Sunday, June 28, 2009

A New Priest

It was my privilege and pleasure to serve as subdeacon yesterday at the ordination of Emily Bloemker as a priest in God's church. Beth Felice captured a great series of photographs here.

While Emily was a student at Washington University, she was a member of the campus ministry led by Mike Kinman. Mike persuaded her to travel to our companion diocese (Lui, Sudan) in 2005. It is my understanding that that experience crystallized Emily's sense of vocation. She went from college to seminary, and yesterday we ordained her to the priesthood. I am so excited by her ministry and passion.

I love this photograph. It was taken during the sermon, and shows Emily so serious and intent and beautiful in her love for this ministry.

The nay-sayers accuse us of being heretics or unitarians. I can assure that, from my perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. We raised up an orthodox priest in Emily, who is committeed to evangelism and godly teaching.

May God richly bless Emily's ministry.

For those of you who may be interested, I served as subdeacon in Emily's ordination, so I appear in several of these photos at the Bishop's left hand.

You know I love serving in the liturgy of our church. Here are a couple of photos.

During the examination and ordination ...

and during the Eucharist ...

What an honor it was to serve in Emily's ordination and to participate in this liturgy.

Short Q&As

Q: What comes after the gradual hymn?
A: About 20% of the congregation.

Q: What comes after a delightful weekend in the city?
A: A whole lot of laundry.

I've been in St. Louis for the weekend. I stayed with dear friends, whom I got to know much better. Participated in an ordination ... at a level I did not expect. Attended my first PrideFest -- with Oasis Missouri hosting "Mass on the Grass" this morning (and our bishop as preacher and celebrant!) then marching with other Episcopalians in the PrideFest parade. Many thoughts and reflections to come ... and photos too, I hope. At the moment, I'm just trying to catch up and settle back in at home.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Conservative Pity-Party

Or: David Virtue Treasures Me

Warning: Long prologue ahead before I get to my point. But I am a Southerner, and therefore I have a birthright to be long-winded.

I was amused by Mark Harris’ analysis of Bob Duncan’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Us” address to those pitiful martyrs in the ACNA. [Queue Linda Ronstadt’s Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.] Mark is so right-on!

I need to make a confession: I am a registered “member” at Virtue Online. But it’s not really my fault. Back in the fall of 2003, I was desperately hungry for news about TEC, the then-upcoming consecration of Gene Robinson, and the Anglican Communion. That was the period when I opened my eyes to the broader church and the Anglican Communion. I couldn’t find any news from Episcopal Life or the Episcopal News Service. [Sound familiar? Seems to me that things have come almost full circle in six years.] I reached out to an Episcopal Communicator, who said the most comprehensive source then was Virtue Online. So I went over there. And, in order to comment, I had to register, which entailed giving my e-mail address.

So … now I get David Virtue’s love-notes from time to time.

Grab your hankies and queue the violins as you read the opening of Virtue’s latest beg.

June 2009

Dear VOL Supporter,

There are moments when I feel like giving up. There are times when I sit here and say to myself "I quit," because we don't seem to be winning the battle.

Then my wife says this: "Now is not the time to quit. You need to stand firm. Remember that the gays worked for 40 years to bring about the changes they have. They believed in their cause and we must do the same - for the sake of the gospel and our apostolic tradition. There are Christians all over the world who went to their graves believing in a loving God but never seeing answers to their prayers for gospel proclamation, peace and justice. Stop complaining and get on with it."

She is right of course. Now is not the time to quit. We must persevere.
Well, bless his heart.

And don’t you just love how he begins his letter by blaming all on “the gays”? Somehow, we are responsible for all the Christian martyrs who went to their graves. Get the connection?

The next paragraph of Virtue’s begging letter also blames it all on “Teh Gay.”

Recently I was in London covering a major conference on Human Sexuality that offers real hope to men and women suffering from same-sex attractions. It was a revelatory moment. There was hope. For decades homosexuals have been bombarded with messages telling than that change is not possible. Scientifically and genetically impossible they have been told. But there they were believing, trusting, hoping and EXPERIENCING change. I saw it with my own eyes.
There was a lot of coverage about that conference and its faux science. That group has been debunked among thinking scientists.

BTW, I don’t “suffer” from same-sex attraction. I live my Christian life in the awareness that I am attracted to women, and I hope that someday I will find a proper mate with whom I can express my sexuality and deepen my Christian faith and my relationship to God … just the same hope that single heterosexuals have.

I also hold out the hope that someday David Virtue may be delivered from his big hips and mincing walk. But I’m not holding my breath.

David continues by relating his brave journalism at April’s Anglican Consultative Council conference in Jamaica, about which he says: “It was all about politics, procedure and property. There was nothing about truth.” Hmmmm ….

He then promises to “be present at the first Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) in Ft. Worth, Texas” and in July “at the launching of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in Westminster, London,” and also in July at GC2009. He promises: “We will report the truth to the world and send out digests to the world.”

But here’s the funny thing. If you can stifle your gag reflex and read his blog, you will see that most of his correspondents aren’t Episcopalians, and most aren’t even Anglicans. Fortunately, no one has yet told Emperor David that he has no clothes … probably because that specter is just too hideous to contemplate.

He begins the wind-up to his begging letter with a grand flourish:

It has been said that without VOL there would be no new province in North America. For more than a decade we have relentlessly told the truth. First came the Anglican Mission in the Americas, next month it will be the birth of a new orthodox Anglican province.
Yes, David Virtue claims he is single-handedly responsible for AMiA and the new “ACNA.” Has anybody told Bob Duncan that Virtue made this all possible? (And what reward will Virtue get for handing Bob Duncan the big pointy hat??)

Of course, like a good televangelist, he concludes with an appeal for financial contributions. The poor, beleaguered man – perhaps the last best hope for orthodoxy – needs the pennies of the disaffected to continue his “ministry.”

Bless his heart. He can barely afford all these international junkets. He’s experiencing moments of doubt, while he claims credit for all the schismatic movements in the past several years.

Doesn’t your heart just bleed for him?

Warmly in Our Lord,
David W. Virtue, DD
I’m a student of Faulkner, and I remember the novels involving “Gayle Hightower, DD.” The sardonic Hightower said the “DD” stood for “Done Damned.” Of course, Virtue isn’t a Faulkner character. (Or is he?)

This never ceases to amaze me: There are people who have “locked and loaded” on the Episcopal Church for many years. They have been self-righteous snipers. And yet they try to pretend that they are victims. What an amazing feat of double-speak they are attempting … and sometimes – to some audiences – they even succeed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lauren Stanley Haiti-Bound

You will know from some of my earlier blog-posts that Lauren Stanley is a friend of mine. She taught me a great deal when she was in Sudan and gave me great counsel as our diocese established a companion relationship with the Diocese of Lui in Sudan.

I was dismayed when Archbishop Daniel Deng kicked her out of Sudan. He bit off his nose to spite his face. He lost a faithful teacher and a persuasive advocate for the people of Sudan. Too bad for him -- and a grievous loss for the people Lauren taught and served.

Now Sudan's loss is Haiti's gain. Here's the ENS article:

Former Sudan missionary Lauren Stanley heads to Haiti

"Where does God need me most?" For the Rev. Lauren Stanley, this question has led her to the most populous diocese of the Episcopal Church and the poorest nation in the western hemisphere -- Haiti.

An Episcopal priest from the Diocese of Virginia, Stanley will move to Port-au-Prince in August to begin a three-year placement as an Episcopal Church missionary in what she identifies as one of "the neediest places in the world."

The Episcopal Church of Haiti is one of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church's 12 overseas dioceses and part of Province II. Haiti is the least-developed country in the western hemisphere, with more than half of its people living on less than $1 per day. One-third of its children are malnourished and 500,000 cannot go to school. The unemployment rate is estimated to be 60 percent.

In April, Stanley met with Bishop Zache Duracin of the Episcopal Church of Haiti "and we talked about partnership and building up the kingdom of God," she said. "The more I thought about it, the more Haiti kept screaming at me. It has tremendous need and it's about building relationships."

Initially, Stanley will assist with communications work and several programs that will help to develop training for Haitians. "I believe missionaries need to work themselves out of a job," she said. "My hope is to help build the idea that the kingdom of God cannot be done individually."

The Rev. David Copley, mission personnel director for the Episcopal Church, has no doubt that Stanley is the right person for this placement, describing her as "an experienced priest, missionary, teacher and a gifted communicator."

He added, "Her talents will not only be of benefit to the diocese of Haiti; through her ministry we will all be gifted as she experiences the presence of God amongst the people of Haiti and shares that journey with the church."

Stanley is no foreigner to serving in poor and disadvantaged communities, having spent four years as an Episcopal Church missionary in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan, where she taught at the theological college.

She arrived in Renk on July 6, 2005, just a few days before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement took effect, thereby ending more than 20 years of civil war.

"My ministry was about being be a witness to them, to witness on their behalf in the U.S., and to give them an idea of what it means to live in peace," said Stanley, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya in the mid-'80s. "They have never had peace. My call was all about taking the message that peace is possible."

But her term in Renk came to an abrupt end in March when Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of Sudan chose to terminate Stanley's missionary placement. Deng had been made aware of a debate to which she'd contributed during the Diocese of Virginia's convention in January. Stanley had suggested that a proposed amendment to a resolution -- that affirmed the "blessedness" of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons -- "would not be problematic for the Sudani people because they are more concerned with trying to stay alive."

"The comments I made in Virginia were deemed offensive by our partners in Sudan and Archbishop Daniel requested my removal," she told ENS in a telephone interview. "Personally, it was heart wrenching. It was not how I intended to end my ministry there."

Asked what she misses the most about serving in Sudan, Stanley promptly responded: "My family -- the people. I miss them desperately." In Muslim-majority Renk, which lies on the border between northern and southern Sudan, Stanley said she will also miss the five-times-daily call to prayer and "having life come to a halt and focusing on God."

Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Virginia said in a recent statement that Stanley had "served faithfully in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan, for nearly four years, receiving widespread support among her students and the local community."

Lee called Stanley "a faithful advocate for the overseas mission of the church," noting that she continues to visit parishes and groups in the Diocese of Virginia and beyond, "describing the experience of Christians in Sudan and the opportunities that American Christians have for sharing in the worldwide mission of the church."

When she returned to the U.S., Stanley said she was "blessed to have a colleague remind me that Paul was thrown out of Thessalonica and he went on to do some great ministry." It was this comment that sustained Stanley as she discerned her next call.

Stanley sees a lot of commonalities between Sudan and Haiti, describing them as "two most desperate countries with desperate political situations."

Yet, despite the struggles and challenges, in both places there is an incredible amount of faith, she said. "Faith is not a menu option as it is in the western world. You live your faith every day. What I see in both places is faithful people struggling mightily to help bring about the kingdom of God. This is their gift to us. This is what faith can look like."

While I try to understand that Lauren is called to missionary work, I will personally regret that she will again be outside the U.S. I will miss her, and I will pray for her and her work.

Abp Williams to Waste a Trip to the U.S.

ENS tells us:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will make a presentation addressing the world's economic crisis during a panel discussion webcast live July 8 from the Episcopal Church's 76th General Convention, scheduled to take place July 8-17 in Anaheim, California.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson will host the event, to be called "Christian Faithfulness in the Global Economic Crisis" at the Anaheim Hilton from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. PST (10:30 p.m. EST).

"I am delighted that the General Convention will have the opportunity to focus on global economic issues and, in the process, consider how our stewardship may be exercised for the benefit of the larger world,"said Jefferts Schori, who will provide an overview of the economic crisis and introduce Williams.

We had been told he was going to lead a Bible study. Many of us hoped he would be available for an open Q&A forum. But no. There will be none of that.

We know he has given aid and comfort to the people who are trying to have the Episcopal Church kicked out of the Anglican Communion.

And now we learn he's going to give an economic policy presentation to our Bishops and Deputies???

[Caption to photo at left: The Archbishop climbs of his bunker just long enough to say "Peek-a-boo" to the Episcopal Church.]

If that's the best he can manage, he should save his British sterling and just stay home. What a stupid waste! Is he really this cowardly?

He writes encouraging letters to schismatics in the Episcopal Church, but lacks the courage to talk with our bishops and deputies about the most burning issues ecclesiastical issues facing the Anglican Communion today?

There are plenty of more qualified people in the Episcopal Church, who could speak to the economic issues.

I know some economists. Rowan, Katharine, and Bonnie are no economists! WTF are they thinking??

Hail to Rowan, Archbishop of Laodicea, and his enablers, Katherine & Bonnie.

[For some reason, Blogger doesn't want me to use "chickenshit" along with the titles of Bishop or President to apply to Rowan Williams, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, or Bonnie Anderson. It must be some sort of technical glitch.]

Conflicting Creeds

What is the Creed of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church, and most other mainline Christian churches? You know it. It begins:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

[The full Creed -- the one I say several times a week -- is reproduced below.]

What is the Creed of the newly formed “Anglican Church in North America”?

“Only men, and no gays.”

At least that’s how it appears to me, and to USA Today. Read the story. Yes, the tie that binds the new Would-Be Anglican Church in North America is simply this: no women in the episcopate, and no queers. What a profound theological base upon which to form a new church. They disagree about much else: the efficacy of baptism, the significance of the Eucharist, the possibility of women's ordination, to name just a few. But they are united in their hatred.

The ACNA predicts it's going to grow by leaps and bounds now that it's distanced itself from the likes of me and the "heretical" Episcopal Church. With hatred and judgment as its core tenet ... I'm not so sure. I'm going to sit back and apply the Gamaliel principle.


The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Puzzling Observations

Reading Mark Harris’ marvelous blog today, I remembered that the schismatics are having a big meet-up this week in Fort Worth to create the Anglican Church in North America.

So I went over to TitusOne, which I view as the most reliable, least strident site in the “conservative blogosphere,” to learn what’s happening in Fort Worth. Kendall Harmon is carrying many, many news reports from the ACNA meet-up. It had been many weeks (maybe even a couple of months) since I’d visited his site.

And I was shocked by what I observed. His postings (especially about Big Events like this one purportedly is) used to get dozens and dozens of comments. But go look. His many ACNA-related posts are only getting a handful comments. Reports like these used to get dozens of comments. That is weird! What the heck is going on? T19 is still getting hits; it’s just not getting much discussion. How come?

I have a hunch that the True Believers have moved over to StandFirm because they’re weary of TitusOneNine’s fairly constrained links and excerpts. Maybe they want the screaming free-for-all that StandFirm feeds them in its posts and allows in its comments. But even over at SFiF, the posts don’t seem to be getting the volume of comments that they used to.

Meanwhile, there are true conservatives still within the Episcopal Church. Have they grown weary of the drama and the screaming? Where are they going? Where are they talking online? They’re certainly not at T19 or SFiF. I read what they write on the HoBD listserv, but I don’t see a major “conservative” blog where they are assembling and talking.

I wonder if there’s a parallel here to this week’s formation of the ACNA. The bishops and priests who’ve made their reputations by excoriating the Episcopal Church finally got what they wanted: a “pure” “Anglican” church. The Anglo-Catholics in man lace and the arms-in-the-air charismatic/Protestant “Anglicans” are having a love-fest in Fort Worth … for now. This small but fervent group is clearly happy about their deliverance out of Babylon.

But there are still a great many reasonable, articulate conservatives within the Episcopal Church. I have a hunch they may be willing to stay with us … if we will give them the respect and honor that we promise in our baptismal covenant. These few – this solid core of conservatives (like Fathers Tony Clavier & Dan Martins) – are perhaps still willing to listen and engage in dialogue. I hope we will give them that respect at GC09 in Anaheim.

Mind you, my look-see at these sites isn’t scientific. I don’t have any data. I’m just going with my impression of the dialogue. But I do think it’s intriguing that a blog that used to be the center of “conservative” discussion is getting very few comments, very little discussion. Even posts at SFiF don’t seem to gather the number of comments they used to.

But I see something similar on “my side” of the aisle. Since Father Jake left, we’ve never had a single behemoth site where we “liberals” gather. But at the sites I visit and love, the number of comments seems to be down. What’s going on? Are we all just getting weary of the battle? If so, that might be a good thing.

What do you think is going on?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

They Walked Among Us, and They Are No More

You never think it’s going to be people you know.

After church today, I went to the recycling center to drop off my goods. A woman who arrived just after me was shaken. She had just come from the western part of our county and had seen the aftermath of a car accident. She said two people were dead at the scene of an accident where a county road intersects with a U.S. highway. [No, not an overpass. Just people turning onto a divided country 4-lane road.] We talked. I expressed dismay and sorrow. This happens far too often around here, where county roads intersect onto 70 mph state/federal highways without overpasses and merging lanes.

About 3 hours later, I got a phone call from one of my co-workers. The two people who died there were a husband and wife who worked in our office. The telephone tree is activated, so that people can hear the news today, rather than when we all get to work tomorrow.

The two people who died were both from my office: Marvin & Lynne.

Marvin has been “the mailroom guy” for as long as most of us remember. He visited every department twice a day to pick up and deliver mail. Always happy, jovial, cheerful with everyone.

Lynne started in the State Library, but we snagged her in the State Archives for her reference skills. She was much more reticent. Smart. Competent. Somewhat taciturn.

About three years ago, Lynne & Marvin married. I remember being delighted at their marriage. I think both had been single. In their late 40s or 50s, they found each other. It gave me hope. It reminded me of that slogan: “There’s someone for everyone.” Lynne, the reader, the librarian, the archivist. Marvin (I recently learned) was functionally illiterate. But it was clear they had found their soul-mates in each other. It was clear they adored and cherished each other. I always delighted in seeing them together.

Today, they were on their way to brunch together, and they were killed as they turned onto Highway 54. Somebody slammed into their car, and they died together.

Just a few hours ago, they were going about their routines together, and now they are both dead.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and someday I’ll say how and why I feel it so strongly: I hate death!

For now, if you would, say a prayer for Lynne and Marvin – who walked among us just hours ago, and are now gone from us.

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants Lynne and Marvin, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

NPR on the Anglican Troubles

I thought Barbara Bradley Hagerty did a good job on this story on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday this morning. She seems to understand the issues, background, and the polity of TEC and the WWAC ... which is much more than many "religion reporters" do.

I was especially proud of Susan Russell! From the transcript:
"It would be as if Sarah Palin were to take a small, but vocal, percentage of very conservative Republicans and decide that they were going to create a parallel United States without having the White House at the center," Russell says.
And this:
George Pitcher, an Anglican priest at St. Bride's Anglican Church in London and religion editor at the Daily Telegraph, agrees. He says the communion welcomes conservative views.
But, he says, "when they want to say this is the one true way, and we want to impose it on all Anglicans, then it's at that stage that the broadly tolerant Anglican Communion says, 'Well that's not the way we do things.'"
The Rev. Ryan Reed of St. Vincent's Cathedral (Fort Worth) says conservatives have tried to stay in the "big tent" of Anglicanism, and he defends their schism:
"The problem," Reed says, "is in the last 30 years, the boundaries of that tent, or those views, have expanded so far that you can find leadership in the Episcopal Church that is radically not Christian in terms of their understanding of the cross, the Resurrection, the uniqueness of Christ, the authority of Scripture."
Reed says the Episcopal Church is following culture, not the Bible.
This is such a crock! Yes, he and his fellow leavers have been hammering that soundbyte since 2003, but "that don't make it so." If there are non-Christians in the clergy, why haven't the conservatives filed presentments against them? Because the neo-cons know in their hearts they're focusing on adiaphora, not on the core tenets of the Christian faith.

As to the Episcopal Church following culture, not the Bible? Hogwash! Plenty of Episcopalians have argued from Scripture that same-sex relationships are not inconsistent with the Bible. Furthermore, there is this: In states that have a popular vote on SSBs, most (including my own state of Missouri) vote 3-to-1 against domestic partnership, civil unions, and marriage for lesbians and gay men. The Episcopal Church is most decidedly not "following the culture." We are swimming upstream with all our soul and strength.

But Father Reed and his ilk have their lines memorized, and they shall not be moved.

Give it a listen ... or a read.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran 2009 … USA 2000

Like many others, I have been watching the news out of Iran, watching the demonstrations in the streets. I was appalled last night when the “Supreme Leader” [a.k.a. Theocrat in Chief] threatened the protesters with physical violence and even death if they continued their protests.
I deeply admire the courage of the demonstrators.

But let’s do a little reality check. Neither of the Iranian Presidential candidates nor their followers are calling for any significant change in the Iranian theocracy. They still hate the U.S. They still view the U.S. as The Great Satan. So I doubt much will change in Iran … or in Iranian/US relations … as a result of this election.
The core issue in Iran is the question of whether the election was fair and whether the results have been honestly reported. Tens of thousands of Iranians are willing to take to the streets, at the risk of injury and even death, to uphold that principle.

Mind you, I care for the lives of the brave Iranians who are protesting in the streets. I admire their courage, and I pray for their safety. But I also recognize this isn’t a “revolution.” It will not change the trajectory of Iran’s internal or international policy. Nobody there is advocating for what we would recognize as “democracy.” There's little that's revolutionary in these demonstrations, except that they are demanding the votes be counted honestly and with integrity.

That alone is fairly radical. Here’s what strikes me most as I watch the news out of Iran.

The Iranian protests made me think back to the U.S. elections in 2000. There’s a very good chance that Bush and his daddy’s Supreme Court stole the election from the people. And what did the majority of people in the U.S. do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We listened to NPR (or other sources). We watched the ballot-counters in Florida. Eventually we listened to the Supreme Court deliberations. And when the Supreme Court declared Bush the “winner,” Al Gore and all the rest of us just tucked our tails and went away quietly.

There’s a very good chance that the 2000 U.S. election was “stolen” every bit as much as this month’s Iran election was stolen.

What I admire most about the Iranians is that they are not taking it lying down.

Can you just imagine what it would have been like if we Americans in 2000 had had half the courage the Iranians are showing this month? Al Gore might have been president in 2000. More importantly, he might have been President on September 11, 2001. We might have been spared two senseless, unjust wars. We might have been spared the executive excesses, the torture, the extraordinary renditions, the usurpation of executive powers. We could have had an intelligent President in the White House.

But we in the U.S. lacked the courage. We lacked the organization. We lacked the will that the Iranians are showing this week.

Like sheep led to the slaughter, we in the U.S. let Bush’s cronies appoint him President back in 2000. This is the great lesson I take from Iran this week. In contrast to the U.S. majority in 2000, they are confronting a corrupt system. Unlike us, they are showing courage.

[Image courtesy of the Boston Globe]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Louie Crew Weighs In

On the Bishops' Super-Duper-Double-Secret Theology Committee

I have written here recently about my outrage that Bishop Henry Nutt Parsley (Alabama) has appointed a super-secret committee to study same-sex relationships. Today, one conservative from Nashotah came out of the closet and revealed his participation and the name of the committee chair. One wonders why a Nashotah faculty member is sharing information with his community, while Bishop Parsley steadfastly refuses to reveal the names of the committee members.

Louie Crew – God bless him! – has posted a reflection and challenge to Bishop Parsley. With permission, I copy it here:

An Open Letter to Bishop Henry Parsley from Two Named 'Louie Crew'

Bishop Parsley,

In 1911, when his son Erman was only six, the local Klan came in the dark to the home of my grandfather and demanded: "Louie, it is time for you to do your civic duty."

Louie stood them down while Erman watched from behind a window, frightened by the torches and the hoods.

Then to Erman's amazement, Louie called out the name of every hooded man. Erman thought his father had magical skills, not realizing that as president of the local bank, his father had loaned the money used to buy most of the buggies and horses of the vigilantes.

"John! Gary! James! Henry!......" Louie called to the panel before him; "you know that you are up to no Christian good when you have to hide your face to do it."


+Henry, Bishop of Alabama, Ernest and I still pay taxes on Louie's property in Coosa County. You know that you are up to no Christian good when you have to hide the identity of the special panel that you have appointed to study us secretly.

Nor do you treat all parties equally. This week the MISSIONER, published by Nashotah House, identified The Rev. Daniel Westberg, a professor at Nashotah House, as a member of the secret panel and Dr. Ellen Charry, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, as the panel's chair. (See page 3 of the current issue)

The writer had sufficient knowledge to characterize the theological position of each member of the secret panel.

Why does one of our most conservative seminaries have access to information that you have denied to all who have requested it, including those of us who share fiscal responsbility with you at General Convention?

End the duplicity. Take the hoods off all members of the committee. Let there be transparency and decency.

I have been baptized.

Louie Crew

Blessing Same-Sex Marriages

It won’t surprise any of you that, in the run-up to GC09 and in light of the many states that are now authorizing same-sex marriage, members of the HoBD listserv are discussing this topic ad nauseum.

The Rev. Susan Russell, a priest at All Saints Church (Pasadena) and President of Integrity USA, offered this reflection to the HoBD list. I found it clear, simple, persuasive, and passionate. With Susan’s permission, I am posting it here.

I write today to ask those who both contribute and monitor this listserve to remember is that there are those among us who have been at these conversations for a VERY long time.

I beg forgiveness from those offended by our sometime impatience at explaining ourselves one more time, at offering our relationships up to the microscope for one more look, at being asked to accept "no offense" as a footnote as if it neutralizes what has gone before it. And I beg your indulgence by presenting – one more time – the following response to the question, "What does it mean for the church to give its blessing?" It is the answer we have been giving since its publication in 2003. It's the answer we'll take to Anaheim. And it's the answer we'll keep giving until – like the persistent widow in the parable Our Lord gave us to show us how to fight injustice – we no longer have to gird our loins and come back "one more once" to make our case.

"What Does It Mean for the Church to Give Its Blessing?" [from the 2003 "Theology of Blessing" published by the Claiming the Blessing collaborative ... still available in PDF at
Claiming the Blessing.]

"Blessing" is perhaps the most controversial word in the Church's consideration of the treatment of same sex households in its midst. Because of this fact, we must take great care to be precise about what we mean when we use the word. The following are the building blocks for a theology of blessing: Creation, Covenant, Grace, and Sacrament.

Creation itself is the fundamental act of blessing. Creation is a blessing (gift) to humankind from God and humankind blesses (gives thanks to or praises) God in return. The Hebrew word for "blessing," barak,” means at its core the awesome power of life itself. A fundamental claim of the Bible in regards to creation is that there is enough, in fact an abundance, of creation, and therefore of blessing, to go around.

"Blessing" is a covenantal, relational word. It describes the results of the hallowed, right, just relationship between God and humankind. Blessing is what happens when God and humankind live in covenant. It is important to remember here that the relationships between human beings and the relationship between God and human beings cannot be separated. "Blessing" and "justice" are inseparable biblical concepts.

When we ask for God's blessing, we are asking for God's presence and favor. In Christian terms this favor is what we call "grace," God's disposition toward us that is not dependent upon our merit, but is a sure and certain gift to the believer in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In our tradition, the Sacraments are the primary ways the grace/blessing of God is communicated to us ("a sure and certain means," BCP, p. 857). The two "great" Sacraments "given by Christ" (BCP, p. 858) are Baptism and Eucharist. In them we see the two fundamental aspects of blessing: the blessing of life from God and the blessing of God for that life.

Five other rites are traditionally known as sacraments, but they are dependent for their meaning on the two Sacraments and are not "necessary for all persons." A whole host of other actions in the life of the Church, and of individual Christians, are "sacramental" in nature, i.e., they mediate the grace/blessing of God and cause us to give thanks and praise/blessing to God.

In our tradition, priests and bishops have the authority to pronounce God's blessing within the community of faith. They do so not by their own power, but as instruments of the grace (blessing) of God within the Church. Their authority to bless, too, finds its meaning in the two great Sacraments.

When the Church chooses "to bless" something it is declaring that this particular person or persons or thing is a gift/blessing from God and his/her/its/their purpose is to live in (or, the case of things, to assist in) covenanted relationship with God (and with all creation), i.e., to bless God in return.

To bless the relationship between two men or two women is to do this very thing: to declare that this relationship is a blessing from God and that its purpose is to bless God, both within the context of the community of faith. If the Church believes that same-sex relationships show forth God's blessing when they are lived in fidelity, mutuality, and unconditional love, then this blessing must be owned and celebrated and supported in the community of faith.

To that, I can only say a hearty “Amen!” And I give thanks to Susan for letting me post it here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Gay Agenda

I finally found it!

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Saturday, June 06, 2009


I've been catching up on my ICHC browsing today. This one caught my fancy.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

To whom do you suppose the kitteh is (or should be) administering the oath?
  1. Dick Cheney
  2. Judge Sotomayor
  3. Bishop Henry Parsley
  4. Lisa Fox
  5. General Petraeus
  6. David Virtue
  7. Grandmère Mimi
  8. __________ [other -- you fill in the blank]

Unfortunately, I don't have that nifty voting widget that MadPriest is using. So you'll just have to use the comments to cast and explain your vote.

Have fun!

Thought for the Day

For you Harry Potter fans: Remember the Marauder’s Map that Harry obtained? Before the text would appear on the pages, Harry had to aver: “I do solemnly declare that I am up to no good.” Then he would don his invisibility cloak and embark on his next escapade.

Invisibility. Secrets. Up to no good.

Does this ring a bell?

Photo courtesy of this site.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Secret HoB Theology Committee

Another Leak

You will recall my outrage (blogged here and here) at Bishop Parsley’s refusal to reveal the names of those who are going to study our lives like bugs under a microscope. I fully understand that the panel needs to have some confidentiality about their discussions, but I remain outraged that +Parsley won’t even reveal the names of those appointed to the study group.

As usual, Jim Naughton and his friends at the Episcopal Café have had the greatest scoops (here and here) about the members of Bishop Parsley’s super-secret committee studying GLBT issues in the church.

But I have my sources, too. In the 1996 movie, The Birdcage, Gene Hackman demonstrated his thoroughly orthodox theological understanding of gay relationships. In a brilliant move, Bishop Parsley has added Mr. Hackman to the group of theologians studying this issue for our church.

Bravo, Bishop Parsley! A brilliant addition to your super-duper secret panel!

Real People Speak to Super-Duper-Secret Theologians

Susan Russell has also posted a letter to Parsley's Cheneyesque super-duper-secret committee. The letter was written by Andrew Sorbo, who just recently lost his partner of 30 years. They were denied a marriage/blessing in the Episcopal Church they loved. Please read it here.

Real People Speak to Super-Duper-Secret Theologians

I am grateful that Christopher Evans shared with me the letter he sent to his bishops, after the news that Bishop Parsley has appointed a secret Cheneyesque committee to "consider the question of same-sex relationships."

Please go read Christopher's thoughtful letter here. Christopher's letter is so thoughtful and nuanced that I cannot even pull out a few pithy snippets. Please read the whole thing.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Blessings Worth Study

Blessed Louie Crew wrote on the HoBD listserv (June 2) [and I quote here with his permission]:

Miguel in the Office of the Presiding Bishop explained to me that it is the decision of the House of Bishops Theology Committee not to reveal the names of those on the sub-committee at this time.

I find that decision an abomination. LGBT in life commitments face huge hostility in this church, and yet those who "study" us need to be secret?!

Perhaps we should also appoint a special committee to study heterosexual marriage but keep the names of the committee a secret.

I grew up in Alabama with such shenanigans about every aspect of my life as a gay person, and whenever our judges met in secret, no lgbt person was safe. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
LOL! Wouldn’t you love to demand a study of the parameters and behaviors of heterosexual marriages in a secret panel? God only knows what that study would reveal about our supposedly heterosexual bishops, clergy, and laity.

Louie’s note prompted me to write this, which a Deputy posted on my behalf to the HoBD list:

So the Bishops have appointed a secret committee to consider the theology related to the blessings of gay/lesbian relationships.

I suggest they take the next logical steps: secret committees to study the theology behind the blessings of dogs, cats, bunny-rabbits, cars, homes, gardens, jewelry. And -- for God's sakes! -- let us be sure they keep all those committee memberships secret!

Lisa Fox
kibitzing from the Diocese of Missouri since 2003

Bishops and clergy bless all manner of things. Animals, cars, homes, gardens, jewelry. Have they deeply contemplated the theological implications behind those blessings? If not, why not? How do they determine which bunny-rabbits are worthy of the Church's blessing? How do they determine which garden warrants blessing? Surely these are Deep Theological Questions.

Why does it require a super-secret Theological Committee – whose members' names are kept secret – to consider the blessing of faithful gay/lesbian Christians’ relationships if all those other blessings don't warrant similar super-secret studies?

I will confess: This one has me livid. Bless my car? No problem. Bless my cats? No problem. Bless the marriage of and consecrate a thrice-divorced bishop? No problem! Bless a faithful relationship between two women or two men, and the bishops have to lock a bunch of theologians into a closet to deliberate about it secretly for two years -- two years! Really! Is this not completely ludicrous? Is the question that theologically complex? Did Rowan terrify all our bishops this badly at Lambeth? Or are they this profoundly homophobic? I am curious. I would like to hear some of our bishops explain what appears to me a very deep, worrisome disconnect.

So far, I have not heard one -- not one! -- bishop step up to the plate to explain why (a) they need to keep the panelists' names secret and (b) why they need two years to study this question. I am waiting. But all I hear is the chirping of crickets.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Sneaky Bishops

Episcopal Bishops Want to Leave Gays in a "Crucifed Place" through 2011

Several other bloggers have posted this news. The House of Bishops Theology Committee has appointed a super-secret panel to study same-sex relationships, and they have refused to release the names of the members of that panel.

Never mind that we in the Episcopal Church have been studying same-sex relationships for thirty years. All of a sudden, the House of Bishops feels a need to appoint a secret panel to consider the topic.

Episcopal Café has the story here, with a follow-up here.

Mark Harris writes thoughtfully here.

From across the pond, Thinking Anglicans gathers the news.

Those who follow our church’s goings-on will remember that many resolutions have been submitted for consideration at the GC09 convention. Many dioceses have passed resolutions calling for the repeal of B033. Many have passed resolutions calling for us to move on to develop liturgies for blessings of same-sex unions and/or marriages. You can find a summary of those resolutions here. After Katharine Jefferts Schori steam-rolled the House of Deputies into the invidious B033 at the 2006 General Convention, many dioceses have said “Enough!” and called for action at GC09. Even my conservative/moderate diocese called for movement forward.

Now, it appears to me, the Bishops have found a slimy, unilateral way to slow or kill the whole process. They have appointed a secret group – apparently only accountable to the Bishops – to “study the issue,” asking that their report be released in 2011. Get it? The Bishops have systematically [sneakily?] put the episcopal focus on a report that will not be released until long after this summer’s General Convention.

I think this is sneaky and manipulative. It makes me livid. They did this unilaterally. Did they consult with any clergy or laypeople? Not that I can see. Did they run this past our Executive Council? Not that I can see. It looks like they donned their purple shirts and mitres and found a way to disenfranchise every other person in the Episcopal Church. They have it in their power. The way our church is structured, the House of Bishops can veto anything proposed or passed by the clergy and laypeople in the House of Deputies.

We have something over 150 bishops. They can block any legislative action that the other million-plus clergy and laypeople in the Episcopal Church might want to take. They have it in their power, according to our constitution and canons.

I fear this signals that the Bishops will stonewall any progress that the clergy and laypeople in the House of Deputies might want to take in our General Convention this summer. It cannot be an accident that they asked their super-secret panel to report back in 2011. They want the power to block this issue in 2009. Why? Because they have bowed down to the idol of the Windsor Report? I don't know.

The bishops did this for a long time in the 1970s. They blocked and blocked and blocked the House of Deputies’ will that women be allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. It looks to me like they are conspiring to do exactly the same thing to gay and lesbian people at GC2009. And they have the power to do it. Either house can block the actions of the other house’s action.

Much has been written in the blogosphere in the past couple of days. Many bloggers share my anger and frustration.

Finally, Bishop Parsley, Chair of Theology Committee of the House of Bishops, has made a comment to defend the Bishops’ action. In my view, his statement is weak, dismissive, and disgustingly paternalistic. [You may recall he voted against consent to Bishop Robinson and enthusiastically supported B033. We all know where he is coming from.]

Here is the comment I posted at the Episcopal Café:

Exercising all the restraint I can, the best I can say about Bishop Parsley’s response is that it is paternalistic in the extreme. What I read is “Hush, now. Don’t worry your pretty little heads about this. We were just kidding in the 1979 BCP when we said that the first order of ministry is that of all the baptized. There are some things you just cannot understand.”

I also recall the statement on our church’s website that claims the Episcopal Church exercises “transparent governance.” So much for that.

But to my main points. I have two.

About 3 years ago, when I was newly elected to the vestry, our priest of 34 years announced his resignation, and it fell to us to appoint a search committee. We knew that emotions might run high, as most of our parishioners would feel a stake in the outcome and would have very strong opinions about what they did and did not want to see in our next rector. By the logic of Bishop Parsley’s statement, the vestry should have kept the names of the search committee members secret so that they could deliberate appropriately. Have any of you kept secret the names of your search committees? Of course, that’s bull-hockey. As is Bishop Parsley's rationale.

And my second point: The Bishops have unilaterally chosen to delay this report until 2011. After three decades of serious study and discussion, the Bishops have carefully put this report off until the 2012 General Convention. Personally, this infuriates me. Much work has been done. Tobias Haller’s recent book is a major contribution to the theological discussion. My hermeneutic of suspicion has kicked in. I fear the Bishops have been lulled into Rowan’s miasma. As I see it, this is a “shot across the bow” to the House of Deputies. I read here that the Bishops will stonewall any forward movement at GC09; they will claim that they just cannot act until they hear from their super-secret panel. I see this as a very deliberate and unfortunate (if not nefarious) move.

As to the composition of the committee. I really wouldn’t care who was on the committee as long as I knew that someone of the status of Bishop Gene Robinson or Brother Tobias Haller were on that super-secret panel. No matter what conservatives were on the panel, I would rest easier if I knew either of these were present.

Secondary points:

I believe the Bishop's choice of panel members will tell us a great deal.

As Bill Carroll put it, this is at best a huge “tactical mistake” by the House of Bishops. Only time will tell whether or what kind of other mistake(s) it may be.

Like so many others, I find it hilarious that this super-secret panel is going to deliberate in the closet. That is just too funny for words!

If you are angry and moved to action, you can find the names and e-mail addresses of the the Bishops Theology Committe here.

Postscript: Read the timeline here of the Bishops' supposed studies. The bishops have pulled this delaying stunt time and time and time again.

Another postscript: To my vast, amazed astonishment, ENS has actually posted a news story about this. News from ENS? -- that doesn't sound like Pravda? Alert the media. But, seriously, ENS has a good summary story here.

Yet another postscript: Be sure to check Susan Russell's blog for historical perspective and a sense of deja vu all over again.