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RECONCILIATION

I am glad that the Executive Council of our national church wants to reach out to those who have left TEC or are on that road. It is difficult to assess whether such an initiative, earlier on, might have prevented schism. Certainly there were a few meetings between the PBs and leading traditional bishops, although none came to anything. Those who truly believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding the world church through the North American Provinces of the Communion to embrace a new approach to sexual ethics and perhaps a more universalist and less evangelical interpretation of the Gospel, compromise seems unprincipled, a retreat from justice and compassion.

Conservatives, certain that there is no room for a radical reformation of marriage and sexual relationships and who wish to stress the unique nature of Christianity and lift up the claim that Jesus is Lord, find little room to maneuver in seeking common cause with liberal Anglicanism.

It is true that both sides for the most part now stress that the church must be open to gays and lesbians, admit them to the sacraments including Holy Orders, in the latter case as long as celibacy is promised. Whether in fact there is progress there, it is difficult to assess. My own experience in the church suggests that there was always a good deal of de facto tolerance in parish life and that gay clergy, including bishops were not unknown. Perhaps it was “don’t ask; don’t tell” but in those days one didn’t chatter about ones bedroom habits in polite society. Doesn’t that sound old fashioned now? Is the church more or less open than it once was?

If we have reached the point where many cannot in good conscience remain within TEC if the majority in General Convention and the Executive Council, led by the Presiding Bishop determine not to observe the moratoria or sign the Covenant, then perhaps discussions about regulating a dual form of Anglicanism are appropriate. Certainly it would have been a better witness to the watching world if a system had been worked out granting traditionalist Anglicans in TEC safety to live in peace and to proclaim the Gospel.

Now, however, bishops have been deposed, clergy have been stripped of their Orders, properties are in dispute in the secular courts and rhetoric runs wild on the blogs. How may TEC seek reconciliation while it cleaves stubbornly to territorialism as if that system had been vouchsafed by Jesus to the disciples at the Last Supper?

So what does the Executive Council want to do? Having rid themselves of these meddlesome Christians, does the Council really want to offer them that form of recognition which formal talks imply? What may be offered and what may extra-mural Anglicans feel able to offer in return?

Nor are those in Common Cause and Continuing Jurisdictions the only people involved. There remain within TEC loyal bishops, other clergy and laity, dioceses and parishes determined to remain within TEC not because they have much love for “the National Church” but because they do not believe schism to be the answer or even the question. Such people too require those in power to recognize their existence and afford them protection and the right to adopt a future Covenant whatever TEC officially decides to do. We are loyal to the Church, but that also means we are loyal to the Communion and to the See of Canterbury and have no more stomach to belong to an Independent National Episcopal Church than to Gafcon.

Convention: Episcopal Diocese Northern Indiana

I’m in Fort Wayne. Our Northern Indiana Diocesan Convention starts in the morning and ends tomorrow afternoon. This year there are no resolutions!  Now that’s my sort of Convention. Once one takes time out for worship and food there’ll be time to elect a few people, adopt a budget, be nice and go home.

This is by no means a monochrome diocese. There are those on each side of the present conflicts and some in the middle, but we all seem to get on well. I attribute much of this to the example of our Bishop and his quiet, devoted, pastoral ministry. No one has any doubt about his faith or his positions but he demonstrates both with grace and humility.

I’m very tired this evening, and the ironmongery in my hip is rather painful, here at the Hampton Inn and am really writing this to try out my switch to Word Press. Pat set it all up for me mercifully. It certainly looks like a more user friendly and versatile medium than my former site.

The journey here was easy enough across the flat lands of middle north Indiana. It rained most of the way but the trees looked splendid in their Autumn hues. Once we arrived in Fort Wayne we lost our way and not even a policeman could direct us back to find the motel. So I called Pat and she looked the road map up on her computer and guided us in.No, I wasn’t driving.

Assuming we find the church tomorrow we’ll be there in time to register and prepare for the opening Eucharist. The diocesan clergy are in the pews with their delegates so for once I’ll be able to worship without dressing up.

On November 6th I fly to Houston for a meeting of the Communion Partners Rectors and their bishops. It should be interesting. I just hope and pray it doesn’t turn into yet another TEC pressure group. I have hope it won’t.

GHOSTS

GHOSTS

November begins with trick a treat, ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, fearful horrors and a general election! The month begins as we remember the saints and pray for the souls of the departed. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us that we are “encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” Hebrews tells us that the great saints and heroes of the past are not just dead people we remember as examples, but living people who surround us on our journey of faith.

Of course our Lady and the saints are not substitutes for Jesus. Again Hebrews reminds us that the cloud of witnesses who surround us all the time are there for us as we “run the race” of faith, but that we are to “look towards Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” In a real sense the saints are looking in the same direction as we are, but they see clearly while we see “puzzling reflections in a mirror.”

It’s always good to have clear sighted people around to help if we can’t see very well or are blind. We stumble; they pick us up.

The saints who surround us, guide us and pick us up are not just those holy women and men we commemorate with special days. They are our loved ones who we can’t see, but who have gone on before us. We say they are dead. That’s a frightful insult. They are more alive than we are. Much more alive. They are now made perfect in Jesus because he died on the Cross and rose again, and conquered death for ever. Look at the cross or crucifix in your parish church. Marvel that Jesus died for you and that you are now a saint in waiting, adopted by God.

Why do we pray for the departed? Well we don’t pray that they may be “saved”. Jesus has done that. In a real sense it is better to say that we pray with them and that they pray with us. That is why we say at every Mass, “Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…”

If your parish has an All Souls’ Eucharist be there and say a special “hello” to those who you love but see no more. You will be telling them that you haven’t forgotten them, that you think of them, give thanks for them and value their continued love and presence in your lives.

THE POOR ARE?

I have no vote. Having said that I am not suggesting that I am neutral about who should be the next President. Never fear, I am not going to reveal my preference. Am I alone in noticing that the one constituency among the voting population which is not mentioned in the debates is the Poor?

Now it may well be that the poor have been given honorary membership in the “Middle Class” club. If the present financial crisis goes on for much longer, the distinction between poor and middle class may be moot. Perhaps politicians fear that poor people may be offended if they are identified? Perhaps they fear that middle class people won’t vote for a leader who plans to spend tax money on those who have nothing? Whatever the motive, far from the poor being always with us, they seem to have become invisible.

Episcopalians are well versed in identifying the poor of whatever race as a group for whom soup kitchens are intended and pews are not. I am not sure whether this attitude portrays a subtle form of prejudice or a sincere conviction that poor people would feel uncomfortable in our worshiping midst.

The prejudice looks something like this: our form of worship requires intelligence to appreciate. The poor like rumperty tumperty songs, extempore prayer and fundamentalist preaching, and anyway they tend to be Republicans. The poor don’t go to college, ergo they are dim witted. Episcopalians are intelligent and cultured. Anyway the poor wouldn’t pay our parish bills.

Even if we don’t harbor such obvious prejudice we may sincerely believe that the poor wouldn’t want or like what we offer. We may explain Rome’s greater success in pastoring all segments of a population, despite their liturgical tradition and ceremonialism, by suggesting that one doesn’t have to think to be a Roman Catholic. Tell that to Chesterton or Tolkein.

One doesn’t have to visit the Global South to encounter terrible poverty, sub standard education and appaling medical care. Visit any of our major cities. It may well be true that 11: AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America. That segregation isn’t merely between African-American and white churched Americans. There’s as frightening a sgregation between our Episcopalian middle class worshipers and those who rent apartments in inner cities or live in trailer parks.

Anglicanism in America has become a denomination. If that is not indictment enough it has become a denomination of an elite. The humbug lies in our protestation of liberal and compassionate values. Are we going to vote for the middle class as we pray with the middle class next month? Ah! but there’s always the soup kitchen and the thrift shop.

A RESPONSE

The following is a joint letter from its twelve signers, all of whom are contributors to the Covenant-Communion web site. Others who wish to have their names appended to the list of signers may do so be posting a comment to that effect at: covenant.communion.org.


We write as an informal group of Episcopalians who share a desire to remain active and loyal members of the Episcopal Church. Most of us find ourselves profoundly at odds with several controversial decisions made by our leaders (General Convention, the Presiding Bishop and Church Center staff, Executive Council, among others) over the past several years. We are alarmed that they seem to represent a consistent trend away from theological, ethical, and pastoral norms that we understand as essential to Anglican faith and practice. Others among us are more open to the reconfiguration of some of these traditional boundaries, yet are concerned that the manner in which this process has been pursued has needlessly alienated many within our own church, raised substantive issues of mutual accountability between Anglican provinces, and increased the awkwardness in our relations with many ecumenical partners, both locally and globally.

We are deeply saddened by the steady stream of departures from the Episcopal Church that this ongoing crisis has provoked, especially as it has moved beyond individuals to include parochial and diocesan structures. We are not, as a matter of conscience, inclined to join them in their decision to leave. Moreover, we have varying degrees of disagreement with their perception of the necessity or advisability of doing so. Nonetheless, we are not without significant empathy for their position, and hold many of them as cherished friends and co-laborers in the work of the gospel. It is our desire to do whatever may be within our power to prevent the fences that have recently been erected between Anglicans (seen as protective fences by those who have erected them) from evolving into permanent walls, and, should it please God, to facilitate the conditions under which they might be removed.

At the same time, even amidst our deep uneasiness, we can confidently affirm that the Episcopal Church has not—in a formal and official and corporately univocal way—abandoned the inheritance of faith and practice that underlies Catholic and Anglican Christianity. We rejoice in the orthodoxy of our Book of Common Prayer (1979), in both its liturgical and catechetical texts, as well as the creedal documents that it includes. We recognize it as articulating the faith and teaching of the Episcopal Church, despite the statements and actions of some leaders that are reasonably construed as departing from it.

Moreover, we are cognizant of our obligation under the vows of our common baptism to assume the good faith and honorable intentions of fellow Episcopalians with whom we may have deep differences on contested questions. We find it important as a matter of principle to avoid demonizing or anathematizing those whom we disagree, even as we remain forthright in the articulation of our disagreement. We rejoice in any opportunity to make common cause with those whom we may perceive as adversaries (never enemies) in acts of gospel witness and service that transcend our differences.

In these days of great difficulty—indeed, crisis—within both the Episcopal Church and the entire Anglican Communion, we find it worth observing that many of those whose names appear below who would only recently have been considered “moderately conservative” in the Episcopal ecclesio-political spectrum now, as a result of rapidly shifting dynamics, occupy the veritable “right-wing fringe” of the Episcopal Church. A number of us feel mounting pressure to distance ourselves from the public image of the very church of which we are devoted members. This is not an indefinitely sustainable situation. It seems “meet and right,” on a number of levels, to seek some measure of structural relief as would decrease that pressure and allow us to live and move and have our being as Episcopalians. If the new “conservative fringe” is to remain securely connected to the institutional whole, some accommodation to their perceived need for insulation from many of the actions of that institutional whole, and the utterances of its leaders, would be immensely helpful.

We are therefore grateful to call attention to some recent “discussion points” (attached below as an Appendix) articulated by the Rev. Michael Russell, one whose own views are generally aligned with what might be called the “majority party” in the Episcopal Church, as a positive contribution to the process of seeking the sort of equilibrium that many of us on both sides of the divide desire. Among ourselves we have a variety of assessments of his specific proposals, and realize that, even if were able to speak with one voice on them, Father Russell does not speak for any authorized constituency, so his ideas only represent a starting point. Nonetheless, we appreciate the spirit in which they are offered, and find some of them both intriguing and worthy of further discussion.

It would be premature for us to put forward any concrete counter-proposals at this time, even if we were able to do so. In any case, we have no standing to do so. Our hope in making this public statement is to serve as a catalyst—one among many, perhaps—toward a fuller consideration of the challenge of creating and preserving a secure place within the structures of the Episcopal Church for those who hold traditional perspectives that do not reflect those currently held by the leadership, perhaps even including resolutions—legislative and otherwise—for consideration by the 76th General Convention next July.

Signed:

The Reverend Anthony F.M. Clavier
The Very Reverend Matthew Gunter
The Reverend Nathan Humphrey
The Reverend Dorsey McConnell
The Reverend Daniel H. Martins
The Very Reverend Dr. Jean McCurdy Meade
The Reverend Canon Neal Michell
The Reverend Matthew S.C. Olver
The Reverend Bruce Robison
Dale Rye, Esq.
Craig David Uffman, M.Div.
Christopher Wells

Appendix (per Mike Russell+)

1) DEPO for congregations as has been outlined and endorsed up and down the real and fictive Communion structures. This works for conservative parishes in liberal Diocese and liberal parishes in conservative Dioceses.
2) Canonical protection for cultural islands in our church, liberal or conservative. As long as there is DEPO as outlined there is not pressure to make culture islands like Ft. Worth itself to be forced to ordain women, for example, their parish could make it happen through DEPO, as well as women being placed.
3) Discussion of canonical changes that allow for some process to deal with concerns about uniformity and accountability towards respecting and affirming the creeds.
4) Modernize the curriculum of William White as a way of ensuring that all TEC clergy have command of some common body of writings. I think three years of seminary education is too little given the corpus of material to be mastered. But within that there should be some common library of reading that all must do so that we can respect the breadth of this Church.
5) Specific canonical sanction and review for testing the spiritual blessings of proposals that test the bonds of affection, with a review structure that takes into account the wider Communion.
6) Reciprocal Provincial participation in the Councils of the church. In essence this would have give some selection of foreign bishops (think of pulpit exchanges) voice and vote in every Province’s deliberative body. Sort of a perpetual mini-Lambeth. Every Bishop would participate over time in this process.
7) Discuss the creation of leases for disputed properties that allowed those who have left TEC to stay in t
hem with three caveats:
a) If they congregation ever ceases to be in a Communion relationship with Canterbury/York they must surrender the property;
b) They must cease all verbal assault on TEC: and
c) They must send whatever the assessment would be to the local Diocese to the WWAC for use in world mission/relief efforts.