New denomination is being born…

Well, the formal process is now official. There is to be instituted a new “Anglican” denomination in the U.S. made up of some currently within the Episcopal Church and some from various denominations and jurisdictions of the “Continuing Anglican” presence in the U.S.
The “Common Cause Partners” just completed their meeting of a council of their bishops. They issues a statement declaring the beginnings of a new ecclesiastical structure in the U.S.

Anglican bishops from ten jurisdictions and organizations pledged to take the first steps toward a “new ecclesiastical structure” in North America. The meeting of the first ever Common Cause Council of Bishops was held in Pittsburgh September 25–28.

Read the entire proclomation, HERE.
Yet another denomination is being born. There are so many as it is in the U.S. – 10 of thousands. There are so many “Continuing Anglican” denominations, too. So, some people and groups will come together and in time there will be more splitting up. We can’t help ourselves once going down that road.
There is always great excitement and expectation when something new is born. Goodness knows, the Evangelical/Protestant denominations and churches in this country have not done a very good job attracting/bring in the unchurched. Perhaps this new denomination will be more successful than the rest of the American Protestantism.
The proof will be in the pudding, as they say. It will be interesting to see where things are 25 years from now. I remember a Reformed Episcopal Bishop recommending strongly a few years ago that dissenting TEC bishops not create a new thing. The REC has not faired very well over time, despite the promise of new found purity and excitement when they broke from the American Church last century.
As was mentioned somewhere else, for a new entity to be declared the official provincial structure of the Anglican Communion, 2/3rds (I think) of the ACC must give approval (aside from recognition by the ABC). I don’t think that is going to happen. I don’t think there is the support internationally for such a thing. Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda do not even have full agreement within their own provinces about recognizing a new thing and rejecting an old one.
I am profoundly interested to see where things are 25 years from now! Of course, nothing will be as we expect. All new beginnings are full of excitement and expectation.

Continue reading

What goes around, comes around…

What goes around, comes around.
I’ve read recently about the abuse of conservative speakers on college campuses by pseudo-liberals (though they would refer to themselves as Liberals) who demand that the invitations be withdrawn or that the conservatives be refused the right to speak on their campuses. These people are not real Liberals, mind you, else there would be an allowance for a place at the table of all perspectives. They refuse to defend the right of the people with whom they disagree to speak their minds or present differing perspectives. They, frankly, are more like Fascists (or some other word for those who attempt to control thought and speech) than Liberals because they want to control the outcome, the thoughts of others, the perspectives that are presented to other students. They want to shut up the conservatives and the right of their perspectives to be argued or debated. They want the control to determine what is disseminated and argued. The problem is, if they do not defend the right for others’ perspectives to be presented or others’ freedom of speech or thought, then there will be a point in time when they do not hold the power and their own perspectives and thoughts could well be suppressed.
There is the old saying, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it!” In my opinion, this is a very traditional Anglican way of viewing things – this is how we have traditionally been. What comes around, goes around. If these pseudo-liberals attempt to suppress or deny rights to the conservatives, there will be a time when they need protection for their rights and perspectives and nay well not receive it.
Archbishop Akinola and others demand that the American House of Bishops (HoB) pass resolutions and change the-way-they-think to align with his (their) theological and interpretive perspective. He does not want other perspectives to receive the same light-of-day or right to be presented or argued or debated. To allow such things would be to deny the faith. There is no reason for debate, because the case is settled and there is no reason to revisit the traditional understanding. This is not truly Conservative, but pseudo-conservatism. A true Conservative, while striving to conserve what is, also understands strongly that we must defend the rights of those with whom we disagree else our own liberties may well be denied us at some point, and true conservatives defend the right of people to believe and think according to their own consciences. That’s why I am far more conservative than liberal.
The problem we are faced with is groups of people, whether pseudo-liberals or pseudo-conservatives, who demand that their perspective be the only right one (whether it has historical precedent or not – and historical precedent is not the only criteria of judgment for we know that historical precedent has been horribly wrong in the past) and that all others must be subjugated. Too many people want absolute uniformity and agreement and cannot abide by differences of opinion or perspective – pseudo-conservatives and pseudo-liberals.
This kind of perspective in the history of the Church is known as the Inquisition. There has never been uniformity in the Church – and we see this from the very beginning with the arguments between Peter and Paul, and between Paul and James. To think that we all must believe the same thing to be a Christian and to demand a uniformity of thought or belief whether among our Bishops or pew sitters over issue of anything, even homosexuality, leads us to be neither Conservative or Liberal, but Fascist(?). There has developed among us of fear of difference and an inability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. There is a demand for fact, when fact is not possible because we live by faith.
I’m sorry, folks, but we do not have all knowledge and we will not until we see Him face-to-face. In light of that, we should be wrapped in humility as we approach one another and the arguments we are engaged in. Remember, too, that the judgment with which we use will be the judgment with which we will be judged.
What goes around, comes around.
The demand of Akinola and of our own American agitators is that the HoB capitulate and “repent” of their own consciences and conform to the way Akinola thinks about the faith, the interpretation of Scripture, and issues such as homosexuality. It is simply not possible if we want a democratic-style episcopal ecclesiology. It will mean that Akinola and company will go their own way, because they do not want distention, difference, or will not allow a true respect for contrary ideas or perspectives – even the right of argument over them.

The City, but not #2

Now, I know Provincetown has a lot of characters as full-time residents. I love them, even though I know I love them as one who is visiting. Yet, with these characters I sense among those who are here all season or all year that they get along and that they are appreciated. More about this later…
Now, there is another group of characters that fall in with the tourists. Of course. There is one segment, however, that I don’t think I can handle! I have seen more dogs in strollers (yes, baby strollers) being pushed along by women (and yes, they have all been women) these past few days then ever in my whole, entire life.
What? Frankly, this is not just too much. I’ve heard several women this week speak of themselves to their dogs as “mommy.” I was sitting in my room the other morning watching people come in and out of the coffee house across the street and checking e-mail. A woman comes out with three coffees in a carrier and says to her leashed dog, “Now, don’t pull mommy. I have coffee.” I’m afraid, truly, that these women are not just jokingly referring to their pets as “children,” as I know some do, but I think there is a misplaced maternal instinct going on and there is a confusion of what is an animal and what is a human baby/child. Intellectually I suspect they all know the difference, but emotionally, well, something is going on and I don’t think it is healthy.
Call me a misogynist if you must; call me a “humanist” if you must, but this just ain’t emotionally healthy. It is strange-funny how in a “therapeutic society” that it comes down to the norm being to not work through our problems so that we can come out the other side more healthy and free from the emotional ordeal, but that we revel in our psychoses and demand that everyone else call them good so that we can feel better about ourselves. We are truly a mixed up lot!

What results do we see…

Considering my last post, here is the link to the swan-song article written by Stephen Bates, the UK Guardian’s Religion reporter. Read the whole thing – he sums up the personal toll that all this “playing religion” we see in Anglicanism and American-Evangelicalism causes.
Hear is an excerpt:

This week’s meeting between Rowan Williams and the American bishops will be my swan-song as a religious affairs correspondent, after eight years covering the subject for The Guardian… There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians. For the good of my soul, I need to do something else.

Or this:

I had no notion in 2000 that it would come to this: I had thought then that we were all pretty ecumenical these days. I was soon disabused of that. I had scarcely ever met a gay person, certainly not knowingly a gay Christian, and had not given homosexuality and the Church the most cursory thought, much less held an opinion on the matter. But watching and reporting the way gays were referred to, casually, smugly, hypocritically; the way men such as Jeffrey John (and indeed Rowan Williams when he was appointed archbishop) were treated and often lied about, offended my doubtless inadequate sense of justice and humanity.
Why would any gay person wish to be a Christian? These are people condemned for who they are, not what they do, despite all the sanctimonious bleating to the contrary, men and women despised for wanting the sort of intimacy that heterosexual people take for granted and that the Church is only too happy to bless. Instead, in 2007, the Church of England and other denominations jump up and down to secure exclusive rights to continue discriminating against a minority of people it does not like. What a spectacle the Church has made of itself! What hope of proselytising in a country which has accepted civil partnerships entirely without rancour or bigotry?

Of course, we know far too many self-professed Christians who will loudly claim that England and any other country or state that provides for equal treatment under the law (ETUL) for gay people are giving into Satan’s plan to destroy the family and the Church, since by allowing for ETUL for gay people means that they are denying the very essence of God’s truth and inviting God’s just retribution (judgment and destruction).
It is imperative, according to these people (and remember, I was one of them for the first half of my adult life, although the issue was less politicized back then), it is imperative that any notion of the naturalness or the rightness or the legitimacy of or any positive representation of homosexuals must be stamped out. For too many of those opposed to ETUL for gay people, if they had their way, homosexuality would simply be outlawed, period, and those caught in such a state would be punished. After all, the Levitical Code demands death for homosexuals, and, well, we Christians are a little more forgiving under Grace, so we won’t kill them (despite the clear direction to do so by God’s very Word). We will love them by doing all we can to contain them for their own good, and even if against their will we demand that they concede to their own healing to become their true God-created heterosexual selves. This kind of thinking is does not come from my imagination, but from experiences I’ve had personally.
Stephen writes about the response of his Evangelical wife (“who is a devoted evangelical and not merely a perfunctory one”) concerning this group of Christians:

The trouble with these people, my wife always says, is that they don’t read their Bibles, for they know nothing of charity. I think she’s right and I am in mortal danger of losing mine. It’s time to move on.

They don’t read their Bibles – a perfect response! Well, we certainly know this is true for far too many Christians due to the much publicized studies on biblical and religion illiteracy released a few over the last couple of years and as antidotal evidence shows.
While I didn’t always agree with everything Stephen Bates has to say, I respected his opinion. I wish for him the finding of a Christian community where he can again learn to be with God despite the idiocies of God’s self-professed children. I hope that his faith will be restored.

The City, but not

This could have been another “City” post, but I’m not in the City right now. I haven’t had a real vacation in a long time, so I am taking one and spending a week in Provincetown, MA. I’ve had friends who have come here regularly for years and love it, so I thought that since it is a bit post-season and quite I would see what it is like.
It is full of bus loads of senior citizens on bus tours with nametags, that’s what it’s like. Not quite what I was expecting, but it is quiet right now. I’ve been the only one in the quest house for the past two nights.
Anyway, I was supposed to be going on a sunset sailing excursion this evening on the restored, oldest schooner still operating. It’s a great boat. There is no sun today, so I swung by the dock to tell the captain that I’m going to wait until tomorrow. He is a great, gregarious guy who loves to talk about what he does and tell stories about his lifetime of sailing. So, his schooner is named, “Hindu.” The original owner imported spices from India, thus “Hindu.” The original owner spelled it “Hindoo” which, according to the captain, many Indians find offensive.
A group of five decided to still go out on the excursion and the captain was explaining to them how so many Indian tourists come up and ask about the boat and why it is named “Hindu.” Then he said this, which is why I’m writing:
“You have to understand about the Indians and Hindu.” He tried to explain, “Hindu is like, well, like Irish. No, that isn’t a good example,” he said. “Hindu is like Jews. You know, it’s everything; it’s a religion; it’s a way of life. It’s everything about them. I was going to say like Irish Catholics,” he went on, “but, well, that religion isn’t everything to them – not something they do every day. Not like the Hindu’s or the Jew’s when it’s everything for them everyday,” he finished.
Isn’t that something? This could reveal a whole lot about Christians in general and Irish Catholics in particular (well, honestly, just about this person’s impression of Irish Catholics). I don’t think this guy is religious (although probably raised Irish Catholic), but his perception of Jews and Hindus as a people who truly live their faith (and culture so influenced by their faith) is far different from his impression of Irish Catholics, or Catholics, or perhaps Christians in general. I suspect this is the impression of too many non-religious folks or too many non-Christians.
I really think that most of the people in this country view “Christians” as not particularly committed to their faith – primarily because I think too many people see the rank hypocrisy and materialism of those who love the limelight and demand that all accept their version of what the Faith must be. And let’s face it, average American Christians sitting in pews and behind pulpits don’t do a very good job, either. The recent findings of religious literacy even among the born-again crowd show an abysmally low level of understanding of the Faith and the Bible.
Now, Mother Teresa or the Amish in the aftermath of the school shooting tragedy in Pennsylvania are different matters. There are good examples everywhere, even if they get little attention. But the Religious Right or the Religious Left? Nope. Both camps love to claim the mantle of the true expression of the Faith, but rarely does either live up to even the most basic of the ideals set before us by Jesus – or, at least in those who we readily see in the media and popular culture. “Power tends to corrupt,” and all that.
Frankly, and I’ve said this before, I do believe that there are less and less people in the West committing themselves to the organized Faith and intentionally striving to live by the teachings of Jesus (with the help of the Holy Spirit) because those already Christian do such a piss poor job experiencing the Faith themselves. We are living a deficient form of Christianity. There is little verifiable “difference” between the lives of self-professed Christians and those who aren’t, and too many self-professed Christians don’t see it.
The “difference” is found in the everyday life, the everyday interactions, and the change that is wrought within us when we truly turn our lives to the Light of Christ. It should be that the captain could say “Irish Catholics” (or any group of American Christians) and everyone could shake their heads because of the witness of the faith that exudes from their very being. (And yes, I’m sure the captain has a less-than-accurate vision of the faithfulness of those who practice Hinduism or Judaism.)
He asked me where I was staying. Then, before he got on his schooner he asked me whether I drove or not. He said, “If you didn’t, I have a car I was going to tell you that you could borrow.” That’s something.
Tomorrow, the American House of Bishops begins to meet. Let us watch and see whether the various interest groups world-wide and their media-hound leaders might provide for this captain a good and positive vision of what Jesus calls us to through their words and actions. Wouldn’t that be something?

I am one under authority

I read this morning during my “quiet time” the story of the faith of the Centurion found in Luke 7.
Verses 6-10 struck me:

So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

I’ve heard and read so many times from people who don’t like their bishop or that particular canon or this mandate, so they simply ignore the thing or rebel against and refuse to be a person under – authority. They do their own thing because, well, of course they know more and as any good American knows, no one can tell me what to do.
I have friends who give all kinds of reasons why they disobey the canon about only the baptized being eligible for communion. It is the very trendy thing, right now. There are legal means for changing the canon, but it just is not convenient and takes to long, so they give all kinds of excuses (even the excuse that their bishop said it was alright, as if the bishop had the authority to disobey the canons of the Church) to disobey the authority above them. Some of them also rail against the government for not obeying the constitution or illegally getting us into a war, but they then turn around and do the very same, very American thing of not obeying our canons (our law, our procedures) – because, well, they really know better and it feels so right. Very American. Very individualistic. Very non-episcopal. Very non-catholic. Very anarchical. Very hypocritical.
They don’t think things through. What if a vestry person decides to mimic their example and do his own thing and ignore parish policy or the by-laws, or God-forbid the priest’s-in-charge own decision? Would the priest give that vestry member the same leeway that s/he expects from the bishop when s/he disobeys diocesan policy or canons or the bishop’s decision? Why would a bishop expect his/her priests to obey him/her when s/he decides s/he doesn’t have to obey General Convention or the national canons? Do we not see the chaos that results?
We have the means to change things, but those means are just so inconvenient and the process may return a decision that determines: “you are wrong; stop it.” Americans hate to be told we are wrong and to stop it. Are we people under authority, which is a defining point of episcopal polity, of Catholic polity? Or, are we too seduced by our American ethos?
There is a balance, and it is called The Rule of Law and the democratic process. We have the same elements, although in different forms, in our own Episcopal polity. The balance is being severely challenged in our country and within our Church right now. The more extreme elements from all perspectives in our Church are ignoring the mechanisms of balance right now and the results are chaos and will end in dictatorship by imperial bishops whether liberal or conservative or the ending of our episcipal polity for congregationalism. Are we under authority or are we not?
Now, priests, vestries, parishes, bishops, and even whole dioceses are deciding that they will not abide by this decision, that canon, or the authority above them. So, why not just resign or orders in the Church Catholic, leave, and go join a congregational or independent free church? Why not, because our rebellious nature doesn’t allow for such an honorable exit. We have to prove our point by over throwing or destorying that which we don’t like in order to rebuild it in our own image – how glorious a battle, how worthy a cause, how determined we will be! We don’t like the legal means of change, because it is too inconvenient and we might be told, “NO.”
When we take upon ourselves vows, when we receive Holy Orders, and when we vow to obey our bishop, the authority above us, we are willingly placing ourselves under an authority and are pledging to obey that authority. There are no qualifications in the vow. There is no crossing our fingers. No strategy is present for when we don’t like something. We also take a Vow of Conformity to the Church. This isn’t done, or rather shouldn’t be done, without great thought and consideration. These are not vows made for expediency’s sake or simply as a means to an end. They are real, at least in God’s sight. They are to be obeyed by bishops, priests, deacons, and parishes, diocese, provinces, and the whole Church.
There isn’t anything wrong with change. There isn’t anything wrong with disagreement or difference of opinion, interpretation, or theological perspective. There isn’t anything wrong with rightful challenge to existing policies or authorities. There isn’t anything wrong with protest. But, there isn’t the freedom to rebel against the authorities that establish our common life – we know this from the beginning and if we cannot abide by it we shouldn’t take the vows. Where is the humility and integrity? If we come to the point after legal petition, after making our descent known, after trying to make things the way we won’t them to be, and we fail, then either we abide by the decision and remain a loyal opposition or we resign and move somewhere else more to our liking.
This is where Church and State are different. Membership in the Church is voluntary and we should know the implications of such membership before we join up. Citizenship is not voluntary. This is why the way we conduct and handle descent within the Church is different (or should be) than they way we do such things within the geo-political boundaries of our country.
Whether we like it or not, God has established authority. The above Scripture gives us a picture of right dealing with authority, and the good results that come with it. What we see within our Church right now from both the liberals and conservatives ignoring authority and rebelling against it in destructive ways, well, what we are seeing is the chaos and destruction that comes from our arrogant and prideful rebellion against our authorities. It is to our shame, because we (liberals and conservatives) are destroying the very elements that have made Anglicanism a distinctive form of the Christian faith for centuries. Shame on us for not being people under authority. Shame on us for not having faith in God. Shame on us for being such a pathetic witness to the world of a means that should bring peace and the truly liberal idea of harmony and all working together, even in the midst of disagreement.

Big Ending

The House of Bishops begins meeting later next week. This is supposed to be the make-it or break-it meeting. If the House does not bend to the demands of the “Global South” (which does not include all the global South and does include a bunch from the global North), then it is supposed to mean that the American House has intentionally chosen to no longer be Anglican. It really doesn’t mean that, but people like to spin all kinds of yarns.
The Nigerian CANA has announced four new bishops will be consecrated for the U.S. You know, regardless of what the American House of Bishops does, Nigeria and Pittsburgh will formalize a new denomination. The momentum is too fast, now.
It comes down to what the Archbishop of Canterbury will final decide.
I’m tired of it all. I’m done with it all. Let them do all that they will do. Pride and the quest for power has overwhelmed them all. Humility. Where is humility?
I have not known a time from the beginning of seminary through ordination and now at the beginning stages of my ministry without all this crap.

The City #18

A Tribute in Light – this morning, I went up on the roof of the Rectory and looked into Lower Manhattan. From where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood, two powerful beans of light shoot into the sky.
What powerful lights they must be! Two beams streaming up; they merge at some point and look as if they bend towards me, somewhat like a rainbow bends, but before it can come back around (which I know it wouldn’t) the beams disappear high, very high, in the dark, morning sky.
It is a striking tribute. It is a striking sight in the City.