Saturday, December 27, 2008

++Katharine visits Pentagon's Episcopal chaplains

War is a reality, but so is peace. And what does the Episcopal Church have to do with the military? Plenty. We have Episcopal chaplaincies whether there is peace or war. And where both of these contrary concepts and realities exist, the Episcopal Church USA is there, on the ground, going at full speed to meet the needs of all--Episcopalians and others--at the drop of a helmet, a stole, an olive branch...

Here, ++Katharine, chaplains and family bless a young man about to leave for a tour of duty.

Courtesy of Episcopal Life Online, a story by Lucy Chumbly on the Presiding Bishop's visit to the Pentagon to speak and minister to Episcopal chaplains.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori concluded a three-day visit to military chaplaincies in the Washington, D.C., area with a December 23 trip to the Pentagon.

Jefferts Schori arrived at Bolling Air Force Base on December 20, and spent the following day there, preaching at the 8:15 a.m. service and learning about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Rev. Michael McEwen, an Episcopal Army chaplain.

Touring the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on December 22, the Presiding Bishop spoke with soldiers who had lost limbs in service and met with the families of those suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

"It's been very, very good," Jefferts Schori said as she traversed the Pentagon's corridors with the Rt. Rev. George Packard, the Episcopal Church's bishop suffragan for chaplaincies; the Rev. Gerry Blackburn, director for federal chaplaincies; and members of the Pentagon's Episcopal community. "We had long discussions with the chaplains about the work they do."

But this day she was quiet, thoughtful.

Putting on sunglasses and turning up her collar, she stepped outside into the bright, cold morning to visit the memorial to the victims of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon.

She crunched along the gravel that surrounds the 184 memorial units -- marble benches with water flowing beneath -- and stopped next to one. Putting one arm across Packard's shoulders and the other across Blackburn's, she said a quiet prayer, accompanied by the sound of flowing water and jets taking off from nearby Ronald Reagan National Airport.

"Father Blackburn and I worked at Ground Zero in New York," Packard said. "So to cross the threshold [of the memorial] just after 9:37 a.m. was really something for us. It's a very powerful memorial."

There are 360 military installations in the United States and overseas, Blackburn said, and 106 Episcopal chaplaincies, including some on Navy ships. He and Packard prepare twice-monthly reports for the Presiding Bishop on the work of these chaplains.

Full story here. Additional photographs here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Presiding Bishop: "the door is open, the light is on."

Hat tip to Bruce Mason of Integrity USA Portland Chapter for the lead on this story where our Presiding Bishop speaks out and up about the real mission of the Episcopal Church.

Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sylvia A. Smith
Published: December 20, 2008 3:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON – Sexuality is part of the Episcopal Church's mission, but it’s not the main focus, the head of the denomination in the U.S. said.

In fact, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, "when we turn it into the whole of our mission, we've created an idol. And some parts of the Anglican communion have responded to it like an idol."

Some members of the Episcopal Church have announced they want to start a second branch of the denomination in the U.S., largely because of the church's ordination of a gay bishop and some bishops’ approval of same-sex unions.

Asked at a National Press Club speech whether the biblical institutions for marriage apply to same-sex couples, Jefferts Schori replied with some sarcasm:

"Oh, which biblical institutions for marriage? Solomon’s many, many, many wives? The concubines? The slaves who bore children for their male masters? There are some very odd images of family life in the Bible. And when people talk about family values, I want to know which ones."

She said the Episcopal Church as a whole hasn't reached a conclusion about same-sex unions, but "we're at least asking hard questions," she said.

Click here to read the complete article!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bishop John Chane speaks out about Warren controversy

Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Diocese of Washington DC, has issued his own take on the invitation issued to Pastor Rick Warren of the conservative and evangelical Saddleback Church to provide the invocation at President-Elect Barack Obama's Inauguration. There are things we didn't know about Pastor Warren, a man who advocates for life even when calling for the deaths of foreign heads of state. We do indeed live in strange and contradictory times...

Episcopal Church House
Mount Saint Alban
Washington, D.C.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington

December 18, 2008

I am profoundly disappointed by President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to invite Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to offer the invocation at his inauguration. The president-elect has bestowed a great honor on a man whose recent comments suggest he is both homophobic, xenophobic, and willing to use the machinery of the state to enforce his prejudices—even going so far as to support the assassination of foreign leaders.

In his home state of California, Mr. Warren’s campaigned aggressively to deny gay and lesbian couples equal rights under the law, relying on arguments that are both morally offensive and theologically crude. Christian leaders differ passionately with one another over the morality of same-sex relationships, but only the most extreme liken the loving, lifelong partnerships of their fellow citizens to incest and pedophilia, as Mr. Warren has done. The president-elect’s willingness to associate himself with a man who espouses these views as a means of reaching out to religious conservatives suggests a willingness to use the aspirations of gay and lesbian Americans as bargaining chips, and I find this deeply troubling.

Mr. Warren has been rightly praised for his efforts to deepen the engagement of evangelical Christians with impoverished Africans. He has been justifiably lauded for putting the AIDS epidemic and global warming on the political agenda of the Christian right. Yet extravagant compassion toward some of God’s people does not justify the repression of others. Jesus came to save all of humankind, and as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pointed out, “All means all.” But rather than embrace the wisdom of Archbishop Tutu, Mr. Warren has allied himself with men such as Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda who seek to “purify” the Anglican Communion, of which my Church is a member, by driving out gay and lesbian Christians and their supporters.

In choosing Mr. Warren, the president-elect has sent a distressing message internationally as well. In a recent television interview, Mr. Warren voiced his support for the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These bizarre and regrettable remarks come at a time when much of the Muslim world already fears a Christian crusade against Islamic countries. Imagine our justifiable outrage if an Iranian cleric who advocated the assassination of President Bush had been selected to offer prayers when Ahmadinejad was sworn in.

I have worked with former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to improve the relationship between our two countries as hawkish members of the Bush administration pushed for another war. He has spoken at the National Cathedral, which will host the president-elect’s inaugural prayer service, and I have visited with him several times in Iran and elsewhere. Iranian clerics are intensely interested in the religious attitudes of America’s leaders. In choosing Mr. Warren to offer the invocation at his inauguration, the president-elect has sent the chilling, and, I feel certain, unintended message that he is comfortable with Christians who can justify lethal violence against Muslims.

I understand that in selecting Mr. Warren, Mr. Obama is signaling a willingness to work with both sides in our country’s culture wars. I appreciate that there is political advantage in elevating the relatively moderate Mr. Warren above some of his brethren on the Religious Right. But in honoring Mr. Warren, the president-elect confers legitimacy on attitudes that are deeply contrary to the all-inclusive love of God. He is courting the powerful at the expense of the marginalized, and in doing so, he stands the Gospel on its head.

Poor Gifts: A most remarkable Advent meditation

I thank Gannett Girl at Praying Advent Through Darkness for pointing us to Michelle's post at Quantum Theology for this most remarkable IV Advent meditation...the concept takes one's breath away. And now I share it with you, an Advent gift. [Hat tip to Gannett Girl for the icon at right]

[This column appeared in the Catholic Standard & Times on 18 December 2008]

Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of humans.— Phil. 2:6-8

I came early to the vigil Mass on the first Sunday of Advent this year. Kneeling to pray, I was distracted by stirrings at the front of the church: the jangling of a chain and murmuring voices. I looked up to see a tall young man preparing the censer, his low voice barely rippling the stillness, sweeping me into the memory of an Advent 15 years past.

That first Sunday of Advent found me early to the vigil Mass as well. It had been a chaotic week as I juggled teaching and preparing a paper for a conference overseas, all overlaid with the exhaustion of pregnancy. Within the church, the candles were lit, the light soft and gentle. I could just stop, like a breath suspended in time.

In that incredible stillness, I was suddenly distracted. The stirrings were gentle, but unmistakable. What I had rationally known for almost five months, but never quite believed, was suddenly made manifest — I carried a child within me, the same child whose movements drew my eye this year, at this Mass. I remembered the joy of cradling him in my arms for the first time, tinged with the loss of that hidden, mysterious time we shared when my entire being enfolded him.

I wonder how Mary felt after Jesus’ birth. She held God within her, knew His movements intimately, only to surrender Him to a cold, uncertain and unwelcoming world. Her willingness to be filled with the Holy Spirit was equally a willingness to be emptied of God’s Son — a foreshadowing of Christ’s own emptying so eloquently described by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

Pondering the Magnificat, I sense that Mary was aware of this paradox, of the necessary tension between emptiness and fullness, between richness and poverty of spirit, and of the challenges embracing such a way poses. She proclaims: He has routed the arrogant of heart … He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. Mary held the riches of the universe within her, and labored hard to surrender them to us....

I invite you to read the rest of the posted meditation here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How then should we live? A message for these times...

III Advent Year B RCL
14 December 2008
The Reverend Anne K. Bartlett, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Ashland, Oregon.

In the name of our Holy Triune God, who was and is and is to come. Come, Lord Jesus, for we are
waiting. Amen.

It’s a strange season this year, isn’t it? It looks like Christmas, with white fairy-lights twinkling all over town, store-windows decorated with presents to give and to get, Santas in their places ready for children to climb into their laps, have their pictures taken, whisper what they want for Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t feel much like Christmas-as-usual this year. Considering our national economic free-fall with no end yet in sight, the daily news of loss – loss of jobs, of omes, of the worth of retirement savings, on and on, it’s hard for me, and perhaps for you, to go on auto-pilot this Advent in preparing for Christmas, especially when it comes to buying gifts for people whom I dearly love but who, frankly, have everything they really need. This week I got a phone call from a newsperson from Channel 5 who was doing a story about how the economic downturn was affecting local churches. I thought we’d have a short chat on the phone, and that would be that. Turned out the newswoman’s mother is a lifelong Episcopalian in a neighboring small town who is heartsick because she can no longer contribute to her beloved church at the level she has been able to give in the past.

Before I knew it, I had agreed to be interviewed on camera – and had to rush home to put on my collar, because I hadn’t worn one that day. It was an okay interview, I guess. Shown on Tuesday night at 6pm. Lots of lovely shots of our church, inside and out. The segment opened with the tolling of our bell. I liked that touch.

What I said in the interview, when asked how we were coping with decreased income, was not to talk about the fact that we can no longer afford the wondrous luxury of two paid priests on staff. That news was not yet communicated to the parish family nor reluctantly and sadly agreed to by vestry. But in the interview I did talk about how in changed circumstances and in difficult times, the church goes on being the church, no matter what, especially in our ministry to those outside our doors. There was a camera shot of the piles of canned goods and boxes of cereal and rolls of toilet paper that had been given for the food pantry, awaiting delivery. I liked that part, a lot. I talked about our Giving Tree, and how quickly the tags had been taken off the tree and how presents were being brought in and would soon be taken to children in our Valley who otherwise would not receive a gift on Christmas morning. I don’t think that made it on the air.

And of course I wished we could have shown on camera the bags and bags of quilts that the SWAT team made, given to teenagers in residential alternative living, as they try to turn their ives around, and the baby quilts given to mothers who say it’s the only thing they have for their new baby that isn’t second-hand, and how I wished I could have talked about the incredible utpouring of generosity from this congregation for our Christmas Family, to whom we will deliver nearly $1000 of gift-cards for food and necessities and a few Christmas gifts for their three little girls.

I wished I had talked about how we will end the Christmas season here at Trinity with our White Gift tradition on Epiphany Sunday, how each one of us will bring a gift, wrapped in white, to lay at the altar to be given to those closest to our Lord’s heart – the hungry, the cold, the poor. I’ve been remembering the opening lines of my favorite girlhood book, Little Women. Jo – short for Josephine – is curled up by the fire, missing her father who is away fighting in the Civil War; she says, “Christmas won’t be Christmas this year.” And then their wise and compassionate mother helped turn her daughters’ attention away from themselves and their own sorrow toward the needs of neighbors less fortunate than they. And it was Christmas again, of course, and maybe closer to the heart of the matter because times were so hard, as they were that very first Christmas.

Every Advent, no matter what the circumstances of the year, offers us a time and a season to find our bearings once more, to remember what is truly important in our lives, to get clear again about what it means to be a Christian, to be the church. Whenever we take the time to quiet ourselves, whenever we dare to drop below the surface of our lives, even just a little bit, we hear the Advent question: For whom are you waiting? What are you yearning for?

And if we dare, when we dare to listen carefully to our own hearts, we will most likely find there the peculiar Advent mixture of hope and repentance, and the strange connection between them, as strange and real a connection as there is between tears and laughter, sorrow and joy. In this countercultural season of Advent, we are invited to come back to our senses, to re-order our priorities, to remember what is of real value in our lives, to find our bearings again as children of God, the body of Christ. As we re-open to those deeper realities, we are made ready to receive again the coming of God to us.

Advent repentance – which is the short-hand way of talking about this re-ordering, this re-aligning our spirits with the Holy Spirit at work within us – Advent repentance is strangely connected with hope: hope that there is light in and beyond the present darkness, hope that we can embrace the second chances always being offered to us to live more lovingly, more compassionately, more authentically, more alive and awake, more as Christ would have us live so as to taste that peace that passes understanding. Because our repentance is shot through with hope, it is a far, far different thing than mere remorse or regret.

All those people who left the city and hiked out to the banks of the Jordan river to listen to John witness to the Light coming into the world? Those were Advent people, just like us, holding onto hope for a different future, a different way of living together, a deliverance from all that makes the human soul captive. Repentance and hope, tears and the laughter of new life, suffering and joy, the paschal rhythm of cross and resurrection, it’s always all of a piece, the paradox of grace, the promise of transformation, right here upon this earth, right now, as well as forever more.

The church is not an end in itself. In my own fumbling and inadequate way, that’s what I wanted to say the other day on TV. The church’s mission isn’t about our buildings or even our programs, it’s about our mission, our calling, our reason for existing at all exists: to worship God and to love our neighbors in Christ’s name.

How, then, do we live in the meantime? In this inbetween time? How do we wait? This side of the Kingdom fully come upon the earth, we all are waiting. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison, “Our whole life is Advent.” Paul tells us, as he told that little congregation in Thessalonika, how to live Advent lives: “Rejoice always,” wrote Paul, for our joy is grounded not in ourselves but in the confidence that God will keep God’s promises. “Pray without ceasing.” That doesn’t mean we all become contemplatives and live in monasteries but rather than we work on having an awareness of God’s presence with us all the moments of our days and nights. It takes practice.

Say a prayer in the car, waiting for a red light; pray for the person who just cut you off; at the kitchen sink, say a prayer for those who have lost their jobs, as you’re brushing your teeth, pray for the children caught in war, as go for your walk, pray that ways can be found to care better for the sick and the suffering.

Pray while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store; pray for the young mother who looks so tired and frazzled, pray for the elderly man who is paying in rumpled dollar bills and coins for three frozen-food dinners, pray for child who is whining for candy.

The old Celts knew how to pray constantly. They were always saying a quick prayer to the Trinity, when they lit the morning fire and milked the cow and made the bread and swept the floor. They knew that every moment of life is bound up in the bigger pattern of loss-and-renewal, of sorrow-and-joy, one moments having tears in your eyes and the next finding your mouth filled with laughter. Their Christian faith – and ours – is that holiness shines through every moment.

Have you ever seen joy shine forth from the eyes of a person in the midst of fierce suffering?

I have.

Now there is a witness to the Light. There is a peace that passes ordinary understanding. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. Note: Paul is not telling us to give thanks for all circumstances. That leads to really bad theology, for not everything that befalls us is God’s will for us. We are to give thanks in the midst of every circumstance, for God is with us, even the dark, especially in the dark, and God will have the last word, including over death.

But here’s the thing: we can’t fake this. This joy we are called to, it is not of our making.

It happens to us. This joy has absolutely nothing to do with pasted-on cheerfulness, much less with that kind of saccharine sweetness that makes your teeth ache, and you just know that person is really mad as hell underneath that smile. Know what I mean? We can’t manufacture this joy, we can only prepare for its coming with prayer and thanksgiving and praise and awareness and patience and tending to the mission given to us as God’s people to care for those who need to hear a word of hope from us, who need us to bind up their broken hearts, who need us to feed and clothe and shelter them, in Christ’s name, as Christ’s body.

When Paul says rejoice always, he is talking about keeping ourselves centered in that deep joy that knows, regardless of how dark it is, that we are children of Light rather than darkness, not by our own doing, but because we belong to the Light and to that Light, like John, we are witnesses. “ [So]do not quench the Spirit. … Hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace …make you whole, sanctify you, make you complete, make you holy, body, soul and spirit; and knit us together one to another in Love. This is God’s will for you.

This is God’s will for us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pittsburgh Episcopalians reorganize diocese...

....Assisting bishop called, priest ordained during special convention.

By Mary Frances Schjonberg reporting:

[Episcopal News Service] New leadership, both lay and ordained, a new episcopal presence and a new priest highlighted the Diocese of Pittsburgh's special convention December 12.

Meeting at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the special convention was called to reorganize the diocese and fill a number of leadership positions vacated by those who left the Episcopal Church following the diocese's 143rd annual convention on October 4.

The people who departed, led by deposed Bishop Robert Duncan, now say they will be a part of the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone while they attempt to form a parallel Anglican province in North America that would be recognized by the large Anglican Communion.

Full story:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Change of Heart: Diocese of Rio Grande

RIO GRANDE: Diocese disaffiliates from Anglican Communion Network: Standing committee unanimously reaffirms commitment to The Episcopal Church.

"Now that is a headline I can get behind."

Pat McCaughlan reports for the Episcopal News Service. This story first aired yesterday, December 12, 2008.

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande voted unanimously at its December 9 meeting to disaffiliate from the Anglican Communion Network and to reaffirm its commitment to The Episcopal Church.

"In response to the announcement that the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) has chosen to leave the Episcopal Church and join in forming the Anglican Church in North America, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande voted unanimously to disaffiliate from the ACN," according to a December 11 press release. "The Area Deans, and the Cathedral Dean, added their unanimous endorsement to this action of the Standing Committee."

The Very Rev. Mark Goodman, dean of the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, said the ACN's future direction had been a source of concern for several months. "The threshold was reached on December 3 when the network moved its allegiance under the Common Cause Partnership and the new province," said Goodman, who is not a member of the standing committee.

He added that the diocese is "a pretty diverse mix. I think the picture people have in their mind about the Diocese of Rio Grande being a very conservative and evangelical diocese is, in many ways, not an accurate picture of where we are today.

"There are a good many parishes, the Cathedral being one, that are diverse theologically and socioeconomically; the differences with the Episcopal Church were differences of primarily the (former) episcopal leadership."

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson was elected the diocese's eighth bishop on October 24, 2004. He had served as canon to the ordinary under Bishop Terence Kelshaw, who had joined 20 other bishops in dissociating from General Convention 2003's decision to ratify the election of an openly gay bishop. Kelshaw retired in 2004 and subsequently joined the Anglican Church of Uganda.
Steenson announced his resignation September 25, 2007, in order to join the Roman Catholic Church.
Retired Bishop William C. Frey of Colorado is serving as assisting bishop; a search process for the ninth bishop of Rio Grande is in its early stages, according to the diocesan website.

The standing committee's statement acknowledged congregations "who have sympathy with the work of the Anglican Communion Network" and offered reassurance that "they are valued parts of the Body of Christ that is the Diocese of the Rio Grande."

Goodman said that "a good many parishes and congregations … see their relationship with the leadership of the national church in a much more positive way. That's not to say everyone agrees with everything, but I think there's a sense of positive engagement and wanting to be part of TEC and seeing that as something to be worked toward."

While some congregations may still feel estranged from TEC as well as decisions of Executive Council and General Convention, "most of those congregations are remaining engaged and working hard to do so," he added.

The Rev. Peter Frank, ACN communications director, did not return telephone calls on Friday.

The diocese was formed in 1952 from the Missionary District of New Mexico and Southwest Texas and covers an area of 153,394 square miles. Geographically it is the largest diocese in the contiguous United States, according to the release.

The diocese includes 58 congregations representing about 20,000 Episcopalians and encompasses the entire state of New Mexico and the area west of the Pecos River, which includes El Paso and western Texas to the border with Mexico along the Rio Grande.

-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for the dioceses of Province VIII. She is based in Los Angeles.

» Respond to this article

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Abbey of the Arts: Timely for Advent

A while back I stumbled upon a blog/website called The Abbey of the Arts. And I really, really like it. It allows for the expression of spirituality through art media and writing.

This Advent, the theme is light in the darkness. I entreat you to go there and experience it for yourself. Here is an excerpt from Christine's latest post:

To Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

-Wendell Berry

"In the Northern hemisphere we are in a time of growing darkness. This is my favorite season, the time when the last leaves have fallen from the trees and nights grow wide inviting rest, renewal, and dream-time. I adore the blooming, singing darkness as Wendell Berry writes...."

You can read the rest here.

Episcopal election methods due for revision: An ENS Report

A change that will impact the whole of the Episcopal Church is under study. The project knowns as the Episcopal Elections and Transitions Project is currently surveying nominees and search participants as part of the study group's latest efforts.

Mary Frances Schjonberg reports for the Episcopal News Service the following:

The way in which the Episcopal Church elects its bishops could change as the result of a survey being conducted now by the Episcopal Elections and Transitions Project.

The project, sponsored by the Episcopal Church's College for Bishops, the Presiding Bishop's Office of Pastoral Development and the CREDO Institute, is attempting "to obtain insights into the existing best practices of episcopal elections and to identify possible new directions for the best-practice models of the future," according to a news release.

The Episcopal Church has revised its recommended method for the election of bishops approximately every ten years. That method takes the form of a manual of best practices to follow during the course of a search and election process which the Presiding Bishop's Office for Pastoral Development offers dioceses. (General Convention is responsible for making constitutional and canonical changes governing election of bishops.)

Bishop Clay Matthews, who heads the Office of Pastoral Development in New York, told ENS December 5 that he or his designee meets with a diocesan standing committee prior to the public announcement of a call for an episcopal election to guide them through the manual and help the diocese create the process and its timetable. His office also offers a search consultant to work with the diocese as the process unfolds.

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent poetry and poets

The time draws near the birth of Christ

The moon is hid; the night is still;

The Christmas bells from hill to hill

Answer each other in the mist.


Ring out a slowly dying cause.

And ancient forms of party strife;

Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin

The faithless coldness of the times;

Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

From Alfred Lord Tennyson's "In Memorium"

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly is an erudite and informative PBS program that usually airs on Sunday afternoons in my area. On the website, you can get a brief synopsis of upcoming stories.

This is one I didn't want to wait for and so I share it with you in this season of Advent-tide. It's a little history, a little literary, and all Emmanuel. Poetry, there is nothing more mystical and able to convey the Advent anticipation and quiet excitement of the season. Here are examples of poetry for Advent/Christmas, some of which I had never heard of, but am delighted to find.

I think you will find them a spiritual and mystically influencing way to approach the season of waiting. I know I have...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

John Bryson Chane's Letter to, well, all of us...

Here is a view from a clear-thinking Episcopal bishop--one of many--on the recent developments in the Episcopal Church USA. His view is expressed in his letter below, to his diocese, but it may as well be to all who are a part of the REAL Episcopal Church, that has REAL provinces and not imaginary ones.

I commend it to you, my sisters and brothers:

December 9, 2008

To the Clergy and Congregations of the Diocese:

Last Thursday a front page article appeared in the New York Times, and a smaller article in the Washington Post, about the proposed formation of a new non-geographical province within the jurisdictional boundaries of the Episcopal Church. The proposed archbishop of this envisioned province is Bob Duncan, deposed bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. First and foremost, let me assure you that the formation of a non-geographical province within an existing province is highly unlikely. Before the establishment of any such province, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church would have to give her consent, and it is difficult to imagine that she would do so. If consent was given, the Archbishop of Canterbury would then form a committee of primates to discuss the feasibility of forming the new province. If two thirds of the primates felt that such a new province would assist and strengthen the ministry of the Anglican Communion, then the primates would forward their recommendation to the Archbishop of Canterbury who in turn would forward his recommendation to the Anglican Consultative Council for final vote and action. At present, neither two-thirds of the primates, nor the Archbishop seem favorably disposed to this development.

The gathering in Wheaton, Illinois of Duncan, Martyn Minns and several hundred of their supporters who seek the formation of the non-geographical province came as no surprise to most of us in the House of Bishops. But the press it has received, especially in the New York Times, was well beyond what was warranted considering that the proposed province is, at most, about 5 percent of the size of the Episcopal Church and that its chances of recognition are dim. I realize, however, that this most recent installment in the media’s coverage of how the sky is allegedly falling on the Episcopal Church caught many members of our diocese by surprise, and I want to allay their anxieties. We face our share of problems in the Episcopal Church, but wholesale defections to a movement committed to denying gay and lesbian Christians the birthright of their baptism is not one of them.

The Archbishop of Canterbury wisely did not invite any of the bishops consecrated to serve in the Nigerian, Ugandan, Rwandan or Kenyan incursions into the United States to last summer’s Lambeth Conference. Nor did he invite bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church, which broke from the Anglican Communion almost 130 years ago. Williams seems unlikely to reverse course now. He knows that the leaders of the proposed province have been working, overtly and covertly, to undermine the Episcopal Church for almost a decade, so what was a front page story to the editors of the New York Times was old news to him. It would be folly for the Archbishop to even consider recognizing a non-geographical province because it would unleash chaos in the Communion, with theological minorities in every jurisdiction seeking to affiliate with likeminded Anglicans in other provinces. Unfortunately, the Archbishop has contributed to the confusion and anxiety the leaders of the proposed province have sought to foster by meeting on numerous occasions with Duncan and his allies. These meetings have bestowed an unwarranted sense of legitimacy on those who seek to deconstruct the Anglican Communion.

What Duncan and Minns propose – that Duncan become the Archbishop of a newly minted non-geographical province with the support of GAFCON primates such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda – is a rejection of the respectful diversity and generous orthodoxy that defines the Communion. It is a repudiation of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in our communal life. It flies in the very face of what it truly means to be an Anglican. For Minns to suggest that he is leading a “new reformation” is ludicrous and demeans the historicity and value of the real Reformation as we know it and live it. The movers of the proposed new province embarrass themselves, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion by the self-serving media coverage they have worked so hard to achieve. The news of the proposed province appears at a time when more than 28 million Americans are living on food stamps, one out of every 10 new mortgage holders is facing foreclosure, unemployment is at its highest level in decades, the auto industry is “tanking” and the real danger of deflation or a possible depression looms large on the horizon. In the global south, millions live on $1 a day, and wars, ethnic and religious violence, poverty and the AIDS epidemic continue to wrack the African continent. To learn in this context that Duncan, Minns and their allies think that the most important issue facing the church is the sexuality of the Bishop of New Hampshire suggests a level of self-absorption that is difficult to square with the teachings of Christ. And to learn that the New York Times considers the complaints of these deposed, retired and irregularly consecrated bishops to be front page news suggests a fixation on “culture wars” reporting that deprives readers of a true sense of the challenges facing the church in this country.

I write this to you because our clergy and congregations need to know the current status of the irregularly proposed new province within our church. I also need to share with you my disappointment in the behavior of men who were once bishops in the Episcopal Church. Some of these men have been my friends, but they have now taken their own personal agendas for power and control beyond the limits of common Christian charity and decency. As you may already know, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has deposed Duncan and John-David Schofield as bishops and priests in the church, and the Presiding Bishop has recently inhibited Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth and determined that he has renounced his orders. The case of Keith Ackerman, the former Bishop of Quincy, remains to be reviewed.

During this season of Advent, please keep Rowan our Archbishop in your daily prayers, as I know you will continue to pray for Katharine our Presiding Bishop and primate. Pray for the church, the body of Jesus Christ, that it might be a center of strength and a beacon of light and hope during these very tough economic times for those we serve here in the Diocese of Washington and in the global community.

In Christ’s Peace, Power and Love,

The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, D.D.
Bishop of Washington

The bishop has his email readily available on the diocesan website but I make it available to you here as well. E-mail:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Newsy Views and ++Katharine's message to us

Newsy Views that run the gamut of good and not so great news and information. There is so much that has happened in TEC and beyond and that it is veritably a challenge to keep up on the latest breaking information. That is why I haven't posted much in the way of "news" because I was so overwhelmed by its rush and tumble, and spin.

So let's get this sound bite started…as only Episcopalians and Anglicans can:

Here is some truly progressive news that shows that not all Third World Anglican provinces are backward. In a province of India, women--for the very first time in the Church's history there--have been ordained as Anglican priests. And doesn't it make you wonder why, in our country and some other First and Second World countries, women are still be denied this calling and privilege, including some dioceses in our very own United States of America. One need only to look to the former diocese of the old Fort Worth, Quincy, San Joaquin and so forth to see the backwardness of the Church there, where women are denied the fulfillment of their calling to the Episcopal priesthood or diaconate by supposed forward-thinking good ol' boys. Congratulations to the province--who's name I cannot for the life of me find--in India for being more First World in the Church than our own country and others like us.

The newly freed dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy are reorganizing and carrying on the true ministry of Christ's church in Texas and Penn state. The beat indeed does go on there, and now women can fulfill there callings where they were denied that freedom and right within TEC in their old dioceses that are now, for the lack of a better word, Cone-related.

Most recently the former bishop of Fort Worth, Jack Iker, was inhibited--by our Presiding Bishop Katharine--from engaging in ministerial business since he and his cronies had supposedly led the diocese out of TEC to the Southern Cone. You can read a first-hand account of the steps to transition at Desert's Child where Katie Sherrod fills us in, and Feathers and Faith lends its own perspective thanks to Barbi Click. Of course Jack would huff back that she has not and never has had any jurisdiction over him. And yet yesterday, he renounced his vows and ordination in the Episcopal Church USA to our joy and relief. Thankfully this saves the Church a lot of time, money and progress in reconstituting the new diocese of Fort Worth on behalf of the faithful. What a nice parting favor. Thank you, Jack.

On top of all this reconstituting business is the news that the defective ones have--all on their misled own--created a new province for the disaffected and allegedly orthodox Anglicans in North America. It cannot be found geographically because it doesn't exist geographically. Only on paper and in the limited minds of those who think it is a good and fun idea does it truly exist. They think they can just wish it into existence, but that is not so. Looking for details? I recommend a visit to The Episcopal Cafe's "The Lead". There are rules and protocols to be followed according to the Anglican Consultative Council, and that process could take up to 10 years before this alleged new province is even considered for recognition in the World Wide Anglican Communion. The real versus the imaginary Church. You pick the one you wish to know as concrete and tangible. I choose TEC because it is real, legitimate, follows the true apostolic succession, and is the majority of Anglicans in America. And it has a real, officially and constitutionally elected Presiding Bishop, ++Katharine. Not an archbishop, as Bob Duncan and the other miscreant bishops and priests of the Cone pretends he is in this imaginary province of their own invention.

On a lighter and Advent-oriented note, ++Katharine has issued her Christmas Address to TEC:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5).

The world settles into winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, and life to many seems increasingly bleak. Foreclosures, layoffs, government bailouts and financial failures, continuing war on two fronts, terrorist attacks, murders of some identified only by their faith -- this world is in abundant need of light. We know light that is not overcome by darkness, for God has come among us in human flesh. Born in poverty to a homeless couple, to a people long under occupation, Jesus is human and divine evidence that God is with us in the midst of the world's darkness...You can read the rest of her message here.

And on her hopeful and meaningful message, I close this entry.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New Advent Blog, and Looking for God

I have recently been led to a quiet yet powerful blog by Gannet Girl. It's a new blog of her creation for this Advent season. She posts something gently amazing each day. Today was a reflective list of the usual holiday tasks and items, but it is by no means an ordinary list. Nor is it an ordinary blog. I plan on visiting each day as it speaks to me in this season of being still and quiet. It's content is contemplative yet stimulating. And that is the key to our comprehending its purpose. You don't just read it, you inwardly digest it for its nourishing properties. So, gentle readers, I encourage you to stop by and understand what it is to be Praying Advent Through Darkness.

Have you noticed the appearance of the moon, Jupiter and Venus these last several nights? Blazing away in the cold midnight of space, and yet so wondrous. I am glad that God gives us little gifts like planets and moons. And the stars, and planets, those gas giants and terrestrial, simply marvelous and mysterious. There is so much we don't know about those things that lie beyond our little, blue planet. Why, there is so much we don't know about the very rock we live on, that it overwhelms the best and brightest minds, and yet even the ordinary person can see things the scientists cannot see because they sometimes look too hard. Have you ever glanced at something and saw the very thing you were looking for earlier but you couldn't see it because you were trying to hard to find it?

That is how the spiritual life can occasionally, no, who am I kidding? We are constantly missing the obvious in our spiritual lives because we are trying too hard to be spiritual. We attend classes, workshops, sessions; we read and read about how to be a spiritual person, how to discern God's will and intention. We listen to lectures and have discussions, and more often than not, arguments or debates over perceptions and authority. Some thing you must follow a teacher to become enlightened or aware of one's spirituality by their example. Basically, we try way too hard when we really don't have to.

I'm not saying the spiritual journey is an easy, kickback and cruise sort of journey. And I am not saying that it isn't either. It can be both simple and exhausting. Simple in that what we are seeking is right before us, and no, its not the Bible or Scripture. It is the knowledge that God is all around us. We don't have to circle the globe to find God. God is in the ant crawling across my toe, or the flowers that bloom, the birds that fly, or the transient man or woman walking up the street toward us. It is also the elderly person in the hospital, alone. It is the friend you just had an argument with, or the dog trotting across a parking lot, lost. Can God be lost or alone? Yes, because we don't look in the obvious places, and because we turn, leaving God standing there as we walk away.

We anticipate the coming of God in the form of a child each year as we remember how God came to us, and lived among us, and eventually dying a human death. All those years and the Israelites didn't know or understand that God was with them all along. Imagine the imaginary in that God finally had to send himself as Jesus to us, in flesh and blood, so that hopefully we could understand . And yet this imaginary scenario became real.

We find God in every kindness shown to us daily by others, and by the natural world. For me this is why God made dogs. And yes, I will look for any excuse to extoll the virtues of all dogs.

Now back to my point.... And by doing so, He showed us in the simplest way possible what unconditional love and trust is. as well as faithfulness. He had to create an animal to show us the simple qualities of love and trust. I'm ok with that. Here is a primo examle:

On the news tonight there was video footage of a busy freeway and a dog being hit by a car and seriously injured to the point that it lay in the street.

The dog's companion--another dog--without thought for himself--literally dashed out onto the freeway to reach his injured companion. The second dog looked to each side and behind itself and then grabbed the scruff of the injured animal and dragged it to safety back across the lane of traffic to later be helped by passersby. To say that dogs don't have courage or bravery, is to be completely wrong. To say that they don't know what trust and faithfulness is, is contrary to what we know in our own experience and that witnessed by others. Now if only we could learn to rescue each other this way, with the same faithfulness, love and trust, then that is where God can be found.

This Advent we look for God in a child. Let's look for him there, but let's also look for him in each of us, for we are also children in which God can be found if we let him in. Let us look for God with the same wonder as we gaze at the moon, Jupiter and Venus, and all the starry host.

Oh, and pet your dog too.