The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, the Bishop over the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, is blogging about his experience at this decade’s Anglican Lambeth Conference.
A couple days ago, he wrote this, and I think it is just about my favorite quote so far:

I must say I awaken to think, “Oh boy, Bible study!” (Really!) Each day has brought new learnings from my brothers (the boys’ club), the study guide, and of course, the Scripture itself.

Speaking of Faith” on NPR and the topic was “Play, Spirit, and Character” and the importance of play to good human development. Krista Tippett interviewed play researcher Stuart Brown. The point was made that in real play risk needs to be possible in order for us to realize our abilities and potential, particularly for children to learn.
Whenever we delve into Scripture, we put ourselves at risk if we take seriously the lessons for life and love that God brings to us through the written Word of God. If we move within Scripture for the purpose of learning, changing, growing in wisdom rather than attempting to find proofs or justifications for what we already believe or want to believe, the cannot help but be made into a new creation. In the lessons for tomorrow, Jesus keeps saying, “The kingdom of God is like…” We will not move from the confusion of parable to the realization of God’s lesson unless we are will to risk, willing to play with this thing called “life in the Kingdom of God.”
This is not frivolous – all one needs to do is watch children play can be a very determined endeavor. Kids can be dead serious in their joyful play. So should we. Bishop Whalon – read again what he wrote and realize what joyfulness is present. He is playing for his benefit, for the benefit of those in his bible study group, and for us all in the Church.
How better to approach God, our Father in Heaven, with a joyful playfulness. For those who have had bad fathers or no fathers, this may be difficult to accept/understand, but the Father we have in heaven is as a father should be (as much as fallible, human fathers can be)! After all, Jesus said that we must be like the children if we are to realize the Kingdom of God. ” The Kingdom of God is like…”
My prayer is that we WILL has such an attitude (I didn’t use the word CAN, because all can if only we are willing). I pray we all can wake up in the morning and say, “Oh Boy…” bible study… or worship… or discipleship… or feeding the hungry… or being a witness for the sake of our friends and co-workers that do not know the love of God.
The Kingdom of God is like children playing in free revelry. Are we willing to take such a risk? A risk for the sake of the world and our own souls.
I must confess that I’ve lost much of this playfulness. I’ve actually thought a lot about this of late. I’ve come to live in my head and am far too serious, far too busy for my own good. I’ve always been a serious kind of person, but before seminary, before the battles that are tearing the Church apart, I was able to have balance and simply have fun. I recognize that to a great degree I’ve lost that. I need to get it back.

What the yungin’s like

Speaking of looking at new copies of magazines I receive, here is a quote from page 15 of the Christianity Today magazine:

“We expected they’d choose the more contemporary options, but they were clearly more drawn to the aesthetics of the Gothic building than the run-of-the-mill modern church building.”
Ed Stetzer, director of Life Way Research, which found that unchurched people between the ages of 25-34 were nearly twice as likely as those older than 70 to prefer ornate, Gothic church exteriors.

Of course, what goes on in church structures, whether modern or Gothic will determine whether anyone visits, comes back, or stays.

Well then…

Well, Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire and the fulcrum of the Troubles, is present in Kent, England. On his blog he is detailing his experience around Lambeth. He is forbidden to attend any of the official events.
His most recent post details an incident that frankly shocked me. I’m really not easily shocked any longer, but I just don’t know what to say.
In his words, here is part of what wrote:

Since arriving in Canterbury, I had not yet visited the Cathedral. I went nowhere near the place on Sunday’s opening service. The ever-anxious leadership had provided the Cathedral security guards with a large photo of me, posted at the security checkpoints, presumably to keep me from “crashing the gates” of the opening service. No one believed that I would be true to my promise to the Archbishop not to attend.
On Thursday, knowing that the conference attendees would leave early in the morning for London — for the MDG walk, lunch at Lambeth Palace, and tea with the Queen — it seemed like a good, low-profile time to make my own pilgrimage to our Mother Church. I told no one of my intentions to attend — except I had my security person follow the properly courteous protocol of alerting the Cathedral to my visit. I had him also seek permission for a videographer to accompany me on my visit for a documentary to be released sometime in 2010. We were informed that the videographer could NOT accompany me or film me inside the Cathedral. Fair enough. We were told that he could accompany me to the gate onto the Cathedral grounds, and, standing in the public street, could at least film me walking into the Cathedral through the gate’s archway.
We contacted Cathedral security to let them know of our imminent arrival, as had been requestd. When we got there, we were met by a gentleman, representing the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral, I think. He intercepted me and told me that I could not be filmed walking into the Cathedral (even from the public street outside) after all. The reason he gave took me by surprise, rendering me speechless (an uncommon experience for me!). “We can’t have any photographs or film of you entering the Cathedral,” he said, “because we want this to be a church for ALL people.” Presumably he meant that my being seen walking into the Cathedral would cause others not to want to come.
This was one of those breathtaking moments when you just can’t come up with the right thing to say. The rest of the day I thought of all the things I SHOULD have said. Like, “so you mean that I am not included in ‘ALL people?!'” Or, “isn’t this MY cathedral too?!” Or, “so what am I, chopped liver?!” The moment was so surprising, after having been so forthright in our notification of our visit and going through all the channels to ensure courteousness, I just couldn’t come up with anything to say except, “okay,” and accede to his wishes.
We were taken to the Cathedral’s visitors office, where we were introduced to Theresa, a competent and warm guide who provided me with a wonderful, informative and hospitable tour of the Cathedral. But I simply couldn’t shake the feelings engendered by the previous “welcome” a few minutes before.

I just don’t know how to respond to this happening at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, in England where same-sex relationships are fully legal. If this man enters the cathedral while being filmed, it will cause the cathedral not to be a place for “ALL” people. ALL people. Really, they want it to be for “ALL” people? This is the way?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am certainly a moderate if not a conservative on many things. This just astounds and angers me. I’m reading the 5th Harry Potter book right now, and I feel like Harry in the midst of so many who were lead to believe that he is a lier and crazy and only out for attention. The incident detailed by Bishop Robinson didn’t happen to me, but in the face of such a statement I feel by proximity.
He wrote earlier of his encounter with a number of bishops from around the world in a meet-up organized as an attempt at fulfilling the “Listening Process” called for by previous Lambeths.

One telling comment, from one of those who had chosen to accept a brother bishop’s invitation despite his misgivings, was moved to lament how easy it is to believe what one reads and hears about a fellow Christian, and to find in meeting him that that impression was distorted. He comes from a country torn by internal strife and with more than enough problems of its own, yet found time in his schedule to participate in this effort at reconciliation. Profoundly moving.

WELL THEN, I just got home and picked up my new copy of Newsweek, and the cover copy is this:
Murder in the 8th Grade: At 10, Lawrence King declared he was gay. At 15, a classmate shot him dead.
And who wants to claim we are a “Christian country?”

As the world turns…

CORRECTION: The commenter did not comment on my post about the Sudanese Archbishop’s comments, but about the Ekklesia article. Sorry about that! However, it all gets mixed up in the same pot, I think.
A person posted a comment to one of my recent posts covering the Sudanese Anglican Archbishop’s call for the resignation of the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. During the press conference at Lambeth, the archbishop comments on difficulties he has with Western/American ways of living the faith and the competition for souls he is engaged in with other religions in the Sudan (and like experiences in other Global South states). For the archbishop, the reality that Anglicanism is shrinking in the West while growing in the developing world is proof that we are wrong and they are right.
The commenter wrote, “Yes, the church in the West has been shrinking, but that won’t last forever. And people who live in wealthier countries need faith, too, don’t they?” I absolutely agree, but the contexts in which we live really are different. That with which we in the West compete is not a fundamentalist Islam, but more of a fundamentalist secularism. The way both of us should proceed is not to become like the other – more fundamentalist or more permissive – but rather a third way. How we “prove” the significance and viability of our faith-system/religion is the rub, I think.
I have to look at my own “spoiled Westerner” status, too, even though because of what I’ve had to endure and struggle through I know just a little bit of the emotional and psychological and spiritual stuff that other oppressed people have had to endure. The humbling aspect for me concerning the good archbishop is that he and his folk have endured struggles I can’t imagine – 10 fold. I can’t just dismiss him like I can someone like James Dobson or Pat Robinson. They are tired and pathetic in their Culture War crusade in so many ways.
One of the problems I see is that too many and large segments of the Church universal will not or cannot understand that the West has been moving into post-modernism for a while now. This IS the way of thinking of the younger generations, and it isn’t going to change because a bunch of old men demand that these people “correct” the very constructs by which they make meaning of life. This isn’t a matter of “worldly” thinking, any more or less than Modernism is “worldly.” I content that post-modernism presents to the Church a fantastic opportunity for evangelism at least in the West, if only we can accept the challenge.
Too many Christian groups would rather demand the culture(s) not be post-modern and condemn the system as if they can stop the process/progress, rather than spending all that energy learning how to be witnesses within it. One of the problems, I think, is that post-modernism demands that Christians actually live what they say – action over words, orthopraxis over the words of orthodoxy.
If we prove the inadequacy of Christianity by our hypocrisy, then why should anyone consider Christianity or a culture/society give it a privileged position? They, it, shouldn’t. The “competitive marketplace” of ideas and the leveling out of the playing field for all competing religious systems (death of meta-narrative, supposedly) forces us in the West to live the Christian life in ways that we have not had to live for centuries. How will “they” know we are Christians or that the faith is real? By our love, by the way we live our lives and not by fine sounding arguments. (I know that Modernism and Post-modernism both seek “proof” in various ways.)
For the most part, we live a deficient Christian experience in the West. Post-modernism calls us to account, for the sake of those who do not yet know Christ. In some ways, post-modernism does to modern day Christianity what Jesus did to the Judaism of his day – to the Pharisees of his time. Jesus called the religious leaders to account, corrected them, and presented what the faith was supposed to be over-and-against their misunderstanding and misapplication of God’s Way. Post-modernism is accomplishing a very similar task with us today.
This is an exciting prospect for me, frankly, and an opportunity for God to prove to suspicious and cynical Westerners the vitality and reality of salvation, redemption, and reconciliation in ways rarely experienced in the West for a very long time. It is an opportunity, but it calls us to a level of sincerity, devotion, and the giving up of self and our own agendas and wants to a degree that many are unwilling to do. We are just like the rich young ruler who gave up discipleship with Jesus (and possibly heaven) even though he obeyed the Law faithfully – he did not go and sell all that he had. He would not give up his privileged and incorrect way of thinking and living. Will we?
Of course, this dynamic is experienced primarily in the West were post-modernism has already taken hold and in many segments predominates. In parts of the world where fundamentalism reigns – Muslin, Christian, native religions, or whatever – it will not work the same. This is where the “competition for souls” takes on a temporal militancy rather than a cerebral exercise. There is a third way, if only we are willing to seek, listen, discern, and obey (oh, how we hate that last one!).
Something like that, anyway.

Just stop it, won’t you please?

Can I just say that I am sick of the forced dichotomy foisted upon us by people who cannot conceive of their own opinion being wrong and who are absolutely unwilling to consider their perspectiion or interpretation or application or life as being in error (minor or major).
One one side, we find the self-perceived enlightened “progressives” who assume that anyone who does not buy into their reinterpretation of things is somehow flawed in thinking or feeling. On the other side are those “orthodox” people and groups that demand “reform” of the Church because they insist that the Church has become heretical due to differing understandings from their own of Scriptural interpretation and application.
Just get over your bad “enlighten” and “orthodox” selves, already. Just because someone does not agree that homosexuality is a gift from God does not make them a Neanderthal, fascist homophobe, and just because someone interprets Scripture in a way that does not forbid all forms of same-sex relationships does not make them a godless, secularist, anti-Christ heretic.
This is beyond, “Oh, be-have.” This is, “Be converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
How’s that for my own self-inflated opinion of my own thoughts and feelings? Of course I am absolutely right because – “I just love Jesus so much and because I love Jesus so much what I think must be what Jesus thinks, because I love Jesus so much and if I love him so much he isn’t going to make be believe something that isn’t right!” Right?
I just got done reading some stuff at the Anglican Communion Institute. They can put out some good stuff, by the way, but…
You know, it makes no difference whatsoever that certain groups condemn Post-Modernism, call it unchristian, demand that the world not believe in it, and all that. Post-modernism is the emerging worldview (oh, dare I say “meta-narrative?”), and all the huffing and puffing of older generations of Christians will not, will not, will not change the fact that the world has for the most part accepted post-modernism (knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally).
It is not unchristian to be a “post-modernist” of some form. Post-modernism is not anti-Christ. If Christ cannot survive within post-modernism, then what legitimacy does Christianity hold? The funny thing is, within my understanding of how post-modernism works itself out the witness of the way Christians live their lives will be the thing that convinces people of the realness of Christ and redemption. Words, no matter how good they sound, and all the “proofs” convince few, particularly if the lives of those that demand the death of post-modernism hypocritically do not match up with their words.

The experience of Post-Christendom

Ekklesia is a British organization and website that comes from a more English-Evangelical (Anabaptist) perspective, but with a more cerebral bent and with a desire to engage. On their website splash page they describe themselves as, “…a think-tank that promotes transformative theological ideas in public life.” They also detail their purpose:

“Ekklesia promotes post-Christendom approaches to social policy, nonviolence and conflict transformation, environmental action, the politics of forgiveness, economic sharing, support for migrants and displaced people, freedom of expression, restorative justice, a positive (relational) approach to sexuality, non-compulsion in religion and belief, the engagement of theology with science and culture, respectful engagement with those of other faith and non-religious convictions, and church as alternative community.” (source)

I agree with her that much has been written about the shift of Christianity from Northern and Western countries/societies to the Global South. This all started with Philip Jenken’s book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
Anyway, in their recent e-mail update they present a paper by Savi Hensman entitled, “Lambeth Facing West and South.” A native Sri Lankan, “She is also a respected writer on Christianity and social justice. An Ekklesia associate, Savi is author of Re-writing history, a research paper on the Episcopal Church.”
I want to move to England (Scotland or Wales, which is the origin of my name). Of course, Ireland is perfectly good as well… I’ll stop right there.
I agree with her that much has been written about the shift of Christianity from Northern and Western countries/societies to the Global South. This all started with Philip Jenken’s book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. She takes a bit of a different direction, however, and presents the idea of “boundry lines” from a different perspective. Here are a few paragraphs of her observations of the Communion and the divides that afflict us. She is quoting Canon Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

Numerical growth among Anglicans ‘has been almost entirely in the South’, and ‘Today it is a truism to say that the average Anglican is a black woman under the age of 30, who earns two dollars a day, has a family of at least three children, has lost two close relatives to AIDs, and who will walk four miles to Church for a three hour service on a Sunday.
Canon Cameron claims that ‘the dark side to the life of the Anglican Communion is that too often the theological graduates of the seminaries of the NATO alliance unconsciously adopt an air of educational superiority, while American church leaders assume ‘implicit obligations… on the recipients of their largesse.’
So, according to Canon Cameron, it is not surprising that ‘a growing impatience with the cultural and financial dominance of the NATO aspects of Communion life, and with it, a growing critique of the Churches of the West. Not only are we in the West shrinking in numbers unlike the growing Churches of the South; for many critics, the Churches of the West are losing a sense of their identity as they get lulled into the liberalism and relativism which are presumed to be the hallmarks of the modern Western society… Increasingly, the Churches of the South have asserted their identity in the Anglican Communion, and this is an identity which is uncompromising in its commitment to the supreme authority of the scriptures as God’s Word written; which is content to see the Thirty-Nine Articles as the benchmark of contemporary Anglican life; and which sees itself contending for the salvation of souls in the face of a lively Pentecostalism and a militant Islam.’ The ‘proclamation of traditional doctrinal and moral positions’ would also help Anglicans to deepen unity with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Canon Cameron does advocate some degree of mutual respect for ‘boundary markers’. Supposedly ‘For conservatives, the boundary stones which mark out the territory set out in scripture for those who seek to be faithful to God are being dislodged. Central elements of Christian obedience, the authority of Scripture and even the divinity of Christ, are being casually moved to the fringes of Anglican identity… Equally, those who might be labelled liberals are becoming increasingly distressed because they see vital boundary stones about Anglican attitudes towards diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance, patient debate and discernment being replaced by the narrow strait jacket of a particular view of orthodoxy; worse it appears that the traditional autonomy of the different Churches in Anglicanism is being replaced by a grab for power and the attempt to impose centralisation’.

What to do…

I’ve written before that as Christians, despite what cultural Christianity or the religion of it all might imply, we are not to behave as the World does. Reminds me of Austin Powers, international man of intrigue, when he says, “Oh, be-have!” Anyway, left or right, conservative or liberal, the way society or politics deal with troubling issues and the ways people behave towards one another are not the ways we in the Church, “conservative” or “liberal,” are to behave. We need one long, loud, and consistent, “Oh, be-have!”
Despite the claims of many, there has never been a single, consistent, or “handed-down-for-all-time” interpretation or understanding of scripture and its application. There has been an always occurring process as we go year to year, decade to decade, century to century trying to understand and apply scriptural principles to life as God intends. Certain understandings and interpretations have become “official” and carried forward, but before they became “official” they were enmeshed in controversy influenced by different cultures and the way the different cultures infused the various interpretations and application. The Creeds are examples of the process – centuries of process and progress. In new controversies will probably follow the same process – whether schism results or not.
Yet, the way we deal with each other is of primary importance and will mark the difference between Christians and non-Christians. We all have failed, terribly. During these recent years past we have failed the experience of Anglicanism, terribly. I have to ask myself how am I to deal with those with whom I disagree despite how they deal with me. How have I dealt with them? How do I take their concerns, their beliefs, their proclivities, what I consider to be their misunderstanding or mishandling of scripture, or their opposition of me and my beliefs – how do I deal with them all as Christ would deal with them – in honesty, in forthrightness, in sincerity, with compassion despite how I feel, with integrity?
The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul, during the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, addressed the issues of Gene Robinson and homosexuality in a rather long press conference. Here is the weblink to the videos of the press conferences. Listen to what he says – you will need to click on the reports on the ENS website separately.
Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul addresses the media, Part 1 (07/22/08)
Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul addresses the media, Part 2 (07/22/08)
There was a question asked by the Brazilian Episcopal Church press reporter concerning the place that cultural plays in the hermeneutical process of understanding scripture. The Archbishop replied:

“It is not the Bible that should be changed by the culture, but the Bible that should change the culture.”

Well, ideally yes, but… Either he does not understand that culture does and cannot but influence us as we interpret scripture or he knows and does not care or he refuses to admit that his own culture does effect his understanding and interpretation of scripture and how it is applied in the same way that American (Western or Northern) culture(s) affect our own understanding and interpretation and application of scripture.
His opinions cannot be dismissed, nor can they be excused. If I want to wrestle with it all honestly and if I am to respect the dignity of every human being, then I must respect his dignity, his opinion, and deal with him in ways that move beyond identity-politics, political-correctness, therapeutic-models, or culturally derived impressions and influence – I must deal with him as a fallible human loved dearly by God in spite of my own proclivities and fallibility. How? I feel no animosity towards him, although I definitely think his is wrong and his interpretation of scripture and its application are damaging concerning our pressing issue(s). How do I live with him – even if he will not live with me? He has seen more trouble, oppression, danger, heartache than I can imagine, yet…
This thing, this being a Christian, is not easy. Sometimes is just sucks. Funny how some think it is just a crutch for weak-willed people.


We are a week into the Lambeth Conference – the once every 10 years conference of Anglican Bishops from around the world. Not all of the bishops are attending this conference – over 200 and some due to their belief that they cannot be in contact/communion with those they believe to be heretics or those who associate with such bishops.
The last Lambeth, I was all over it. Any bit of news or commentary I read. This time, I’m not. I think I am simply burned out on all the controversy, all the hypocrisy, all the misrepresentation and accusation, all the crap (a technical term, don’t you know). I’m surprised. I think, “I need to read up on what is going on!” I start to, and then just get this feeling of not wanting to even begin.
I’ve followed the Facebook reports and blogs of friends of mine that are at Lambeth as workers and volunteers. Their impressions are great, as are their pictures. But the “hard news,” really the selective reports of the regular ideological blogs, I just can’t work up an interest.
Too bad. I’ve been praying for the bishops and for the Communion. I hope the Holy Spirit’s influence will be allowed, present, perceptible, real in the experience of those involved.