Sunday, December 31, 2006

What's the laity for anyway?

Interesting conversation going on over at the Bishop/Deputies listserve regarding the topic of Lay Eucharistic Ministers. I was very surprised to see - without naming names - who were those who are quite alarmed by the rise of the Lay Eucharistic Ministry. It was odd to see that many who support the theological innovations of the Episcopal Church are quite rigid when it comes to maintaining a distinct separation between the roles of clergy and the roles of laity. What's up with that?

One of the hallmarks of the renewal in the Episcopal Church was that the structures of the church were turned up side down. Where it was the clergy's job to do ministry and it was the laity's job to support that ministry - now it's the other way around. It is the clergy's job to support the ministry of the laity and they do this by equipping the people to go out and spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the marketplace, through their witness and their word. When lives have been transformed by Jesus through His Holy Spirit and His Word, it is a powerful witness to the world in which the laity live and work, in their neighborhoods and in their workplaces. This has been a hallmark of the renewal.

This has certainly been the case at Truro where lay leadership walks alongside the clergy leadership, side by side. What distinguishes people are their gifts - their natural gifts, but even more so the gifts of the Spirit that are expressed when people come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and are filled with the Holy Spirit to do the work of ministry. Sacramental ministry moves from the Table to the World.

And now, Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

I was quite surprised to see clergy and lay deputies so adamant about drawing a line between the laity and the clergy and I'm still trying to figure out why people who proclaim themselves "progressive" on theological issues could be so "traditional," even rigid when it comes to separating the clergy and the laity. I'd be very interested in hearing other people's ideas on why this is so.

There is no way that Truro or our other sister churches in Virginia could do the ministries that we do with so many thousands of members without the equipping of the laity - not only in sending the ministry out but within the walls the church. We have over thirty Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEMs) exercising their ministries every weekend in the services and even more going to visit those at home or in the hospitals. Some of our LEMs go on to seminary but not every seminarian has been a Lay Eucharistic Minister. We have licensed Lay Readers and not everyone who gets in the pulpit is ordained.

The job of the clergy have been to equip the laity and this was very dramatically expressed during our "500 in Five" mission outreach where we made it a goal to send out five hundred lay people in mission in five years. Every year (and it still continues) teams made up of clergy and laity go out into mission all over the world, at home and abroad. Those missions have transformed the lives not only of our adult membership, but of the young people as well.

What does it mean to be in the "priesthood of all believers?" What is the purpose of clergy and bishops in the equipping of the priesthood of all believers? What does "mutual submission" mean when we focus on the relationships between clergy and the laity?

A primary calling for the clergy - though not reserved only for them - is to teach the scriptures so that the laity can 'read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the scriptures. Once the Word of God grows healthy roots in the hearts and minds of believers, they are prepared to become disciples of Jesus Christ.

It is indeed ironic that there is such a canonical and structural fundamentalism that takes root when the integrity of the scriptures is compromised. An educated and equipped laity, who know their scriptures, should not be taken lightly. Clerics and Bishops have known this for a long time, for a very long time.

There are those writing essays that think that the current crisis is caused by the work of a few clergy and the laity sit blindly and stupidly in their pews. But I would maintain that it is quite the opposite. Having worked for so many years to train and equip the laity to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the scriptures - and then find the leadership of the Episcopal Church walking away from the truth of the scriptures has caused more and more laity to stand up and be counted and say no more.

What gives the sacraments their power is that they point to the truth of Jesus Christ and the person of Jesus Christ as we see Him revealed in the Scriptures. If we divorce the scriptures from the sacraments, then the sacraments are free to be reinterpreted - reimagined - to fit the new theology and whatever else comes down the pike.

An equipped and educated laity - who take part in all aspects of the church, guided and encouraged by the clergy - awakens a sleeping Church to be about the mission of Jesus Christ to this broken world He came to save.

As we look forward into the new year, may we continue to grow in our knowledge and love for Jesus, expressed in the study of His Word, in the Sacraments, and by caring for the least, the last, and the lost. That is the laity - and the clergy's - calling together. And together that makes a church awake for Christ and alive for the world.


From a 1994 Performance: God Knows

God knows you ain't pretty,
God knows it's true.
God knows there ain't anybody
Ever gonna take the place of you.

God knows it's a struggle,
God knows it's a crime,
God knows there's gonna be no more water
But fire next time.

God didn't call it treason,
God didn't call it wrong,
It was supposed to last a season
But it's been so strong for so long.

God knows it's fragile,
God knows everything,
God knows it could snap apart right now
Just like putting scissors to a string.

God knows it's terrifying,
God sees it all unfold,
There's a million reasons for you to be crying
You been so bold and so cold.

God knows that when you see it,
God knows you've got to weep,
God knows the secrets of your heart,
He'll tell them to you when you're asleep.

God knows there's a river,
God knows how to make it flow,
God knows you ain't gonna be taking
Nothing with you when you go.

God knows there's a purpose,
God knows there's a chance,
God knows you can rise above the darkest hour
Of any circumstance.

God knows there's a heaven,
God knows it's out of sight,
God knows we can get all the way from here to there
Even if we've got to walk a million miles by candlelight.

Dylan 1990

Thanks, RWB. Happy New Year.

Five Keys for the Serious Reader

BB NOTE: As some of you may know, my essay "Iceberg Ahoy!: Why the Harry Potter Books Should Be
Restored to The New York Times Best-seller List," was published in a collection of essays on the Harry Potter books called The Plot Thickens, available at Amazon by clicking on the title. With the announcement of the title of the seventh (and last) book in the Harry Potter series, there has been a lot of new writing on Harry Potter as we prepare for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I thinking now that the "Deathly Hallows" are the Horcruxes that Harry is off to find at the close of the sixth book. The big question facing readers of the book is whether Harry is one of those Horcruxes himself.

John Granger is the author of Looking for God in Harry Potter, an excellent introduction to the series from a Christian perspective. He's also written The Hidden Key to Harry Potter: Understanding the Meaning, Genius, and Popularity of the Harry Potter Novels, which digs even deeper into the novels and their meaning. I took a class online from John Granger through Barnes and Noble and joined his boards as he prepared for the publication of his next book, Unlocking Harry Potter: Keys for the Serious Reader, which should be published in early 2007. With the announcement of the title for the seventh book, I dropped in again at and discovered that John now his own blog up - which is open to all: Hogwarts Professor.

Here is an essay by John Granger on the "Five Keys for the Serious Reader." For those of us who are fans of Jo Rowling and her series of books, 2007 could be a banner year - and just what the Doctor ordered.

Five (5) Keys for the Serious Reader

By John Granger

The book I am finishing the final edits for this week (go to to order it at the pre-publication special price) is titled Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader. Almost everything I will write about here at HogPro will relate to one or more of these keys, so let me provide a short introduction to each one, why I think they are important, and how they work together. It helps I think to recall the keys to Moody’s chest in Goblet of Fire.

Narrative Misdirection

The first chapter of Who Killed Albus Dumbledore? (WKAD) is an essay on narrative misdirection I wrote for one of my Prince classes at BNU in 2005. That book had to start with this essay because WKAD is about what happens beneath the story-line of Half-Blood Prince. Narrative misdirection is the literary device Ms. Rowling uses in each of her books to create the impression in the reader’s mind that they have a good idea of what is going on when really all they have is Harry’s view. As Harry is at best a little slow and quite possibly, qua Gryffindor, born with a headless hat in place, Harry’s perspective is quite the restricted view. We learn this at the end of every book except Prince when Dumbledore and circumstances reveal all the mistakes Harry made in judgment, often from lack of information or just misunderstanding and neglecting clues on the periphery of his vision. I explain in Unlocking Harry Potter how Ms. Rowling does this and the debt she owes to Austen’s Emma for this technique.

Hero’s Journey and Repeated Elements

There is little mystery or deceit in Ms. Rowling’s formulaic writing. Harry’s story each year begins on Privet Drive and proceeds through ten steps of his annual adventure until he returns to King’s Cross Station for another summer with his Aunt and Uncle on Privet Drive. With the exception, again, of Half-Blood Prince’s finale, this journey and its repeated elements are the skeleton on which Ms. Rowling hangs her tales. I detail the ten steps, the important exceptions from formula in Prince, and, more to the point, what each journey means in Harry’s transformation year-by-year and his formation as hero and Voldy-Vanquisher overall.

Literary Alchemy

The subject of personal change via the journey brings us to Ms. Rowling’s remarkable and profound use of traditional alchemical imagery and symbols to detail and describe the process of Harry’s transformation. Alchemy is a seven stage work, hence the seven years of Hogwarts education and the seven books, it has three primary stages, hence the Black, White (Albus), and Red (Rubeus, among others) characters and action in the latest three novels, and alchemy is about the action of contraries - feminine alchemical mercury and masculine sulfur - resolving the impurities of a substance, hence Hermione (Hg) and Ron, “the quarreling couple” of Harry’s alchemical life. The Harry Potter epic is suffused with symbols, number, and meaning from the stream of literary alchemy in traditional English literature that stretches from Shakespeare to C. S. Lewis. Despite this being cued from the first book’s title, Philosopher's Stone, it remains something obscure for most readers and a large part of Unlocking Harry Potter is spent explaining how this key works in opening up everything from the sequence and details of the Tr-Wizard tasks to what the alchemical wedding of Bill and Fleur, the Red King and White Queen, means for Deathly Hallows.

Postmodern Themes and Meaning

As interesting as I find these keys, the most fun and biggest challenge I had while writing Unlocking Harry Potter was thinking of Ms. Rowling, not as a literary throwback to Austen or alchemical dinosaur, as a woman of our times. Trying to answer the question of why the books are so popular means thinking first of how and why they resonate as they do with readers of all ages and nationalities in the 21st century, not the 16th. I explain the twelve points books and screenplays written in our times, what is usually called “postmodernism” or post-structuralism,” have in common and then discuss how the Harry Potter books conform to this model. I hope this week to discuss on HogPro blog “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” the Christmas time television special, in light of three of four of these predominant themes to give you a taste for this. It involves looking at your own eyeballs, thinking about the “given” ideas we all share just by living and breathing in this historical period, but the rewards in understanding Harry Potter and just about every book and movie being released - think Happy Feet and Apocalypto - are probably greater than any other of the five keys.

Traditional Symbolism

Last but not least is the transcendent element of Ms. Rowling’s books, the symbols, themes, and meaning she gives her book that resonate with the human heart more than just with the preconceptions of our times. This includes the traditional Christian content I detailed in Looking for God in Harry Potter, although here I explain how Ms. Rowling’s use of these images is postmodern rather than evangelical, reflecting both her concerns and her faith, and the differences between her, Tolkien, and Lewis in this regard.

These five keys work together to create the wow effect that has entranced the readers of the world. To deliver her postmodern message about the limits of human understanding, the ubiquity of prejudice, and the dangers, even the evil of the predominant metanarrative, Ms. Rowling uses narrative misdirection to show us again and again how little we can “get” of what is really happening around us. Because the alchemical work is completed in the “white stage” or albedo, what transpired in Half-Blood Prince, a transformation that is invisible until the “red stage” to come in Deathly Hallows, we know that what we think happened in Prince is almost completely deception to be revealed in the eucatastrophe or apocalypse of the coming book. She resolves postmodern questions in each book by turning on the materialist metanarrative within postmodern thinking itself with Harry’s figurative death and resurrection in the presence of Christ, the hero’s ending we should expect at Deathly Hallows’ end. Harry either dies a faux-death once again, beheaded like Buckbeak or pulling off a Draught of Living Death escape, or Harry does the Sydney Carton sacrifice to redeem the magical world himself.

more ... ...

Friday, December 29, 2006

"The realignment crowd will try to infect us with the dysfunction ... in the hope for a coup d’eglise. "

Mark Harris figures it out - we're all an "infection" and he wants none of it. Reading his posting brought to mind an old classic Star Trek episode. Now we know what progressive Episcopalians think of us - we're infecting the church. And it's all the missionaries fault.

LATER: The term "coup d’eglise" has a rather interesting connotation. A takeoff on "coup d’etat" it is often used to denote a conspiracy of international proportions, usually from the Left (and often focuses on the usual conspiracy targets, you know who they are). It's TinFoil Hat Time. But me, I'd rather watch old episodes of Star Trek.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Of Parishes, Churches, and Congregations: Tony Clavier Comments on the Histories of Truro and The Falls Church

BB NOTE: Fr. Tony Clavier offers his opinions on the Gunderson assertions about the histories of Truro and The Falls Church.

I am grateful to Dr. Joan Gunderson for her essay on the histories of Truro and Falls Church parishes. I hesitate to take her on in an area in which she shows great learning. However there's something dangerous about her conclusions.

Dr. Gunderson begins on firm ground. The Colonial legislature divided Virginia into geographical parishes. Anglicanism was not only the Established Church but a territorial church. Thus it claimed to have a mission in place. It did not regard itself as an ecclesial organization which drew to itself those who thought of themselves as Anglicans, but rather as the Church locally placed with a mission to all who lived in the geographical parish. At this point it is easy to assume that such a territorial mission had something to do with Establishment. This is not so. It had everything to do with the notion that the Anglican Church was the old church reformed and not some new model, created at the Reformation with the power to draw to itself adherents who liked the liturgy or the metrical psalms.

After the Revolution the Episcopal Church enshrined in its Constitution and Canons the continued notion that at diocesan and parochial levels it inherited and continued its self-perception as a territorial church. The Canons then and now describe the parish in terms of territory and also describe how that territory may be sub-divided to form new parishes and missions. Indeed I shall go on to argue later that if such a self-perception is abandoned, the Episcopal Church has no right to grumble when other overseas bodies plant themselves near an existing Episcopal parish or indeed take over at least the property dedicated to the territorial parish.

The newly formed Diocese of Virginia was in bad shape. Many buildings had been destroyed or badly damaged during the Revolution. Many clergy and laity fled abroad. The first two bishops did little - Madison was busy enough as rector of Bruton Parish Church and President of the College of William and Mary. (Clowes Chorley's, "Men and Movements in the American Episcopal Church" although dated as the title suggests, offers fascinating insights into this period.) Many parishes were totally neglected. There were not enough clergy to go round and many lay people preferred to keep their Anglican convictions quiet.

It was not until the advent of the Evangelical Revival and the establishment of the Virginia Theological Seminary that revival and restoration began. But note the ancient parishes had not been abolished and the conventicle model introduced. It may have taken forty years from the Revolution to revival but in the end it was to the old parishes that the new breed of Evangelical parson went. On the whole, the old parishes were divided and sub-divided. Ruined parish churches were restored, new buildings erected. But all this was done in accordance with the Canons.

Were the newly formed parishes and missions, created in the former territory of the colonial parishes something new with no links to the original territory ascribed to the original parish? Surely not. In a sub-divided parish, each parish might claim to be the heir to the original parish. As the very large original parishes often had two or three church buildings, where one survived or was restored in a "new parish", there might well be a compelling incarnational link to the original parish. So in this sense I think it unfortunate to quarrel with the claims of the Falls Church and Truro Parish for claiming Colonial roots. When restored and established these two parishes certainly occupied some of the same territory originally part of a larger unit. If they had restored Colonial parish churches in which worthies once worshipped, the link is the more compelling.

Read the rest here.

Reflecting on the History of Truro Parish in Virginia

BB NOTE: An activist from Progressive Episcopalians (which announced it was taking Bishop Bob Duncan, the bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, to court, yet again), Joan Gundersen has put out a piece to the progressive blogs regarding the historical founding of Truro Parish, which includes Truro and The Falls Church. She is incorrect that parishes were considered churches, the church was the Church of England - a parish was made up of congregations. This was the way Virginia was organized, following the English model.

So I thought it might be good to reflect on what I know about Truro Parish. We do need to remember that Truro Parish has been subject to a couple of catastrophic wars, including the American Revolution and the Civil War (both nearly destroyed the congregations in Falls Church and what was then Fairfax Court House). But the congregations survived - and how and why they survived are truly fascinating stories - wars could not destroy those congregations, even when their buildings were occupied or destroyed.

Why did they survive? I would make the case that lay leadership has everything to do with it, from the very beginning.

Truro is a congregation in an historic "Parish" - this is where we have to understand Episcopal/Anglican terms. A "parish" is NOT a church or a congregation. A "Church" is the Diocese. The Anglican Communion is made up of Churches all over the world. In Europe there are two Churches on the same property - the Church of Spain and the American Church in Europe. The Episcopal term for Church is Diocese. Unlike the Roman Catholics Church - which is one centralized Church, the Anglican Communion is a network of Anglican Churches. Virginia was once a mission church of an overseas Diocese (and one of the founding missions of what would later become the Anglican Communion) - the Diocese of London. All who immigrated to Virginia who were Protestants became members of the Virginia (Anglican) Church, be they actually from the Church of Scotland or French Huguenots or English indentured servants or African slaves. All who were baptized Protestants were automatically in the Church in Virginia. But Virginia had no bishop of its own - technically Virginia was under the Bishop of London, but no bishop ever came to visit Virginia and so the Church was eestablished in a fierce Protestant tradition without the presence of a bishop. Baptism was the entry into membership (not confirmation) - which continues to this day. Truro Church is actually a good example in that the church is filled with baptized members who are Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and many other denominations. It is a microcosm of what the church was like in the early days - it is also filled with immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia - as well as Europe (including our new bishop, who is himself an immigrant).

The Diocese is made up of Parishes (in some ways the "region" system could be said to have replaced the parish over the years, though it does not have as much governing authority as the old parish system which had only one vestry). The parish is made up of congregations. Since the Commonwealth of Virginia was based on the English/Anglican system, it established "parishes" (instead of counties). For the first two hundred years there was no separation of church/state and so the Anglican/Commonwealth government were the same. The parish was run by the Vestry which looked after the affairs of the entire parish, both spiritual as well as civil. When the Anglican Church was disestablished following the Revolution, the parish system was replaced with a secular government. The Vestry moved into the congregations and no longer conducted civil affairs (though many, like Truro, are a stonesthrow from the Court House) - hinting at the earlier bond between the two. In fact, when Fairfax Court House congregation (which is now called Truro) was reformed after scattering when the revolution came to end (remember, many Virginia Anglicans were British Loyalists - the entire Virginia Church was scattered) they met at the Fairfax Court House until a more permanent building could be found (which is on the property next to the Moore House.

The original name for Fairfax County was "Truro Parish." The Vestry of Truro Parish oversaw all the affairs in the parish - both spiritual and civil. George Washington and George Mason cut their teeth on politics by being elected members of the Vestry of Truro Parish. Truro parish had many congregations, including Paynes (which is Truro/Zion's predecessor and the Truro Chapel is a replica of our original building), Falls Church, Christ Church Alexandria, and Pohick. Falls Church later split off from Truro Parish as I recall, though I am not sure the date. But this is why the Fairfax Court House church Truro (then called Paynes), Falls Church, Pohick, Christ Church, and Pohick can all claim Washington (BabyBlue's second cousin, sev. gens removed for what it's worth) for a Vestryman. He oversaw the affairs of all those congregations. This system ended after the Revolution.

Now the prospect of introducing bishops back into the everyday life of the church devastated the early days of the Diocese of Virginia and the vast majority of the Anglican Christians in Virginia rejected having a bishop at all (again, remember that many Virginia Anglicans were British Loyalists!). "Give me liberty!" remember Patrick Henry (a layman) shouted from inside an Richmond (Anglican of course) church.

The Diocese of Virginia struggled for decades on getting organized because the parish system (led by the laity) was so strong in Virginia (and those remnants are still felt today). The conflict went all the way to the legislature where a deal was made to allow congregations in parishes to be independent of the Episcopal Church in Virginia (an thus, no longer taxed or counted as member of the parish). This is one of the major reasons Jefferson (BabyBlue's third cousin, several gens removed, like half of Virginia) wrote his letter about the separation of church and state - to allow the congregations that wished (i.e., Baptists and other Protestant congregations) to be able to function in Virginia without having to be under a bishop. It's hard for us to think of this now because having a multitude of Christian churches is commonplace in Virginia - but in the early days there was only "The Church" and any Protestant minister who immigrated (which is really where most of the early ministers came from) was assimilated into the church. In my own family, my parish was Tillotson Parish in what is now Buckingham County. It was Anglican until the disestablishment (and the original building still stands with my ancestors buried under it!) and the early ministers (as well as the congregation) were French Protestants - so they were the ministers though the "Church" was English.

The majority of the Protestant Christians did not want a bishop and so there was a massive exodus - there were still hard feelings with England and the English Church anyway. Virginia did not recover really until Meade in the 1840s when he established Missions in the mountains and preached an evangelical Christian message. The Virginia countryside is still littered with the remnants of those early colonial structures - either abandoned entirely (often by the British Loyalists) or taken over by Protestant Congregations (as happened in Buckingham Court House).

The oldest church building in the old Truro Parish now is Pohick (in fact, the graveyard is called Truro Parish). The foundations for Paynes Church still exist and guess what church sits on top of those foundations - a Baptist Church on Ox Road. Zion was established to replace Paynes (now in disrepair) in Fairfax City on the spot where Truro is now. Following the Revolution a delegation was sent from The Falls Church to reestablish the Episcopal Church in the City when the loyalists fled. The original Zion Church was lost during the Civil War (a wooden structure, it was used by the occupying Union troops as firewood) and rebuilt after the war and remained standing until it burned down in the 1940s (it was turned into a parish hall after the "new" church was built and the original name restored to Truro in 1933. It was built at as replica to the original church, Paynes Church. It remained the church until the "new" church was built in the 1950s which is the Truro Church today.

But the "parish" never went out of existence and while Virginia has suffered through many wars - the congregations managed to survive and I believe they did remained alive because the congregations were still bound together in the old parish system and those relationships (even when we can't remember anymore why that is so) - which included marriages, cousins, and such - kept the congregations from falling away. It was family.

I know that at some point - it may have been after the Civil War - that one clergyman looked after both Truro and The Falls Church for a season, so it's important to understand that our congregations have continued to be bound together over the years (though our vestries were separate since the disestablishment). That system was far more vibrant and strong (even today) then the idea that the Church was centered on the diocese or the bishop. Virginia has always been wary of a strong bishop (memories are long) and that made for a strong and robust laity - which goes all the way back to George Washington and George Mason, both leading Vestrymen of Truro Parish, and defenders of American liberty.

FYI NOTE: Okay, BabyBlue is a direct descendant of John Washington and Christopher Branch, as well as Jean Pierre Bondurant, all early immigrants to Virginia. But then so are a lot of Virginians - isn't that right, cousin?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Commentary on the Archbishop of Canterbury's Letter to the Primates

I've been mulling over the Archbishop of Canterbury's (ABC) letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion. I've come to the conclusion that it is a primary example of what it means to be Anglican - it seeks to reach out to all parties, it reminds the reader of the reality of the current crisis (which some, including the TEC PB, continue to try to sweep away), it offers a pathway through the theological thicket, and it upsets just about everybody. Yep, that's what it's like to be Anglican.

Let's take a look at the letter, with the TinFoil Hat left on the table in the Spare Room.

This meeting will be, of course, an important and difficult and important encounter, with several moments of discernment and decision to be faced, and a good deal of work to be done on our hopes for the Lambeth Conference, and on the nature and shape of the Covenant that we hope will assist us in strengthening our unity as a Communion.

First thing that the ABC does is set out the vision for this February Primates Meeting - to make it to Lambeth in 2008. That is the point of the meeting, to prepare for Lambeth - which means facing the crisis at hand or the hopes of having any sort of traditional Lambeth Conference will dim to darkness.

There are two points I wish to touch on briefly.

He isn't out of the starting gate for two seconds when he gets down to business. No flowery language, no hyperbolic embellishments, no invoking the spirit to do this or that, the man gets down to business. What does that mean when we waste no time and get clear straight away? Well, I picture a Defense Attorney in front of a jury making his closing arguments, in a kind but direct manner. "Trust me," he infers. There are two things which "I wish to touch on briefly." Don't we just love the British? Americans have a hard time understating things - we must (like others in the Communion by the way) embellish, embellish, embellish - but the British (though I think Scots have it down to an art form, quite frankly) just aim to get to the point. There are two big-time reasons (well, there are actually three - but he seems to intentionally downplay the third) that the ABC is writing this letter to the primates so pay attention because it's pretty darn serious. The brevity speaks volumes.


The first is a reminder of what our current position actually is in relation to the Episcopal Church. This Province has agreed to withdraw its representation from certain bodies in the Communion until Lambeth 08; and the Joint Standing Committee has appointed a sub-group which has been working on a report to develop our thinking as to how we should as a meeting interpret the Episcopal Church's response so far to the Windsor recommendations. In other words, questions remain to be considered about the Episcopal Church’s relations with other Provinces (though some Provinces have already made their position clear).

I think the first point ends here. As an editor, I would end the sentence here. In the next sentence, the ABC then gives us his opinion about the facts stated above. It is interesting though that the decision was made to add Rowan's opinion at the tale end of this statement of facts. However, before we get to his opinion about the facts (as important as that is), let's first take a look at the facts.

Rowan Williams reminds us that TEC is still under discipline (which has been largely forgotten in the recent press coverage of the Virginia congregational votes. It is news to many (if not most) in the media that TEC is under discipline and - in a very Anglican sort of way - has "agreed to withdraw its representation from certain bodies in the Communion until Lambeth 08." This situation still stands - the relationship between TEC and the rest of the Communion (as exemplified by perhaps the most TEC-celebrated "Instrument of Unity" - the Anglican Consultative Council). This has been the most liberal organization (at least until the next meeting of the ACC which will now include all the primates of the Anglican Communion as well as the other provincial representatives). But this is the one that TEC has lost seat and vote in for the past year and another year and a half to go (at least) when we will hear the next part of the ABC's point in this paragraph.

He reminds us that the ACC Joint Standing Committee (which now does not include any representation from TEC) has a sub-group that is "working on a report to develop our thinking as to how we should as a meeting interpret the Episcopal Church’s response so far to the Windsor recommendations." So TEC is not out of the hot water yet. Since we know all ready how TEC responded to the Windsor recommendations at the last General Convention in Columbus, we now wait to hear from a subcommittee of a committee of another committee to tell us what it all means. But hey, that's democracy at work. Let's just stress the "work" part though.

I hadn't heard about this subgroup - but it must be noted that this is the ACC subgroup working on a "report" for the primates (or so it appears) to tell them what they should all ready know. Let's just keep a sharp eye on that little subgroup.

Just so we don't get sidetracked, the ABC helpfully tells us what this all means when he writes that "questions remain to be considered about the Episcopal Church’s relations with other Provinces," though he adds that some Provinces have all ready made their positions clear. So we could read this as a way of reminding the primates that there is a bureaucratic process in place (inside the American-funded ACC, no less) to find out what we all ready know - that TEC did not fulfill the specific requests of the Windsor Report.

As someone who has lived in the Bureaucratic Capitol of the World (BCW) should know, this is hardly innocuous. When is the "report" from this subcommittee to the committee to the committee supposed to be delivered? In time for February? Could be, could very well be (which may explain why Rowan Williams comes to his next conclusion). But do we know?

I do not think it wise or just to take any action that will appear to bring that consideration and the whole process of our shared discernment to a premature end.

In other words, it is possible that the primates may be hearing the report from the subcommittee to the committee to the committee and after all that work (remember when the last time the Primates all met - in Ireland?) this "instrument of unity" needs to at least be all together to hear it, especially since the province in question is under discipline and did not take part (officially - only officially - since TEC has been the primary funding source for the ACC, you better believe that the Americans continue to be closely involved, bet the house on it - don't throw longstanding relationships - out the window simply because they aren't on this year's guest list).

What is interesting here, though, is that the subcommittee writing this report came from the ACC and not the Primates themselves. That is a very important piece of information - and may have so much to do with the next conclusion:

This is why I have decided not to withhold an invitation to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the elected Primate of the Episcopal Church to attend the forthcoming meeting. I believe it is important that she be given a chance both to hear and to speak and to discuss face to face the problems we are confronting together. We are far too prone to talk about these matters from a distance, without ever having to face the human reality of those from whom we differ.

Now it's not clear that the primates will actually be hearing a report (let's watch that space) so if they aren't, then this is the way that the ACC can get the American point of view into the report, while TEC is still under discipline. If they can't get the Americans into the room with seat, voice, and vote to write their little report about the Americans official response to the Windsor Report. General Convention appears to not have been enough after all, and so (if there is no report issued from the ACC) then this is a way to get TEC back into the room.

It's quite ingenious of whoever thought this up - because now the burden is on the Global South primates to show up. It is here that I share the alarm that come in the orthodox feel - that this is a power play to lessen the Windsor Report requests and shift it to something the liberals have been calling the "Windsor Process."

Whenever we see that term "Windsor Process" it does not mean Windsor compliant, but the tactics of "stall and recall" until everyone is exhausted, throwing up their hands in surrender or just leaving (though please leave the church keys at the front desk, thank you very much).

So we should see if there is going to be a ACC report issued to the Primates (or is there is a report coming from within the Primates group themselves, since they are the ones who issued the Windsor Report in the first place?). Perhaps we should emphasize a report coming from the Primates regarding the results of the American response to Windsor, rather than this report from the subcommittee to the committee to the committee - it is far more weighty to hear what the primates say about this (but it certainly behooves some parties to shift attention away from the primates to the ACC). Think about it.

Now someone must have raised this problem with Rowan Williams, because if this was the entire point - that the new TEC PB is invited to the pow wow without censure, then the Communion collapses. We were told over and over again that General Convention speaks for TEC (and TEC does NOT have a primate, as Bishop Lee told us after General Convention, only a presider -NO archbishop, despite how suddenly current letters are being signed by Katharine Jefferts Schori) then the PB cannot speak for TEC alone. She is not an archbishop. So the ABC comes up with another plan. Since the Presiding Bishop of TEC cannot speak for the Church (and only General Convention has that power), then Dr. Williams proposes the following, understanding very clearly that if he just invites Katharine Jefferts Schori and nothing else, he's in deep doo doo:

However, given the acute dissension in the Episcopal Church at this point, and the very widespread effects of this in the Communion, I am also proposing to invite two or three other contributors from that Province for a session to take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation may be reviewed, and I am currently consulting as to how this is best organizedised.

Brilliant. In one fell swoop, he diminishes Katharine as a primate who speaks for all Anglicans and recognizes that indeed TEC is divided - that a real division has occurred.

Now since that division has not - yet - achieved full communion recognition (only partial, so far) he proposes to invite two (or three) "contributors form that Province" for a pre-meeting to the major meeting. Dr. Williams goes on to say that his door is open and he is "consulting as to how this is best organized." In other words, ring up him now to get yourself a coveted spot as one of the "two or three" contributors at the pre-meeting.

So this is where the liberals begin to be outraged (though that may be short-lived if they get their own foot in the ABC's door) that Katharine Jefferts Schori is not enough to represent TEC and others are needed to give a full spectrum of the crisis now facing TEC.

Which of course, Rowan Williams is still highlighting in that this particular province needs more voices to represent it than its own Presiding Bishop (which of course, should be outrageous to those who elected the Presiding Bishop). But there you are. Either TEC is divided or not - and from this letter, it looks like Rowan Williams accepts that TEC is divided.


He never admits that he ever consulted Katharine Jefferts Schori before making this provocative decision (though he actually might have consulted, the fact that he doesn't mention it could mean that she objected). We do assume he did let her know first, but the fact that he doesn't mention it is glaring fact of ommission.

Lest he appear to be too domineering (he is exercising his leadership as another instrument of unity by inviting other Americans to this primates meeting - normally held in secrecy allotted to Langley), Dr. Williams takes a step back and reminds us the reality of the situation on the ground in TEC, just in case the primates have forgotten (which of course, is highly unlikely). Is this yet another shot at TEC who want to be the only voice of Anglicanism in the United States?

The Episcopal Church is not in any way a monochrome body and we need to be aware of the full range of conviction within it. I am sure that other Primates, like myself, will welcome the clear declarations by several bishops and diocesan conventions (including those dioceses represented at the Camp Allen meeting earlier this year) of their unequivocal support for the process and recommendations of the Windsor Report. There is much to build upon here. There are many in TEC who are deeply concerned as to how they should secure their relationships with the rest of the Communion; I hope we can listen patiently to these anxieties.

From here we can get an idea who might be invited:

A Windsor Bishop: No doubt, someone who attended Camp Allen I & II will be invited. Perhaps Bishop Wimberly himself since he's the convener (though if the Windsor Bishops truly want their voice heard, they should think long and hard as to who they want to be their reprentative). Early indications are that this group is growing - and is the "group of choice" since it included not only rank and file TEC bishops who support Windsor, but also the ACN diocesan bishops (like Bishop Duncan). Who they pick could have the stature of the presiding bishop, whether they like it or not. They make themselves a rival to her - and something they should think long and hard about before the walk through that door. This is not tea time with crumpets.

Who is the other one? This will depend on whether the ABC counts the new PB as representing the mainstream of TEC (if a liberal is invited, then it's two to one since Katharine Jefferts Schori is progressive, which would not be fair). So if she is included as part of the American voice, then the second bishop could be a Network Bishop (if this not just futile exercise in institutionalism). If a liberal bishop is chosen (like a Bishop Sauls for example), then the case could be made that is unfair since the American church now has two liberal speaking for it, and a third bishop should be chosen - this one being from the Network partners.

I warn you, this is total Anglican Wonkism at its height and so for the Anglican Wonks watching, keep an eye on who the "two or three" who are gathered there are - if there are three, that is a clue as to how Katharine Jefferts Schori is viewed. Is she really a voice for the American church or not?

Again, since this is one of the best ways the liberals like to shove this whole crisis under the rug (moving or not, thanks Mr. Dylan), Rowan Williams reminds us that we aren't all about crisis - and so this crisis must be solved or the whole thing goes down the drain. This is his second point:

Point #2

My second point is to underline the importance of planning constructively for Lambeth 08. If we become entirparalyzedysed by our continuing struggles to resolve the challenges posed by decisions in North America, we shall lose a major opportunity for strengthening our common life. The recent St Augustine’s seminar which considered the Lambeth agenda was agreed by all to have been an outstandingly positive week, which has laid out a programme I believe to be worthy of our hopes for the Conference, and which was wholeheartedly owned and approved by people from very different regions and points of view within the seminar group. I do not want to lose that energy. I want to see it channelled properly into projects for better equipping ourselves as bishops and all our pastors and teachers, and into the work we all agree we must do in response to the crying needs created by poverty and violence in our world.

Now, back to the crisis at hand. Who is going to Lambeth (for this - more than what the ACC does, really - is how we traditionally know who is in the Anglican Communion or not, who is headed that way and who is not)? The Archbishop of Canterbury decides.

The question of invitations to Lambeth has been raised several times, in relation to the status of TEC, and indeed other Provinces. I shall seek the advice of the meeting on this.

Once again, Dr. Williams makes it clear his door is open. This is the Anglican Way. So for TEC leaders who think this can all be shoved under the rug - that it's a done deal that TEC is invited and no on else is, think again. Either that, or block Rowan's door (one way or the other). Let's keep an eye on Rowan's doorkeepers. No wonder Dumbledore made Hagrid the "keeper of the keys" - who has the key to the door is trusted. Who has Rowan's key?

I am aware that decisions must be made soon, and I mention it primarily to alert you to the issues that lie ahead and to commend all this to your prayers over the coming season.

Got it. Lambeth invitations are important (it's another instrument of unity) and it's not a done deal. The ABC also positions himself as well - if the door is still open then he's still a player. Make note of that (and then see Point #3).

But it illustrates the point I have made recently to the St Augustine’s Seminar and other groups: at the moment, we urgently need to create a climate of greater trust within the Communion, and to reinforce institutions and conventions that will serve that general climate in a global way.

I would maintain that this is the greatest casualty of this entire crisis - the loss of trust. Once trust is broken it is immensely difficult to get it back. The loss of trust is a paramount issue. How do you get it back? Is talking enough - or is it actions? I think it's their actions - which is why the laity are watching this very carefully - which will regain the trust that was lost. What will they do?

During my visit to the Pope in November, it was very clear that our ecumenical partners are looking to us not only to strengthen our bonds of ecclesial community and the coherence of our Christian witness, but also to show a hopeful and Christian spirit in resolving our current problems. Our partners are praying very intensely for us in this task, and their prayer deepens my own sense of resolve, as I am sure it will yours.

Now if you are liberal progressive TECer, I'd be quite worried about this statement. Rowan doesn't mention hanging out with Integrity or the other lobbying organizations like it in Great Britain (which is often brought up in the TEC circles to gain credibility). He doesn't mention any other denominations - not the Presbyterians or Methodists or the Greek Orthodox or anyone. Alas, he doesn't even mention the United Nations.

He mentions the Pope.

This is not insignificant. He calls the Pope "our ecumenical partner" and says that "it was very clear" that he is "looking to us not only to strengthen our bonds" of community and Christian witness, but also to solve this problem now. Rowan Williams uses as strong words here as he does in any other part of the letter, if not more. The Pope, he infers - no, I think he states - is "praying very intensely for us" (and what is Benedict praying for, may I ask?) for whatever it is, Rowan is resolved to get it done. Perhaps he knows what will happen in England, if not America, if this isn't solved in a way that makes Benedict pleased. If I were progressive, that would concern me.

Is TEC interested in making Benedict happy (after all, TEC has billed itself as "Roman Catholic Lite" in some quarters - all the dress-up without the doctrine)? Does TEC truly care if Christendom suffers a mighty blow if the Anglicans and the Catholics, the two major worldwide Christian communities, can no longer parley? Or does being a prophetic witness mean more? Clearly Dr. Williams is worried if he's bringing the Pope into the equation - the same man who wrote of the support of John Paul II to the gathering of orthodox Episcopalians at "Plano/Dalls" in October. 2003.

I should also mention that I have accepted the recommendation of the Joint Standing Committee that the Archbishop of York should be invited to the forthcoming meeting, so that there is a distinction between the two roles of speaking for the Church of England and chairing and moderating the meeting overall.

Point #3

I love this last statement - though it's not very American (in fact, it sounds like something the lawyers would advise). Here's another example, in the structure of this letter (which is perhaps why it's leaving so many Americans puzzled) of the culture gap that exists between the British (including their Commonwealth, by the way) and the United States. "Oh, by the way, I saved perhaps the most important point for last and didn't want to draw your attention to it by listing it as one of my 'two points.' But this is my third point. And I'll make sure to tell you it wasn't my idea, but a committee of a committee's idea." Right.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, born in Uganda, a theological orthodox leader who spoke emphatically and clearly at General Convention, is going to be at the Primates meetings in February, representing the Church of England. When he spoke before the special committee at the standing room only hearing at General Convention, he pleaded with TEC leaders to follow the direction of Windsor. It was amazing.

Now he's going to represent the Church of England, rather than the Archbishop of Canterbury in that traditional role. This is a huge development for England - and thus for the Communion. Rowan moves into a executive position for the Anglican Communion (thus, strengthening his position as an Instrument of Unity) and the Archbishop of York represents the Church of England. The Archbishop of York takes on the mantle of primate.

And that is a major development.

I'm going to go ahead and publish this now because I have to get back to my office. Thanks to all who gave me Starbucks Gift Cards for Christmas. BabyBlue endorses the Chai Latte - the Drink of Choice for Anglican Wonks.

Stay tuned for the final conclusions regarding this letter.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

"No Blooming Anglicans" - if you find this essay hilarious (as we do at BabyBlueOnline) then it's time to take a few days off ...

BB NOTE: I know this is from the Guardian's Stephen Bates, erstwhile nemesis of the Anglican orthodox, but he just hits the humor button and blows up both sides of the Atlantic. This is hilarious - but if you, as we do here, find this over-the-top funny, our recommendation is that it's time for a few days off from Anglican explosions. Let's call a Cease Fire through New Years. Thanks, Stephen - we sure did need the laugh (even when it's at our own expense). Well done. The Ice Cream Cone - that's worth reading the entire essay alone.

View from Fleet Street
Thursday, 21st December 2006. 3:13pm

By: Stephen Bates.

'Tis the season to be jolly, and it is at about this time of year, as the long winter night draws in, that members of the League of Pear-Shaped Religious Affairs Correspondents -- Petre, Morgan, Doughty and myself -- draw our armchairs closer to the hearth at Blakely Towers to discuss the articles we hope to write in the coming year and make our prognostications for coming church events.

We toss a few faggots onto the blaze while young Carey distributes the nuts and Gledhill, our ancient retainer, hands out her own home-made mince pies, and then we settle down to suck our teeth and chew the fat. Some of these prophecies may not come true of course, but if they do, remember where you heard them first...


Benedict XVI declares there will be no change in the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, unless he's much mistaken. Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh tells conservative Americans that a Great Day of Realignment is coming, just let them wait and see.


Anglican primates meet in Dar es Salaam. US presiding bishop Jefferts-Schori arrives at the hotel pool to find her lounger has already been annexed by Bishop Martyn Minns who tells her that he has the support of 150 million loyal Anglican evangelicals for doing so. During a sermon, Archbishop Rowan Williams produces an instantly understandable sentence.


Father Geoffrey Kirk says that in future he wishes to be known as Sister Gladys as it is the only way he will ever become a bishop. "I've always known I was a priest trapped in a man's body," he tells reporters. Rabbi Lionel Blue falls asleep during Thought for the Day and delivers the punchline during the sports news.


Archbishop John Sentamu enters a Trappist Monastery. "I didn't think anyone would notice," he says. Evangelical Alliance calls for the date of Easter to be moved to autumn "to spread the joy into the darker parts of the year," it suggests. Bishop Duncan tells conservative Americans that he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Archbishop Williams gives the Catholic Herald an interview during which he says: "I'd never dream of becoming a Catholic. It would never happen, though anything's theoretically possible." This produces headline: "Archbishop Says He Will Convert." US Episcopal Church announces a mission to convert England.


Evangelical Alliance calls for Christmas to be moved to Mid-Summer to make it more relevant to people who don't go to church. The Rev Giles Fraser takes a vow of silence ... for five minutes. US Episcopal Church observes midsummer solstice as a means of being inclusive of druids.


Church of England General Synod offers an apology for the Reformation and says the Catholics can have their crumbling churches back so long as they don't ask for reparations as well. The only month of the year in which the Bishop of Durham doesn't publish a new book. Small cheer is heard from the diocese.


On a visit to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Archbishop Peter Jensen asks where the comfy chairs and overhead projector are and suggests a nice coat of magenta would cover all that old paintwork up nicely.


Dean Colin Slee announces plans for Southwark Cathedral to be turned into a lap-dancing club, but only during low weeks. Greg Venables, primate of South America, says he is prepared to absorb the diocese of Yukon into his province. In future it will be known as the Ice Cream Cone.


Archbishop Akinola has himself declared pope during a visit to the Vatican. "Well we haven't heard anything from the previous inhabitant recently," he says. "Anyway, who said the path to God led through Canterbury?"


Archbishop Williams retires to become bishop of Rockall. "It's so nice and quiet here," he says, "No blooming Anglicans." The Rt Rev Wallace Benn declares he'd like a move to Canterbury. "I'd be the first Wally to become an Archbishop," he declares, "But probably not the last." Reform instantly disowns him for apostacy. Bishop Bob Duncan calls on conservative American Anglicans to remain faithful because he just knows a New Day is dawning, any day now, well, any minute really.


Canon Jim Rosenthal admits he no longer believes in Father Christmas. Mass conversion of subscribers to The English Churchman Newspaper. "It's a miracle," says the paper's editor. "Suddenly everything seems warm and colourful. Being charitable is such jolly fun." Mel Gibson announces plans for a block-buster movie about Anglican Mainstream, to be filmed entirely in 17th Century English. It is to be called The Passion of the Chris and will be filled with violence, but no sex. Christmas Books for Anglican stockings: On Humility by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali; God Knows I Was Right by George Carey; Bishops Say The Craziest Things by Graham Dow.

God bless us everyone! Happy Christmas.

Stephen Bates is religious affairs correspondent of the Guardian.

Rocky Returns

When I was sixteen years old and living in Hawaii, Rocky came out in the theatres on Oahu and stayed for a year. Along with Star Wars, my friends and I would go see Rocky and after a while we had the entire script memorized and we got to the point to where we do all the lines from the entire film while sitting in the dark theatre at Pearlridge in Aiea. Okay, so I was a teenager then.

That was then - this is now. And now, thirty years later, Rocky is back. I was stunned to hear that the early reviews are through the roof. I loved the Rocky character. It was the first film of its kind, pushing back against the cynicism of the seventies and the disparaging of the American Dream. In fact, it was a swift kick to liberalism - before those kicks were cool.

I have heard that Sylvester Stallone has gone through a personal Christian renewal. If this is the result of that renewal - to create a film that shows rebirth in crisis - well, Rocky has returned just when we needed him. Thanks, Sly. Say hi to Cuff and Link for me.

I think it's time to run this headline again

Peter Akionla should know he's not alone when Grand Inquisitors are out roaming the halls.

The BBC HP expert comments on "Deathly Hallows"

BB NOTE: Potter fans will know who Lizzo is with the BBC (if you've seen the "extras" on the film DVD's you will have seen Lizzo.

Here are some of his thoughts regarding the release of the title for the 7th and final Harry Potter book: Deathly Hallows.

JK Rowling has revealed the title of the seventh and final Harry Potter book as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Here, Newsround's Potter expert Lizo Mzimba gives his thoughts on the new title.

I love the title Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it's got a really scary feel to it, without giving too much away.

So what does it mean? Well, only JK Rowling knows that, but here are some ideas.

Unusual word

Hallows isn't a word used very much, but one of its meanings is some kind of holy place, and sometimes a memorial for someone. Or even an ancient object belonging to someone important or holy.

So if it's a place it could be where the final battle takes place. Or if it's an object it might be the final Horcrux which Harry has to destroy. And that could be something that belonged to one of the founders of Hogwarts.

More clues might come from names that companies connected to JK have registered in the past - two of them were Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Hallows and Harry Potter and the Hallows of Hogwarts. Although no one but JK knows why these names were registered.

Graveyard connection?

Could the Deathly Hallows be the Hogwarts Graveyard mentioned by director Alfonso Cuaron? He said while making the third film he wanted to set a film in a graveyard, but that JK had told him the graveyard would be revealed as being somewhere else.

However, in an interview for the fifth book, when asked about the Hogwarts graveyard, JK seemed to deny that it was something she'd thought about or planned.

What the Deathly Hallows are, we probably won't find out until the book is released.


But what do we know about book seven?

We know that Harry will be searching for the remaining Horcruxes, and that he plans to visit his parents' graves in Godric's Hollow. We'll also find out something very important about Lily Potter, and there will be more deaths.

The last chapter will describe what happens to the survivors, one of them will become a Hogwarts Teacher. And when she first wrote it, the last word was scar. Although JK has said that might change.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Anglican Archbishop writes to new CANA Congregations

A Letter of Greeting from Archbishop Peter Akinola
to the congregations who have recently joined CANA
December 19, 2006 - Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our only Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Martyn Minns has informed me of your courageous decision to separate yourselves from The Episcopal Church and become part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

This action demonstrates your desire to stay faithful to the Gospel of Christ and to remain firmly connected to the world-wide Anglican Communion through this Convocation, a mission initiative of the Church of Nigeria. I welcome you to our family.

Sadly, I have also heard that some are suggesting that you are now affiliated with a Church that seeks to punish homosexual persons. That is a distortion of our true position. We are a Church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understands that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God, and deserving of the utmost respect. That is the conviction that informs our passion for evangelism and drives our determination to establish new dioceses and congregations. We have no desire to place anyone outside the reach of God's saving love and that is why we have supported well reasoned statements such as Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and also the section of the Dromantine Communiqué, which condemns the "victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex."

As I am sure you have heard, there is a bill currently being debated by the Nigerian Legislature that addresses the topic of same-sex marriages and homosexual activism. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria, in its desire to see the strengthening of marriage and family life in our society, has commended the legislators for tackling this difficult issue. We have no desire to see our nation follow the path of license and immorality that we have witnessed in other parts of the world. And we also oppose the severe sanctions of Islamic law.

We recognize that there are genuine concerns about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation. I am glad to inform you that while the Honorable Speaker of the House, a Moslem, wanted the immediate and outright passage of the bill, the Deputy Speaker, an Anglican, persuaded his colleagues to allow full public debate on it.

I am troubled, however, by the silence of outside commentators concerning the rights of the clergy, Christians, and particularly converts to our Church whose lives are threatened and too often destroyed because of mob violence. I see no evidence of compassion for those whose rights are trampled on because of the imposition of unjust religious laws in many parts of the world. There seems to be a strange lack of interest in this issue.

We are concerned about eternal destiny and the need of every person to know the saving love of God. We preach a Gospel for all people that not only offers welcome but also the promise of transformation. We are delighted that you share these convictions with us and look forward to mission and ministry together with you in the coming years.

To God be the Glory — great things He has done . . . and is doing!

The Lord be with you.
+Peter Abuja,
The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, D.Div.

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of CANA

A Pastoral Letter for the new CANA Congregations
December 19, 2006

My Dear Friends,
Welcome to your new home in the Anglican District of Virginia as part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Your congregational votes were a remarkable testimony to your desire to find a way to continue to remain true to your call as faithful Christians within the Anglican tradition. I am delighted that we will be walking together into an exciting future. A verse from Scripture that has meant a great deal to my wife Angela and me is from Paul's letter to the Christians in Corinth who were going through their own challenges — "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). This is a promise for all of us . . . the precise shape of the future may be uncertain but one thing we do know is that the God who has led us to this point will continue to show us the way to an even more exciting future.

Media coverage of our actions has been quite extensive. It has been prompted by the national and international implications of our decisions along with the reality that this is an unprecedented movement of congregations out of The Episcopal Church. As expected, not all of the media coverage was positive. I want to address one recurring untrue accusation concerning our attitude towards homosexual persons. Our vote was not an "anti-gay" vote. We affirm that as Christians we believe that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, and deserving of the utmost respect. As the Dromantine Communiqué (issued by the Primates when they met in Ireland last year) states, ". . . we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support of homosexual people" and oppose "the victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex." And we have and must continue to witness to these convictions by our words and actions. I have attached a recent letter from Archbishop Peter Akinola that addresses this same issue from his perspective. Please notice the difference between what he actually says and believes and the dismissive tag lines that are often attributed to him.

Another persistent untrue theme is the way in which we care for those who voted to remain in The Episcopal Church. As I have said repeatedly, and I am sure you have heard from your own clergy and lay leadership, everyone is welcome to participate in our common life regardless of their vote on this or any matter. We are not monochrome congregations but diverse communities whose unity is in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If someone tells you that they voted against the resolution, then I encourage you assure them that they are loved and included as full members of the family of God in this place. If there is any way in which I can help in this matter please let me know. My calling is to provide for the care and nurture of every member of our growing fellowship.

You may have read a response to our actions from Bishop Peter Lee. While his disappointment was to be expected, I am saddened that his language seems strangely harsh. I am particularly troubled by the rather blatant attempt to create fear and division by the use of the phrase "Nigerian Congregations Occupying Episcopal Churches". This is not the Bishop Lee that I know and respect. I look forward to the return of his more usual tone of creativity and generosity. We all know that while we may have changed our ecclesiastical allegiance we remain loyal and faithful Anglican Christians in America. The character of our communities remains the same.

The question of property seems to loom large in many people's minds. I draw your attention to the following press statement that was released yesterday by Truro and The Fall Church, "Anglican Churches Comply with Virginia Statute Requiring Reports of Their Congregations' Votes." It clearly states our belief that we have a valid and compelling claim to the various church properties which we have for generations "occupied". We also believe that this should be handled in a respectful conversation with the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. We are trying to avoid both costly litigation and a media circus. Initial signs from the meeting of the Standing Committee and Executive Board are encouraging and we are preparing to engage in substantive conversation after the Christmas Holidays.

Finally let me assure you of the truth and wonder of this Christmas Season. We worship a God who entered this messy world as a vulnerable baby to demonstrate his abiding love for all of us. It is a miracle. God spoke his Word of Grace and Truth for all the world to see. My prayer is that through the events of the past few days we will all be able to bear witness to this Word of radical inclusion and profound transformation. I pray that we will look to the future, confident that God's love will continue to sustain and guard us . . . "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

Angela and Rachel join me in wishing you Joy in Jesus.

Your brother in Christ,
Missionary Bishop of CANA

Bishop Minns issues pastoral letter to new CANA congregations; includes personal letter from Archbishop Peter Akionla


Contact: Jim Pierobon, 301-520-1758

Bishop Minns Reaches Out To CANA Congregations, Assures Dissenters They Will Always Be Welcome As Anglican Christians in America

· Expresses sadness at ‘harsh language’ of Episcopal Bishop Peter James Lee
· Accompanying letter from Archbishop Peter Akinola reasserts respect for all persons regardless of sexual orientation

FAIRFAX, Va., Dec. 21 – Declaring a stronger bond with faithful Anglicans around the world, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, missionary Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, today welcomed the eight congregations in northern Virginia that voted last weekend to join CANA after severing ties with The Episcopal Church.

In a pastoral letter to The Falls Church in Falls Church, Truro Church and Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, St. Margaret’s in Woodbridge, St. Stephen’s in Heathsville, Church of the Word in Manassas, Potomac Falls in Sterling and St. Paul’s Haymarket, Bishop Minns called the overwhelming votes a “remarkable testimony to your desire to find a way to continue to remain true to your call as faithful Christians within the Anglican tradition.”

“Everyone is welcome to participate in our common life regardless of their vote on this or any matter,” Bishop Minns said. “If someone tells you that they voted against the resolution (to sever ties), then I encourage you assure them that they are loved and included as full members of the family of God in this place.”

Bishop Minns expressed sadness and disappointment at “strangely harsh” language from Bishop Lee this week. “I am particularly troubled by the rather blatant attempt to create fear and division” among Anglicans. “This is not the Bishop Lee that I know and respect,” he added.

In an accompanying letter, The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, who as head of the Church of Nigeria initiated Martyn Minns’ consecration as the missionary bishop to head CANA, responded to questions about his views regarding a bill pending in the Nigerian legislature addressing same-sex marriages and homosexual acts.

“That is a distortion of our true position,” Archbishop Akinola said. “We are a church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understands that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God and deserving of the utmost respect,” Archbishop Akinola wrote.

Archbishop Akinola said he does not want to see his nation “follow the path of license and immorality that we have witnessed in other parts of the world. And we also oppose the severe sanctions of Islamic law.”

Bishop Minns said his prayer is that events of the past few days will bear witness to the “Word of radical inclusion and profound transformation.”

Both letters are available at

Dylan Redeemed

BB NOTE: "Dylan Redeemed," a new book by Stephen Webb, professor on religion and philosophy at Wabash College, is on its way right now from But in the meantime, here is an interview with Wade Coggeshall of the Journal Review with the book's author entitled "Bob Dylan: Another side of the rock legend."

Few living figures enjoy as much mythical status as Bob Dylan.

The celebrated troubadour, who's released dozens of influential albums spanning five decades, serves as a generational icon to those whose formative years were during the turbulent '60s and early '70s. His mastery of several musical genres - from folk to rock - has all but defined much of popular music. Over the years, his befuddling and often contradictory statements in interviews has only added to his mystique.

Stephen Webb, a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College, thinks he has Dylan figured out. He lays it out in his latest book, "Dylan Redeemed," out now from Continuum Publishing and available in the Wabash College Bookstore.

Dylan is almost universally known as this radical protest singer and poetic champion of liberal causes. Webb thinks otherwise, writing that Dylan's body of work is more reflective of Christian thought, and cites several examples in his book.

It was at the end of a 1978 tour when Dylan announced he was a born-again Christian. In 1979 he issued the gospel-steeped "Slow Train Coming." For Webb, that was the record that changed his life.

"It was so powerful, and I still think it's just the most powerful album," he says.

Dylan subsequently released two more Christian records, 1980's "Saved" and 1981's "Shot of Love," before returning to his secular roots. Because they predate contemporary Christian music and are considered out of step with the rest of Dylan's canon, Webb says these three albums "kind of disappeared down this rabbit hole."

"Many of his albums since those three have had a lot of Christian content," Webb says. "But those were certainly the three that stood out. And all three still stand up pretty well today."

Webb rediscovered Dylan and his music with 1997's "Time Out of Mind."

"That got me interested in his career again," he says. "I hadn't been able to listen to those three Christian albums for some years, because they are so powerful. They took me back too quickly to my evangelical religious roots."

He started listening to Dylan's earlier work.

"What surprised me was how many continuities there were between his earlier music and his Christian period," Webb says. "(His) Christian period was always portrayed as this blip on the charts, this detour, as if Dylan lost his wits for a few years. I became intrigued with the way he was always drawn to the Bible and to very explicit theological themes."

What he found was that Dylan doesn't really fit the reformist, iconoclastic labels so many commentators have given him over the years.

"I'm always amazed by how homogenized our view of radicals is," Webb says. "People can be radical without being liberal. You challenge status quo from the right as well as the left. But somehow, beginning in the '70s and '80s, cultural and political liberals began monopolizing this idea that conservatives are bland, supporters of everything in the past. It's only liberals who are forward-thinking and willing to question things. So you have people like Dylan being put in a liberal box because people can't imagine that a conservative could be challenging. People just assumed since he was a provocative and challenging figure, and very much a kind of moralistic poet, that he must've been liberal and progressive on social and political issues. But he wasn't. He was always out of time, someone who lived in the past. And always someone who was very skeptical of social/political progress. Very skeptical of Utopian solutions to intractable social problems. So on all the major political issues, it seemed to me he could be more accurately labeled conservative than liberal. Although in the book I try not to take him out of one box just to put him in another.

"And he's someone who doesn't think human nature changes much. That's a conservative position. If you think human nature stays the same - that we can't solve the problems of human nature; we have to endure them, live with them, and politics aren't going to save us from human sin - in general terms that's what it means to be conservative."

If you think of Dylan this way, it's easier to understand his religious conversion.

"If you begin with that image of Dylan as a man on the left, then you're inevitably going to say what happened when he became a Christian. Why would a man on the political left become a devout Christian?" Webb says. "But if you begin with Dylan as someone who was always immersed in the religious music of America, (particularly) gospel, and someone who was always quoting from the Bible, always thinking about the end of the world in religious terms, then it makes more sense that he finally reached the end of his road and converted to Christianity."

In his autobiography, "Chronicles, Volume One," Dylan wrote that Barry Goldwater - the 1964 Republican nominee for president who railed against New Deal social engineering - was his favorite politician. It's one of his many quirky and unexpected insights that Webb says most people don't take seriously.

"Even to this day I'll read reviews or books or articles about him, and they'll acknowledge he sounds like a conservative. But they'll say, 'Well, he couldn't have really meant that,' " he says. "It's this condescending, disdainful attitude about Dylan. It's like people have so firmly put him in this category as a lefty, that they're blinded to what he actually says about himself. That kind of contradiction between the image of Dylan as a man of the left and his reality just seems so glaring to me."

To seemingly out one of the left's deified mouthpieces could be considered brazen. But Webb doubts that side of the aisle will even read "Dylan Redeemed."

"I find in general liberals do not read what I write, even my liberal friends," Webb says. "Conservatives will read what liberals write, but the compliment doesn't go both ways. Liberals in this day and age are nervous and angry, and kind of drawing up the bridges. They're in a siege mode, where they rightly feel liberalism is in decline and under attack. But rather than trying to learn from conservatives and understand why (it's) becoming so popular, they do the opposite."

BREAKING NEWS: Book 7 Title Revealed - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

Here it is - another wonderful Christmas present from JK Rowling. The seventh - and final - book in the Harry Potter series is "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

I haven't read any commentary yet on the new book title - but my guess is that it alludes to Godric's Hallow, the place where Harry's parents were killed defending him against the dreaded Lord Voldemort, the place where Harry got his scar, the place where Voldemort was the first time, the place where Harry said he was going to back at the end of Half-Blood Prince (Book Five), and the place that I think will be the finale of the final showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. What caused the explosion at Godric's Hallow the first time on the night of October 31, 1981? I think we'll find out - and I think we may see the use of the "Time Turner" again.

There you go - BB's first thoughts at this most wonderful Christmas present - and just in the "nick" of time. Now we watch for the release date (which could be this summer) and the cover art for the book.

To discover the name of the book yourself, click on the headline above which will take you to Jo Rowling's website, click on the eraser on her desk, and then follow these steps:

1. Click the knob on the open door in the mirror to see the Christmas tree.
2. Click on the top half of the main door to see a wreath.
3. Click on the top of the mirror to reveal garland.
4. They will all go away if you click the spider web next to the mirror.
5. Click on the fourth chime in the window and the key for the door.
6. Drag the key to the door knob to unlock the door.
7. The door opens to reveal a package.
8. When you click the bow, the package will open.
9. Inside is a game of Hangman you can play to guess the title of Book 7!

A little trivia note about Book 7: In September 2006, Rowling was nearly barred by US Transportation Security Administration officials from carrying a working manuscript for the seventh Harry Potter novel onto an airplane, due to security restrictions, but eventually she prevailed.[3] She said at the time she would rather have sailed home to England in a boat than be separated from the manuscript.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A few snaps from Sunday at Truro

Two great friends and members of Truro - the one on the right flew all the way from grad school in Vancouver, British Columbia to vote.

The Blues Brothers come to Truro.

It's about family.

The new bishop.

Four members of the Truro staff. It's a new day.

Things have changed

People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

BB NOTE: Who are Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Reading between the lines: Commentary on the latest Press Release from the Diocese of Virginia

One of the things we learn when we've been in Virginia for a while is that saying things "directly" is not exactly the "Virginia Way." And so when we read the latest press releases from the Diocese of Virginia, we begin to recognize that reading them is an art form. They must be read between the lines - only hold on to your hat, it might become useful.

For the past month we've been treated to several rather interesting press releases and letters from the Bishop of Virginia and the Diocese. First there is a protocol for departing congregations, then there is "I never knew you" statement that there is no protocol for departing congregations, then there is a "yes, well, there is a protocol for departing congregations and I know the Chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia actually wrote it and the Bishop of Virginia put his stamp on it, but it really isn't what we all said it was." And then there were the letters - the three-page "Bishop is going to sue my cat" letter followed by the "why can't we all just get along letter" followed by the "you'all are just a bunch of Nigerians" letter followed by the a literal statement of the facts, followed by last night's latest press release.

And that one is fascinating. It hit the papers last night, since it "announced" that it had issued a "standstill agreement" and all parties had agreed. But then, buried inside the text, is a Virginia-style threat - and it's a doozy. Did you catch it?

First off, the "standstill agreement" did not originate with the Diocese of Virginia, it originated from the churches that now make up the Anglican District of Virginia. That is probably a good thing to know. The Diocese released their press release and somehow forgot to tell the Anglican District of Virginia churches that it had accepted all our requests. Oops.

Perhaps that was make it sound like it was their idea to deflect what was buried inside the press release - something that was not contained in the Standstill Agreement but was added by the Bishop of Virginia, The Standing Committee, and the Executive Board, and all their lawyers later. It's this paragraph:

“In some of our churches where that membership has now been significantly reduced, there are faithful Episcopalians who need to be given every encouragement to establish structures necessary for their continuity as the Episcopal Church.

So it begins, "In some of OUR churches ..." So right from the start, the Diocese of Virginia attempts to foster an image that they claim domain over the churches, as though we are Serfs on the Estate of His Lordship.

The letter continues, defining what happened on Sunday as something "where the membership has now been significantlyly reduced ..." Now this phrase is totally devoid of any pastoral concern or feeling, it is as though a tornado came blasting through Fairfax County and whipped all the church members into the whirlwind, whisking us all off to the Land of Oz. Here's your hat, what's your hurry?

It is an amazing twist of the truth, as though something random happened and not a major historical and overwhelming vote of We The People (we are actually in America, aren't we, where one person, one vote actually has meaning?). The sentence should read "where on Sunday an overwhelming majority of church members voted to sever their ties from The Episcopal Church and The Diocese of Virginia (which - by the way - still continues under discipline by the worldwide Anglican Communion and will still have to answer to its failure to fulfill the requests of the Windsor Report and Dromantine) and instead remain in the Anglican Communion by joining the Anglican District of Virginia (CANA)." But then, that would have been really accurate and would not have served the purposes of the next part of this sentence that reads:

"...there are faithful Episcopalians who need to be given every encouragement to establish structures necessary for the continuity as the Episcopal Church." Faithful to what?

Do you remember this presentation by David Booth Beers to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church Oct. 24-27, 2004 when he made the case regarding the possibility of Episcopal Dioceses separating from the church so that if there is a "remnant within a diocese who wish to remain, they will retain title to church property for the diocese."

This is exactly what this threat is about in this press release from the Diocese of Virginia. We shouldn't be naive, but thoughtfully consider that the "standstill agreement" initiated by the District of Anglican Churches in Virginia is actually a helpful cover over the real intent of the meeting of the Bishop, The Standing Committee, the Executive Board, and the diocesan lawyers on Monday. It appears that the real intent is to "establish structures necessary for their continuity as the Episcopal Church" in all those churches that voted to go to CANA. And they need more time to do that.

This is not about pastoral concern for Episcopalians in the District. It has been very clear at Truro that every member, whether they are Episcopalian, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Presbyterian or whatever - every member of Truro (and I am sure this is very true of the other congregations as well) are cherished and valued members of the parish. I know this is true at Truro for I have had many conversations with those who probably voted to remain Episcopalian. But they also indicated that they loved Truro the way it is and didn't want it to change - and that is certainly our intent - to remain faithful to the risen Lord Jesus and to the Scriptures - it is The Episcopalal Church who left us, not the other way around. I am not sure the Diocese still grasps this - but then, it really isn't about that for them, it's actually about their intent to "establish structures necessary" so that those church buildings - Truro, The Falls Church, St. Paul's, St. Stephen's, Apostles, Christ the Redeemer, St. Margaret's, Church of the Word, etc. - continue as Episcopal Churches. As Beers illustrated two years ago regarding the ACN Dioceses, the "remnant ..will retain title to church property for the diocese." Are they nothing more than useful pawns to aid the Diocese in their own legal strategy? I just can't believe that Virginia would take on the politicized culture of 815. How did that happen?

If this isn't true - then show me. I would LOVE to be proved wrong. I mean it. I really mean it. Let's return to the spirit of the Protocol and not engage in this sort of offensive tactics. Please.

So what this latest Press Release actually appears to do is put the churches on notice that the Diocese is going to track down the members who voted no and "encourage" them to establish a presence contrary to the majority so that when the Diocese is ready, when the "standstill agreement" is ended (it only takes seven days to end the agreement at any time - or did they fail to mention that part in their Press Release?) then they can be positioned in court to have established their own pawns in the churches and fight against the majority of the faithful Christians who followed the protocol established by the diocese in the first place to avoid this kind of the cynical politicizing of the process and instead walk out a Christian witness of an amicable agreement and take over the property.

How did this happen? How did the National Church succeed in taking over the heart of the Diocese of Virginia and convince Bishop Lee to abandon all his principles, his "center aisle" philosophy and engage in the type of ecclesiastical politics we only used to see at General Convention? What happened? I wish I knew. I really wish I knew. I don't know what happened, but it must have been terrible. This is vindictive, but dressed up in fancy clothes.

The press release reminds us again that "the Executive Board and Standing Committee authorized the Bishop to explore all options with the Episcopalians who remain and to take appropriate actions for their support and full participation in the life of the Diocese." Looks like they want representation at Diocesan Council at the end of January for all the churches that are now in the Anglican District of Virginia. Bishop Lee will go to any means, "explore all options" to get it.

What it does for us is illustrate more and more that what guides the Episcopal Church is not the historical Anglican faith, grounded in Scripture, expressed in the 39 Articles, proclaimed in the Creeds, and centered on the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. What guides The Episcopal Church is best expressed in this hatchet job from ENS regarding one of the smallest churches to vote to sever their ties to the Episcopal Church, St. Stephen's Heathsville. This is a small rural parish - a wonderful parish, one where the rector preaches out of the Scriptures and centers on Jesus. The overwhelming majority - satisfying the criteria set by the Diocesan Protocol - voted to sever their ties to The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican District of Virginia. But since then, the Diocese of Virginia - following the lead of David Booth Beers and the National Church - is seeking to "encourage" dissent and division in the church and instead "establish structures necessary" to take the property away from the voting majority. This is such a big deal that they sold the story to ENS.

Watch that spin - they seek to do it again.

Is this the future of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia? While we stand down, is the Diocese going to take that time to "establish structures necessary for the continuity as the Episcopal Church?" Does the prestige of having historical properties mean more to The National Church and the Diocese of Virginia than the vote of the majority of faithful Anglican Christians? And will they follow up their plan to retain the historical symbols of the Church, even as they continue to discard the historical faith?


LATER: The onslaught begins from the National Church. Read today's editorial by Katharine Jefferts Schori in the new faith online feature at the Washington Post. Take note of her very serious threat when she writes, "Even if a large percentage of a congregation departs, the remaining people will be assisted by the diocese and the larger Church to reconstitute their congregation and continue in mission and ministry in that place." The Bishop of Virginia has abandoned the year-long work of his personally appointed Special Committee through pressure from the National Church, as we see spelled out clearly in these words from the new Presiding Bishop.