July 2009 Archives

There is probably a lot wrong with what follows, not least the spelling and grammatical mistakes, but I'm trying to flesh out some thoughts:

I’m a political and international affairs junkie. Even since Jr. High School, as a paperboy at a young age of 13, I would read through the newspaper nightly, watch the network news telecasts and then turn over to PBS to watch the McNeil/Lehrer News Hour. Okay, I was a freak. So, I focused on Political Science, Sociology, and History for my Bachelor’s degree (while spending most of my spare time in the campus ministry I was a part of). I know well the issues and demands surrounding “civil-rights” for all kinds of different groups of people that are not part of the majority. Empathetically, I know far less of the trials and tribulations of peoples who have had to and continue to suffer under the prejudices, bigotry, and discrimination of far too many people within the majority. There is nothing new under the sun. I do know from my own personal distinguishing marks what it is like to be the center of the majority’s conversations, arguments, denunciations, and social and religious decision making concerning “me” (a class of people) without my input, however.

I looked up the term “civic” just to make sure I hadn’t missed some more nuanced definitions of the word. It’s pretty straightforward: “of or related to citizen, a city, citizenship, or civil affairs,” to quote the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law. The word has its root in the Latin “civicus” or “of a citizen” (according to the Online Etymology Dictionary) and translated more specifically, “citizen” (according to the American Heritage Dictionary). I also looked up the word, “civil.” There is much overlap in the way people use the two words, but “civil” also denotes the way in which we behave within the contexts of society and the relationships we engage in between groups and individuals.

We should all be “civil” in our “civic” lives. If I wanted to translate the secular and civic vocabulary of the previous sentence into the verbiage of the Christian Faith, I might suggest the words Jesus’ second great commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mark 12:31; Matthew 22:39; and by extension Luke 6:31 or Leviticus 19:18)

From the U.S. Declaration of Independence from England, we find these words

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Then, there is the Equal Protection Clause in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
As a citizen of the United States, I’m glad these words are part of the documents of governance that we uphold and strive to obey. In our civic lives, we can advocate for and even demand that these rights be upheld and applied to all people (even though, from what I remember and perhaps incorrectly, when they used the word “men” originally, that is exactly what they meant – the males of the species, and actually white, landed, men).

As citizens of the United States of America, I content that it is the right, privilege, and obligation of all citizens to be engaged in securing and protecting the equally applied and defended rights of all people. “Rights” language is properly situated within this kind of discourse and action.

I’ve heard many Church people advocate for and protest on behalf of civic rights for dispossessed people groups, which is certainly an appropriate course of action for Christian citizens for the betterment of our society. Before I became an Episcopalian, I followed the goings on in the mainline denominations and listened carefully to the arguments for equal treatment of people within the various denominations begin to more often center on the word, “Rights.” The language and understandings used to justify the demand for changing the non-equal practices within the various Church bodies, whether because of skin color, gender, or sexual-orientation, sounded increasingly like civic discourse rather than the language and understanding of the Church. Socio-political understanding and verbiage began taking precedence over theological and ecclesiastic understanding and verbiage.

Within the Christian faith tradition I grew up in, the idea that as Christians we die to self and give up all our “rights,” understood in the civic sense, was commonly discussed and emphasized. This wasn’t an attempt by leaders to subjugate congregants or to retain power, since we were congregational in governance, but put into proper perspective the differences between of civic and religious understandings of how we are to relate to one another. (Obviously, sometimes abuses occurred in religious culture and still do as in civic culture).

Christianity uses different concepts and language to deal with unjustified perceptions of other people that tend to denigrate their God-blessed humanity. To anyone that wants to deny the assertion that all humans are equally of God’s purposeful design, there is Galatians 3:27-29:

“…for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
At the heart of our consideration of how we want to and how we ought to consider and treat one another the significant difference between the intent and language of the civic minded and the faith minded is the difference between concepts of “rights” and “love.”

I believe it is a mistaken application of civic “Rights” language when we talk of our interactions and treatment of one another within the Church. For the Christian, at the point when we decide to declare our intent to follow Jesus (when we become born anew), we give up all of our “rights.” Why? Because we give ourselves freely to be transformed out of our culture-bound misunderstanding of God’s Way (a mal-formation) in order to more fully be brought into the Body of Christ, the Family of God (a re-formation).

Our cause as Christians within the context of the Church is not to fight for rights! I have no rights. Our cause is to fight for the common, consistent, and complete application of Christ’s command to “love one another as we love ourselves!” The language is a language of “love,” not “rights.” There is no “right” to baptism. There is no “right” to communion. There is no “right” to leadership. There is no “right” to ordination. Justice in the Christian sense is not that we treat everyone the same, but that we treat everyone appropriately. (Because there are those who misapply this idea, who remain in their mal-formed state, does not mean the concept is corrupt or wrong, but that we fallible humans are.)

When we descend into civic rights language for Church purposes, as in “I or this group has a right to be considered for leadership at all levels of the Church and including Holy Orders,” we open up for other people the “right” to work to deny equal consideration of all people alike. When we get into the language of “rights,” we open up the “right” to deny “rights,” else we act hypocritically.

Instead, we have a privilege and sacred obligation! If we want to be Christian, we are commanded to and must obey the call to “love” one another, as God defines such a word. (John 15:10-15) As Christians, we have a sacred obligation. We do not have the “right” to not love another person, treat them with considered respect that looks like and is received as respectful intent by our opponent. I don’t have “rights” in the Church; I have the obligation to love… therefore I do not have the “right” to not treat others as I want to be treated. Hear from the Gospel writers:

Mark 8:34-38:

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
Luke 6:27-32 -
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.”

There are issues of social or civic concern that all citizens need to be aware of and engaged in whether Christian or not. There are issues of concern within the Church that on the surface may seem identical to the civic endeavor, but are to be understood on a fundamental level differently from concerns of the citizenry of the State. There are often overlaps between the civic and the religious, but for the Christian in the context of religious affairs the beginning point (the entire point) is to “love,” not to demand “rights.” The foundations of thought, ideology, and methodology by which we deal with issues of how we regard and treat other people are different, or at least should be. Frankly, if we incorporate the Christian difference as Christians within the civic arena, we truly will be a “peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9 KJV).

The language of civic discourse concerning the way we treat one another is, "Rights." The language of Christian discourse concerning the way we treat one another is, "Love." As we confuse the two, as we are rabidly apt to do these days, we open within the Church the "right" of those who wish to deny "rights." It is forbidden of us to not "love" our neighbor as ourselves, to not treat others as we want to be treated.

Haller's essay on ++Rowan Williams

Fr. Tobias Haller BSG on his blog "In a Godward Direction" has written an except description of Archbishop Rowan Williams and how he is dealing with the Anglican troubles.

A quote:

Still, this Paschal attitude gives Rowan the capacity to endure a great deal of difficulty, ambiguity, tension, and imperfection — things which progressives tend to find annoying and reactionaries unacceptable — and which his office as Archbishop of Canterbury in this particular age provides him an ample supply.
This is one reason why I've said that because Rowan is vilified by both left and right, he is probably handling this in the right way - or as best as humanly possible at this time.

Link to the entire post.

My additional comments around ++Rowan Williams' statement to the Anglican Communion after the Episcopal Church's General Convention, with regard to much of what I am reading on Facebook and the blogs from Church folk.

I don't think that many of us are approaching the whole problem (by "problem" I mean that our pressing issues over which we are fighting are only external manifestations of a deeper, underlying problem of how we regard and deal with one another). We are not dealing with one another from a particularly Faith-centered, Life in Christ kind of way. The Christian vision of loving God and neighbor before and beyond ourselves or our little groups or our particularly theories or ideologies has collapsed, I think. If we want a picture of how to love neighbor, then review the whole incident in Pennsylvania where a gunman shot down a bunch of Amish kids in their school. The parents of the slain where compelled by the Gospel to go to the killer’s family to offer forgiveness, support, and comfort. Well, we see ourselves casting each other into utter darkness because of differences of interpretation of Scripture or “feeling” that after 20+ years we are not moving fast enough in our overturning of thousands of years of human tradition (even though like so many other historical examples within the Church, I agree that we've gotten it wrong all this time).

Here is the thing: Christianity is not a right! It is a privilege. God's acceptance of us in whatever form we may be at the moment is not a right, it is a vouchsafed privilege. Communion is not a right, it is a privilege. Holy Orders are not a right, they are a privilege. Attending Mass is not a right, it is a sacred privilege. When I turn to begin my journey down the road that leads to God, to a Life in Christ, and as God takes up my life and begins to transform me - I give up my life so that I might have life. I give up all my rights - I am a person with no appeal for the right to anything - so that I might be free. We have lost the vision of "Freedom" and "Life" as defined within the arch of Holy Scripture. When we cast the Gospel in the language of politics, we have already failed.

Much of what seems to be driving the chaos within Anglicanism are socio-political agendas of either the left or the right. The IRD pushed the conservative side for political gain in the U.S. (as they said they would, read more here, here, and here), and now too many conservatives say they can do without TEC (they have cut off their leg). The left has been co-opted by identity-politics and political-correctness, and too many liberals say that we can do without the Communion (they cut off their arm). Both means are wrong, from a Christ-centered perspective. The strengths of “conservatism” and the strengths of “liberalism” should be complementary and only strengthen the overall mission of the Church, but when understood in socio-political terms and when advocated for by secular means, they become enemies.

I'm convinced that's why both sides of the divide are so critical of Rowan. He won't give into the politicized agendas of either side. As I've said in other places, I used to think that Rowan and Anglicanism would have been better served if he had stayed in academia, but not now. The fact that criticism comes from all sides suggests to me that he is going in the right direction. He seems to be one of the few Anglican leaders that are actually acting like an Anglican - willingness to keep all sides at the table talking. Whether he succeeds or not, whether he is doing it the right way or not, I think Rowan is a least trying to confront all this stuff from out of the faith-Tradition as Anglicans have understood it.

When the mainline churches were overwhelmed by liberal politics in the 60's and 70's, people left because they didn't want politics, but life-giving faith. They tended to move into more Evangelical denominations or at least those churches that eschewed a socio-political emphasis. American Evangelicalism has been overwhelmed by conservative politics since the late 80's, and we are witnessing the beginnings of the collapse of the politicized Religious Right. People of younger generations are moving out of Evangelicalism. Some are moving into other faith communities (Emergent), but the primary difference these days is that the younger folks for the most part are leaving the church for no other faith community. This is the state of the American Church and what it is exporting overseas.

I think there are so many people who are seeking faith communities that actually focus on the Faith, centered on growing closer to God and one another, rather than on socio-political agendas of either the left or the right. This is the opportunity for evangelism, for the fields are ripe for harvest. Anglicanism is primed in its ethos and aestheticism for the younger generations at least in North America, but the Enemies-of-our-Faith are succeeding in destroying our ability to be a witness of God's grace and restoration to these generations. We need to rediscover and reappropriate the best of the Tradition and focus on the Church's ancient Disciples for one goal - that all may now the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ by the enabling of the Holy Spirit (otherwise know as the Cure of Souls). The result of this focus, of course, is that people’s hearts will be changed so that we cannot help but engage issues of justice, fairness, and the regarding of all people as God’s creation. I give up all my rights to help achieve this goal, as best I can and with God's help.

facade projection

This is worth watching - and listening to.

555 KUBIK | facade projection | from urbanscreen on Vimeo.

Via: My brother

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement after the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. In my humble opinion, it is well written and clear - even within the reality that so many things are still in flux with regard to the Communion and its integrity.

Here is a link to the Archbishop's statement.

Here are a couple interesting paragraphs that deal with the idea of a two-tiered or "two-track" structure that may end up developing. The specific sentence I think couches the concerns of the Archbishop deals with "who speaks for whom." Within the Communion and with regard to our ecumenical relationships, it must be established that in negotiations and communications that is a voice of the Anglican Communion. Here are the paragraphs:

22 It is possible that some will not choose this way of intensifying relationships [signing on to the final Covenant], though I pray that it will be persuasive. It would be a mistake to act or speak now as if those decisions had already been made – and of course approval of the final Covenant text is still awaited. For those whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way, or whose vision of the Communion is different, there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness – existing relationships will not be destroyed that easily. But it means that there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a 'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with 'covenanted' provinces.

23. This has been called a 'two-tier' model, or, more disparagingly, a first- and second-class structure. But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom. [emphasis mine]

24. It helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are – two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion. It should not need to be said that a competitive hostility between the two would be one of the worst possible outcomes, and needs to be clearly repudiated. The ideal is that both 'tracks' should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency. It is right to hope for and work for the best kinds of shared networks and institutions of common interest that could be maintained as between different visions of the Anglican heritage. And if the prospect of greater structural distance is unwelcome, we must look seriously at what might yet make it less likely.

In earlier paragraphs, he dealt with the issues of same-sex relationships and the ability to be in ecclesial leadership (clergy, particularly bishops). As he said, historically and within the tradition the same rule should apply for heterosexuals and homosexuals - at this point within the universal Church sexual relationships outside the bonds of Holy Matrimony (a "lifestyle") does not allow for ecclesial leadership. Holy Matrimony being between a man and a woman, as the Church Catholic currently and historically understands such things.

The Church Catholic has not changed its mind on this, even though several local Churches are in the process of changing. They are vanguards, and perhaps in the forefront of the coming universal change of understanding. The interesting thing is that within England, the Archbishop's current understanding may place him in opposition with a good part of his own Church. Is he intending on enforcing such a policy for the sake of integrity, and if he is what happens if under Establishment the Parliament or the Queen dictate otherwise? Will Rowan, I wonder, go the route of Newman? I don't know... I don't think his personal theological opinion has changed with regard to the possibility of same-sex relationships, but in his position he has to deal with far more and has to plow a middle way that in the end satisfies no one.

So much of all this mess deals with the means by which we pursue what we want - the end goal. I am so disappointed in the attitudes of many people and the means by which my Church is pursuing what I think in the end is correct and right. The end goal is not so much the important thing, but we will be judged according to the way we acted during the process - the means. Coming from this former American-Evangelical, I can say that my primary thought is the grounding of a Catholic understanding of things, even if in the shorter term (or even the mid-term), I don't get what I want. But, how long to continue to wait is an important and palpable question.

The Innocence Mission

A "non-zero-sum dynamic" and Decoding God's Changing Moods, from Robert Wright.

This got me thinking... If we can find the "non-zero-sum" in our dealings with our opponents/nemeses, we will be better positioned as Christians to obey God's command to: Love - to love God, our neighbors, our enemies. We show no wisdom when we allow anti-love (from a Christ-centered perspective) to overwhelm our thinking and feeling.

I don't necessarily agree with everything Wright is postulating - where he ends up within the context of his theorizing - but gleaning ideas from his writing and trying to examine how we live our lives as Christians can bring us to a more Christ-centered life.

From his website:

Happily, after the exile, life got more non-zero-sum. The Babylonians who had conquered Israel were in turn conquered by the Persians, who returned the exiles to their homeland. Israel was no longer in a bad neighborhood. Nearby nations were now fellow members of the Persian Empire and so no longer threats. And, predictably, books of the Bible typically dated as postexilic, such as Ruth and Jonah, strike a warm tone toward peoples—Moabites and Assyrians—that in pre-exilic times had been vilified.

A more inclusive view is also found in a biblical author (or authors) thought by many scholars to be writing shortly after the exile—the priestly source. The priestly source, or P, uses internationally communal language and writes not just of God’s covenant with Israel but of an “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

A zero-sum, isolationist worldview had moved Israel from polytheism to belligerent monotheism, but now, as Israel’s environment grew less threatening, belligerence was turning out not to be an intrinsic part of monotheism. Between second Isaiah’s angry exilic exclamations and P’s more congenial voice, Israel had segued from an exclusive to an inclusive monotheism.

The New Black

I posted an observation on Facebook early in the spring and asked whether "Pink" had become the new "Black" for guys in New York City. I didn't really get much of a response.

Well, last week my question was answered. One day last week, from the subway to my office (a block and a half), going out to eat lunch in the area (around 75 minutes), and walking back to the subway after work I counted 12 guys in pink shirts - t-shires, Polo's, Oxfords, and dress-shirts - 4 guys in pink ties, and one guy with muted pink lipstick (it is New York, after all).

So, I will declare that "Pink" has become the new "Black" (as much as that really means anything at all) for guys in New York. After all, "real men wear pink." That, of course, was conjured up by some die manufacturer that had an overabundance of red die, I suppose.

Interesting piece by Canon Giles Fraser (Team Rector of Putney, in south London) in the Church of England Church Times (Issue 7634 - 10 July, 2009): 'If marriage has friends like these . . .'

The concluding paragraph, quote:
Speaking of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans position and statement on marriage

So they will suck Christian mar­riage into a narrow religious ghetto, associating it with suburban 1950s curtain-twitching, thus making it even less popular than it is now. The FCA is a danger to marriage. So, for the sake of marriage itself, will it please pipe down and go home.

Aftermath

People can say whatever they want, and they do, but my opinion of Archbishop Rowan Williams has changed over the years - for the better. I used to think he was a week leader who should have stayed in academia, but now I see him as a prime example of Anglicanism at its best. He is one of the few international Anglican leaders that continue to act in an Anglican way - calling all to continue together in discussion and fellowship and refusing to castoff anyone into utter darkness. He refused to act unilaterally! It seems to me that those who demand that Rowan take up their narrow positions (liberal or conservative) and a hammer against their opponents are the ones that continually call him a failed leader. Too bad.

I read a response to a Facebook post after the General Convention passed DO25 reporting that Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, said that GLBT Christians in Africa would be greatly harmed if the Communion disintegrates. I'm trying to find the reference. I’m also trying to find a reason to believe that our actions this past week of General Convention will do anything to help the Communion to not disintegrate even more. As one gay priest, and with many I know, we are not feeling all that good about what we have done. That will be quite perplexing to some straight activist types, but give ear to our voice anyway.

Do we only care about Ubuntu among our own or honestly among all? It means that I do not always get my way. In not seriously considering the well being of "the least of these," our GLBT sisters and brothers on the ground in places where they face real violence and imprisonment every day of their existence, we do them a great disservice.

The Society of Catholic Priests

An acquaintance of mine, priest-to-be Robert Hendrickson (a very good friend of our former seminarian The Rev'd. John Dryman) is involved in the development of an American branch of the UK's Society of Catholic Priests.

I think this sounds quite good - I'm interested. Below is a general letter that is being distributed to interested people, so I present it for any who might be interested.

THE SOCIETY OF CATHOLIC PRIESTS

In the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada

Over several years, the Society of Catholic Priests has come up in conversations and those conversations usually worked their way to "someone should...". In the last few months, someone has begun conversations with the Society in the UK and plans are underway to establish a group here in the Episcopal Church. At this point, I and Robert Hendrickson, a recent graduate from GTS who is serving as an intern here at Christ Church are beginning the process to convene a branch of the Society.

The last few decades have seen several attempts at similar groups- some with more effect and with a more sustained presence than others. This one seems to me to offer to advantages- first, it is aimed at priests and at supporting the spiritual life and the theological reflection that undergirds our work as priests. Focus and singular mission can be energizing for a group like this. Second, it begins at time when there is a range of communication media and when no one expects an group like this to gather and spend great amounts of money. Journals, impressive conferences, and the like aren't likely and may not be essential at any rate.

If it is successful, the Society will allow catholic minded priests (and seminarians and deacons) to deepen their spiritual life, reflect more deeply on the faith and on our work, and will create bonds of affection, accountability and respect among us. In September, we hope to offer a regional gathering in New York. In November, we expect to welcome the Rev'd Canon Andrew Nunn, rector general of the SCP in the UK, as we inaugurate the Society in North America at our first annual provincial (national) meeting in New Haven, Connecticut.

If you are interested in being part of this, we want to hear from you- and even better, we would be grateful if you would consider inviting others or serving as a convener for your region or diocese. At this point, and based on the UK model, the Society would aim at quarterly gatherings- with perhaps a paper on some topic of interest or a quiet day reflection- worship and a meal together. A web-based aspect of the Society is being developed to allow for a different sort of conversation and to share resources. The Society's center will have to be in local groups- and so the beginning and the continuance of this depends on wider interest and shared commitment to this work.

God's blessings on your ministry and on whatever quiet and rest the summer offers you- and many thanks for considering and responding to this invitation.

(The Revd) David Cobb, rector
Christ Church, New Haven


For more information, these are the Society of Catholic Priests links to the UK and American (still in development) websites:

United Kingdom

North American

Contact Robert Hendrickson at rhendrickson@thescp.org for more information.

This is going to be a rambling journey through a variety of stuff, I think. That, I suppose, isn't so unusual, but as I'm trying to make connections and put things in some sort of rational order so to make an argument (or statement) that makes some kind of sense, this is just what I have to do. I process "out loud."

I attended the first week of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I had a great experience seeing people, witnessing a process that can be tedious, but always precise. Our polity is different and regrettably hard for some around the world to understand.

I watched this video on YouTube for Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtGD6t75HS8
(not available to embed)

So much of our current culture drives us down a path that belittles and denigrates in one way or another our humanity and common good for the purposes of power, privilege, and greed. I can't but head the words and the images of Jackson's song and this video and say that this world desperately needs a different way of ordering itself. I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ presents us a way, but it is a voluntary way, a very difficult way, a costly way, a humbling and self-denying way, a way that will not be accepted by entrenched interests that thrive on maintaining the status-quo even if it means the death of the common good.

This different way in a Christian understanding is a way that is not possible by our own means or determination, but first by the transforming of our souls (the Cure of Souls) by God. It isn't just institutional evil that causes and perpetuates our human ills, but firstly the evil that resides within all of our hearts - our rebellion against God's good way, as the 1979 Pray Book Catechism stresses. We see from history that even religious institutions can often be humanity's worst enemy!

Atheists and non-Christians do great charitable things, and we see many providing a far better example of the "caring for the least of these" than do many Christians, yet the way of which I speak comes only from God's restorative work within our own souls. From that beginning point, institutions are changed by the people within them, our processes are improved, and our world is made better.

Some in this Church of ours (and the greater Body of Christ), have allowed themselves to be co-opted by some Systems of this World. This is true of liberals as well as conservatives, just in different ways! For example, I think that many people within The Episcopal Church have taken to an idea that the foundation of our work is a sort of psycho-therapeutic model that strives to make people feel good about themselves, a sort of institutional purpose that promotes self-esteem or being well-adjusted. If we make people "feel" welcomed, esteemed, and good about themselves then we have succeeded in fulfilling our Gospel mission. It is as if God is the great therapist in the sky (or the new-age kind of daddy-guru figure), rather than the great redeemer and restorer of souls.

For many, this way of thinking has replaced, for whatever reasons, the idea that the Church is to be about the "Cure of Souls" (predicated on the understanding that humanity has been impossibly burdened and bound by ways of thinking and being that separate us from God - sin - and irrevocably destroy true relationship with one another absent the restorative work of the Holy Spirit). I believe giving ourselves to this way of thinking and being has caused the Church to give over its vital purpose for a lesser one, to lose its reason for being (which might be shown by fewer and fewer people wanting to be a part of us). For people seeking a faith community of restoration, I think they recognize that in many ways our Church doesn't look much different from the World - from those systems that perpetuate division, hatred, uncompromising attitudes, and the impoverishment of soul and the common good (even as we do some good works).

I have to ask what kind of foundation the current structures of this Church are being built. Are the structures able to withstand the test of time or the trials that inevitably come as the Systems of this World work their best to overcome and destroy the Way of God? I consider our current troubles and watch the actions and resolutions of General Convention, and I have to ask upon what foundation are we making our decisions. Do we consider the well being of the whole community as vitally important - in the U.S. and around the world - or do we continue to simply concentrate on our own limited and myopic goals and special interests? (It isn't that I am not supportive of the desired outcomes of most of what is being proposed by General Convention as an example, but I question whether the reasons for the proposals are based on Christian precepts - understood through time and trial - or trendy precepts that have their origins in systems that in the end only perpetuate our continued boundedness by sin.)

Why do we do what we do? The injustice that infects this world, the bigotry and exclusion that overwhelms our societies, the selfishness that enables starvation, the myopic vision that encourages war and deprivation - all of these need to be called out and confronted, even unto death. Yet, why and how do we as the Church pursue the remedy of these things? For the Church, I don’t think the “why” or “how” rests on trying to make people feel good about themselves, to be self-actualized, or to be esteemed. That kind of psycho-social work is important and we should encourage and support it, but it isn't the work of the Church. Our progressive sense of wellbeing, from a Christian perspective, comes from the results of a transformation of the soul. What good is it for a man or woman to inherit the world, but lose his or her soul? For the Church, we are to be about the Cure of Souls - salvation, forgiveness, restoration of relationship between God and man and between one another. It is profoundly difficult to give up one's life in order to gain life. It is a long and hard row to hoe for the Church to stand in prophetic opposition to the Systems of the World, predicated on the salvific and restorative work of Jesus Christ.

What was (is) our motivation for BO33 or DO25? What is our foundation?

Diane Birch & Kristian Andreassen

Diane Birch

MySpace

&

Kristian Andreassen

MySpace

Her website

The 76th Convention #1

I arrived at the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (TEC-USA) yesterday late afternoon. I haven't made it to the convention hall as of yet, but most certainly this morning. I have booth duties.

I am looking forward to hearing from Archbishop Rowan Williams - I think he is speaking this evening.

I don't know what I'm feeling about this General Convention. I know that a large block of people who would have pulled the convention to a more middle balance are now gone. I'm concerned that the more fervent forces on the left are flush with expectation that their day has finally come (even though they are fighting/propagandizing as if this is not the case) since all their assumed bigoted and anti-everything opponents have finally left the building. Those pesky conservatives don't have to be bothered with any longer.

I respect the continued advocacy and fight for full inclusion of all God's children in all the sacraments of the Church. Of course, some of my support will depend on how certain words are defined. While all people are God's creation, those God calls His children (at least Scriptural speaking) are those who choose to follow Him. What I do not respect is a winner-takes-all attitude and the hubris that befalls ardent fighters on both sides of the issue. One side is only slightly represented at this convention, and I think we are impoverished all the more by that fact. If we say that we want all voices, all people, at the table, then let's mean it!

I still believe that for the sake of brothers and sisters in parts of the world that fall under persecution, real violence, and banishment from the Church, we in the U.S. need to refrain at this time, and for only a time, from overturning BO33 (the agreement by TEC-USA during its last convention to abide by a moratorium on consecrating any new openly-gay and partnered bishops and approving official rites for the blessing of same-sex unions).

I say this for a couple reasons:

1.) Regardless of what certain Provinces say or do with regard to TEC-USA, if we are all still part of the same Communion then our voice of advocacy and support will still be a potent force in helping gay-Christians in those countries survive. To rise up and say that WE will go forward and if the rest of the Communion won't, well then too bad, is a very selfish, inconsiderate, and unjust thing to do. It is an exemplary example of American hubris and arrogance. For the sake of justice for the "haves," we will sacrifice the "have-nots." I can't do that.

2.) For the sake of gay-Christians in countries where their only safe option is silence, or else violence, then I am perfectly willing to wait a while longer. My sense of self and my own sense of dignity are not impinged upon by laying aside what might benefit me for the sake of those who have so much less, so many fewer options, and in many cases just strive to survive. I am not going to succumb to the cult of victimhood. I can wait, for their sake.

3.) While there has been a whole lot of discussion and "study" over the last 30+ years within TEC-USA concerning the gay issue, I still do not find compelling the theological work that must consider all the tangible interconnections of a decision on this one issue to so many other aspects of the Church and society. While justice is very important, justice should not be placed before solid understand of the implications of decisions for justice on the other aspects of life.

Anyway, in my always incomplete and stumbling way, this is what I'm thinking at the moment. We are a Church Catholic, and as such we cannot just do what we want to do any time we want, all the time. While this is a very American thing to do, and while the conservatives that have left TEC-USA and the ardent liberals who while remaining would act in similiar ways if they don't get their way, we must consider others to be extremely important.

I'm spiritual, but not religious

Sometimes I wonder... is, "I'm spiritual but not religious," really a fear of self-examination due to insecurity? Might that kind of response be a fear of falling short?

I know there are a myriad of reasons why someone might say that sort of thing, and the numbers who do are ever growing. A culture that continues to separate itself from any sense of common religious understanding will only grow in religious or "spiritual" insecurity. People will not know where to turn or how to make competent judgments about what may or may not be legitimate thoughts or expressions of "faith" or "religion" or "spirituality."

I wonder if because of a growing spiritual insecurity among people and a resulting growing fear of being judged as falling short or embarrassed by not even knowing the basics of a particular faith, that rather than throwing themselves into a gulf of unknowing, of perhaps failure, of perhaps a complete overturning of lives that cling only to some kind of shaky security, that people would rather respond with, "I'm spiritual, but not religious?"

To say such a thing recognizes that inner draw to the spiritual life (I would say the wooing of the Holy Spirit to inter into the Life in Christ, but that's me), the inner hunger to know God (however a person at the time understands that), but relieves the person from having to enter into a peculiar or particular world that s/he is, for the most part, completely unfamiliar with. That is very intimidating! It relieves people from having to put forth the effort to understand - what one is currently experiencing, even if not very good or satisfying or life-giving, is sometimes preferable to the unknown. But, it also leaves them in a place where their spiritual longings are never really satisfied. They roam around in a cloud hoping to find that "thing" that will making everything okay, but often settle at the moment for money, for loveless sex, for fame, for a weak and often illusional propping up of self-esteem.

Enabling people to feel secure enough and comfortable enough to enter into the questioning and the seeking and the learning is such a way that God can do the work necessary to open their hearts and minds to the Life in Christ is essential, but it is done not by dumbing down the essence of the Faith, nullifying the requirements, or lessening the call for high standards - that ends in nothing. It is, to a great degree, simply living in integrity, honesty, and forthrightness in the understanding that we are a peculiar people, but people with the answer in Christ for what ails the world.

Young Americans

Generation Y reflects on what it means to be American

Reflections on adults 18-25 (actually one of them is 27 - a little wiggle room is always good!).

From: CNN's 4th of July stuff

By: Sheila Pree Bright's "Young Americans"

Michael Jackson, RIP

You know, it is the strangest thing. It is going on a week now that Michael Jackson died. I am surprised by how hard his death has affected me. I am really saddened by his death, almost like something inside of me has died, too. This is honestly unexpected.

I've been watching, reading, and listening to everything that has been going on since the announcement. There is, of course, the reporting of his phenomenal talent, but the reaction of people world wide... I've heard people say that his music was constantly positive and encouraging and inspiring humanity to make a difference in the world for positive change. This is true. Perhaps, because so many entertainers (particularly in certain genres) are so negative and foul and present to the world the most banal stuff, yet there was Michael Jackson. A New York Times report quoted a industry person saying that they will never be another world-wide rock star with so much appeal and influence and talent as Michael Jackson.

Perhaps it is the tragedy of his life. A childhood that never was and his sometimes bizarre attempts to reclaim it. I can't imagine what is was like or him - adults from the earliest years doing not much more than manipulating him (and his brothers), lying to him, cheating him, using him, and his father was one of the primary culprits. Perhaps, I am just so sad to see a lost soul with so much talent and so much pain. Perhaps, it is that he was always there during my life and became so significant in times of our lives. Perhaps, I did expect him to die while I'm still around. There are those who hated him.

He had problems, big problems, and he didn't seem to understand why people did'nt understand him - or perhaps believe him. Whether he really did abuse the boys or whether their parents were just another bunch trying to bleed him dry I don't know. My suspicion is that he was innocent, but he certainly kept putting himself in situations where people could easily make accusations and exploit his vulnerabilities. Then, all the revelations about is three children that are not really his after all. Not his biological children. The man was messed up, but why? I think, because, of us - people, the public, the exploiters.

So, I downloaded several of his videos. I wanted "Man in the Mirror," but iTunes doesn't have it, for some reason. "Cry." "Scream." I'm just honestly saddened by his tragic death more than I ever thought I would be.

I wonder whether his death simply brings to mind people that I have been very close to and who are now in terrible situations. Perhaps, his death reminds me that those friends for whom I care terribly could come to the same kind of end. I do fear for them, and wish horribly that they would take the steps needed to make healthy decisions for themselves. I pray for a particular friend constantly. I could see his innocent heart, exploited by others, making terrible decisions and now so messed up, I could see him come to such an end.

Life is so precious, but the "systems of our world" work so hard to destroy the simplicity, trust, faith, and innocence that we have when we are children. Jackson seemed to long desperately for those things. What is left when a culture no longer values them? What happens when we are complicit in their demise?

May his soul find the peace and tranquility he so long sought after. Lord, by your grace and mercy. May we learn something... even a little something.

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