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The House of Bishops, meeting now at Kanuga, has it seems banned tweeting and twittering and communicates numbingly in a daily report.  Before the last tweet twittered from that mountain retreat, it sang of a Korean Archbishop decrying the Covenant as a British colonial plan.


Now I have no idea how reliable a tweet is. In my mind the term is associated with hubris-bearing commentators  situated in a room on CNN issuing hours of alarums and excursions.  I trust the report about the Korean prelate is just that. For if not the strategy of the anti-Covenant party seems to be to fear us into rejection.


British colonialism! I must reach for my cd recording of Elgar’s “Crown of India”. Now I know something of the history of Empire. I am not aware Korea enjoyed the sun which never set. All that remains now are a few tiny outposts, islands for the most part, which no one, except Argentina wants. Could it be that +Rowan and friends have plotted to resurrect an English colonial destiny in the form of the Anglican Communion?


The irony that TEC, the present representative of the final colonial power invites Asian bishops to resist the hegemony of Canterbury!  Oh tweeting twitter. I’ve also heard that the Covenant will un-ordain women, thrust provinces into a second tier of Dante’s infernal regions. Who knows what next. Could it be that Star Camber returns, rack and thumbscrew flourishes and ears are cropped. If I could sing a tweet perhaps I would issue such dire warnings just for fun.


A shy and retiring American bishop declares that catholicity is always local. Good for him. I shall retreat to my parish church, unreformed, and lacking birdsong, will ring the bell to the change of all things universal in all things local, curtained in tabernacle, to which I bow and surrender the local to the God who is all in all.


Oh be honest. If our prelates want a church in which to play without the rules, occasionally meeting globally to play a game which has no rules, so be it. Such is a Tudor invention when England was  a nest of singing birds. Tweet.


There are Episcopalians, I fancy more of them ordained than lay, who really believe that we are living in a special age. After centuries of neglect, God the Holy Spirit is busy replacing the teachings of Jesus, the theology and practicality of Paul, with new messages which oddly seem largely about sex. The notable exception is the fashionable idea that holy communion should be offered to all and sundry. We haven’t gone into the street yet to offer communion to passers by. Our invitation is confined to those who wander through the church door, like what we are about, and want to participate.


Now I would love to participate in the rehearsal of a great orchestra, perhaps even conduct. The problem is that I play no musical instrument and conducting is more than waving a wand. To participate I might reasonably conclude that some form of training is needed, ending in formal recognition.


But is receiving communion of the same genre? If I am welcome at a dinner party surely I should be fed? Certainly the Eucharist is a supper, and who would deny someone their supper because they don’t yet belong to the family? Well some would if food is scarce or if they are miserly and miserable.


What if a supper is a reunion, intended for the family, to demonstrate family membership, strengthen the family in mutual love, and encourage the family to honor the family tradition of service to others?  It would be odd to invite non-family members to such a meal: not only odd but strangely odd. After all, there are two ways to become “family”. One is either born into the family, and the family is bound to acknowledge you, or one may be adopted, chosen, selected. The Christian family has only “one” born member and that is Jesus. The rest of us are adopted.


And that brings us to Baptism in which we are adopted by God’s grace and covenant. A covenant is a legal, binding agreement. In the Old Testament God said, “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”  It’s all about salvation, not in terms of some personal and private arrangement to get me to heaven, but rather a gracious invitation to “belong” to God in the fellowship of the “belonged”. The Church is the New Israel, an “Israel” now extended to men and women, Jew and Gentile, slaves and free people, as St. Paul put it. Indeed our freedom is a form of slavery, the fellowship of those who in Christ, to use the old translation, oare those with “no reputation”, who empty themselves in the service of God and the world.


Baptism gathers us into this servant community, lead by Jesus who became a slave and thus was “highly exalted”. In baptism we become “nothing” in order to become everything.


The Holy Supper is intended to give life and strength to God’s adopted servant family. To participate we are first invited to belong, to enter into covenant with God for the world. We accept this adoption by being baptized.


Of course there is an exclusion here. But one isn’t being mean or exclusive to deny the meal to those who do not belong. The Early Church, closer to Jesus’ day, made catechumens, learners,  wait for years before being baptized and invited to the family meal. Baptism was a solemn conclusion to that process, a sign that the family was prepared to share its calling and mission to those being called by God to service and mission. It implied risk. It was risky to invite the ire of one’s earthy family and friends by becoming a Christian. It was risky because then, and often now, one might risk life and limb to be named a Christian.


In the West today, that risk is largely gone. An adult coming to baptism might still invite ridicule, but never death. And so we begin to think that the Eucharist is evangelism, a means to entice membership, to make enquirers welcome, or non-believers accepted.  To open the Eucharist to all demonstrates unawareness of the nature of the two great Sacraments. And this is passing strange in our church. After all we have made much of the Baptismal Covenant, implied that it deepens the meaning of baptism in a manner other Christian communities ignore. But what does all this stress on God’s covenant in baptism mean if we are suddenly to decide that it doesn’t matter, that the particular grace and gift of continued life in Christ  offered in the Eucharist doesn’t require our adoption?  Or is this mere sentimentality?





Feast of St. Joseph
March 19, 2011
Before the Second War the Bishop of Exeter was Lord William Gascoine Cecil, a descendent of Elizabeth I’s first  Chief Minister. Bishop Cecil was a somewhat vague chap. One day he was traveling by train when the ticket collector emerged and asked for his ticket. After a long period during which the bishop searched his pockets and brief case the inspector said: It doesn’t matter my Lord. We know who you are. The Bishop replied: Doesn’t matter? If I can’t find my ticket, I don’t know where I’m going.
Dan you have arrived.
And here you are celebrating  Saint Joseph, who for a while protected the Mother of the Church and the Savior of the World from Herod and village gossips-dont know which was more formidable – after which he disappears and is seen no more. Perhaps we better look elsewhere for our sermon today!
Eric Mascall, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th Century disliked the term “apostolic succession. It can mean that Anglican obsession with proving itself valid and authentic. It may also sound like Genealogy, which my mother always said provided one with ancestors one would never invite to tea.
Mascall always insisted that the term “apostolic succession” is misleading. Rather a new bishop is incorporated into the Apostolic Fellowship of the living and the “dead”.
If this be true, if we are now, here, surrounded by the glorious company of the apostles, then here somewhere is Philander Chase, first Bishop of Illinois, who broke canon law by translating from one see to another without permission, from Ohio to Illinois, and secondly by accepted election to a diocese as yet not attached to the General Convention.
That doughty old Evangelical believed in “souls before structure” a policy which  revived and created new areas in a formally moribund Episcopal Church.
Chase reminds us that structure may kill, when it throttles attempts for reform and our attempts to meet urgent crises. (Philander, you may go and sit next to Joseph)
Chase was succeeded by a bishop suspected of being sympathetic with the South in the Civil War: You Dan know something of this from your confirmation as bishop process; who was one of the Canadian and Americans who, in 1867 together with our then Presiding Bishop, John Henry Hopkins,  wanted to make the Archbishop of Canterbury a Patriarch, much to the distress of that shy, retiring, scholarly Archbishop Longley and to the fury of the Archbishop of York, whose hobby was demanding that his primatial cross be carried before him in the Province of Canterbury. Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. The argument continues to this day.
You Dan are also being incorporated into the worldwide College of Bishops. You must constantly remind us that we are not an American sect or a Western sect, but rather, as our Constitution reminds us and the Creeds teach, part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Holding the universal and the local in tension without favoring one over the other  seems to tax our imagination, particularly when we consider the Covenant, which I support. It is not difficult for God, who is Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity.
But where this concept is at its most fragile, strangely enough, is in its local part. At the time Bishop Frank Griswold was condemned to primacy one of our interminable reports was issued. This Report suggested that Episcopalians are proud to be so, love their parish churches, are suspicious of their diocese which they refer to as “them” and utterly ignorant of the goings on of the National Church unless something is done which disturbs the congregation or frightens the horses.
Inside our red doors may be found committed, faithful Episcopalians and their clergy, who love each other and their church. What should be their evangelism committee is termed outreach, for outside church, religion is not to be mentioned in polite society. Of course we try to advertise ourselves as warm, family, loving fellowships, but often that boils down to a desperate search for people who fit in, and can help fund a new boiler. We even go to classes where we learn how to attract new people and get them to accept the way things are. (Philander is getting excited)  Your task Dan is to find ways to get your parishioners out of the church door and into the world, to become witnesses to Jesus and his compassion, forgiveness and love.
I was delighted to hear that the Bishop of Chicago and twenty-eight of his clergy went out into the market square and offered ashes on Ash Wednesday; a marvelous sacramental act and so much sounder than inviting unbaptized people to receive Holy Communion. So much for the Baptismal Covenant.
By now  you may have thoughts of winking at dear Brenda and heading for the door.
When I was doing the job you today begin I often thought that Jesus was being sarcastic when he said “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” As I wrongly believed that I owned the yoke and burden, my family and I suffered from my dysfunction. PT Forsyth, preaching at an Anglican ordination instructed the ordinands to remember that Jesus is the rector of their parish and they are his curates. Jesus is our Presiding and our diocesan bishop. He calls us to represent him. You Dan will be Jesus’ suffragan, not his coadjutor.
And so we return to where we began. With the example of Joseph who cared for Mary, Mother of the Church, and Jesus, Our Lord and God, as you follow his example as Defender of the Church and it’s unity, as you are the diocese’s center of faith and unity and not an expensive but necessary confirmation and ordination machine. You belong to the Church in its Anglican expression in this diocese, in the Episcopal Church and in the worldwide Communion. You are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, a communion which is personal and respectful. You are  linked to him by his personal invitation, a concept so much stronger and more gentle than theories of universal jurisdiction
Jesus is described in the New Testament as “Prophet, Priest and King” and we, the church, through our baptism share in this vocation. Perhaps only Jesus is truly Prophet, Priest and King. The  Church as God sees it is a reflection of such a ministry. We, alas, are fallen.
Dear Dan, my friend, don’t attempt to be prophetic. It’s an assumption tending towards personal vanity. I hear there is a long line of new bishops in our church applying for the charism of Prophet, a smaller line applying for Priest, while no bishop in the US has applied for King since 1776.
Stand as the Priest in this diocese, bring your people and the world to God, in submission and prayer. Stand for God and your people and this mid western world as you offer God’s forgiveness and love.
The Early Church  abolished the order of prophet. It had become a nuisance! Remember that our Lord is the Prophet. The church isn’t a playground to be fixed, it is the Body of Christ. Rather be a pastoral bishop and draw all sides of our divided church into unity. Today there are people in this place together who usually would not wish to be seen together in our divided church. Jesus has enabled you to draw them together to pray for you Dan and to consecrate you. One hopes this is not a lost opportunity. We can find similar ways to enter into dialog without renouncing our principles. Remember that there is a chance that our principles are not God’s, or not entirely of God.
People of this diocese pray for your bishop and his wife in your thoughts and care. Support him. Make the way smooth for him. Comprovincial bishops of this province reach out to Dan and don’t burden him with too much advice.
Dan, take courage and walk now where Angels and Archangels and even bishops dwell.  Let them touch your head as you are consecrated, enjoy the presence of those you love and see no more, and sense the presence of your Lord as you take Holy Food. Then get to work in confidence!
Brenda and you Dan have my love, my friendship and my blessing.

Fr. Tony Clavier:
Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, La Porte, Indiana
Fr. Tony’s Blog: https://afmclavier.wordpress.com [NEW format and RSS feed]
Contributor to: http://www.covenant-communion.com