Monday, January 31, 2011

What - is it Junior High all over again?

Remember Junior High?

Yes?  No?

Many people probably would rather not remember - even now we strain to remember those days when we were thirteen, fourteen years old, and then when the memories actually come back we think, well, maybe it might be better if we just forget.  Time to get some ice cream!

What is it about Junior High School that brings out the best and worst?  If we're not sure we can remember what those days were like, all we have to do is pause a moment and take a look at the recent Primates Meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

It all comes back. 

One of the hallmarks of Junior High is the development and implementation and cultivation of cliques.

One is either in a clique or one is not.

If you are not sure if are in a clique, you are not.

It is vying for The Inner Ring, as C.S. Lewis wrote about.  Those who are not in are very conscience of the fact that they are out.  Some were once in but are now toiling away the hours wondering what the heck happened?  Those who are in spend a lot of time worrying about whether they will end up out.  At any moment the whole setup could falter and an insider becomes an outsider in a flash.  Crushed!  Devastation. When that happens one might as well call the rest of the year off.  If you are not in then you are out and when you are thirteen that is a fate few wish for. 

Unless you are one of those who brush off the dust and get a job making a few extra bucks at Baskin Robbins.

These were ones who just seemed to stay out of it - they came to school, they did their work, they did sports or clubs, and they went home to do their homework.  They never got pulled into the fray.  Often it seems these were the ones who actually went on to make something of their lives - in fact they often looked on with bemusement at the antics of their fellow Junior High colleagues.  Thirty years later they are still chuckling.  Ask my brother.

We have such antics of late with a group called the Anglican Primates.  There is the center hot shot, the Big Man on Campus (BMOC), that everyone wants to be seen with, but in the end everyone is mad at - and believe me, it's everyone.  Ask any BMOC.  At some point he will just gallop off into the distance and the remnant will wonder what all the fuss was about. His name then pops up as someone you might know on Facebook.

Then we have the cliques that just love drama.  They feed off the drama.  We can remember the thirteen year old girls that just lived for drama.  I was in youth ministry for many many years.  Thirteen years old are memorable and they still are memorable to this day.  Like the time that my roommates and I decided at the last minute to go to the beach for the weekend in New Jersey.  When we got home late Sunday afternoon we were met by a completely full answering machine filled with nearly hysterical thirteen year old girls who could not understand how we could go away for the weekend without consulting them and were just sure that we were lying on the side of the highway somewhere wrapped around a tree.

Drama-making is a hallmark of cliques - they compete with each other for the center of attention of the most popular guy on campus - in our case, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  One was either vying for his attention or telling everyone else what a horrid guy he was and get rid of him.  He was either wonderful or he was horrible, there was no in-between. 

In the case of our Anglican Primates, in fact, our Anglican Communion, we have cliques that are just engaged in one drama after another, crying out for attention and if it goes a few months without being the center of attention, institutes more drama.  It's no wonder that back at my Junior High School in San Diego some of these drama-makers sometimes found themselves headown in trashcans with only their feet showing as you walked down hallways on your way to class.  There are times when it may feel like Anglicans worldwide would like to take these drama-makers and do likewise.

Here is an excerpt from a 1978 film called Junior High - seem rather familiar, maybe too familiar.  Look at all the different cliques - does it seem like, to coin a phrase, it's yesterday once more?  Or were we so much older then, we're younger than that now?



A good example of this kind of drama-making was the perfectly-timed "wedding" earlier this month of two lesbian priests in the Episcopal Church with one being for extra drama points actually a sitting Episcopal seminary dean.  With professional pictures in place for world-wide distribution and a cherub diocesan bishop so pleased as punch to be the center of attention for once, the drama had the desired affect.  It exploded another clique to do exactly what happens in Junior High.  "Well is they are coming to the party, we are not!"  And they take their stuff and go home.  The Drama Makers are now beyond exstatic because now they have succeeded in being the center of attention (which is what they really want).  But is it enough?  Nope.

Truth be told, the Drama-Makers, actually want not just the attention of the BMOC but of the very ones who picked up their stuff and went home (otherwise, what's the point in belonging to a clique?) and so - more drama ensues.  Where are those trashcans?  So they pretend to ignore the clique that did not show up,  but it's all pretend and everyone knows it, except perhaps for those who didn't show.  Instead, they get to point and say,"see we told you so," and the Drama Makers, now without an audience, need to stage a new event.  Stay tuned.

But if Junior High is any indication of what the future may bring - it is the silent ones, those quiet ones so many thought were boring if they were thought of at all, the ones over in the corners eating their sandwiches out of paper bags from home or there in the library studying or out running around the track who will actually be the last ones still standing, the ones who don't get mixed up in the drama, the ones who are rather bemused by all the attention-seekers and find them somewhat entertaining.  These are the ones who do their homework, they show up for class, they scoop the ice cream.

We may not know their names now - but then again, maybe we do.  Who knows - maybe it's you.


In fact, there was someone on the periphery in my school days who followed that track without drama - he did his homework, he went to class, and yes, sometimes he did work scooping ice cream at the local Baskin Robbins.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Bishop John W. Howe announces retirement as Bishop of the Diocese Central Florida

UPDATED:  The Bishop's Address is now available (see below).

The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev'd John W. Howe, has announced his intention to retire in April 2012. and has called for the election of a bishop coadjutor.

Bishop Howe, a long time leader in the orthodox wing of the Episcopal Church, is one of the founders of the Communion Partners.  He was became the third Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida in 1990.


Bishop Howe was ordained deacon in 1967, priest in 1968 and became Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Central Florida on April 15, 1989.  He earned a B.A. in philosophy, University of Connecticut, in 1964 and M. Divinity, Yale Divinity School, 1967. He was awarded Doctor of Divinity degrees from Yale in October 1989, from University of the South, Sewanee, in 1990 and from Nashotah House in 1991.

He was President of the University of Connecticut Christian Fellowship from 1962 to 1964, a staff member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship 1964-69, and served as chaplain at both The Loomis School, Windsor, Connecticut, 1967-1969 and Miss Porter’s School, Farmington, Connecticut, 1969-72.

In 1972, Bishop Howe became Associate Rector, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Sewickley (Diocese of Pittsburgh) serving from 1972 to 1976 and then was called as Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia from 1976-1989. During that time, Truro grew in size to more than 3,000 members with an operating budget of over $3 million, half of which was spent on Missions and Outreach.

He was founding member of S.O.M.A. (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), an Anglican ministry seeking to bring renewal to indigenous churches, as well as one of of the founders of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

A strong leader in prolife and church renewal movements, he has also sought to build bridges between diverse groups in the church.  “I am an evangelical in the tradition of John Stott, and my ministry has been one of building bridges between renewal-oriented Episcopalians and traditionalists, moderates and liberals,” Bishop Howe wrote when he stood for election to the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church in 2009.  His diocese has been noted for it's diversity, while still remaining a beacon for biblical teaching and a commitment to Lambeth 1.10.

He co-authored the 1988 Resolution on Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life adopted by the 69th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Detroit. He is former President and Chairman of the Board of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL) and he is a former president of the Fellowship of Witness.  In addition, he has served as the National Chaplain to the Order of the Daughters of the King which is made up of both TEC and ACNA chapters.

UPDATE: Here's an article just in from the Central Florida Episcopalian:

In the Bishop’s Address to the 42nd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, Jan. 29, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe announced his plan to retire in April 2012.

“I want to come directly to the point,” Bishop Howe told the group gathered at St. George Church and La Hacienda Recreation Center, The Villages, Florida. “The final episode of Star Trek, Next Generation was entitled ‘All Good Things…’ with the unmistakably hidden clause, ‘…must come to an end.' I have come to the conclusion that we are nearing such a moment.”

Bishop Howe called for the election of his successor, the Fourth Bishop of Central Florida, in a Special Convention to be held Nov. 19 at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando.

“These last two-plus decades of my life have been a roller coaster of joy and sorrow – but mostly joy – as we have seen God work in our midst in extraordinary ways,” Bishop Howe said. “I came here after 13-and-a-half years in one of the truly great congregations in The Episcopal Church.  And, as every Bishop will tell you, leaving your parish family behind is a very difficult thing to do.”

Bishop Howe stressed that, although the diocese will experience a change in leadership, the diocese should maintain the direction it has taken.

Bishop Howe specifically mentioned four projects mandated by the 40th Diocesan Convention, in 2009, that should help guide the diocese:

      Develop a Diocesan Strategic Plan – The resolution said, “It is the Vision of this Diocese to be fully committed to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission: to truly love God with all of our being and to go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus taught his original followers.”  The resolution set out five specific, measurable objectives for the years 2010 – 2012, which the diocese is in the process of implementing.

      Create a Contemporary Worship School – The diocese held the first of what leaders expect will be annual Contemporary Worship Conferences at the Canterbury Conference Center September 16 – 18, 2010.  The next one is scheduled for September 22 – 24, 2011.

      Create a set of “user friendly” tools for Short Term Mission Trips – This was accomplished, and is available in print, on CD, and online at the diocesan website.  Many congregations  have already used these tools, and others are planning to do so in the near future.

      Develop a Parish Discipleship Weekend – The resolution called for an in-house parish conference to call members of this Diocese to commit or recommit their lives to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, and to teach all of us how to live out a countercultural form of discipleship.

Under the direction of the Standing Committee, the search for Bishop Howe’s successor will begin immediately, and will include a diocesan survey, diocesan profile, nominations, background checks, election and consecration.

Bishop Howe and his wife, Deacon Karen Howe, plan to take a cruise through the Panama Canal soon after the consecration of the new bishop.

“I told the Standing Committee last month that my love for this Diocese is so exquisite that it hurts,” Bishop said in closing his address. “If I could somehow, miraculously, make it all happen all over again I would do so in a heartbeat. Thank you for honoring me, and supporting me, for these past 21-plus years. I love you, and I pray that as ‘all good things…’ begin to wind down they may wind up giving birth to even greater things in this great Diocese of Central Florida.”

The Diocese of Central Florida, based in Orlando, is a community of about 38,000 baptized members at 88 parishes and missions in 15 counties.


Here is Bishop Howe's Address to the Diocese of Central Florida:


The Bishop’s Address
The Forty-Second Annual Convention
of
The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida
Held in St. George Church and
La Hacienda Recreation Center
The Villages, Florida
January 29, 2011

The Right Reverend John W. Howe

All Good Things…

            “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2)

Welcome to the Forty-Second Annual Convention of the Diocese of Central Florida!  It is good to be together again, and good to be back at St. George Church and The Villages.  We were last here in 2005, exactly a decade after St. George was admitted as an organized mission of the Diocese.  The planting, growth, ministry, and hospitality of this congregation have been among the great joys of my time in Central Florida.

So, thank you to Fr. Hugh Bromiley and all the good folks from St. George and, indeed, from around the Diocese, who have helped prepare for our time together.

Thanks, too, to Andrew Walker and all the musicians and singers who have supported our worship.

Coming to the Point

I want to come directly to the point.  The final episode of Star Trek, Next Generation was entitled “All Good Things…” with the unmistakably hidden clause, “…must come to an end.”
I have come to the conclusion that we are nearing such a moment.

I am hereby calling for the election of my successor, the Fourth Bishop of Central Florida, in a Special Convention to be held in the Cathedral Church of St. Luke on November 19, 2011.

A majority of the Diocesan Bishops and Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church must then give their consents to that election within the following 120 days.  That will bring us into the middle of Lent, and I would like to remain “in the saddle” for one more Easter and through the 23rd anniversary of my own consecration on April 15th of next year.

(I have frequently commented that April 15th can be remembered for at least four things: it was the day Lincoln died, the day the Titanic sank, the date of our annual visit to the tax collector, and the date of my consecration.  Somebody has thoughtfully called these “The Four Disasters”!)
Given all of those dynamics, we have tentatively set April 21, 2012 as the date for our next Bishop’s consecration.  We have arranged to do this in Calvary Assembly in Orlando, just as we did last time around.

And that is why I said we are nearing such a moment: it is not yet at hand.  We still have nearly a year and a half to go.  And I intend to be very much engaged as your Bishop until the laying on of hands and the passing of the crosier in that consecration service.  The new Bishop will take office immediately, and I will officially resign at that point – although I will be available to assist if he or she should desire that.

The Transition Process

The Transition Process is in the hands of the Standing Committee, and, immediately following this Address, I will ask Fr. Al Jenkins, President of the Standing Committee – thank you for re-electing him! – to outline as much of the Process as we can foresee at this point.  (For your information, the Standing Committee has asked me to join them for at least the majority of their meetings.  I have agreed to do so with two caveats: 1) if ever they need to meet alone they need only ask, and I will immediately withdraw, and 2) I will comment on their proceedings only if asked to do so.  It really is their Process.)

And let me mention that the first meeting of the Diocesan Board next month will be a special joint meeting with the Standing Committee to get everyone “on the same page.”

A Look Back

These last two-plus decades of my life have been a roller coaster of joy and sorrow – but mostly joy – as we have seen God work in our midst in extraordinary ways.

I came here after thirteen and a half years in one of the truly great congregations in The Episcopal Church.  And, as every Bishop will tell you, leaving your parish family behind is a very difficult thing to do.

The experience of being so deeply involved in the lives of parishioners and families in the midst of their great joys and their tragic disappointments, seeing them day in, day out, week after week, baptizing their children, preparing them for confirmation and marriage, praying with them in the midst of crisis, visiting them in hospital, conducting their funerals, mourning with them, and sharing the hope of the resurrection – is a privilege and an intimacy that I know no other profession can match.

My fellow clergy: we are indeed most fortunate people.

But to go from that to being in a different congregation every week is a shock!

It took us exactly one Sunday to realize that my family would not be accompanying me on my Visitation schedule!

But I knew God had called me here.  There were remarkable confirmations of that, not the least of which was the truly miraculous provision of our home here and the sale of our home in Virginia.  (Both are wonderful, long stories, which I will tell you sometime if you ask.)

And I also knew that those whom God calls he equips.

So I began to live into the very different structures of relationships in a vastly extended family in which the Bishop is “at home” in every one of those far-flung congregations.  There are a few deep relationships that develop in many of those congregations, and there is, of course, a very special relationship that the Bishop has with the clergy of the Diocese.

And, by the way, you know we have some of the finest clergy in the world.  Will you join me in giving thanks for them?

I also had to learn how to work with the Diocesan Board – which is a very different critter from a vestry!  I had one fellow on that first Board who said, “I’m going to be very up front with you: I’m going to let you know when I disagree, and I think that is going to be most of the time.”   (He doesn’t remember it that way, but that is pretty much the way I heard it.)

I think he was suspicious because he had heard I was a “charismatic.”  And he was greatly surprised when I visited his parish and told him that out of all the congregations I had visited his was the one most like the one I left behind!

Three days from now he will have been my Canon to the Ordinary for eighteen years.  A better friend and a better partner in the gospel you could not find.  Please join me in giving thanks for Canon Ernie Bennett.

The (rest of the) Diocesan Staff

I want to ask the other members of our staff to stand, and let me mention them by name: (hold your applause until I am done) The Venerable Kristi Alday, Archdeacon, Chuck Dunlap, Disaster Relief Coordinator, Deacon Karen Howe, Director of Cathedral Audio, Marilyn Lang, Secretary to Canon Bennett, Carolyn LaPointe, Financial Assistant, Eric Moulton, Youth Ministry Officer, Cindy Muldoon, Receptionist and Administrative Assistant, Earl Pickett, Diocesan Administrator, Joe Thoma, Communications Officer, and Melanie Walters, Secretary to the Bishop.  Let me tell you, they work tirelessly on behalf of all of us.  They will see something that needs to be done, and they will just do it.

Nobody asks, “Who is responsible for this?” – they just do it!  They are simply a wonderful group of people and a great team to work with.  Join me in giving thanks for them, as well.

Being a Bishop

I am often asked, “What is the best thing about being a Bishop?” and “What is the worst thing about being a Bishop?”  My answer always is: they are both the same!

A crisis develops in a parish: a disagreement between the Rector and the Vestry, some kind of financial mismanagement, a violation of boundary lines, a problem between a parish and its parochial school – or whatever.  A crisis: that’s the worst thing.  But the Bishop just showing up begins to give some hope: we’re not in this thing alone; someone has been here before, we can get a handle on it.  That’s the best thing.

Most of the time the folks in a local congregation are not very aware of the Bishop, the Diocesan machinery, or the Diocesan staff.  But at three major points in the life of a parish we become deeply involved.

First, when a congregation is being formed the Diocese is at least the midwife, if not the birth mother.  Becoming organized, raising finances, acquiring land, and building the first building is virtually never attempted without the help of the Diocese.

Second, when there is a change in the leadership of a parish the Bishop, the Canon, and the Diocesan staff come alongside the Vestry and the Search Committee, walking with them through every step in the process.

And third, as I have already mentioned, when there is a crisis of some kind the Bishop and the staff almost inevitably become involved.  We try to handle things as discreetly as possible, but we are right there in the middle of them.

For most of my time here we have been on an upward trajectory, and after splits in six of our congregations over “national issues” in 2008 and 2009, I believe we are greatly into recovery, and the arrows are moving forward and upward again.

Shepherd of the Hills

How wonderful it was to begin our time together this weekend with the welcoming of Shepherd of the Hills as a parish!  Exactly sixteen years ago yesterday we welcomed the congregation as an organized mission, but they hit a bump in the road in 2003.  Fr. Ladd Harris had retired to Florida, and he thought his ministry at Shepherd of the Hills was going to be singing in the choir!  Instead he became God’s man to lead the congregation through a wonderful recovery.

In the last twelve months they have simultaneously built a magnificent new building which is almost ready to be dedicated, called my good friend Bishop Jim Adams to be their Vicar and now their Rector, and achieved parish status!  Congratulations, and well done good and faithful servants!

As we begin this period of Diocesan transition it was not by accident that I asked Julian Linnell to be our preacher at the opening Eucharist.  We are about mission, and it would be hard to find someone whose ministry more fully epitomizes mission than does his.  Thank you, Julian, for reminding us so clearly that the mission of Jesus Christ remains at the very center of our calling.

It is also no accident that running parallel to this Convention the Department for Student Ministry is offering its “Town Hall” gathering for youth ministry leaders, Sunday school teachers, and Christian Education leaders.  Bringing our youth and young people into an informed commitment to Jesus Christ remains a central priority of this Diocese.

So, while over the next few months we will be preparing for a change in leadership I am totally committed to maintaining our direction.

Keeping On Keeping On

Two years ago the Fortieth Annual Convention of the Diocese passed Resolutions to take on four new projects:

      Develop a Diocesan Strategic Plan – which we did, and Convention adopted it almost unanimously last year.  We said, “It is the Vision of this Diocese to be fully committed to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission: to truly love God with all of our being and to go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus taught his original followers.”  We laid out five specific, measurable objectives for the years 2010 – 2012, which we are in the process of implementing.
      Create a Contemporary Worship School – which we did, and we held the first of what we expect will be annual Contemporary Worship Conferences at the Canterbury Conference Center September 16 – 18, 2010.  The next one is scheduled for September 22 – 24, 2011.
      Create a set of “user friendly” tools for Short Term Mission Trips – which we did.  It is available in print, on CD, and online at our diocesan web site.  Some of you have already used these tools, and others are planning to do so in the near future.
      Develop a Parish Discipleship Weekend – an in-house parish conference to call members of this Diocese to commit or recommit their lives to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, and to teach all of us how to live out a countercultural form of discipleship.

This one took longer than expected, but I am pleased to announce that the materials are ready at last, and I want to read from the Parish Discipleship Weekend Purpose Statement:
  • “The purpose of the weekend is to provide an ‘on-campus’ retreat weekend (held at the facilities of the local church) that communicates the teachings of the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter of April 15, 2008, focusing on the prayer of Jesus Christ that we ‘live in the world but are not of the world.' "
  • “The weekend is titled “Discipleship Weekend.’  However, rather than focusing on prayer and Bible study (which is often what ‘discipleship’ classes teach), this is deep discipleship.  It is ‘Discipleship 401,’ not ‘101.’  The weekend focuses on the Christian life rather than Christian belief.  This Discipleship Weekend calls us to holiness.
  • “The Parish Discipleship Weekend will identify some of the values that are challenging the biblical Christian worldview, call participants to repentance for our complicity and adoption of those worldly values, and challenge participants to make a commitment toward change.”
I remind all of us that in calling for the development of this Weekend we also resolved that every congregation will hold such an on campus retreat, using these materials, sometime in the next two years.

My thanks, on behalf of all of us, to Fr. John Liebler and the members of the Parish Weekend Commission for the hard work that went into developing these materials.  (In all honesty, this was mostly John Liebler’s work: a gift of love from him to the Diocese.)  Please contact him directly to obtain the materials.  And please do use them.

I ended last year’s Address with these words: “Let’s keep on keeping on.  Let’s continue to make the main thing the main thing.  Let’s redouble our efforts to walk in love as Christ loved us.  Let’s talk to people about Jesus.  Let’s continue to plant new churches, strengthen existing ones, and do all we can to take Central Florida for Jesus Christ.”

I have no intention of loosening my grip on any of that vision and agenda.  And I ask you to recommit to it with me.

Our Work Today

I want to say a few things about our work today.  We have more resolutions before us than we have had for a number of years.  Some of these have been generated by changes in the Title IV “disciplinary canons” of the national Episcopal Church, and some seek to address ambiguities in our own Diocesan canons.

The current national disciplinary canons were patterned on the military code of justice.  And it was argued that the Church could do better than the military.  Perhaps so.  But it is my opinion that the new canons give far too much authority to the Bishop of a Diocese over his or her clergy, and they give unprecedented authority to the Presiding Bishop over the other Bishops of the Church – and there is a tremendous loss of “due process” in their implementation.

If a Diocesan Bishop, or the Presiding Bishop, is a wise and caring person there may be no danger in these new canons.  But I think there are few of us who might not be tempted to misuse the enhanced powers given to the Bishops and the Presiding Bishop to act against those with whom he or she disagrees.

I will tell you plainly: I do not want to have this enhanced authority given to me in my dealings with our clergy.  Nor do I welcome this intrusion into the life of our sovereign Diocese of the unprecedented authority of the Presiding Bishop.  (And I have told her so.)  It is a radical revision of the polity of The Episcopal Church from its inception.

So, we propose to do two things that are in tension with each other.  We propose to bring our Diocesan canons into compliance with the new national canons insofar as that is possible under the Constitution of The Episcopal Church.  But, at the same time, we ask that this Diocese memorialize the next General Convention to revisit Title IV in that it is inconsistent with the Constitution of The Episcopal Church.

The Constitution says that NO bishop – other than the Diocesan – NO bishop, including the Presiding Bishop, may intervene in the internal affairs of a Diocese, and the new canons say precisely the opposite.  The Constitution trumps the canons, so either it – or they – must be revised.

So, while all but one of the resolutions coming before us this afternoon may seem complicated, they are actually pretty straightforward: revise our canons for clarity and to be in conformity with the national canons, AND call upon General Convention to bring the national canons into conformity with the Constitution.

We can debate all of this if you like, but we really need to just pass the resolutions.  They have been very carefully crafted by our Constitution and Canons Committee, and reviewed by the Standing Committee in its role as Resolutions Committee for Convention.

The other resolution, R-1, is a Recommitment to Mission, and I hope we will pass it unanimously.

How Do You Know When it is Time?

Four years ago I told you of Karen’s congestive heart failure, and that I would retire when she needs me to do so.  Thankfully she is doing very well – and we are deeply grateful for your prayers in that regard – but occasionally she asks me, “And when, exactly, is that retirement you promised going to begin?”

I wrote to Bishop Folwell with the question, “How do you know when you are supposed to retire?”  He wrote back, “Years ago I asked Ernie Pugh the same question.  His answer was so simple and obvious when he said, ‘God will tell you when you include this question in your prayers.’”

That was a year ago last month.  I had not made it a matter of prayer until then, but since then it has been a matter of fervent prayer, and I am convinced of three things:
  • It is in the best interest of the Diocese (and I have no doubt about that),
  • It is in the best interest of my wife (and I have no doubt about that), and
  • It is in the best interest of your Bishop (though it is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made).
For several months I have had a statement from columnist Ellen Goodman posted on my bulletin board.  It says this:

“There’s a trick to the Graceful Exit.  It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over – and to let go.  It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives.
“It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than moving out.
“The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well.  It’s hard to recognize that life isn’t a holding action but a process.  It’s hard to learn that we don’t leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the office.  We own what we learned back there.  The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives.  And when we exit, we can take ourselves along – quite gracefully.”

I told the Standing Committee last month that my love for this Diocese is so exquisite that it hurts!  If I could somehow, miraculously, make it all happen all over again I would do so in a heartbeat.  Thank you for honoring me, and supporting me, for these past twenty-one plus years.  I love you, and I pray that as “all good things…” begin to wind down they may wind up giving birth to even greater things in this great Diocese of Central Florida.

UPDATE: The CF Standing Committee has also announced the timeline for the call and election of the Bishop Coadjutor (via email):

January


Bishop Howe calls for the election of the 4th Bishop of Central Florida.


This is completed today.

February

The Committees for the Diocesan Profile and Transition Process are selected by the Standing Committee in consultation with the Deans and Deanery Presidents.
A planning retreat is then held for the Standing Committee,
the Profile Committee, and the Transition Committee.


You and/or members of your congregation may volunteer the first two weeks of February to participate in positions the Standing Committee needs to fill, but please remember we may not be able to place everyone who volunteers.

March

A Diocesan survey is prepared and sent to all delegates of this Convention
and it is made available to the entire Diocese of Central Florida. 


These surveys, with instructions, will help you, as an individual, state what you see as the future of the Diocese and how that should be reflected in the gifts, skills and vision of the next Bishop.

April

Deanery Forums are held by the Deans and Presidents of each Deanery.


These open discussions will help you, as Deaneries, create our Diocesan Profile. The Deans and Presidents will summarize these discussions with those in attendance and send the summaries to the Profile Committee.

May

The Profile is prepared from the surveys and Forums.


The Profile is a collation of the information received from the surveys and the Forums that describes
a brief overview of 1) our Diocese, and 2) the kind of Bishop desired by the people of the Diocese.

June

The Profile and nomination instructions are sent to the Convention delegates.


The delegates of the Convention will serve, in effect, as the Search and Nominating Committees.

July - August

Nominations are received.


The Standing Committee receives the nominations. Nominations received in accordance with the nominating instructions, and nominees who have passed a background examination, will be placed in nomination at the electing Convention.

This process is entirely open to anyone meeting the nomination standards and the background check standards.

September – October

Background checks are done.

November


Election at the Cathedral, Saturday, November 19.
Profile and background information for all nominees will be available on the Diocesan website.

The delegates of this Convention will be the delegates at the electing Convention.
The first ballot will determine the final slate of the nominees.

April 21, 2012

Consecration of the 4th Bishop of Central Florida
at Calvary Assembly, Orlando
followed by
the Retirement of Bishop John W. Howe.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Another way forward to peaceful settlement?

Attorney Raymond Dague speaks on the recent historic settlement between St. George's Anglican Church and the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey:



The following is a memorandum outlining how St. George's Church and the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey found  a way forward where St. George's was able to retain their property while at the same time find a peaceful way forward to a settlement that satisfied the Anglican congregation, the Episcopal Diocese and the Presiding Bishop.  It can be done!
From: Raymond J. Dague, attorney for St. George's Anglican Church in Helmetta, New Jersey, and chancellor to the Anglican District of the Northeast of CANA

Re: The Account of the Amicable Purchase of Church Buildings by an Anglican Church which was Formerly an Episcopal Church without Restrictions as to the Continued use of the Property by the Anglican Parish

Dated: January 17, 2011

Is it an aberration in relations between Anglican Churches and the Episcopal Church, or a new way forward?  There has been much acrimony with hundreds of pending lawsuits across the country between Anglican Churches and the Episcopal Church.  Might this case be a pattern for a way out from the litigation?  That is the question on the minds of laity, clergy, bishops, and lawyers on both sides in the wake of an historic settlement between St. George's Anglican Church in Helmetta, New Jersey and the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.  And this happened all with the full knowledge and consent of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and her chancellor.

The ink is dry and the papers are filed in the Middlesex County clerk's office following a routine real estate closing there on Tuesday, November 23, 2010.  It is a settlement which might portend a way forward out of the litigation which has engulfed the Episcopal Church and parishes which have left it for other Anglican affiliations since the election of Katherine Jefforts-Schori in 2006 to be the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The deal involved a former Episcopal Church congregation which disaffiliated from its former denomination, yet negotiated with the diocese to retain its church buildings and tangible property with complete independence from the former denomination.  The congregation is now affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) under Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns and the Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA) under Archbishop Robert Duncan.

The property which was the subject of this negotiation was given to the newly incorporated Episcopal Church parish in 1894.  It is located at 56 Main Street, Helmetta, New Jersey.  The church building was built in 1896 on land which was given to the parish in 1894 by The George W. Helmet Company.  George W. Helmet was the owner of the large factory located near the church and the person after whom the town of Helmetta was named.  The property consisted of a large rectangular site which measured approximately 555 feet along the road frontage and 290 feet deep into a wooded area consisting of 3.7 acres of land.

The church building built on the property is a traditional high peaked ceiling church building of about 2,900 square feet in the worship area, and beneath which is a basement consisting of offices and meeting rooms occupying about 2,700 square feet.  A single family 2,900 square foot two story rectory was built on the property, as well as Ericson Hall which consists of a 5,600 square foot fellowship hall, larger than the church itself.  The property has paved driveways and parking lots, and four utility sheds.  The property is adorned with decorative stone walls and a stone staircase between the church building and the road.  The parish owned the land and buildings free and clear with no mortgage on the properties.

In early January and February of 2008 the former Episcopal Church, then known as St. George's Church in Helmetta, New Jersey, cut its ties to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Jersey and asked to be placed under CANA and its suffragan Bishop David Bena.  CANA accepted the parish, and since then Bishop Bena has made numerous episcopal visits to St. George's.

As part of the disaffiliation process the Diocese of New Jersey prepared and gave to St. George's in early 2008 a document called "Pastoral Direction for Parishes Seeking to Disaffiliate from the Diocese of New Jersey."   This Pastoral Direction was not followed by the parties except in part.  But the significance of this document is the bishop's acknowledgment of the legitimate need of a parish to disaffiliate (Introduction, page 1), the fact that the process is to be marked by negotiation (paragraph 6, page 3-5), and that "Any Agreement reached will be fully disclosed to the Diocese at large and will be made available electronically.  The Agreement shall also be provided to the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor." (Paragraph 8, page 5)

The priest at the parish of St. George's Anglican is Fr. William Guerard.  Fr. Bill, as he is known by his people, was an Episcopal priest for 22 years.  His relations with the Bishop George Councell, the bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey were always extremely cordial.  When the congregation was thinking about making this move, it was no surprise to the bishop.  Bishop Councell asked Fr. Guerard to keep him fully apprised as to the progress of the parish in this respect.  And Fr. Guerard did so.  Both Bishop Councell and his representatives came to the parish and addressed the vestry several times to talk about these developments, both before and after the vote by the vestry to leave the Episcopal Church.  The bishop and his people were extremely gracious to the parish, and the parish was likewise quite respectful toward the diocese and the bishop.

On October 17, 2008 Fr. William Guerard, the two wardens of St. George's, and Raymond Dague of Syracuse, New York, the attorney for the parish, attended a standing committee meeting of the diocese at the diocesan headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey.  In attendance at that meeting were Bishop Councell and his chancellor, attorney John Goldsack.  Bishop Councell on two occasions at that meeting said to the people from St. George's, "If there is any bishop in the Episcopal Church you want to negotiate with over something like this, it is me."  The meeting was very cordial, but no decisions were made by anyone at that time, except to keep the lines of communication open.

Fr. Guerard had previously told the bishop that they would not need to bring a lawsuit, because the parish would leave and find another place to worship if the bishop wanted that.  But Bishop Councell asked them not to do that, to stay in the church buildings and to negotiate a deal with the diocese.

On January 9, 2009 some of the people who worshiped at St. George's organized a New Jersey religious corporation named St. George's Anglican Church.  It was this church corporation which ultimately negotiated the deal with the diocese.

On January 12, 2009 the newly incorporated St. George's Anglican Church communicated to the diocese the desire to retain the property and offered the diocese $360,000 to do so.  The three page letter of the parish signed by the wardens and the rector of the parish provided for the first year's payment in an $18,000 lump sum, and payments of $1,500 per month over a 20 year period.  In exchange for that the diocese would give to the parish a general release of Dennis Canon and any other claims by the diocese to the property of St. George's.

At a Standing Committee meeting in January the diocese reviewed the offer, and met to discuss it, but did not give a formal answer to the parish's proposal.  The offer was ultimately refused in late 2009, but the diocese made no counter offer, yet the diocese indicated the desire to keep negotiating.

Fr. Bill Guerard left the church as an Episcopal priest and switched his episcopal oversight and holy orders to Suffragan Bishop David Bena of CANA.  Bishop Bena has made numerous pastoral visits to St. George's Anglican since assuming his oversight role at the parish. Bishop Councell never deposed or inhibited Fr. Guerard from his ordination vows as was done with over 400 former Episcopal clergy who left the Episcopal Church for CANA and other Anglican groups.   Canon law does not require an Episcopal bishop to depose or inhibit a priest who transfers to another Anglican group, but many Episcopal bishops have done so under similar circumstances.

New Jersey law is one of the toughest in the country for a congregation which departs from the Episcopal Church.   The 1980 case of Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Jersey v. Graves, 417 A.2d 19 (N.J. 1980) basically gives the greatest possible rights of any state in the nation to the diocese as against a departing congregation.  Further, the New Jersey statutes (N.J.S.A. 16:12-16) allow the Episcopal diocesan convention to adopt a resolution which unilaterally dissolves an Episcopal Church which has ceased to exist by declaring it so, and filing a Certificate of Extinction of the parish.  Upon the filing of the Certificate of Extinction with the county clerk, the title to the former property of the congregation transfers to the diocese without the necessity of a deed transfer or any action by the congregation.

At the diocesan convention on February 28, 2009 the Diocese of New Jersey adopted such a resolution, and filed the Certificate of Extinction in the Middlesex County clerk's office on March 11, 2009.  These acts had the legal effect under New Jersey law of effecting an immediate dissolution of the old Episcopal Church religious corporation and the consequent vesting of the title to its property in "The Trustees of Church Property for the Diocese of New Jersey, successor in interest to the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. George's Protestant Episcopal Church, a dissolved corporation."   All that the diocese would have then needed to do was to commence a simple eviction proceeding to evict the Anglican Church congregation and take over the property.  The defense of such an eviction would have been only a facial challenge to the caselaw and salutatory scheme.  It would have been a difficult eviction to defend.

Yet despite the strong legal position of the diocese, Bishop Councell assured Fr. Guerard that this in no way would interfere with the continued use by the parish of the property.  Bishop Councell asked that they continue to try to negotiate a resolution to the use and ownership by the new Anglican parish.  St. George's took no legal action against the diocese to challenge this in court.  But the diocese likewise did not go to court.  The bishop and the diocese continued to talk and negotiate with the parish.

In September of 2008 the parish had an appraiser do a formal written appraisal of the property value which came to $1.7 million.   In early 2010 the diocese paid the same real estate appraiser to reappraise the property, and the figure was revised to $1.6 million.   According to the tax assessment records of Helmetta, the land is worth $732,000 and the improvements to the property were worth $1,066,800 for a total value of $1,798,800.  Numbers in this magnitude were a non-starter for the congregation, and the parish told the diocese that. 

In early 2010 the parish made another offer to the diocese.  The proposal was for a total of $700,276.80 consisting of a $30,000 down payment and a mortgage amortized over 30 years with zero interest to be held by the diocese for the $670,276.80 balance of the purchase price.   The parish offer was that they would pay the $1,881.88 per month payments for 15 years and at the end of 15 years, the diocese would get the remaining unpaid balance as a balloon payment of $335,138.40.  The parish told the diocese that this was all they could afford to pay.

The alternative was for the parish to move out, leave the keys, and let the diocese sell the property for what they could get for it.  As with many old stone church buildings, it is in need of much maintenance.  While the church and other buildings could never be rebuilt for the appraised price, neither did the diocese have an attractive prospect for selling it to an outside buyer for what St. George's offered.

In the week previous to Sunday, May 23, 2010 Fr. Guerard got a call from the bishop and was told that the diocesan Standing Committee accepted the terms of the sale proposed by the parish.  On that Sunday Fr. Guerard announced the acceptance and the terms to the parish at the Sunday morning service.

Bishop Councell followed his call with a letter to Fr. Guerard dated July 1, 2010 in which the bishop wrote:
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Jersey and I met with Canon John Wood Goldsack, Esq., Chancellor of the Diocese, on June 17, 2010 to review the terms of the proposed agreement for the sale of the property of St. George's Church.

The Standing Committee approved the terms of the agreement.  I also gave my approval.  Canon Goldsack will prepare a formal agreement and forward it to you for your and the Vestry's review and action.

You and the people of St. George's remain in my prayers.
The chancellor for the diocese wanted to draft the purchase contract, and on August 17, 2010 he wrote the lawyers for the parish and confirmed the terms of the deal.

The contract was drafted and sent to one of the lawyers for the parish by letter of October 1, 2010.  In the words of the New Jersey chancellor in that letter the chancellor noted that

As part of the approval process we will also submit the documents to the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor for their review and comment.  It is possible that there may be some modifications as a result of this review.


This was not the first time the diocese discussed with Bishop Schori the negotiations to sell the property to St. George's.  As early as January of 2009 Bishop Councell told Fr. Guerard that he had advised the PB about what he was doing with St. George's.  Bishop Councell said that the decision to negotiate a sale to the departing congregation was his choice, but that he felt that he needed to keep the presiding bishop apprised of what he was doing.  Paragraph 8 of the "Pastoral Direction for Parishes Seeking to Disaffiliate from the Diocese of New Jersey," to which reference is made, supra, made it clear that, "The Agreement [of disaffiliation and property sale] shall also be provided to the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor."

On October 28, 2010 both New Jersey Bishop Councell and Chancellor John Goldsack signed the agreement which the lawyers had prepared, which consisted of a contract prepared by the diocese and a rider to the contract prepared by the attorneys for the parish.  On November 5, 2010 the senior warden of the parish signed the agreement and the rider.  From then on it was a matter of getting the title documents ready for the closing.

By a certification sworn to November 18, 2010 Bishop Councell stated that "The Diocese has complied with all Constitutional, Canonical and Statutory requirements of the Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of New Jersey and is authorized to sell the subject premises."

The closing for the sale took place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 23, 2010.

In many discussions around the nation where there have been talks between Anglican Churches which have departed from the Episcopal Church, the diocesan officials have proposed a 5 year period after the sale when no non-Episcopal bishop would be allowed to visit the property which was proposed to be sold to the departing parish.  To date this is the first such sale, so there are no other actual completed transactions with which to compare this transaction.  But at no time during any of the negotiations did Bishop Councell or his people make this request of St. George's as a condition of their purchase.  The deal which the parties struck in this case in fact has no such restriction, and the CANA bishops will continue to minister to the people of St. George's Anglican Church as they have for the last several years.

It is hard to say for certain why this transaction worked an amicable settlement rather than litigation while so many other cases around the country have resulted in lawsuits.  Litigation has resulted in great cost to all parties and the ensuing bad publicity for everyone.  However it is clear to me that the very good relationship between this particular Episcopal Bishop and the rector of the parish played a huge part in the settlement.  The parish was willing to walk away from the property if the bishop said so.  The bishop was willing to negotiate with the parish rather than take over an empty building which would then be sold to someone else.  The legal framework, despite being highly favorable to the diocese because of the law and court decisions in New Jersey, was never allowed to drive the interactions between the parties.  This negotiation was conducted over the course of over two years with the presiding bishop and her chancellor well aware of what was happening and the terms of the deal.

Much can be said and much has been written about the litigiousness of these kinds of cases.   But the St. George's in Helmetta, New Jersey goes to prove that when the parties both desire to find an amicable way to sell a formerly Episcopal Church to an Anglican Church which has disaffiliated from TEC, that a way can be found.  There is no legal bar to such a sale, nor is such a sale, even at a fraction of the appraised and assessed value of the property, in violation of the fiduciary duty of the diocese or TEC.

Where there is the will to be gracious and settle without lawsuits, there is a way that it can be done, because it was done here.  Can it be repeated elsewhere?

Perhaps the Helmetta experience might be repeated.  It need not be an isolated incident if both parties in other cases have the good will to try it.

Raymond J. Dague
Attorney at Law
620 Empire Building
472 South Salina Street
Syracuse, New York 13202
(315) 422-2052
raymond@daguelaw.com

Tip of the Tinfoil to the wonderful folks at the AAC - thank you!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fifty Years Ago Today

Over at Sean's place, he reminds us that today is a milestone - fifty years ago today Bob Dylan apparently arrived in New York City and began his remarkable career. It is thought that as soon as he arrived, he headed over to the now-legendary baskethouse the Cafe Wha? and played a few tunes.  What did he play - no one is sure, though it seems likely it was something by his hero at the time, Woody Guthrie.

With that in mind, we play this early recording from 1961 recorded four months after Dylan's arrival at the Indian Neck Folk Festival of Woody Guthrie's Slipnot.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Live Blogging Diocese of Virginia Resolutions Votes at Annual Council

Live from Intrepid on the floor of the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia:


We are getting a report on the commission about ssbs ... They were a united group with close spiritual bonds. They had a modified indaba process and created a friendship among members. Perhaps biggest accomplishment was staying focused on what we were asked to do.

"We were asked not to opine on whether ssb should be authorized ..."
"We established an opine free zone"

The underlying issues remain potentially divisive.
Our guidelines needed to address key issues.
We needed to be mindful that some clergy might not want to participate in ssb
We carefully studied resolution 14s which reminded us that asked for canonical recommendations but we were convinced that the authorization of ssb was solely at the discretion of the diocesan bishop.

We also determined that no changes to diocesan canons are necessary or desirable
As with heterosexual marriage we believe national canons are the appropriate level

To establish diocesan canons would be cumbersome and preemptive process of that national process.

We talked our task with open minds, we did the research, and followed our work to it's logical conclusion.

We have come up with our best recommendation for consistent and enforceable guidelines for providing pastoral care for same sex couples looking to have their relationships blessed.

We have submitted these guidelines to Bishop Johnston for his use. They are for the bishop to see as he sees fit. We have no recommendations for canonical changes for this council.

More to come

...

This is what I have said from the start. The authorization of services is at the permission of the ordinary of the diocese, the bishop. When the bishops say they need to hear from the diocese or the national church or the decision is based on legislation it is a dodge. The authority has always been in the hands of the bishops to allow or disallow such practices ... And so to choose whether or not to stay in communion with the rest of the consensus fidelium or to step outside the boundaries of the orthodox church. The commission has put the ball back in the hands of the bishop ... Something I brought up in a previous council meeting when I asked why we were bothering with listening sessions when Bishop Johnston had already said he believed in ssbs and said he would work for them personally.



Russ Palmore is reviewing the litigation now

Eleven congregations voted to secede. They immediately filed petitions to have state courts grant them ownership of the properties where they worshipped. We followed later with our own petition.


(BB NOTE: Again, Russ Palmore's statement is not accurate.  The eleven churches immediately filed petitions recording their votes - they did not take the next step to file petitions to have the state courts grant them ownership of the properties - that is absolutely false.  The votes were filed.  At that time we thought, following the Diocese of Virginia Protocol negotiated by Russ Palmore and Bishop Lee, we were heading into negotiations to come to a financial settlement withthe the diocese.  There was no reason to ask the court to intervene - we thought we were headed to resolution as was demonstrated in the prototype of the All Sants Dale City Resolution.  This was covered in the Standstill Agreement drafted by Bishop Lee and agreed to by the voting churches.  This Standstill Agreement is still not publicly available on the Diocese of Virginia's website - it's as though they don't want the people of the diocese to know about it - it will interfere with this timeline, I don't understand why they won't put the Standstill up on their website, it's public - you can read it here and here.

They wish to take Episcopal property to a new entity ... Under a statute that is extremely unusual. No Episcopal congregations had ever attempted to use this statute. It has always been the rule of the Episcopal church that properties held as a trust for the church as a whole. Most of the churches knew this and participated in council twenty five years ago when we wrote this canon into the diocesan canons, and they originally followed these canons. Every year until 2006 their Vestries took an oath to uphold the doctrine of the Episcopal church.

They asked the courts to rule that only a majority controlled the properties ... It would be fair to say that the diocese and the Episcopal church has experienced stumbling blocks.

Trial is still necessary under modern Va church property laws. While we cannot predict with certainty, I and the lawyers for the Episcopal church believe our claims are well supported ... Perhaps recognizing this the departing churches have tried some interesting new tactics.

In the mean time you may hear that the diocese has not been willing to negotiate. That is wrong. As Bishop Shannon mentioned we are willing to negotiate ... Our willingness to negotiate continues. We have been in touch with one of the other congregations about settlement. We will be reasonable but reasonableness is a two way street.





(BB NOTE: This is very good news - reasonableness is indeed a two-way street and it's clear, as we can see in the recent resolution between the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey and a CANA/ACNA congregation that such resolution is now possible.).

This is not a path the diocese wished to travel. Yet when I look down that road I see more stepping stones than stumbling blocks.

----

Working on resolution R2A now.

.....

Well that was fun. Odd debate ... And then a vote to be taken in orders. Very few of us clergy holding up red cards (an odd misnomer since they are decidedly pink) to vote against resolution 2.

My delegate asked why we were doing it this way. I thought it was clearly a way to identify the few of us left in the room ...

....

Resolution 12s now ...

Resolutions heartily recommends approval. Discussion? None. People are tired and hungry. It passes without opposition.

Intrepid is a delegate at the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Live Blogging Bishop Johnston's address to the Diocese of Virginia Annual Council in Reston

Live from our reporter Intrepid:

Bishop Johnston is speaking now.

Is thanking the diocesan staff for going above and beyond to serve us in the diocese. "We have the smallest staff of any domestic dioceses."

Bishop Gulick is being welcomed and complimented for his pastoral wisdom and leadership throughout the wider church and the Anglican communion. Bishop Jones is being thanked for his seventeen years of service as bishop and thirty four years of ministry. The bishop says we need three bishops and we must call for an election of a new bishop suffragan to take place in April 2012. There will be a diocesan self study ahead of time.

Remarkable work of the "listening sessions" now being touted. The sessions were open to anyone who wished to attend. Around 800 people attended In a safe atmosphere ... All of this reflects an intentional decision on what was said rather than who said it.

We have 2000 comments on 247 pages, and "it is wonderful". This was "a true watershed for the diocese". He is comparing them with the past in the diocese, "with a dramatic shift" and a concern for "community" among all. There was a much better capacity he says for people to respect take care of and speak to one another than before, from the right and the left ... (there were people from the right there?). "There is a need for teaching from the larger church and a the local level because it is explicitly Anglican for this to happen ..."

"We are united in Christ rather than in agreement on issues ... our center holds because it is nothing less than Jesus Christ."

More in a moment ...

He is recalling the discussions ... Describing the struggle between church and culture. No real answers being offered, just a recap through open ended questions.

He will not be offering answers in this address, but through gatherings in the diocese throughout the coming year ... "After listening to hear the lay of the land there is teaching to address it ..." I have always affirmed that monogamous same sex relationships are blessed. Will be working immediately to help congregations establish pstoral responses. He wants the next general convention qto authorize ssb, "but in my jugement it is right to do something and it is time to do what we can."

Applause.

Now talking about missions with native Americans in Va, in New Orleans, triangle of hooe, diocese of Christ the king, etc. "Missions are just what Christians do."

"The Diocese of Va continues to be entangled in litigation with congregations that are attempting to keep Episcopal church properties. These properties ought to be returned to us for our mission strategy and for our congregations. We have four continuing congregations that have been turned out of their houses of worship ... It is vitally important as a matter of who we are as a church that we secure a positive resolution not only for these churches but for our diocese and the whole of the Episcopal church."

"We have pursued litigation because up to this point there has been little choice. "

"Be assured in the past we have opened dialogue for settlement and we are even now pursuing settlement. We will continue to pursue all avenues for the just resolution of this suit."

He added that these costs are being cover by a line of credit based on unsecured unconsecrated lands.

No pledge dollars are being used for this

That's it for now. ... Quotation marks show the places where I am 99% sure of the text. One should be printed and available sometime soon ...

Intrepid is a member of the Diocese of Virginia Annual Council.  Bishop Johnston's text of his pastoral address is here.  In it he writes, "
You may remember that I have always affirmed that committed, monogamous same-gender relationships can indeed be faithful in the Christian life. Therefore, I plan also to begin working immediately with those congregations that want to establish the parameters for the “generous pastoral response” that the 2009 General Convention called for with respect to same-gender couples in Episcopal churches.
Personally, it is my hope that the 2012 General Convention will authorize the formal blessing of same-gender unions for those clergy in places that want to celebrate them. Until then, we might not be able to do all that we would want to do but, in my judgment, it is right to do something and it is time to do what we can.

BB NOTE: It is probably safe to assume that Bishop Johnston will be a leading candidate for Presiding Bishop. The pendulum swing indicates that he is not speaking to Virginia here, but to the wider leadership of The Episcopal Church (Bonnie Anderson does not just create a personal award and hand it out to the person who took on Lauren Stanley two years ago on the floor of Diocesan Council for nothing).

Of course, truth be told, I am frankly far more surprised (to put it lightly) that Bishop Johnson wore a cassock to Annual Council - what in the world is that all about? The Bishop of Virginia is High Church Anglo Catholic?

It is very cold here, but did hell freeze?

That is far more of a page-turner than most of this other stuff coming out of Annual Council, truly - and it doesn't even get a blip on the news radar! Sorry Bishop Meade, Bishop Johns, and Bishop Whittle - why, even, Bishop Lee! Who would have thought it?

Time for a cup of hot tea.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Please Pray: Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Annual Council meets in Reston, January 21-22, 2011

Please pray for the delegates to the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia as they officially begin tomorrow, January 21 (though there are pre-meetings and gatherings today) and continue through Saturday, January 22.  You may read the resolutions before council here and here.  More materials may be found here.  In  particular, please pray as the council considers the substitute resolution R-12s, brought forward by the Resolutions Committee as both the Diocese and the CANA Congregations consider next steps.  God bless all of those who put this resolution together.  Here it is:

R-12s: A Call to Prayer (substitute for R-8 and R-9)

Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council request the members of the Diocese of Virginia, corporately and individually, to pray regularly for God's guidance for the resolution of the property issues in the Diocese that are presently the subject of litigation.

Submitted by the Committee on Resolutions in consultation with and agreement from the submitters of R-8 and R-9

Again, we offer this prayer:

O Father, in this time of deep separation in our beloved church, we offer this prayer for the just and amicable resolution of the litigation we are facing, for the healing of broken relationships, for the softening of hearts hardened by hostility, and for common ground in our Common Prayer. Please help us all to be empowered by your Holy Spirit to dedicate our mutual resources for your work and glory, not our own, that we may find some good to come from this conflict that has engaged us for so long. Hear us, Lord, we pray, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.






And this one, just because ...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And now a word from our sponsor ...



This song, here covered by Adele, has taken off recently.  Written by Bob Dylan, on first glance it appears to be a simple love song - and it is.  But of course, being Dylan, it goes deeper as it comes from his great album, Time Out of Mind.  It's not hard to imagine the Lord himself sings this to you.  Because He does.


When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love


When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love


I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong


I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love


The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet


I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love

B. Dylan

Dylan Update: Bob Dylan Signs Six-Book Deal

Rolling Stone is reporting that "Bob Dylan has signed a six-book deal with Simon & Schuster, according to Crain's New York Business, encompassing two sequels to his acclaimed 2004 book Chronicles: Volume One as well as another book based on dialogue from his Sirius/XM radio show Theme Time Radio Hour."

Dylan told Rolling Stone in a 2006 interview that "he was stunned by the overwhelmingly positive response to the first volume of Chronicles.  "The reviews of this book, some of 'em almost made me cry - in a good way," Dylan said. "I'd never felt that from a music critic, ever ..."

In 2006 Dylan told Rolling Stone about his possible plans for Chronicles: Volume 2:
"I think I can go back to the Blonde on Blonde album — that's probably about as far back as I can go on the next book," he said. "Then I'll probably go forward. I thought of an interesting time. I made this record, Under the Red Sky, with Don Was, but at the same time I was also doing the [second] Wilburys record. I don't know how it happened that I got into both albums at the same time. I worked with George [Harrison] and Jeff [Lynne] during the day — everything had to be done in one day, the track and the song had to be written in one day, and then I'd go down and see Don Was, and I felt like I was walking into a wall. He'd have a different band for me to play with every day, a lot of all-stars, for no particular purpose. Back then I wasn't bringing anything at all into the studio, I was completely disillusioned."
No official word from Bob Dylan yet so stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Late Night at the Cafe: Streets Of London



Have you seen the old man
In the closed down market
Kicking up the papers with his worn out shoes
In his eyes you see no pride
Hands held loosely at his side
Yesterday's paper, telling yesterday's news
So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something
To make you change your mind


Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags
She's no time for talking
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags


So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something
To make you change your mind


In the old night cafe at a quarter past eleven
The same old man sitting there on his own
Looking at the world over the rim of his teacup
Each tea lasts an hour, and he wanders home alone


So how can you tell me that you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something
To make you change your mind


Have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with the minor ribands that he wears
In our city winter the rain cries little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world which doesn't care


So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something
To make you change your mind

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Night at the Cafe

Substitute Resolution on property litigation proposed for Diocese of Virginia Annual Council next week

VA Laity for a Win Win Settlement is reporting that the original submitters of the two resolutions that have all ready been proposed for the Diocese of Virginia Annual Council next week have drafted a proposed substitute resolution that VA Laity calls "quite promising."


From Finding Common Ground in Common Prayer:
The Diocesan Annual Council meets in Reston VA from January 20-22. Two resolutions related to the property litigation were submitted in advance. One called on the Diocese to enter into negotiations with the departing congregations "so that a bilaterally beneficial outcome might be achieved and an increasingly prolonged and mutually destructive process of civil litigation be avoided." (Read the full text here.) The other called on the Bishop to pursue recovery of the disputed property "by all available means.” (Read the full text here.)

In the time-honored Episcopal tradition of finding an approach that everyone can support, those who submitted these mutually-exclusive resolutions have drafted a proposed substitute resolution which turns out to be quite promising. The resolution and background statement read as follows:

PROPOSED SUBSTITUTION FOR R-8 AND R-9

Resolved, That the 216th Annual Council request the members of the Diocese of Virginia, corporately and individually, to commit to praying regularly for God's guidance for the resolution of the property issues in the Diocese that are presently the subject of litigation.

Background:

We agree that this matter of property ownership needs to come to a resolution that is according to God's will and that brings him glory. What we may not agree upon is what our expectations of that outcome should be. Therefore, we will lay our differences and our desires before God in the faith that through the Holy Spirit the path of the Diocese in this matter will be his path.

"Negotiation becomes attractive when all parties believe that it is a feasible alternative to achieving their objectives. The same is true, of course, for litigation," Virginia Laity writes their commentary on the proposed substitute resolution.  "In the end, there is a better chance that all parties will be satisfied when they negotiate; if they litigate, it is certain that one or all will be unhappy with the outcome. We think it makes sense to give negotiations a try."

Read it all here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Despite threat of boycott, Anglican Communion Primates will meet in Dublin, Ireland (Jan 25-31)

No one is served by such a boycott and I hope at this late hour the primates will listen to Archbishop Josiah of Nigeria and reconsider.  It's not too late.  We watched the Sudanese people show up to vote, despite the risks - they showed up. They are inspiring.

If one is elected or appointed a leader, a major portion of the job is to show up - one way or the other (and there are many ways to show up, by the way).  If we don't like what is happening in the room, then we say so.  Yes, much of the earlier meetings have been ignored, undermined, or overturned.  That is nature of the conflict - that is what happens on a battlefield, any battlefield.  Soldiers do not boycott.  They show up.  God is going to show up after all - so why don't we?

From the Church of England Newspaper via email and here:


THE PRIMATES’ Meeting in Dublin will go ahead this month, despite a quarter of the leaders claiming to boycott it.
Ten primates say they will not attend. They are: the Primates of the Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South East Asia, the Southern Cone of Latin America, Tanzania, Uganda, and West Africa. But Jan Butter, director of communications for the Anglican Communion, said that the meeting would go ahead and that he still hopes all primates will attend. “We are still waiting for all the responses to come in. We certainly welcome all the primates, it’s their meeting,” he said.
However, he was more confident about their attendance than was Canon Kenneth Kearon who acknowledged that some primates were not coming. “We won’t know how many primates are coming until pretty close to the time because the primates make their own travel arrangements, but I think that less than 10 will decide not to come,” he told The Sunday Business Post.
Those primates planning not to attend say that it is over failed promises in the past. The Primates’ Council of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans said: “As we have made clear in numerous communiqu├ęs and meetings those who have abandoned the historic teaching of the Church have torn the fabric of our life together at its deepest level. “We have made repeated attempts to bring repentance and restoration and yet these efforts have been rejected. We grieve for those who have walked apart and earnestly pray for them and the people under their care."
Canon Chris Sugden, writing in an article to be published in next month’s Evangelicals Now, said that the boycott called into question the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership. “This refusal of his invitation calls into question the ability of the Archbishop of Canterbury to fulfil his role as gatherer of the Communion,” he writes. Archbishop of Kaduna, Nigeria, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, however, has published a plea that the primates do attend the Ireland meeting.
He argues that although Christians have suffered because of the Episcopal Church and its leadership the primates should still meet up to dialogue with those who have grieved them. Sugden writes: “The real problem is that all the decisions made at previous meetings, have been ignored, undermined or overturned.”

Read it all here.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Prayer



BB NOTE: I was playing this song while reading the comments today - sort of changes the perspective when reading and listening to the conversations now underway here at the Cafe.