76th General Convention

So, next week I will be off to Anaheim, CA, for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I will be there from July 7th through the 12th working for passage of Resolution A177 concerning denomination-wide heathcare benefits (the research project I’ve been working on these past three years). We shall see how it fairs. The situation with the economy might impact its passage, but all around this proposal saves the Church money!
I’m looking forward to listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who will be giving an address. I’ve gone through several stages of feelings toward Rowan – from jubilation when he was made Archbishop (a real theologian as Archbishop of the Anglican Communion!), to frustration at want seemed to be ineffectual leadership concerning our Anglican troubles, to now thinking that he is one of the few in the midst of this ignoble fight that is acting like a real Anglican!
Since I’ve never been to L.A., I’m taking an extra day and a half to be a tourist – probably only enough time to do the standard stuff. I’m staying between Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Why not?

We must take time…

“We must take time, take pains, have a plan, form spiritual habits, if we are to keep our souls alive; and now is the time to begin. A man to whom religion is a reality, and who knows what is meant by “the practice of salvation,” keeps his balance, because the living center of his life is spiritual. He cannot be upset, not shaken. The same hard knocks come to him as to others, but he reacts to them by the central law of his life. He suffers deeply, but he does not sour. He knows frustration, but he goes right on in his kindness and faith. He sees his own shortcomings but he does not give up, because a power rises up from his spiritual center and urges him to the best.”
Joseph Fort Newton (1880 – 1950; Baptist minister and masonic author)
HatTip: Andrew Sullivan

TEC Survey

Hey everyone – Here is our chance to make our “sacred voices” known to the powers-that-be at 815, the Episcopal Church Center, the center of the national governance of The Episcopal Church (more particularly the Strategic Planning Commission – if that’s the right name).
Reading through the questions, the wanted outcome of the designers of the survey is pretty apparent. They have tipped their hand, and if the outcome does not match their expectations, I wonder whether the results will be acknowledged or whether they will rethink their already determine direction?
I added an addition comment at the end:

Of course, how some of these terms are defined will make a big difference. For example, a response to question number 4 is: “Focusing on God’s Mission as the centerpiece of our church.” What one reads into “God’s Mission” could lead the Church into being about the “Cure of Souls” or into being about doing similar things as do social service organizations and advocacy organizations. Are we talking about a “Church” or a social/advocacy organization as our public “brand” or “narrative?” Making the Church “vital” has no more to do with having 60% Hispanics as members as it does having 60% Caucasians as members. These are old paradigms that are becoming increasingly outdated and irrelevant to upcoming generations. Why are we still stuck in them?
The Church needs focus on its God given first priorities, salvation and formation. From those priorities come good works and not before, else we are just a non-profit organization absent of the Faith that has been passed down by our mothers and fathers for the past 2,000+ years.
As a gay priest, I don’t need reminding of my “victimhood,” but need reminding of the transformation work of the Holy Spirit in my life that comes first and foremost through salvation through Jesus Christ and my yielding of myself to God’s will. That is the Cure of Souls, the work of the Church. We are stuck in a mindset that relies on 1960 & 70’s definitions and understandings (multiculturalism, identity-politics, as examples). These are passing away, but too many people are reticent to understand or acknowledge this – to the future Church’s detriment.
I honestly feel for the current leadership of the Episcopal Church, because culture is passing them by and too many don’t want to recognize it. It must be very hard to accept that the direction they have taken the Church has not worked very well and is quickly becoming moot.

“Love Between, not Among”

Fr. Tobias Haller BSG responds in a post to the argument made by some who oppose same-sex marriages (or unions of any kind) when they ask a question such as, “Why shouldn’t three or more people be allowed to marry if they love each other?”
A paragraph:

A polyamorous or polygamous grouping of people may claim to (and perhaps actually) share a loving relationship among themselves. But “among” makes all the difference — it is not the same as between. Such a group or assembly may love one another, but they cannot love “each other” — that kind of reciprocal experience is limited to couples. A multiply partnered relationship cannot be “mutual” but must be “distributive.”

Read the whole post, Love Between, not Among.

The Future of the Church

So, where is the future of The Episcopal Church going? How generational is the change? Here is a great piece by Derek Olson from his blog Haligweorc entitled “The Episcopal ‘Reform of the Reform’”
He writes:

I suggest that there is a “Spirit of ‘79″ that was born from and exists in parallel to the “Spirit of Vatican II.” That is, the 1979 BCP embodied wide-spread changes that were rooted in the scholarship of the Liturgical Renewal that was embodied in Vatican II’s Novus Ordo liturgies. Like the Spirit of Vatican II, the Spirit of ‘79 has understood the generous freedoms and liberality of the ‘79 BCP as a authorization of liturgical license in general rather than a provision of space for legitimate options. Furthermore, I believe that this Spirit was not simply introduced in the texts but as part of a socio-liturgical movement.

In addition, he begins with the Roman Catholic Church and the place were the “reform of the reform” is well seen: New Liturgical Movement blog.

Campus ministry!

I’ve done some research… In the Diocese of Ohio, according to the latest attendance figures of all the four-year colleges and universities, there is a total student population of 178,651 within the boarders of the Diocese (the northern half of the state, above and not including Columbus). In the zip-code areas of current parish churches in the diocese of Ohio, there are approximately 165,829 students. There are 79,720 students in “college towns” with Episcopal parishes. In the personal, leadership, and spiritual development of students, this is a critical time in their lives. They are our future, they are becoming the movers and shakers of society, of business, of media, of politics, of war and peace, of the Church. It is tremendously important to provide them opportunities for discovery of the Gospel for the first time and for their faith development and Christian formation. That’s a lot of people at a very strategic and important time in their lives.
Campus Ministry: It is a fact, whether some want to face it or admit to it, that the future of this world rests in the hands of the students living and learning right now in our colleges and universities.
It is also a fact that for most mainline denominations, the support for campus ministry continues to wain and fail. Again and again I read of the ending of a college chaplaincy of The Episcopal Church, let alone all the other denominations. I wonder whether too many of those in leadership of mainline denominations have simply written off student ministry as a lost cause (even though giving lip service to its importance)? Among American-Evangelicals, it really is a funding issue, since they well realize that to influence the academy is to influence the world.
If we want to advocate for justice, say, or the precepts of the Christian Life (if we believe in them, that is, as being the way to honest freedom, peace, and inner joy), if we truly want to have an influence on the course of human events, then we must be involved in the lives of students, professors, and university staff. The majority of students entering the university these days are unchurched. In most cases, they have not been given a foundation upon which to make ethical or moral judgments beyond their own feelings or self-interest. They have not been given a foundation upon which to make judgments about legitimate religious expressions and cultic (in the venacular sense) groups. This is quickly becoming the common state of affairs, and student services staff fight against such things all the time (even though the underpinnings of the fight they wage is based on secular and often anti-religious positions).
“The World” has no problem asserting its influences on the lives, well being, and future direction of students lives. I worked with students for 20 years, I can attest to all kinds of “others” that simply want to exploit and manipulate students and turn them into consuming machines.
We should not continue to ignore the vital nature of university ministry by simply relinquishing the positive influence of the Gospel in academe and give students over to the deleterious effects of the negative influences they face every day. This is a vital time in human development, a strategic time to influence for the good, but we pull away and give over to the “principalities and powers of the air” our students, their future, and our own future well being.
Again, I have said that if we recognize the trends of our times (revealed repeatedly in study after study), we should realize that the historic traditions of Anglicanism play into the current “sense” of today’s students. Yet, it is not being realized.
There must be a way to reinvigorate campus ministry within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Christian tradition in this country. It will not be upon the model in place for so many years – this is a big reason why so many ministries are failing and being closed. If the World looks at us and sees nothing much different from itself (themselves), then what’s the point? Why should people give a listen and consideration to the Gospel, since in their eyes those who claim it are just like them. Does not this Gospel change us fundamentally into a different kind of person… if we allow it, yield to it, and take it as our own? This doesn’t necessitate an Us vs Them dynamic if we remain in humility… the kind that is realized when we “love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Focusing on justice issues and good works without the transformation that happens within individual students by the life-changing experience of the Gospel is in the long run of little importance, IMHO. Re-formation (out of the Systems of this World and into a Life in Christ) must happen within individual students so to propel them to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humble with their God.
As we continue on in a Post-Christian environment, the idea of establishing living-forming communities and residences with students among our campuses can be a model that gives us both a financial and non-political/ideological means of engaging students in their faith development and Christian formation. As we give ourselves to the Christian Disciplines, God works within us to build within us the means of changing the world for the good.
It is my desire and quest to be engaged in the re-development of campus chaplaincies / ministries within the Anglican tradition. I think it is vitally important for the future of this Church and for the well being of not only the students, but for academe and our society.

Iranians and their desire

From Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish:
What The Opposition Stood For
It’s worth recalling the campaign and its enormous energy as it continued. Here is a campaign ad for Karroubi. The resonances are quite obvious. The translation is below:

1 (Girl in street): Defending civil rights
2 (Boy next to old man): Counterbalancing poverty/deprivation
3 (Boy pushing away donation box): Nationalizing oil income
4 (Man standing on rooftop): Reducing tension in international affairs
5 (Boy sitting next to satellite dishes): Free access to information
6 (Girl sitting besides her mother): Supporting single mothers
7 (Girl with cast): Knock down violence against women
8 (Boy): Education for all
9 (Boy infront of man locking car): Increasing public safety
10 (Girl on rooftop): Ethnic and religious minority rights
11 (Man on rooftop): Supporting NGOs
12 (Girl in front of wall): Public involvement
13 (Boy and girl): We have come for change
14: Change for Iran

What we see in Iran…

Freedom from oppression & democracy are realized through the people, not from imposition by an outside force. Iran is in the midst of it! I honestly believe that for a true freedom to take hold in any country (nation or state), it must come from within the desire of the people. It is the people that rise up against the oppressors (of whatever form and to whatever degree) when they long for freedom.
This is one reason why the struggle in places like Iraq is so difficult. U.S. policy went forward believing that we could impose (or establish) a democracy by an outside force simply because we wanted to and because we believed they would welcome it. Many did, but many more (if not most) were not ready and did not welcome the attempt. I suspect most all welcomed the removal of Saddam, but not in the way it all transpired. My hope is that the Iraqi people will be free, but they must first want freedom more than their fear of the oppressive/manipulative/self-centered authorities.
We saw a while ago in Pakistan people rise up against military/civil dictatorship, and even though the process is not finished in Pakistan it has come a long way. The battle now is between the desire for freedom and fear.
We see the goings on in Iran right now, and the people are demanding a different outcome than what certain officials set in motion. My hope and prayer is that it will remain peaceful, as much as it can. Freedom, honest freedom, will be realized when the people demand it, we did when the citizens of the 13 colonies rose up against the British.

Some Republicans from the loosing side of the last election are chastising President Obama for not being stronger in his support for the “revolutionaries” in Iran. I fear they still want another Iraq.

Easier to be negatively against than to articulate a positive end

A good article in the TimesOnline.com (UK) from Allister McGrath.
Credo: A system of belief should not involve point scoring:
The loss of an external threat often gives rise to an internal crisis, and the need for a new sense of identity
Speaking of the ANC, McGrath notes that the aftermath of this recent election in South Africa saw the ANC majority shrink. One reason, he speculates, is because it was much easier for the ANC to be against something, and negatively against something like Apartheid, but now they have to articulate what they are for.
McGrath writes:

That challenge seems to be proving more difficult as apartheid recedes in the popular memory. The ANC needs to create a new, positive identity for itself rather than relying on past enemies and battles.
It’s a familiar point. Purely oppositional movements tend to find themselves in difficulties once their point of reference is removed. The loss of an external threat often gives rise to an internal crisis, and the need for a new sense of identity. This often means that groups justify themselves by condemning others.

This is very true. Here in the U.S. we see this happening all over the place. President Obama presented a positive message of hope (as overworked as that word may have been) and many people voted for him even as they described themselves as “conservatives,” “Evangelicals,” “independents,” and “moderates.” We see now the primary movers and shakers of the Republican Party yelling and screaming about this and that, but all that is being presented loudly and forcefully is negative and for what they are against. Many of the leadership of the Republican Party will jump on just about anything the Obama administration does for no other reason that to try to cut his credibility, popularity, and effectiveness so that come the next election they might regain power and control.
Being the party in power is the goal of any political party, but the methods they are using at this point will only work against them, IMHO. This group of Republicans (Neo-Cons, really) do not understand what happened this past election. They still think shrill, arrogant attack is what is needed to get back into power. I think it is a profound misread of the current situation, and well demonstrates what McGrath is writing about. What is their positive message? Is fear mongering and character assassination all they have? What are their solutions and ideas that are not simply a repackaging of the Bush administrations failed policies? It is, truly, much harder to be a visionary and present a well reasoned and thought out positive message. (In some ways, the Newht Gringwich era “Contract with the American People” did that, but he is not acting in the same manner, now!)
Likewise, we see the political and sectarian goals of the Religious Right as demonstrating McGrath’s point. They talk a lot about protecting the American Family, but it is always in the context of what they are against – particularly their perceptions of the evils of homosexuality. What we see and hear in the media (even more particularly in the religious media) is all negative and victimhood. They fight against everything and everyone that does not line up with their viewpoints and goals. They may try to present in a positive way the fight to save the American Family, but to a growing number of people what they really see is nothing much more than anti-gay everything. Why, if they are so pro-family, do they not focus on the real culprits of the decline of the American family – all heterosexual, like divorce? I think because it is far easier to find a scapegoat rather than deal with the failings of one’s group, and it is easier to be negative. That is why in the longer run, I don’t think they are going to succeed in many of their efforts. Trends don’t look good. They need to re-tool and try to present to the public what they are for without the ranker and negativity and with positive, forward looking ideas.
Finally, we see this, too, in the groups breaking away from the Episcopal Church (TEC). Whether low-church Evangelicals or high-church Anglo-Catholics, their bond rests on their common opposition to the more progressive elements of the Anglican Communion, and particularly TEC. They articulate well what their common hatred is and to whom or what it is focused. They are articulating what they are for, but again in the context of what they are opposed to. It seems to be that for right now, the AMiA is the only group that has come out from under this illness. I just don’t see how Charismatic-Evangelicals claiming Anglicanism and favoring women priests are going to stay with Anglo-Catholics claiming Anglicanism who won’t have women priests. And, it isn’t just about women, but about the theologies they adhere to and the inevitable conflict that those different theologies will cause. Anglicanism has held it all in tension for a long time, but these groups are born out of schism and accusation and negative development (whether they are right or wrong).
Do they really represent anything different than the phenomena McGrath writes of?
This is partly why I am coming closer to simply declaring that I will side-step out of this eddie and quagmire that is now the TEC and Anglicanism, and devote myself to the Christian Disciplines continuing down through time and place and draw closer to God and those who are simply tired of all this negativism and accusation. In no way does that mean I am abandoning TEC or Anglicanism, surely not, but I will remove myself as much as I can from the deleterious effects of our current cultural deterioration (as evidenced in politics and the Church). Who knows…