Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stand Up And Cheer?

BB NOTE: The following speech was given by the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. David C. Jones, as his "pastoral address" on Friday, January 25, 2007 at the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Annual Council in Richmond.

This is also the speech that caused a lot of standing ovations and cheering - perhaps not one of the brighter moments in the history of the Diocese of Virginia.

What do you think?

Report of the Bishop Suffragan, The Rt. Rev. David C. Jones

Bishop Lee, Bishop Paterson, Members of Council,

I stand here today with a joyful perspective on the health and vitality of the vast majority of our congregations. I cannot remember a time in this Diocese

when more congregations have been actively engaged in mission.
when more congregations are taking seriously the call of Christ to love our neighbor
when more people are participating in mission trips
when more people are part of a healing ministry or Bible study.

One need only to attend closing worship at one of our summer camps to experience the vitality of faith and commitment of our younger members. During the Christmas holidays, I attended the reunion of Shrine Mont campers. I left the Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna with my spirits soaring.

This is a vital and dynamic diocese focused on the mission of the Risen Lord. It is a privilege to visit our congregations stretching from the West Virginia border to the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River to the James.

And I am especially proud to serve with our diocesan bishop, Peter James Lee. Bishop Lee has supported me and trusted me in ways that I do not deserve.

This week, the bishops of Province III have made this statement in support of the Bishop of Virginia:

“We the Bishops of Dioceses in Province III (the Middle Atlantic area) of The Episcopal Church commend and support our brother The Right Reverend Peter J. Lee, Bishop of Virginia, in his recent action and statement concerning several parishes within his Diocese which have withdrawn from The Episcopal Church. We support completely his decision necessitated by the Canons of our Church and morally responsible. Moreover, we commend Bishop Lee for the many ways over several years in which he tried to pastorally minister to, find appropriate compromises, and charitably respond to his detractors. We are proud to be his colleagues.”

This was signed by Bishops Ihloff, Wright, Shand, Raab, Rowley, Bennison, Powell, Chane, Eastman, Dixon, Klusmeyer, Creighton, Longest, Leighton, Baxter, Townsend and Jones.

My primary responsibilities are to oversee mission congregations and Church Planting. We have three commissions that are serving us very well.

The Commission on Congregational Missions is especially attentive to ensuring the pastoral presence of Episcopal congregations in declining and developing areas of our diocese – especially in reaching out to new ethnic populations. A high point of this past year was a Small Church Day held at St. James the Less in Ashland.

The Commission on Church Planting has its eye on new opportunities for mission and is responsible for developing new congregations.

The Commission on Congregational Development is attentive to opportunities to strengthen existing congregations through high quality diocesan programs such as the Magnetic Church Conference.

Each of these hard working commissions is committed to the priorities of our diocese and the health of congregations.

I am sad that some of our clergy have led their congregations out of the Episcopal Church. The matter is very personal to me. I have worked with a number of these clergy and their congregations in Church Planting and appreciate their passion for evangelism. But I reject with all my might the notion that our theology has changed. I find it outrageous to suggest that we have abandoned the historic faith. We continue to worship with the Book of Common Prayer and affirm that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and contain all things necessary to salvation.

We share a common devotion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We share a common faith stated clearly in the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds and the Book of Common Prayer.

It is true that we are at a different place than some Christians in other parts of the world. It is also true that we have a wide breadth of opinion on current matters of faith and discipline. That has always been true. In fact, it would be difficult in the Episcopal Church to identify one common point of view on any contemporary social issue. How could we? We are the Church – the people of God assembled and serving in our own communities.

From my own perspective, little has changed in terms of our faith. What has changed is how rapid international communication has sharpened differences into divisions and divisions into schism.

In the departing congregations, I have witnessed a shift of emphasis from belonging to Christ through baptism to an emphasis on belonging through adherence to one exclusive point of view. That development is not Anglican!

What God establishes in baptism is indissoluble and cannot be compromised. All of us belong through baptism. We are God’s beloved children. The primary message of the Epiphany season is that the gospel is for all people, everywhere.

What is essentially Anglican is a common devotion to Jesus as Savior and Lord, the use of the Book of Common Prayer, and a common acceptance of the integrity of different cultures living out the Christian life. I celebrate that openness and rejoice in the freedom it affords all of us to grow into the full stature of Christ.

Some of our newest congregations have reported difficulty in attracting new members due to the negative publicity we are experiencing in the press. Some suggest that our “brand name” has been damaged. In some places and among some people that may be true.

But that does not change who we are and what we are called to be. We are the Church and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Even in the face of adversity, we have our marching orders from the Risen Christ. We are to ‘teach all nations’ and baptize. We are to love our neighbor and strive for justice and peace. We cannot allow the attention on a few to divert our attention from our most sacred call – the call of God in Holy Baptism

So what should we say when encountered with negative opinions of our church?

Might I suggest that we begin by saying,

We believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We believe in Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God
We believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.
That Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.
We are fed by Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
or we can say

Yes, I am a member of Bishop Tutu’s Church.

While we may be on the defensive as a result of a constant barrage of criticism from within, we should not lose heart. We are the Church. Jesus is the Risen Lord.


Anonymous said...

Bishop Tutu's Church:

D Mkhize writing in the Washington Post in 2003, following General Convention's confirmation of Bishop Robinson, quoted Archbishop Tutu:

"In our church here in South Africa," Bishop Tutu told Reuters Television of South Africa, "that doesn't make a difference. We just say that at the moment we believe that they [gay and lesbian clergy] should remain celibate and we don't see what all the fuss is about."

Yup. I belong to Archbishop Tutu's church. I wonder if those I saw applauding this speach would want to belong to that kind of church too ...

Anonymous said...

Jones: "I have witnessed a shift of emphasis from belonging to Christ through baptism to an emphasis on belonging through adherence to one exclusive point of view."

Uncle Dino: "Sir, if you truly believe this, then you have absolutely no grasp of the nature of the crisis."

Kevin said...

What do I think?

It's a good speech. It's definately written in the speech formate, unlike Pastor Allyn Benedict giving the Annual Report. That's a sermon, well, it's what the Rev. is used to writing. This is in the form of a political speech.

Now it's hard to say how much was sown or just politically active people, knowing when to cheer. Thew party faithful know when to cheer a Kaine speech or a Webb speach, so somoe might be automatic reflex.

The baptism theme is definitely an appeal to Catholic understanding (I mean both big "C" and Anglo-Catholic). Has some element to reach out towards Evangelicals, the Tuttu is the liberal tribute. Also a reminder of world-wide part (that happens likes TEC).

The main points of help were probably in the letter and this speech. It's very good, in political terms. This some people are paid big bucks to assist President or other VIPS up here.

Elements missing is exclusivity of Jesus (John 14:6b). Much depth, then note, that's what makes this a good speech, short bullet point for people to hear, react towards, not so much instructive as emotionally driven (Rev. Benedict gives a sermon, goes deep).

Kevin said...

Please forgive my sloppy writing, some days are better than others and on reread, this was not one of them.


John B. Chilton said...

I found it absolutely brilliant. When I read it some 12 hours ago I was struck by how powerful it was. Love the line: "Yes, I am a member of Bishop Tutu’s Church."

That line, by the way, must refer to how we as Episcopalians connect to non-Episcopalians. They understand Tutu and his theology and the Anglicanism he represents. First commenter, you have chosen to interpret the quote another way. Here is more from that Washington Post article of 2003:

Former South African archbishop Desmond Tutu said Sunday that he did not see what "all the fuss" was over appointing a gay bishop, but he urged homosexual clergy to remain celibate.

The same day, the Kenyan archbishop called the practice of homosexuality "against the word of God."

The appointment of the first openly gay bishop by the Episcopal Church has threatened to split the Anglican Communion and its 70 million followers worldwide.

The crisis has prompted the Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican community, to call an emergency summit.

"For us, that doesn't make a difference, the sexual orientation," Tutu told Reuters Television in South Africa's sprawling Soweto township.

I take it Tutu is saying, as he continues to say, that the appointment of a noncelibate gay bishop is not a big deal in the larger scheme of things - Africa has pressing problems, will meanwhile some of its Anglican bishops can't stop thinking about gay sex. I wonder, too, if he isn't implying where he would like to see the church end up - endorsing homosexual relationships and homosexual clergy within the bounds of a committed long-term relationship. TEC isn't there yet, nor is the Diocese of Virginia (see its recent resolutions), nor is the Anglican Church in South Africa.

Find me a quote where Tutu sounds like Bishop Akinola, or the Kenyan Archbishop [Benjamin Nzimbi].

Anonymous said...

I was there. It was pure sycophantic bilge thoroughly detached from reality.

Anonymous said...

From this speech, I learn that, in order to articulate the "historic faith" in a manner calculated to get applause at the Annual Council of the Diocese of Viginia, one must articulate only the pleasant bits, the happy bits of the Christian faith, and must make sure not to mention or alude to the death of Christ, the Cross, the blood of Christ, sin, Hell, or judgment. And let's make sure NEVER to say the word with which Jesus began His public ministry: "Repent." (Matt. 4:17.)

Anonymous said...

Eddo (who can't log in anymore, but rambles on anyway) says...Yes, I agree with john b. that the Tutu reference is a tip to South Africans who are not lining up behind Akinola. Kevin, your reference to one half verse reminds me of bb's outrage that a half verse was left out of the Gerald Ford memorial gospel lesson, and makes Bishop Jones' point well: adherence to one point of view (in this case yours). Your insistence that we all subscribe to your understanding of the bible is no different than the fanatics elsewhere in the world saying believe as they do else you die. (The only difference is they're happy to rush you to that end while your willing to let nature takes its due course-I presume!) They say they know the only way the only truth; you say you know the only way the only truth. They read it in their sacred book; you read it in yours. As for me, I look for truth and find it in Jesus Christ. It's apparent you do, too, but we don't have the same distinct understandings of that truth - and may never have. BFD! I don't presume to know the whole truth-what would be the point of that? Discovering more and more each day of the breadth and depth of God's love is part of the amazing journey. Today, that understanding doesn't fit in your box. I trust God's love to see me through anyway. That said, I think it's a reasonable sermon/speech/address.

Václav Patrik Šulik said...

FYI, totally unrelated:



Unknown said...

wm, I understand that the vandal sent a letter threatening to reduce Truro to ashes and the police took that very seriously.

On the topic at hand, I found this item - which seems to be a mantra coming from the national church against freedom of speech and the exchange of ideas (and what I thought the progressives used to call "conservation") this quote:

"From my own perspective, little has changed in terms of our faith. What has changed is how rapid international communication has sharpened differences into divisions and divisions into schism. "

We've heard this before from Bishop Lee (and it's been incorporated into the mission statement for the cafe, that is "the distracting noise of this world." So now both Bishop Jones and Bishop Lee are complaining that they can't control the message as TEC once did (back when it was only ENS and Anglicans Online that got us the latest news). This sounds like the early opponents to the printing press because the common people would have access to information - and knowledge is power, real power, not the fake kind. Knowledge flourishes in the free marketplace of ideas - as we have here where a variety of points of view post and I love it! - and some we agree and some we don't, but we read it all and consider it. I am glad that John C above and others take the time to post here - I want to listen (even though I know it must be enormously frustrating sometimes) and that is what makes the revolution of international communicaiton and event of historical signficance. I find it hard to understand why certain bishops in the Episcopal Church complain now about communications when it was the Deputy of Newark, Dr. Crew, that opened this world to Episcopalians. The technology for me to be able to communicate in real time with friends in the mission field in Asia and Africa is astonishing, as is being able to communicate with friends right here in DC.

What it seems to me to be expressed here by both bishops is a frustration that they don't know how to use the tools - as bishops before them expressed frustration at the printing press.

What we need is to continue to encourage good manners and consideration of friends with whom we disagree - as Kendall at Titus and Greg at StandFirm (here at the cafe we just open The Clinic and request folks to consider dropping in for an argument to get it out of their system) - remind us over and over again. Some sites have gone to moderating comments, but here at the cafe we have a history of loving the Beat Poets and it is a cafe - but please don't throw the hot coffee.

It may be time to post Thomas Paine's photo again - the Blogfather.


Kevin said...

Hello Eddo:

I still see your profile, so Google didn't delete you, hmmm, donno.

RE: Your insistence that we all subscribe to your understanding of the bible is no different than the fanatics elsewhere in the world saying believe as they do else you die."

My, oh, my, a bit cranky this morning? Nah, if you wanted to believe you were a marshmallow, I couldn't stop you, maybe engage you and try to point out some things or why I don't believe your a marshmallow, so a little different than holding a gun to your head, even I did, you could only be saying stuff with your lips and still believe your a marshmallow in your heart.

RE: Tutu - if you want to think that, it's fine with Bp. Dave Jones. I think they found a character that holds liberal views, but is dark skinned African who knows racism, thus REALLY gets +Lee out that jam, while holding claim to AC. He's kind of in the same general respect category as Mother Teressa, who stuck her finger in Pres. Bill Clinton's face and scolded him about abortion, what was poor Bill going to do, take it that's what. Tutu is a very wise choice. He obviously made you happy (guessing "liberal"), but would be a figure that Anglo-Cath that would disagree with you could find an identity with and bails out of the race argument that (IMHO erroneously) suddenly sprang up, smooth move!

Blessings to you

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...


Thanks for the story.

"51-year-old," no wonder why he didn't know his satanic symbolism and why he was caught! A juvenile delinquent knows better than to do it around the dinner hour (when any of those cars on Main St. just might pull in or the restaurant across the street). He probably wrote the letters longhand too!

Okay, Matt 5:22, I'm not allowed to go there, but boy am I tempted!

RE: "still believe your a marshmallow in your heart. "

You're a ... in your ...

I told you this was not my day. homonym are my favorite grammar mistake, so I guess I shouldn't choose to send threatening letters either, you can tell my writings.


Anonymous said...

Eddo again...I have a profile? Who knew. Kevin, no, not cranky, I thought my comment about your willingness to let me live out my days on earth was enough levity to keep the conversation civil-and maybe Mary misunderstood my tone as well hence her comment. Alas, you could not see the tongue in my cheek. But my point remains the same: fundamentalists (and I use that word holding my breath, I think you call it orthodoxy) in Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all saying "we're right, you're wrong," so perhaps I used too much hyperbole bringing Islamists into the discussion. We're talking Christian to Christian here. But what I hear from your camp is that my understanding of Christianity, or of Anglicanism, isn't good enough, or isn't right enough, isn't exclusive enough, doesn't toe the orthodox line enough. Not enough to be a bona fide Christian, or a bona fide Anglican. And the same for the rest of the ECUSA that disagrees with Akinola et al. You (not you you, the collective you) discount my search for truth, my relationship to Christ, my understanding of God, and of the Church. I suppose if we were saying we believe in the one true marshmallow it would be appropriate to ask us to find a new place to worship and to stop calling ourselves Christians/Anglicans. But we are worshiping the one true God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And we do so in the Anglican tradition - and that has always had enough room for you and for me. At least until now, it seems.

Larry said...

It is very strange. I never thought of myself as a fundamentalist. Then I did some research into the origin of the fundamentalist movement in this country. Apparently, the "five fundamentals" were the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary Atonement of Christ, Christ’s bodily resurrection, and the historicity of the miracles. (Another version put the Deity of Christ in place of the Virgin Birth.) Maybe I am a fundamentalist.

Kevin said...

Hello Eddo:

That's the problem with 2D ASCII text, I you the Usenet style sometimes with the bracket stage directions [*This Stuff*], it helps, not perfect, but helps.

RE:"We're talking Christian to Christian here"

Hey, nobody getting burned at the stake [*Rude Joke*], we can passionately disagree and still be cordial. There is a point with any group of who is in and who is out. This has been the battle for two thousand years, focusing on who is Jesus. Note, all of our creeds and confession come from a time of turmoil trying to answer who is in and who is out. What are the fundamentals (comes from a series of essays from early twentieth century)

HOWEVER, you do point to a real weak spot during these periods in history.

"You (not you you, the collective you) discount my search for truth, my relationship to Christ, my understanding of God, and of the Church."

We can forget that "in all things charity" part. I believe the Bible is the actual Word of God and Jesus the one God/Man who came lived a perfect life and died for our sins, but if he's my example ... he meets people where they are at. Personally I don't think I do that so well. He did expect more in John 3 than he did in John 4, to the woman at the well he entertained her questions. What I love about John 4 is he send those who might interfere on food detail. There are plenty of non-Christian seekers we can push away if we don't remember charity.

Anonymous said...

Definition of Christian
Well, the one thing in Jones’ sermon I AM heartened to see is his very last statement, "Jesus is the Risen Lord." Amen! That is the crux of the Gospel, and the very thing that is at stake in TEC. Acknowledging Jesus as the risen Lord is essential if one is to actually BE a Christian. "Christian" was the derogatory label given to those who followed Jesus of Nazareth. The New Testament is the eyewitness account of His actions and teachings. This is why it is so important. One cannot follow someone if they do not know who that person is. It is through the scriptures that we are able to "test" the ideas and "feelings" about the Lord that come to us. Some sort of objective, external measure is necessary, otherwise, we tend to fall into rank subjectivity. To think subjectively without regard to external truths is to say that whatever I think is truth, is truth, and that is chaotic at the least, but it is also false.