Monday, November 28, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: All Title IV Charges against Bishop Mark Lawrence DROPPED by TEC Disciplinary Board for Bishops

UPDATE! Here is Bishop Mark Lawrence's letter to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina with his thoughts on the recent developments:

The Rt. Rev'd Mark Lawrence
November 29, 2011 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you in this season of Advent when we await with eagerness the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in great glory to judge both the living and the dead, even while we prepare to celebrate his birth among us so long ago in that unlikely place and with an unimaginable wonder and unspeakable grace—the Word made flesh. In this season of hope we also rejoice in his daily visitation. 
To that end it is with such hope that I report to you that late yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from Bishop Dorsey Henderson, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, regarding their ruling on my case which has been before them for several months. In a conference of the board members on November 22nd the Disciplinary Board was unable to certify that I had abandoned the Episcopal Church. While the statement leaves many questions unanswered—frankly, to my mind it appears to read like a complex statement of a complex decision in a complex time within a complex church. Nevertheless, I believe it is best to take it at face value (even while noting that this diocese has not recognized the constitutionality of the new disciplinary canon). For now given no more allegations from anonymous sources within the diocese it is my hope we can all get back to focusing our full attention on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and to Glory of God the Father that the Church here in the Diocese of South Carolina may add daily to its number those who are being saved.

Please know our vocation has not changed. While making disciples and witnessing to the unassailable Truth of the Gospel to a hurting and troubled world, and speaking truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church, as well as taking our place in the larger Anglican Communion, we are, as you have heard me say on many occasions, called by God to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. Even while I write this we have a group of Irish priests from one of our companion dioceses, the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh visiting at Church of the Cross in Bluffton to share, learn and experience renewal and refreshment in the Lord. They and their bishop, The Right Reverend Ken Clarke, will be meeting with our Diocesan Anglican Communion Development Committee to further yet another mutually enriching missional relationship within the emerging Anglicanism of this 21st Century.

Before concluding let me express my heartfelt gratitude for the innumerable letters, emails and spoken words of encouragement I have received from so many within the diocese (even from those who do not always agree with my theological position or my constitutional and canonical concerns). I am also grateful for assurance of prayers from those all across The Episcopal Church, and those in continuing Anglican circles across North America, as well as from significant Provinces of the Communion. I must also give thanks for Christians in various denominations who, having read of our situation in the diocese, have offered prayers to God for our strength and steadfastness. May we get on with the grace-filled work of Jesus Christ that is before us “that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.” 
Gratefully yours in Christ, 
The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

All charges and case dismissed against Bishop Mark Lawrence.  The Rt. Rev. Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops has issued a statement:

A Statement by the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops
Regarding the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
On November 22, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops met via conference call to consider whether, based on information previously submitted to the Board by lay communicants and a priest of the Diocese of South Carolina, the Bishop of that Diocese, the Right Rev’d Mark Lawrence, has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church.
Based on the information before it, the Board was unable to make the conclusions essential to a certification that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Church.  I have today communicated the Board’s action to Bishop Lawrence by telephone, to be followed by an e-mail copy of this statement.
The abandonment canon (Title IV, Canon16) is quite specific, designating only three courses of action by which a Bishop is to be found to have abandoned the church:  first, “by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church”; second, “by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with” the Church; and, third, “by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the Church or another church in communion with the Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as the Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in the Church….”  Applied strictly to the information under study, none of these three provisions was deemed applicable by a majority of the Board.
A basic question the Board faced was whether actions by conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina, though they seem—I repeat, seem--to be pointing toward abandonment of the Church and its discipline by the diocese, and even though supported by the Bishop, constitute abandonment by the Bishop.  A majority of the members of the Board was unable to conclude that they do.
It is also significant that Bishop Lawrence has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to lead the diocese out of The Episcopal Church—that he only seeks a safe place within the Church to live the Christian faith as that diocese perceives it.  I speak for myself only at this point, that I presently take the Bishop at his word, and hope that the safety he seeks for the apparent majority in his diocese within the larger Church will become the model for safety—a “safe place”—for those under his episcopal care who do not agree with the actions of South Carolina’s convention and/or his position on some of the issues of the Church.
The Right Rev’d Dorsey F. Henderson, Jr.
President, Disciplinary Board for Bishops
Tip of the Tinfoil to TLC.  So with this in mind, we need to find a good Dylan tune.  Okay, this is the one that comes to mind, so here it is:

Ikon: San Francisco "Hipsters" flock to Christian church "start-up"

Note the differences in how this new church is marketing itself, as opposed to what what the boomer liturgical unitarians in The Episcopal Church have emphasized in the past few years.  Something is happening here and we should probably pay attention, friends.  From here:

At Ikon, hipsters — the city’s latest bohemian generation — have found religion.

“You’re not the first one to say that,” Monts, 32, said in an interview, laughing at the observation. “Fifty percent would consider themselves to be hipsters, but, of course, the first rule of being a hipster is not calling yourself a hipster.”

What they do call themselves is Christian. And beyond the hipster appeal, Ikon also embraces another San Francisco trend: it is a start-up.

Founded just over two years ago, it has grown from a handful of worshipers meeting in a private home to 120 members meeting at The Hub, a work space for fledgling tech ventures in The San Francisco Chronicle building in SoMa. Two services are held every Sunday ...

...Successfully attracting young adults to a church is unusual. “Most mainline denominations have really lost that group,” Dr. Peters said, adding that a church would need to have “liberal social ethics.”

Aaron Monts, pastor of Ikon, receives communion.
Ikon has its liturgical roots in the Restoration Movement, a nondenominational, nonhierarchical faith started in the United States in the early 19th century.

But little of it seems traditional: Sunday readings were from an iPhone, contemporary songs replaced hymns, a video screen showed a popular YouTube clip during the sermon and techno music thumped for the recessional. Ikon uses Twitter, Facebook, sleek Web sites and advertising campaigns in transit stations to promote its message.

The church’s tenets include a devotion to the arts, openness (gay men and lesbians are welcome), environmental causes, and addressing tough social issues, like outreach to the city’s sex workers.

Monts said the church was trying “to tackle some of the injustices in the city.”

“Christians have a bad rap, especially in a city like this,” said Luke Spray, 22, a San Francisco State University student and church member. Spray noted the sidewalk preachers nearby on Market Street who shout and hold signs telling passers-by that hell soon awaits. “I think that’s terrible,” he said.

Instead, Ikon focused on “caring about the earth — caring about each other,” Spray said, and added, “Maybe that doesn’t look the same as the Bible Belt.”

Another member, Mabi Knittle, 34, put Ikon’s message more succinctly. “Love saves people,” he said. “Love rescues people.”

Read it all here.  It's been picked up by the New York Times here.  Read more about Reunion Christian Church here.  I would like to understand how the churches are governed - don't want to the tinfoil to go off.  Read more about the Restoration Movement here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Georgia Supreme Court rules against Christ Church Savannah

UPDATE:  With thanks to our friends at SF, you may read the court opinion and the dissenting opinion here.

From here:
Christ Church, Savannah, GA
Christ Church, the oldest Episcopal church in Georgia, was founded in 1733, when James Oglethorpe, an English general, designated the property on Bull Street as a place of worship, the state Supreme Court said.

When the national Episcopal Church named the Rev. Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop in 2003, the Savannah congregation voted to leave the national church and move under the leadership of an Anglican diocese in Uganda.

The breakaway congregation refused to give up the Savannah church building and property, valued at $3 million, prompting a lawsuit by the national church and the Georgia diocese.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruling on Monday upheld lower court rulings that the Savannah property belongs to the national church.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution "allows (the local congregation) and its members to leave the Episcopal Church and worship as they please, like all other Americans. But it does not allow them to take with them property that has for generations been accumulated and held by a constituent church of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America," the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in a 6-1 vote.

Christ Church is considering whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, its lawyer, Jim Gardner, said in a statement.

"At its core this case is about fundamental property rights of individual congregations in hierarchical churches," Gardner said.

If the church loses access to the building during the appeal, it will hold services in another downtown Savannah church building, the statement added.

In 2003, the 2.1 million member Episcopal Church, the U.S. arm of global Anglicanism, triggered what many observers describe as an ongoing schism by consecrating Robinson as bishop of the New Hampshire diocese.

Read it all here.  Anglican Curmudgeon has commentary on the ruling of "implied trusts" here.  More on Christ Church here with their official statement here.

This week's episode of Anglican Unscripted

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Greg Brewer elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida; will succeed Bishop John W. Howe

From here.

The Rev'd Greg Brewer
Episcopal pastors and lay leaders have elected The Rev. Gregory O. Brewer, rector of Calvary-St. George’s Church in New York City, to head the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida.

Fr.Brewer replaces Bishop John Howe, who will retire early next year. The diocese says Brewer’s selection is “… pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church.”

The diocese reports Brewer was chosen on the 4th ballot from the seven nominees for the position. He got 141 votes of 241 cast by lay order and 110 of the 192 votes by the clergy. An election on that ballot required 125 in the lay order and 95 in the clergy order.

The election was held during a special Saturday convention at Trinity Preparatory School. Winter Park.

Under canons of the Episcopal Church, a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to the bishop-elect's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

Rev. Brewer has significant ties to Central Florida. He was ordained a priest at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Winter Park, and his wife Laura is from Orlando. The couple has five children.

He was not here for the vote, because his diocese in New York was choosing its bishop. In a phone call, he told the Central Florida Diocese, “I’m just very excited to return to Central Florida and will pray for God’s blessings on our work together there.”

Rev. Brewer’s current parish, Calvary-St. George’s Church, has 500 members, and is described as multi- cultural and multiracial, and is located in downtown Manhattan.

If the process goes as expected, he will be consecrated as the fourth bishop of Central Florida on March 24.

The Diocese of Central Florida says it has 31,000 baptized members at 88 parishes and missions in 15 counties.

Read it all here.  The vote tallies are here.  Here is his talk to the Diocese of Central Florida when he was a candidate:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori releases statement regarding Father Bede Parry

UPDATE: Good commentary in this post at SF.  The Washington Post also has an article here.

The Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement regarding Father Bede Parry who had been removed from ministry as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church for child sexual abuse and was then received by Bishop Schori as a priest in the Episcopal Church.  

You can read more about the issue here and here and here and here and here.

From here:
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori
Bede James Parry was serving as organist and music director at All Saints Church, Las Vegas, when I became aware of him. His arrival preceded my own in the Diocese of Nevada.

He approached me to inquire about being received as a priest, having served as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. At the time, he told me of being dismissed from the monastery in 1987 for a sexual encounter with an older teenager, and indicated that it was a single incident of very poor judgment. The incident was reported to civil authorities, who did not charge him. He told of being sent to a facility in New Mexico, serving as a priest thereafter both in New Mexico and in Nevada, and recently (2002) being asked to formalize his separation from the monastery.

In consultation with other diocesan leadership and the chancellor, we explored the possibilities and liabilities of receiving him. I wrote to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas and the Diocese of Santa Fe, receiving brief responses from each bishop, who indicated no problematic behavior. I wrote to Conception Abbey, from whom I received only an acknowledgement that he had served there, been sent for treatment to a facility in New Mexico, and had been dismissed for this incident of misconduct. Neither then nor later did I receive a copy of any report of a psychological examination in connection with his service in the Roman Catholic Church. His departure from the Roman Catholic priesthood had to do with his desire to take up secular employment.

Parry was required to fulfill all the expectations of the canons regarding reception of a priest from another communion in historic succession. He did undergo a psychological exam in the Diocese of Nevada, was forthcoming about the incident he had reported to me, and did not receive a negative evaluation. His background check showed no more than what he had already told us. He was forthcoming about the previous incident in his interviews with the Commission on Ministry and with the Standing Committee.

I made the decision to receive him, believing that he demonstrated repentance and amendment of life and that his current state did not represent a bar to his reception. I was clear that his ministry would be limited to an assisting role, under the supervision of another priest, and like any other diocesan leader, he would not be permitted to work alone with children. Since that time, as far as I am aware, he has served faithfully and effectively as a minister of the gospel and priest of this Church.

The records of his reception are retained by the Diocese of Nevada, and further questions should be directed to Bishop Dan Edwards.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

I am not sure why she thinks anyone is going to direct further questions to her diocesan successor when she was the one who is responsible for authorizing and presiding over Father Parry's reception as a priest in the Episcopal Church. 

Here is the statement of Father Bede Parry from May 2011:
Statement of Bede Parry
May 7, 2011
All Saints Episcopal Church, Las Vegas, Nevada

Father Bede Parry
My name is Bede Parry and I currently reside in Las Vegas, Nevada. In November of 2010, I was contacted by and subsequently met on two occasions with Patrick Marker regarding my knowledge of misconduct by personnel at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

In my meetings with Mr. Marker in November of 2010, and in several telephone and email conversations since, we have discussed issues related to my background, inappropriate contact by members of the clergy (at Saint John’s and elsewhere, including my own), and a mutual desire to create a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults.

I have agreed to provide details of my background, as follows:

In 1973, I joined Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastic community located in Missouri. Between 1974 and 1979, I was involved in three relationships that included sexual contact, and were thus inappropriate for a monastic. In 1979, I admitted my misconduct to Abbot Jerome Hanus of Conception Abbey. Later in 1979, I enrolled in the three-year School of Theology program at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

In 1981, a student at Saint John’s University made allegations of sexual misconduct against me. I was asked to attend a meeting with [St. John's Victim #1], the student with whom I had indeed engaged in inappropriate sexual contact, Fr. Roman Paur and perhaps one other member of the Saint John’s community. During the meeting, I apologized for my inappropriate conduct and agreed to have no further contact with [St. John's Victim #1].

Immediately after the meeting with Roman Paur, I phoned Abbot Jerome Hanus at Conception Abbey and made him aware of my misconduct. After a discussion about the misconduct, Abbot Jerome simply said, “Don’t do it again.”

A few days after the meeting with Roman Paur, I met for tea with Saint John’s Abbot Jerome Theisen. Abbot Theisen said that he had spoken to Abbot Hanus about my conduct. There was an understanding, by all parties, that I would not do it again. I also agreed to get some counseling. I counseled with Fr. Finian McDonald for several weeks then met with a counselor in St. Cloud, Minnesota for additional therapy.

While attending the School of Theology, I lived with the other monks at Saint John’s. There was an awareness of my misconduct among the other monks. In addition to Fr. Roman Paur and Fr. Finian McDonald, Fr. Rene McGraw also knew details of my misconduct. I recall that other monks commented or joked about my misconduct in a light-hearted, but nonetheless inappropriate, manner.

I completed the School of Theology program in 1982 and returned to Conception Abbey that summer. I was ordained on April 16, 1983. Abbot Jerome Hanus reminded me at the time of my ordination that I would need to be “especially observant” of my vow of celibacy.

In the summer of 1987, Conception Abbey hosted a choir camp. I had been involved with the Abbey Boy Choir as organist, director, or both, for several years. During the camp, I had inappropriate sexual contact in my living quarters with [John Doe 181], a member of the Abbey Boy Choir.

My misconduct with [John Doe 181] was reported to the leadership at Conception Abbey the same day. At a meeting with [John Doe 181’s parents] and the Abbot, I admitted to the misconduct and apologized for my behavior.

Soon after the incident with [John Doe 181], I left Conception Abbey for Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Abbot Jerome Hanus drove me to the airport. I took part in a three-month program at the Servants of the Paraclete facilities.

I have since recognized that I may have acted inappropriately with at least one other member of the Abbey Boy Choir.

Late in 1987, I finished the Paraclete program and accepted a job, as choirmaster and organist, at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Albuquerque. I continued to receive therapy from a female counselor, Margaret, in Santa Fe.

I am aware that in 1990, someone from Conception Abbey asked [John Doe 181’s parents] about my potential return to the area. I am unaware of the details of the conversation but was told by Abbot James Jones that it would “not be wise” for me to return to Conception Abbey.

In 1995, Fr. Anthony Gorman from Saint John’s Abbey sent [St. John's Victim #1's] obituary to me. I do not know how Fr. Gorman knew to contact me, or the nature of Fr. Gorman’s relationship with [St. John's Victim #1].

In 2000, I was recruited by Mary Bredlau to work at All-Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas.

Also in 2000, I considered joining the Prince of Peace monastery in Riverside, California. Prince of Peace had me undergo a series of psychological tests. After the testing, Prince of Peace’s Abbot Charles Wright informed me I was no longer a candidate. The psychological evaluation had determined that I had a proclivity to reoffend with minors. Abbot Wright called Conception Abbey’s Abbot Gregory Polan with this information.

Abbot Polan would later share the information with Robert Stoeckig from the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas, Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the human resources department at Mercy Ambulance in Las Vegas. Bishop Daniel Walsh, Monsignor Ben Franzinelli, Bishop Joseph Pepe, Archbishop Robert Sanchez and Rev. Bob Nelson were also made aware of my previous misconduct.

In 2002, I pursued a cooperative dismissal from the Catholic Church. Fr. Dan Ward, a canon lawyer from Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, prepared the documents.

I have only recently begun to understand how my misconduct has affected my victims.

Everything that I have done in my life has been with me, and haunting me, every day. I dream about it. I think about it. Not a day passes when I do not regret my conduct. I am truly sorry.

Bede Parry
May 7, 2011

A video interview where Father Bede Parry answers questions is here. And more on the Parry case here and here and here and here and here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview with the new Episcopal Bishop of Washington

The new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
There are some major political theological red flags that Jeff Walton rightly points out do not appear to bode well for the future of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.  At some point, can we continue to wantonly dismiss what scripture says about stuff and not wonder why millions - yes, millions - have abandoned The Episcopal Church?

Yet what stands out here for me is that the Rt. Rev'd Dr. Mariann Mariann Budde's  public priorities are in some ways quiet different from what the political activists have been doing to drive the church into the ground for the past forty years.

She seems to recognize that the techniques of Saddleback Church should not be dismissed (and let's not equally dismiss her courage in actually going to Saddleback when Episcopal activists continue to robustly denounce Rick Warren for supporting a biblical view of sexual expression), but she does seem to think they are techniques and that the content is easily swappable.

How wise is it then to return from Saddleback only to take the old cans of decaying progressive sausage off the shelf that millions of Episcopalians have rejected, simply swap them into a brightly colored Saddleback wrapper and serve it for supper proclaiming it's new and improved?

If we have learned anything in the past couple of years around Washington it is this: caveat emptor.

That being said, there is a telling response in this interview about why she drifted away from following Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.  She had made a profession of faith to follow him, but later was troubled:
My heart was a lonely place. And the idea that Jesus would want to come into my heart — that was life-changing for me. . . . At the same time, I could not make sense of what they were saying: that there was one narrow path to salvation, and if you didn’t take it, you’d be denied. -Mariann Buddle

It is not wise to simply dismiss this issue either.  Many hearts are indeed in lonely places.  Episcopal leaders have recognized this and have sought to be kind and caring.  Yet this misunderstanding of the work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection is so darn sad - it is tragic.  This is what she heard, but this is not what scripture says, it's not the context.  God doesn't make the road narrow to trip us up - in fact, He promises to go with us and He doesn't discriminate on who He will go with on the road.  He won't force Himself on us.  We just need to ask.  He will not, no He will not abandon us.

So many other clerical leaders in the Episcopal Church have turned to other paths rather than face this issue head on.  It is an amazing passage and one that seems more applicable to our current situation now more than ever.

We start from the final verses of Matthew 6:
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

And then we go to what Matthew 7 actually says:
1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
   3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
   6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Ask, Seek, Knock

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.   9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
The Narrow and Wide Gates
    13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
True and False Prophets
    15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
True and False Disciples
    21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
The Wise and Foolish Builders
    24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

We can't just pick out bits and flip out - that's true for all of us, all of us.  These are the words of Jesus himself.  The description of the narrow gate is His. Narrow gates are funny things.  Yes, it's true they take some navigation to get through - but if you are a sheep that could be a good thing.

We so often remake the gospel to fit into our own image.  That is true for all of us as well, progressive and evangelical, liberal, or traditional.

We do not need to continue to build our houses on sand, not now, not ever. Caveat emptor.

From here:

Episcopal Bishop , the Rt. Rev'd Dr. Mariann Budde
Q: What’s the framework for an outsider understanding your election and what it says about the Episcopal Church in 2011?

A: I’d start by talking about the renewing and rebuilding of the core structures of mainline religion. . . . These are potential channels for people in this country to connect to transcendence and the spiritual basis of life we call God . . . in a way that our forebears, and certainly the generations just before us, took for granted and assumed would always be there . . .

I was elected because I’ve spent most of my time in one context: a church that needed to be rebuilt . . . What do you keep? What do you throw away? Those are really challenging questions.

Q: Why was it so compelling for Washington area Episcopalians to hear you speak frankly and optimistically about this? Is there a hesitance among people to deal with this?

A: It’s a generational thing. My generation of people coming into the bishop’s role are much more blunt than our immediate predecessors . . .

People are working really hard, and they care passionately about being engaged in every public arena. They want to change the world, and so do I. But what about when the foundation you’re standing on is crumbling and can’t hold all the things you want it to?

There needs to be things like children’s ministries, strong pastoral care and a life of the community [that] people can be welcomed into. Buildings need to be beautiful and in good shape, welcoming . . .

In Minneapolis in 2007, when the bridge collapsed, it became a core metaphor for us. Bridges aren’t supposed to fall down. It made us all look at core institutions in a different way.

New bishop consecrated at the National Cathedral
Q: What shape is the Washington Diocese in?

A: A much better place than the rest of the country. This is a very vibrant diocese, but the trends of decline are here in a muted way. . . . It’s years of steady decline. It’s like when school departments say they’ve trimmed back all the fat and are moving to the muscle.

Q: What are your goals here in Washington?

A: The role of churches in immigration reform and creating paths to legitimacy . . .

The role of spirituality in the lives of young adults, because of my own personal history — I’m the mother of two young adults — and because this is the young-adult capital of the country. There are more here in that idealistic, vocation-searching, relationship-searching stage. What better time to be engaged with a spiritual foundation undergirding all that?

Q: You have said your “first conscious experience of Christ” was as a teen in a fundamentalist community. Can you describe that experience?

A: They had a clear, ‘This is how you accept Jesus, this is how you become baptized, this is how you invite him to be your Lord and savior’ thing. I didn’t know what all that meant, but I wanted that. . . .

My heart was a lonely place. And the idea that Jesus would want to come into my heart — that was life-changing for me. . . . At the same time, I could not make sense of what they were saying: that there was one narrow path to salvation, and if you didn’t take it, you’d be denied.

Q: The Washington diocese has grown in the past decade from three to seven Latino congregations. You are a Spanish speaker. How will this community change the Episcopal Church?

A: Spanish-speaking people [are] drawn to the Episcopal Church. We are similar in manner of praying as Catholics, but we have a very different, democratic organizational structure, with local autonomy. Decisions like the ordination of women, priests can be married — they like these things. . . .

The thing I’m happiest about is the lay Latino leaders are much clearer about their own faith stories and are more comfortable praying together than I experience [with] the stereotypical Episcopalian.

Q: You are open to a range of ideas and have even done a training with the conservative evangelical megapastor Rick Warren.

A: This is a really good pedagogy for how to grow a church. . . .

I want to build up the liberal church again so we can be a legitimate conversation partner in the public arena religiously, because now it’s dominated by evangelical Christians and what many would call the Christian right, and I would agree. It’s legitimate for them to be there, but they’re drowning us out. They’re better at organizing churches than we are, and I’m going to change that!

Read it all here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tonight at the Cafe: Workingman's Blues #

One of the best from Dylan's unexpected masterpiece, Modern Times:

On the Kindle: A Price to be Paid?

Sober reading for any organization experiencing trauma or long-term stress:

When danger is real and present, effective leaders take charge and give commands that are obeyed by obedient followers, thus harnessing and directing the combined power of many individuals in service of group survival.  When a crisis occurs, centralization of control is significantly increased with leaders tightening reins, concentrating power at the top, and minimizing participatory decision making.

Even where there are strong beliefs in the “democratic way of life”, there is always a tendency in institutions, and in the larger containing society, to regress to simple, hierarchical models of authority as a way of preserving a sense of security and stability.  This is not just a phenomenon of leadership – in times of great uncertainty, everyone in the institution colludes to collectively bring into being authoritarian organizations as a time-honored method for providing at least the illusion of greater certainty and therefore a diminution of anxiety.

But, when a state of crisis is prolonged, repetitive, or chronic there is a price to be paid. The tendency to develop increasingly authoritarian structures over time is particularly troublesome for complex organizations. Chronic crisis results in organizational climates that promote authoritarian behavior and this behavior serves to reinforce existing hierarchies and create new ones. Communication exchanges change and become more formalized and top-down. Command hierarchies becomes less flexible, power becomes more centralized, people below stop communicating openly and as a result, important information is lost from the system.

The centralization of authority means that those at the top of the hierarchy will be far more influential than those at the bottom, and yet better solutions to the existing problems may actually lie in the hands of those with less authority. Authoritarian leadership is likely to encourage the same leadership style throughout the organization. The loss of democratic processes results in oversimplified decision-making and the loss of empowerment at each organizational level reduces morale and increases interpersonal conflict.

From Trauma-organized systems and parallel process. N. Tehrani (Ed.), Managing Trauma in the Workplace (pp. 139-153). London: Routledge.

This week with Anglican Unscripted

Anglican Unscripted this week: More breaking news on the developing story of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission in the Americas, an update on the continuing controversy over the reception of Father Bede Perry as an Episcopal priest by now Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, commentary on recent developments with the proposed Anglican Covenant, and an interview with the new CANA bishop Julian Dobbs.

Here are the documents referred to regarding the AMiA/Rwanda:
1. A Letter to Bishop Chuck Murphy from Archbishop Nathan Gasatura, primate of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.
2. A Letter to Bishop Chuck Murphy from Bishop John Rucyahana.
3. A Letter from the Rev. Cynthia Brust of the AMiA Press Office to the Rev. Canon George Conger.

UPDATE: AMiA Bishop Terrell Glenn has announced that he has resigned from the AMiA.  Here is his letter.  Tip of the Tinfoil to Treading Grain.

Bishop Terrell Glenn
November 11, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus.

I am writing to inform you that I have resigned from the Anglican Mission in America. I communicated this to my brother bishops earlier this week at our fall retreat in Myrtle Beach and submitted a letter to that effect to Bishop Murphy, our Chairman and Archbishop Rwaje’s Primatial Vicar. This is not a decision that I have made lightly or in haste or in reaction to any of the impending decisions about the future direction of the Anglican Mission that are before the Council of Bishops and the Anglican Mission. Rather, it is a decision that Teresa and I have made after several months of agonizing prayer as we have sought to do what we believe the Lord has called us to do.

For a while now, Bishop Murphy and I have sought to resolve personal issues between us. Regrettably, we have been unsuccessful. As Teresa and I prayed about this, we came to believe that the Lord was leading us to step out of the Anglican Mission and we are doing this in obedience to Him. In anticipation of this decision, we sought to hear the Lord about next steps but only heard Him clearly about this one. Therefore, we now are entering a period of discernment as to our future ministry.

There are two things that I ask of you at this time. First, please do not take our decision as an indication or recommendation from me as to what any of you should do in response to the proposed changes in the life of the Anglican Mission as it considers becoming a Missionary Society. Instead, I ask that you remain faithfully a part of the Anglican Mission and a vitally prayerful part of the process of discernment in which the Mission is currently engaged concerning its future. This means that discussions among you should be conducted in a manner worthy of the Gospel, that honors the leadership of the Anglican Mission and that is above reproach in every way. Second, and more personally, I ask for your prayers for direction for the Glenn family as we seek our Lord’s will for our lives.

Over these past three years and especially in this recent season in which I have been able to give a singular focus to serving as your bishop, Teresa and I have been blessed not only to deepen ministry relationships with you, but also to foster friendships. Truly, it has been an honor, privilege and joy to serve as your bishop. Teresa and I love you deeply and you will remain in our prayers.

In His Peace,

Bishop Terrell

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The song is Praan by Garry Schyman, based on Streams of Life by the poet Rabindranath Tagore from his Nobel prize winning collection, Gitanjali: Selected Poems.

Here is the author's English translation from the original Bengali:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Late Night at the Cafe: Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

From the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church: Maybe this is a Desert Time

From here:
There’s an arrogance and a self-confidence that is shattered by things falling apart. Usually, that is an invitation to deeper wisdom. It may be difficult and painful, but there’s usually a grace hidden in that in some way, and then there’s a resurrection with new insight and wisdom that comes out of suffering or loss.

Take the Washington Cathedral.

Washington National Cathedral damaged in earthquake.
It’s the icon of a certain self-assurance in an earlier time, when many people in government were Episcopalians, and Episcopalians were at the top of the main banks, and J.P. Morgan was building the St. Paul’s School chapel.
Here’s this great monument to Episcopal ego, you might say, though it is a church for all, and now here it is suffering $25 million worth of damage in an earthquake.

What might be the symbolic significance of this in terms of mainline ego being shattered and dislodged by events? I’m not happy that the Washington Cathedral is damaged, but is it a bad thing to be in some way forced into exile and becoming a remnant?

"Maybe this is the desert time."
To use an image from the Old Testament, maybe this is the desert time.

The desert was a period of purification and self-knowledge in order that they were prepared to enter the promised land. All the things that happened in the wilderness, the struggle and the suffering, were part of being shaped and formed and being made ready to enter the promised land, especially where they could receive it as gift rather than acquisition.

Read it all here. Tip of the Tinfoil to SF.

Today at the Cafe: Ave Maria

In a rather rambunctious week on the Anglican/Episcopalian front, a time to pause, yes, perhaps just stop and rest.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

Tonight at the Cafe: High Water

Here is one of the best.  In fact, there has been some interesting commentary on the song now underway here and here.  Also some more commentary here.  I do think Dylan is alluding to the past with an eye fixed on the world today.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting blog entry on Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan based on the new biography on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

The Stockdale Paradox

"You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."   -James Stockdale

Listen to more here.

Anglican Unscripted: The Four Rules of Journalism

Join Kevin and George as they discuss the latest news - from their multiple sources - from the world of the Anglican Communion.

Happy 93rd Birthday, Billy Graham!

Billy Graham from 1957:

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Future of AMiA: Is the AMiA’s New “Missionary Society” structure the best way forward?

Dan Claire, Chuck Colson, and Tommy Hinson of Washington, DC raise concerns on current developments in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA):
AMiA Bishop Chuck Murphy
On Oct. 25-26, 2011, Bp Murphy hosted some 75 Anglican Mission clergy in Pawleys Island, SC for a Presbyters’ Retreat. The bulk of the meeting was given to the presentation of the Chairman’s new structural proposal for the AMiA. Bp Murphy explained his rationale for the proposal, and then his canon lawyer, Kevin Donlon, presented the proposal in great detail. During the Q&A following the Chairman’s presentation, the first question asked was whether the time was only for questions of clarification, or if feedback also welcomed. Bp Murphy discouraged the latter, saying, “I’m only on the sixth step out of ten. I’m in a process now of trying to tell you the latest thinking. The next steps will be four more meetings. Then when we get to the point that we’re about to pour the concrete, that’s when we would need to hear back.” When asked when this might be, Bp Murphy said only that “we might want to call a gathering” at some point, but nothing definitive was offered. Many AMiA clergy left the retreat burdened with a growing uneasiness about the future, yet no avenue for constructive feedback has been provided by the Chairman. Thus, many clergy find themselves in an impossible bind, needing to engage in genuine dialogue with the leadership about the future but wary of insubordination. As a result, hundreds of conversations are taking place—without the leadership—in secret behind closed doors. It’s a tense and uncertain time for many in the AMiA. We desire to walk in the light by bringing the ongoing conversation into the light. Our purpose in writing this document is to speak the truth in love, in hopes of fostering honest and open dialogue together, for the sake of our shared Gospel mission to North America. We have been greatly blessed by, and are indebted to, the AMiA and her leadership, and our hope is to see this mission continue as our Lord leads.
Among their concerns they write:
The proposed structure perpetuates a top-heavy polity. One of the greatest weaknesses of the AMiA is that, practically speaking, the Chairman is the sole decision-maker. While on paper Bp Murphy remains under the authority of Abp Rwaje, the Rwandan primate is nevertheless “22 hours away by air in the heart of Africa.” Meanwhile, the national officers all work for the Chairman, the missionary bishops function effectively as his suffragans, and there is no regular college of presbyters. In short, the AMiA’s current polity is extremely top-heavy. Our biggest concern with the proposed structure is that it codifies the Chairman’s unilateral leadership. It’s a fresh coat of paint on the old wineskin of the national office. Instead of an ecclesiology grounded in Holy Scripture and classical Anglican tradition, it is a monocracy legitimized by parachurch precedents. The architect of the proposal, Kevin Donlon, describes his role as telling the Chairman what he can and cannot do according to canon law. During the retreat he explained his understanding of the discipline of canon law in the traditional Roman Catholic sense: that not only is there Holy Scripture, but also natural law, from which ecclesiastical canon law is derived. In other words, in this framework, canon law does not flow out of Scripture, but runs parallel to it. Classical Anglicanism, on the other hand, understands canon law to be derived from and subordinate to Scripture (cf. Article 34). Here’s the problem: the Chairman’s canon lawyer has tailor made a structure that fits existing AMiA hierarchy not on the basis of Scripture or classical Anglican tradition. Rather, the structure is modeled after historical parachurch ministries primarily found in Roman Catholic tradition. If one must consistently resort to Roman Catholic terminology and analogies to communicate ecclesial structure, then it should come as no surprise if the end result is a Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Where are the biblical theologians advising the Chairman regarding better alternatives with more ancient, biblical historical precedents? Where are the historians recommending the checks and balances of Anglican episcopacy since the Reformation?
Read it all here.  For more commentary, check out the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted here.

UPDATE: The AMiA has issued a press release which you can read at SF here.  Here is a short excerpt of where they report they are in their conversations with the Anglican province of Rwanda:

The Anglican Mission has been in conversations for some months internally and with Rwanda leadership about shaping the best structure to both express and facilitate our consistent vision to be "a mission, nothing more and nothing less." All of the concepts discussed, including the creation of a defined "society for apostolic work," or "Missionary Society," include an expectation that we will remain connected to Rwanda, and the AM leaders are working collaboratively, as always, with Rwandan leaders. These conversations with leadership on both sides of the Atlantic remain ongoing, and it is important to note that no decisions have been made - we are in a process of conversations only, and frankly any public discussion is premature at best.
 We have learned, or I hope we have learned over the years that it is best to encourage public conversation that includes the laity over important matters that affect the people in the pews. The Episcopal Church is also going through public conversations as well as they too consider restructuring TEC with a call for a special General Convention before Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori steps down from her office in 2015. After all, structure is theology. 

NEW UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Church of England newspaper has an article that focuses on the creation of the Diocese of the Trinity by the Church of Nigeria in the United States.  I know that CANA is working on forming dioceses, as it did with the Diocese of the Mid Atlantic, that will have the opportunity to join the ACNA.  CANA is in a unique position in that its bishops sit in both the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops as well as the ACNA College of Bishops.  It reminds us that we are still in transition - the ACNA prayerfully waits to become a province in the Anglican Communion while at the same time maintain connection with provinces that are full members of the Anglican Communion as is the Church of Nigeria.  And this transition is not only applicable to the ACNA as it develops, but also The Episcopal Church as it takes a hard look at where it stands today.  Both entities show the affects of the division, a division that even the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Virgina recognized as real when it affirmed that the evidence "clearly establishes that a split or rupture has occurred within the Diocese and, given the evidence of similar events in other dioceses of TEC, the split or rupture has occurred at the national level as well."

Mending the rupture for all parties  means not only mending the structures of the Church, but in a way that best proclaims the Gospel.  Structures are indeed theology.

Jesus knew what He was doing when He prayed so fervently for us.  He is praying for His disciples that night in the Garden in the hours before He is taken away to the cross when his attention turns to us all:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
-John 17:20-23
EVENING UPDATE: Well, so much for oneness.

A Statement from the Archbishop of Rwanda and
the Primatial Vicar of the Anglican Mission in the Americas

We have recently been made aware that a number of unfounded rumors and false assertions regarding the relationship between the Anglican Mission and Rwanda have begun to swirl in various circles and on the Internet.  We are releasing this statement together to urge you not to be misled or distracted by those who would sow destructive seeds of discord through innuendo and commentary, for we know that this is the work and design of the Enemy.

The work and the relationship between the AMiA and the Province of Rwanda remains solid and cherished, as we discuss and explore together the future shape of our life and our work in the mission from the Lord which we share on two continents.  As always, we ask for your prayers and support as we continue to seek the best way forward together in growing the Lord’s Kingdom on both sides of the Atlantic.  

The Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje
Archbishop and Primate
Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda

The Rt. Rev. Charles H. Murphy, III
Primatial Vicar and Chairman
The Anglican Mission in the Americas

How can one not recommend to the laity at this point to pray hard and run for the exit?  Not kidding.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Anglican Unscripted: Not even a blizzard can stop them!

George and Kevin discuss breaking news in CANA and AMiA. The Church of Nigeria forms a new diocese in the United States through CANA, rather than in the ACNA and there are reports that AMiA parishes may be breaking from Rwanda. Also, Kevin has a lively discussion with Peter Ould over the recent resignations at St. Paul's in London, and other interesting news. Grab a cup of tea and a crumpet or two and take a listen!