Monday, December 21, 2009

Culture, culture, culture....

Here are some interesting ideas from Peggy Nonnan's recent column in The Wall Street Journal...

America is good at making practical compromises, and one of the compromises we've made in the area of arts and entertainment is captured in the words, "We don't care what you do in New York." That was said to me years ago by a social conservative who was explaining that he and his friends don't wish to impose their cultural sensibilities on a city that is uninterested in them, and that the city, in turn, shouldn't impose its cultural sensibilities on them. He was speaking metaphorically; "New York" meant "wherever the cultural left happily lives."

....This was behind the resentment at the Adam Lambert incident on ABC in November. The compromise was breached. It was a broadcast network, it was prime time, it was the American Music Awards featuring singers your 11-year-old wants to see, and your 8-year-old. And Mr. Lambert came on and—again, in front of your children, in the living room, in the middle of your peaceful evening—uncorked an act in which he, in the words of various news reports the next day, performed "faux oral sex" featuring "S&M play," "bondage gear," "same-sex makeouts" and "walking a man and woman around the stage on a leash."

....I don't mean to make too much of it. In the great scheme of things a creepy musical act doesn't matter much. But increasingly people feel at the mercy of the Adam Lamberts, who of course view themselves, when criticized, as victims of prudery and closed-mindedness. America is not prudish or closed-minded, it is exhausted. It cannot be exaggerated, how much Americans feel besieged by the culture of their own country, and to what lengths they have to go to protect their children from it....

Read the entire article here...

Monday, December 14, 2009

A favorite of the Season

Just enjoy it. Take a moment, close your eyes and imagine the press of life to disappear.

Must Read Alert...

Here is a recent column in the Anglican Journal, the national newspaper for the Anglican Church in Canada.

Read this...its worth the time. Here is a just a piece...

If the makers of Coca-Cola can sell a billion cans of sugar water every 48 hours, surely the Anglican Church of Canada can add value to people’s lives, insists Nicolosi. After all, he says, index finger stabbing the air above his head, “We’ve got Jesus!”

Read it here.

A good read of the holidays...

Here's a review of a new book about church music...just in time for the Christmas.

When Samuel Sebastian Wesley was appointed organist of Hereford cathedral in 1832, he found that the eight adult members of the choir were all clergymen aged between 49 and 78. Five were in poor health, two were deemed to be sub-standard and the 78‑year-old was exempt from attending services.

This was the crisis in which cathedral music found itself, at a time of clamour to take away revenues from the Established Church. That music survived at all in the Church of England at the Reformation had been touch and go.

Cathedrals had precentors, responsible for choral services. But at St Paul's in the 1830s, the Precentor (a canon, on a fat £2,000 a year) appeared so infrequently that when he did once turn up for a service, the dean's verger did not recognise him, and refused him entry to his stall. The wit Sydney Smith, a fellow canon, referred to this precentor as the "Absenter".

How this sorry state of affairs was transformed by the end of the 19th century, when cathedrals enjoyed a weekly round of well-attended choral services, is a theme of "In Tuneful Accord," (Canterbury Press, £19.99), a study of church musicians of the past two centuries by Trevor Beeson.

You can read the entire review here...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When were you saved?

When were you saved? This is a question that is often asked of Episcopalians who live and work in my part of the country. I have often tried to help my parishioners with an answer to the question...This YouTube video is spot on, and presents in a video format what I have repeated time and again. I hope it helps...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vatican holds poor folks hostage

I can't believe this...The Roman Church has lost its mind...

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Read the entire story here.

Read the Episcopal Cafe reaction here.

I'm tired of their self righteous nastiness towards The Episcopal Church. They are the ones that have gone to far....using charity as a club...shameful!

Monday, October 26, 2009

One of the many reasons why I am part of the Ecclesia Anglicana

This is also one of the reasons why I think the psalms should always be sung in divine worship...

Thanks to The Topmost Apple for this post.

Brother Christopher makes a good point...

We have been too nice.

Imagine that the Archbishop of Canterbury or our Presiding Bishop offered an ordinariate for Roman Catholics who wanted to practice the Tridentine or Novus Ordo but be Anglican. Rome would be infuriated, accuse us of sheep stealing and the rest. Expect us to back down to maintain good relations and the rest. This has too often been too much a one-way conversation. There are reasons why the Orthodox are wary of Rome in these matters. We shall see how much Anglican, these Anglicans will be allowed to continue being. The Roman model of ecumenical has been absorb and conform. It has too often been the model of the Ecumenical Movement. Bland down our distinctives until we're all the same. That model is now coming, happily, to an end. A new generation of ecumenical existence should not be afraid to tell the Pope "no," to be just as willing to pick up our sticks and leave the playground as the Roman Church at the official level has been since JPII and now Benedict XVI. Don't get me wrong, I love my Roman Catholic friends, but I won't pretend their tradition is somehow less troubled than my own.

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Creating an Anglican Uniat body in the Roman Church

The following is the response from the Rev'd. Canon Gordon Reid, Rector of St. Clements, Philadelphia, on the recent announcement by the Vatican concerning it's relation with the Anglican Communion.

[Tuesday's] announcement of the new arrangements for receiving disaffected Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church have been hailed in some quarters as though the Archangel Gabriel had blown his trumpet and ushered in the Kingdom of God.

But the euphoria will soon bite the dust. It is presumably Anglo-Catholics who are expected to go over to Rome, and yet I have grave doubts if the encouragement of an Anglican Rite within the RC Church will attract many. The Society of the Holy Cross and forward in Faith in the UK, for example, consist mostly of priests whose views on the Anglican Liturgy vary from “Quite a nice little Tudor Communion Service” to “nasty Protestant invention”. Most of these priests use the modern Roman Catholic Mass in their parishes, and would be horrified if told they had to use the Prayer Book (of any vintage). And even among convinced Anglo-Catholics there are still many who love the Church of England and its claim to be the Catholic Church of the country. The old jibe that the RC’s in England were “the Italian mission to the Irish” covers the fact that however close in doctrine Anglo-Catholics are to Roman Catholics, there is often a great gulf between them in that undefinable thing called culture or ambiance or just basic ways of living the church’s life.

In the USA, on the other hand, the problems are quite different. Many Anglo-Catholics have already left the Episcopal Church for a variety of reasons, usually very conservative ones, such as a gut-dislike of the modern Mass or women priests or gay Bishops and priests.

Those who left mainly over the Prayer Book tend to be the least Catholic-minded of this group. Many are positively Low Church (not to be confused with Evangelicals) and still regard Rome with distaste. So although they would be happy to have an Anglican-Rite, they see no reason to have it authorised by Rome.

The ones who have left on what might be called “moral” grounds might feel more at home in the Roman Catholic Church. But they are led by Bishops who have committed Holy Matrimony and who will therefore not be allowed to be bishops in the new Anglican Rite (as the latest document states clearly). And, worse than that, some of these bishops have been divorced and remarried, as have many of the priests. And I am sure that almost all of them do not consider contraception a mortal sin, as they would be required to do after conversion. So I give it only a few days before we hear such ex-Episcopalian leaders explaining why the Roman Catholic Anglican Rite might not be Right for them!

And as for those who have left because of gay Anglican priests and bishops, they are going to have a nasty awakening when it dawns on them why celibacy for many Roman Catholic priests and bishops is no problem at all!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our special calling?

I knew the church was called to something special but never thought it involved ninjas...This one's for you P.J. Harris!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Small town life

I have to admit small town life has been a little wearisome lately and made me yearn for the big city (which rarely happens).

Recently there has been lots of political infighting leading up to a hotly contested Mayoral race, Kiwanis Club playground controversy, local Hospital shutting down the Pediatric unit and the Mayor saying some pretty nasty things about a local blogger who seems to hate Portsmouth and never believes anything good can come from it (the latter even made national headlines in the Huffington Post). By the way...follow the above links at your own risk!

But tonight, I happened across a fantastic story about the small remnant of our once prominent Jewish community here in Portsmouth. The story is about the gift of a Torah scroll...a very special scroll...and its eventual restoration.

“Teaching and learning is extremely important in Judaism,” explained Auster, “and that requires study of the texts and the Torah.”

Or HaTzafon’s Torah was donated in 1991 by Congregation B’nai Abraham of Portsmouth, Ohio, and it comprises the Five Books of Moses — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Torahs are made traditionally, from the skins of kosher animals — calf, sheep, goats or deer. Sofer Yerman said Or HaTzafon’s Torah is of Russian origin and estimates it is about 100 years old.

Read the whole story will not regret it. And thank you Congregation B'nai Abraham for reminding me how God's ways are not always our ways.

It is a good reminder...There is good and bad in everything, whether you are in a big city or a small town. The trick is remembering that it is in giving that we receive, in loving others that we have our own needs met, and that in service to others where true leadership is found.

And that is where the Mayor and the professor both missed the mark.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


If you know me, you know I self-identify with the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church. But what does that mean? Here is a great essay by Derek Olson. And thanks to the folks at Episcopal Cafe for it's original post...

Thinking and arguing about Anglican identity is new territory for some. Not me. Every since I’ve become an Anglican almost a decade ago, the question of identity has been intertwined with my Anglicanism. And with good reason—I identify with the most fractious and tribal of the great Anglican traditions, Anglo-Catholicism.

Since the beginning of the Twentieth century, Anglicanism has been described as a threefold cord consisting of three distinct parties, the Evangelicals, the Broad-Church, and the Anglo-Catholics. As if negotiating these positions weren’t difficult enough, Anglo-Catholicism has been in a tough spot since the ‘60s. The theological and liturgical changes of Vatican II combined with the movement for women’s ordination were a one-two punch that rocked the movement. The emergence of women’s ordination brought the matter to a head in the early 70’s in the Episcopal Church, calving the movement into several major branches, some remaining within the Episcopal Church, others leaving for the Anglican Continuum consisting of other Anglican entities not in The Episcopal Church.

At the root of the problem is identity: what does it mean to be a catholic Anglican? For some outside the movement or on its fringes the answer seems simple, it’s about liturgical ceremonial. If you wear a chasuble, know what a cope is, swing around incense, and chant, you must be Anglo-Catholic.

Trust me, it’s not that simple.

As any Anglo-Catholic in good standing will tell you, it’s not about the externals. Or, rather, the externals are driven by the internals. As I’ve said before, we don’t do a solemn high mass or use incense because we like it (though we do, of course…) but because of what it communicates about who and what God is and who we are in light of that reality. It’s about theology. And our theological commitments come with liturgical implications. Defining that theology is what drives us crazy.

One simplistic definition is that catholic Anglicans hold the doctrine of the Undivided Church (those things that the Orthodox East and the Catholic West agree about) but hold different discipline. That is, our faith is the same but our principles of church order are different. But defining what is doctrine and what is discipline, and deciding who gets to be the final arbiter is what’s been giving us fits since the ‘60s.

I’ve said in jest that the true definition of an Anglo-Catholic is a person who knows three other people who think they’re catholic Anglicans but who aren’t because they’re either not “catholic” or not “Anglican” enough.

The most obvious and polarizing argument is over women’s ordination—is it doctrine or discipline? The major divisions in the party have been over this issue, but a host of others complicate even agreements on that point. Which way to lean in matters of faith and morals: towards the Orthodoxen or towards Rome? What liturgy to use: the ’28 BCP, the ’79 BCP, or the (Anglican or American or English) Missal? What ceremonial to use: pre- or post-Vatican II? And so I say, matters of Anglican identity have never been far from my mind lo these years.As I survey the current squabbling and bickering amongst the worldwide Anglican Communion and especially here in the Episcopal Church, I find myself in familiar territory. Out of that familiarity, I return to one of the positions that I’ve found the most helpful. It’s not strictly about doctrine or about discipline but about practice. The most succinct expression that I’ve found comes not from a committee or report, but a book on spirituality written by the English Anglo-Catholic Martin Thornton. In writing about the monastic father St. Benedict and his impact upon English spirituality he says...

The greatest Benedictine achievement (from this point of view) is the final consolidation of the threefold Rule of prayer which is absolutely fundamental to all Catholic spirituality: the common Office (opus dei) supporting private prayer (orationes peculiares) both of which are allied to, and consummated by, the Mass. . . . Here is the basic Rule of the Church which, varying in detail, is common to East and West, monastic and secular, to all the individual schools without exception, and which forms the over-all structure of the Book of Common Prayer. Amongst all the tests of Catholicity or orthodoxy, it is curious that this infallible and living test is so seldom applied. We write and argue endlessly about the apostolic tradition, about episcopacy, sacramentalism, creeds, doctrine, the Bible—all very important things—yet we fail to see that no group of Christians is true to orthodoxy if it fails to live by this Rule of trinity-in-unity: Mass-Office-devotion. (Martin Thornton, English Spirituality, 76)

It’s a position that certainly doesn’t answer all problems or arguments—and Thornton admits as much—but in this statement, I find the heart of the matter expressed more simply and clearly than in any bishops’ statement.

At the end of the day the question isn’t whether we are “authentic” Anglo-Catholics or Anglicans. The question is whether we are authentic Christians seeking to pattern our lives according to an Anglican shape that proceeds from catholic and orthodox roots. Yes, we do need to argue whether women are valid sacramental matter for the priesthood (and I argue they are); yes, we need to argue whether queer folk in relationships are appropriate leaders for our church communities (and I argue that it’s about the relationships not the folk and applies equally to us straight people…); yes, we need to argue about how to interpret and apply the Scriptures (and I argue without a formal or de facto magisterium). More fundamental than these, however, we need to agree and be united in a common Anglican way of life.

It used to be said—and I’ve heard it many times both before and after my move to the Episcopal Church—that rather than confessional documents we have the Book of Common Prayer. Despite the history and legacy of colonialism and its aftermath, the one thing that all Anglicans hold is a Book of Common Prayer—none identical across the provinces, but all rooted in common precedents, all embodying the fundamental principles of Eucharist, the Daily Office, and personal prayer.

Can we live up to, is there any point in, a new Anglican Covenant if we don’t bother to live up to or have regard for the more basic Anglican covenant that sits in our pews? On the other hand, it’s terrific to call ourselves Anglicans or Episcopalians, but do our daily and weekly habits reflect that reality—or display some other truth?

Yes, let’s navel-gaze. But more important, let’s pray. And let’s live our praying. Don’t just argue about being an Anglican; act like one.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bishop reflects on life...

The following is from a recent Church Times article about the Rt. Rev'd. Dr. Kenneth Stevenson. He will retire this month after serving 14 years as Bishop of Portsmouth...

WHEN I went to my first meeting of the House of Bishops as a member in October 1995, I sat at the back (like a good Anglican) and watched.

This provoked me into playing two games. The first, an easy one, was to identify who were the prefects and who were the rogues. I soon came to the conclusion that the system — the Church — produced too many of the former, and too few of the latter.

The second game was to spot the defining job that someone held be­fore he became a bishop, and how this affected the way he was ap­proaching the discussion. Some bishops are manifestly former parish priests; others were theological teachers; some were involved in lay training; others worked a great deal with ordinands. Some ran cath­edrals, often giving them a convinc­ing civic awareness, while others were arch­deacons, who seemed to know the ropes better than the others.

The more I looked back on that meeting, and the persisting oddity of its being an all-male gathering, the more convinced I became that when people are made bishops, they need to be aware of those shaping min­istries.

This can help them to grow into their new role, and not remain what they once were. Otherwise, they will get in the way of colleagues per­forming those tasks — for example, the director of ordinands.

Bishops need to take the breadth of their diaconal and priestly ministries with them into their episcopate. But sooner or later they will encounter three aspects of the job, which may initially come across as limitations, but can, in the end, become real points of liberation.
THE FIRST is rootlessness. However welcome the bishop is in his cathed­ral (not all are, but I have been lucky to be one who is), and however wedded he may be to his chapel (and I certainly am), there is an inbuilt rootlessness about the job. It stems not just from being in a different church every Sunday, and all those confirmations and institution services, but from being regularly on the move, making con­tact with local authorities, schools, and commercial companies. That mobility is a very apostolic ministry, and is a sign that the bishop is a missioner, an evangelist for the Church.

The second aspect is isolation. Bishops have to learn to cope with making that final, difficult decision, and to learn to live with it, especially when there may well be a clamour of opinion to the contrary, complete with accusations of “not really listening”. It may be about a priest who has got into some kind of trouble, and is in denial about it. It may be about a dysfunctional parish, where relation­ships have broken down.

In my early years as a bishop, when I went to a naval dinner and found myself sitting opposite an admiral, the subject of the loneliness of com­mand came up. For me, this was timely, as rather more people were telling me my job than was good for them — or for me. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I went back home after­wards aware of somehow having been sorted out. I realised that this isolation was about being a pastor for the whole Church.

The third aspect is about di­gestion. A bishop has to spend quite a proportion of his time immersed in focused church work. It may be a concentrated round of public litur­gies, all of which have to go well. It may be a pile of correspondence, most of it urgent rather than im­portant. Or it may be one of those intractable disputes with legal resonances, where process rather than justice is paramount.

There is a saying in my household: “Kenneth, you’re all churched out!” And this is a sign that diversionary action is needed. Hobbies help enorm­ously in refreshing the mind and body. Outside interests can help me return to base with a less narrowly ecclesiastical frame of reality. All of this can release a bishop to be a prophet for the Church.

IN ONE of John Mortimer’s Rum­pole stories, the Lord Chancellor has a red judge in for a good talking to, accusing him of “judge-itis”, the symptoms of which are “pomposity and self-regard”. These are certainly part of what Charles Wesley de­scribes as a “calling’s snare”, in a verse from “Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go” which is all too frequently omitted.

To be fair, from my recollections of some of those interminable General Synod speeches about nothing in particular, it is by no means confined to the episcopate. Yes, bishops have to learn to watch what they say (although preferably not all the time), and not shoot their mouths off publicly at every oppor­tunity. But there is a difference between being carefully prepared and believing that everything you say is going to be of earth-shattering importance.

“Bishop-itis” can get out of hand, and resemble what Clement Attlee once condemned in leaders as “the continual beating of the breast and airing of agonies in public”. This is what a fellow-bishop once described to me as “the high apophatic angst”, a dynamic that can ensure that discussions go round in circles, just in case a decision might be reached.

Bishops perhaps need to take themselves — and the Church — less seriously than they often do, because, in the end, it is God’s Church, not ours, and he is the one continually re-shaping it. Perhaps that is why bishoping is such a huge privilege, especially when assisted by good colleagues, as I have been.

For all the tight corners I have known in 14 years in post, I can still leave it profoundly thankful. A Bishop of Portsmouth can appro­priately sum all this up from the poem “Ulysses”, written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who lived on the Isle of Wight: “I am a part of all that I have met.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another must read...

I really dislike the fact that I have taken so little time to tend to my blog as of late. I am also a little disappointed that this entry is another copying of the blogger from St. Clement's...but you need to read this...

The Anglican Communion is a myth.

When I was growing up in the Scottish Episcopal Church, we were taught very clearly that we were not the Church of England even though English immigration into Scotland had given us many English members, leading many Scots to refer to the Episcopal church as “The English Church” (or, more likely, “the English Kirk”). We Episcopalians knew that we were the old Catholic Church of Scotland, who had cast off Rome at the Reformation, but had retained Bishops and the Sacraments and a Catholic Liturgy. Our present small size was due to our faithfulness to the Jacobite cause, and when that cause was lost, the new Hanoverian succession established the Presbyterians in the ancient churches and Cathedrals and made them the national Church.

I begin with this summary because not only were we sure that we were not the Church of England, but we also knew that it was members of the Church of England, the Redcoat soldiers, who had enforced the penal laws against the Episcopal Church. It was this persecution which had left our Church what Sir Walter Scott called “The shadow of a shade”.

I also grew up, knowing that the Bishops of my little Church had actually defied the Church of England by consecrating Samuel Seabury in Aberdeen to be the first Bishop for Anglicans in America, since the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, who had jurisdiction in America, had refused to provide Bishops.

In all of this, I had never heard of the Anglican Communion. This is not surprising, since there was no such thing in the 18th century, when all these events were taking place. It was not until the British Empire had spread the Church of England all over the world and then seen national Churches grow up in the various nations of the Empire and declare their independence from the Church of England, that a nostalgic sentiment (or a sentimental nostalgia) caused Anglican Bishops to come together in the Lambeth Conference every ten years or so.

But today, the British Empire is no more than a weird collection of countries calling themselves “the Commonwealth” – though the one thing they do not have in common is “wealth”! And the mighty Church of England, which persecuted Protestants and Roman Catholics with fine impartiality for four hundred years, is reduced to one denomination among many in England. The so-called tolerance of the Church of England not only burned Roman Catholics but also discriminated against Protestants to such an extent that they invented the Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalist and many other Churches, not to mention the Quakers, Brethren, Salvation Army and other groups. And they all came to America seeking freedom from the Church of England.

The irony of the present situation is that some members of the American Episcopal Church are trying to reverse this by treating the Archbishop of Canterbury as a substitute Pope. They are allying themselves with those who say they want an “Anglican Covenant” which will define the beliefs of the Anglican Communion and will contain the legal means to expel any constituent Province which departs from these beliefs.

So out will go tolerance for a wide variety of beliefs within the one Church and we will be back in the good old days of expelling the Methodists for enthusiasm, expelling the Papists for clinging to the Western Patriarchate, expelling the Quakers for pacifism. And all this will be done by Bishop-centered bodies such as the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Council. No matter that the priests and laity of the Episcopal Church have embraced the same democracy as their country and have voted for developments which other Churches dislike.

I can live happily without an Anglican Communion and will happily see it disappear if it means that I can disown the Archbishop of Sydney who denounces the Mass as a blasphemous fable, or the Archbishop of Nigeria who says that homosexuals are lower than swine, and supports laws punishing them by imprisonment. Not to mention the hypocritical Bishops, clergy and laity of our own Episcopal Church who are divorced and remarried, but say that they oppose women priests and our one (honest) gay Bishop because such things are contrary to the Word of God – by which they mean the Bible, not the real Word of God who was made flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Read the original post here...

A little food for thought.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A voice from St. Clement's

Another good reflection, post-General Convention, this one from the Rev'd. Canon Gordon Reid, Rector of St. Clement's, Philadelphia....

Our Church has been having a busy time, with General Convention having stirred up as many controversies as usual. Although I certainly do not agree with all the conclusions they came to, nevertheless I was impressed by the civility and candour with which weighty matters were discussed and decided on. This is in marked contrast with much of the hysteria and sheer unpleasantness of many of the opponents of the Episcopal Church.

I must say that the people who amuse me the most for sheer illogicality are those who accept the ordination of women, but who then react violently against the ordination of openly gay priests and Bishops. Talk about “straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel”!

Such people claim to believe every word of the Bible, but there is less in the Bible against homosexuality than there is about women being decidedly inferior to men and having no part at all to play in conducting the Church’s worship. If they really believed the Bible, no woman would be allowed to read a lesson in church, much less be a priest.

In the same way, Jesus is not recorded as saying anything against homosexuality, but he had a good deal to say against divorce. Yet many of the priests and bishops who have left the Episcopal Church over its many liberal stands have themselves been divorced and remarried, sometimes more than once. I find it hard to believe them when they say they are against homosexuality because the Bible forbids it. They don’t really believe what the Bible says at all.

Well, neither do I – at least not in the way that fundamentalists, both Catholic and Protestant, claim to believe the Bible. I am an Anglican because I believe that along with the Bible, we have to take into consideration both tradition and reason. And as far as tradition is concerned, it can be changed, and often has been changed through the centuries. For example, it used to be a cause of excommunication for a Christian to serve in the military. And Roman Catholics ought to remind themselves how short a time ago it was that they could be excommunicated for reading eh Bible in English, and how many martyrs were burned at the stake in England and Europe for this “crime”.

These traditions were changed because of the third leg of our doctrinal stool – Reason. As cultures change, so the Church has changed with them, while always maintaining the same Good News of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection. All else is secondary and can be changed. The Church has done this boldly from the beginning: even in Scripture it is recorded that the apostles in Jerusalem decided that Gentiles could be admitted to the Church without circumcision – now there’s a revolution for you if you are a Jew!

So although I wish that the Churches could act together and that the Anglican Church did not have to go its own way on certain things, nevertheless I cannot rationally oppose this – after all we certainly had no hesitation in going our own way in the 16th century when we broke away from Rome because of the corruptions of the medieval Papacy. I am quite content to remain an Epicopalian, because I am sure that schism and the self-righteousness that comes of thinking that only I am right and everybody else is wrong, so that I cannot worship our Father with them, is far worse than the mess and muddle which has always been one of the consequences of the Anglican insistence on Reason as well as Scripture and Tradition. Some would say more strongly that this is indeed one of the glories of Anglicanism. I used to dislike the phrase used by Episcopalians in the 60’s and 70’s about our Church as “the thinking man’s Catholicism”, but it had some truth in it (as long as we are willing to add “the thinking man’s Evangelicalism” too!)

If you want certainties, the Episcopal Church is not for you. But we walk in faith, not sight, and the only certainty we need is that our Lord Jesus Christ was sent by a loving Father to live, die and rise for us, and that we now walk with him in his Spirit till we come to that heavenly Kingdom where we shall “know as we are known”, face to face with reality.

Analyzing Rowan

The sun is out today. Finally! Recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury published a reflection on the actions of the 2009 General Convention. Here are but a few words from the larger writing found here....

1. No-one could be in any doubt about the eagerness of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church at the General Convention to affirm their concern about the wider Anglican Communion. Their generous welcome to guests from elsewhere, including myself, the manifest engagement with the crushing problems of the developing world and even the wording of one of the more controversial resolutions all make plain the fact that the Episcopal Church does not wish to cut its moorings from other parts of the Anglican family. There has been an insistence at the highest level that the two most strongly debated resolutions (DO25 and CO56) do not have the automatic effect of overturning the requested moratoria, if the wording is studied carefully. There is a clear commitment to seek counsel from elsewhere in the Communion about certain issues and an eloquent resolution in support of the 'Covenant for a Communion in Mission' as commended by ACC13. All of this merits grateful acknowledgement. The relationship between the Episcopal Church and the wider Communion is a reality which needs continued engagement and encouragement.

2. However, a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces; very serious anxieties have already been expressed. The repeated request for moratoria on the election of partnered gay clergy as bishops and on liturgical recognition of same-sex partnerships has clearly not found universal favour, although a significant minority of bishops has just as clearly expressed its intention to remain with the consensus of the Communion. The statement that the Resolutions are essentially 'descriptive' is helpful, but unlikely to allay anxieties.

3. There are two points which I believe need to be reiterated and thought through further, and it seems to fall to the Archbishop of Canterbury to try and articulate them. To some extent they echo part of what I wrote after the last General Convention, as well as things said at the Lambeth Conference and the ACC, but they still have some pertinence.

Archbishop Williams then goes onto say some very disturbing things about how gays and lesbians ought to be treated in the Church. Things that contradict in very harsh terms the positive statements he has made about the place of gays and lesbians in the Church in the years before he became Archbishop. I will not try to argue or explain the changes he has made--he must do that on his own--but I would like to reprint part of an analysis about +Rowan's statement...

Now again, Williams is a smart man. If he fails to nuance any of this, he does so willingly and willfully. It is not choice that bothers, but what Williams leaves unsaid (the nuance) and what he then goes on to say (the consequences) in drawing his conclusions. No, if he fails to nuance, he does so purposely. I can only conclude that he chooses to tell half-truths about us and our lives. And to justify his own behavior toward us. And that his pitch is meant to denigrate even to lie about us (for that is finally what half-truths do—they lie), throwing about as he does tired themes about gay and lesbian persons that do not fit either the evidence, nor the stereotypes (or even his own former writings and their recognition of such nuance, including that marriage is no guarantor of Christian virtue). That is all to say, Rowan Williams knows better. He knows this is not how we understand ourselves, and neither does the best dispassionate research findings or those who get to know us as persons in relationships. And that makes his words morally culpable, indeed, guilty of Christ's flesh by taking swipes at the lgbt members of His Body--members who are quite vulnerable in most parts of the world, including in Williams' own corner, the United Kingdom, where hate crimes against lgbt persons are a regular feature in lgbt news feeds there. And knowing better, Williams is morally culpable. To use the Lord’s Name to justify all of this, indeed, to suggest that God is on his side in treating lgbt persons like this in the Body, is damnable.

This is a must read if you are interested in what has gone on at General Convention and global reaction to it. Christopher's reflection is a powerful piece 0f writing, and it can be read in its entirety here...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thoughts on a rainy day

What are the essential, the absolutely essential features of the Anglican position? When it is proposed to make Anglicanism the basis of a Church of Reconciliation, it is above all things necessary to determine what Anglicanism pure and simply is. The word brings up before the eyes of some a flutter of surplices, a vision of village spires and cathedral towers, a somewhat stiff and stately company of deans, prebendaries, and choristers, and that is about all. But we are greatly mistaken if we imagine that the Anglican principle has no substantial existence apart from the accessories. Indeed, it is only when we have stripped Anglicanism of the picturesque costume which English life has thrown around it, that we can fairly study its anatomy, or understand its possibilities of power and adaptation....

If our whole ambition as Anglicans in America be to continue a small, but eminently respectable body of Christians, and to offer a refuge to people of refinement and sensibility, who are shocked by the irreverences they are apt to encounter elsewhere; in a word, if we care to be only a countercheck and not a force in society; then let us say as much in plain terms, and frankly renounce any and all claim to catholicity. We have only, in such a case to wrap the robe of our dignity about us, and walk quietly along in a seclusion no one will take much trouble to disturb. Thus may we be a church in name, a sect in deed.

But if we aim at something nobler than this. If we would have our Communion become national in very truth--in other words, if we would bring the Church of Christ into the closest possible sympathy with the throbbing, sorrowing, sinning, repenting, aspiring heart of this great people--then let us press our reasonable claims to be the reconciler of a divided household, not in a spirit of arrogance (which ill befits those whose best possessions have come to them by inheritance), but with affectionate earnestness and intelligent zeal...

...I've pondered these words as something that might have been said at the recent General Convention, but in truth they are words penned more than a century ago by William Reed Huntington, whose commemoration we observed on July 27th.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Humility and our common life

The Right Rev Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, has an interesting piece in The Times about humility being at the foundation of community is a good read for an increasingly divided society...

Behold how good and joyful a thing it is when brethren dwell together in unity” — so the psalmist sang, comparing it to the precious perfumed anointing oil that set aside the priests of the Old Testament.

How the human community lives together as a family, a school, a church, a city, a nation, a continent or the whole world, is indeed demanding and challenging. Both in microcosm and in macrocosm the challenge is real. Claims and counter-claims about territory; different histories and human stories; different ways of looking on the world; extroverts and introverts, thinking people and feeling people — all are challenged to find how the good and joyful dwelling together in unity can be realised.

Jesus taught that there were two overriding and shaping commandments: the love of God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; and the love of our neighbour as ourselves. The two are inseparably linked, and St John reminds us that it is impossible to love God whom we have not seen if we do not love our neighbour whom we have seen. St Anthony, generally regarded as the first Christian monk, withdrew to live a solitary life in the desert east of the Nile, where you can still find his monastery, and the cave in which he lived. Despite that solitary life, pilgrims came to seek him and to ask his advice, and one of the pieces of advice he would give is “that your life and your death is with your neighbour”. For all his commitment to the solitary life of prayer, and his wrestling with the temptations of distorted desire, Anthony knew that human flourishing and growth in the likeness of Christ was never a narcissistic cultivation of the soul.

His contemporary Pachomius was not, as Anthony was, a hermit of the desert, but was one who saw monastic community life as that which enabled the shaping of souls. The rule that Pachomius gave was one which sought for what we might call today a life-work or life-style balance, seeking a middle way between conformity and excess. He told his brethren: “If you cannot get along alone, join another who is living according to the Gospel of Christ, and you will make progress with him. Either listen, or submit to one who listens.”

Some two centuries after Pachomius St Benedict, whom the Church commemorated last Saturday, composed a rule of life for his monks. It is one of the shaping documents of the Western Church, and a guide not only for monks but for all who seek to live the Christian life. Benedict called it “a school for the Lord’s service”. The abbot, the father of the monastery, has a key role. He must have a wise discernment, for he has to serve a variety of temperaments, “coaxing, reproving and encouraging them as appropriate”. The abbot, although he has authority, is not an autocrat, he has to consult. Listening is important, and not just to the older and more senior for, Benedict tells us, “the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger”. “The love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. Rid your heart of all deceit. Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” Benedict’s brothers are told that they are never to lose hope in God’s mercy. When guests arrive at the monastery they are to be welcomed as Christ himself.

If there is a duty of obedience to the abbot this obedience is also to be shown in relation to each other: “It is by the way of obedience that we go to God.” At the heart of the common life is the learning of humility, and that is sustained by the praise and worship of the community, which is expressed in the psalms and praise of the divine office and in prayer that is “short and pure”.

The rule of common life is an imitation of Christ. So Benedict concludes with words summing up his rule, telling his monastic brethren that they are to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ”. The rule, Benedict insists, is a rule for beginners. The practice of the presence of God is not something in a separate religious compartment from “the rest of life”, it is simply the whole of life lived towards the God of love who is the source of all life. What Benedict offers us is indeed a “school for the Lord’s service”.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

GENCON up and running

Hi all! After a week of fun in sunny California with the family it is now time for business. As Convention gets up and running, I wanted to post a link for info about what is going on out here...

Click here for any up-to-the-minute info on General Convention 2009. From time to time I will be updating as my schedule allows. Say a prayer and light a candle for me...Peace.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Messin' Around with the Saints...

I am reprinting John Robison's recent blog entry here...(I pray he doesn't mind as I haven't asked permission.) Hopefully our mutual Portsmouth connection will put him in a forgiving mood for this liberty on my part. His comments about the proposed "Holy Women, Holy Men," coming before General Convention is a must read before this is considered...Please take time to read it all....

Blessed feasts of blessed martyrs,
holy women, holy men,
with affection’s recollections
greet we your return again.
Worthy deeds they wrought, and wonders,
worthy of the Name they bore;
we, with meetest praise and sweetest,
honor them for evermore.

12th-century Latin text,translated John Mason Neale
#238, The Hymnal 1982

The 2006 General Convention, meeting in Columbus, voted to approve an "A" resolution from the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to substantially revise the Lesser Feats and Fasts book, the "sanctoral" or "Book of Saints" the Episcopal Church uses for it's, well Lesser Feasts. They then produced (as one member put it a tad condescendingly put it) what "General Convention wanted." They have proposed a massive reorganization of the Book, complete with a new name "Holy Women, Holy Men," based off of the lyric quoted above. It is comprised of 112 additions, several adjustments, but no subtractions. I was surprised by and then a bit turned off by the size of the change, but decided to focus my thoughts into one or two spots. I also kept many of my reflections to myself as I watched the discussion unfold on the blogosphere and the HoB/D list.

The response has been mixed. The Establishment Left of TEC has received this, predictably, with open arms. The Conservatives were equally predictable in their rejection. Apparently, "Let your yes be yes and your no be no" has been amended to end with "in a predictably automatic way according to camp." The rest of us, many of whom you will note over at the side of your screen, were mixed in our reactions. I had several little things that stuck in my craw, some of that will be below. Other people had other issues. So, after a while, I went through and I googled a few of the names I was unfamiliar with. I was underwhelmed by most but one or two stood out as particularly good and others as bad. What kept coming to me was the question of why so many, and why some of the people chosen. Rather than indulge in to overly wrought a discursive essay, I'll simply list and briefly explain some of my problems.

1. Saint John of the Cross: This is the most complicated of my objections, so I list it first. I'll start with my general queasy feeling towards "San Juan de la Cruz" being listed in the book. If we were to take the time to list any other saint by their native name it wouldn't bother me as much. As it is, it is just a precious little addition to make the whole mess more "multi-cultural." Second, the date, November 24th, given on the Calendar for John is unexplained. Admittedly, back in the mists of time that was the date for John's commemoration. His death date is December 14th, that is his commemoration in the Roman Catholic and other Western Churches. In the 19th century his day interfered with the octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and so was moved to the day that he joined the Carmelites as John of St Mathias. In the 1950's Rome saw that as silly and moved him back to his first date of commemoration. Why then do we put him there? Even the Church of England commemorates him in December. I would guess that this date matches Ye Olde Kalendar in the Anglican Breviary, one of the many Anglo-Catholic books which has enshrined the 19th Century as the epitome of the Churchs' life and history. No doubt that was one of the reasons, but I'll not lay money on it. Now, there is a perfectly good person in HWHM, Henry Budd, one of the first Anglican Religious in the US, if not the Communion. My question would be though, why not commemorate him on a date of "event" and not put John in his place with the rest of the Church? This isn't just a question of being picky for it's own sake, but rather for the sake of continuity, or dare I say, Catholicity. (I'll also add that I think the collect is trite and precious.)

2. John Muir: He was an agnostic if not an atheist. To be more exact he was raised in the Church of Scotland then in one of the Cambelite sects because his father didn't think that the CoS was keeping it real enough. Later in life he would reject the concept of God all together "as purely a manufactured article as any puppet of a half-penney theater." How is he an example to the Faithful? He is rammed rather uncomfortably in with Archdeacon Hudson Stuck who was an old time social reformer type and outdoors-man. He helped climb Mount McKinley and was active in passing labor laws and teaching discipleship as caring for one another. I haven't found much that identifies the good Archdeacon as an Environmentalist, but my research is incomplete. What I find objectionable is that a faithful Christian is given second billing to a man who had no such faith, no matter how admirable he may be otherwise.

3. Charles, King and Martyr: This is a reverse objection to the one above, but they are connected. Why, after all this time, do we not include him on our calendar? He is present as a feast on the calendars of many of the other Anglican Churches in the World, and he was a Christian faithful to the catholic faith he had received. He died, in no small part, because he refused to compromise on the good order of the Church and was executed by the Puritans because of it. That there is no room on our calendar for him, but there is for Muir is I indicative of part of the trouble. You see Muir is popular with the "cool kids" of the Establishment in TEC, but Charles II is not.

4. The Amazingly Elastic Standards: Here are the standards of inclusion on the Calendar as outlined in 2006. Here they are for the new book. Now, using the standards as given there why would, say Muir, a Cambelite Agnostic/Atheist get recognized when Charles II isn't? I'm being deadly serious here. Are we to assume that the Sierra Club is now a devotional society of TEC? Are we to discount the Anglican credentials of Charles and the fact that he has a devoted society that has lobbied for him, as well as a well defined devotion dedicated to his memory? This is just one example of the "cool kids" making a decision and roling with it. I could list Barth, Fannie Crosby, or Kierkegarrd as example of other faithful Christians who seem to not fill in all the criteria for the calendar but are there and people like Laud, Church, Charlotte Young, or Auber are not.

5. Those Who Have Left Us: HWHM adds three names that stood up and slapped me when I saw them. John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton, and Elizabeth Anne Seaton all left the Anglican faith for "greener pastures" in the Bark of Peter. I am deeply ambivalent about this, in particular with Chesterton who could be very sardonic about Anglicanism. Newman requires his own post.

A bit later I'll expand upon what I mean by "The Cool Kids" and my feelings about the elitism that runs around in our Church.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Making noise for freedom...

For all of our talk about freedom, Americans are fairly restrained when it comes to interrupting our politicians on the stump. I don't think this would ever happen in the US, but then again we have no idea what this poor folks have gone through. Watch this, and then say a prayer for the people of Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

All Saints' Sister leave TEC

This news makes me sad....

After an intensive, years-long period of prayer and discernment, the order of All Saints Sisters of the Poor will be received into the Roman Catholic Church by the Archbishop of Baltimore on Sept. 3.

“We are very sorry for any pain that this move might cause our friends,” said the Rev. Mother Christina, superior of the order, told The Living Church. “But everyone must try to follow where they feel God is leading them.

The All Saints Sisters of the Poor are the American Branch of a society founded in England, according to information on a website maintained by the order. They were invited to Baltimore in 1872 by the rector of Mount Calvary Church, Baltimore, a congregation which has continued to maintain strong ties to the sisters. The Rev. Jason Catania, rector of Mount Calvary, said he was aware of the impending move, and that the congregation would “continue to consider them part of the extended church family.”

“We tried to be faithful in The Episcopal Church as we understand scriptures, but we seem to be drifting farther and farther apart,” she said. “For the past two years in particular we felt as if we were no longer making a difference in this church. We felt as if we no longer belong.”

I know the sisters are being very prayerful in this decision and I wish them all the best. But for me, this is another example of how the modern cultural tendency of viewing relationships in a consumerist way (i.e. if relationships are not meeting my needs they are disposable) has co-opted the church in matters of settling internal conflicts. We are becoming too comfortable with the habit of walking away when we disagree...and worse yet viewing fellow Christians with suspicion if they are not exactly in agreement with us. My conservative friends will call me naive for this, countering that docrtinal purity is one of the most important concerns of the modern Church. Oh well. In the end, I think God will judge us just as much on how we conduct ourselves when we disagree as He will on what doctrine we hold.

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Standing committees fail to give consent

A majority of diocesan standing committees have failed to give consent to the Rev'd Kevin Thew-Forrester to be the next Bishop of Northern Michigan. It is unclear at this time what this will mean for the diocese. To understand better why this has been the first consent to fail since the 1930's I am including the explanation that the SC from the Diocese of Bethlehem Pa. has given for their vote...

At the June 4th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Committee unanimously voted not to consent to the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew-Forrester as Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. As with our decision in December 2006 not to consent to the election of a bishop, we believe it is important to explain our decision to the diocese.

The Diocese of Northern Michigan elected the Rev. Kevin-Thew Forrester, Rector/Ministry Developer of St. Paul's Church in Marquette and St. John's Church in Negaunee, on February 21, 2009. He was the sole candidate on the ballot at the electing convention. He was to succeed the late Bishop Jim Kelsey, who was killed in a car wreck in June, 2007.

Our decision not to consent was not made lightly. We first met to discuss the question in April. We decided to table the issue until our June meeting so all the members could thoroughly read, think and pray over the issue before making a final vote.

Our final vote was a solemn and sad moment, but one that we believe is correct for our Church. Initially the main concern expressed by members was about the process of Thew-Forrester’s election. But in the end, the decision came down to the bishop-elect espousing a theology that does not uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.

The well-publicized question of Thew-Forrester’s personal meditation practice was not an issue for us, although we are cognizant that the initial flap over this was the catalyst to further analyze the candidate’s beliefs and teachings. The issues that caused the most concern for our members fell into two categories: the selection process and the ability of the candidate to uphold and articulate the Christian faith.

For some members of the Standing Committee, the process of selection was an issue because the diocese was asked to accept only one candidate. Furthermore, some found troubling the underlying assumptions of how the diocese plans to structure itself after their next bishop is chosen. The Diocese of Northern Michigan has chosen to recast the role of the Bishop into a Bishop/Mission Developer who would work alongside a committee called the Episcopal Support Team. The Episcopal Support Team would carry out many of the functions usually reserved by custom and canon to the Bishop, while the Bishop would carry out those duties specifically reserved to the Bishop (such as liturgical functions and the attendance at meetings) and was to work with the Episcopal Support Team in developing, articulating and carrying out the vision of the diocese. This is an attempt to apply on a diocesan level a model of ministry which the diocese has used in their parishes for twenty years. 1

The team tasked with the search for the bishop recommended to the diocesan convention this model with the stipulation that one and only one candidate would be presented to the diocese. The Episcopal Ministry Discernment Team said to the diocese:

“Our intention is to present one name based on prayerful consideration that is the very best fit for the ministry in this unique diocese. It is our hope that because of the careful, prayerful discernment of the team, one person will become the obvious choice. This one person will be presented to the diocese as the team’s best recommendation.” 2

In addition, while names were solicited from the diocese and the whole church, the group decided not to look outside the borders of the diocese for their next bishop. The insider-nature of the process was highlighted for us by the presence of the candidate as a consultant-facilitator in some of the early meetings of the nominating committee.3

Traditional conventions and Episcopal elections are not perfect, but we note that the conventions in San Joaquin, Quincy, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth that voted for the illegal removal of their dioceses from the Episcopal Church were also led by closed groups who in closed groups discerned what was best and convinced their conventions to ratify their decisions. We hope that in going back to find a new candidate, the search process in Northern Michigan will be more open to the wisdom of the whole church.

The issue that posed the largest concern for the most of us was the ability of the candidate to articulate the Christian faith and to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. It is clear to us Thew-Forrester is a deeply spiritual man who is passionate and articulate about his approach to faith. However, it is apparent from his writing, preaching and the liturgies he has written that he has difficulty with the most basic teachings of the Christian faith about the person and work of Jesus Christ, the nature of the Trinity, the nature of sin and the atonement.

His teaching is illustrated in his own adaptation of the Baptismal liturgy found in the document called “Baptism: Season after Pentecost” used at his parish, St. Paul’s in Marquette, MI, part of which reads:4

Presider: Do you seek to awaken to the eternal presence of God, who is your very heart and soul?
Parents and Godparents: I do.
Presider: God forever invites you to let go of self deceit to dwell in the house of honesty, where eternal Hope reigns. Will you accept this invitation?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.
Presider: God forever invites you to let go of all fear to dwell in the house of courage, where eternal Faith reigns. Will you accept this invitation?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.
Presider: God forever invites you to let go of all anger to dwell in the house of serenity, where Love reigns. Will you accept this invitation?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.
Presider: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as the way of Life and Hope?
Parents and Godparents: I do.
Presider: Do you put your whole trust in Christ’s grace and love?
Parents and Godparents: I do.
Presider: Do you promise to follow Christ as the way of life?
Parents and Godparents: I do.

This revision is problematic from the start as it is not up to an individual to radically change the core sacramental rites as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer. We have a process for liturgical revision in our church. Furthermore this revision removes both a basic understanding of sin at the heart of the human condition, and the need for the baptized to renounce anything. He assumes that the person being baptized already has within her or himself the capacity to live faithfully if only they will follow an enlightened, and general, “way of life and hope.”

Thew-Forester frequently uses the phrase “at-one-ment” to describe what he understands as the significance of the incarnation: that in Jesus, we find that we are already at one with God and we only need to follow his way to know God. By reducing the life of Christ to a matter of simple awareness, he minimizes the reality of evil while at the same time suggesting that enlightenment does not require choice, change or challenge.

His teaching about the Trinity is troubling as he does not speak of the person of God the Father, the person of Jesus Christ, and the person of the Holy Spirit, but instead uses a kind of Trinitarian language that implies all religions are essentially the same: "That’s what I’m driving at this morning. We make the Trinity much too complex. The Trinitarian structure of life is this: is that everything that is comes from the source. And you can name the source what you want to name the source. And our response to that is with hearts of gratitude and thanksgiving, to return everything back to that source, and there’s a spirit who enables that return. Everything comes from God. We give it back to God. And the spirit gives us the heart of gratitude. That is the Trinitarian nature of life. And you can be a Buddhist, you can be a Muslim, you can be a Jew, and that makes sense." 5

On April 26, 2009, the Diocese of Northern Michigan released a paper written by Thew-Forrester which was an attempt to answer the concerns that were already voiced about his teaching, preaching and liturgical theologizing. In many ways, this paper was useful but perhaps not in the way that the writer intended because it showed many of us that some of our concerns were in fact well founded. In particular, he elevates the incarnation, transfiguration and resurrection while ignoring the witness of the Gospel and epistles and reduces the cross to nothing more than excessive medieval piety. To make his case he uses orthodox and early church writings in ways that would probably be unrecognizable to the writers.6

We are a diocese that respects and encourages diversity. Within our diocese we find views that span the whole range of conservative to liberal on a host of issues. We understand that our life together is bound up in Christ and also that our faith has content that both teaches and challenges us.

While there is plenty of room within our membership for ambiguity and a variety of opinions and practices, a Bishop of our church is after all a bishop of the Episcopal Church. Like every other deacon and priest, Thew-Forester’s ordination vows bind him to "solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church."

If he finds that his faith life has led him to an understanding of Christianity that compels him to move beyond the teaching of the Episcopal Church, our Baptismal Covenant, and our understanding of the Trinity that is certainly discernment that he must consider. But if he cannot uphold our core beliefs, he cannot in good faith fulfill the ordination vows of a Bishop in our Church, and we cannot in good faith consent to his election.

1. Diocese of Northern Michigan. “Announcing the discernment results for the Episcopal Ministry Support Team & Bishop / Ministry Developer” available from

2. Diocese of Northern Michigan, “Frequently Asked Questions: The Episcopal Ministry Discernment Process in the Diocese of Northern Michigan” available from

3. Diocese of Northern Michigan. “An Update from the Ministry Discernment Team May 13, 2008” available from

4. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Marquette, MI. “Baptism Season After Pentecost” available from

5. The Rev. Dr. Kevin Thew-Forester, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Marquette, MI. “Sermon for Trinity Sunday, 2008” available on and on (The original text was taken down from the parish website

6. Diocese of Northern Michigan. “Approaching the Heart of Faith” available on

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Observations on the "Land of the free"

Here are some words from the Rt. Rev'd. David Chillingworth a bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church who has not been in the US for nearly 8 years...

It’s seven years since I have been to the US - a bit busy and a bit Bush-averse. So it’s good to be back in the Land of the Free which is, of course, one of the most compliant nations on earth. ‘Stand in line’ and they rush to queue up. Offered 14 levels of Frequent Flyer status and they line up like children waiting for a star from teacher. My aspiration is that one day I shall board a plane using the Breezeway.

One thing has changed since I was here last. The cellphone is king. Lone travellers talk constantly to Momma back home. And they start talking as the wheels hit the runway. All Blackberries - because this is O’Bamaland and he’s Coach.

Meanwhile - a glossary of terms:

Gatehouse [as in Gatehouse of Fleet] - area round the Departure Gate

Approach the Podium - go to the Desk to engage in energetic discussion about seat allocation. Whatever happened to the quaint idea that one just elbows one’s way on and takes a seat?

Deplane - self-evident

Best of all - but I hardly believe I heard this. After four flights, I arrived in a tiny plane at Ashville, North Carolina. The carry on bags were too big - did I hear them referred to as ‘ballet bags’ which we could pick up as we deplaned.

So onward with America TV - offering me Gloria Copland’s ‘Believer’s Voice of Victory’ where ‘The future is stored up in YOUR heart’

I encourage you to read his blog which I have enjoyed for some time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Religion and Politics

Here is an interesting radio interview given by former Senator and Episcopal priest, the Rev'd. John Danforth. This aired last week on NPR's Tell Me More.

Listen here.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Statement from Northern Michigan

The Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan has published a defense of his theological views. Please take time to read the entire document. I'm thankful to Fr. Kevin for posting this even though I disagree with certain aspects and interpretations in it. It is good to see the theological work done by Forrester and not simply the gossip about him.

In the end, this document confirms the reasons why I am against his confirmation, but I appreciate having the larger document and the discussions I'm sure it will cause.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Religion in American Life

The Pew Forum has released an interesting study on the American religious lifestyle. In particular, the study focuses on why Americans change religious affiliation.

The group that has grown the most in recent years due to religious change is the unaffiliated population. Two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated and half of former Protestants who have become unaffiliated say they left their childhood faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, and roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions. Additionally, many people who left a religion to become unaffiliated say they did so in part because they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money. Far fewer say they became unaffiliated because they believe that modern science proves that religion is just superstition...

I think that ticked off Anglicans in the US who are about to form a schismatic quasi-church would do well to digest the information in this report. In light of recent comments from the Rt. Rev'd. Bob Duncan, deposed bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh concerning his being a cradle Anglican and the Most Rev'd. Katharine Jefferts Schori being a convert, this study seems very relevant. Listening to Duncan, you can't help but wonder if a lot of this is coming from the breakdown of the good-old-boy structures of leadership in the Episcopal Church.

“I’m a cradle Anglican. My grandfather was a boy chorister. . . My theological views haven’t changed. The problem is that folks who have become the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the United States have pulled the rug out from under me. The person who is our Presiding Bishop, she didn’t begin as an Anglican. I did. She represents something very different. I don’t think I’m a breakaway....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And there were giants in the land in those days

Jim Dunaway was a dear friend and mentor. The message was on the answering machine when I got home from Evening Prayer and Beer & Bible tonight. He will not soon be forgotten...

Dr. James C. Dunaway, age 71, of Dayton, departed this life on Monday, April 20, 2009 after a 2 ½ year battle with prostate cancer. Jim was born on August 10, 1937 near Enterprise AL. A son of Herman and Lillie Mae (Crumpler) Dunaway. He was preceded in death by his siblings, Pete, Edsel and Lovie.

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Carole (Bock) Dunaway; four sons, David (Rebecca), Dr. Daniel (Angela), Matthew (Kirsten), and Dr. Romeo (Lena) Massoud; 11 grandchildren, Spencer, Ike, Drew, Drake, Darick, Dawson, Grace, Katherine, Christian, Vianna, and Safia; and his extended family, Jerry (Jane) Bock, Marilyn (Richard) Bock Woolums and Michael Bock.

He served as pastor in the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church for 50 years. Churches served were Moscow Ohio Charge, Glenwood in Columbus, Somerset, John Wesley in Cincinnati, Christ Church in Kettering, Trinity in Milford, First Church in Van Wert and Centerville Church. He held degrees from Asbury College, METHESCO and United Seminary. Jim loved his family and his churches and was a great friend to all. Jim touched many lives both in and out of the church. He will be greatly missed.

Rest eternal grant him, O Lord. Let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the depart, rest in peace...Amen.

A little laughter

A little laughter from the back bench. A tip of the biretta to Dan Martins for digging up this jewel...Hope you enjoy.

What a Voice

I wish we had stuff like this in America...instead of all the Britney Spears wanna-be types on that other Idol show...

Check it out...

I can't wait to hear more of Susan Boyle. Who would have thought? From church choir to center stage.

Watch it and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Considering the Lilies

I have never thought of these verses from Matthew 6 as being directly part of the resurrection story...not until this morning.

As I walked back to the office from my Tuesday sermon-study group and past our prayer garden at All Saints', I happened upon the Candy Tuft in full bloom. My heart was stirred not only by their beauty but also by the words of our Lord on the placard hovering over the gorgeous white blossoms. My mind went immediately to the words I had just poured over with some of my colleagues....

...While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

I wonder sometimes if we really believe this anymore? In our desire to be as PC and non-offensive as possible is the resurrection something that has now grown out of fashion for us? Has our passion for deconstructing the stories of the Bible and the events of scripture gone so far as to strip them of any real efficacy? Or have they simply become nothing more than moral lessons--our collective nursery rhymes?

Maybe I should consider the lilies and not worry about it so much. After all, Jesus is the one who comes to us. He is the one who breaks down those doors that we have shut for fear. He is the one who speaks peace to us in the midst of our troubles. And maybe, we might see him at dinner or on the road somewhere between here and our own Emmaus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Video Easter message from Canterbury

This is a must watch video, I hope you'll take a moment to view it...

Easter is here...

This is one of the readings from the Eucharistic lectionary for today...Acts 2:36-41

Peter said to the multitude, "Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, "Brothers, what should we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added...

We had a full house on Easter Sunday. It was a beautiful morning, the altar guild were fantastic in their decorating of the church for this high holy day. The choir hit a home run. The congregation was excited to be there. It was one of those moments when you knew why you were a christian, and being a christian at that moment felt incredible. A long way from just a couple of days before and the solemnity of Maundy Thursday and stark sadness of Good Friday.

It's moments like this that I am reminded it takes all our human experiences to make us who we are, the good and the it not perfect, it is not always safe or error proof. And moving from great sadness into great joy-just like the rhythms of Easter-reminds one of the great power of God to be front and center in the human life story...always working for the good...always moving us from Good Friday to Easter morn.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

The shepherd has been struck and the sheep have scatter...the disciples have fled in fear and there is none to mourn at the tomb of Jesus...

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Holy Thursday

Having no oil aumbry at All Saints', I have been keeping the sacred chrism in the Tabernacle with the consecrated host...I haven't thought much about this until this afternoon when I discovered an article by Fr John Hunwicke, who is Priest-in-Charge of St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow at Pusey House. His article has nothing to do really with why I should or should not continue the practice, but I thought it interesting nonetheless...

In antiquity, the Bishop of Rome used to send a fragment of the Host, each Sunday, to each of the presbyters of the Roman title churches as a sign of his Communio with them ... and of his own Eucharistic presidency. It was commingled with the chalice at the Fraction; the origin, in fact, of the Commixture which has bravely survived Bugnini and still exists even in the Ordinary Form.

A little while ago, Bishop Andrew reminded us that it is not good enough just to have any old validly consecrated Chrism around; the Chrism in fact functions now as a expression and diagnostic of Communio. The C of E never has had proper incardination; the Tudor Establishment preserved the old medieval bureaucratic legalities (Gregory Dix liked to point out that the Church of England is riddled with more unreformed medievalisms than any other body in Christendom). But whose oils one uses in the radically liminal rites of Initiation shows which Bishop one is a presbyter of.

Sometimes our Traditionalist English bishops refer to their clergy as "Clergy who look to me". Perhaps a crisper, more theological, more sacramental, formula would be "Clergy who receive my Chrism".

I think it's a good point. 'Whose Chrism' is so much better an indication of a presbyter's ecclesial location than legal pieces of paper like licences. Chrism, after all, is not about lawyers but about the sacramental structure of Christ's Church.

On Tuesday past, Priests from all over the diocese received chrism from Bishop Breidenthal to take back to the parishes and missions...Just got me thinking on this Holy Thursday when we talk about being connect in the Eucharistic feast...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Holy Wednesday

Yesterday clergy and laity from the diocese of Southern Ohio gathered for our annual renewal of vows. This is always an emotional moment for me as I am confronted with promises I made years before. It is also a time for me to reflect on the previous year and ask just how well I am living into those promises. Am I a good priest? Do people hear the good news of Jesus Christ when I preach? Am I living into a more abundant life in Jesus Christ?

I can't always give satisfactory answers to these questions and more and more I rely upon this heartfelt petition to my Lord, Jesus have mercy upon me a poor sinner....

Here are the some words from the eucharistic lectionary for today...

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; *O LORD, make haste to help me....
But as for me, I am poor and needy; *come to me speedily, O God.
You are my helper and my deliverer; *O LORD, do not tarry....

Monday, April 06, 2009

Language and how we think about things...

A great piece on NPR this language effects how we think about the world around us...

Boroditsky suggests that the grammar we learn from our parents, whether we realize it or not, affects our sensual experience of the world. Spaniards and Germans can see the same things, wear the same cloths, eat the same foods and use the same machines. But deep down, they are having very different feelings about the world about them.

William Shakespeare may have said (through Juliet's lips): "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but Boroditsky thinks Shakespeare was wrong. Words, and classifications of words in different languages, do matter, she thinks....

Take time to read the whole article here.

Bishop of Bethlehem PA on Northern Michigan

Bishop Paul Marshall responds to the election in Northern Michigan...

As a Church we are increasingly a laughing-stock. Not because we welcome lesbian and gay people, and carry on social ministries that enact the sacrifice of Christ on a corporate basis, and certainly not because of our latitude and the conversation it engenders. We are a laughing stock because we do not consistently proclaim a solid core, words as simple as "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," yet "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself."

Increasingly it seems that the Cross has become foolishness in the Church, and our former hallmark teaching of the Incarnation is seldom heard, and less seldom heard to matter. If our embarrassment is going to end, the voices of bishops as clear, traditional, and powerful evangelists need to be raised in the churches and in the market place. Many bishops find a number of techniques that come from the social sciences useful in their ministries, and have significant investment in Eastern meditation -- their qualification to be bishops, however, is as the chief confessors of the creeds and presidents at the sacraments. They are to be unambiguously ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through them...

Read it all here...