that had been decimated by warring Sudanese Dinka tribesmen (also from southern Sudan), he did not ask me whether I was orthodox or gay or the "right kind" of Christian. We shared fellowship and shared stories of what Christ means to us. (No doubt, his more moving to me than mine was to him.) I will still want to help him and all the others I met in Lui, regardless of whether we are "in" or "out" of the "inner circle" of the Anglican Communion.

I haven't yet read what others in the blogosphere are saying about this potential development. I wanted to write my own unvarnished reaction first; I may have more to say after I do. But now, as I mentioned earlier today, I am having a mini-vacation with friends "at the Lake." And I want to bathe myself in their friendship again … leaving the Anglican blogosphere/rumor-mill to whirl on. After all, isn't that what really matters? Real friends. Face-to-face connections. Personal bonds of affection.

Bishop Smith and others reading here, there is a cachet we have enjoyed by being "in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury." If he wants to breach that bond or send us into exile because of who and what we are, let him do so. It will be his shame, not ours.

I want to go on being the church in this place. I am tired of the battle. Let's get on with it.

Now I'm going to have drinks and dinner with my friends, who know me, who call me by name, and who call me in love to be my very best self. That's friendship. And we don't need a covenant or canon law to enforce it.

My friends and I, we meet. And we eat and drink together. And it is good.

Are You Ready?

Gut-Check Time

We've said we might have to face this possibility sooner or later. With increasing frequency, several of us Episcopalians have asked: Is the Anglican Communion worth it? Let's try on that question again.

Are you ready to be cut off from, or at least placed on the margins of the Anglican Communion?

Perhaps it will be an academic, purely theoretical exercise. But not if there's truth behind Jonathan Wynne-Jones' story posted Sunday night (BST) in the Telegraph.

[By the bye, yet another hat-tip to Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans yet again. That man has done incredible work throughout Lambeth! Where do folks like he and Ann Fontaine get the energy?]

The Jonathan Wynne-Jones story is headlined

Homosexual bishops face Anglican Church ban

and subtitled

Homosexual clergy will be barred from becoming bishops in the Anglican communion under controversial new plans backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Reading his report suggests it might be worthwhile the next few hours (or perhaps days) to ask: Does the Anglican Communion matter enough?

The story begins with a subtle leading paragraph:

Liberals will be warned that they face being expelled from the heart of Anglicanism unless they respect the ban, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
OK. He has my attention.

Then there is the obligatory background: Gene Robinson … blah blah blah … 2003 consecration … blah blah blah … TEC may appoint more such folks … blah blah blah … Wales may do the same … blah blah blah … incursions into the U.S. and Canada ... blah blah blah

He characterizes the third (not yet publicly released) paper from the Windsor Continuation Group:

The paper, "How do we get from here to there?", stresses that it is vital that an Anglican Covenant be agreed so that churches around the world are mutually accountable and united by a common set of beliefs. This must happen as soon as possible, it says, to prevent further haemorrhaging of the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexual clergy.
Until a consensus is reached, the American and Canadian churches must refrain from consecrating more homosexual bishops and carrying out blessing services for same-sex couples, the paper says.
If they do not, they will face being pushed to the margins of the communion and find themselves excluded from the councils that are central to the governance of the Church.
The African churches, which oppose having practising homosexuals in the clergy, will be told that they must stop intervening in the affairs of other churches as their actions are deepening the rift.
[Note: All those emphases in the foregoing quotation are mine.]

He characterizes the WDG paper as "central to the stance that Dr Williams would like the conference to take. If the conference agrees to the recommendations, it will give him a mandate to exclude rebel churches." OK. That's his characterization. But what does Rowan Williams actually say?

Lo and behold! Wynne-Jones has an actual quotation:
As well as the covenant, Dr Williams has argued for new canon laws, which would govern how bishops and clergy acted. "We need ways of knowing who is supposed to do this or that and who is entitled to do this or that, so that we can act economically and purposefully, instead of being frustrated by a chaotic variety of expectations and recriminations," says the archbishop.
Frankly, Scarlet, I'm not sure I "give a damn" anymore.

More about that in a few moments.

The Sunday Telegraph

Yes, I've seen the article about the supposed third paper from the Windsor Continuation Group. Yes, I'm writing a blogpost about it.

And it had been such a lovely, lovely weekend here at the lake. :(

Stay tuned.

My Lambeth Weekend

A few of you know I decided to flee the sturm and drang of Lambeth obsession. I've "gone down to the Lake" (as we say around here) to spend relaxing, wholesome time with dear friends David and Adrienne. Sitting on the deck with the lake waves lapping, birds at the feeders (including hummingbirds) [Could one of them this be Barbara's Ethel?], and eating more wonderful food than I have any right even to wish for. It's been a glorious couple of days.

Meanwhile, we worked up a little liturgical dance for Lambeth. I know the MadOne will be thrilled with this news.

Liturgical Dance for Lambeth

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Why Not Gene?

I have read of the many "ecumenical visitors" who were welcomed to the Lambeth Conference on July 19 and are fully participating in the conference. People from Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh faiths, Lutherans, Methodists, Old Catholics – even the Salvation Army, for godsakes! All were welcomed and embraced by the Archbishop Bishop of Canterbury as welcome and valued guests. From what I read, they are being fully included in the plenary sessions, Bible studies, indaba groups, and today's MDG Walk.

Many of these people come from faiths that share virtually nothing of our Anglican faith, and many don't even share the basic tenets of our Christian faith. But they are welcomed as honored guests by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Photo/Matthew Davies
© 2008 Episcopal Life Online

And the duly elected Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire? Nope. Not there. Not allowed in any venue. He is Officially Shunned.

Shame on you, Rowan Williams.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anne Writes

More on the Missouri/Lui Relationship

You know that I have ranted and raved since Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul issued his written statement and then gave a most damning interview to the press (in part 1 and part 2).

I've also ranted and wept with some friends here in the diocese who are deeply involved in our companion diocese with Lui (in southern Sudan).

One of those with whom I have ranted and wept is Anne Kelsey, rector of Trinity parish, where I worship when I am in St. Louis. I have written about that parish several times. She and that parish have nourished my soul in the most difficult times. They brought me back to TEC after my "sabbatical" following GC06.

Here in our diocese, many words have been flung about in the past 48 hours. Some people want to continue the relationship with Lui despite Archbishop Daniel's hateful vitriol. Some are calling on the diocese and the Companion Diocese Committee (which I chair) to pull out of Sudan completely and immediately, because of what Archbishop Daniel said.

I don't know what I think yet. Remain engaged? Pull out? I don't know. I still need more time to sort it out.

But I was touched, challenged, and encouraged by a letter that came today. It came from Anne, who is priest in my "home-away-from-home" parish.

Anne is a passionate member of our Companion Diocese Committee. She took the bold step of inviting Daniel to preach at her parish on the Sunday of his visit, and hosted Daniel and his wife Deborah in her home along with some 75 other guests.

This is the letter she sent to her parish today, then shared with our Oasis listserv. I post it here with her permission.

I am awed that she's reached this spiritual place today, and I wanted to share it with you too.


24 July 2008

Dear Friends in Christ,

My heart has been broken these past few days as I have read the statements issuing from the Archbishop of Sudan at the Lambeth Conference. I feel betrayed and angered at the prejudice and bigotry expressed. Those of us who have struggled so long for inclusion and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation are reeling. The ship of the church is foundering in heavy seas today, and many of us feel as if we’re hanging on for dear life.

As the rector who invited Archbishop Daniel to preach on the Sunday of his visit to St. Louis, I am horrified. Here at Trinity, a beloved community of faithful and holy people, the archbishop was warmly welcomed. We extended great hospitality. As the host of the reception in the archbishop’s honor I am deeply wounded; would he have entered my home and eaten at my table if he knew that my lesbian daughter is as loved as my straight daughter? On so many levels his words cause me a tremendous amount of pain in a deeply personal way, as I know they have caused pain to you.

As the rector of an Oasis congregation, a member of the Companion Diocese Committee, and a member of the Oasis Board I experience the news from Lambeth coming so fast that it’s confusing and difficult to process. What’s coming next? What should I do? How should I respond?

On this Thursday morning I share these thoughts with you.

First, this is a crisis, but it is not a crisis of faith. It’s time to fall on my knees, to sit quietly so God can pour some healing balm on my poor angry spirit, and to trust that in the midst the storm there is God’s steady presence. This is a time for prayer, personal and corporate. Ecclesiastes said that there is a time to weep, and this is one of them. Each tear shed is a prayer to God, who is standing among us suffering with us. Go ahead and cry. They are honest prayers.

Since the Lambeth conference will continue for almost another week every day will bring news and opinions, statements and commentary, reports and more blogs, so this isn’t the time for action born of rage. That’s reaction, and in my experience it’s rarely the appropriate solution to any problem. I will wait until Lambeth is concluded, wait to speak with Bishop Smith, wait to meet with the Companion Diocese Committee and the Oasis Board before I consider what is to happen next. There is simply too much we don’t know. We aren’t privy to the important conversations which are taking place between bishops, where they are much more free to express themselves.

As one who cares deeply about the people of Sudan it grieves me to hear talk of cutting off the relationship with the Diocese of Lui. It grieves me to hear talk of giving the resources of the Diocese of Missouri now going to Lui to some other aid agency for relief in Sudan. Our Covenant with Lui isn’t an aid program, it’s a relationship. We have provided crucial material assistance such as wells, and these are good and life giving, but they are not the focus of our agreement. Our work there is primarily relational because we believe that God incarnate in Jesus Christ is alive in each one of us through our baptism. If we break off relationships because of the statements and opinions of some bishops, however nasty and bigoted those statements may be, we are engaging in exactly the same kind of destructive behavior that has brought the Anglican Communion to this crisis.

I have in my mind’s eye two people living a world apart. One is a gay man in the United States rejected by his family, cursed by the church, beaten up by strangers. He is wounded, body and soul. He needs to be bathed in healing love and brought rejoicing into the body of Christ, reassured of God’s love for him. Next to him stands an eight year old child living in Lui who has never known what it is to have enough food to eat, whose parents go to church praying for a peace which is real, fearing that bombs will be dropped on them again. They are wounded, body and soul. They need to be fed not just today but tomorrow and the day after. They need real and lasting peace which will allow them to live fully, rejoicing in the God who gives life.

There is only one child of God. That child looks at the world through the eyes of each human being, created in God’s image.

In the days and weeks to come I pray that each of us will find strength in our community, share grief and sorrows, and help the church grow more and more into greater witness to the power of God in Christ Jesus. I pray that each of us will find the strength to suspend judgment and the courage to continue to be part of the loving body of Christ in the world.

Please continue to pray for all who are attending Lambeth, bishops and spouses. Pray especially for our own bishop Wayne, and for all bishops whose dioceses have relationships in Sudan. They are facing very hard times as they respond to the challenges of this Lambeth conference. Please continue to pray for all GLBT persons throughout the world, those known to us and those whose lives depend on remaining hidden.

May God grant us grace now and always,


The Rev. Anne Kelsey
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church


Anne's letter reminds me of another passionate, pastoral letter I read from another blog-friend. Like Anne, Caminante writes powerfully about the tears that are attendant on Archbishop Daniel's comments.

StandFirm Flubs Journalism 101

It amuses me that so many people on the "right" like to pose as journalists and reporters. They think that being bloggers makes them journalists. I know better, of course. But let's not malign the poor dears too harshly. Usually, I don't care what lies they write. They're not journalists, of course. They don't even seem to have the first clue about what Real Journalists are supposed to do about fact-checking and such. Oh well. They shall have their reward.

And this is not a big deal, but it bears correcting.

When Archbishop Daniel of Sudan gave his now-infamous media interview, Jackie Bruchi over at Stand Firm quotes Cherie Wetzel at Anglican Mainstream saying "the archbishop is young -- I would guess that he is in his 40s. He is very articulate and has an earned PhD." As if either of those "facts" mattered??

In fact, she's totally wrong on both counts. Of course, she doesn't actually know Archbishop Daniel, so she just surmises and makes up facts. (You're surprised, right?)

In fact, Archbishop Daniel is 58 years old. He is not in his 40s.

And he does not have "an earned PhD." He has an honorary doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary, which he received in May (just after he visited our diocese) for his work in peace and justice and reconciliation.

But why bother with fact-checking (as a journalist would do) when you have a blog?

Aren't you just shocked that Cherie Wetzel got it so wrong and StandFirm quoted it as gospel? I know I am.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Welcome Voices

Several bishops have written about the Sudanese statement and interview from Archbishop Daniel. Here are two of my favorites.

Bishop Smith offers non-anxiety, perhaps even cautious hope on his blog today. He opened with this:
The more I encounter the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the more I am made aware of differences-- and aware of what appears to be God's great delight in diversity. We so easily misunderstand one another, from the vastly worlds we inhabit, though I must admit that I am still recoiling from the shock of yesterday's events. I am beginning to understand that they came from the fact of those different worlds we inhabit. Jim Naughton has had the advantage of being out and about, not cooped up in meetings (in rooms with all the air circulation of Apollo XIII), and you will find his good summary of the Sudanese matter here. There is still much work to do, in conversation with our Sudanese colleagues, but now twenty-four hours after the news release and news conference, having productive conversation at least seems possible.

I will admit to some emotional exhaustion, over the past day. Worry about Sudan, worry about Episcopalians back in Missouri, but no real worry at this point about the broader issues of communion. Or perhaps I should say that I am not anxious about these issues, remaining cautiously hopeful about finding a way, some way, any way forward. Somehow the larger Anglican world can by the grace of God find a means, perhaps some brand new, yet unthought-of means, to remain connected to one another. I could be wrong, but I think that can prove the case. Enough about this, until more becomes clear, in due time.
I trust my bishop's instincts.

Mark Harris does his usual bang-up job on the Sudan situation (and more) at "Fear is not an option." He begins:
Today there has been the lobbing of bombs at Lambeth, verbal bombs that make very big concussive noise and rattle pundits and bloggers alike.
He remarks on the very odd timing of Archbishop Deng and Bishop Iker's statements, and he does a fine job of rounding up the commentary and analyzing it. In one of his concluding paragraphs, Mark says: "I think it is too soon to see it all falling down. If it does or if it does not, the work of getting about being the Church will remain." Amen and amen.

A Word from the Management

Ah ... I see by Ye Olde Sitemeter that StandFlabby has linked to one of my posts. No wonder the trolls have been out in force this evening! They have to keep the world safe for hate.

This is kinda like an e. coli infestation: This crap breaks out from time to time, but we have ways to deal with it.

I have a day job, so I can't spend all my time watching the blog. Therefore, it's time for me to put comments back into moderation, lest we be overwhelmed by wackadoos. [Dear StandFirmites: That's Brad Drell's term, so don't get your knickers in a wad over it.]

The good news is: Since I'm moderating comments, I've turned off the onerous word verification which we all hate.

Here's the house rule, folks: If I would let you say this to me face-to-face in my living room, your comment will be posted. If you spew the typical StandFlabby venom, then your comment will end up in the trash heap. So save your venom for elsewhere, ok? Virtue and SFiF have plenty of bandwidth for you people.

Yeah, the trolls will say I'm a censor and they'll accuse me of not being inclusive and they'll call me a chicken. Ya know what? I could not possibly care less what they think or say. The "listening process" is officially dead. Archbishop Daniel made that clear in his press conference yesterday.

The Interview

I hope that after tonight I can quit writing about Sudanese Archbishop Daniel's statement and interview at Lambeth yesterday. But there are still a couple things I need to say.

Let me make this distinction.

When I read the written statement from the Sudanese bishops, I was disappointed, but not at all surprised. I'm fully aware of their theological stance and of the ECS synod statement a couple years back. I know we disagreee on the place of gay men and lesbians in the church. But, until now, TEC and Sudanese dioceses have been able to cooperate and relate deeply in mission and ministry despite that difference.

What upset me most were the comments Archbishop Daniel made when he willingly met with the press to discuss this topic.

Gene Robinson is an error? Then so am I, in the eyes of Archbishop Daniel. He has nothing to say to gay people until they repent? I hope he wasn't too permanently scarred by spending time with me and giving me the Body of Christ on that Sunday back in May. They ordain women as bishops because women are human [unlike Gene?]. Words fail me.

See it for yourself. ENS has now posted the full interview in 2 parts here. Or see Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The man laughs and smiles as he tells us that he doesn't want to exclude gay/lesbian people from the church. He says of Bishop Robinson: "We love him. We don't want to exclude anyone, we just want them to go away."'

I can take a subtle hint like that. He wants us all to go away. I get it.

Color me gone from his little world.

Photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg © 2008 Episcopal Life Online

Sudanese Demands

"Cease All Litigation," eh?

I know this has made the rounds of the blogosphere, but I can't resist reproducing it here, too.

You will recall that a strange addition in the Sudanese statement yesterday called on the Episcopal Church "to cease court actions with immediate effect."

Ace Reporter Jim Naughton brings us this delightful bit of irony:
Yesterday, the Episcopal Church of Sudan urged the Episcopal Church to suspend all litigation against breakaway churches attempting to leave the denomination but maintain possession of the parish property. Their call has an ironic twist, as is evident in the latest newsletter of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. (See pages 10-11.)

In brief, the Episcopal Church of Sudan lost control of its guesthouse to the Reformed Episcopal Church of the Sudan. The RECS said that it broke from the ECS because the ECS condoned homosexuality. The guesthouse was then sold to a Sudanese corporation. The Episcopal Church of Sudan sued. In March, it won. An Episcopal church in Virginia, and members of American Friends of the Church of Sudan helped pay for the lawsuit.
Yes, the Diocese of Virginia heavily supported the Episcopal Church of the Sudan in reclaiming its property. Now the Diocese of Virginia is embroiled in a battle to retain the parishes it owns. And Archbishop Daniel has written them off (as he wrote off all his companion dioceses) in his media interview.

Mote, meet Log.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sudan: Who is Human?

What does Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul think about women and homosexuals? Are they both fully human? Apparently not.

Susan Russell was at the press conference where Archbishop Daniel held forth today, and she reports this:

In the press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the Primate of the Sudan (the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul) called for the resignation of the Bishop of New Hampshire, declaring in the statement released ahead of the press conference that he had come to the Lambeth Conference “to take the necessary steps to safeguard the precious unity of the Church.”

When asked about ministering to the gays and lesbians in his province, the archbishop declared that he did not think there were any homosexuals in the Sudan as “none had come forward.” And when queried about his position on the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate said he “believed in women priests and bishops because they were human” – leaving listeners to wonder if the inference was that homosexuals were not.
Yep. That's exactly the inference I received from reading several reports of Archbishop Daniel's 15 minutes of fame today: Women are human. Homosexuals are not.

I am speechless.

Archbishop Daniel is in Error

StandFirm has a longer report, in which Archbishop Daniel of Sudan says: "Gene Robinson is an error."

My God does not make mistakes.

[Note: Edited in the cool light of day to eliminate a bit of excessive vitriol, of which I now repent.]

Fisking Archbishop Daniel: Sudanese Deaths

The ever-hysterical George Conger reports that "The American Church’s experiments with gay blessings and bishops had led to the deaths of Sudanese Christians." Several other right-wing sources have picked up on that meme. I don't know who picked up on that bit of propaganda, but Hysterical George is not alone.

Want to hear the truth?

In the first place, in his interview today at Lambeth, Archbishop Daniel claims there are no gay/lesbian persons in the whole country of Sudan. Then he backed off that statement and declared he has not heard of any gay/lesbian persons.

Gosh! Ya think???

I'm sure that I'd be ready to jump up and say "I'm gay!" if I were in Sudan. NOT!

In the few years that my diocese has been in "covenant" with a Sudanese diocese, we have never heard of a death caused by the Anglican Communion's stance (or lack of a stance) on gay relationships.

Archbishop Daniel is blowing smoke out of his ass. He is a liar and a scapegoater.

Let me tell you what has cost the lives of people in the Diocese of Lui within Sudan. It was civil war for the past 50 years. The Sudanese from the north (most of whom were Muslin) tried to wipe out the Africans in the south. After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, the bloodshed has been among warring tribes in the South. Dinka tribes have swooped in and murdered Moru people in the Diocese of Lui. They came with their knives and murdered people in their homes. They burned the Moru schools. They burned villages. They burned individual homes. They murdered hundreds of people. They beheaded adults in front of their children. I heard the stories. I saw the burned-out remains. They were and are horrific. It was hideous and horrendous, and I saw the evidence when I was in southern Sudan. I saw the burned-out homes and villages. I held the orphans.

And guess what? None of those murdering, rampaging idiots were wearing pink triangles and claiming to be part of the Queer Nation.

Who has caused death and destruction in Sudan? Other tribes within Sudan.

They are murdering each other over tribal relationships, and not a bit of it has to do with queers or the Anglican Communion or one gay bishop. For the Archbishop of Sudan to try to lay this crap at the feet of Gene Robinson or The Episcopal Church is the smarmiest, most cowardly, lying thing I have heard in a very long time.

When he was here with us in Missouri, Archbishop Daniel claimed that one of his highest priorities was bringing peace among the tribes of Sudan who have decimated each other. Face-to-face with us, he acknowledged that tribal rivalries and warfare was one of his greatest concerns.

But now, given a global microphone, he is trying to pretend it is all because of the queers. What a lying ideologue!

Who bought him off?

Yeah, let's blame it on the queers – not on the tribes of Sudan who are murdering each other for no good reason.

I am sick and tired of being the scapegoat!

Q: Who's murdering the Sudanese?

A: Other Sudanese!

And it has absolutely nothing to do with The Episcopal Church or the bishop of New Hampshire. Shame on Archbishop Daniel for trying to grab his 15 minutes of fame with this clap-trap!

The Sudanese Demands

The Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality specifically asks TEC:
- To refrain from ordaining practicing homosexuals as bishops or priests
- To refrain from approving rites of blessing for same-sex relationships
- To cease court actions with immediate effect;
- To comply with Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference
- To respect the authority of the Bible

In my last few posts, I've written mostly out of anger. Here, I write in both anger and profound grief.

The "Sudanese" encomium sounds so much like Akinola-speak that I have to wonder where it came from. Did it really come from Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Bullen? Are they really writing this tripe?

When he was in the Diocese of Missouri back in May, Archbishop Daniel met many gay clergy. Could he now dare to say this to their faces? Has he actually met Bishop Robinson? I gather not, for I gather he would flee from him just like Archbishop Akinola when he recoiled when he met Louie Crew.

After the many days that we spent with Archbishop Daniel back in May, I would challenge him to come back to Missouri, line up all the people who welcomed him so graciously, and tell us whom he has decided does not "respect the authority of the Bible." … And then I will read to him the parable of the wheat and tares that we heard last Sunday.

I dare say that our gay/lesbian parishioners exhibit at least as much holiness as the priests in Sudan who bought their "brides" with sheep and cattle.

How did the "cease court actions" make its way into this statement? Is Archbishop Daniel ignorant of the facts? Parishes in TEC are trying to abscond with their goods intact. I spent a good bit of time with Archbishop Daniel, and this was never part of our conversation. I wonder whether he has even heard from Episcopalians what issues are at play. Or did he just let people like Akinola and Minns whisper in his ear?

He wants us to comply with Lambeth 1:10? Then let him begin to comply with it, too. Lambeth 1:10 called on all Anglicans to listen to the experience of gay/lesbian Christians. But Archbishop Daniel – parroting Akinola et al – claims there are no gay men or lesbians in Sudan.

Most distressing to me is the Sudanese bishops' admonition that we need to "respect the authority of the Bible." If I did not respect the authority of the Bible, I never would have taken the gazillion vaccinations, spent thousands of dollars, and traveled thousands of miles to be with Anglicans in Sudan. My friends here respect the Bible. And, very often, they have to overcome the venomous words of people like Archbishop Daniel in order to follow Jesus. He has become a millstone.

If I can continue to support the Diocese of Lui – and that question is very much up in the air tonight – it will be despite Chief Pharisee Daniel Deng Bul.

The Sudanese Statement: Marriage

Fisking the Sudanese Bishops' Statement: Marriage

This is just one in what will be a series of comments about the Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality.

There are things I have been tempted to write over the past couple of years, have wanted to write, to be honest about the Episcopal Church in the Sudan, but I have held back until now because of my affection for my Sudanese friends.

But with what Archbishop Daniel did today, the gloves are off now. You want to get honest? OK, let's get honest.

Archbishop Daniel writes (on behalf of the bishops of Sudan): "We believe that human sexuality is God’s gift to human beings which is rightly ordered only when expressed within the life-long commitment of marriage between one man and one woman. We require all those in the ministry of the Church to live according to this standard and cannot accept church leaders whose practice is contrary to this."

Many of the priests in Sudan are not married to the women with whom they live and have children. Why? Because they cannot afford the "bride price." To take a woman (and I use that verb advisedly and intentionally), one must be able to offer as many sheep and cattle as she is "worth." And one must be able to afford the cost of the party that tribal customs dictate upon a "wedding." Therefore, many Sudanese priests live "as if" they were married. But they are not – at least not in any sense that we would recognize. Things are very different in Sudan. We have been willing to be quiet and tolerant about this. I (and others who have travelled to Sudan) have been willing to respect that the Sudanese culture is very different from ours. We have honored the marriages that they recognize. I have respected that. Until today. Until the interview that Archbishop Daniel gave, in which he seems to suggest that Sudan has it all right and we have it all wrong. It's time for some honesty.

During one of our mission trips in Sudan, the guys in the jeep began good-naturedly talking about what "bride price" one of our young, attractive, single women could fetch in Sudan. How many cows was she worth? The bantering was good-natured and even funny in that time, in that place. The Missourians understood and accepted that cultural practice. We knew we were not going to sell her off to the highest bidder. But if she had been a Sudanese woman, she would indeed have been sold to the highest bidder.

Is this the view of "Biblical marriage" that Archbishop Daniel wants the Episcopal Church to adopt? Is this the "authority of the Bible" that he wants us to adopt?

How many cattle did it cost you to buy your bride? Archbishop Daniel speaks of "opening the church to ridicule"? OK. Let's talk about ridicule. Women in Sudan are chattle. Let's talk about that.

The Sudanese Statement: Unity and Honesty

Fisking the Sudanese Bishops' Statement

This is just one in a series of comments about the Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality.

Archbishop Daniel (and the bishops of the Episcopal Church in Sudan?) wrote:
The unity of the Anglican Communion is of profound significance to us as an expression of our unity within the Body of Christ. It is not something we can treat lightly or allow to be fractured easily. Our unity expresses the essential truth of the Gospel that in Christ we are united across different tribes, cultures and nationalities.
The Sudanese bishops spent about three days in Salisbury with U.S. and English bishops with whom they have companion relationship. If they don't treat these relationships "lightly," then why did not he or other Sudanese bishops give the U.S. and U.K. bishops any indication of the rage they apparently were feeling? No, they treated it lightly and they fractured easily. As far as I can discern, the Sudanese bishops gave the U.S. bishops absolutely no indication they were preparing to drop a bombshell at Lambeth.

The Covenant between the dioceses of Missouri and Lui [warning: 4.36MB download] includes this "affirmation" as one of the "Principles of Partnership"
5. Service should be carried out in a spirit of mutual respect and trust.

Respect? Trust?

No, when the bishops of Sudan ask us to "respect the authority of the Bible" as if that were a new thing – a thing we had not already demonstrated over the course of more than two years – they make it clear they have neither respect nor trust.

Furthermore, Archbishop Daniel, you have no sense of unity or truth across different tribes and cultures.

I'll say more about tribes and cultures in a forthcoming post.

Sudan to TEC

Before I write anything else, you need to read the Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality, which I am printing here in full.

But first, I need to observe this. The statement was signed only by Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, and it was issued as a "statement of the Sudanese bishops." But note carefully what the spinmeisters from the other side of the aisle are doing. They are trying to spin it as a statement from the "Global South." And they are trying to spin his interview this morning as a statement on behalf of the Global South. The usual suspects are claiming it's a "Global South statement" on behalf of "80% of the Anglican Communion." They have no basis for that whopper, of course. But they love to say it.

Here is the written statement that was issued today. My comments will follow later.

Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality
July 2008

In view of the present tensions and divisions within the Anglican Communion, and out of deep concern for the unity of the Church, we consider it important to express clearly the position of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) concerning human sexuality.

We believe that God created humankind in his own image; male and female he created them for the continuation of humankind on earth. Women and men were created as God’s agents and stewards on earth We believe that human sexuality is God’s gift to human beings which is rightly ordered only when expressed within the life-long commitment of marriage between one man and one woman. We require all those in the ministry of the Church to live according to this standard and cannot accept church leaders whose practice is contrary to this.

We reject homosexual practice as contrary to biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS. We strongly oppose developments within the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada in consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop and in approving a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships. This has not only caused deep divisions within the Anglican Communion but it has seriously harmed the Church’s witness in Africa and elsewhere, opening the church to ridicule and damaging its credibility in a multi-religious environment.

The unity of the Anglican Communion is of profound significance to us as an expression of our unity within the Body of Christ. It is not something we can treat lightly or allow to be fractured easily. Our unity expresses the essential truth of the Gospel that in Christ we are united across different tribes, cultures and nationalities. We have come to attend the Lambeth Conference, despite the decision of others to stay away, to appeal to the whole Anglican Communion to uphold our unity and to take the necessary steps to safeguard the precious unity of the Church.

Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we appeal to the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada, to demonstrate real commitment to the requests arising from the Windsor process. In particular:
- To refrain from ordaining practicing homosexuals as bishops or priests
- To refrain from approving rites of blessing for same-sex relationships
- To cease court actions with immediate effect;
- To comply with Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference
- To respect the authority of the Bible

We believe that such steps are essential for bridging the divisions which have opened up within the Communion.

We affirm our commitment to uphold the four instruments of communion of the Anglican Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council; and call upon all Provinces of the Communion to respect these for the sake of the unity and well-being of the Church.

We appeal to this Lambeth Conference to rescue the Anglican Communion from being divided. We pray that God will heal us from the spirit of division. We pray for God’s strength and wisdom so that we might be built up in unity as the Body of Christ.

The Most Revd Dr Daniel Deng Bul
Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and Bishop of Juba

I will write more about this as soon as I can organize my thoughts.

But here's my first reaction: The Sudanese bishops spent about three days meeting with the TEC bishops who have companion relationships in the Sudan. From what I read, it was a significant and holy meeting. Why did Archbishop Daniel and the bishops of Sudan not give their American friends any indication that this bombshell was going to be delivered early in the Lambeth Conference?

When I read my bishop's account of those meetings, I was truly gratified and moved. I believed that they were all trying to move into a deeper understanding of these nations and cultures that are so very different.

Were Archbishop Daniel and the Sudanese bishops just playing along?

What trust remains, when they can play just a game of make-believe in Salisbury and such a game of "gotcha" at Lambeth?

The Covenant between the Diocese of Missouri and Lui [warning: 4.36MB download] includes these "Principles of Partnership":

5. Service should be carried out in a spirit of mutual respect and trust.
6. Mutual accountability is an integral aspect of Christian stewardship.
Archbishop Daniel has blown out of the water any sense I had of "mutual respect and trust" when he speaks (purportedly for all of Sudan) to accuse all Episcopalians – including me – of rejecting the authority of the Bible.

Some of you may recall that the Episcopal Church of Sudan met in synod in 2006 and they expressed their opposition to TEC's actions, but also pledged to continue to work in mission and ministry with their partner dioceses.

It seems to me that Archbishop Daniel has now closed that door. If he and his brother bishops can issue a statement like this, then I wonder what in the world I can possibly have to say to them anymore.

More coming.

Sudan Response in Progress

Yes, I will be writing a response to today's statement of the Sudanese bishops and Archbishop Daniel's devastating interview.

I've read most of the news reports today, but I had to attend to my "day job." The best "one-stop" sources for reports and links are at Episcopal Café's "The Lead" and Thinking Anglicans. The Lead is tracking news and reaction here, and Thinking Anglicans has them here. Both are updating those pages regularly. God bless 'em for having such energy!

Now … I need to go write something that expresses my profound heartbreak, my sense of betrayal, and my anger … all while keeping the words and works of Jesus in the forefront of my mind.

How very ironic that I have been writing recently of my hopes for Lambeth, my affection for Sudan's Archbishop Daniel, and my deep respect for the people of Lui.

I need to sort out my thoughts and feelings. I hope to post something later tonight. I've put everything else aside. But this is going to be very, very difficult to write.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tearing the Fabric

Ever since that "emergency" primates meeting after GC2003, the Episcopal Church and we individual Episcopalians have been bludgeoned by voices from the other side of the aisle ranting that TEC has "torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion." And without fail, the tenor of their remarks seems to suggest we should be shot, hung, and drowned … or at least expelled from the Anglican Communion.

Catching up on some blog-reading last night, I found a poignant comment. Someone writing as "Treebeard" wrote at Thinking Anglicans that the vociferous spokesmen [sic] of the self-declared orthodox "have been 'tearing the fabric' of gay hearts and lives and anglicans churches [sic]of late."

"Tearing the fabric of gay hearts and lives." What a powerful phrase!

I have fought (and, no doubt, will again) with those on the other side. I believe and hope that I'm contending against their ideas, their methodologies, and their beliefs. I hope I have (at least recently) avoided attacking their very selves and identities. But the attack on my self and identify is precisely what I hear from the vociferous voices from the other side of the aisle.

Thank you, Treebeard, whoever you are.

Note: Image courtesy of Laura Kamiam's website.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hitting the Road

With Thoughts About Covenant

All this stuff about Lambeth is well and good. But I am making my way to St. Louis to chair a meeting of the Companion Diocese Committee. This is the diocesan committee charged with finding ways to bring relief and support to our friends in the southern Sudanese diocese of Lui, where they have no running water, no electricity, no health care, no sustainable agriculture. I'm one of the many who has spent time with the Sudanese in Lui.

Here's a photo from when I worshipped with the folks in Lui at their cathedral in early 2006.

By the way, when the dioceses of Missouri and Lui first engaged in discussion, we rejected the colonial, paternalistic mode. So we spent a couple of years visiting back-and-forth and finally developed a written covenant together. We discussed it here in Missouri. And the folks in Lui discussed it -- on their own, and in meetings like the one depicted below, where members of the diocese of Missouri and leaders of the diocese of Lui asked them if we had "got it right" about their priorties.

It seems to me that's what a covenant should be and how it should be developed. It should be developed slowly, respectfully, and with input and support from all the parties involved. That's how the covenant betweeen Missouri and Lui was developed. And quite unlike the "Anglican Covenant" that has been handed down from on high and may be discussed in Canterbury.

So ... the Anglican World will have to turn without me on Sunday, while I work with my diocese to partner with the folks in Lui to bring safe drinking water, basic health care, sustainable agriculture, affordable schools ... to the people of Lui who have spent decades in civil war. And we will again find ourselves humbled and our spiritual lives enriched in the process.

Mind you: It never occurred to us to question the faith of the Christians in Lui. We saw it all the time and everywhere. In their fragile lives, and in the way they welcomed us. They welcomed us as brother and sister Christians. Always. All the time. That's what the Anglican Communion is in most places. It's not about litmus tests. It's about bearing one another's burdens and singing the song of the Lord in a strange land.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reality Dawns

Since the Lambeth Conference began, my time has been at a premium and I've mostly been reading reports from those on "my side of the aisle."

The stories I'm reading suggest that the bishops are having a holy, quiet time in the Lambeth Conference. I am pleased, deeply pleased for them. I am profoundly grateful to see the bishops are behaving like bishops and not like spinmeisters and politicians. I'm enjoying the few bits that my own bishop is writing.

This morning I made time to read some from the "other side of the aisle."

As I read more and more of the bishops writing about the holiness and groundedness of this time, I was rather disgusted (though not surprised) that the FOCAs tried to dump a turd into the punchbowl with one of their typically hysterical and warmongering statements. You can read it here, if you care. But I think it's more and more clear that their rantings are irrelevant. You don't get to guide a meeting that you boycott. Poor, self-righteous dears. I wish they had come to Lambeth and had engaged with their brother and sister bishops. But, of course, they said a long time ago that they dare not associate with those 600+ heretics.

Thinking Anglicans is posting reports from Bishop David Walker. I'm appreciating his reports, each one concluding with the "high point" and "low point" of the day. Here's what he posted Friday:

Highlight of the day: being given an invite to a drinks party hosted by Jack Iker tomorrow. Perhaps this really is engagement across the fault-lines. I felt touched, honoured, and minded to go listen.
Lowlight of the day: 2 minutes later being told the invites were only meant to be given to “sympathetic” bishops. But hey, I do sympathy really well, perhaps I am invited after all.
I think that's pitiful and pitiable. By contrast, the "fringe" events being sponsored by Integrity et al are broadly open to all. What is it that Jesus said about "What's done in secret …"?

But the more I read, the more I get the sense that a sad reality is slowly dawning on those who like to call themselves "reasserters" or "orthodox."

I was strangely sad to read this from Cherie Wetzel of Anglicans United:

Some would say there was little reason for optimism. We learned yesterday that The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield’s invitation was withdrawn last week, as were the invitations of two bishops from Recife, Brazil. All three are now under the Most Rev. Greg Venables of the Southern Cone. It seems that they, like the “irregularly consecrated bishops of CANA and the AMiA” in the states, will not be recognized. This leaves little doubt about the future for other clergy and bishops who leave TEC and hope to remain part of the Communion. It looks like any intervention into another Province will be denied acceptance, be they priests, parishes or dioceses transferring to a foreign bishop. Those whose only desire was to remain Anglican within the Communion now stand outside those vast boundaries.
She and her likeminded friends have hunkered down together in Canterbury. I gather she (and perhaps some others?) envy the organized presence of those on "my side of the aisle," as she writes:

Our planning for these events may look amateurish when compared to the elaborate plans and opportunities for free food and discussion provided by Integrity, Claim the Blessing and the Lesbian/Gay Christian Movement. These folks are here in full force, and are running some type of informational event every day.
I sense a bit of sadness from Our Worthy Opponents. They have tried, tried very hard to be sure this Lambeth Conference was as boisterous, venomous, and political as the 1998 Lambeth Conference. From what I read, they have failed to politicize this event. So far, at least, it seems that the Lambeth Design Group's plan is holding.

It seems the light is beginning to dawn – at least for Cherie Wetzel – that those who behaved so deplorably in a misguided effort to "remain Anglican" have missed the boat. Even several of the conservative friends of the FOCAs (such as Bishop N. T. Wright of Durham) have finally decried the actions of the GAFCon/FOCA initiative of Nigeria, Kenya, Sydney, etc.

To Anglicans United, and the AAC and the IRD and the CCP and the ACN and FIFNA and the FOCAs and all those alphabet-soup dissenters, I would say: "Come home." I would like to see all of them beat their swords into plowshares and come home, study the Scriptures with us, and create an even new and better (not narrower) Anglican Communion.

Bible Study with the Bishops ... and the Cats

Warning: Some pure silliness appears herein! So I'll be praying from the start.

I understand that the first Bible study the bishops did together in their retreat at Canterbury Cathedral used the prologue to John's Gospel, which is one of my very favorite passages in all of Scripture.

I wonder what translation they used. There are so many. Our church mostly uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). But our friends in the Sudanese diocese of Lui use a Moru translation from the Good News Bible. [Yes, I could write a whole 'nother essay about the implications of their using a "translation" of the Good News Bible as the basis of their study and preaching. But I don't have energy for that right now. Someday ....]

So here's how the NRSV puts it:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Sheer poetry. At one time, I could even recite verses 1-5 in classical Greek.

Now ... I think several of you readers are also fans of ICanHasCheezburger. But are you aware that there's a Web-based LOLCat Bible Translation project? Yes, not unlike the good folks building Wikipedia, an intrepid group is working to translate the entire Bible into LOLSpeak. Here's the LOLCat translation of John 1:1-18:

1 In teh beginz is teh mew, and teh mew sez "Oh hai Ceiling Cat" and teh mew iz teh Ceiling Cat.2 Teh mew an teh Ceiling Cat iz teh bests frenz in teh begins.
3 Him maeks alls teh cookies; no cookies iz maed wifout him.4 Him haz teh liefs, an becuz ov teh liefs teh doodz sez "Oh hay lite."5 Teh lite iz pwns teh darks, but teh darks iz liek "Wtf."
6 And teh Ceiling Cat haz dis otehr man; his naem iz John.7 He tellz teh ppl dat teh lites is tehre, so dat teh doodz mite bleev"8 Him wuz not teh lite; he jsut sez teh lites is tehre.9 Teh tru lite ov lotz of lite wuz comes, k?
10 He iz liek, "Oh hai, I mades u," but teh wurld duznt sees him.11 He iz comes to his stuffs, but his stuffs sez "Do not want!"12 And sum guyz did want, and sez "Teh Ceiling Cat pwns," and deez guyz iz liek his kidz—13 But not liek reel kidz, k? Iz liek teh Ceiling Cats kidz.
14 Teh cat macro is becomes Visible Man (omg) and he is lives wif us. We is sees teh glorie taht is frum teh one n only; him come from teh dad wif teh grace and teh truth.
15 John is liek "Oh hai" becuz uf him. He sez "OMG tihs guy iz teh one taht is comes after me him iz bettr becuz him comes frst, k?"16 Becuz is a lotz of grayce we can has cheezburgers.17 Moses is liek "Hay I has teh lawz"; Jebus is has teh grayce and teh trooth.18 Ceiling Cat is Invisible, but teh one n only (him is wif Ceiling Cat) is liek "Hay look." John teh Baptist Sez "I Iz Not teh Chozen Won!! No Wai!!11!!!1!!1!!

Read, mark, and inwardly digest.

And forgive me if my silliness crosses the lines. But amidst all the seriousness of Lambeth and the Anglican Communion, I really needed some silliness.