Thursday, March 29, 2007

Quote of the day :: Christopher Seitz

it is incumbent upon Windsor Bishops to meet and find a way to respond to what has been proposed at Dar es Salaam. Otherwise, the work will simply fall to the side and we will be left with a variety of invention initiatives (which were to be halted or better ordered by the instrument of a Pastoral Council, so it was to be hoped by the communiqué’s logic) on the one side; and on the other, the integrity of the Primates Meeting—of which the PB of TEC was present—will be in question.

-Christopher Seitz

My emphasis. The Instrument of a Pastoral Council: an instument of unity and division. A definite pattern is developing. See the recent quotes of the day from Sarah Hey and Ephraim Radner.

The Spring House of Bishops meeting

In glorious detail as told by Bishop Kelsey (Northern Michigan). It's lengthy but well worth reading in its entirity. If you want a digest see Jim Naughton's selection.

Among the points Kelsey covers:

1. How the coalition formed that supported Resolutions 1 and 2. Including how reports by TEC's Covenant design group representatives, including Ephraim Radner, influenced the dynamic at the HoB of the coalition.

2. The floor debate and amendments to the resolutions.

3. Report of a meeting of American bishops and Rowan Williams subsequent to the Primates meeting.

4. Report of an insider's view of the Primates meeting.

5. Notes on the report by the Property Disputes Committee.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Disestablishment and the rush hour of the gods

In postwar Japan, the occupying forces, principally American, insisted on freedom of religious worship for all Japanese. As a result, so many new religious movements came into being that scholars of religion were forced to distinguish between shin shukyo (new religions) and shin shin shukyo (or new new religions).

Neill McFarland, a sociologist writing in the 1960s, described this spiritual free-for-all as "the rush hour of the gods". It’s a memorable phrase and one that’s still accurate.Today, Japanese new religions number between 200 and 500, depending on who’s counting. Some put the figure as high as 3,000. With a membership of 1 in 5, new religions account for about 25-million Japanese. They’re also being exported around the world....
from 1776 through 1850, the combined market shares of the Episcopalian, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian denominations dropped from 55 percent to 19 percent of all religious adherents. ... American rates of church membership have actually risen throughout the past two centuries.
My emphasis.

The one holy and catholic church multiplies by division.

Quote of the day :: Ephraim Radner

Because the Primates – as those asked to respond to the threats against this Anglican vocation – have offered together a way forward, I believe it is best to follow this way as far as one can from within the position God has placed us – in this case, Americans within TEC. How do this, if TEC’s own bishops as a group have rejected this way?

i. Those bishops who do not in fact share the “mind” of the House of Bishops, must say so openly and separate themselves from that mind; they must have a different mind, a mind that is at one with the larger church’s.

ii. They must respond positively to the Primates’ request, by publicly acceding to their recommendations, both in word and deed: clarifying their own commitments on matters under dispute, and following through with the request to gather and nominate a Primatial Vicar to a Pastoral Council – now seemingly capable of being made up only of 3 persons, given TEC’s refusal to participate. What the Council does with this rests in their hands; but “communion-minded” American bishops must at least do their part.

iii. Individual congregations and clergy and laity within TEC should encourage Communion-minded bishops to this work, by urging them forward and committing themselves to the Pastoral Scheme as it unfolds under the direction of the Communion and the Communion-minded. Such a commitment could be given in a number of ways, but it should be done openly and clearly.

iv. Communion-minded bishops and their supporters may indeed face sanctions from the official structures of the TEC – other bishops, the legal offices of 815 and the Executive Council. This will represent the practical side of the conflict now upon us. But be of good cheer – He has overcome the world.

v. We must in all things act together, and not apart. Shall there perhaps be a moment on October 1st when we shall stand as one mind and one heart? But if this is to happen, the choices we make today must move in this direction and not another.

-Ephraim Radner
My emphasis. It reads to me as an open call for secession from TEC with the aspiration of the "Communion-minded" being recognized as the Anglican Communion's recognized affiliate in the USA. Refreshingly open. Read also my related quote of the day of March 24th by Sarah Hey. Hey and Radner are on the same page in seeing the Pastoral Scheme as an instrument for division. No doubt the House of Bishops signaled the same opinion of the scheme by rejecting it.

Jim Naughton doubts the opening premise, "the Primates – as those asked to respond to the threats against this Anglican vocation – have offered together a way forward [by recommending formation of a Primatial Council]."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You can't take it with you

UPDATE: Outline of the charges against Armstrong here.

Casper Star-Tribune reports:

Colorado's largest Episcopal church was left in chaos after leaders voted to leave the denomination and the bishop responded by dismissing the parish's leadership.The controversy at Colorado Springs' Grace Episcopal Church and St. Stephen's Parish is the latest to roil the Episcopal Church following the national denomination's acceptance of homosexuality.

The vestry of Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish on Monday voted to bolt from the national church and instead join a conservative Anglican church based in Nigeria.But Bishop Robert O'Neill rejected the move, dismissing the local leaders and saying the Colorado Springs parish would remain part of the Episcopal Church.

"The fact is people may leave the Episcopal Church but parishes cannot," O'Neill said in a statement.The church's longtime rector, the Rev. Donald Armstrong III, who was suspended for allegedly mishandling funds, said O'Neill no longer has jurisdiction over the parish."He doesn't have an army. The courts will not interfere in an internal church dispute and the congregation is solidly behind us," Armstrong said.

Beckett Stokes, a spokeswoman for the Colorado diocese, said church law states that all parish property and assets are held in trust for the diocese. She declined to comment on Armstrong's reaction.

The leaders of Grace and St. Stephen's voted to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a missionary diocese of the Church of Nigeria led by Archbishop Peter J. Akinola.
Colorado Springs Gazette:
The Colorado diocese responded Monday by claiming that the local parish is forbidden by Episcopal law from leaving the denomination, even if some members decide to. The diocese asserted its rights to the historic downtown church building, valued at $17 million. Even though the vestry no longer recognizes the authority of Colorado Bishop Robert O’Neill, he removed them from office and said he’d be in touch with parishioners about how to proceed with worship and protecting church assets after the disruption.
From the Diocese (pdf):
This action, taken by the vestry in consultation with Father Armstrong (still a priest of the Episcopal Church under inhibition by the Bishop), has been taken unilaterally and has no canonical or constitutional grounding or effect. "The fact is that people may leave the Episcopal Church but parishes cannot," Bishop O’Neill stated. "Grace and Saint Stephen’s Church remains a parish of The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and will continue to be so for any and all who desire to be members of The Episcopal Church."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Quote of the day :: Sarah Hey

But on the other side of that aspect of holding up the standard was -- hard upon its heels, so to speak -- the looming "rear guard effort" of the Pastoral Council, the "structures for pastoral care", and the Primatial Vicar. That trinity of interlocking pieces was to care for those individuals, clergy, parishes, and dioceses who wished to remain within the Anglican Communion, yet were unable to continue in their present oversight circumstances due to their bishop's inability to accept the Windsor Report.

That trinity of pastoral actions by the primates was like a looming Damocles sword to every bishop who had assumed, in that Golden Episcopal Past, that if he or she violated the boundaries of the Windsor Report and of orthodoxy, there would be no place for Episcopalians in his or her diocese to go, while remaining within the Anglican Communion.

And the key word that seemed to me so shocking and important in the Tanzania Communique was the word "individuals". Not even the Network allowed individuals to partake of its ecclesial structure.

What did this mean? It meant that if a group of Episcopalians was stuck in a massively heterodox diocese and parishes, surrounded on all sides, if they could find one another, organize, plan, act together -- they could appeal as individuals to the Pastoral Council and form parishes. They could be within the Anglican Communion together, as an entity. It meant that every entity within the Episcopal church -- priest, bishop, diocese, parish, and individual -- could be cared for within the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal church.

It was a monster-beautiful plan, from my perspective. It meant that every traditional Episcopalian could, with the hard work of blood, sweat, and tears -- showing some enterprise, courage, commitment, and energy -- plant parishes, form associations, be together, and enjoy the benefits and order of the Anglican Communion.

-Sarah Hey

Katharine Jefferts Schori :: Forbes

Forbes magazine runs a regular series on leadership. They recently covered Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Some excerpts:
Even 30 years after Episcopalians first ordained women as priests, there are still U.S. [Episcopal] dioceses that don't recognize a woman's right to be a priest--and still oppose Jefferts Schori's investiture as presiding bishop.

Her response? People should get to know her before they make up their minds.
"I don't think my election is so much about my gender as it is about gifts that my brother and sister bishops saw in me," says Jefferts Schori, who formally took her seat as presiding bishop last November. "I think it says gender is not a necessary barrier." Still, she knows her being chosen presiding bishop represents a true victory for women in the Episcopal Church--and in the church universal.
But as Jefferts Schori moves fully into one of the country's most prestigious ecclesiastical posts, most of her sister clergy still fight an uphill battle. At a time when women occupy only a small percentage of chief executive posts in American business, women in religion face the same sparsely populated landscape.

But while one can find examples of women in the senior ranks in virtually every field of business, women remain barred from clergy posts across huge subsets of religion--including the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, Orthodox Judaism and Islam. Those who oppose women in leadership roles point to thousands of years of tradition and infallible scripture as justification.

Consider how you would feel about a law that said you couldn't be president of your company because you're a woman, and you begin to have an idea of the plight of many women who might otherwise follow a divine calling.
"I give thanks for my Roman Catholic roots," she told the press after her election last summer, "but that's not where I am. As might be obvious." Standing before the crowd in her priestly collar, she had made her point. And the crowd laughed with her.
"The hope is that bringing [Jefferts Schori] on board will create a paradigmatic shift," says the Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, ecumenical and interreligious officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and a consultant to the national church. "Things are changing."

Guibord says she encounters women in her travels who rejoice to see a woman priest. "I always have women come up to me who want to touch me, who cry and say, 'You mean women can be priests?' When I travel and I wear my collar, I know that it gives women hope."
One of the challenges women in the priesthood face is that parishes expect them to live as out of balance, as tied to the parish, as the male priests of the past. It will take time to train parishes that their expectations of priests were never healthy for the clergy or the laity. Some thirty years after women entered the priesthood there are still some parishes learning that lesson.

At the same time - putting on my labor economist hat - the fact that women are overrepresented in positions like assistant rector is more a reflection of preferences of women than it is discrimination by the church.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bishop Lee's statement on the HoB resolutions


An Evangelical's Concession on Gays :: Time

"We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen," wrote the Rev. Albert Mohler, the influential president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler's position is a startling departure from years of insistence among fundamentalists that gay rights advocates are wrong when they say homosexuality is not something they choose.

Even more surprising, perhaps, is the implication of Mohler's statement that science can help inform Christians' response to moral questions — a rare admission among evangelicals.
In an interview with TIME, Mohler said his statement on gays does not change his views on the morality of homosexuality. "There has been among evangelicals a fear or a misunderstanding that if a scientific causation of homosexuality were discovered that that somehow removes the moral responsibility of the persons making these choices," he said. "But that is not true. The Scripture doesn't say we are responsible only for the temptations we choose. The basic sinfulness of homosexuality, that wouldn't change."
If science proves homosexuality is caused by genetic or other biological reasons, Mohler wrote, it's only a matter of time before science produces a treatment that will cure it. If so, he said, Christians have a duty to use it.
His point, he said, was that if a hormone therapy were developed for fetuses that would help them be born straight rather than gay, he would support its use, just as he would support medical treatment to give sight to the blind fetus.

That's what has angered gay rights advocates, and overshadowed Mohler's concession that homosexuals may be born that way. "What is wrong with Mohler's argument is that it implies that there is something wrong with being gay," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "I would welcome the fact that they are beginning to concede that homosexuality is not a chosen lifestyle. But it is hard for me to believe that anyone that would then conclude that our next step ought to be to get about the business of changing everybody is really offering any sort of enlightened view."
Some people are prone to alcoholism. Mohler is saying alcoholism is like homosexuality. We know alcohol abuse is wrong and damages oneself and others. So there is reason to hold alcoholics accountable. And to develop treatments for alcoholism.

The territory Mohler still won't explore is why he thinks a homosexual lifestyle is wrong. He would point to scriptural condemnations, I suppose. But intellectual honesty requires, I think, that we identify the scriptural principles that guide the good life. Somehow I don't think it boils down to a list of rights and wrongs. Love is not a list, nor is justice, nor is sin.

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

(Aside: Which is he? A fundamentalist or an evangelical? They're not coincident.)

What The Bishops Didn’t Do :: Bishop Epting

The three resolutions passed by the HoB are momentous and clear. But it is important to reflect on what the bishops did not do. Bishop Epting tells us:
What we did NOT do was to foreclose discussion on the Episcopal Church’s response to the main requests of the Primates’ Communique. We have not “ruled” on whether or not to reassure the Primates that General Convention meant what it said when it asked us and our Standing Committees not to give consent to any bishop-elect whose manner of life might prove of concern to the wider Anglican Communion and to clarify for them the status of the blessing of same-sex relationships in this church.
What the Episcopal Church’s bishops did not do is claim some kind of prelacy like the Primates have done, and to act in a high handed manner not permissable under the polity of either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion.
Episcopal Life Online has more:
"We did not talk about gay bishops or same sex blessings," Jefferts Schori said in response to one question. "We did not begin to respond to the Primates' communiqué in that area."

Sisk said there was no discussion on a moratorium that the Primates have demanded. They want the Episcopal Church not to consider openly gay or lesbian clergy for the episcopate and for bishops not to authorize blessings of same-gender relationships. A deadline of September 30 has been set for the bishops to respond.

Sisk said a statement in one resolution, approved by the bishops that all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of the church "was not intended to signal anything more than what it says. We did not discuss the moratorium," he said. "That issue did not surface."

Bishops Speak About Their Meeting :: telling beads

telling beads is keeping an updated comprehensive list of links, Bishops Speak About Their Meeting.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Roundup of responses to the HoB Resolutions :: The Episcopal Majority

We've got New Clear Days, and as the dust clears we can see The Episcopal Majority today is rightly monickered. TEM has a terrific blogospheric roundup of House of Bishop's resolutions here.

TEM points to this poignant statement at Of course, I could be wrong:
The American Church ought to grab this opportunity and become a truly prophetic voice in the world Church. Leading us all into the Kingdom of God. But they won't. They will just feel smug and go off and play with their own ball on their own. The problem is that Godly American Episcopalians do not realise how strong they are in their own country compared to Kingdom Christians elsewhere. They think we can just do the same as they are doing. But we can't. The English Church does not allow the voices of its members who are not company men and part of the establishment, to be heard. And although some of these insiders may truly want reform they are not going to attempt to achieve it by rocking the boat they one day want to be an officer on.
My emphasis.

So what about it Yanks? What can we do to lead "all into the Kingdom of God"?

Headline: House of Bishops rejects Ultimatum

Can you reject an ultimatum? The Living Church headline says so.

But an ultimatum is defined as
a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up by a threat to be followed through in case of noncompliance. An ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests. As such, the time allotted is usually short, and the request is understood not to be open to further negotiation.
The ultimatum belongs to the maker. You cannot reject the ultimatum. You can decline to fulfill the demand.

Perhaps by "rejection of an ultimatum" it is meant - to rephrase from above - you understand the final demand is not the final demand; that it is open to further negotiation.

As the Rev. Jan Nunley presciently stated, "it's not an ultimatum unless you think it is." Perhaps she had inside information about the mind of the house.

The Living Church synopsis of the HoB resolution on the cunning pastoral scheme

Quote (my emphasis):
The bishops deferred the Church's response on the pastoral council to Executive Council.The bishops listed five reasons why they considered the pastoral council and primatial vicar to be a bad idea. The pastoral council violates the canons which contain no provision for the primate to delegate authority. It would change the character of the “Windsor process.” It harkens back to a period of Colonialism from which The Episcopal Church was liberated. It replaces local rule by laity with a curial model.

“Most important of all it is spiritually unsound,” they said. “The pastoral scheme encourages one of the worst tendencies of our Western culture, which is to break relationships when we find them difficult instead of doing the hard work necessary to repair them and be instruments of reconciliation. The real cultural phenomenon that threatens the spiritual life of our people, including marriage and family life, is the ease with which we choose to break our relationships and the vows that established them rather than seek the transformative power of the Gospel in them. We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Read the whole thing

Big news from the House of Bishops meeting stated in the form of three resolutions. The first:
Mind of the House of Bishops Resolution Addressed to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church

Resolved, the House of Bishops affirms its desire that The Episcopal Church remain a part of the councils of the Anglican Communion; and

Resolved, the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church is determined solely by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church; and

Resolved, the House of Bishops believes the proposed Pastoral Scheme of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué of February 19, 2007 would be injurious to The Episcopal Church and urges that the Executive Council decline to participate in it; and

Resolved, the House of Bishops pledges itself to continue to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates that are compatible with our own polity and canons.
The two other resolutions are "To the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates' Standing Committee" requesting a meeting with them, and the much longer "A Statement from the House of Bishops."

They're all here. You should give them all a full read. They do not read like consensus documents; very clear, no fudging. No doubt we will be hearing from the minority of bishops who disagreed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Taking a second look at the AP's coverage of the Mark Lawrence story

I've taken a second look at Rachel Zoll's AP report concerning Mark Lawrence's failure to win official consent from a majority of the diocesan standing committees in The Episcopal Church. Here's the USA Today version headlined "Episcopalian leader rejects conservative diocese's choice of bishop." The LA Daily News headlined the story "Episcopal bishop election ruled out for at-odds views."

The editorial choices of headlines is understandable given the AP's first two paragraphs:
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori took the highly unusual step Thursday of invalidating the election of a bishop in the tradition-minded Diocese of South Carolina, which has rejected her authority because of her liberal theological outlook.

The elevation of the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence of Bakersfield, Calif., had become a flashpoint in the denomination's struggle over whether parishioners with conflicting views of the Bible on gays and other issues could stay in the same denomination. The last time the Episcopal Church threw out a bishop's election was more than seven decades ago.
An uninformed reader skimming the paper could easily wrongly conclude that (1) the PB invalidated the election because of Lawrence's views or the diocese's rejection of her authority (has the diocese even rejected her authority?), and (2) the invalidation was not a democratic process by majority vote but her choice.

In fact, the PB's role by church law is to determine whether a majority of diocesan bishops and standing committees had given their consent to the election. By her determination a majority of diocesan standing committees did not submit valid consents. Some did not follow church law in the submission of their ballot, some may have not submitted any ballot, and some voted no.

It is not possible to prove that some standing committees opposed Lawrence because of his conservative views. But the issue that caused sparks to fly was not his conservatism, but issue of whether he would take South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church. However, this issue is not raised until two thirds of the way into the AP article:
Lawrence, a priest in the conservative Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., was elected on the first ballot last September as South Carolina bishop.

The San Joaquin Diocese has also rejected Jefferts Schori's authority, partly because it opposes the ordination of women. In December, the diocese took the first step toward a formal break with the denomination. Some Episcopalians believed Lawrence planned to follow suit in South Carolina. He vehemently denied it.

"That was mud that got thrown at me and in some people's mind that stuck," Lawrence said.
Did he vehemently deny it in a timely fashion? I don't think so.

I do not, however, disagree much with this assessment:
McCormick [the Rev. J. Haden McCormick, head of the committee that administers the South Carolina Diocese] called it a "tragic outcome" that he hoped would be "a wake up call" about conditions in the church. Theological conservatives are a minority within the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church.
I hasten to add that theological liberals are also a minority. The outcome is tragic in many ways, and it does highlight conditions in the church that we have reached the point where it is a concern that dioceses would leave. Is it a wake up call? Most Episcopalians are as aware as they want to be, do not want to be drawn into either camp.


Ekklesia reports (my emphasis):
Reasons for favouring disestablishment vary. Some see it as a matter of getting the church to stand on its own feet or "setting it free" (as in Magna Carta). Many, including secularists and humanists, perceive it as a necessity in a plural society where no one faith or belief system should hold sway. Yet others argue on Christian grounds that the church being embedded in a privileged institution is incompatible with the leveling message of the gospel.

At official level the Church of England, which is now the only established church in the 78 million worldwide Anglican Communion, has tried to thwart a major debate about disestablishment – seeing the current arrangement as part of its own preservation.
Ouch. Self preservation. If that's the reason for thwarting disestablishment that's pretty, erm, damning.
Critics argue that in tying itself to an anachronism the Church is in fact stifling creativity and harming its reputation.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

surdus et audier

Responding to a reporter in the wake of his null and void election Mark Lawrence called the Episcopal Church a "theater of the absurd." Most of us would agree.

Meanwhile, our bishops are now at Camp Allen to talk about listening to what the people of the church have to say about the Communique.

For Lent I've been reading Sabbath by Wayne Muller. Turning to page 84 in my reading this afternoon I was struck by these words:
Henri [Nouwen] insisted that the noise of our lives made us deaf, unable to hear when we are called, or from what direction. Henri said our lives have become absurd--because in the word absurd we find the Latin word surdus, which means deaf.
Henri was fond of reminding me that the word obedient comes from the Latin word audire [or oboedīre], which means "to listen." Henri believed the spiritual life was a pilgrimage from absurdity to obedience--from deafness to listening.
The world seduces us with an artificial urgency that requires us to respond without listening to what is most deeply true. In Sabbath time, we cultivate a sense of eternity where we truly rest, and feel how all things can wait, and turn them gently in the hand until we feel their shape, and know the truth of them.
Actually, surd can either mean deaf or speechless/silence. And with the prefix ab, absurd means away from silence -- and into a meaningless cacophony, I suppose. Which is to say, you might as well be deaf!

All these listening processes we Episcopalians have engaged in in the years since Windsor don't seem to have gone anywhere. Does that mean we're talking but not listening? If we have been listening how could it be that we received different messages from different directions?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Quote of the day: "Canons are canons, forms are forms."

Canons are canons, forms are forms.
-The Rev. Mark Lawrence
He adds, "815 was only ruling as the canons require."

Yesterday his election as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was declared "null and void":
Canonically adequate ballots were received by South Carolina from 50 diocesan standing committees. Several other standing committees were reported to have consented, but no signatures were attached to their ballots, or the ballot itself was missing from South Carolina’s records, Jefferts Schori reported. Any committee that did not respond is considered to have voted no.
The President of the Standing Committee in South Carolina writes:
We hope that [the Lawrence's] will agree to continue to be a part of the Diocese of South Carolina’s pursuit of securing our next Diocesan. ... [W]e will convene both the Chancellor and acting Chancellor to discuss our options within the canons of TEC. The Standing Committee will then plot a course of action for the near future.
Here's one suggest course of action. UPDATE. It appears that South Carolina will follow that course of action:
Under the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention, the diocese has several options in addition to holding another election. However, holding another election seems to have the most support at the moment, Fr. McCormick said.“If anything this has galvanized the people of South Carolina and brought us closer together,” he said. “Our position all along has been that we will follow the canons. Perhaps holding a second election will reassure those who voted ‘no’ the first time because they were concerned that we might try to leave The Episcopal Church.”
Fr. McCormick and the entire diocese are showing a lot of class.

Few Black churches going for faith-based government aid

Here's a story from January that I missed: Black churches missing out on federal aid: only 2.6% received funding for programs.

One extract from the story:
In January 2001, President Bush signed into law an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The order directed federal agencies to streamline or lift, if possible, federal regulations that made it difficult for churches to obtain grants to provide services. Still, few black churches have benefited from the plan thus far, while skepticism about accepting federal dollars and a lack of understanding about how to apply for the money may keep many congregations from going after the funds.

"The biggest surprise in the study was that the grants were more likely to go to more liberal churches in the Northeast. These are the same states that Bush lost in the 2004 election," says David Bositis, senior political analyst for the Joint Center. "The study found that if there were any political intent in terms of this program, it is not working."

Do you have a generally favorable orunfavorable view of the Faith-Based Initiative?
......................................Favorable % Unfavorable %
Baptist .............................55 .................21
Methodist ........................54 ................28
Evangelical/Pentecostal 68 ............11
Nondenominational ........60 ............13
Progressive theology .....55 .............22
Moderate Theology .......46 .............27
Conservative Theology ..70 ............13


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Life at the Riyadh book fair

Her Liberal Allies Wonder Why She Signed Ultimatum on Gays :: WaPo

From the Sunday Washington Post:
With more puzzlement than rancor, liberal Episcopalians are questioning why [Presiding Bishop] Jefferts Schori signed an international statement last month that, in their view, demands a halt to 30 years of growing acceptance of gay men and lesbians.
the response from liberal Episcopalians has run the gamut "from sadness to anger and everything in between -- a lot of disappointment and frustration," said Meyers, a member of the House of Deputies. Above all, she added, "we're trying to understand why our presiding bishop thinks this is the right way to proceed."
she [Jefferts Schori] explained her position during a Feb. 28 live webcast from New York in which she answered questions from Anglicans worldwide. Poised and unhurried, with an easy laugh, she projected calm.

"We are being pushed toward a decision by impatient forces within and outside this church who hunger for clarity," she said. " . . . If we can lower the emotional reactivity in the midst of this current controversy, we just might be able to find a way to live together."
In an attempt to prevent a schism, Jefferts Schori and her fellow primates gave U.S. bishops until Sept. 30 to make an unambiguous, collective promise that they will not consent to the election of any more gay bishops and will not authorize blessings of same-sex couples. The primates also agreed to establish the post of "primatial vicar" to oversee U.S. dioceses unhappy with the Episcopal Church's recent course.
Liberal Episcopalians have questioned Jefferts Schori's recent judgment, but she has not lost their allegiance.

Bishop Chilton R. Knudsen of Maine [no relation] said she is worried that the primates' ultimatum is a step toward turning the Anglican Communion into a "magisterial" church with centralized authority, something much closer to Roman Catholicism than to the loose "bonds of affection" that have tied Anglicans together.

But, she said, "I'm reserving judgment. I know Katharine well enough to have an instinctive trust in her, and I want to hear from her about this."
What if she had refused to sign the agreement? She would have been criticized for not consulting with the House of Bishops.


In an attempt to prevent a schism, Jefferts Schori and her fellow primates gave U.S. bishops until Sept. 30 to make an unambiguous, collective promise that they will not consent to the election of any more gay bishops and will not authorize blessings of same-sex couples. ...

If the Episcopal Church rejects the ultimatum, it will face unspecified sanctions, such as a downgrading of its status within the Anglican Communion. But even before the U.S. bishops gather in Texas on Friday, more than a dozen of them, including Bishop John B. Chane of Washington, have indicated they are inclined to rebuff Jefferts Schori's recommendation and politely but firmly say "no" to the primates.

It appears to me that the Washington Post sees no Sisk-Naughton loophole.

More from Bishop Chane:
"We have to be very clear about where we are as a church. We have consented to the consecration of Gene Robinson, and we have -- the majority of dioceses in this country have -- allowed the blessing of same-sex couples for some time," Chane said in an interview.

"We have done these things, and the one thing we're not going to do, in my opinion, is we're not going back to Egypt," he said, referring to the biblical exodus from slavery. "These are positions that have been taken, really, at some cost to the unity of our church, but for the integrity of our church."
Kendall Harmon asks whether it is an established fact that "we have - the majority of dioceses in this country have - allowed the blessing of same-sex couples." Good question.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Quote of the day :: Sam Candler

Obvious to most of us, The Episcopal Church in 2003 made some clear decisions. They were made after decades of previous debate and discussion. Most of us knew that others in the Anglican Communion were not in the same place as us; some of our friends in the same pew were not in the same place as us. We had made the same sort of decision when we allowed women to enter the ordination process. We were making decisions and statements “as local circumstances required.”

Now, one easy way to describe present discussions within the wider Anglican Communion is that we continue to debate what is “essential” to the faith and what is “changeable.” This type of discussion does not need to be characterized as momentous conflict. It will continue for a long time, no matter what dates or deadlines or requests are set before us. We have never been a worldwide, universal, and hierarchical church like our faithful friends in Roman Catholicism. We are truly a communion of churches, and we believe God works through that communion.

Meanwhile, I seriously doubt that the Episcopal Church will overturn previous statements on issues of sexuality. In fact, as most of you know, I hope we do not turn back at all. We still have a long way to go in appreciating the gifts and talents of every member of Christ’s body; and we still have a long way to go in blessing wholesome and holy relationships. I have no problem with The Episcopal Church, within Christendom, being in a minority on some issues. In fact, when one includes Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox, it is very much a minority position in Christendom even to ordain women.

Read the whole thing.

Thanks to titusonenine for the pointer.

Bishop sees no loophole

Bishop Counsell, New Jersey:
I understand that these guidelines include the kind of local pastoral provision that causes concern to the Primates. (See paragraph 21 of their Communiqué.) With all due respect, and, as a matter of conscience, I will not banish prayers for gay and lesbian couples. I will not punish clergy and churches who offer such prayers.
Indeed he invites them to do so under the provisions of his guidelines:
I invite the clergy to offer loving, wise and prayerful pastoral care and counseling to gays and lesbians living in life-long, monogamous and faithful partnerships. I encourage clergy and congregations to offer their pastoral support to such couples, which may include prayers of celebration and thanksgiving for the grace and holiness of their unions.
Taken as whole, Bishop Counsell's guidelines serve as a model for how The Episcopal Church could respond to the Communique.

Bishops speak on the Communique

Councell, New Jersey
Ely, Vermont
Stanton, Dallas

Ingham, Oregon / Howard, Florida /
McPherson, Western Louisiana
Henderson, Upper South Carolina, Henderson part 2 /
Gibbs, Michigan /Adams, Central New York/
Adams, Western Kansas /
Creighton, South Dakota /Robinson, New Hampshire /
Breidenthal, Ohio (pdf) / Beckwith, Newark /
Little, Northern Indiana / Love, Albany /
Bauerschmidt, Tennessee / Schofield, San Joaquin
Taylor, Western North Carolina (pdf) / Baxter, Central Pennsylvania /
Lillibridge, West Texas (pdf) /Curry, North Carolina /
Duncan, Pittsburgh (to Anglican Communion Network) /
Wolf, Rhode Island / Waggoner, Spokane /
Persell, Chicago (pdf) / Chane, Washington /
Wimberly, Texas / Beisner, Northern California /
Smith, Arizona / Jelinek, Minnesota /
Marshall, Bethlehem / Benfield, Arkansas /
Sisk, New York / Alexander, Atlanta /
Andrus, California / Iker, Fort Worth

Note: This post updated as more bishops respond. Most of these links were harvested from titusonenine or daily episcopalian.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Divorce the Church Should Smile Upon :: NYT

Good Church governance - multinational?

A New York Times op-ed by Jack Miles (my italics):
it was no surprise that after the newborn United States broke with the crown in the political realm, the Church of England in the United States did so in the religious realm as well, establishing a democratic form of self-governance under a “presiding bishop,” whose title echoed that of the chief executive of the new nation. The name the new church adopted — from episkopos, the ancient Greek word for bishop — signaled that its governance would be neither by pope nor by king but, as in early Christianity, by elected bishops.
As the British Empire grew, the Church of England went wherever the crown went, evolving in the process into a religious multinational, called the Anglican Communion, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury exercised a global spiritual jurisdiction. Structurally, however, the Episcopal Church, though long since reconciled with Britain, remained uneasy under this arrangement.

Why? Because the deepest rationale for the creation of the Church of England had been that church governance through separate national churches better reflected the practice of the early church than did papal governance. During its first centuries, Christianity had governed itself as separate but equal dioceses or administrative units, each coinciding with a great capital city, each headed by a bishop; the pope, at that time, was merely the bishop of Rome.
For sentimental reasons, including now fading American Anglophilia, Episcopalians and Anglicans alike tended to mute this logic.
Symbolically, however, given the global importance of the United States, the departure of the Americans will leave the archbishop exposed as a quasi-colonial, quasi-papal figurehead heading a church made up, anachronistically, of Britain and her mostly African and Asian former colonies.
Ouch. Can we ask for an annulment of a marriage that never was?

On a more positive note: What advantages does a multinational church have for the dissemination of the Good News by word and by deed?; What's wrong with the increased competition of ideas - heterodoxy - that come about from more decentralized governance?

Jack Miles is also author of What Would Jesus Say About Gay Marriage? Here's his website.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Big Baby Problem

Like most mainline Protestant churches, the Episcopal Church has an evangelical wing. That wing claims that while the policies of TEC are becoming more liberal, membership in TEC is declining while their numbers are growing. Our Presiding Bishop has even explained the slow or negative growth in membership by our fertility claiming it as a virtue (r.e. we care about overpopulation). A final setup: to state the obvious, gay marriages are not for the purpose of procreation.

The economist Arthur Brooks says:
Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.
Ok, he's looking at the implications for political party membership. But the implications carry over to membership in evangelical and mainline churches, and for the size of the evangelical wing within mainline churches.

Notice, I'm not advocating go forth and multiply.

Quote of the day

Archbishop Rowan put it like this, "The relationships between Jews and Gentiles in Acts is not simply that of one racial group to another. It’s a story about what faith really is and what salvation is. Be circumcised, keep the law and you will know you have the signs that make you acceptable to God. To which Paul and Barnabas and the Church replied, there is no sign by which you can tell in and of yourself that you are acceptable to God. There is nothing about you that guarantees love, salvation, healing. But there is everything about God in Jesus Christ that assures you and so if you want to know where your certainty lies, look to God, not to yourself".

This has direct relevance to gay and lesbian people condemned by the cultic rules and purity codes of Leviticus. It can be argued that since the cultic rules and purity codes were put aside in accepting Gentiles so now Christians can put aside those codes which deal with sexuality. As Ian Duffield puts it "to exclude homosexuals on the basis of the same kind of purity laws constitutes a reversion to a form of religion which Jesus encourages us to leave behind". (Expository Times Volume 115, No 4, January 2004). A simple appeal to scripture turns the Bible back into a law book and it is St Paul who argues against using the Old Testament in this way. It would be ironic therefore if his letters were to be used for a purpose he condemned.

Archbishop Barry Morgan, Bishop of Llandaff, Archbishop of Wales and Member of the Lambeth Commission, Lecture – St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork – Saturday 3 March 2007
Read the whole thing. It's all good.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where is the opposition to gay marriage? :: Pew Forum

It's not a new report, but I found it useful information. You might, too. The paragraph I'd like to highlight:
Polls show that religiosity is a factor in the opposition to gay marriage. According to a July 2006 survey by the Pew Forum, Americans oppose gay marriage 56% to 35%, but those with a high level of religious commitment oppose it by a substantially wider margin of 75% to 18%. Opposition among white evangelicals is even higher, at 79%. A majority of Catholics (53%) and black Protestants (74%), as well as a plurality of white mainline Protestants (47%), also oppose gay marriage. Only among seculars does a majority (63%) express support. However, sizable majorities of white mainline Protestants (66%), Catholics (63%) and seculars (78%) favor allowing homosexual couples to enter into civil unions granting many of the legal rights of marriage. As with gay marriage, white evangelicals (66%), black Protestants (62%) and frequent church attenders (60%) stand out for their opposition to civil unions. The general public narrowly supports civil unions (54% to 42%).
The opposition to gay marriage by white evangelicals (79% oppose) and black Protestants (74% oppose) is not all that different. Churchgoing blacks do not see gay marriage as a justice issue - denied or delayed.

The only majority support is amongst seculars and even there the support is only 63%. It's not clear whether seculars do not oppose gay marriage because they are capable of compassion and following the golden rule better than the rest of us, or whether they are simply agnostic on the issue.

Let's look further at that July 2006 survey:

* The young are less opposed. Indeed, only 38% of those aged 18-29 oppose gay marriage.
* Among those who attend church at least weekly 75% oppose.
* "About half of those who favor gay marriage (51%) support pushing hard for legalization. But a substantial minority of gay marriage supporters (41%) oppose pushing too hard on the issue...."
* "Views of the nature of homosexuality are closely related to views of gay marriage and civil unions, with those who view homosexuality as innate and unchangeable expressing more support for these policies compared with those who see homosexuality as changeable. Among those who view homosexuality as innate...."
* "Opinions about the nature of homosexuality have changed slightly since 2003. Today, somewhat more Americans believe that homosexuality is innate (from 30% in 2003 to 36% now) and that homosexuality cannot be changed (from 42% to 49%). "

I went and looked at the 2003 survey covering gay marriage. The report on the 2003 survey noted a trend of growing tolerance towards gays had been found in other surveys. For example:
Since 1973, the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, has been tracking whether Americans believe sexual relations between adults of the same sex are always wrong, almost always wrong, sometimes wrong, or not wrong at all. The most recent wave of the GSS in 2002 found a slight majority (53%) saying that homosexual relations are always wrong, down from 74% as recently as 1987. The proportion saying homosexual relations are not wrong at all has nearly tripled, from 12% to 32%, over the same time span.
What about the trend from 2003 to 2006 in the Pew survey? In the 2003 survey,
By nearly two-to-one, more Americans oppose (59%) than favor (32%) legalizing gay marriage. This reflects something of a backlash from polls conducted earlier in the year, before the Supreme Court's ruling in June [2003] that struck down state laws against sodomy. In a July survey shortly after that decision, the public opposed gay marriage by a smaller margin (53%-38%).
In the report of the 2006 survey:
By a 56%-35% margin, a majority of Americans continues to oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. These figures are largely unchanged over the past several years.
It appears that opposition to gay marriage, which had been trending down has now leveled off. Perhaps there is a core group of opponents who are less likely to change their views. Perhaps strong opponents who have seen support erode have become motivated to generate support for their views.

The complete report of the 2003 survey (pdf) allows comparison of the opposition to gay marriage by denomination between the 2003 and 2006 surveys.
*In 2003 46% of white mainline Protestants had a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable view of gay marriage. This compares with the "plurality of white mainline Protestants (47%)" in opposition in 2006.
*In 2003 69% of white evangelical Protestants had an unfavorable opinion. In 2006 66% opposed.

As in the general population, you see little movement within denominational groupings (mainline, evangelical) over this time period.

So what does this mean for the conversation/conversion argument in The Episcopal Church? Perhaps it means that we're simply talking until we are blue in the face, no growth is occuring and, indeed, we are perhaps becoming increasingly infantile. At the level of the denomination the lines are drawn. Adding to the unpleasantness the divisions cut between dioceses, across dioceses, and within parishes in dioceses.

In the Episcopal Church there are believed to be 15 to 20% who strongly oppose gay marriage, an equal-sized group who strongly favor, and a group of 60 to 70% who do not see it as an issue worth fighting over. We are, as the Presiding Bishop says, in an "anxious time." Urgent voices on both ends clamor to be heard. In the long run it doesn't pay to reward noisy children by listening to them - they only clamor more.

What is the way forward? I don't know.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Quote of the day: Jim Stockton

If the Episcopal Church continues giving undue attention to the noisiest children in the room, it will capitulate to the Communique's demands for the establishment of the Pastoral Council and/or the Primatial Vicar. To the degree that TEC accepts either of these demands, Anglicanism will be changed radically and permanently. In so doing, TEC will have pulled the trigger, and that will be a terrible legacy to leave for those few progressive Christians who will remain with it.
Give this man a blog of his own if he doesn't already have one.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Faithful remnants soar :: Special edition of Virginia Episcopalian


The approximately 45 families that make up St. Margaret’s Episcopal congregation were displaced from their historic church on Church Hill Drive in Woodbridge after the majority of the congregation voted to leave the Diocese and The Episcopal Church to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). The St. Margaret’s Episcopal parishioners found a temporary home at the former Christ Our Lord church building on Omisol Road, which they share with a Hispanic congregation.

Topic of the day: Schism and Heresy

I'm trying to do some listening today rather than flapping my own jaw. Here's some things I've read.

Kendall Harmon writer of titusonenine: "Anybody remember back to the immediate aftermath of General Convention 2003? Again and again we heard that 'Schism is always worse than Heresy.' ... Apparently, with regard to the new theology and practice embraced by TEC’s leadership, their own standard doesn’t apply and they are willing to split the Anglican Communion over their convictions. .... But now it is worth breaking apart the third largest Christian family in the world over. Sounds pretty important to me."

Jim Naughton writer of daily episcopalian: " I think the number of people willing to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to attend a Church that defines its charism as 'facilitating the conversation' are probably rather small."

EHCulver: "I'm tired of doublespeak and riding fences. Let's have the courage to stand behind our conviction..."

Doug Simonsen: "What our leadership characterizes as the urgent need to 'remain in conversation' in order to influence the trajectory of the AC, from another perspective will just look like the old colonial mindset, the unreflective assumption that we know what's best, and that everyone else needs our advice. Can we truly say they're wrong?"

Henry: "The principal proponent of the position that we must renounce full inclusion of LGBTs in our church is also the principal proponent of legislation that would criminalize gay advocacy and association in Nigeria. This is not a nice little conversation about inclusion. We're talking about someone who desires to persecute gays even to the point of arrest, torture and death. This is not an Anglican tea party. This is very much like Neville Chamberlain at Munich. Are we going to placate Akinola to avoid a breach of the communion? The ABP has been playing Chamberlain's part very well. Unfortunately, our PB is also playing along at this point."

revdoc: "I too believe we should split from the AC. The one argument that has prevented me from saying that more resolutely in Miroslav Volf's argument that at Creation, God separated things but also bound them together. Now I must disagree with Volf, as much as I admire his work, pointing out that sometimes, being 'bound together', however divine the plan, can deteriorate into abuse."

mscottsail: "I'm not sure those are the only choices."

Roger B: "I suspect that we have more support around the Anglican world that we realize, and that power represented by the Global Primates is of a much more limited nature than they think. The problem has been, in my opinion, that no one has stood up to them and told them they are wrong. We need affirm what we truly stand for; if we don't, we stand for nothing."

Florida Gordon: "The thought of separating from the Anglican Communion is painful. And what TEC and the AC is going through is not different from the conflicts leading to divorce. But even though divorce creates pain on both sides, at the end of the divorce process comes a time of growth."

John B. Chilton: "I like Henry's vivid Neville Chamberlain parallel. But I wonder if it fits well. What if the example was the US policy of engagement with China? Trade has its economic benefits to both sides, but it also may have an effect on China's human rights policies. The US government believes it will have a good effect. Meanwhile the Chinese government presumably believes the policy allows it to delay human rights reforms."