What to do, what to do….

I’ve been offered a new position. In so many aspects, it is perfect – an ideal means and place of ministry and in so many ways what I’ve been hoping for. Unexpectantly, and to a great degree sadly, I don’t want to go! It would mean upturning my entire life and for what will probably not be a permanent place.
So many good things about it. Great people. Good vision. Financially secure. Open. I will have (could have if accepted) a great deal of freedom and will be able to impact a good many lives for the sake of the Gospel.
I want to stay where I am (ministry) even though it will mean keeping my “day job” which sucks up my best time, even though it may well mean giving up on ever getting another opportunity to have my “dream job.”
It is nice to be “in demand” – there and here. I’m truly torn.
In 5 years, no matter what decision I make, in hindsight I will know whether it was good and wise and right. Now, God may now but He isn’t telling, and I’m caught in the same position I’ve been in so many times.
I’ve learned to trust that “still small voice.” Yet, I know that many, many things can impede the right “hearing” of the voice. My gut tells me I want to stay where I am, yet my mind tells me that this is an opportunity that is too good to turn down.
If you want to say a prayer for me, for wisdom and good discernment, I would appreciate it.
This may sound sappy, but I believe it, I want what is best for those people in that ministry and while I feel I can do a good job I am under no illusions that I am God’s gift to anyone. If at the moment I have no sense of leading to go, despite the ideal conditions, and if at the moment I desire to stay where I am, despite the less than ideal circumstances, what does that say? I really hate being in these situations!
It does them no good and it does me no good to judge these kinds of things as the “world” does. If I did, then I should jump at the opportunity, but I desire God’s will (if there is a specific “will” in this case).

Christianity and Islam

“Bishop Geralyn Wolf of the Diocese of Rhode Island has inhibited the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding for publicly professing her adherence to the Muslim faith.” Source: Episcopal News Service
The more I know about Bishop Wolf the more respect I have for her. I wish Ms. Redding the best in her faith journey and respect her decision, made with integrity. I may disagree with it, but I respect it.
Bishop Wolf’s comment about the Church wanting to be diverse and inclusive is true, but there does come a point where the Church needs to say, “No.” This “no” need not be made in anger or hubris, but in recognition that the directions in which we take ourselves may take us outside the umbrella of this Church. That is our freedom by our own decision, respectfully. We are Christ-followers, not Mohammad followers despite what can be learned within the Muslim system.
We are Christian, and to have a respect for and understanding of the integrity of the two faiths bring us in humility to recognize that priestly responsibilities cannot be exercised within both faiths simultaneously, the priest being so bifurcated, with esteem given to both and to those seeking Christ. Whether we like it or not, Jesus explained to us that it is through him alone that we come to his Father, God. As a priest in this Church, I am called to make such a proclamation, with respect given to those choosing to follow Mohammad. IMHO.

The more information we have…

I strongly believe that in order to form solid opinions, we need to be aware of and even seek out information even when that information will disagree with what we want to believe.
In our current political climate, the analysis of double-speak issued out of the two campaigns over anything and everything can be wearying, but to have an informed electorate (which is diminishing in quantity these days, sadly) we need to have exacting analysis of the proposals and positions of both candidates and their campaigns.
This analysis of Obama’s middle-class “tax cut,” from the Wall Street Journal (which is obviously more conservative and completely reliable):
Obama’s 95% Illusion: It depends on what the meaning of ‘tax cut’ is
“Wealth transfer” or “redistribution” favored by Democrats, generally, has not been or will not be any more effective in the long run that has been the deregulated profit-at-whatever-costs policies favored by the Republicans, generally, over the last 20+ years. Taking care of the poor and needy should be the domain of the religious communities, with the assistance of government, and not the other way around.

More rambling thoughts about the economy and our future

I find it a bit ironic that during the mid-1980’s and ’90’s when businesses and the financial industries clambered for deregulation to allow us to “flourish” and better compete on the world stage, that they now find themselves devastated and on the eve of far greater government scrutiny and control then before deregulation. Government has been complicit. On the whole, have we really flourished? Some have made lots of money, but have even they “flourished,” regardless of the rest of us? When wealth and materialism are equated to “flourishing” in the minds of people, we become lessened, diminished, and made less hole.
In the end, I think, they were coming not from a place of reasoned, philosophical, economic argument, but frankly greed. Yes, competition, but the financial industry wanted to do whatever it wanted to do without accountability or government oversight. “The market will take care of itself,” they might have said.
Well, yes, and now we see it. The problem is that if we really want the market to take care of these kinds of the things then the swings will always be dramatic, the consequences dire. We are seeing the result. Great wealth and great disaster – the problem is that the “lest of these” are always the ones how suffer the most. Government, while not acting judiciously or often wisely, has to step in to avert even greater disaster. Now, the re-regulation or out-right control of the industry will be profound. I wonder, truly, how long it will be before the U.S. will be in the same kind of state as is Iceland?
Coupled with all this is the assertion, which I frankly find as near fact, that greed will not and does not provide for a good foundation upon which to base a sustainable and ethical economy. “Greed” is considered one of the Seven Deadly sins for a reason.
I think that we really are in a new “time,” entering a new “era” of some sort. On the grand scheme of things, there is nothing new under the Sun even if the repeating-of-all-things takes centuries. We are reaping what we have sown – every one of us! Financial, political, social empires always collapse under their own weight and hubris.
I think Bush will be remembered as the President that presided over the downfall of the American Empire. I never wanted Empire, despite on the insistence by the Neo-Con’s that this is exactly what Ameeeericans want or on the politicized Religious Right’s insistence that this country has a divine mandate. It all is akin to the “divine right of Kings,” in a new sort and by new “kings.” I don’t mind if this empire falls (and that does not mean that I do not want to live in a free country; just look at Canada, Switzerland or the Scandinavia countries: free, independent, and economically secure, but not empires).
So, we are in a financial crises, the latest manifestation of our deep cultural problems. We are in an ethical and moral crisis (although not as the Religious Right asserts). Because of the greed of people and the financial industry and the government’s complacency or even their culpability, we find ourselves in this situation. (Yes, I know it is all very complex.) Government steps in when it is too late. We are all worse off.
Is government regulation the answer? No, not necessarily. Is laissez-faire capitalism the answer? No. Social or economic-Darwinism is not the answer, but that is were we are headed. Will we end up in a new form of barbarism? Nothing guarantees that we can remain a civilized people, nationally or world-wide. The Modernist notion of constant, forward-progression of humanity continues to be shown to be unfounded.
All of this does not mean that I or we should not be without hope. I am hopeful, I look forward to the future and come what may. But, my sense of hope does not rest in wealth or poverty, freedom or oppression, weakness or might, self-actualization or defeatism, and whatever else may fit here. As a Christian, my hope does not rest in the Systems-of-this-World. Nothing that I have witnessed or personally experienced leads me to believe that my hope is unfounded or placed in the wrong place. Life may be far more difficult, far more oppressive and I don’t want that, but my hope does not rest is such things. Easy for me to say, I know, in my profoundly privileged American existence.

Simple Church

I’ve been thinking for a while now, dreaming actually, of a way to go forward in the midst of The Episcopal Church’s continued decline. I can either continue to bemoan all the controversy, the bad management, the weird developing theologies, etc., and all that comes with the “diminishment.”
More broadly, we face the decline of Christianity in the U.S. and must consider how to live effectively in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Honestly, I don’t care that we are in an era that is increasingly post-Christian. It is much easier to identify those who truly desire relationship with God, reconciliation, and new life. Most of the rational behind the Culture Wars is about certain groups trying to rescue Christendom, and it will not happen without autocratic force.
In the face of diminishment, however, comes opportunity for thinking of different ways of doing all this stuff. So, perhaps I need to refocus on what’s next… After all, it is the ethos of Anglicanism that is important to me, and if the structures cannot hold together then there isn’t much I can do other than keep the ethos. I’m not yet vested in the Pension Fund, so what the heck.
For example, at present, approximately 45% of all Episcopal Churches cannot afford a full-time priest or lay employee. If things continue on as they probably will, that percentage will only increase. Add to that percentage another 15% of all congregations and we have a second group of parishes that can only barely keep a full-time priest. What can be done about this? All kinds of things, actually, but…
As I’ve said over and over again, Anglicanism is strategically situated to the condition of and characteristics of the younger generations, if only leveraged well. (We aren’t doing very well, however.)
Ancient-Future, Simple Church, simple living.
The “Simple Church” movement, also known by the name House Church movement, part of the Emergent Conversation, and on and on – is a way of being the Body of Christ in ways that resonate with an increasing number of people and is possible where money is in short supply. In the context of liturgical and sacramental Anglicanism, this can be very interesting way of doing the ministry. I can imagine that those of the Oxford Movement, if present today, would be all over it. New Monasticism, too.
For those clergy and lay people who desire “intentional community,” we can live together and go out into the world for ministry – lay people into the working-world where clergy rarely go, for clergy into all those parishes and missions that cannot afford a priest. Simple living, intentional living, meeting with the faithful and those seeking. Being there. Nothing new, really, but a very old model in a very new time.
This is want we want to do in Red Hook, except the authorities-that-be say our parish cannot hire a second priest (me) – politics. And, I’m warn-out and tired of being bi-vocational. My best energy and time is taken up doing things I don’t want to do, yet the job enables me to be at St. Paul’s, possibly in Red Hook, in this City.
Imagine The General Theological Seminary in this kind of context. Benedictine spirituality, living in intentional community on the Close. Going out into all of The City being the representatives, the hands, the mouths of God in all levels of society. A place of excellence in learning, in worship, in encouragement and challenge. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) From this City, the influence will reach all over the world. No one can convince me that this kind of vision (not my own, but becoming my own realized through the lives and experiences of many others), no one can convince me that this kind of formation for priests and laity alike will not appeal to and enliven 150 people from around the world that want to participate in such a place. No one can convince me that there isn’t money and people will be parted from their money to see such a thing happen. It takes people with strong vision and determined conviction to give up their own lives and allow God to be present in and through them. It takes leadership.
Why not? Why not? It is hard for people living in the fog of diminishment to see clearly opportunities. It is easier to fight over what’s left, even as it all slips through their fingers.
More later…

Assemblies of God

Gov. Sarah Palin spent a good deal of time in the Assemblies of God, just about the largest Pentecostal denomination around the world. This is the denomination I started attending during my senior year in college, and with whom I spent the next 8 years working as a campus pastor in their campus ministries.
I departed this Christian expression in1992 for Anglicanism in 1992 1994 – I saw what was coming in the politicization of American-Evangelicalism. I’m glad I grew up Pentecostal – my developmental years where spent in The Foursquare Church, which being based in Los Angeles is a little more laid back and, well, “hip” I guess – the A/G is based in the Springfield, Missouri in the Ozarks. Hillbilly vs. Southern California. I am so glad I am not there, now!
A lot of people find it very easy to dismiss the Assemblies of God. That is a mistake. In Anglican Land, we brag about being the third largest expression of Christianity in the world with our 38 autonomous provinces and 77 million adherents.
Um, consider this:

“An Assemblies of God study from 2006 found 60 million adherents in more than 300,000 churches worldwide. About 2.8 million of these are in the U.S.”

I believe it. This one denomination (with cooperative agreements in many nations with indigenous churches that came out of their missionary endeavors) is just about as large as the whole Anglican Communion! It is larger than The Episcopal Church in the U.S.

I’m just tired, really I am…

You know, I’m just tired. I’m tired of 20 plus years of the Culture Wars. I’m tired of the disunity and the false accusation against the neighbor and the manipulation of Truth that comes along with war. I’m tired of having explain that being a follow of Jesus Christ is not the same as being a follower of the Religious Right. I’m tired of identity-politics and political-correctness that deceive us into not being honest and that produces no real solutions. I’m tired of moral busybodies who can’t face up to their own dysfunction and so insist on imposing themselves into the lives of everyone else.
I’m tired of being embarrassed by the foreign policy of this present administration. I’m tired to our hubris and the hegemonic insistence of Neo-Con’s who want empire. I’m tired that the moral force for the welfare of humanity (despite our international screw-ups) that this country held in the imaginations of people all over the world has been squandered.
I’m tired of being embarrassed by my government and my culture.
I’m tired of modern day Pharacies Pharisees that would rather destroy than compromise. I’m tired of ecclesiastical battles where I find not a lot in common with either of the antagonists. I’m tired of trying to champion this wonderful thing I found called Anglicanism and all I see is leadership tearing apart this jewel for their own end. Where is sacrifice of self? Where is humility? Where is consideration for your brother or sister more than your consideration for yourself? Where is a hunger for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that goes beyond the next political or social theory or trendy dysfunction that rampages through the culture?
It is so easy to become overwhelmed by negativity and angst and frustration while trying to discover and trying to call people to something more, something stronger, something lasting far longer than the last 30 years – a whisper in time. I’m just tired, and I well understand why some people simply want to get out and be apart of something that is positive, forward looking and understanding without having to jettison all that came before. For a change. I’m tired of wondering whether there will come a point when I will need to “jump ship” or will be pushed out. I’m tired of wondering why nothing works out the way it is supposed to work, at least that is my life experience.
I certain understand when people say, “I just want to get on with things and end all this distraction.”
There has always been a part of me that loves the politics, loves the battle, and would be very good in all that. There is part of me that knows that if I had gone into politics or the foreign service or stayed within American-Evangelicalism that I could have gone far, could have had a huge church if I wanted to be a pastor – I’m gifted in those ways. I also know myself well enough to realize that pride and arrogance are just under the surface. I’m tired to wondering, “When is my life going to begin?” My life, most everything has been “temporary,” not knowing from year-to-year what I will be doing next. There is a bit of excitement in that, but I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of waking up at 3:30 in the morning and having all this stuff running through my head. I’m tired of my compulsion to try to find solutions. I’m physically just exhausted, too. I’m tired of my own erratic thoughts, lack of discipline, and lack of time to focus on the things I want to. I’m tired of having to function in a left-brained job when I’m a right-brained person. I’m tired of being bi-vocational.
I’m tired of not knowing where I fit. I’m too independent and rebellious to give myself over to a “party.” I’m bored too easily. But, I’m tired of not fitting and trying to force myself into the shape that others expect. I’m tired of not being too forceful or leaderly because I’m trying to be sensitive and respectful. I’m tired of the rejection because I don’t play “correctly.” How easy it would be to be just like an American-Evangelical entrepreneur and go off and do my own thing. I would succeed. But, I took vows!
I’m tired of defeatists. I’m tired of egomaniacs.
I’m tired of watching my seminary being run into financial ruin and being brought from the only Anglican seminary in the Northern Hemisphere offering a ThD. program (Oxford on the Hudson) to becoming some sort of “community college” for people interested in religiousy stuff because of an ill conceived “vision” of the present administrator.
You know, the seminary Dean and the U.S. President have one thing in common – they both cannot recognize or admit that the policies they purse have failed and are continuing to fail.
I’m tired of the greed, the hypocrisy, and what is developing into a real Social Darwinism.
I want to be a part of making things better. How far do I go? At want point is it legitimate to just throw up your hands and say, “I give up?” Sometimes, situations and institutions are beyond saving.
As Betty Butterfield says, “I just want to sit in a pew and do it the normal way!”

If the world could…

It seems the Economist magazine (an excellent news magazine, replacing Newsweek in my heart by far, although it is expensive and I don’t have the time to read my subscription – drats!) is wondering aloud what would happen if the entire world had a say in the election of the President of the United States of America.
The have assigned a “Electoral College” delegates to each country of the world. People from those countries can vote for McCain or Obama. It is so lopsided it is funny (better to laugh then cry over what we’ve gotten ourselves into, I suppose). So far, the only country that I’ve come across where the vote is even close is El Salvador where the vote is 50-50.
Here is the webpage the details the results thus far!