Friday, October 28, 2011

New allegations surface regarding Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Father Bede Parry in the Diocese of Nevada

Bishop Schori and Father Parry
Over the last few days, more allegations have surfaced regarding Father Bede Parry, a former Roman Catholic priest with a history of sexual abuse of minors, who was received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori when she was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada in 2004.

She has so far made no statement.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Breaking News: The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church rejects the Anglican Covenant

Salt Lake City, Utah
I've come to look forward to the official report from the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and this most-recent report is no exception.

Reading the official report from a journalist point of view is always somewhat of a challenge - what can we ascertain from this current report?

We finally do learn that the Executive Council officially rejects the Anglican Covenant (who would have thought that the Diocese of Sydney and the Executive Council would have something in common?).   But the other piece of news take a bit more work to extract:

The first morning of Council brought three distinctive yet interwoven narratives from the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies and the Chief Operating Officer. Each made important statements about how the work of Executive Council relates to the larger narratives of the life of the Church. There were moments of conflict as values held passionately by the three speakers were openly expressed. There were admonitions to find Jesus among the poor, to honor the hard work and witness of the whole people of the Church in all orders, to express how we carry out God's mission in the shaping of a budget.

The experience of conflict in church meetings where budgetary discussions and vision are mixed together often make us wary of even trying to connect the dots, of weaving a whole story from the threads. Rich insights by committed leadership, accompanied by a common commitment to hear one another out, resulted in the beginnings of new stronger cloth.

Executive Council meets at the Hilton.
What we do see here is that the (curiously unnamed individuals) the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson, and the Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls "brought three distinctive yet interwoven narratives" to the meeting.  We learn that "each made important statements" on how they thought Executive Council "relates to the larger narratives of the life of the Church."  Now what does that mean? We learn in the next sentence. "There were moments of conflict," the report admits.  So these three are not seeing eye to eye on how the Executive Council should function?  It seems that this conflict revealed that the "values held passionately by the three speakers were openly expressed."  So they did not see eye to eye which they made known to the Executive Council.

We learn in the next paragraph that the conflict seems to be over the budget. "The experience of conflict in church meetings where budgetary discussions and vision are mixed together often makes us wary of even trying to connect the dots," the Executive Council reports.  So even as they are weaving they are waddling.

We do learn that the Executive Council passed the 815 budget (though we don't know how the worked out the Constitutional Convention  proposed by Bishop Sauls at the recent House of Bishops meeting.  We do learn that the Executive Board wants the House of Bishops to send out a press release on racism (though doesn't provide any background why this particular issue was picked except as a diversion from the serious issues TEC is actually facing as a church), and commended "peaceful protests in public spaces in the United States and throughout the world in resistance to the exploitation of people for profit or power."  Don't think they mean Tea Parties.

Yesterday we learned that the Executive Council substantially reduced its loan support to the shadow Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, propped up by 815 after Bishop John-David Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to separate from the Episcopal Church and now has joined the new Anglican Church in North America.  Last June the Executive Council approved a loan up to a half a million dollars.  The fledgling diocese asked for an additional $450,000 to help pay "operation expenses," but yesterday that amount was reduced to $285,000 (how they think that will be repaid is anyone's guess) plus an extra $40,000 grant on top of that.  This is in addition to the $2.3 million in grants and loans from 815 shadow diocese has all ready received since 2008, ENS reported.  Why do they keep propping up this small entity?  The shadow Episcopal diocese is strategically required for the ongoing property litigation by 815, so an argument could be made that these loans and grants should be added to the litigation totals.  The prudent thing would be to fold the few remaining Episcopal parishes into a neighboring diocese like California or the struggling El Camino Real.

But the major news is that the Anglican Covenant gets two thumbs down by the Executive Council.   It seems impossible for the Covenant to go anywhere beyond Utah and one can imagine that if they could have, the Executive Council would have concluded their collective narrative with a ceremonial drowning of the covenant in the Great Salt Lake. 

It does bring to mind the words from the Anglican archbishops at the emergency meeting called by the Archbishop of Canterbury when they wrote that the actions taken by the Episcopal Church General Convention in Minneapolis "will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church."

So much for weaving, can it not be said that this tapestry is in tatters?

Turning to our neighbors at Unity of Fairfax, we find tonight's ironic - and quite frankly considering the recent events in the Diocese of South Carolina - this selection from the Cafe Jukebox:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anglican Unscripted with Kevin Kallsen and George Conger

Here is the latest episode of Anglican Unscripted, a weekly commentary on the ups and downs in the Anglican Communion. This week's episode features an interview with Mollie Hemingway, author of Twenty-First Excommunication for the Wall Street Journal. Read her original article here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Episcopal Church "ups the ante" in litigation

From here:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote for the Wall Street Journal editorial page about how The Episcopal Church had upped the ante in property disputes with departing congregations and clergy. While the church and its dioceses had long been litigating against departing congregations, they added a new feature in recent months: departing congregations who wished to pay for their church property and remain in it also had to disaffiliate from anything Anglican. They couldn’t have a bishop in an alternative polity, they couldn’t contribute financially or otherwise to any alternate Anglican group and they couldn’t call themselves Anglican.
Thus far, four congregations have agreed to the demands. (I believe Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is the only reporter who has covered this “disaffiliation” story for mainstream news pages.) Some of the people I spoke with who’d agreed to disaffiliate told me that they were surprised at the end of lengthy negotiations to be presented with the demand and were too weary to fight it. Others told me that they simply wanted to do what it took to stop getting sued. Other congregations refused the demand, as Rodgers has written about. I spoke with a member of a departing congregation, for instance, who said that she and fellow parishioners responded to the demand by cleaning up their sanctuary for the last time, turning over the key, and walking away. The Episcopal Church responded to my piece with “talking points” and a letter from a bishop whose diocese has seen quite a few departing congregations, members and clergy. Following my piece’s publication, I’ve heard from dozens of disaffected or departed Episcopalians who’ve told some pretty amazing stories about how the Episcopal Church has fought any conservative unrest.

Just as my “disaffiliation” story was going to press, though, word came out of South Carolina that The Episcopal Church was investigating the conservative bishop there for “abandonment,” even though he hadn’t left the Episcopal Church.

Snowmageddeon hit Truro Church last year.
NOTE: Same kind of stuff is going on in Virginia where one parish that voted in 2006 to separate from The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia reached a property settlement with the Episcopal bishop only after agreeing to not affiliate with the Anglicans for at least five years (and why five years?) and it's not clear exactly what happens after five years.   It is plain that the Diocese has no use for the property.  What is the fear - that more Virginia parishes will follow?  There is no way that the Diocese can afford all the properties now tied up in litigation.  No way.  All we need is another snow storm to hit northern Virginia and Mayo House will be strapped.  Why not lay down arms now?  Surely there must be a better way.  Even if the Anglicans walk away from the properties - how will the diocese - which has no compulsive assessments - pay the bills?

 Read it all here.

Today at the Cafe: The Winner Takes It All

Shout out - well, what can we say?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kangaroo Court now in session?

Living Church has published a letter from Bishop Dorsey Henderson o the Episcopal Disciplinary Panel for Bishops following the resignation of the "church attorney" Josephine Hicks. Bishop Henderson announces that he has "made a command decision" (never a good sign by the way in a democracy) and appointed a new church attorney, one who has all ready been working on taking Bishop Mark Lawrence down as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson
Suddenly, according to Bishop Henderson "time is of an essence" in following the same pattern to remove a sitting diocesan bishop from office. And why is time is of an essence, when as the Anglican Curmudgeon points out, the last time the old Title IV had a full meeting was actually by teleconference last November 10 when no charges were brought forward against Bishop Lawrence. Since then there has been silence until the recent actions of the "new" Title IV committee. Bishop Henderson serviced on the old Title IV and now chairs the new Title IV.

In his letter to the Disciplinary Panel Bishop Henderson says the new church attorney actually did "preliminary work on the Bishop Lawrence information," when he served in a similar capacity on the old Title IV committee.

Bishop Mark Lawrence
Anglican Curmudgeon raises serious concerns regarding this appointment in his post today, "The Kangaroo Court Should Resign in Toto," which you may read here. Why did the old Title IV meet nearly a year ago and do nothing when apparently they did address the actions in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and chose not to do anything for nearly a year? What it a strategic decision that the committee knew that they could not move forward to remove Bishop Lawrence from his office under the old Title IV procedures and so waited to get Bishop Lawrence after the the new Title IV committee was established?

Does this seem right to you?  Why is a year of no action followed suddenly by Bishop Henderson writing that "time is of an essence?"  Why is looking like a sudden rush to judgment?

LATER:  A very good read here at the Anglican Communion Institute, and also back to here.  In the article from March, C. Alan Runyan and Mark McCall write that:
"the new Title IV is unconstitutional in two key respects: it usurps the exclusive constitutional authority given to dioceses for the trial of priests and deacons and it gives the Presiding Bishop unprecedented and unconstitutional authority over diocesan bishops."
 The "church" in the Episcopal tradition in the United States was centered on the diocese, around a bishop.   Here in Virginia, one of the founding dioceses of The Episcopal Church this is very clear.  It took the American Revolution to separate "the Church" (i.e., the Church of Virginia) from the Commonwealth government.  Until the Revolution, "the Church" (i.e. the Church of Virginia) was united with the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Following the Revolution, the two were separated.  The Commonwealth helped create the new United States, while  the Church went on to become the new Diocese of Virginia.  Not all the congregation in the Church of Virginia joined in the fray, especially with so many congregations around the Commonwealth so cautious about reintroducing to Virginia part of England's historical propensity to turn their bishops into Lords.  They had just spent many years getting rid of them and were in no mood to bring them all back to their former glory.

Each of the new dioceses at some point needed to be recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Not all were.  According to Robert Prichard at Virginia Theological Seminary when he spoke to the Region VII Council of the Diocese of Virginia a few years ago, a group in Massachusetts (see here) wanted to be recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and become part of the Episcopal Church but were turned down by Canterbury since they did not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.  That group of once-Anglican churches went on to establish the Unitarian Church.

St. John's Church in Richmond.
The Diocese of Virginia then joined with other founding dioceses in a general convention and created the Episcopal Church.  But the center of "the Church" was never the Presiding Bishop (and why she is intentionally a Presiding Bishop and not an Archbishop, there would have been no way the Church of Virginia would have signed on to having an Archbishop over them after having fought and won a war to free themselves from aristocratic tyranny - Patrick Henry gave his famous "Give me Liberty or Give Me Death speech in St. John's Church in Richmond) nor was it 815, nor was it even General Convention.  The old Title IV understood that.  This is what I was taught in my confirmation classes in Virginia. Episcopal polity meant to have authority centered in the local bishop.  Such a view was difficult for the majority of Anglicans in Virginia and many of them resisted having bishops - this was true in my family's hometown of Buckingham County, Virginia where the local Anglican church became and remains Baptist.

So the new Title IV canons are a major revision, designed to make The Episcopal Church the "communion" (and not the diocesan bishops are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury) and centralize authority away from the dioceses, their congregations and their bishop and redirect the center to 815 with its special interest groups and the Presiding Bishop.  It's a major change and it might be in the laity's best interest to understand that under the new Title IV canons anyone now can make charges (and not even be identified publicly) against a bishop and have the bishop removed no matter what the diocese and its congregations might say.  Think about it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boatlift: The Untold Tale of 9/11

Did you know that on 9/11 hundreds of thousands of people were trapped in lower Manhattan? How did they get home? Tom Hanks narrates the amazing story. And get your box of Kleenex.

Tip of the tinfoil to my brother for sending this along - thanks, John!

"Church Attorney" steps down from TItle IV Investigation

Josephine Hicks, the official "church attorney" leading the investigation of Bishop Mark Lawrence after his diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, modified its constitution, stepped down from the post today after questions were raised regarding possible conflicts of interest inside the investigation. You can read it all here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wall Street Journal Interview: Breaking up is hard to do - the focus on the ongoing Episcopal Church litigtion continues

 The Wall Street Journal continues to focus on the ongoing multi-million dollar litigation by the Episcopal Church:

Tip of the Tinfoil to Matt.

Prayer for the Diocese of South Carolina

A prayer goes out for Bishop Mark Lawrence, Paul Fuener, and all the people of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina:

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Twenty-First Century Excommunication: You're not Anglican, says the Episcopal Church to congregations that split over its liberal doctrinal and political stances

Just in from the Wall Street Journal:

The former Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY.
When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque.

The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn't been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she'd rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

The Episcopalian congregations that want to break away are part of a larger movement of Anglicans world-wide who are concerned by the liberalism of the official New York-based Episcopal Church on sexuality and certain basic tenets such as Jesus' resurrection. Of the 38 provinces in the global Anglican Communion, 22 have declared themselves in "broken" or "impaired" fellowship with the more liberal American church.

In 2009, breakaway Episcopalians in the U.S. and Canada formed the Anglican Church in North America, which now reports 100,000 members in nearly 1,000 congregations. This group has been formally recognized by some Anglican primates outside of the United States.

Bishop Jefferts Schori says this new Anglican group is encroaching on her church's jurisdiction, and she has authorized dozens of lawsuits "to protect the assets of the Episcopal Church for the mission of the Episcopal Church." The Episcopal Church has dedicated $22 million to legal actions against departing clergy, congregations and dioceses, according to Allan Haley, a canon lawyer who has represented a diocese in one such case.

Now the Episcopal Church has upped the ante: It has declared that if congregations break away and buy their sanctuaries, they must disaffiliate from any group that professes to be Anglican.

All Saints Church in Rosedale, PA
Rather than agree to this demand to disaffiliate from Anglicanism, Pittsburgh's All Saints Episcopal Anglican Church last month walked away from the building it had inhabited since 1928. The congregation called the Episcopal Church's demand "mean-spirited" and an attempt to deny "the freedom of religious affiliation."

Some other Episcopalians have opted to disaffiliate rather than lose their buildings or spend years in expensive litigation. Two breakaway congregations in Pennsylvania and two in Virginia have promised they will not affiliate with other Anglicans for five years.

For Anglicans, affiliation with a bishop is essential to their identity and to being part of a church. A disaffiliation clause means that bishops can't make their annual congregational visits to perform baptisms, confirmations and other rites integral to the life of the church, and they can't encourage or discipline priests. The congregation meanwhile can't work with local and national church bodies on disaster relief, youth retreats or educational seminars. Clergy members' insurance and pensions are uncertain. And congregations can't advertise that they are Anglican or contribute the traditional 10% tithe to the local branch of their denomination.

"It's unconscionable for a Christian to impose such a condition on a fellow Christian, telling them who they can and can't worship with and who they can and can't affiliate with. That violates every Christian precept I know of," said Mr. Haley, citing St. Paul's admonition against Christians suing each other in secular courts.

"We can't sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business," said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that "no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy" of the Episcopal Church. Indeed she has no complaint with Muslims, Baptists or barkeepers buying Episcopal properties—only fellow Anglicans.

The archbishop of the break-away Anglican Church in North America, Robert Duncan, says his group has no interest in replacing the Episcopal Church. He says he has encouraged participation with Episcopal Dioceses and recently blessed a priest who wanted to return to the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Duncan says that while the ongoing litigation over property is "unseemly and scandalous," the new disaffiliation clauses are even worse: "You can ask me to give away what I have and I'll give it away. But don't demand of me that I abandon the tenets of my faith."

Read it all here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Steve Jobs has died

From here:

Steven Paul Jobs, co-founder, chairman and former chief executive of Apple Inc., has passed away.

A visionary inventor and entrepreneur, it would be impossible to overstate Steve Jobs’ impact on technology and how we use it. Apple’s mercurial, mysterious leader did more than reshape his entire industry: he completely changed how we interact with technology. He made gadgets easy to use, gorgeous to behold and essential to own. He made things we absolutely wanted, long before we even knew we wanted them. Jobs’ utter dedication to how people think, touch, feel and interact with machines dictated even the smallest detail of the computers Apple built and the software it wrote.

Jobs was born in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 1955, and adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, California. He was a techie from a young age, often sitting in on lectures at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto while attending Homestead High School in Los Altos. He eventually landed a summer job there, working alongside Steve Wozniak.

Jobs enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Oregan in 1972, but dropped out after six months – he later said he “didn’t see the value in it.” He eventually returned home to California. He got a job at Atari, renewed his friendship with Wozniak and started hanging out with the Homebrew Computer Club. After trekking to India in 1974 — a trip he, like so many others, made to find enlightenment – Jobs returned home and looked up Woz.

The two of them launched Apple in 1976. Their first project, the Apple I, wasn’t much to look at — just an assembled circuit board. Anyone who bought it had to add the case and keyboard. But it was enough for Jobs to convince Mike Markkula, a semi-retired Intel engineer and product marketing manager, that personal computing was the future. Markkula invested $250,000 in the fledgling enterprise.

The Apple I begat the Apple II in 1977. It was the first successful mass-market computer, and easy to use, too. That would become a hallmark of Apple under Jobs.

The Apple II had a huge impact on the tech business, but cheaper alternatives, like the Commodore 64 and the VIC-20, quickly eroded Apple’s market share. IBM’s open PC platform eventually won out over Apple’s closed approach, and the die was cast. The PC dominated the market.

Still, Apple was by any measure a success. By the time Jobs was 25 in 1980, he was worth more than $100 million. Not that it mattered to him.

“It wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money,” he once said.

Apple once again shook up the industry with the Macintosh, announced in 1984 with a now-iconic Super Bowl ad challenging IBM. The Mac was a revolutionary step forward for personal computing — the first mass market computer to use a mouse-driven, user-friendly graphical interface. It was influenced by – critics would argue lifted from — technology Jobs saw a few years earlier at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. It irreversibly changed how we interact with computers.

But then Jobs fell from grace. One year after the Mac’s introduction, Jobs was fired in a power struggle with CEO John Sculley. Jobs was devastated. He felt he’d let those who came before him – pioneers like David Packard and Bob Noyce – down, and he wanted to apologize.

“It was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the Valley,” he admitted in a 2005 speech.

But Jobs realized he loved what he did, and wanted to keep doing it. So he founded NeXT, a computer company, and a computer animation outfit that he renamed Pixar. As for Apple, it faltered in his absense. The company’s stock plummeted 68 percent, pushing Apple to the brink of bankruptcy.

But in 1996, Apple purchased NeXT and Jobs returned to the company he founded. It wasn’t long before he was once again back at the helm, and Apple’s ascent began.

One of Jobs’ first moves was to make peace with arch-rival Microsoft. That led to a $150 million investment from Microsoft, breathing new life into the moribund Apple. Jobs was once again firmly in control, and this time he would make sure he didn’t lose it.

He ran Apple with a firm hand, enforcing a policy of secrecy, while instilling an unrivaled dedication to design and an unwavering commitment to quality. These things mattered so deeply to Jobs that he became a micromanager, one said to have put as much thought into the boxes holding Apple’s products as the products themselves.

Apple’s incredible string of hits started with the iMac and continued with iTunes and the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and 2010’s iPad. There were some misses along the way – Mobile Me and Apple TV – but Jobs, working with lieutenants like John Cook, made Apple one of the biggest companies in the world.

Jobs had always been the public face of Apple, but he began retreating from the spotlight in 2004 when doctors diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer. It was a rare form of the disease, one that could be treated, and Jobs survived. His health, though, continued to deteriorate. His liver failed in 2009, and Jobs took a six-month medical leave. He returned, but was rarely seen. He announced he was resigning as CEO in August, and John Cook replaced him as the head the company.

At a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Jobs shared the philosophy that drove him.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” Jobs said. “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Here is the Commencement Address Steve Jobs gave at Standford in 2005:

Here's an article from CNET called "How Steve Jobs Reshaped the Tech Industry."

Breaking News: South Carolina Diocean Bishop Mark Lawrence targeted by 815 for "abandoning" The Episcopal Church

Bishop Mark Lawrence
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

As The Episcopal Church descends into organizational chaos, the 815 leadership searches for a scapegoat to take the laity's mind off the little dustup.  At the last House of Bishop's meeting in South America (no kidding), the former bishop of Lexington and now COO at 815 Stacy Sauls took a major PR stumble when he made a presentation to the House of Bishops calling for a Constitutional Convention before Bishop Schori leaves her post in 2015.  It was met from a rather fascinating coalition of outcries by Episcopal Church social justice activists and institutionalists alike.  So as that outrage has been heating up in recent weeks, what do the powers that be have to do to respond but to return to the old playbook of bread and circuses.

Presiding Bishop Schori
Call the litigators!  Call the minions! Wake up the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops!  Got to turn the spotlight off the 815 infighting - so what to do?  Wait - let's go after Mark Lawrence!  Yeah, that's it!  South Carolina boo hoo hoo!  Okay, call in the usual suspects, have them file the usual papers and line up the usual complaints and get the Executive Board (who is not so very happy about Bishop Saul's going down to South America to chat up the House of Bishops before talking to them) all riled up again for the debut of TITLE IV RETURNS!    Whoo hooo!!

It may be interesting to know that Mark Lawrence is a big time Bob Dylan fan. The last time I saw Bishop Lawrence we were all part of a group singing tunes from Dylan's Modern Times album while in Canterbury, the dust of Lambeth 2008 only just beginning to settle.  The Dylan tunes will come in handy - that's one guy who knows what's it's like to get booed for telling the truth.

From here:
October 5, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Thursday, September 29, 2011, the Bishop received communication from the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops that “serious charges” have been made under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church. These are allegations that he has abandoned The Episcopal Church. Since several of these allegations also include actions taken by the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, after sustained prayer and discernment, it has seemed appropriate to both the Bishop and the Standing Committee to make these allegations available to the members of the Diocese. These allegations may be found on the Diocesan website here.

Subsequently, the President of our Standing Committee, the Very Reverend Paul C. Fuener, received a letter from the Church Attorney assisting the Disciplinary Board seeking “Records maintained by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina.” This letter may be found on our diocesan website here.

In order to understand the possible implications and to engage in corporate prayer for the diocese, I, as Bishop, have called a meeting of all our active and canonically resident clergy for this coming Tuesday, October 11, 2011 from 10 a.m. —12:00 noon at the Ministry Center of St. James Episcopal Church, James Island.

Rest assured we will do all in our power to defend gospel truth and catholic order. We and the members of our Standing Committee ask your prayers for God’s guidance and wisdom.

Yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

The Very Reverend Paul C. Fuener
President of the Standing Committee

So of course, what Dylan tune to play?

 That's Thunder on the Mountain, by Bob Dylan from his album, Modern Times.

By the way, as Christopher Setiz notes, it is again the usual plan with the usual suspects. As the organizational infighting is gaining speed (the latest is that the House of Bishops isn't really a house, just a bunch of purple shirts getting together to swap howdies from time to time, bet that went over real well) the need for bread and circuses takes on a fever pitch, but we can't just put the laser beam on Bishop Lawrence all by himself, that would be so mean. So let's find a real nasty bishop, no matter that he's retired or that that other diocesan bishops might be married not once, not twice, but three times. So off we find retired Bishop Warner in the Grunge City of Seattle - okay it may be a bit odd to do the press releases for him since Bishop Warner is retired and probably thought he was just engaging in the "mutual joy of a committed, supportive, loving relationship" which is supposed to be all the rage in the Episcopal Church, well for some, not for others.  Oops. 

So now that Bishop Warner gets the heave-ho (and it reminds me of another bishop who divorced his wife of four decades too, but he got two thumbs up), the 815 laser beam turns to the real target. Just like last time - and in case you've forgotten what the next step is, remember this.  Of course, this time they are in the land of the Swamp Fox.  Might want to consider that.

UPDATE: ENS now has an article up. They take pains to say that no one from 815 was involved in the matter, but in fact the Executive Council is very much involved (having worked up a resolution in 2007 and finally telling South Carolina that it applies to them too and Bishop Lawrence responded) and Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is the President and Chair of the Executive Council and Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Bishops, is the Vice Chair.  It's a strategy to have Disciplinary Board for Bishops handle it, last time Bishop Schori got into deep waters when she tried to ring up three senior bishops to take out Bishop Duncan and the majority voted no.  It turned into the Bishop Schori show and obviously now that she has her own litigator on staff, they have rethought that strategy.

The part that really comes to the surface is this, "In late May, a group of South Carolina Episcopalians asked Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and the Executive Council to investigate the diocese's actions."  Does anyone think that this "group of South Carolina Episcopalians" were just sitting around Starbucks one day and said, golly, we need to write Bishop Katharine and Bonnie and tell them stuff.  No - this is how "community activism" works.  The community organizers initiate the action and recruit.  This "group of South Carolina Episcopalians" are actually activists with "South Carolina Episcopalians," originally organized as the Episcopal Forum in South Carolina as part of the ViaMedia group, it is a progressive community action group designed to be an extension of 815's litigation strategy.  Activist Melinda Lucka, who is the person designated to make the formal complaint, is with Episcopal Forum as well as the South Carolina Episcopalians.

Once Mark Lawrence is deposed, Episcopal Forum/South Carolina Episcopalians will be set up as the shadow diocese's standing committee for the litigation (i.e., Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, San Joaquin).  That's the strategy - the same strategy over and over.  And 815?  That's where the cash flow comes from.

By the way, you can still see minutes from the Via Media Steering Committee, September 29, 2005 here. Reading it you can see that after six years the strategy has remained the same.  It still makes for interesting reading.

Obviously, this needs to be dealt with before General Convention next year because TEC will need to have in place their shadow diocese deputies to attend General Convention (can't have the media asking questions about why the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina didn't show up for General Convention- especially since the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire is having another bishop's election to replace Gene Robinson and again have timed it to require consent from General Convention - don't want to have disunity on display this time!).  With the media (and hopefully Episcopalians') attention now focused on South Carolina, the growing disarray of the Episcopal Church reorganization plans and all its angst will take a back seat.  Brilliant!

This means it's time for another Dylan tune.  How about the masterpiece:

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Seven Episcopal churches authorized by bishop to perform same-sex marriages in the Diocese of Virginia

UPDATE: This just in from Bishop Shannon Johnston:

Bishop Shannon Johnston
October 5, 2011

To: The Clergy of the Diocese of Virginia
Regarding a Generous Pastoral Response for Same Sex Couples

Dear Friends,

I write to you today with an invitation to attend one of two conversations about the blessing of same-sex couples. I invite those whose discernment has led them to conclude that blessing same-sex relationships cannot be a part of their ministry to gather with me on Wednesday, November 2, at 2 p.m. at St. George's, Fredericksburg. I want to hear from you about your experiences and those of your congregation since I announced my intention at Council. And I want to assure you that your position and witness will continue to be wholly respected and honored in this diocese.

I invite those who would like to learn about how they might proceed in offering blessings to the same-sex couples in their congregations to gather with me on Wednesday, November 30, at 2 p.m. at St. George's, Fredericksburg. I want to hear from you as well what your experiences have been since I announced my intention at Council. And I want to share with you the work you are expected to do to prepare your congregation for taking these next steps.

The diocesan context for these meetings began with my pastoral address at diocesan Council in January 2011. I said then to the people of the Diocese: "Personally, it is my hope that the 2012 General Convention will authorize the formal blessing of same-gender unions for those clergy in places that want to celebrate them. Until then, we might not be able to do all that we would want to do but, in my judgment, it is right to do something and it is time to do what we can."

As a way of moving ahead with doing "what we can," I held a pilot meeting with 28 clergy men and women of the Diocese on April 28, 2011, to listen to their hopes and perceptions of their congregation's needs. I also shared with them the process of applying for permission to offer worship services that honor same-sex couples. Since that time, seven congregations have made application and received permission, and services that honor same-sex couples have begun taking place. Now I invite you to continue the conversation with me.

It is my hope that the next two gatherings, together, will reflect the best of our life together as we move with conviction in the ways that God is leading us.


The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston

From here:
St. Paul's Memorial Church sits right across University Avenue from the UVA Rotunda. And after months of deliberation, it's decided to stand up to officially recognize same-sex relationships.

"What we are doing is not in a vacuum, it is part of the wider church, not every part of the church is doing the same thing," Richardson said. "In the end it came to me to ask permission of the bishop about whether we could bless these relationships."

The church joins six other Episcopal congregations in the Diocese of Virginia approved to perform similar ceremonies. But Richardson is quick to point out that this is different from what we think of traditionally as marriage. Rather, he considers this a recognition of mutual joy.

"This is the right thing to do now," he said. "Our gay and lesbian people have waited a long time."

This isn't the first time the Episcopal Church has evaluated its stance on gay and lesbian issues. The church saw the acceptance of its first openly gay bishop, Bishop Gene Robinson, in 2003. Bishop Mary Glasspool became the first openly gay female bishop in 2010. As of 2009, bishops in each Diocese across the country retain individual discretion over how to bless or recognize same-sex unions.

The Diocese of Virginia oversees almost 200 Episcopal congregations throughout central and northern Virginia. In a statement, the diocese told NBC29:

'The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, has authorized seven congregations to provide a generous pastoral response to faithful same-sex couples in the context of a church service.  "I am convinced – both theologically and experientially – that committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships can be faithful in and to the Christian life," noted Bishop Johnston.  He also reiterated his firm commitment to supporting all congregations in the Diocese of Virginia, including those congregations who object theologically to same-sex blessings.  "I assure in the strongest terms those who oppose such blessings that their position and witness will continue to be wholly respected in the Diocese of Virginia."'

André Hakes, a board member with Virginia gay advocacy group, Equality Virginia, is pleased by the church's decision.

"I think that is fabulous that they're doing that. I think it's certainly more in accord with the general good principles of Christianity," she said. "The gay community wishes it was a non-issue that's what we're looking for is essentially non-discrimination."

Hakes says steps like these show that times, and opinions, are changing.

"People's attitudes are changing. I think, you know I was born on 1971 and when I was in high school it was a lot more difficult to be a young gay person," Hakes said. "I think each generation has helped the other generations make some progress."

Richardson is concerned some with differing opinions won't perceive these changes as progress.

"My concern is that people who don't understand this or don't agree with this will react in a hateful manner," he said. "I don't expect everybody to agree with us, I expect some people to be very against this and will tell us so."

In his decision to bless and recognize same sex unions, Richardson turned to his congregation, his clergy, and even the Bible itself. He says the decision reflects the fact that the definition of marriage is changing.

"The Bible has a rather large latitude on marriage," Richardson said. "We think of it now as primarily for the mutual joy of husband and wife. That has led to an inevitable question - is it only men and women who can have the mutual joy of a committed, supportive, loving relationship?"

Richardson doesn't think so.
The Bible has a rather large latitude on marriage?  One wonders why Mormans and Africans are restricted to only one wife.  Why should a man not have one wife for every day of the week, especially if it's "committed, supportive, and loving?"  In fact, why not have entire communities all married to each other?  Let the good time roll.  Read it all here.