June 2008 Archives

The charge of "colonial structures"

One thing to consider concerning the African Anglican provinces and their conceptualization of the expression of the Christian faith beyond their creation by Anglican-Evangelical missionary societies is this: perhaps the greatest growth in numbers of Christians of both indigenous and foreign denominations in Africa is among the very American “Prosperity Gospel” organizations. Within the South American context, American Pentecostals and Charismatic denominations and organizations predominate. American missionary endeavors have been very, very successful, even in influencing non-Evangelical or non-Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. These dynamic and explosive movements cannot help but influence Anglicanism within African and South American provinces, particularly when many Africans see themselves as being in competition with Islam. This seems as culturally bound on their own part as is their accusation that Northern Hemisphere or “Western” Anglicans have capitulated to the same culture concerning homosexuality.

I think we can see the influence in the very Evangelical leanings of the GAFCON statement, particularly in its denial of the centrality of the See of Canterbury as being essential to true Anglican identity. In their formulation of Anglicanism, it ceases being a “Church Catholic” and becomes just another “Protestant denomination” that follows Anglican liturgical norms. This new denomination will be predominately Charismatic and American-Evangelical and if Anglo-Catholics are tolerated, it will be only a shallow toleration.

Their insistence on following the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (very Protestant) and especially the Thirty-Nine Articles (not only quite Protestant, but quite Calvinist/Reformed) make this move even more apparent.

Someone commented on the posting of the Jerusalem Declaration by Ruth Gledhill of the TimesOnline (UK) that, “This is the Oxford Movement in reverse… which wanted to get back to the 1549 [BCP].” and “There are so many holes in this document, and so much self deception… it is hard to believe that this forms a credible basis for unity and orthodoxy. It avoids key areas...and is a mockery of the 39 articles, when it includes bishops who openly repudiate the injunctions in the articles.”

The titled of Gledhill’s piece is: “A very ‘Anglican’ schism.”

I don’t see traditionalist Anglo-Catholics lining up to follow this new denomination-in-the-making, despite their agreement on many things moral and Scriptural. But, when groups have a common enemy and scapegoat upon which to focus, it often breeds strange bed-fellows.

Dan Martin writes good stuff about all this.

Finally, this one line from the Gafcon final statement kind of amazes me:

“We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure.’”
The whole “colonial” thing just doesn’t hold water. It is a politically-correct statement (ironically used by conservatives) as an attempt at justifying a rejection of the See of Canterbury as the center of Anglicanism. The reason they stress this, IMHO, is only because the ABC has not done what they have demanded him to do. If he had (or would) he would be heralded as a great Archbishop, upholder of the true faith, and all this talk of rejecting the See of Canterbury would never be heard.

Aside from that, in my mind “colonialism” necessitates forced acceptance of “stuff” from the colonizing entity upon the indigenous society. This has absolutely not happened! If it had, the “Western” provinces would be insisting that the “Global South” provinces accept our culture, our standards, and the stand taken by a majority of Anglican members in these provinces that homosexuals may well be brought into the structures of the Church without violating a more correct understand of the Scriptures. No one or no province has done this. Within the historical structures of Anglicanism, no one could. This is the difference between the old, historical Anglican Communion and the new “Anglican” organization that is developing. The new organization will impose itself upon all the provinces under it’s domain. It may truly be a world denomination, but it will be one more akin to the Church of Rome than the Anglican Communion.

Text of the Final Gafcon Statement

What we do to ourselves...

I preached a sermon yesterday from the Old Testament (we are in the process of switching to the Revised Common Lectionary, but yesterday the reading was still from the BCP Lectionary - Isaiah 2:10-17). I preached on haughtiness and pride and the trouble it gets us into.

I read the final statement from the "Global Anglican Future Conference" (GAFCON) in Jerusalem . It was expected that this conference would set the stage for actual development of an alternative international Anglican organization/Church, and while the statement states that they are not leaving the Anglican Communion they have in fact embarked on such a path if we take historical Anglican structures to be the rule.

Haughtiness and pride (perhaps hubris and vainglory are better terms) will always win-the-day when ideology (whether political, social, or theological) becomes the god unto which we give ourselves. Among the leadership of those Anglican provinces and organizations that insist on pushing their notion of “correctness” based on identity-politics and political-correctness (dressed up in the language of social-justice) regardless of the outcomes and also those provinces and organizations that demand strict adherence to a particular form of the faith and the capitulation of all to a particular Scriptural interpretation and moral perspective (dressed up in language “reform” or of purity of devotion and theology), among these groups their social and theological ideology blinds them. Vainglory, pride, haughtiness rule because humility requires admitting that each of us and our understandings and our organizations could be wrong and that we all need to compromise. Anglican comprehensiveness is defeated by the results of the attitudes and actions of both groups, both sides, both perspectives.

No one wins, despite their want to believe so. The cause of Christ always looses. Our faith is a faith that rests on relationship – our relationship with God as we strive to love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, and all of our souls. It rests on relationships as we strive, with God’s help, to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we descend to defining the faith only by our pet creeds, tenants, or declarations, we deny the essence of what Jesus did – he restored the possibility of relationship. He didn’t create a new religion. We did.

Read more here:

Ruth Gledhill from the TimesOnline gives us, “Gafcon: a longer look.”

Guardian UK by Riazat Butt:
Conservative Anglicans form breakaway church in revolution led from the south

Conservative Anglicans form global network


GAFCON attendees run smack dab into the Jerusalem Gay Pride march.

Ian Baster for the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement (UK)

BBC: Anglicans seeking tradition faced with Gay Pride

But to the evident consternation of the organisers of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) they had travelled all this way to the Christian Holy City only to find the streets taken over by Jerusalem Gay Pride.

...back at the conference hotel contingency plans were being laid to contend with any gay raiding party sent out to beard the traditionalists in their redoubt.

I'm sure they didn't have anything to worry about from gay raiding parties. At least not in Jerusalem.

LOST and the timeline of Jesus

I heard it said a while ago that Gen X is the first generation to draw meaning from popular-culture. I believe it.

Dr. Andrew Root, professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and a LOST geek, has written an article about LOST, a theory that might explain what is actually going on, and God/Jesus and God's work.

The article appears on the website, Next Wave: Church & Culture, a website that seems to cater to more Emergent types. The article is entitled, "The TV Show Lost and Eschatology."

I listen to part of a press conference this afternoon/morning from GAFCON. Archbishops Venerables and Jensen were the "panel" to which questions from the media were directed. I hear and read a lot from Venerables and Jensen these days, but little from Akinola.

Riazat Butt, the religion writer from the Guardian (UK), writes a very interesting article entitled, "At Gafcon, who calls the shots?" asking why white, Westerners now seem to be the public face of GAFCON when this was supposed to have been Akinola's and Africans' day. I think this observation and her questions carry weight, primarily because Butt is a she, non-white, non-Christian (she is Muslim), and with difficulty can be dismissed as simply a "white, male, Westerner" being all "colonial" towards the "diminished" rest-of-the-world.

She writes:

It was Canon Vinay Samuel, from India, who accused Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury of not trusting the intelligence of developing churches. The situation is hardly any better at Gafcon, where white conservatives are slowly but surely calling the shots and squeezing their African brothers out of the picture.

The eight-day gathering... was set to be the Archbishop Peter Akinola show, until his unfortunate use of the word apostate had the more media savvy prelates cringing into their prayer books.

The explanation given was that Akinola came from a different cultural context and didn't fully understand the impact of what he was saying. The same explanation was given for the African archbishops' silence on acts of torture.

Akinola, previously described as a luminary of the conservative movement, has now been hidden away until Sunday afternoon...

Gafcon has not been the first time that western clergy have stepped in on behalf of the African primates. Where does interpretation stop and manipulation start? There are concerns over the way the African archbishops project themselves and such a guiding hand is, at best, good public relations and, at worse, patronising. If these men are held in such high regard then they should speak in their own words, without any help."

I wonder the same thing. A situation arose where North American and British leaders of the Church who are absolutely opposed to homosexuality found in their brethren in parts of the Global South, which now has numeric superiority over the "West," like-minded determination to forbid the entire Church from accommodating people in same-sex relationships in their midst. What they failed to realize, IMHO, and because particularly Americans fail to recognize from the beginning the significance of "culture," is that while these non-Western bishops will fight with them, the non-Westerners have very different understandings of all manner of things that will rub Western sensibilities the wrong way.

Now, the apparent gulf of difference between Western and African culture and sensibilities are becoming more and more apparent. The white, male, Western anti-same-sex-relationship bishops and leadership are re-asserting themselves because the culturally-different, straight forward, and uncompromising statements by some of the Global South primates/bishops and leaders won't really fly in the West, thus weakening the Westerners' overall position in their home provinces.

She continues:

In the fateful press conference – regarding torture – Akinola said that what was permissible in one culture was not permissible in another, without realising that same-sex unions have become the norm in western society and should therefore be accommodated in the same way that discriminatory legislation and treatment of homosexuals are par for the course in some African countries.

If the white bishops can turn a blind eye to polygamy and persecution then surely the courtesy should be returned. Gafcon is heading for a clash of civilisations, with the northern and southern hemispheres each trying to assert their superiority. And that's before you get to the rumour about Gafcon being a done deal months ago, with little or no Nigerian input, or the rivalries between the Nigerians and Ugandans, with them trying to out-do each other when praying.

Perhaps like-mindedness between Western "conservatives" and Africans regarding issues of morals and Scriptural interpretation, but certainly disparate understandings of how it is all applied within social and political contexts - very, very different social and political contexts.

More on GAFCON and the evil "West"

I had forwarded to me, by my friend Anthony, an article (commentary) by George Pitcher in the Telegraph (UK) concerning comments made by the good Canon I mentioned in a previous post. Pitcher was not pleased with the Canon's estimation of the world and the Church.

Here are a couple examples from the article:

Meanwhile... Virtueonline... declares that it is "the height of western Anglican arrogance to perpetuate the myth that the West holds sway over the communion.

"That day is long gone along with the Elizabethan Settlement and the British Empire.

"A new global Anglican Communion day is dawning and its strength is coming from new global quarters."

So this conference of Anglican dissenters is not about homosexuality at all... Nor is it really about Biblical authority...

It is simply about where the locus of Anglican authority should reside. And it is driven by a post-colonial political imperative; the West has used and abused the Global South and now it’s pay-back time.

In this worldview, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is a “relic” (Canon Samuel’s word) of old empire, who must be replaced, presumably by the likes of Archbishop Akinola...

This presumes that Dr Williams is a political leader to be overthrown by an official opposition. He is nothing of the sort... The Archbishop of Canterbury is primus inter pares in the worldwide Anglican Communion, holding together (or trying to) a loose federation of global churches, often at odds with one another but on a common journey."

Well, yes. I left out some of the more "descriptive" impressions Pitcher detailed in describing Akinola and GAFCON participants because I think he goes too far. I will say again, a reason these kinds of groups use terminology like "post-colonial" or "relic" to describe the "old" Anglican Communion and Archbishop is because the "old" guard does not do what they want. They imagine that since they have more numbers at the moment that they should, can, and will dictate what everyone else must do and believe, and do because God told this group what we all should and should not do and believe. The sad thing for me is that I actually agree with some of the stuff they stress, but I will not simply believe anything because a group tells me to. Too many of the members of this kind of group or mindset do want to dictate rather than live in the messy world of process (and I'm NOT talking about Process Theology), wrestling with very difficult issues, and critically thinking which often lead to different opinions.

Difference in belief is not good, in this way of thinking. God has established one Truth that is discernible in all ways and for all times without question, and to question is to repudiate and doubt. Does history bare this out? Funny thing is, they want to hold onto the "old, tried, and true" systems of thinking, believing, and doing when it comes to issues of morality or theology or praxis, but want to jettison the "old, tried, and true" when it comes to issues of governance, authority, and relationships - even in the "old" idea that the validity of the Sacraments do not depend on the celebrant's human condition. Is this another example of the shift in the way we deal with Truth seen between the Modernist and Post-Modernist systems?

If there is opposition to their dictates from the "West" (which includes provinces and bishops in Africa, Asia, South American, and other parts of the "Global South") it is because of... what? heresy, apostasy, capitulation to the heathen, pagan culture, Satan's deception, and on and on.

These are convenient charges that sound very politically correct. Isn't that strange?

WELL, we go on fighting within the world's third largest expression of the religion of Christianity. All the while, this comment posted to the article sums up what I imagine most people think (if they even know anything about what is going on):

Reading this reminded me of why I consider the CoE to be a complete irrelevance. I can just about "get" Roman Catholicism, although I am not a member of that Church...

At the moment, it happens to be divided by a bitter internal feud, and its members have fallen into the common error of thinking that if they feel strongly about their feud, it must represent important issues.

The fact is, however, that like a feuding family, it is only those inside the feud who think it important while the rest of us look on in bemusement, wondering what all the fuss is about.

What's amazing to me is how many of your readers, on either side, seem to imagine that this feud has any significance at all in the wider world. The spats between my pet cats make more sense to me that this nonsense.
Posted by... on June 26, 2008 11:07 PM

The City #23

I ran down through Red Hook and into Brooklyn Heights yesterday to see the new art instillation of the "waterfalls" in the East River. In a rather stark part of the dock & warehouse areas of the Brooklyn Port Authority by the air-intake tower for the Battery tunnel, I was able to get an up-close-and-personal experience of one of the water falls. The wind was blowing and the spray from the waterfall (which fell from a superstructure of steel scaffolding) came back upon the ground and pavement.

I was hot from running (and because it was just hot and humid) so initially I thought the spray felt good, but then... Where was this water coming from? Well, it was being pumped out of the East River. Then, of course, I got as far from the spray as I could. Luckily, not much of the falling water got on me - after all, who wants water from the East River socking you to the bone? Not me! (At least it doesn't stink any more!)

I did experience a glimpse of tourist hell - a mini-van full of a family from Florida quickly drove up to the air-intake tower and the very close waterfall, pulled out their little digital camera, took a shot, and sped off. Now, they can go home and tell their friends that they saw the famous waterfalls. I suppose it is too much to ask that they at least get out of the van - I mean, with the high cost of gasoline and all. I'm being a twit, I know.

Down close to the Brooklyn Bridge there is a small park (the beginnings of a much larger park that will run the perimeter of the Brooklyn-East River shoreline) where people can get a very good view of the falls. I was able to see for of the installations. I don't think they have the same impact as did the Gates in Central Park, but they are kind of interesting. The next thing I need to do is take my camera so that I can get some pictures so that I can make a banner for my blog so that I can show my friends that I actually saw the famous falls. At least I will walk to the site of the photos. I'm being a twit, I just know it.

I was reading in the Guardian UK about recent happenings at the "Global Anglican Futures Conference" (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. GAFCON is the "alternative" Lambeth that many of the anti-gay-inclusion Anglicans are having so that they don't have to be around all the other Anglicans that don't think like they do.

This particular article focuses on statements made by Canon Vinay Samuel, a member of the GAFCON leadership team, concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Anglican Churches of the West. From the Guardian article, he is quoted as saying such things as:

- "'We know a little more than he gives us a credit for... The church is such a mess and unable to understand the post-colonial reality,' Samuel said."
- "Rowan Williams did not adequately appreciate the intellectual subtlety and depth of the developing world."
- "Race gets entrenched on religious institutions and it takes longer to get rid of. Williams has to really trust the leadership of non-western primates."
- "Rowan Williams is too much of a relic of the old left ideology which is not pragmatic enough."
- "'I would dismantle Canterbury and Lambeth, they have little influence and do not reflect the reality of the world,' Samuel said."

The accusation that those of the West cannot escape a colonial mindset or are beset with racist tendencies seems to me to be more about the West's refusal to agree with and acquiesce to the demands of the Southern archbishops/primates and their beliefs rather than about actual incidents involving racist or colonialist attitudes or actions. My perception is that they feel slighted, ignored, sidelined, maligned basically because Williams and others in the West simply do not do as they say. They take upon themselves the role of defenders of the true faith and if others disagree with them, well, those others must not really love Jesus but rather their heathen culture. To disagree with the "Third-World," "Southern Hemisphere," "African/Asian" "conservative-orthodox" interpretation of Scripture, their understanding of correct social mores, et.al., means that they are not respected and that those in the West who disagree with them are beset by attitudes of racism and colonialism. I really doubt that Williams does not understand them or the geo-political and cultural realities. He, and others, simply disagree. To allow for disagreement IS Anglican.

While reading the Guardian article, I came across an organization I have never heard of before, Anglican Spread, which seems to be an organization bent on the furtherance of a Reformed (Calvinist) form of Anglicanism. In an article on their website, they reference a speach giving by the Archbishop of Canterbury to seminary students in Toronto in 2007 concerning this miss understanding and use of Romes 1 by those determined to reject and condemn of forms of same-sex relationships.

For some reason I missed this! The news report of the speech from Reuters is entitled, "Anglican head Williams says anti-gays misread Bible." The article states:

"The spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans has said conservative Christians who cite the Bible to condemn homosexuality are misreading a key passage written by Saint Paul almost 2,000 years ago.

"Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams... said an oft-quoted passage in Paul's Epistle to the Romans meant to warn Christians not to be self-righteous when they see others fall into sin."

"Many current ways of reading miss the actual direction of the passage," Williams said...

"Paul is making a primary point not about homosexuality but about the delusions of the supposedly law-abiding."

Speaking of the portion of Scripture and its use, Williams is quoted as saying:
"It would not help pro-gay liberals, he said, because Paul and his readers clearly agreed that homosexuality was "as obviously immoral as idol worship or disobedience to parents."

"This reading would also upset anti-gay conservatives, who have been 'up to this point happily identifying with Paul's castigation of someone else,' and challenge them to ask whether they were right to judge others, he added.?

"'This does nothing to settle the exegetical questions fiercely debated at the moment,' Williams said."


Well, what can one say about life? Nothing new under the sun, this is a true saying and worthy of repeating, often.

It can be so difficult when I watch people I care about and see them descending further into dysfunction, heartache, harm, or whatever else besets this life of ours. It is frustrating because I just don't know what to do. There is a point where I have to let go, I know. But where is that point? Really, how do I know that time has come or that I'm just being selfish or lazy or bothered?

I can't imagine what parents go through when they watch a son or daughter descend into hell and no matter what they do, they can't stop it. The son is determined to destroy the once lovely life that was so apparent in childhood. The daughter cannot help but yield to an internal need that drives her to destruction when all could see the potential and hope. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to each other? Why can we not love ourselves as He loves us? Why can we not love our neighbor as we come to love ourselves? Why can we not love, honestly?

We put our hope in... what? Perhaps we put our hope in the wrong things.

I Once Was Lost

CT has a review of a new book that describes ways of engaging in evangelism with young, post-moderns. The book is entitled, "Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus" by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp (don't know who they are??).

A quote from the CT review: "Everts and Schaupp's thesis is this: Postmoderns respond best to evangelists who allow for and encourage a process... The label postmodern is held loosely, meant simply to describe 'how things are right now,' rather than to conform to a technical definition."

When I was doing campus ministry work among European students, particularly Germans, the one thing that distinguished the attitudes of German/European students from Americans was their insistence on truly working through and understanding the decision to become a Christian. Sometimes, a person may be in a ministry for a couple years and actively engaged, but would not describe him/herself as a Christ. That was okay with the leadership, because they knew that when the student did make a decision, it was real and would probably be life-long. They went through a process, and I think the patience with and trust of the process was very good.

It was very frustrating to many American students that come to Germany because they were used to call for and expecting decisions to "accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior" right then and there. Just get them to say the prayer, and everything will be okay. As anyone who has been involved in evangelism and discipleship of American college students can tell you, the spur of the moment decision to follow Jesus often means seed falling on rocky or thorny soil. They go no where, and in the end often think that their experience IS the Christ-centered life. The experience is a very deficient form of Christian religion, but little of Christian faith and the Christ centered life.

The process is good! All of life in Christ is a process that never ends - for the good. If the hard won process brings freedom, peace, beauty, joy, then bring it on! That is what makes the life in Christ so intriguing and non-boring (if we allow God to work in us and do in us what is necessary!). There is always something new, always a challenge, always a renewal of things.

This is one reason why I like the approach Anglicanism generally takes (including Anglican-Evangelicalism, but often not the American-Evangelical part of Anglicanism). There is an understanding of and allowance for process and the good that results. (Some people go to far with process, however, by never expecting or calling for decision making, often simply bringing people in the door with nothing happening thereafter.)

When we allow for process, we need to recognize that people in all parts of the process will be with us. This is messy. It doesn't sit well with the sensibility of Americans who are so now-oriented and desirous of instant-gratification (and self-righteous perfectionism at times). People in the process who haven't come to the point where they can honestly and with integrity commit their life to Christ, but who are seriously seeking, often don't act or think like we believe Christians should act or think.

Some people can't handle this - some expressions of the faith can't handle it. Anglicans can, and I think this is why we have a lot of people in our midst who are seeking but aren't there yet. There is an allowance for being wrong, confused, and just not sure. This is one reason, I think, that the Episcopal Church is messy and misunderstood. This is also why, I think, so many people want to look at the Episcopal Church and yell heresy or apostasy or whatever.

I well understand why this kind of messy environment makes people feel a bit insecure, uncomfortable, or fearful. I get caught in that trap, too. I think sometimes I have to defend God, as if I know full well what God thinks and have to protect His wishes against the onslaught of the Enemies of God (which are, who?). How funny. Really, how funny. Anyway, I understand why it is far easier to cast dispersions on people who can't check off a list of criteria that "proves" their Christianhood, and thus worthy of fellowship with those who are "in," then to be involved in the struggle, the ambiguity, and the patient seriousness of the process people must go through either on the forefront of the decision or as an after-thought. It is better for the struggle to come before the decision, than after.

I've seen too many people who deal with the struggles of the Christians faith afterward and end up having their faith shipwrecked. Christianity isn't a marketing scheme. It is a transformational process that requires not buying into something (a system), but giving up everything. While we have to hear again and again how evil is the Episcopal Church, I frankly would much rather be around people who are notorious sinners but are honestly curious and desirous of God than those who smugly gloat over being one of the select, the saved, the righteous. (Isn't that what Jesus did - which might well fall into ideas of orthopraxis.)

I'm glad I'm an Anglican!

N.T. Wright on The Cobert Report

I know that the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism are not the only groups in the midst of controversy, competition, in-fighting, and the like. Most American mainline denominations are pulling themselves apart to one degree or another, not just the Episcopalians. The fight in many of the more conservative or Evangelical churches tend to be around the resulting different emphases and methods between Modernists and Post-modernists.

A couple decades ago, the "conservatives" in the Southern Baptist Convention gained control of the denomination and proceeded to purge the seminaries, colleges, churches, missionaries, and leadership of theological and social "moderates" and especially "liberals." They succeeded. The Southern Baptists truly become a Fundamentalist denomination, and proudly so. There are groups within the mainline denominations that are trying to do the same kind of thing, although probably not to lead the Churches to Fundamentalism, but at least American-Evangelicalism - back to the "real Faith."

This is the thing about those who believe that they stand up for and live out the "faith as it has always been" from the very beginning, free of cultural influences and capitulation - the reality is that none of us do! The truth is, and this is the Truth-on-the-Ground, is that few understand what culture does to us and few take the time to learn about how the Church's understanding of God, its interpretation of Scripture, its sense of how to live godly lives has changed radically! A survey of history will make this assertion obvious. This does not mean that the essence of the faith is any different - God came to us to free us from sin and death and to re-enable relationship and reconciliation between God and Man and between one another.

All that to say that even within the Southern Baptist Convention, which experienced decline in membership and baptisms last year (which should be no surprise, because social-Christianity continues to decline in the U.S.), there are still fights and challenges to what the Faith is and means and how to best live it out. They are certainly not where the Episcopal Church is at, but it is only by degree and time span.

Here is an article entitled, "Young Baptist preachers chart different courses," about the changes within the Southern Baptist expression of the Faith and controversy that results.

What Religion? Jesus Loves You?

I just came across these YouTube videos be "somegreyguy."

The first considers what religion might be best to follow. As "somegreyguy" wrote on YouTube, "I'm getting older every day, and therefore closer to being dead, so I'm thinking that maybe it's time to start sorting out my afterlife." We hear all the time that when young couples have a baby, suddenly everything changes and there are considerations that they didn't dwell on before, often resulting in a return to the Church. I wonder how many Baby-Boomer types as they approach the reality of their mortality will begin considering their own state with reference to the "afterlife." After all, even Ted Turner now has a more positive regard for religion generally and Christianity specifically (and that is certainly a change!).

Here is the first video entitled: "Choosing My Religion"

Now, the second video takes up from the first (it seems). Someone did contact him about a religion to consider, and Christianity was (is) that religion. I sometimes try to put myself into the state of mind and cultural awareness of those who are unchurched or who have had a very negative experience with the Church or Christians. I try to see from the prevailing culture what they may see. This isn't easy because I grew up within various segments of the Christian sub-culture in the United States (and a little bit in Europe - Germany more specifically and England by default).

This next video, I think, is a good representation of the perception many people have of Christianity in America - really come from the politicized Religious Right form of Evangelical-Fundamentalism and Roman Catholicism. For those who actually consider what is being said, I think there is a good bit of perplexity about what is claimed to be true and necessary by Christians and why.

Here is the video, entitled: "Jesus Loves You."

Personal ecclesiastic fiefdoms

Recently, there has come to light a "gay wedding" at a Church of England parish in London. From what I read, it has caused quite a row. The policy of the Church of England as of now is that civil-union ceremonies or "marriages" are not allowed in CofE churches, although civil-unions are legal in England (and for priests).

In a recent Guardian Online (UK) story entitled, "Priest rebuked for 'marrying' gay vicars in church," the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, is reported to have rebuked the priest, the Reverend Martin Dudley, of St. Bartholomew's parish for conducting the "marriage" between two vicars.

The bishop's rational for his rebuke is not what might first come to mind - anti-gay stuff. Here are a couple paragraphs from the article quoting the bishop's letter to Fr. Dudley concerning his reasons for the rebuke:

In his letter to Dudley today, the bishop of London wrote: "I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November. I find it astonishing that you did not take the opportunity to consult your bishop. St Bartholomew's is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence."

The point at issue was not civil partnerships or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice because there was a range of church opinion on these matters and homophobia was not tolerated in the Diocese of London, he added.

"The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your bishop." [Emphasis mine]

I think the issue of "personal fiefdoms" and willfully defying church order, Canons, et cetera, is primary concerning so many of the controversies going on within not only the CofE, but also the Episcopal Church USA and all of the Communion. I like the term "personal fiefdoms." Too many priests feel as if their parish is their own to do with and to whatever they "feel" is right, and to hell with vows, Canons, ecclesiastical rules, et cetera.

There are times when civil or ecclesiastic disobedience is important and justified. There are times when situations in organizations become so onerous to abide by that priests and/or people leave - quietly and peaceably (or at least they should). Civil or ecclesiastic disobedience should not be the norm, however. It has become the norm in too many places and we are all suffering the consequences of fiefdoms and disobedience.

Hat-tip: Thinking Anglicans

UPDATE: Here are the pertinent paragraphs from the bishop's letter itself:

"The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

"The Archbishops have already issued a statement in which they say that “those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.”

"St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct."

The City #22

I got off the subway returning home a little bit ago after having dinner with a friend in Central Park (the trains were slow - took me an hour to get home). It had just stopped raining - the kind of quick downpour that leaves everything soaking wet, but the clouds part and the sun starts to shine as water drips from everything. A cool breeze, and the air smelled good.

As I was walking down the street a few brave souls resumed playing in the park, but instead of the voices of the kids playing catching my attention, I heard someone singing. I figured up ahead there was a car with someone sitting with the window opened listening to the radio, but I passed car after car and no radio playing. So then, I thought perhaps someone had a radio playing loudly in their apartment, window opened.

I started looking up at the brownstones, listening. The singer had a very nice voice - it sounded familiar, kind of a young, pop ballad kind of voice. It was nice. Then on the third floor of an old brownstone in the bay window I saw a girl with a microphone and another girl at an electric piano, barely noticeable. The voice I heard was hers - live.

I looked up and watched them through the window as I walked by. I decided to turn around and go back to listen a little more. I tried to be inconspicuous. I passed by, backtracked, but no where to hind. I just turned around again to continue home. At this point, looking up at the window, she saw me and smiled. I was caught. She was caught, and stopped singing for a New York minute. I don't know whether she was caught off guard - not expecting anyone to see her or pay attention to her singing. Perhaps she was embarrassed. I don't know.

The City is full of these little kind of things. So often they are lost in the noise and busyness of the City, but after a quieting rain a voice carries and I just have to pause and listen. I am fortunate when these little moments get through - kind of like stopping and smelling the flowers. I wonder what was going through her mind when she realized that someone heard her, someone was listening, someone discovered her and her friend practicing.

This neighborhood is a little too expensive at this point for struggling artists, but there are still some and the ones that have a little luck in their careers move here. I love this neighborhood and this City in all its dynamic craziness. Perhaps some day, this women will be famous and I will remember back to one rainy day when I heard a voice coming from a third floor walk-up in Brooklyn and think, "I saw her..."

A new Ikea just opened, yesterday. It is a 20 minute walk from my apartment. An Ikea 20 minutes away. Lord. Red Hook will never be the same. The Queen Mary docks, an Ikea opens, what's next?

From Bloggingheads.tv, a video conversation between Joshua Cohen of the Boston Globe and Libertarian Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute about the problems Lindsey (representing many Libertarian conservatives) have with the Republican Party and the current administration's policies concerning so many things about the three branches of government, civil rights, and freedoms. He comes to the point where he is looking to the Democratic candidate rather than McCain.

I think Andrew Sullivan is right when he writes, "The Bush administration has forced many people who thought of themselves as limited government, libertarian conservatives into the hands of the left."

I can relate, and recognize this dynamic in myself.

A new kind of oil?

From: The Times Online - Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.

Read it all here. I wonder whether this will end up like the hype around "cold fusion" that was in all the news a while ago?

Hat tip to: The Topmost Apple

So, I'm back

Okay, back to real life (for me - for a few, Saltaire is real life!).

Not that I'm any kind of example, because I well know I am not, but what has happened to priests simply being priests? What I mean is this: as I observe the workings and doings and sayings of priests, the question that keeps popping up in my head is this: Why are so many priests being so many other things rather than simply priests? Some priests seem to really want to be social-activists, some therapists, some want to be politicians, et cetera, but what about priests who want to be just priests and be about the "cure of souls?" Too many priests, it seems to me in my observations, are agenda driven - and the agenda is political and social, not really - what? - "spiritual," religious, restoration of people's relationship with God (otherwise known as salvation in some parts of the Church), the cure of souls. Could the same be said about lay leaders?

As I listen to and watch other priests, I see the difference. Those priests who are concerned foremost about the souls of people, regardless of their political persuasion or the side they take in the Culture-Wars, have a quality about them, and so do their parishes. Big or small, more conservative or more liberal, there is an aliveness that is all together different than those parishes that are agenda driven, cause du jour obsessed, and not really focused on some of the basics of a Christian life: prayer that is more than reading some sentences, worship that is more then doing some manual acts, loving that extends beyond those who are politically and socially like-minded, preaching that is not vialed dictation on how or what to believe (indoctrination - liberal, conservative, and everything in between), or teaching that is beyond opposition to the war, the evil of same-sex relationships, or why the MDG's are so essential to being a relevant Christian - all issues that the Church needs to be aware of and address, but not the primary emphasis of the Church or her priests.

Priests I know who seem to want to be priests rather than social-activists or therapists (in the guise of a priest), or some such other thing, seem to be far more effective. They certainly have their opinions political and social, but their cause is not to bring people around to a particular way of thinking, but teaching them how to engage the Source of wisdom and understanding, the Source of love, teaching them how to discern and know God. They teach people to fish, rather than simply giving them fish, so to speak.

That's just me. I hope to be a priest who really wants to be a priest and be about the cure of souls.

Saltaire, Fire Island

I left last Friday for Saltaire, Fire Island. I am serving this week as priest for St. Andrew's-by-the-Sea, a summer chapel in Saltaire.

I am taking time during this week as sort of a retreat. I will be by myself all week with no real TV (2 so-so independent channels on a great flat-screen TV with no DVD... ugh). Internet access is intermittent and may go away after today (Sunday) if this hot-spot is no more during the week. I kind of really do feel isolated, although my phone works, thank God.

This is going to be a tough week. This is the weekend a year ago when I found out that I was to be single, once again. Believe it or not, this past year has been one of the worst in my life. It has been a hard year, but God keeps me and helps me and I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is difficult because as a priest there is a point where the stuff of life I'm dealing with cannot be put upon the people I serve. Being a priest can be hard in that way.

Years ago, when I was going through another very difficult summer, God gave me a few verses of Scripture that enabled me to hang on. These verses may at first sound a bit odd, but for me then and ever since they have been a mantra for me and sustenance during times of trial. The verses come from James, chapter 1:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." (NIV)
Because I'm not a Calvinist, I believe that there is an openness to our lives as God deals with us in relationship and during all phases of our lives. His engagement with us is dynamic, in that way. The present and future are open. I hang on to wanting to be "mature, complete, not lacking anything," and if trails and tribulations are a help in gaining such things, gaining wisdom, gaining the ability to understand myself and others better, gaining discernment, then so be it.

I would rather life be easy, of course, but we all know it is not. So, during the past year of trials and tribulations, of dealing with deep seated issues in my own life, as well as in the life of the one who I once called my partner, I know that my Lord will see me through and bring me to the other side where I will be made more complete.

Today's readings talk about God calling Abraham and Sarah to a new country. Jesus calls Matthew to follow him, and Matthew does - leaving everything, even unto death. If my life is to somehow be a blessing to others, then my life needs to be purged of all that our prevailing culture and the systems of this world load on. I want to be wise, to be a blessing, to move in the whole realm of "peace that surpasses all understanding," the fruit of the Spirit, and loving God with my whole being and truly, intuitively, sincerely loving others as God enables me to love myself, honestly.

In this new country where God calls us, this Kingdom of God, there is a bit of culture shock - trail and tribulation - as we are made new and transformed into citizens of this new country, this Kingdom. As we are inevitably changed, we become an example and a witness to a hurting and confused world of what it means to be a people living in the midst of God. As we are blessed, we become a blessing to others. All we have to do is look at this Church and the Anglican Communion to know how easily it is to be subsumed by the prevailing culture - the systems of this world - and to be pulled away from the new country and to be anything but good examples. We have not heeded His call, have we? Yet, we go on with hope and faith in grace. Thank God we are in grace!

This is what I am learning, even in the midst of heart ache, loneliness, doubt, confusion, and all that stuff we wade through in life before we come to that shore where all things are new.

Funny thing, too, I am reading Harry Potter for the first time. A balm for the soul.

Where is the Via Media

An opinion piece on "Catholic Online" concerning Anglicanism's conflicts and the loss of the Via Media. It is an interesting look at what is happening with Anglicanism and our conflicts and what the author thinks is necessary for our return to the Via Media.

A quote:

The Anglican Church has given much to the Christian world. Beautiful English liturgies, priceless hymns, and great thinkers such as C.S. Lewis, are only a few of the great gifts we have all received.

May they regain a sense of their place in the broader Christian community, rediscover their historical foundations in Christian orthodoxy and make a true contribution to the work of the Holy Spirit in the work of recovery,renewal and communion.

Current Affairs

This brief commentary from a Baby Boomer writing about his own generation and the problems we are facing in the nation, among other things.

Click here to read Victor Davis Hanson's commentary (a contributor to the National Review).

A couple choice quotes:

Sociologists have correctly diagnosed the perfect storm that created the “me” generation — sudden postwar affluence, sacrificing parents who did not wish us to suffer as they had in the Great Depression and World War II, and the rise of therapeutic education that encouraged self-indulgence.

Perhaps the greatest trademark of the 1960s cohort was self-congratulation. Baby boomers alone claimed to have brought about changes in civil rights, women’s liberation, and environmental awareness — as if these were not prior concerns of earlier generations.

Our present problems were not really caused by an unpopular president, a spendthrift Congress, the neocon bogeymen, the greedy Saudis, shifty bankers, or corporate oilmen in black hats and handlebar moustaches — much less the anonymous “they.”

The fault of this age, dear baby boomers, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

I know I keep harping on the Baby Boomer generation, but I am convinced that historians will asterisk this generation as the progenitors of many problems that will take a few generations to correct and/or undo. The generation (which many would consider me to be one at the tail end of the generation) is of a different something-or-another, it seems, and while there is good that has come from many people of this generation, as a whole we are beginning to see the significant shortcomings. As one commentator mentioned a while ago, when dealing with people of this generation in his parish/diocese he has a hard time convincing them that they are no longer the "young people." How does a generation that early on defined itself as "not trusting anyone over 30" deal with becoming 65? Is it just a matter of not wanting to grow-up?

Hat tip: Confessions of a Carioca

April 2011

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