Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Halloween at the Cafe: Rocks and Pumpkins

More thoughts. It seems to me that this classic Charley Brown cartoon, like a Harry Potter book, is aimed at the adults more than the children (and aren't they all?). Charley Brown, the protracted fatalist, and Linus the diligent optimist both come fact to face with great disappointment.

Rocks and Pumpkins - and national elections. What are we getting this year? Rocks in our goodie bags? Perhaps. And Roman pillars aside, are so many like Linus waiting in the Pumpkin Patch?

And just where is Snoopy these days?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday Night at the Cafe: Dream On

Yes, we learn tonight that Joe Perry is a Republican. Gotta love America. Not only is he a self-described "hardcore Republican," he's up front and personal that he's supporting John McCain for president, saying “Seeing so many people come out for Obama, I just felt like ‘What the hell, I might as well raise my hand for this side.’” And what does John McCain think? According to his spokesman, Tucker Bounds, “Joe Perry is an icon of rock-and-roll and a great American. John McCain absolutely appreciates his support.”

So on that note, tonight at the Cafe we present Aerosmith and Dream On:

Every time I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Isn't that the way
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay

Yeah, I know nobody knows
where it comes and where it goes
I know it's everybody's sin
You got to lose to know how to win

Half my life's
in books' written pages
Lived and learned from fools
and from sages
You know it's true
All the feelings come back to you

Sing it with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing it with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

Loved the song - never knew it was Aerosmith. Well, as a bonus - who would have thought it? Here's Steve Tyler singing a soulful and meaningful Amazing Grace - in church.

Life is always full of surprises. Pass the popcorn and the chai.

For the Record ...

The phone is ringing off the hook these days.

I signed up to get e-mails from the Barry Campaign and of course, I'm signed up as a supporter of the McCain Campaign. This means, my phone is ringing every day and every night, cheerful voices on both sides of the aisle encouraging me to vote for their candidate. Now, it's probably obvious which side of the aisle we're planning to vote, at least at this table over here by the David Blue Memorial Pinball Machine (it's dark and in the corner, lest we upset all our liberal-leaning anons over at the bar). But for the record, can we just say that we live in the best country on the planet? Here is freedom at work (or on the phone) - and while of course, we have grave concerns about how those freedoms will turn out if one of the candidates wins - it's still great. In end what matters is between each individual American and their conscience. Why, we're so free we're free not to vote. And over history, Americans have also exercised their freedom not to vote. No one comes with the bayonets and forces us to vote for any particular candidate. Thank God. But for the millions and millions - and yes, millions of Americans who do vote, who do take that vote very seriously, who go into the booth or behind the curtain, or to their table and make their decision - once again we see that in the end it matters. It really does. And for all those men and women who have dedicated their lives in the service of their country - both military and civilian - we say thank you. God bless America.

What he said

The Clock is Ticking

Now we not only have the Presiding Bishop blocking a vote on even the consideration of a considerably weakened Anglican Covenant, but we have plans underway to open the floodgates that were damned up at the last minute at the last General Convention. Read the plans here.

Bishop Bob Duncan: An Emerging North American Province

From here.

The twin trajectories of The Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Church of Canada away from any Communion-requested restraint on matters of moral order and legal prosecution have made permanent a widespread separation of parishes from their historic geographical dioceses in the United States and Canada. Now these alienated parishes representing the moral (and theological) mainstream of global Anglicanism are being joined (or are about to be joined) by the majorities of four former Episcopal Church dioceses: San Joaquin in California, Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Quincy in Illinois and Fort Worth in Texas. The reality of a significantly disintegrated North American Anglicanism now stretches from coast to coast and from the Arctic to the Rio Grande.

Given the ruthlessness with which those who have stood against the progressive agenda of TEC and the ACC have been treated – lately symbolized by the deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburgh – the possibility of achieving the Windsor Continuation Group’s goal of "holding" for eventual reunion is remote indeed.. Moreover, there is scarcely a parish or diocese that has endured the travail of separation (whether forced or chosen) that would not describe the North American Anglican scene as characterized by "two irreconcilable religions."

The conclusion of the Global Anglican Future Conference was that the time for the recognition of a new Anglican Province in North America had arrived. Not surprisingly in the months since the Jerusalem Conference – and encouraged by the Primates of the GAFCON Movement – the Common Cause Partnership in North America has moved to structure itself in just this way. The goal of describing by December 2008 a "recognizably Anglican provincial structure" has been adopted by the Lead Bishops Roundtable (Executive Committee). A Governance Task Force, chaired by a former chancellor of the Diocese of Virginia and composed of significant leadership from all the Common Cause Partners, is hard at work.

Across the Communion many have expressed deep concern about what the Archbishop of Canterbury has called "the inter-provincial model" emerging in present-day Anglicanism. This inter-provincial model is characterized by overlapping claims of jurisdiction ("border-crossing") within the U.S. and Canada by Anglican Provinces external to the U.S. and Canada. Is there a preferable alternative?

Were the Communion to bless – in some quarters enthusiastically and in some quarters reluctantly – the formation of a new "mainstream" North American Province the need for temporary rescue measures by mainstream Anglican Provinces like Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Southern Cone and Uganda would be ended. With the creation of the new North American Province at least one of the WCG’s chief challenges ("border crossing") would evaporate. In fact, the anomaly of a new mainstream Province of the Anglican Church in North America overlapping two rogue provinces, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, would prove far more stabilizing and manageable for the entire Communion than the present alternatives.

Nothing would immediately change about the 22 Anglican Provinces that are in broken or impaired Communion with TEC and the ACC – and the scandal of one North American Province not in Communion with two others would be obvious. Nevertheless, such a course of action would alone allow the Windsor Continuation Group and the historic Instruments of Communion to focus on address of the issues that precipitated the present crisis in the first place, narrowly defined as blessings of same-sex unions and ordination of bishops in sexual relationships outside of Holy Matrimony, or more broadly sketched as unwillingness to remain accountable to the Holy Scriptures, to the Christian moral consensus of 2000 years and to the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. Only then can communion and coherence be restored everywhere.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breaking News: Bishop Keith Ackerman announces retirement effective November 1

THUR. PM UPDATE: Forward in Faith releases the following announcement:
"Further to the announcement yesterday of his retirement as Bishop of Quincy, The Right Reverend Keith Ackerman SSC wishes to make it clear that he will be remaining in office as President of Forward in Faith North America. Indeed, it is his intention during his retirement to devote himself more fully than has been possible hitherto to this ministry.
Bishop Ackerman announces retirement, via e-mail:
The Right Reverend Keith L. Ackerman, VIIIth Bishop of Quincy, has announced to the Standing Committee his retirement as Diocesan Bishop effective November 1st, 2008. Bishop Ackerman has reached this decision after much thought and prayer. The Bishop and his wife Jo conferred with his physicians, many trusted friends, and the Standing Committee before making this decision.

While Bishop Ackerman is retiring from his administrative duties as executive officer of the Diocese, he plans to remain in the area of the Diocese for some time and will make himself available, under arrangement with the Standing Committee, to perform Episcopal acts and provide spiritual counsel to members of the Diocese, as have Bishop Donald Parsons and Bishop Edward MacBurney, the VIth and VIIth Bishops of Quincy.

Under diocesan canons, the Standing Committee will continue to act as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese, as they have since the Bishop’s sabbatical began in late August. Day to day operations of the diocese will continue to be handled by the various officers and department heads.

Bishop Ackerman wants to assure everyone that he has no intention of abandoning the diocese but will continue to provide spiritual and pastoral support as asked by the Standing Committee.
BB NOTE: November 1 is, of course, All Saints Day. God bless Bishop Ackerman to choose a significant day on the Church Calendar to formally retire. Enjoyed immensely the time spent with him and his wife Joann during the Lambeth Conference in August. Each morning there was a gathering in an "upper room" for Eucharist and I remember one in particular that was led by Bishop Ackerman which was very much an "instructional" Eucharist, explaining the different traditions observed over the centuries as we went through the liturgy.

One of the things he described, which he was using for that Eucharist, was the Orthodox Antimension (I think that's the right name). As I recall, Bishop Ackerman described the one he had with him and how in time of emergencies and wars, a priest (or bishop) could just roll it up and take it with him. Enemies could destroy the altars, but the most holy of the linens could be easily removed for safe keeping until a safer place was found.

The celebrant would roll it out on a table for the Eucharist with part of his hanging over the front of the table/altar and then, if circumstances warranted, could roll it up fast for another location. Wiki says it is one of the most important furnishings of the Eastern Orthodox altars and I remember that the one Bishop Ackerman was using was quite beautiful. We were celebrating around the kitchen table in our "upper room" and of course, we did feel a bit under siege. When the Eucharist ended, Bishop Ackerman rolled it up and the table was transformed into morning breakfast.

Prayers continue as the Diocese of Quincy votes to separate from The Episcopal Church, Nov. 7-8. The Standing Committee will be the acting ecclesiastical authority for their Synod. Watch this space, friends.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On the edge of the Nor'easter

The winds are picking up and we're getting just a hint of the Nor'easter now crossing upstate New York. With the autumn leaves taking flight from the trees as the earth turns from the sun, yes, it's a time to remember.

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me.

L. McKennitt

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Night at the Cafe: And the sun is going down upon the sacred cow ...

Ring them bells, ye heathen
From the city that dreams,
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries
Cross the valleys and streams,
For they're deep and they're wide
And the world's on its side
And time is running backwards
And so is the Bride.

Ring them bells St. Peter
Where the four winds blow,
Ring them bells with an iron hand
So the people will know.
Oh it's rush hour now
On the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down
Upon the sacred cow.

Ring them bells Sweet Martha,
For the poor man's son,
Ring them bells so the world will know
That God is one.
Oh the shepherd is asleep
Where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled
With lost sheep.

Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf,
Ring them bells for all of us who are left,
Ring them bells for the chosen few
Who will judge the many when the game is through.
Ring them bells, for the time that flies,
For the child that cries
When innocence dies.

Ring them bells St. Catherine
From the top of the room,
Ring them from the fortress
For the lilies that bloom.
Oh the lines are long
And the fighting is strong
And they're breaking down the distance
Between right and wrong.

B. Dylan 1989

Is this what Obama means by "change?"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Defending the Faith in the Anglican Communion

UPDATE: Check out my latest Cafe essay Defending the Faith in the Anglican Communion, a follow-up to this essay by Tim Morgan for Christianity Today.

Sunday Evening at the Cafe: New Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince International Film Trailer

LATER: Well, Warner Brothers may not have intended this to be released now (the film is not released for another ten - yes ten - months). The film was actually supposed to be released next month and then someone at WB had the bright idea to postpone it until next summer.

The trailer says the film is to be released this year - while WB has made it clear they changed their mind and moved it to what they believe will be a more profitable time for them in July 2009. Some news outlets believe this international trailer was actually leaked. The US domestic trailer has all ready been released back when the film was still scheduled for a November 2008 release.

Of course, it could be Twilight is in, Harry Potter is out? In fact, Twilight took the original Harry Potter release date. And how are those Halloween sales, anyway?

Whatever the case, we love the new trailer which shows clips of the humor that is in the sixth book - even though it has the biggest twist ending of all.

By the way, over at Shell Cottage we've put up two really well-made videos of the two final books in the HP series as told through drawings and paintings. You can see them here and here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Late Night at the Cafe: Dylan tells the story of Stardust on his Theme Time Radio Hour

"'A medley bigger than me, maybe I hadn't written it all ... Maybe I didn't write you, but I found you,'" Bob Dylan quotes Hoagy Carmichael as saying about the writing of Stardust.

"I know just what he meant," Dylan cryptically adds.

So here's Nat King Cole with his sublime interpretation of the classic. And on this note we bid you a good night.

Thanks, RWB.

Defending the Faith in the Anglican Communion

Tim Morgan has written an excellent overview (tip of the tinfoil to Sarah Hey at StandFirm) of the current playing field in the Anglican realignment now underway. You can read his entire essay here.

He correctly identifies four groups now in the struggle: The Liberals, the Evangelicals, the Anglo Catholics, and the Institutionalists. Last June I wrote an essay called Smashing the Silos and Tearing Down the Walls. It was based on another essay by Graham Kings as well as a test one could take here (the graph on this page is the Official Political Compass of BabyBlue).

One of the things we may discover are that differences in strategy are also akin to where we are on the political spectrum (which is particularly on the minds of Americans these days) - not only between the Left and the Right, naturally, but perhaps more importantly between Libertarianism and Authoritarianism.

This is helpful when we find we are concentrating solely on our theological outlook and ignore the fact that we engage our theology in practice through our political outlooks as well. The results of this inquiry can be surprising. Tim Morgan writes in his essay, Defending the Faith:

Throughout the next 12 months, conservative Anglicans will face many tests of strength as they attempt to rebuild Anglican identity on the authority of Scripture and Anglicanism's historic creeds and teachings. The biggest division between conservatives concerns strategy. Inside strategists favor using the so-called Windsor Process. Outside strategists support creating new structures to reform Anglicanism.

A key test occurs this month when Episcopal Church bishops are likely to initiate the removal of Robert Duncan as Bishop of Pittsburgh. Along with four other conservative bishops, Duncan is seeking to remove his diocese from the Episcopal Church. Outside strategists hope to create a new orthodox Anglican province for North America. The two-fold goal for conservatives is to preserve orthodoxy within their dioceses and to isolate the Episcopal Left

One of the errors that the Presiding Bishop makes (which was abundantly clear at the Salt Lake City House of Bishops meeting last month) is to reveal not only her profoundly Left-leaning politics and Liberal-leaning theology - but perhaps, most importantly in her role as Presiding Bishop - her authoritarian polity. By embracing a hardliner strategy that discouraged even the conversation of dissent (which is what Bob Duncan was guilty of - he hadn't actually voted to leave TEC yet, but he was talking about it) reveals that this particular liberal - Katharine Jefferts Schori - has high marks on the authoritarian scale.

What happens then is that both the Left and Right who are more libertarian in their polity rebel. We see this happen with both the current Diocesan Bishop of Virginia and the Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Virginia. Bishop Peter James Lee in fact led a coalition of what might be described as liberal loyalists who are near or below the libertarian line who found the authoritarian actions of the Presiding Bishop more troubling than then their own institutional loyalty or their own theological assent. Their polity ruled their theology. With this recognition, Bishop Schori split her own (perhaps rather reluctant) coalition of support.

She makes a second major mistake by underestimating the institutional loyalists on the right who also fall below the libertarian line. They may be loyal to hearth and home when it comes to The Episcopal Church, but when it comes to polity, they too eschew authoritarianism. Like their left leaning loyalist comrades, they are not inclined to buck the system per se, though they are not going to support authoritarian grabs at power either.

And so with the public support of the Bishop of Central Florida and the Bishop of South Carolina as well as others (the Bishop of Northern Indiana comes to mind as well), this group - which has publicly indicated their desire for an "inside" strategy - rebelled against the Presiding Bishop and voted against her resolution to remove an "outside" strategy leader. In the process, the Presiding Bishop alienated another group of "loyalists." Their actions, in fact, built up tremendous good will with those all ready in exile outside the Episcopal Church - a major strategic shift.

For the Common Cause Partnership, this is of great significance, especially as we learn the Presiding Bishop wants to find a weakened CCP partner to parlay with outside the purview of the Common Cause Moderator. Unfortunately, the more tender members of the CCP will not find a sympathetic listener in the Presiding Bishop because obviously she's not of their party and in fact does not hide her obvious disdain (nor do her allies, which alludes to the reason why she was chosen in the first place), an unfortunate strategic move on the part of the Liberal Activists who still are blinded to the fact that their victim-target turns out actually to be who they need for success.

Back in England, Rowan Williams knows this and takes great pains to attempt to hold that faction together, a faction with whom he shares a formal structural inclination, if not their own theological traditionalism. In fact, he is no doubt on the left, but appears also to fall below the libertarian line as well - which ironically aligns him as kin with those Anglicans below the libertarian line in - and outside - TEC.

One of the most remarkable things I witnessed at Lambeth was the extraordinary coalition between the "outside" strategists and the "inside" strategists. While Gene Robinson and the TEC liberal activists were performing for the media outside the Lambeth gates, there was an extraordinary meeting of both the inside leaders and the outside leaders and that meeting produced an unexpected challenge to Lambeth from a surprising quarter - aimed squarely at The Episcopal Church - from the Church in the Sudan, the very Church that TEC had try to pacify and failed.

Now with the Presiding Bishop announcing her plans to block the Anglican Covenant from consideration at the next General Convention she has in fact stuck another knife into the back of the instutituional loyalists who, if you scratch them, bleed blue. The romantic connection between The Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury continues unfettered no matter who is in Augustine's Seat. It's still Augustine's Seat. And that connection goes back centuries and it matters, for better or worse, it matters, especially in the South.

Also, by now publicly aligning herself and her allies in opposition to the Anglican Covenant, she alienates again a core group she needs to retain for any semblance of power, the Windsor Bishops.

Which causes us to turn our eyes homeward. There are times when I have explosions of hope, even with all the litigation, with all the harsh words, the accusations, the broken trust, the tears. There is a lot more for us to win in Virginia besides the property. There are possibilities - even at this late hour - where we may still be able to build a coalition of hope based on affinity for ecclesiastical simplicity combined with our aversion to authoritarianism and expressed through rebuilding relationships based on our shared love and experience in the Anglican tradition and polity.

That is not enough, of course, to build a church - indeed - we are and continue to be (as I saw last Sunday at Christ Church Alexandria) deeply, even profoundly estranged in theology and conviction. That has not changed.

However, the Diocese of Virginia Protocol recognized that we needed separation for the health of our congregations - on both sides. The goal was never to embrace a separatist ideology, but in fact, to find and explore ways in the future that might bring us closer toward reconciliation.

The Protocol was born not only of a year of negotiations in Bishop Lee's handpicked group chaired by his chancellor, Russ Palmore, as well as another year before that of intentional Council-directed fact-finding research in the Diocese of Virginia's Reconciliation Commission - but also, in fact, seven years of deep conversation through the work of the landmark Diocesan Council-mandated R-7 Group. Since it was all much more of a more "libertarian" model, that goal seems to have been lost on the authoritarian-minded leadership that holds the reigns of the institutional Episcopal Church, with tragic results.

That being said, the § 57-9 Division Statute is a remarkable piece of legislation that was born in the aftermath of America's greatest tragedy. It wisely states that certain actions could be taken in an orderly and lawful way when a division occurred. Nothing can quite compare to a church division with its penchant for acrimony while bitterly assigning blame. But the goal for this law was certainly to retain as much goodwill and trust as could be mustered in very difficult and painful circumstances. The wisdom was that by not destroying the parties involved through bloodletting on the battlefield of litigation, there would be retained a foundation on which to rebuild.

Before the end of this year, we will hear the final ruling of Judge Randy Bellows in this historic property case, the largest property case in Episcopal Church history. Whatever happens, the steps taken after the ruling will indicate whether in our hearts we truly desire to love one another, be we enemy or friend, and in doing so - pull the protocol off the now-dusty shelf and begin again. For indeed, we will have the opportunity to take the new steps toward reaching out to those who are in TEC and those who are in Common Cause here at home.

Will the opposition find its voice among those who hold the reigns of power on Second Street in Manhattan? We're told over and over again, it's about the steeples, not the people. But as we used to say as children:

Here's the church and
here's the steeple,

open the doors and
where're the people?

Episcopal Church legal bills result in deficit of $2.5 million

From The Pew Forum:

The Episcopal Church has spent nearly $2 million on legal expenses this year, more than four times its budgeted amount, and will run a deficit of $2.5 million in 2009, according to the church's news service.

The denomination's Executive Council, meeting in Helena, Mont., this week (Oct. 20-24), budgeted $450,000 for legal expenses in 2008 but spent $1.97 million, according to Episcopal News Service. The well-heeled denomination is engaged in a number of costly legal battles with conservatives who've left the Episcopal Church but seek to retain parish property.

Also, the stock market decline has decreased the value of the Episcopal Church's endowment funds by 30 percent, said church treasurer Kurt Barnes.

The church anticipates $54.6 million in revenue for 2009 and about $57 million in expenses, according to ENS. The church ran surpluses of $1.2 million in 2007 and $2 million in 2008, the news service reported.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Update from TEC's Executive Council: "My Way or the Highway"

815 will give up to just under a quarter of a million dollars to help prop up their shadow dioceses and congregations where the majority have voted to realign with another Anglican province, ENS is reporting.

Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson who have now taken the helm of both houses of General Convention pledged to continue “reconciliation” which appears to be agreeing with them since, “It is profoundly unchristian and unhopeful to say that differences can be irreconcilable,” Bishop Schori said.

In addition, the Executive Board passed a resolution that sought to "Express a desire to seek reconciliation through conversation with the members of the Common Cause Partnership, request presiding officers appoint a task force to accomplish this, and encourage it to seek a person acceptable to all to facilitate such conversations in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council (NAC042)."

It would be interesting to see who might be the one who could chat up all the parties, as if that hasn't all ready been going on for five years.

What is telling is that they are allegedly going to consult with Rowan Williams (who they were quick to out that he had met privately with Bob Duncan, Moderator of Common Cause) and Kenneth Kearon (if he's back from parking cars). But no mention of actually contacting the Moderator directly - and in fact, since the emphasis seems to be on seeking "reconciliation" (which of course means there can be no irreconcilable differences on scripture or revelation or moral behavior - so someone is going to have to change their mind) with "members of the Common Cause Partnership" which will soon be a province. Wonder which "members" they have in mind? Don't think it will be Ft. Worth.

There’s more here, but try not to get vertigo.

LATER - Posted this over at Dan Martin's blog:

No wonder Bishop Schori is blocking ratification of the covenant at General Convention (of course, how much time passed between Gene Robinson's election and confirmation at GC 2003?). Bishop Duncan was received as a bishop by none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury himself. And it was Bishop Schori who kept her arms folded in defiance when the Lambeth Conference gave Rowan Williams a standing ovation after his final Lambeth address.

And now TEC is slipping into at least $2 million deficit over legal bills (and that's an optimistic projection). TEC will have to deal with the deficits in dioceses as well - who will not able to pay their TEC Tax as their own legal bills and loss of income mount.

The conversation thingy - we did that for seven years - seven years - in the Diocese of Virginia. It built up enough trust between the parties that a protocol could be eventually negotiated that would allow the hope of reconciliation in the future. That was destroyed by Bishop Schori's intervention after taking the helm at 815.

So on one hand the Executive Council is giving Bishop Schori nearly a $1 million to prop up the TEC shadow dioceses and shadow congregations strategically created for the TEC litigation (got to see evidence of this strategy last week in court in Virginia), while sinking into at least $2 million in legal debt and yet call for "listening" with some unknown members of the CCP and not the actual moderator (the dissing of mentioning him in the EC resolution also speaks volumes about the broken trust and raises questions of sincerity).

It would be like King George III calling for a listening process with the the American colonists - why would he do that except to find a Benedict Arnold?

Which of course, King George did.

Time Out Again for a Partisan Moment

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Night at the Cafe: Vertigo - on the Banjo

Bono sings with The Edge on the Banjo. No really.

Yep, it's a duck ...

The question isn't "if." The question is "when."

Last June we wrote about the marriage of two ordained men to each other that was performed on May 31 in the Church of England in London.

Ruth Gledhill has an update on the rector of St. Bartholomew the Great in London who performed the wedding. Seems all is fine now. The rector has written an apology to the Bishop of London, saying that he was "inconsistent with the terms of the Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops issued in 2005." Oh.

He also states that he "regrets" that he "had not appreciated that the event would have been attended by so many nor that it would have attracted the publicity and notoriety which it did."

Of course, that is kinda the point of the whole thing.

Suffragan Bishop David Jones to act as "consultant" to Pittsburgh shadow diocese

David Jones, the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, will be a consultant to the shadow diocese in Pittsburgh, now being set up by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Progressive Episcopalians and the lone dissenter of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Standing Committee in anticipation for impending lawsuit filings. Why he would want to dive into that mess after a less than stellar performance in Virginia is beyond us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lost without a Compass - How can a church send its own children off into the wilderness?

BB NOTE: "KAY4" - a regular patron here at the cafe, read this post about the "Confirm not Conform" liturgy used last Sunday at Christ Church Alexandria.

A church-sponsored class of students were commissioned through the taking of vows in what was labeled a "covenant" where the church is confirming their youths' "journey to discover their own faith" by exploring other religions. The congregation took a vow as well to support them as they send them off into the spiritual wilderness, even if they never come back.

Here is a true story by KAY4, military officer and Christian believer. It is a story that should be told again and again, lest any of us take for granted and turn our heads, as though we forget what faith in Jesus Christ means to a broken world:

This is a story about Frank.

Frank was a bright young officer under my command in Kosovo. We spent many long hours talking, especially late at night when all was quiet, unless their was a disturbance downtown or something. Frank was a recovering alcoholic and a man in search of answers. I worked hard with him, making steady progress until I finally reached the point where I could share the Gospel with him.

Frank was resistant to my first, clumsy attempts and so I backed off and tried an indirect approach (as Liddell-Hart would have it) and then time ran out and my tour came to an end. I left Kosovo and was transferred to the Pentagon.

I visited Frank's parent command a year later on a short visit, but he was not at his desk. Later I found out why.

Frank's depression came back, this time much worse than before. No one could approach him, apparently. Alas, on the very day I was in town, he took his own life.

I wondered for five years what happened before I finally learned that more was going on in Frank's life than I knew. Although he told me he was an atheist, he was considered by others in his unit as a 'deeply spiritual person' who read many books on philosophy and Eastern religions. He said he preferred Eastern philosophies because of the lack of judgment or placing blame. He felt Christianity was a "blame religion" and it didn't suit him.

In the months before his suicide, he read the series called, 'Conversations with God'. I'm told the third book in the series discusses suicide and emphasizes suicide as 'a personal choice' and talks about the right of the individual to make that choice. He referrs to this in his suicide note. The author also states that there is no hell waiting for one in the afterlife. Frank appeared to take comfort in that idea. He also believed in reincarnation and the idea of past and future lives.

His suicide note, I understand, contained many common themes; a wish to end pain, a desire to 'sleep', the frustration with getting up every day and trying to 'start over', etc. He said that people could not truly live until they were ready to die and that his views on life and death were different to the people around him. He thought that "choice" was, in his words, "...the most sacred gift given..." to people, that everyone had "choice" which could never be taken away, that his choice was to end his suffering. Life was "...too much of a struggle and I want to rest, to find eternal sleep. The world was a riddle to me and I was a riddle among it."

You can see why my stomach turned when I read what went on in Alexandria. Can people really be 'setting up' their children for a voyage with no compass, no heading, and no rudder?

Do people expect youngsters to 'fish around' for something that looks attractive but in reality is deadly? And what of the vows made at the children's baptism? Do they not take it seriously?

One 'Frank' in my life was one too many.


BB NOTE: As we saw earlier, this is a far more serious, far more serious development then any piece of litigation the church might think up. By not only condoning, but actually confirming their intention to send their own children out into a spiritual wilderness - a wilderness where the church itself affirms the fact that their own children may never come back and then has the audacity to take a public vow that this is a good thing - is no church at all.

Wednesday Night at the Cafe: Over There

Original recording by Billy Murray in 1917. Oh, the irony.

Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Bob Duncan meet privately in London

The Lambeth Palace press office confirms that the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Common Cause Moderator Bishop Bob Duncan (soon to be reinstalled Bishop of Pittsburgh) met in London at the Archbishop's private residence last Wednesday, October 15, but would not disclose details of the conversation between the two leaders.

Stick a fork in it: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says she will block attempts to bring the Anglican Convenant before General Convention

Perhaps this is why Rowan Williams is so silent.

We may pause here a moment.

Just recently Pierre Whelan announced that the "Convocation of American Churches in Europe" (an overseas diocese of TEC) decided to now become "The Episcopal Church in Europe" which bodes well for the idea that TEC is planning it's own communion (they've been excommunicating bishops who go to other provinces in the Anglican Communion as being "out of communion" and perhaps really aren't kidding).

Now comes this extraordinary dictation from Bishop Schori to the Executive Council that General Convention should not address the Anglican Covenant, even though the timeline developed by the committee guiding the covenant through the approvals process is aiming at General Convention for delivery. Fascinating. The angry TEC faces in the press room during the Archbishop of Canterbury's final press conference at Lambeth prefigured this finger from the PB, to put it, well, rather mildly.

ENS is reporting, "If a proposed Anglican covenant is released in mid-May for adoption by the Anglican Communion's provinces, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will 'strongly discourage' any effort to bring that request to the 76th General Convention in July."

First of all, she does not have such power to do that, except of course, she does now because she's turning herself into an Archbishop/Primate - she's acting like an archbishop (which she's not) and signing her documents as a primate (which is the first time a Presiding Bishop has referred to their person as a primate, not even Griswold did that). So, apparently, she now has the power over General Convention to sink the Anglican Covenant - which was designed in the first place to solve the "Episcopal Church" problem. Who's got a fork?

One wonders what is going to happen then when the new North American Anglican province holds its first General Convention and considers on the top of the agenda the ratification of the Anglican Covenant.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rowan WIlliams now blowin' in the wind?

BB NOTE: I too was there when Rowan Williams told the packed press room at the Lambeth Conference that he would be personally contacting all the bishops that didn't show up for Lambeth for their thoughts and ideas about the Anglican Communion as well, which didn't sit well with the Episcopalian media in the room as I recall. He also talked about delivering on the Pastoral Forum by October. Now we're heading into late October with the autumn leaves blowing off the trees and it's hard not to wonder if the Archbishop of Canterbury is just blowing off into the wind.

George Conger write about it here:
In the closing press conference, Dr. Williams said Lambeth had proven that the bishops could speak to each other respectfully and prayerfully, and had a “strong commitment to remain unified.”

Dr. Williams also acknowledged that unlike the 1998 conference, which ended with a one million-pound surplus, the 2008 conference had run into debt. According to an internal Conference document distributed to registered bishops, the budget for the meeting was £5.6 million excluding travel costs. On August 11, the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners of the Church of England extended an emergency loan of £600,000 to help cover the estimated £1.2 million shortfall.

“The pieces are on the board” for the resolution of the Anglican conflict, Williams asserted. “And in the months ahead it will be important to invite those absent from Lambeth to be involved in these next stages.”

However, as of October 16, eight weeks after the close of the conference, Dr. Williams has yet to contact the boycotting bishops to take part in the “next stages.”

Nor has his delivered August 3 promise that “within the next two months” a “clear and detailed specification for the task and composition of a Pastoral Forum” would be delivered that included the “perspectives of various groups” within the communion.
Read the whole thing here. And while we wait for some answers, take it away Bob. How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?

Live from London: Bishop Bob Duncan


When is a best man not at his best?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Last Day in Court (at least for now)

Today was the last day of the trial in Fairfax Circuit Court and while Judge Randy Bellows said it was possible that he might call in the attorneys after he's read all their upcoming legal briefs, the trial portion appears to be complete (unless there's some kind of an October Surprise).

We heard from Joan Gunderson's co-collaborator, historian Edward Bond, who interestingly enough were commissioned by the Diocese of Virginia to write a "history" of the Diocese of Virginia with Gunderson right after the diocese sued the eleven churches. Publicly announced that it was commissioned for the the celebration of the 400 years since Jamestown (which isn't actually in the Diocese) and with a history all ready written here, it still is fascinating that Bond's collaborator on the project was activist Gunderson, who leads Progressive Episcopalians in Pittsburgh and is at the forefront of opposing the vote by the Diocese of Pittsburgh to separate from The Episcopal Church. Not exactly impartial history, as it appeared in the testimony today.

One highlight of Bond's testimony this morning comes to mind where he had made it a point that following the American Revolution (when British Loyalists - who filled many of the Virginia parish pews - fled the Commonwealth for safer ground - which of course Bond never mentioned perhaps because Bishop Lee and Bishop Schori like to refer to their own allies as "loyalists" - in fact, the term "Loyal Episcopalians" was actually said in court today) the historic Falls Church saw other types of preachers in the pulpit pass through, including the dreaded Baptists and Methodists and riff raff like that. There may have even been a few Presbyterians.

Gordon Coffee of the CANA Churches brought this up again in his redirect when he recalled for the court Bond stating that at a certain point one could actually find "animals roaming through" the Falls Church in those difficult years after the American Revolution and when Bond readily agreed Coffe continued, "And even Methodists were roaming through."

It appears that there is still no love lost between Episcopalians in Virginia and the Baptists and others who were the ones who rose up after the American Revolution and petitioned the Virginia Legislature to force the now disestablished Episcopalians to sell off their unused glebe lands and cease living off the taxes they could no longer collect. The Episcopal Church had to then figure out, as Bond said, how to raise their own support. As we know, it took a long time and Bishop Moore finally had to get on his horse and ride around the Commonwealth trying to figure out which of the old congregations in the Virginia parishes still existed, which parishes had empty buildings with no congregations, and which parishes had buildings that were taken over by the dreaded Baptists (which is what happened in what is now Fairfax City with the old Payne's Church of Truro Parish - and they are still there).

Other highlights was the diocese's repeated attempts in court testimony to ignore the votes of The Falls Church to separate from the Diocese of Virginia in December 2006 and go right to the shadow congregation that styles itself The Falls Church Episcopal as though the votes were just a nuisance and certainly The Falls Church didn't really leave. The Diocese's witnesses would constantly refer to The Falls Church as The Falls Church Episcopal and that The Falls Church Episcopal remained after the vote in 2006 and did not actually separate from the diocese, but just moved down the street. But each time that attempt was made, there was an objection.

With the word "they" being bantered about it started to get rather confusing. Both Bond and the witness that came after him, kept talking about The Falls Church Episcopal when they were talking about The Falls Church and then talking about The Falls Church Episcopal when were they talking about the shadow congregation.

Finally the judge said, "I want to get a better understanding of what 'they' is." And that sort of shut the whole strategy down. Christ Church Alexandria was never established as having shown any interest at all in The Falls Church. Certainly the vote that was taken yesterday at Christ Church Alexandria never came up.

In fact, we learned St. Paul's in Alexandria had tried to get Christ Church Alexandria to show them some interest and help them out in the 19th century and Christ Church Alexandria said nope, that St. Paul's (which was also in Fairfax Parish and completely ignored by Bond in his original testimony) had nothing to do with them. Zing.

When that became clear, the judge was consistent in locking down the attempts - made over and over - to move this trial away from the 57-9 petitions and into the TEC and Diocese lawsuits that are now on hold pending the outcome of the 57-9 litigation. The Diocese had more witnesses waiting in the wings (Patrick Getlein, former Secretary to the Diocese being one of them and perhaps Henry Burt, current Secretary to the Diocese, who was also on their list of witnesses to call as well as another current member of the shadow congregation set up by the diocese) who were never permitted to testify.

Bill Deiss, Parish Administrator of The Falls Church opened the portion on the endowment fund. He testified to the link between the endowment fund and The Falls Church, indicating that there are reports each year in the Annual Report and that it is The Falls Church Vestry that appoints members of the board for the endowment fund.

The one member of the shadow congregation who was allowed to testify was the treasurer of The Falls Church endowment fund who voted against separation and went with the shadow congregation. I'm sorry, I didn't write her name down (which is probably for the best as it all turned out). She constantly referred to The Falls Church (which is how everyone refers to the church, just as we refer to Christ Church Alexandria as Christ Church Alexandria or Truro as Truro or Church of the Apostles as Church of the Apostles or Church of the Epiphany as Church of the Epiphany and St. Stephen's Heathesville as St. Stephen's Heathesville. The word "Episcopal" just isn't used in polite company most of the time in Virginia, because, for heaven's sake, it doesn't need to - it's implied, the Baptists and the Methodists have to disguish themselves, not the Episcopalians (until just recently) - pass the gin and tonic. But in her testimony, this witness constantly called The Falls Church - The Falls Church Episcopal and when she would attempt to go beyond the December 2006 vote and talk about The Falls Church Episcopal (which was actually the shadow congregation and not The Falls Church) after the vote - as though there was no vote - there'd be a clear objection that was most often sustained by Judge Bellows.

The redirect of this last witness was filled with drama. The witness, who had been the treasurer for The Falls Church Endowment Fund for many years, was trying to maintain that the endowment fund was not for the ministry and outreach of The Falls Church but was some sort of separate independent fund that basically seemed to work out of her attic. Don't quite understand that, but it seems all the past documents and records of the endowment are up in her attic, though the mailing address and the in-house mailbox are located inside The Falls Church. Unfortunately, during the redirect she was shown a past tax return for the Falls Church Endowment that she had signed as treasurer. It clearly stated that the mission of the endowment was to support the mission and outreach of The Falls Church. She was clearly stunned - big time oops and with the threat of perjury now over her head, she cried out "I don't want to go to jail."

Sadly, it was clear that she's a volunteer who disagreed with the majority vote of The Falls Church and now the diocese (and the Shadow Congregation) are very interested in a million-dollar endowment fund. Whether it will be ruled as part of the 57-9 petitions or litigated separately, the judge will decide. That day could still come.

The judge requested a very tall pile of briefing papers - we can expect that over the next month the attorneys on both sides will be writing, and writing, and writing, and writing some more. We could have some orders from the judge even before the final ruling after the deadline for all the briefing papers passes in mid-November and he may call the attorneys back into court. But it did seem clear that this judge will issue his final ruling before the end of the year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Late Night at the Cafe: Live Version of Bob Dylan and Not Dark Yet

From 2002. Unusual arrangement - haunting as the lyrics. You can almost feel as though you are wandering through the caverns of an aging distressed city with this song echoing through the narrow and grim alleyways as you pass by.

Bishop Duncan's Opening Statement at All Souls Langham Place in London

BB NOTE: When we are reminded that attempts at this type of political maneuvering are in play, it is clear that Bishop Duncan seriously isn't kidding. Here is his opening statement from Friday's press conference at All Souls Langham Place, London:

First, I am here to say thank you to those in the Church of England and the wider church who have been so supportive in recent days. The statements by senior bishop, no less than the Bishops of Rochester, Winchester, Exeter, Chester, Chichester, Durham, Blackburn, Birkenhead, Lewes. These public statements have been greatly appreciated and a great encouragement to folks back home. It is also the case that organisations in the Church of England who have made public statements from the time of my deposition: Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England Evangelical Council, Reform, Forward in Faith, has been both a personal support and also a wonderful encouragement to our people. I think the irony of the present situation is that I would be welcome and recognized in more places around the communion than my primate. That is a rather remarkable turn of events. So first I have come here to say thank you and have a number of private conversations with leaders, particularly with our friends in the epsicopate. That has been my first purpose in being here.

Second I have wanted to report on the situation and that is what I am doing in front of you and with those with whom I have met privately. We are in the curious place in the States of a bishop removed contrary to the plain dictates of the canons and constitution of the church. The primary motivating argument in the House of Bishops for my removal was that it was the best way to guarantee the Episcopal Church’s claims on the property of my diocese. Of course the efforts to remove me have had no bearing on the property of the diocese. Indeed two weeks after I was deposed unjustly and uncanonically, my diocese voted to leave The Episcopal Church and become the second of the American dioceses to leave. Two more dioceses are hard on our heels: the Diocese of Quincy will vote to leave The Episcopal Church on November 7th and on November 14th the Diocese of Fort Worth will vote to leave. At that point there will be four American Dioceses, San Joaquin in California, Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Quincy in Illinois and Fort Worth in Texas, in some ways the four points of the compass on a US map.

The spirit in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is good. The standing committee is presently the ecclesiastical authority. I had said in the process of the Episcopal Church that I accept the discipline of the Episcopal Church because I was a Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The charge against me was abandonment of communion. That charge was rather remarkable under a canon that was meant to remove those who had become Roman Catholic or Presbyterians or had lost their faith but nonetheless I accepted the sentence. The standing committee became the ecclesiastical authority. When the Diocese of Pittsburgh left the Episcopal Church on October 4th, it was at that point – I had been immediately received into the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone – the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone Gregory Venables had appointed me his Episcopal commissary for affairs in Pittsburgh and the US, the standing committee asked me to return to my episcopal function from the time they left the Episcopal Church, and the standing committee has determined under the canons of the diocese that there will be a re-electing convention on November 7th, so I will be in the rather remarkable position of being both the seventh bishop of Pittsburgh and the eighth bishop of Pittsburgh and I did not die in between. Folks like me in the church’s past tended to be burnt at the stake, but that’s not something that the church does anymore and I have proved remarkably fire retardant. That’s the situation in Pittsburgh and three other dioceses that have or are stepping out.

The four of us have agreed to come under Southern Cone which becomes the first Anglican Province to stretch pole to pole, from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Ocean as Canada and its Anglican Network in Canada are part of our relationship of the four dioceses in the states, all under the Southern Cone. This is a temporary measure. It is quite clear that when the four of us bishops who are to come under Southern Cone met with the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone in August 2007, that the Southern Cone was simply making a temporary refuge for us until we could create a North American province together.

I would like to speak about the North American Province. Many of you are aware of the GAFCON statement this past summer and the readiness of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and the group that met in Jerusalem to recognize a second province which would be both Canadian and US, we have worked together in a group called Common Cause Partnership. Right now that is eight jurisdictions, both US and Canadian. Those jurisdictions together represent 30 bishops, 800 clergy, 700 parishes, a worshipping community of about 100,000. That makes it larger than a third of the provinces of the Anglican Communion in that sheer number of people who worship on Sunday. We are committed to one another. The Common Cause Partners, while it has been a federation, is moving to a greater level of integration. I function at this point as the bishop who presides in that body as the moderator of that partnership. We have really grown together in substantial ways. The thing that would be most surprising to our English brothers and sisters is the extent to which we have been able to bridge the divide over the ordination of women. We actually are a body that has both those that ordain women and those that do not ordain women and there is a level of respect among us that is something that only the Lord could do. The strongest indication of that respect is that Forward in Faith and jurisdictions that do not ordain women have repeatedly chosen me who very clearly supports the ordination of women as their spokesman and leader. That might not happen in other parts of the Anglican Communion but hopefully it is part of our reality.

Thirdly, I do come to my dear friends here in the Church of England with a warning that what begins as a liberal initiative very quickly becomes illiberal. I think you saw signs of it in the Synod of the Church of England and how the issue of the ordination of women [to the episcopate] and whether structural provision would be made for those who are opposed. The synod chose to move in the direction which just makes pastoral arrangements.

For those who were covering Lambeth, you saw how the press was dealt with. It is amazing that things have to be controlled as tightly as they do in this progressive agenda. Certainly the situation back home where the leader among the conserving party, myself, is removed because that is the best way to deal with us – apparently silence us, and lay claim to property. While the laws are different and the history is different, I don’t think the progressive party here will deal differently with conservatives than the progressive party in the States when it comes down to having enough power to do it. That’s the warning that I want to give.

Sunday Night at the Cafe: Three Guitars and a Tractor

Okay, time to lighten up so time to pull out three guitars and a tractor. We'll leave the light on for ya. And yes, Miss M, your Old Ogden's Firewhiskey is on its way.

Tip of the Tinfoil to RB.

A Bridge Too Far?

Had a very interesting morning.

Went to Christ Church Alexandria today on behalf of a good friend and watched the congregational vote, which was quite spirited in their questions, quite spirited indeed.

I did have some concerns about the way in which the congregational meeting was conducted, which I've noted in response to Christ Church members who posted earlier today in this on-going discussion here.

The congregational meeting was conducted toward the end of the 9:00 "family service" and the final dismissal for that service was postponed until the congregational meeting ended with a vote of a show of hands of those who happened to be present in the church this morning.

No credentials were required to vote.

No quorum was determined.
No one was designated register to take minutes.
No chancellor explained the risks.

The vestry's text was passed out only as the meeting began in the service.
No hearings or opportunity for public review was granted.
The number of voting members present was not acknowledged.
The number of votes needed to pass the resolution was never announced.
The final vote tally/number in favor of the resolution was not announced ("majority rules," said the rector without explanation).
No vote counters were appointed (though we have an anon observer here who counted three lone nay votes).
No announcement of the nay votes.
No ballots were issued.
No public reading of the resolution (nor a motion to suspend the reading).
No reading of the amended resolution.
No procedures were in place to protect Christ Church from voter fraud.

We actually have no idea who was in the room or who actually voted yes. There was no sign-in, no check-in, no roll call, no nothing. Just an informal show of hands.

We do know that a majority of the hands raised voted to do as Bishop Lee requested. There was a vestry person in front of me who was showing her displeasure at the audacity of all the questions being raised (and there were many) - including the point made from the balcony that if Christ Church does not in fact own the property now under litigation (and what is it about attempting to transfer the interest of a property under litigation that makes one feel a bit queezy?) but attempts to "quickclaim" it over to the bishop (who called last Monday) then that would be like the woman in the balcony "quickclaiming" the Wilson Bridge to the bishop.

The bishop wouldn't own that either.

Though the resolution in the single resolve says "the bishop," the Senior Warden kept talking about transferring the property now in litigation to "the diocese" when in fact it is to the same bishop who called him last Monday "requesting" that the interest of the disputed property be transferred over to him.

Where are the Tums?

The Senior Warden was quite clear that they are not transferring the interest of their own property in Old Town to "the diocese" and no one should worry about that. Glad that's cleared up and Christ Church does indeed control their own property - for now. Which of course, they do - not the bishop, not the diocese, after all - the bishop had to request that Christ Church hand over the property now in the final weeks of litigation. And of course, the congregation of Christ Church was required to vote in order to do it.

In fact, one of the questions dealt with whether they are inadvertently hurting the shadow congregations by admitting that they actually do "own" property (for now, anyway) and that by "voting" what to do with the property they were in fact undermining the litigation for any shadow congregation. This concern was summarily dismissed.

The fact that the congregation was quite worried that they might be deeding more than just the alleged-Falls Church property indicated that the congregation may be worried that the diocese might take control of their worship space as well. But not to fear, they were assured. They own their property. And of course, that is correct. That's why the bishop told them to vote. Sound familiar?

Frankly, there was something in the Christ Church Alexandria service that I found far more troubling than all the talk about bishops ringing up for quick transfers of interest before court resumes in the morning.

I enjoyed the sermon very much - it was centered on Jesus (not the Cosmic Christ), was fun, thoughtful, memorable, and true. But it was followed by an event that was anything but that.

Just before the passing of the peace, the celebrant called up students who are taking what appears to be a modified catechism class with a twist. Only two students came up and were being asked to take a "vow" in what the service leaflet called a "Confirm Not Conform" Covenant.

Here is the liturgy of vows taken by the students and the congregation of Christ Church Alexandria this morning before they held their congregational meeting:

Celebrant: These students, baptized in Christ's Church, are now entering into a journey to discover their own faith. We do not know where that journey will end for each of them, but we know that coming to your own sense of faith is not easy.

Celebrant: Students, are you committed to following this journey, bringing open hearts and minds to all classes, ready to explore your and others beliefs?

Students: We will.

Celebrant: Will you be faithful in class gatherings and field trips, recognizing that you cannot take this journey on your own?

Students: We will.

Celebrant: Will you who are witnessing these vows uphold these students in prayer throughout their journey, recognizing that their faith may not wind up looking like yours, but entrusting such diversity to our God?

Peope: We will.
I had to stop myself from shouting "No!"

Christ Church Alexandria is taking young students and having them make public vows in front of the church that they will take seriously the possibility that they will abandon faith in Jesus Christ and journey instead - with Christ Church's blessing no less - to other religions.

How is this possible?

As I read through the announcements in the service leaflet, I found one that was rather interesting as well. Under the heading "Youth and Family" there was something called Marriage and Partners Relationship Workshop or "PAIRS." The blurb in the service leaflet said that Christ Church was encouraging married and partnered couples to take a workshop that focused on developing "practical application of intimate relationships" by identifying "the skills and experiences that nourish intimate, extraordinary relationships"- all this under the heading "Youth and Family." Couples could be either married or partnered, it didn't matter. But it didn't mention whether it was okay to be Hindu.

When the congregational meeting ended and the service came to a close, I walked back down the tree-lined autumn streets to my car and I felt such sorrow, like grief. What a sad morning in so many ways. Tonight I remember these words from Isaiah:

But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:5-6

If we believe, if we are believers, if we are convinced that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, our Salvation, our Life, our Lord, why would the Church then turnaround during a Christian worship service and commission its youth to go explore something else? To make a "covenant" with them - to take "vows" with them, and send them off into the wilderness?

And then I am reminded of the lament of Isaiah. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

This is more than about property.