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Those of you who know me, one way or another, realize that I love words and hate to surrender them when they are misused. Of course its a dangerous vocation because there’s always someone around who wants to catch one out. It is in this vein that I write about politics. It’s amusing, all right, annoying when a politician accuses a foe of “playing politics.” Politics is (are) necessary and unavoidable. What is avoidable, one hopes for Christians, is the use of political methods and habits which are not “holy”. “All’s fair in love and war” and religion it would seem.

I was thinking of this when I read about the Bishop of New Hampshire’s plans, and date for entering into a “civil partnership”. when I read the Minns/Akinola missive and mulled over the agenda adopted by the ACN Oh yes and the coy letter from the Sydney bishops to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The problem is that when one suggests that political methods are inappropriate as tools in the Christian arsenal, one is accused of being a pacifist. I should think that any Christian worth her or his salt has gone back to the issue of pacifism over and over again and felt uneasy. But I don’t think I am a pacifist in a precise sense. On the other hand I do take our Lord’s words about cheek turning, “until seventy times seven”, walking the extra mile, disposing of clothing and cross-bearing as an important area in which I should be earnest if seldom successful.

I don’t blame the Archbishop of Canterbury’s taking a sabbatical at this time. Perhaps he is reminding us all that a season of prayer and study, even in, or perhaps more vitally in times of crisis is splendidly Christian and a true mark of leadership. I do hope that the Archbishop hasn’t read the threats, promises and insults aimed at him by liberals and conservatives alike. In the world of politics, character assassination is fair game, particularly in America. So are brinkmanship, seeking to force someone’s hand, threatening a withdrawal of funds or help, law suits, and the whole arsenal of “in your face tactics” about which there emanates the smell of sulphur. Certainly it is more difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the other Instruments of Unity in the Communion, even our own bishops to address calmly and dispassionately the extraordinary problems they face when all and sundry do their best to beat the drums of war.

I would not blame the archbishop at all if he flew to New Orleans, met the bishops and then said to us all, “Cool it” or however that is expressed in academic English. I would not blame him if he urged the primates to invite all to Lambeth and then locked them all in the University of Kent on a diet of shepherds’ pie and Bishop’s Finger ale, provided only with the 1549 BCP in its original English, and perhaps the Britches Bible until they emerge saying, “It seems good the Holy Spirit and to us.”

Why was +Rowan Williams appointed Archbishop of Canterbury? That we can’t know for sure. If one compares him with the long line of archbishops who have occupied the throne of St. Augustine he stands out and is numbered in a very small and select company of them for his holiness, scholarship, humility and brilliance. I wouldn’t say that he is a brilliant strategist or politician or even an ordinary one. There are plenty around on all sides who one might fit into such a category. Indeed his reputation suffers in the media and among his peers because he is extraordinary and people, yes even bishops, don’t really like extraordinary people. They tend to make one feel inadequate, not a sensation beloved among purple personages liberal or conservative.

I believe that +Rowan’s gifts are for such a time as this. The answer to our present dilemma is not to be found in politics, the triumphalism (or defeatism) of the Cause-champions, in strategies, calculations, threats and counter-threats, but in patience, long-suffering, humility, love, empathy, in loving even those who despitefully use us, in speaking the truth in self-sacrificing love. In such a context all “sides”, “parties”, factions, theological positions and most of all the practice of true religon among us come under judgement and no one may cast the first stone.

There can be no solution to the things that so grievously beset us until we abandon politics as usual and return to a humble waiting on God. We all need to repent, we all need to seek reconciliation, we all need to cool it.


I hesitate to write this column because it is really inviting disaster! So far there has been no official or unofficial statement from the “Windsor Bishops” who met at Camp Allen in Texas a few days ago. In case, dear reader, you do not know what a “Windsor” bishop is, I must explain that they are bishops of the Episcopal Church who publicly endorse the thrust of the “Windsor Report” in which our church has been asked by the rest of the Anglican Communion to cease and desist from what has become a habit. The habit is to take actions on issues which determine a course of action, a doctrine or a practice about which the Communion has no common mind, the result of which may well be division and disunity. In short Americans and Canadians are being reminded that actions have consequences and that we are our brothers and sisters keepers.

Windsor bishops are not to be confused with bishops who for one reason or another keep their heads down and hope things will go away or with Network bishops although some Network bishops are also Windsor bishops. Confused? If there’s one thing to learn about the “conservative” scene in America, in church as well as state, it is that there will be divisions within, factions and an alphabet soup of organizations, each with leadership and turf and a good deal of mutual animosity.

Network bishops and their supporters, at a recent meeting, also in Texas, demonstrated a lack of trust in, and patience for, the process outlined by Windsor and subsequent meetings of the Anglican primates. (When Network people speak of primates, they tend to forget that all Anglican primates are not members of the Global South group, all are not “conservative” or “traditionalist” although it is fairly safe to say that all are exasperated that we have arrived at this moment of division largely because we have neither the skills nor the patience to “discern” in organized conversation for any length of time at all.) If there’s one thing in common between Episcopalian liberals and conservatives, and there are many, it is that everything must be done immediately, now and in the form of legislation or political strategy. Control is definitely the “in” thing. Such habits are not obtained through prayer and fasting but rather by a studied observation of the manner in which political parties, lobbies and candidates do business in the modern state.

I digress. The Network bishops, having lost patience, want to create an alternative Episcopal Church in the United States now. Windsor bishops want to wait to see how the Episcopal Church responds to the Primates at the end of September, after the House of Bishops meets with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Windsor bishops want to allow the primates to respond and want the response of the various Instruments of Unity, the catch phrase for the major elements created to give coherence and unity to the Anglican Communion. They are, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council (made up of bishops, other clergy and laity from the constituent provinces), the Primates’ Committee -all the “first among equal” chief bishops of the Communion provinces, and the Lambeth Conference, a meeting of those bishops invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet to discuss, pray and speak to and for the whole Communion. The Lambeth Conference is scheduled to meet next year. Preliminary invitations have been sent to most diocesan bishops.

I am delighted that the “Windsor Bishops” haven’t issued a statement. I hope they won’t. I hope they possess their souls in patience until they have met in the House of Bishops, listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury and taken a full part in framing the response of the House of Bishops to the Communique issued by the Primates at the end of their meeting in Tanzania. There has been entirely too much talk, too much posturing, too many position statements.

Now if our bishops fail to give an adequate response to the Primates, then will be the time for the Windsor bishops to speak to the church and speak clearly for the church. What would failure to give an adequate response look like? It is being argued that the bishops cannot, according to our polity, speak for the church. I believe that opinion to be wrong headed. Certainly the House of Bishops, on its own, cannot legislate for the church. There’s a good deal of difference between speaking for the church and legislating for the church. The bishops, together, preferably by consensus, after prayer and fasting, may speak on those matters which pertain to the spiritual and practical functions of bishops. They may make decisions about worship, as long as they do not prohibit liturgical texts and practices authorized or authorize liturgies which conflict with the formularies now in place in our church. In short they may not approve of rites and ceremonies which take us further than current provisions authorize.

Bishops also have the final say in the matter of who is or is not ordained and collectively a collective “say” with the standing committees on the matter of who is or is not ordained or consecrated to the episcopate. For bishops to determine that they will not authorize that which has not been authorized is, one presumes, well within their scope of collective authority! For bishops to authorize that which is not authorized, even by committing themselves to turn a blind eye would be a “legislative” action and beyond the competence of the House of Bishops unless performed during General Convention and with the consent of the House of Deputies. One hopes that the Windsor bishops will counsel their sisters and brothers to act strictly within their powers. If they so do, and all of the bishops concur, or most of them, the primates should be satisfied.

The Communion could then go ahead on the matter of a Covenant or some other instrument or “process” to ensure that Provinces live into interdependence as autonomous units within the wholeness of Communion. The Lambeth Conference might then be able to devote time and space to a healthy discussion of the subjects which seem to divide us, the issue of authority, of biblical authority, of scripture, tradition and reason, of the nature of communion and autonomy, all subjects which are involved in describing and limiting a fellowship or society in which prayerful, theological and pastoral discussion about human nature and the human condition may be contemplated and the will of God discerned. Without a mutual understanding about who we are and how we function, it is impossible to debate or consider much at all. Structure isn’t an optional extra. The Gospel and the Catholic Church are not two subjects, but a single principle. Scripture, tradition and reason are not three subjects, from among which we may pick our favorite. They constitute a wholeness, a unity which points to the unity-in-community which is God in Trinity.

If the view triumphs that constituent Provinces are totally and completely free to do as they please, if that is what autonomy means -then I doubt there’s much Christian to salvage. Who among us is so autonomous that she or he may do exactly as one pleases? Even God doesn’t claim such an autonomy! If the view triumphs that individual provinces or groups of them are free to determine the ecclesial status of another Province without some mutual agreement that in a specific area they are free to determine the limits of communion, then what we mean by Communion is rendered nonsense. If provinces are free to set up shop in another jurisdiction unless mutual consent or at least an authoritative consent by the instruments of unity has been forthcoming, then what we mean by Communion is merely anarchy.

I have said elsewhere they I don’t approve of deadlines. Well we have one coming up. I hope our bishops won’t take umbrage about the deadline imposed by the primates, won’t let pride assert itself, resist a “Bushish” response, don’t wrap themselves in a Cause which assumes the mantle of total Gospel at the expense of that which is affirmed in our baptis
ms. I hope they will be humble in asserting that which they believe they are called to say and that say that clearly and will be equally clear in striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Jesus prayed that “They may be one.” Please Lord, make that our prayer. It would be tragically odd if Twenty-first Century bishops by action or inaction embrace Sixteenth Century means and methods and rend the church for the sake of whatever. Do I believe that schism, who ever is responsible or who ever walks apart is worse than heresy? I think I now believe that schism is heresy and heresy is schism for both tear apart that very fabric designed to enable us to learn from God and from one another in God.


I realize that the concept of “the remnant” is biblical, but it still reminds me of a bit of cast off cloth, a “second” one may find in outdoor markets. Thus when I read of traditionalists as being a faithful remnant, I understand the OT allusion, but I am left feeling rather rejected. I wonder whether it is even an appropriate metaphor for those of us who can recite the Creeds without crossing our fingers, who believe in miracles and are not quite sure about “progressive revelation.”

Being not quite sure about doctrinal development doesn’t at all mean a belief that God has spoken once, long ago, and now has retreated to watch what happens. That’s the god of the Deist. It doesn’t mean that one denies that the revelation which is in Christ Jesus doesn’t speak to us in what seem to be new ways, or in new contexts, although we should be reminded that the “newness” isn’t novelty and probably isn’t new at all. It’s a modern conceit to think that we invent new religious concepts just because we come up with new ways to get from A to B. In vital matters it is probably true that there’s nothing new under the sun. What is “new” is the translation and perhaps the context in which we “hear” the Word of God, often through the Word of God written. Jesus is the final Revelation. Jesus lives and his Gospel lives in the power of the Trinity. Now that is living!

Back to the remnant. It seems to me that there are two assurances given to Christians and those two assurances were lived into by the first Christians. The first assurance seems masochistical. Being a Christian will get you hurt! The hurt may be from an external source, it may be the result of our seeking to live as Christians, and it may be the result of our not succeeding in living as Christians. Cross-bearing hurts. That’s a difficult concept to embrace in a culture in which “hurt” and “pain” are railed against and resented. The blogs of liberals and conservatives are full of stuff about people being hurt, being given pain, by this or that action, or declaration. I do not deny that people are hurt, do get pained, by words and actions, some just and some manifestly unjust. Yet our American pains and hurt, for the most part are nothing like those experienced across the globe in other places by millions who starve, suffer and die, in war, famine, flood, as the result of disease, economic injustice, cruelty and human malice. In our affluent Episcopalianism, most of our hurt and pain is experienced in comfort and we can take pills and even pray because we can afford so to do.

Law suits and discrimination hurt, but they are not excuses for us to behave as pagans!

Now I am not here addressing the real torments of psychological or physical pain, although here too, at least the medically insured experience their torments in the context of available help and nurture. True in this manifestly unjust society of ours, many fall through the cracks and we cannot rest, as Christians until this great wrong is made right.

The Christian journey does hurt. Jesus told us that if we want to follow him we must embrace the cross, give up much which cushions life from reality and walk hand in hand with him through the valley of the shadow. Certainly the first Christians heard the story of Jesus and the comments of the Epistle-writers in the context of persecution, fear and peril. Yet this growing “remnant” had another assurance we often forget. The victory has been won for us. On the Cross Jesus won the ultimate victory. Our task as Christians is not to fight a war to win, but announce the victory and its fruits. Perhaps “Onward Christian Soldiers” should read, “Onward Christian witnesses, marching on to speak.”

Whenever Christians are driven to believe that their task is to fight to preserve and protect something or other, however right, holy or splendid that “something” is, a psychological change occurs. We come to believe that our job is to win the battle against the enemy instead of risking carrying the news of victory into enemy territory. It is true that being the messenger of victory is a dangerous business, can get us into all sorts of trouble, even unto death, but it is a very different calling than that of fighting a war to protect the faith. Fighting to protect includes the concept of losing. Telling the story of Calvary involves no possibility of losing, other than losing the argument temporarily, losing acceptance,losing respectibility or still in some places losing one’s life. Yet Calvary and the Empty Tomb cannot be “lost”. They constitute the greatest victory ever won, no less than the liberation and restoration of all things in heaven and on earth; the promise of newness in both. Talk about a new revelation.

Again the problem with fighting to protect something or other is that it is possible that the glory of what we seek to protect dims into banal color and the protecting thing becomes an idol or a fetish. There’s enormous depth in our Lord’s comment that if we seek to save our lives we will lose them.

In this light I remain unhappy to be described as a remnant. I prefer to think of mere Christians as the leaven, the yeast, the ingredient injected into church and society which transforms and creates. Yes, there’s newness in the process, but it is a very old newness. It’s difficult to accept this truth when we have wrapped our cause or campaign, our “progressiveness” or “orthodoxy” in a blanket and are rushing away to where?, so that we can continue to defend and protect our possession . Don’t unwrap the blanket. You may not like what is now there.


An extract from a comment by the Archbishop of Wales which, although dated, speaks to our present crisis:

September 17th, 2004

“But you might ask, why does the Anglican Communion matter? It matters
because Communion is God’s gift to us, and what God has given we should not, dare
not spurn. God has given us in this Communion people who are very different
from ourselves. They are however His gift to us, as we, hopefully, may be his
gift to them. Gifts are means of grace and as such are to be cherished and
nourished, not rejected and cast aside. The Communion consists of nearly 100
million Anglicans across the various countries of our world. They are people
like us who believe in the authority of scripture, the creeds, the sacraments
and the historic episcopate but who in other ways are culturally very different
from us. As one report puts it “the Communion describes a theologically
identifiable group of particular, regional churches which embody reformed,
catholic faith and trace their original existence and inspiration to the mission or
ministry of the Church of England or churches closely associated with it”.
The Communion matters because in our world it is often non-governmental
organisations rather than governments which express the aspirations of
populations. The Anglican Communion is one of the largest non-governmental
organisations in the world and so has a major contribution to make as a trans-national
civic society in bringing hope, reconciliation and transformation to the
communities of our world. We have seen how that has happened already in countries
such as Kenya and South Africa. The Communion matters therefore for the
witness to truth and justice that it makes to our world as well as the vitally
important expression of what it means to be a member of the Christian family.
This Communion also has companionship links across the world, partnership and
mission links, inter-Anglican networks and religious orders helping to bind it
together. Do we want to throw all that away?

For it is a Communion not a Federation as is the case with the Lutheran
Church. Thus there are no formalised overlapping jurisdictions except in Europe
and as Anglicanism was exported, the model was not a hierarchally centrally run
church with unity maintained by magisterial rulings or uniformity but a
familial one held together by bonds of affections. Lutheranism consists of a
number of pre existing groups coming together by agreement. The familial model
however evokes from provinces the building up of ways of articulating the bonds
they have in common as they develop. The familial model is different from
the federal model since the latter consists of churches coming together and
surrendering certain rights and privileges in order to gain others. The familial
model recognises the history and tradition we have in common needing some
kind of institutional support. The difference between the federal and the
familial model is the difference between a group of friends renting a house
together and to a family living together under one roof.

Professor Daniel Hardy writes that “In Anglicanism, unity is found in
movement towards others, not in moving apart, no matter how well rationalised”.
Why, because it is a response to God’s movement towards his world and so as
Ephesians 4:2-3 puts it, “We must bear with one another in love, making every
effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace”. The crucial
question then is how do we do that? Let me just outline three ways in which
that can be made possible:

Firstly, by listening to one another. This can best be summed up by a
passage I came across the other day, having nothing to do with the Anglican
Communion as such but we could certainly benefit from the advice:
“Can you just listen? When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me
advice, you have not done what I asked. When I ask you to listen to me and
you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my
feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem. Listen.
All I asked was that you listen, not talk or do, just hear me”.

Secondly, we need to remember our Anglican tradition and our particular way
of doing theology. It was Isaac Williams, the Vice Principal of this College
and a Welsh Tractarian to boot, who wrote on “Reserve in Communicating
Religious Knowledge”. “We need” he says “an abstention from over-hasty doctrinal
definition and a commitment to the mystery of God’s presence with us”. In
other words, Anglicanism has been about definitive questions not definitive
answers. Richard Hooker, that sixteenth century divine in his Law of
Ecclesiastical Polity had this to say “Although to know God be life, and joy to make
mention of his name: yet our soundest knowledge is to know that we know him not
as indeed he is, neither can know him: and our safest eloquence concerning
him is our silence, when we confess without confession that his glory is
inexplicable, his greatness above our capacity and reach. He is above, and we upon
earth; therefore it behoveth our words to be wary and few”. “Surely” says
the psalmist “ you are a God who hides yourself”. A bit of reticence therefore
about how exactly God reveals himself would not go amiss.

Thirdly, we need to remember that the witness of the Gospel and of Jesus is
to an inclusive community, not to an exclusive community. This means
associating with and striving to understand and value, as well as accepting as
brothers and sisters not just people who are most like us or who are related to us
or those with whom we feel at ease, but those who are least like us and who do
things differently and whom we might find it difficult to get on with.
Richard Hooker again, “Pray God that none may be offended if I seek to make the
Christian religion an inn where all may be received joyously rather than a
cottage where some few friends or family might be entertained”.
One of the key passages of the famous 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on human
sexuality was, and I quote, that “the Anglican Communion commits itself to
listen to the experience of homosexual persons and wishes to assure them that
they are loved by God and that all baptised believing faithful persons,
regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the body of Christ”. It is a
section that tends to be ignored. It is a fact, that in many countries of our world, people are being persecuted
simply because of their sexual orientation. In fact there are 80 countries in
the world, which persecute gay and lesbian people through their penal codes
with punishments ranging from death to mutilation and imprisonment. We do not,
as a church, want to do anything that adds to the suffering and
marginalisation of such people.”

There’s much food for thought in this address as we approach the deadline set forth by the Primates when they last met in Tanzania, amid calls from the left and the right to walk away from or be pushed from the Anglican Communion. I regard our unity as a family as something we cannot destroy in an act of rage or impatience. Any cause we maintain, whether it be biblical authority, gay rights, or ecclesial integrity or provincial autonomy means little or nothing if used as a justification for schism, the violent act of breaking baptismal relationships. TC


I’m in North Carolina, staying with my son. Last Friday my car was hit by a deer, the windshield destroyed plus some minor body work damage and I was left shaken and bemused. The windshield will not be replaced until tomorrow, so I am grounded.

I am trying to keep up with the emerging story of traditionalist struggle within and without TEC. This is not made easy by the continuing development of new vocabulary to describe emerging or declining groups and factions. Acronyms are bad enough -althought I admit to using some of them-but odd conglomerations of partial words seem to be coming into favor, a habit once the preserve of military establishments. Perhaps this connection has something to do with the admittedly understandable, although I think unfortunate comparison between the struggles and feuds of Christians and warfare. Neither are pretty activities and few if any are “just”.

I have to say that I enjoyed the cut and thrust of the Archbishop of York’s assistant, in defending his boss against unkind accusations from Common Cause’s Canon David Anderson. http://www.dioceseofyork.org.uk/cgi/news/news.cgi?t=template&a=1138. No doubt it had to be said. Amid all the evocations of Middle Earth and Mordur in traditionalist blogging there’s the hint that our modern Hobbits don’t fight fair and fail to have that sense of humor and proportion enjoyed by Bilbo’s descendant and friends.

It seems that those who wish to see the Anglican Communion charging to the rescue of orthodox Episcopalians are to be called Comcons, while those abandoning ship and joining one or perhaps more of the cafeteria array of post modern traditionalist groups are to be termed Fedcoms. Apart from a common love of something termed “Anglicanism”, although the term stretches from screens, ping pong balls and rumperty tumperty songs, interspersed by snatches of vaguely liturgical texts and quotes from the NIV Bible to Mass, Mary and Confession according to the Anglican Missal, no slavish conformity here, it is suggested that all these people are quite sure that unless God decides to do a miracle, and strangely for believers in miracles -I do too – one isn’t expected or perhaps even wanted, the Episcopal Church is going or has gone to hell in a proverbial hand basket.

While staying with Mark I’ve borrowed Dr. Judith Maltby’s “Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England.” It seems Dr. Maltby’s research was no easy thing. Much is said to disparage users of the Prayer Book in those days by Puritans who had decided that those who used the Book were “papists and atheists,” while Roman Catholic recusants worried that “Church Catholics” would opt for the Established Church rather than risking fortune and maybe life by clinging to the “old religion.” The point is that those who used the Prayer Book and attended their parish church said little for themselves. If one judged them on the basis of the writings and pleas of their detractors, they would seem a rather sorry lot. Perhaps they were not noted for their adherence to this or that popular theology peddled by those whose counter-claims to orthodoxy vexed the souls of many.

Perhaps in their illiteracy, although those who couldn’t sign their name seemed to know what they wanted in terms of liturgy and worship, these people couldn’t make a great show at providing anything more than a simple, and perhaps a bit superstitious faith. Yet their memory is sullied if one is to believe all that puritan and papist said of them. They wanted their children baptized, their sons and daughters married, their dead ones decently buried, chance to receive the sacrament of the altar now and again, perhaps a decent sermon or homily and Matins and Evensong on Sundays and Feast Days, Wednesdays and Fridays. These simple expectations were not always easy to come by amidst the turmoils of our extended Reformation. Yet the persistence of these devout and unsung saints lasted even through the Puritan Interregnum.

That I was reading this while traditionalists were assailing the predominant faith and practice of American Episcopalians -and the beliefs of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for good measure-seemed no accident. Granted I am constantly amazed at the confidence with which some prominent people, some bishops, some seminary professors, some “cardinal rectors” promote novel and often daft substitutes for mere Christianity, or put all their trust in projects which while not antithetical to the Gospel necessarily, are not Gospel, or in a feverish wish not to seem intolerant, limit the power of Jesus to the narrow confines of ecclesiastical groupings, in attempt to regard all religions as salvic, yet having admitted all this, I have to return to my essential experiential belief about the Episcopal Churchs religion, at least at parish level. Despite all this, and I do remember the “God is Dead” lot of a few decades ago, I am not prepared yet to say that the Episcopal Church is totally depraved. Sometimes when I read the burbling of far left and far right I wonder if she is not “very far gone from original righteousness”, but that’s another matter.

Of course I hope and pray that after the Archbishop of Canterbury has attempted to inculcate some sound theology into our bishops, they will forsake their lately espoused super patriotism and damp their injured pride in being called out for naughtiness and agree to work as bishops of an autonomous province in an Anglican COMMUNION and not federation. It would be ironic if they joined hands with the ACN Fedcoms and became Fedlibs! Stranger things have happened…”those whom the gods would destroy…”

As for deadlines, I regard them as being utterly political and totally unhelpful, a stumbling block for the prideful and an affront to the pious.

I also hope and pray that the next Lambeth Conference will be a place where Christian bishops listen to each other, learn from each other, forgive each other and emerge committed to the Gospel as the Anglican Church has received the same. To do that the temptation to posture, to judge, to invoke sectarian, party or ethnic struggles, even to assume the mantle of “prophet” will have to be abandoned. What the church needs today are bishops who are sound in learning, loving pastors, and active evangelists. God give us such bishops!