Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Father Jake Stops the World: The Subversion of the Church From Within

Father Jake Stops the World: The Subversion of the Church From Within

Who is "walking apart"? Who is "walking away?" Who is creating schism in the church? Find out all these answers and more over at Father Jake Stops the World wherein himself brings the whole tawdry story into the light.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Where I live . . .

Welcome to my world, where everyone is an equal opportunity offender (and, given that this is the Land of the Soprano's, you can take that in whatever interpretation you desire).

I don't know the identity of the creator or origin of this, but I think someone has LOTS of time on their hands . . . an unfortunate "occupational hazard" in the NE Corridor.

Let "The Barbie's" introduce to The Garden State of New Jersey

"Hackettstown Barbie"

This recently paroled Barbie comes with a 9mm handgun, a Ray Lewis knife,a Chevy with dark tinted windows, and a Meth Lab Kit. This model is only available after dark and must be paid for in cash (preferably small, untraceable bills) unless you are a cop...then we don't know what you are talking about.

"Irvington Barbie"

This B arbie now comes with a stroller and infant doll. Optional accessories include a GED and bus pass. Gangsta Ken and his 1979 Caddy were available, but are now very difficult to find since the addition of the infant.

"Lake Hopatcong Barbie"

This tobacco-chewing, brassy-haired Barbie has a pair of her own high-heeled sandals with one broken heel from the time she chased beer-gutted Ken out of Statesboro Barbie's house. Her ensemble includes low-rise acid-washed jeans, fake fingernails, and a see-through halter-top. Also available with a mobile home.

"Mountain Lakes Barbie"

This princess Barbie is sold only in the Mountain Lakes area. She comes with an assortment of Kate Spade Handbags, a Lexus SUV, a long-haired foreign dog named Honey and a cookie-cutter house. Available with or without tummy tuck and face lift. Workaholic Ken sold only in conjunction with the augmented version.

"Rockaway Barbie"

The modern day homemaker Barbie is available with Ford Windstar Minivan and matching gym outfit. She gets lost easily and has no full-time occupation. Traffic jamming cell phone sold separately.

"The Short Hills Barbie"

This yuppie Barbie comes with your choice of BMW convertible or Hummer H2. Included are her own Starbucks cup, credit card and country club membership. Also available for this set are Shallow Ken and Private School Skipper. You won't be able to afford any of them.

" Sussex County Barbie"

This pale model comes dressed in her own Wrangler jeans two sizes too small, a NASCAR t-shirt and tweety bird tattoo on her shoulder. She frequents Bahama Bob's . She has a six-pack of Bud Lite and a Hank Williams Jr. CD set. She can spit over 5 feet and kick mullet-haired Ken's butt when she is drunk. Purchase her pickup truck separately and get a confederate flag bumper sticker absolutely free.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Talking with Our Katharine

Deputy for Communication Jan Nunley speaks with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for an update on the recently concluded House of Bishops meeting in Camp Allen, Texas.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bishop Tom Shaw in The Boston Globe

Openness in the Episcopal Church
By M. Thomas Shaw March 28, 2007

THE EPISCOPAL Church's House of Bishops recent meeting in Navasota , Texas, attracted much public attention as observers waited to hear how the bishops would respond to challenges facing the Anglican Communion over the full inclusion of gays and lesbians.

The debate also centered on the church's place within the larger framework of the Anglican Communion. The House of Bishops is an autonomous body within the larger Communion representing 15 sovereign nations, the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, and Micronesia.

The Episcopal Church, in its deliberations, may come across to many as overly fractious as it grapples with what kind of faith community it will be in the 21st century, yet it is precisely within this tension that the best of our church is revealed.

Openness and transparency, including the airing of differences, is important to the life of faith lived in community and it is through this type of conflict and discussion that we understand how God is calling us into the future and how the church will respond to the contemporary world.

And so, in faithfulness to that tradition, the bishops approved resolutions affirming our desire to continue in the discernment process with the wider Communion about our church's place in it, but not at the expense of our polity, which is part of our church identity, and not at the expense of gay and lesbian members seeking full inclusion.

Our meeting statements validate who we are as Episcopalians and inform others of what we are not. In rejecting a proposal that would allow prelates from other parts of the Communion to oversee dissenting American parishes, we are saying that such a scheme would violate our church law and compromise our autonomy "while sacrificing the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking bishops.

"For the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it [the proposal] would replace the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates."

The last point is important.

The Episcopal Church divides authority between the laity, clergy, and bishops.

Bishops from other parts of the Anglican Communion did not readily understand this structure. At the same time, the House of Bishops pledged the Episcopal Church's commitment to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, continuing to engage in dialogue with our sister churches throughout the world and working to strengthen bonds that allow us to live out the Gospel in mutual mission.

Our resolutions state that membership in the Anglican Communion "gives us the great privilege and unique opportunity of sharing in the Anglican family's work of alleviating human suffering in all parts of the world. For those who are members of The Episcopal Church, we are aware as never before that our Anglican Communion partners are vital to our very integrity as Christians and our wholeness."

While public attention was channeled on the perceived differences among parts of the Anglican Communion, the bishops spent considerable time reflecting on the many global partnerships that allow us to keep our focus on God's mission, specifically on the Millennium Development Goals initiatives of the United Nations, which call upon nations to work together to alleviate poverty, suffering and disease, to ensure environmental sustainability, to eliminate discrimination, and to develop global partnerships. In our diocese, much of our work is focused in partnership with Anglican churches in Kenya and Tanzania where we fund programs that feed 7,500 AIDS orphans a week and train home-based AIDS workers who provide testing, care, and AIDS prevention.

As the Christian church prepares to celebrate the events at the heart of our salvation through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the words of our statement, we find new hope that we can turn our attention to the essence of Christ's own mission in the world, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4:18-19).

It is to that mission that we now determinedly turn.

The Right Reverend M. Thomas Shaw is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

Newark Debut: "A Pebble In My Shoe"

I'm delighted to tell you that the first performance in the Diocese of Newark of A PEBBLE IN MY SHOE: The Life and Times of John Shelby Spong, will be held Sunday afternoon, November 11th, at the Morris Museum.

The performance is from 3 - 5 PM with a reception from 5 - 7 PM to honor Jack and Christine.

Mark your calendars now and plan to join us for this marvelous event! ( )

Here are just a few of the books written by Jack Spong which speak so eloquently and passionately to serious post-modern seekers and followers of Christ in the third millennium who are even more in exile in many parts of the Anglican Communion.

Farewell to a dear friend

I expect that we will be hearing soon from her family and friends in Pittsburgh, but word has just reached me that Sue Boulden, indefatigable pilgrim on the Via Media of justice and reconciliation, died shortly after midnight, on her birthday.

Sue was a feisty and opinionated lover of Jesus, her family and friends, her church and her diocese, which is why she worked and fought so hard for its life. Her life embraced the Spirit of Anglicanism, even to the extent that while her own bishop, "Donuts" she called him affectionately (as in Dunkin'), often made her furious, she still professed an authentic love and care and concern for him.

"I voted for him," she once told me, "and I don't make mistakes about things like that."

She was an active member of Calvary, Pittsburgh where Harold Lewis was her rector and pastor, as well as the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and Integrity, and no doubt many other organization which will be revealed in other people's memories of her, as well as in her obituary. It was through her efforts that I was able to twice be present as a representative of each of these organizations. I will never forget the generosity and graciousness of her hospitality.

One example: When she learned that I was a huge fan of Fred Rodgers, but could not attend the Memorial Services after his death, she arranged to have the service videotaped and sent me a copy. That was the kind of friend you had in Sue Boulden.

I am simply very, very sad at my own personal loss of her, even as I know there is great rejoicing in heaven for one of their own has returned home.

May you rest in peace and rise in glory, Sue.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

An Easter Message from Our Katharine

New life out of death: a message for Easter
Katharine Jefferts Schori

I write at the close of our recent House of Bishops meeting. On the way from the airport to the meeting, we saw a few wildflowers, of one or two varieties. They stood out from the grass, just beginning to turn to the green lushness of spring. During the week we met in Texas, the trees went from mere hints of green in the topmost branches to having leaves unfolding on all their branches. And on the way back to the airport a week later, the riot of wildflowers was astounding.

The new life of resurrection can be just as surreptitious -- we look and things seem quite dead, we look away, and when our focus returns, we discover that God has been at work making all things new. Anyone who has grieved the death of a loved one will recognize the pattern. Those who experience the loss involved in moving away from a beloved community will know it as well. As this Lent draws to a close, take a careful look at your life. Where has God been at work during this fast? What new life can you discern?

For my own part, I will celebrate the new life that has been growing hidden in the lives of leaders in this church. We are blessed with leaders, lay and ordained, who are increasingly aware of their God-given ministries to lead this people into fuller participation in God's mission of healing the world.

I celebrate the work of God expressed in the gathering of Anglican women at the United Nations in late February and early March, who were able to say to the world that attention to mission is what unites us as a Communion.

I celebrate the gathering of people from all across the world in South Africa, at the TEAM (Towards Effective Anglican Mission) conference, to build stronger partnerships for doing that healing work, especially around AIDS and HIV.

I celebrate the gracious way in which the bishops of this Church engaged each other in discussing challenging and difficult matters in the meeting just past, and affirmed the focus of this Church on mission.

I celebrate the many, many healthy and vital congregations of this Church, engaged in God's mission of healing the world. The Executive Council joined in worship at one, St. Michael and All Angels, in Portland, Oregon, recently, and saw passionate engagement in children's ministry, the work Episcopal Relief and Development, abundant outreach in the community, and a lively life of worship.

Among my mail when I returned to the office was a generous check from a congregation in North Carolina. Members there had read about a fire in the Bronx that had killed several members of an immigrant family from Mali, and left others injured and homeless. Somehow the news of their suffering had reached across the mountains and plains to touch the hearts of people of St. James in Wilmington, and they responded.

A new heart of flesh is growing in countless places across this Church.

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Newark teachers' plea: Stop the killings By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press Writer

NEWARK, N.J. - Advertisements by teachers unions typically feature smiling instructors leaning over fresh-faced youngsters. But a half-dozen new billboards in New Jersey's largest city offer a far darker message.


Depending on who is counting, there were either 106 or 113 people slain in Newark last year — the highest number in more than a decade. Before officials in the troubled school system can think about tackling problems inside the classroom, they have to worry about safely getting students and teachers into those classrooms, teachers union officials say.

"Some people don't like the shock, but it's a lot less shocking than stepping over a body, or looking down the barrel of a gun," Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, said of the billboards scattered downtown that were paid for by the group. "We tried more subtle ways of bringing attention to the problem, but they didn't work."

Mayor Cory Booker, who has made reducing violent crime the cornerstone of his administration since taking office in July, would not comment on the billboards.

But his spokeswoman, Lupe Todd, said in a written statement: "We are committed to reducing crime in Newark and welcome the involvement of all parties who are interested in engaging in constructive dialogue and active participation."

Del Grosso said violence in Newark makes it hard to attract and retain teachers. Since September, nearly 100 teachers have resigned or retired, many citing crime and fear for their safety, he said.

"Who's going to send their daughter or son to teach here?" he asked. "This is an epidemic. The mayor needs help, the police department needs help and we need help."

The union, which represents 5,400 teachers and support staff, recently polled its members on issues negotiators should raise during contract talks. Increasing safety and preventing violence in Newark's 83 public schools ranked second behind salary and benefits.

The city of 277,000 counted 106 homicides last year, while the Essex County Prosecutor's Office put the total at 113, including bodies found in county parks within city limits and people who weren't necessarily killed in Newark even though their bodies were found there.

Those who commute into the city 10 miles west of Manhattan can't help but see the billboards while stuck in rush-hour traffic. Some say that reinforces the negative image of a city that is already poorly regarded by suburbanites.

But others say acknowledging the reality of the city's streets is necessary.

"People need to know what's going on in Newark," Love Brookins said Thursday as she waited for a bus across the street from one of the billboards. "It is dangerous here. Where I live, that's all there is — killing."

James Caines also supports the signs, regardless of how they may look to out-of-towners.

"We need to stop the young people from killing each other," he said. "We're losing an entire generation here, and we need all the help we can get. I don't care where it comes from."

After the billboards went up last week, Del Grosso said he spoke with Booker's staff, which made its displeasure clear.

"Maybe these billboards aren't the solution, but at least it's calling attention to the need for a solution," Del Grosso said.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Okay, just hush and let me be a proud Nana, show some pictures and tell a story

Ms. Abby and Ms. MacKenna Jane

Ms. Abigayle Sophia

Ms. MacKenna Jane at school

It's exhausting to be five and a half and have so many questions about so many things.

Like this:

"So, Nana," says Mackie, "You were speaking Italian at the Pizzeria last night, right?"


"And, people who speak Italian are from Italy, right?"

"Yes, or, people who want to speak to people from Italy, but you knew that, right?"

"Of course, Nana." (Rolls her eyes as only a 5 1/2 year old can do)

"So, Nana, we're Episcopalian, right?"

"Yes, my darling."

"So, um, Nana?" (Long, thoughtful pause)

"Yes, my darling?"

"So, um, Nana? So, if we're Episcopalians . . . (another long, thoughtful pause, followed by a deep, exasperated sigh) where exactly IS 'Episcopalia'?

"Well, Ms. Mackie, I guess you could say we're all over the map."

"Oh, so that's why everybody knows us, right, Nana?"

"Right, my darling."

"So, it's good to be Episcopalian, right Nana?"

"You bet it is, my darling!"

See what I mean? It's exhausting to have to think such BIG thoughts.

The Judas Experience

Excerpts from a Sermon for Lent V
John 12:1-8
March 25, 2007

(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

"With God on Our Side", Bob Dylan

It’s never about the money, you know?

That’s what Judas Isacriot says is bothering him. As he watches Mary take a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard to anoint the feet of Jesus, he grumbles, “Why was this perfume not sold . . . and the money given to the poor?

But, it’s not the money.

And it’s not about sexuality, you know. In antiquity as it is today, a woman’s hair was a sign of her sexuality. Here’s Mary, anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume – a decidedly sensual act – and then wiping his feet with the symbol of her sexuality.

But it’s not about sexuality.

And, it’s not about ministry. John’s gospel is careful to tell us that Judas didn't care for the poor. There’s a snarky editorial note by John – which may or may not have been true – who writes that Judas was a thief and used to steal from the common purse.

Money and sexuality and ministry are never the source of problems in the church.

Rather, the problems with money and sexuality and ministry are symptoms of a deeper problem. We've been seeing and reading and hearing a great deal of that in The Episcopal Church of late.

You've probably been hearing and reading about Mark Lawrence, a priest from Bakersfield, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin, who was elected bishop – on the first ballot – in the Diocese of South Carolina.

In the Episcopal Church, we have the same system of checks and balances which was written into the Constitution and Canons of our church by the same people who were the architects of the Constitution of The United States of America.

The election of a bishop must receive the consent of a simple majority of bishops with jurisdiction and a simple majority of the Standing Committees.

We elect and ordain for the whole church – of the people, by the people – not just a church or a diocese. So, every Episcopal election must receive the consent of the people of our church.

Mark Lawrence was able to receive consents from a majority of bishops, but he failed to receive sufficient consents from the Standing Committees, so his election was declared ‘null and void’ by the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori.

It wasn't about money. It wasn't about sexuality. It wasn't about ministry.

Depending on your source of information, you may have also read or heard that The Episcopal Church is about to be ‘kicked off the Anglican island.’ Five days ago, our bishops took a bold stand to the demands and ultimatums made by a majority of Global South Primates last month in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, East Africa. They issued a lengthy statement that was bold and centered smack-dab in the middle of the Gospel.

In that statement they said, in part,

“We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace.

We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free.

We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.

We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.

We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God.

The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject.

And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.”

You know what? I personally don’t think it's going to happen, but if the bishop's statement is what gets us ‘kicked off the Anglican Island’, I'm quite sure Jesus will be right there to welcome us with open arms. Of this, I have absolutely no doubt.

No, it's not about money. It's not about sexuality. It's not about ministry.

Here's something else: it's not about scriptural interpretation, either, or for that matter, theological principles or the doctrines of the church. Neither is it about cultural differences or post colonialism or the Enlightenment verses post modernism. The problem we see in the church today is the same problem we see in that embryonic image of the church in this morning’s gospel. It’s the same problem which has been with us since the beginning.

It is this: power.

Judas is as afraid of it as he is envious of it. It is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we are all God’s children, all made worthy in Christ to sit at table with him and each other and to stand before God.

Today's Gospel offers us an image of that worthiness: Mary and Martha of Bethany and their brother Lazarus, raised from the dead; Mary who anointed Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; the disciples, including Matthew the tax collector and men with intemperate natures like James and John, the Sons of Thunder, and even bumbling, stumbling Peter. All together. All at the same table. With Jesus.

Jesus transformed that common little house in Bethany to a holy place where all are welcome, and all are changed and transformed and will never again be the same.

The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an awesome power which, when harnessed, can transform even a house of Bishops in the Episcopal Church to do a bold thing like stand up to theological bullies in a vulgar, transparent and hostile take over of The Anglican Communion.

To put it another way, the problem with the church today which we see in this morning's gospel has to do with lack of faith.

Judas is afraid because he has misplaced his faith. Caroline Myss calls this “the Judas Experience.” She writes,

“The lesson of a Judas experience is that putting faith in human justice is an error and that we must shift our faith from human to Divine authority, It is to trust that our life is governed with “Divine justice,” even though we cannot see it. We must strive not to become bitter or cling to victimhood when we are betrayed or cannot attain what we want. We need to trust that we have not been victimized at all and that this painful experience is challenging us to evaluate where we have placed our faith.”

Judas saw himself as a victim of the power of the authority of Rome over the authority of God as made manifest in Christ Jesus. That was his mistake.

Our bishops have chosen the power of the Gospel to transform lives over the power of a few power-hungry, petulant Primates to realign the Anglican Communion away from Canterbury, England and to Lagos, Nigeria.

Our bishops will pay dearly for that choice. No doubt, we all will.

But, I must say, I have never been more proud to be a Christian who is an Episcopalian than I have in the five days since I read the Statement of the House of Bishops. Aren't you?

Faith is always costly. I once read that faith isn't faith unless it’s all you're holding onto. In my experience, I'd say that’s right.

It's important to remember that in the church as well as in your own lives of faith that the problems we often encounter are not about money. Neither are the problems about sexuality or the work of ministry. They are not about scriptural interpretation, or theological principles or the doctrines of the church or cultural differences or post colonialism or the Enlightenment verses post modernism.

The problems we face are about the struggle it is to place our faith in the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is Love Incarnate and Love Divine, and trusting that power over the seductive powers of the institution.

It is as much a struggle for us today as it was for Judas in his day. We risk the same betrayal. And, we place ourselves in danger of a similar fate.

In the words of Oscar Romero, martyred bishop of El Salvador, whose life we remembered yesterday (03.24.07) on the Calendar of Saints:

“Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out; it is the only thing that can.”

And let the church say, "Amen."

Just say, "Yes!"

The Annunciation
Michael Sniffen, M.Div.
St. Peter’s Essex Fells
March 26, 2007

Luke 1:26-38

Note: Michael Sniffen is a candidate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, and is one of the next generation of leaders in our church. He's young, he's bright, he's creative, and he's not afraid to ruffle feathers. He'll get himself in all sorts of hot baptismal water, but, as you will see, he preaches the gospel the way he lives it: boldly and with confidence. Enjoy!

BTW, this is my favorite image of The Annunciation, by Henry Ossawa Tanner which I first saw in the Philadelphia Museum of Art when we were there for General Convention 1997. It's quite extraordinary, I think. EK+

“Yes,” says Mary in the company of angels as she hears the shocking and unexpected news she is pregnant with the Son of God.

“Just Say No!” says Nancy Reagan on the steps of the White House flanked by 150 children with balloons.

It was the annunciation of Jesus birth - The first news that Christ would come among us and teach us how to love.

It was the kick off of the “Just Say No” campaign to curb drug use in the 80’s and 90’s.

Mary’s “Yes” set into motion a chain of events that changed the course of human history forever – and ushered in a new era of peace and hope.

Nancy’s “no” didn’t have quite the same effect. Although “Just Say No” was an incredibly popular campaign, it just didn’t accomplish what it set out to do. Everyone was “just saying no,” but that was the problem …they were just saying “no.”

The campaign ultimately succeeded in nothing more than launching a popular catchphrase. Recreational drug use actually grew during the time of the campaign. Nancy’s “no,” however well intentioned, did not inspire to action the audience it hoped to transform.

Mary’s “Yes” on the other hand was earth-shatteringly transformative. By saying, “Yes” when it would have been much easier (and perhaps more sensible to run for the hills, Mary participated in a movement of reconciliation and justice that could not be stopped, even by death. She not only said yes – she lived yes.

How did she do it? How did Mary live into such a “Yes” in the face of the unknown.

For that matter, how does anyone find the courage live a life of “Yes” in relationship to God, in a world much more comfortable with just saying “no.”

Most of us are accustomed to being a bit more resistant than Mary. It took Mary only 38 short verses to say, “Yes” to God. It takes most of us the better part of a lifetime. We have the best of intentions, but when push comes to shove, “no,” it’s probably easier to stay with the devil we know. We find it hard to be who God is calling us to be.

Paul struggles along with us when he says in his letter to the Romans, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” The spirit says “Yes,” but the will says, “no!”

We have a hard time following through on what we know is best for us and for the world. We say “no” to our own healing. This resistance to letting go and letting God is sometimes so strong that it cripples our ability to live into the freedom God has feely given each of us.

Clinically speaking, resistance so strong that it keeps us from growing is called “Resistance Syndrome.” The seeds of this exist for many of us in early childhood. We learn to say “no” before we say “yes.” This is not all bad. Saying no is a natural and healthy part of human development. We need to differentiate our own will from that of others to gain a genuine sense of self. This kind of resistance is healthy.

Unfortunately, sometimes this resistance can come to characterize all of life. This is not so healthy. We resist change, we resist controversy, we resist difference, we resist God, we resist ourselves. Resisting becomes something that makes us feel safe and comfortable. We become addicted to resistance. We try to prove to ourselves that ultimately we control our own lives.

This is the kind of resistance Lent helps us to leave behind if we struggle together on this journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem. The truth is, when we resist out of fear of losing control, we allow our own resistance to control us. This is being played out right now in our own Anglican Communion.

In the great Marion tradition of saying, “Yes” to God even in the midst of our uncertainly, and fear - our House of Bishops has released a powerful statement that takes a prophetic stand in favor of justice and the inclusion of all people in the life of the Church. It also takes a stand against the unprecedented control that some foreign bishops have been attempting to exercise over our church.

As you can imagine, this “Yes” statement did not go over well with many powerful bishops in other provinces. Those in positions of high authority are very resistant to the way The Episcopal Church understands the gospel. They have, in fact, tried with all of their might to compel us to cease and desist. They have demanded that we stop doing ministry in the way that we believe is right. They have also asked that we exclude people from our church who they believe to be outside the limits of God’s grace – in particular, women and gay and lesbian people.

The Primates resistance to the inclusive love of God as expressed in the ministry of The Episcopal Church, is causing them to lose sight of the witness we see in today’s Gospel. The witness of Mary’s “Yes.” They are unable to see beyond their own resistance to God’s beautiful and just work of in this part of God’s vineyard. Their resistance has caused them to say “no” to God’s work here.

I am very proud to say that The Episcopal Church is working hard to stand in the noble and difficult tradition of the prophets, and of Abraham and Moses and indeed Mary the mother of God in saying “Yes, God. Let it be to us according to your will.”

It takes serious guts and more than a little faith to stand for radical incusivity in a culture that values the status quo. It’s more than a little unpopular to be about justice and truth in a society that highlights the benefits of conformity and self-promotion.

Saying, “Yes” to God requires a lot from us amid the great sea of “no’s” that seems to surround us.

Mary gives us hope and helps us find the will to say, “Yes” in the midst of our busy and confusing lives. This congregation says, “Yes” to God every day in a number of powerful ways. In the way that Health and Healing takes care for our sick and shut-in parishioners. In the way that the outreach committee finds ways to extend the love of this parish far beyond our walls; in the way the youth of this church involve themselves in mission faithfully every summer. In a hundred small ways every day, we are working hard to say, “Yes” to God - and our actions speak even louder than our words.

Nancy Reagan was on the right track. Saying “no” to the things that harm us is a necessary and important part of life. But that is not the end of the story. If life were as easy as just saying no, we would not be here struggling to find healing for ourselves and our broken world. Our “no” to the things that harm us is, for Christians, always followed by a “Yes” to that which gives us life. This is true repentance. In our “Yes” to God, we find the freedom to be who we are meant to be and the confidence to allow others to be who they are without needing to control them or have them do things our way.

The holy “Yes” is a powerful thing. It was Mary’s “Yes” that brought God down to earth. It was her “Yes” that put flesh and bone on the word of God in our midst. It was Mary’s “Yes” that gave birth to the one who ultimately says “Yes” to us all.
As we draw ever closer to Jerusalem on this Lenten pilgrimage, may we discover a million new ways to say “Yes” to God in our lives.

Yes, we are people of hope
Yes, we are people of peace
Yes, we are people who proclaim the day of the Lord’s favor…

And Yes…we will follow Christ wherever he leads…even in these days when he leads us toward Calvary – because even there, “no” is not the final word!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

"But, will there always be an England?"

This is our beloved Havanese pup, CoCo. She has been following me around the house this morning, freting and worried about the things she's overheard concerning The Anglican Communion in general and The Episcopal Church in particular.

Poor darling. She is a very sensitive creature, this one. Very bright, as well. She's particularly concerned whenever her "pack" is not all together in the same room. When I'm upstairs in the office and Ms. Conroy is in the family room, she absolutely wears herself out running upstairs and down, checking in on us.

So, this notion of some of our flock claiming that we have "walked apart" while they "walk away" is very upsetting to her.

She's especially upset by what's happening to the Archbishop of Canterbury, of whom she is quite fond. She rather fancies his hair and his eyebrows, as well as his whole demeanor. She thinks it makes him look more stately, more dignified, more . . .well . . . "canine" - which for her is a HUGE compliment.

While she laments the prospect that her entire Anglican pack won't forever be in the same room, she deeply grieves that her Rowan seems to have taken up with a "very bad man". She fears that Rowan has lost the "dogfight" as it were, and remembers what her blessed mother whispered in her ear before she left her home pack: "Take care what dogs with whom you make your bed, 'lest you get up with fleas."

Yes, CoCo, there will always be an England. There will always be a Church of England. There will always be an Archbishop of Canterbury. He may just be located in Lagos, Nigeria.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Talented Mr. Cantrell

Christopher Cantrell is a priest in the diocese of Ft. Worth, where they do not believe in the validity of the ordination of women.

Christopher published this PhotoShop picture of me as Queen Elizabeth I on his blog.

It's just his endearing little way of congratulating me on my election as President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark.

Poor lamb. He doesn't know that the title "Queen of the Diocese of Newark" has been granted in perpetuity to Louie Crew (who will be soooooo envious of this picture).

You know why Anglicans are such bad Chess players, don't you? They can't tell their bishops from their queens.

Sorry. I couldn't resist. There's just something about this picture that brought out that bad joke.

Holy Smoke! (Look what the British are saying about Rowan!)

Holy Smoke
by Damian Thompson

Rowan Williams is finished as Archbishop of Canterbury. His authority has been utterly destroyed by the decision of the American bishops to reject his scheme to hold together the Anglican Communion. If there is a Lambeth Conference next year – and it is hard to see how there can be, if its American bankrollers are kicked out – then I shall be very surprised if he presides over it.

Any Archbishop of Canterbury would have faced almost insurmountable obstacles to preserving the unity of the Anglican Communion, many of whose members do not recognise each other as Christians, let alone as Anglicans. But Dr Williams has not come even close to surmounting them. Just as John Major never recovered from Black Wednesday, Rowan Williams has never recovered from Black Sunday: 6 July, 2003, when he forced his friend Canon Jeffrey John to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Reading.

What was so shocking about this event was the fact that Canon John, a celibate gay man, was not breaking the Church of England’s own rules – unlike the gay bishops who have quietly carried on having sex without having the courage to declare their sexuality (or, in some cases, tell their wives).

Dr Williams was yielding to pressure from Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, an appalling man who has publicly supported barbarous legislation to jail homosexuals. Well, if you pay the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane (or Nigerian, Rwandan, Australian and all the other “Global South” anti-gay campaigners).

For almost his entire period in office, the treacle-voiced Welsh Primate with the Fu Manchu eyebrows has been bending over backwards to appease people whose views he privately abhors.

I thought Rowan Williams was going to be the finest Archbishop of Canterbury for decades. Instead, he has been a disappointment on every level – even in his own area of expertise, theology.

He does not put his foot in it as often as his predecessor, George Carey – but, then, you can’t commit a gaffe if nobody has a bloody clue what you’re talking about. He is obviously afraid that he will go down in history as the Archbishop on whose watch the Anglican Communion fell into schism.

But that’s not how I, and many other people, will remember him. For us, he will always be the Archbishop who laid down his friend for his life.

Episcopal Life Online

Episcopal Life Online launched to widen church coverage

New site available at 22, 2007 [Episcopal News Service]

Faster access to current churchwide headlines is now offered via a new website,
Episcopal Life Online. The site offers reporting from Episcopal Life, the award-winning monthly printed newspaper, along with the latest coverage from Episcopal News Service (ENS).

Launched on March 22, Episcopal Life Online combines the news-gathering knowledge and experience of both Episcopal Life and ENS into a website filled with news and information about the Episcopal Church, its people, its programs and its mission in the world.

"This multimedia, interactive site, several months in planning, contains the best of both Episcopal News Service and Episcopal Life former web sites and has some new features, too," said Jerry Hames, editor of Episcopal Life.

"These exciting changes will enable us to reach digitally savvy Episcopalians of all ages. The church's web team and writers have worked hard to create this information and evangelism resource for the benefit of readers, surfers and searchers."

Episcopal Life will continue to provide its readers with a quality monthly newspaper delivered to their homes. ENS will continue its award-winning news reporting and gathering.

Through Episcopal Life Online, both can be instantly accessed and viewed. Headed by online editor Matthew Davies, the new site will be updated daily with current news and features.

"Episcopal Life Online is intended to serve our members, seekers and observers in a more comprehensive way and in a manner that better reflects today's informational and technological demands," said Davies, editor of Episcopal Life Online.

"Episcopal Life Online offers broader coverage and augments the flow of accurate, timely, well-researched and balanced news, features and information."

The mission statement of Episcopal Life Online provides an overview of the new service: "For members, seekers and observers who want to know more about the wider Episcopal Church or who want to learn more about the Episcopal faith and order, Episcopal Life Online is an information stream offering timely and well-researched reporting, analysis and commentary.

Episcopal Life Online's overall content offers the historic and contemporary contexts surrounding today's issues and reflects a range of voices beyond that of its sponsoring institution."

Format highlights content, visual elements

Both content and visual elements of Episcopal Life Online have been designed to provide easy access. Presented in an easy-to-read-and-navigate format, Episcopal Life Online offers features including the following.

Daily E-mail Links: One daily e-mail will link readers with current reporting;

Top Stories: current and breaking news headlines are updated frequently;

Diocesan Digest: reports focus on the activities of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church;

World Report: happenings around the globe and in the 37 other provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion are emphasized;

Arts: Section features news concerning the art world from the pages of Episcopal Life;

People: newsmakers are emphasized across the church;

Opinion: columns, letters and e-mails are featured from the pages of the current issue of Episcopal Life, along with opinions expressed online;

Multimedia: video and audio reports are offered together with galleries and photos;

Noticias: news reports are presented in Spanish;

Links: offerings encompass other news outlets including Anglican Communion News Service, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA);

Bulletin Inserts: easy links are offered to all the inserts produced by Episcopal Life;

Fast Facts: quick information describes the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion; Weeks Ahead: calendar items list what's coming up across the Episcopal Church;

EBaR: links are offered to the Episcopal Books and Resources (EBaR);

This Week in History: information offers highlights from the Episcopal Church's heritage.

Episcopal Life Online conveniently offers easy access to the homepage of the Episcopal Church web site (

Future enhancements and features are planned and will be inaugurated in the next few months.

Special interactive features

Episcopal Life Online offers interactive features for readers, dioceses and organizations.

"For dioceses and organizations, Episcopal Life Online can facilitate placing headlines on websites, or headlines with summaries," Davies explained. "Also, Episcopal Life Online is designed to provide the viewer with the ability to instantly respond to an article or an opinion."

Episcopal Life Online also details opportunities for advertising on the website as well as in print in Episcopal Life.

"Episcopal Life Online represents the best collaborative efforts of the communication staff at the Episcopal Church Center," said Canon Robert Williams, the Episcopal Church's director of communication.

"We look forward to the future enhancements of the site while also strengthening its interface with Episcopal Life's print editions and its diocesan publishing partners."

Episcopal Church websites and blogs

Episcopal Life Online joins other web sites and blogs of the Episcopal Church: - The Episcopal Church (; - EpiScope (

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Only Christ Matters"

James De Koven (tr)
March 20, 2007

Matthew 13:47-52

The De Koven Center, Racine WI

The Rev. Cynthia J. Hallas

On a Sunday evening last June in Columbus, Ohio I was in attendance when the Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean and President of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston IL, addressed a dinner gathering of alumni/ae of the seminary and reminded us of the comprehensive nature of our Anglican tradition.

His remarks were offered in the context of two historic and controversial decisions by successive General Conventions: the consent in 2003 to the election of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire; and the election earlier that very Sunday of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

In both cases the individuals, Robinson and Schori, became lightning rods for what had long been divisive issues in the Church. Or to put that in a context more in line with Christian theology, God’s children, Gene and Katharine, became ‘incarnations’ of Anglicanism’s struggles over the place of gay men and lesbians, and women generally, in the life of the Church.

We are, of course, the church of the via media, the ‘middle way’; the church that supposedly tolerates ambiguities, that prays in order to believe and not vice versa. If Chicago, in whose environs I live, is the ‘city of the big shoulders’, then I suppose we Anglicans are the ‘church of the big umbrella’. Or perhaps, the ‘big net’.

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples and a gathered crowd a series of parables, speaking in that way, he tells them, because they have been chosen to understand what many, many of those who are attracted to Jesus by his miracles and teachings cannot and may never understand: the reality of what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven. He ends the series with the parable about the net and the large, indiscriminate catch of fish.

How we respond to that parable is, I suppose, dependent on one’s perspective on salvation and inclusion. It can be either comforting or disturbing. At the end of this string of parables, Jesus asks his disciples, “Have you understood all this?” I have to tell you that their answer always amuses, and confuses, me a bit. “Yes,” they reply, apparently rather quickly and without too much thought.

“Yeah, Lord, we get it, we get it!”

And every time I hear or read this passage, I end up thinking to myself, No, they didn’t. They couldn’t possibly understand ‘all that’, at least not completely and not right away.

Not that we in our own day, or very many in between for that matter, have truly understood the comprehensiveness of the kingdom of heaven; not completely. We forget, I think that the kingdom is really like that net: more than capable of both catching and holding all those ‘fish’ of some many different kinds. We get hung up on the sorting: the separating of the righteous from the evil, and the resultant weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But that isn’t what Jesus says the kingdom is ‘like’; no, the kingdom is ‘like’ the net: expansive, durable, and open to all. We still struggle to understand what life is truly ‘like’ in the kingdom of heaven; and I’m guessing that for the disciples, even with Jesus in their immediate presence, it would still take some work, and some practice, to really get it.

In the mid-1870s, James De Koven found himself at the center of the controversy over ritualistic practice in the Episcopal Church. De Koven embraced the Anglo-Catholic practices that made such worship meaningful for some and suspect for others. Had he remained a low-profile parish or institutional priest, we would like as not all be somewhere else this morning. But James De Koven was elected bishop, not once, but twice: in Wisconsin in 1874 and Illinois the following year, and both elections were not given consent by the General Convention.

This had nothing to do with De Koven’s credentials or his gifts. Although he was the choice of those in these respective dioceses, many – certainly enough – in the larger Church were threatened by his views regarding ritual practices, including the use of incense, candles, certain devotional postures and most especially the adoration of and Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

There were accusations that such practices and beliefs encouraged ‘false doctrine’; misunderstanding about who and what was truly being worshipped. Others feared the influence of the Papacy, and the loss of a certain kind of simplicity that many valued as hallmarks of both the American and New Testament churches. This all resulted in the kind of polarization that comes when people fail to understand the comprehensive of the kingdom, the size of the net.

We are no strangers to that today, certainly. Like Gene and Katharine after him, and like so many, many who had gone before, God’s child James De Koven helped to incarnate a central, divisive issue in the Church of his day.

To many living in our time, the idea of a bishop’s election not getting consent because he, or she, was too high church, or too low church, seems ludicrous. Such things are settled, if they even need to be settled, in the diocesan ‘dog and pony shows’ that precede Episcopal elections and not in the arena of the larger church.

Some of us might even wish that the decisions and issues facing our church in the early part of the 21st century were as ‘simple’ (sounding) as those facing it near the end of the 19th. But that way of thinking misses the point of De Koven’s wonderful and holy example, and negates why we’re all here this morning. It wasn’t the specific issue that got De Koven his day on the calendar of American Anglican saints. What got us all to this day was the humble, courageous, and ultimately comprehensive way in which he addressed the conflict surrounding him.

Speaking on behalf of the Anglo-Catholic position to the General Convention of 1874, De Koven said, “If this Church commands us to have no ceremonies, we will obey….How we [adore Christ’s person in the Eucharist], the way we do it, the ceremonies with which we do it, are utterly, utterly indifferent; the thing itself is what we plead for….” “The gestures and practices by which we recognize the presence of Christ do not matter,” he said. “Only Christ matters.”

The kind of comprehensiveness Gary Hall noted is in increasingly short supply these days. More and more, it seems, groups and individuals are choosing to walk on either side of the road, rather than walking together along that middle way. As someone has pointed out, that middle is where the danger is; it’s relatively safe on the sides.

James De Koven understood, in ways his detractors did not, both the comprehensiveness of the kingdom and the strength at its center. He does have his heirs in our time, those who remind us of our heritage and who call us back to the center, who remind us that the kingdom of heaven is like a net that catches fish of every kind. It’s all too easy to forget that the sorting isn’t up to us. We would do well to heed the voice of blessed James De Koven and seek that which matters: only Christ.

© Cynthia Hallas, 2007

Defiance? How about Differentiation?

Episcopal Bishops in U.S. Defy Anglican Communion

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post
Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Page A03

The nation's Episcopal bishops have rejected a key demand from the larger Anglican Communion, saying a plan to place discontented U.S. parishes under international leadership could do permanent harm to the American church.

The rejection increases the likelihood that Anglican leaders will seek in the coming months to demote or expel the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church from the 77 million-member, worldwide family of churches descended from the Church of England.

But U.S. bishops, though divided on underlying issues of theology and sexuality, described themselves yesterday as increasingly united against foreign interference in the internal governance of their church.

The plan to put conservative parishes under an international "pastoral council" would replace local governance with "a distant and unaccountable group of prelates" for "the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century," the U.S. bishops said in a written resolution. "We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division."

The bishops did not respond to other demands issued in Tanzania last month by the primates, or heads, of the Anglican Communion's 38 constituent churches. But three formal resolutions, passed overwhelmingly by the American bishops after five days of private discussion and prayer in Navasota, Tex., were politely defiant.

"We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church," one of the resolutions said.

Instead of accepting or rejecting the primates' call for the U.S. church to stop blessing same-sex couples and refrain from consecrating any more gay bishops, the American bishops requested an urgent, face-to-face meeting with the Anglican Communion's highest officials, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The presiding bishop of the U.S. church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, told reporters yesterday that during the Tanzania meeting she invited Williams to visit the United States this year, and that he said his schedule was full.

That answer "did not sit well" with the U.S. bishops, said Washington Bishop John B. Chane, who noted that the resolution asking for an urgent meeting with Williams was written by a conservative bishop, John Howe of Central Florida, and received unanimous approval.

Williams did not immediately respond to the request. "This initial response of the House of Bishops is discouraging and indicates the need for further discussion and clarification," he said in a brief statement. "Some important questions have still to be addressed. No one is underestimating the challenges ahead."

Tensions within the Episcopal Church, and between the Episcopal Church and other parts of the Anglican Communion, have mounted since Episcopalians in New Hampshire elected V. Eugene Robinson, a priest living openly with another man, as their bishop in 2003.

More than 100 congregations, including 15 in Northern Virginia, have voted to separate from the U.S. church in the past four years. Many view the consecration of a gay bishop as the culmination of a liberal theological shift that goes back to the 1970s, when the church began ordaining women and revised its Book of Common Prayer.

The divisions in the U.S. church coincide with a huge demographic change in the communion, which has seen explosive growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Conservative primates in such countries as Nigeria and Uganda have sympathized with U.S. conservatives and taken some American parishes under their wing.

In Tanzania, the primates gave the U.S. bishops until Sept. 30 to meet their demands or face unspecified "consequences," which could include not being invited to the next worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops at Britain's Lambeth Palace in 2008.

Jefferts Schori joined the other primates in issuing the Tanzania communique. But she said yesterday that her agreement consisted only of a promise to bring it back for consideration. She described the bishops' action as a recommendation to the entire U.S. church, and noted that the bishops will meet again in September.

Chane, who is widely viewed as a liberal bishop, said the primates' demands "galvanized" his colleagues. "I think the primates underestimated how the bishops would respond, because until now we've been rather passive," he said. "My personal feeling is, they overplayed their hand."

Martyn Minns, bishop of a Virginia-based mission of the Church of Nigeria and a leading U.S. conservative, said that after Tanzania, "I thought there was some genuine hope that we'd find a way forward, and this has upset that quite significantly."

Staff writer Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.

Resisting and Embracing Cyberspace

I was reflecting deeply on Our Katharine's words, spoken at the Closing Eucharist of the House of Bishop's meeting in the Chapel at Camp Allen, Texas (see below).

She spoke about the sort of bifocal lenses we need in order to clearly see the fullness of the reality which is our world, in general, and the Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion in particular.

She wrote: "Our current struggle gives evidence of a competition between perspectives or worldviews. One of them looks at the world through an Enlightenment lens and expects to see predictability, understandability, and definability. Another view of the world comes through a postmodern lens, one that sees constant change and a significant degree of unpredictability as intrinsic to creation."

Just as I was considering that and its deep implications, came a note from one of the Deans of one of the nearby Universities where I teach and from whence I will, God willing, graduate with my doctorate next year.

The note was strongly written. One might say sternly written. Let's just say that it had "tone" and that tone was undeniably scolding. You know, in the way your mother never raised her voice when she was telling you something but you knew there was an implied threat in there somewhere.

She was scolding the theological students, in particular, for not using the online registration, computer blackboard, K-drive, campus email or the other myriad of computer resources offered by the university.

However, it was her closing remark that caught me: "Registration for the spring semester will be handled exclusively through CampusWeb - you will not be able to use hard copy."

Which elicited a first response wherein I placed my hands on my hip, stuck my chin out and said, "And then what? We'll not be able to register. And then what? I won't register. And then what?" It seemed to me the natural consequence of this sort of strident action carried with it a potential for everyone to lose.

After I calmed down, I realized that I had simply allowed this memo to push one of my own very hot 'hot buttons'. In order to see the entire picture, to really read this message, I needed to put on my "bifocals."

It's a brave new world, with brave new pastoral challenges.

The church which is emerging is not "your father's Oldsmobile." Frankly, I don't know what I would do without technology and the ability to travel the superhighways of cyberspace. It certainly has made the task of pastoring a large community far less complicated than it was for any of my predecessors.

Indeed, this very Blog came into existence in June of 2006 in order that my entire congregation could read my daily reflections during General Convention. I was so naive and ignorant about technology that I really thought that only members of my congregation would have access to my Blog. I was literally floored when I began reading the comments section and learn who was reading my reflections - and, from around the globe!

I blush now to write that, but it's the honest truth! Today's pastor needs to be techno-savvy, having had lessons (even if only by trial and error in the School of Baptism by Full Immersion) in how to surf the Internet.

And yet . . . I fear that we are creating a climate wherein tomorrow's pastor, on hearing that one of her parishioners is in the hospital, will not grab the car keys and head for the hospital, but instead, dash for the computer or laptop on the desk to do so research on the diagnosis.

I have discovered that parochial ministry is one that does not come with the kind of instant gratification of other vocations and positions. It's taken me five years at St. Paul's to pick up the pieces from an absolutely disastrous interim period, wherein most of the organizational infrastructure had been dismantled, attendance was an a record low, and an every member canvass had not been done in any one's recollection.

That we are now able to forge ahead into a brave new future is the fruit of hard work and good old fashion community building. Yes, we have been enormously assisted by technological advances. But, that would not have happened without the cultivation of relationships - lots of "face time" as they say in corporate America.

And yet, I wonder: How would the reformation, renewal and reconciliation of Anglicanism be different without the component of rapid communication in cyberspace? I mean, we as a church and as individuals have had SIGNIFICANT conversation with people we've never met and probably wouldn't recognize if we passed them on the street. And yet, cyberspace is the crucible in which the re-formation of our church is being carried out.

So, I sat down and wrote this letter to the Dean. I'm curious to know your reactions. I mean, this is one of the benefits of cyberspace, is it not? Why not use it, right?

Dear Dean,

Technology is clearly a gift, heaven sent, which allows us to effectively and efficiently tend to the details of communication in a way which has radically changed the way we live. Of this I am quite certain.

I am not surprised at the resistance, especially on the part of theological students, to its full use. While I understand the need for conformity to the procedure of the university, I think this resistance on the part of theological students is a good thing.

Indeed, I wish to sing the praises of the resistance of present and future pastors to change their "natural default" to technology rather than the organic, innate impulse for human contact.

My grandmother and mother used to take Friday mornings to do their banking and then they would make the rounds of the various shops and vendors to "make payments" on their accounts. They paid their bills in cash, and they paid their bills in person.

They had a cordial, professional relationship with the grocer, the butcher, the pharmacist, the florist and the ubiquitous "junk man" who could always be relied upon to fix a broken toaster, sharpen knives and scissors, and have just the right button to replace the one that had come off your coat or sweater.

The tailor at the Robert Hall shop on Main Street knew all of the names of all of the children in our family, and when it was that we would be ready to be fitted for our suits or dresses for First Holy Communion or Confirmation, because they had known us since our baptismal outfits had been purchased.

These relationships were incredibly important during illness or layoffs at the factory, when "making payments" became difficult. I have a clear memory of my mother weeping at the pharmacy when my brother had yet another ear infection and needed an antibiotic and she had not yet paid off what was to her the monumental previous balance of $77 from his last bout of illness. The pharmacist put his arm around my mother, comforting her and saying, "Just pay me what you can, Lydia. I've known your family for years. I know you'll pay me what you can, when you can. Don't worry. It will all get paid off."

Yes, the world no longer operates on that paradigm. Yet, I can tell you that , in my past and present ministry, one of the first things I do is visit as many people as I possibly can in their homes.

Even before that, I walk the streets of the town, visiting the banks and shop owners and having a cup of tea in the coffee or sandwich shops.

I don't think there is anyone in this town with a store on Main Street whose business I have not frequented at least once, whose names I don't know, whose stories have not been told to me, who don't know me by sight and greet me by name.

It's a very, very important component to a ministry of pastoral presence. I don't have to tell you this. Your door is opened to students all the time. You, of all people, know the value of pastoral presence all too well.

You won't be surprised then, to know that I have very much enjoyed every time I have registered in person. I even pay my tuition in person - but not in cash. The staff have always answered my questions effectively and efficiently, and sometimes, we even just talk. I feel that I have a relationship with them.

Yes, of course, I live "just down the street." It is an easy option for me.

I am surprised by how much I am grieving the loss of that option.

I hope that the administration will reconsider the hard and fast rule about registering by CampusWeb - especially for theological students. Yes, yes, let's bring the church, dragging and kicking if need be, into the third millennium. Yet, even as we do, I hope that we would always encourage pastors and future pastors to err on the side of relationship and to fail on the side of human connection.

Thanks for listening, says she who sits in complete amazement at how suddenly and easily it is that she has become the old fart she always considered her mother, aunts and grandmother to have been.

"It ain't over till it's over."

Note: Bishop C. Christopher Epting, left, is the Presiding Bishop's Deputy for Ecumencial and Interfaith Relations and the retired Bishop of Iowa. You may recall that he was present, and gave a presentation, at the Primate's meeting in Dar Es Salaam. This is from his blog, "That We All May Be One."

What The Bishops Didn’t Do
March 22,
by ecubishop

There seems to be a good bit of reaction already to statements and decisions coming out of our recently completed House of Bishops meeting. A summary of those actions can be found in prior posts…and on through the releases over Episcopal News Service.

What we did NOT do was to foreclose discussion on the Episcopal Church’s response to the main requests of the Primates’ Communique. We have not “ruled” on whether or not to reassure the Primates that General Convention meant what it said when it asked us and our Standing Committees not to give consent to any bishop-elect whose manner of life might prove of concern to the wider Anglican Communion and to clarify for them the status of the blessing of same-sex relationships in this church.

That is not our decision alone, and the Executive Council has already set into motion a study and consultation process which will continue through the summer. Similarly, the House of Bishops Theology Committee is at work on a study document to assist in this process.

As to the proposed “Pastoral Council” and its relationship to any “Primatial Vicar” the Presiding Bishop might appoint, we believe it is unconstitutional, uncanonical, and of potentially great threat to the Episcopal Church. We have said so and urged Executive Council (our highest legislative body between General Convention) to decline to participate in it.

We had to make our mind known on this because the appointment process to the proposed “Pastoral Council” is already underway and our Presiding Bishop needed some kind of guidance as to whether or not to appoint the minority of members the Episcopal Church is supposed to provide to this novel and quite unnecessary proposed body.

What the Episcopal Church’s bishops did not do is claim some kind of prelacy like the Primates have done, and to act in a high handed manner not permissable under the polity of either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

+KJS: The 'eyes' have it

The Presiding Bishop's homily
at the House of Bishops'
Closing Eucharist

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

[Episcopal News Service]
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Homily for Closing Eucharist
House of Bishops' Meeting
Camp Allen, Texas
March 21, 2007
Thomas Ken

I look around here and see lots of folks with glasses. And some of us who don't obviously wear them have contacts or have had our eyes adjusted surgically. Most of us have had our eyes change over the years.

When I first learned to fly, my vision tested as 20/10 in one eye and 20/15 in the other. I could see farther and more accurately at a distance than the norm. But in the last few years I've been wrestling with the changes 35 years have made in my eyes. I can see just fine up close - to read or have an intimate conversation - but I can no longer see the nuance of emotion on a face at 50 feet. I have to use other lenses to do that, and it can be both frustrating and annoying. That shift in focus doesn't happen automatically anymore - it takes conscious effort, and outside assistance.

In some ways I think our church has presbyopia as well. I don't just mean "old eyes," which we certainly need if we're serious about valuing our tradition. Our tired and aging eyes mean that we don't have the ability to rapidly change focus, to look both back and forward, near and far away, in the space of a few instants. Our eyes have grown accustomed either to looking at the world over our shoulder, or toward the future, and we've lost some of our Anglican ability to look in both directions, to hold both perspectives in tension.

Our current struggle gives evidence of a competition between perspectives or worldviews. One of them looks at the world through an Enlightenment lens and expects to see predictability, understandability, and definability. Another view of the world comes through a postmodern lens, one that sees constant change and a significant degree of unpredictability as intrinsic to creation.

Those two worldviews seem to many people to be incapable of being used together or even held in tension. To many people, they feel fundamentally distinct and irreconcilable. The two worldviews may also lead to different understandings of our lives as Christians, but before we go there let's consider what a Godly worldview might look like.

Recall Rublev's great icon of the Trinity, and the way in which each of the members of the Trinity looks in a different direction. They are not gazing out into space, however, but at another being, at another of those present around the circle. If we are created in the image of that social God, we too are invited to look as God does, toward another image of God, to turn our eyes upon Jesus - and also on the many images of God all around us.

The ability and willingness to focus on those many images of God around us is fundamental to our lives as Christians. God has the ability to hold all of us together in one field of view, affirming each one as child and beloved. Our baptism into the life of God is about seeing as God sees, with integrity.

We're celebrating the feast of Thomas Ken today. His biography in Lesser Feasts and Fasts begins like this: "Thomas Ken was born in 1637. Throughout his life he was both rewarded and punished for his integrity." The examples cited are about his persistence in advocating a particular and centered moral position wherever he looked, even in the face of potential or real royal wrath.

There may be some parallel with our current situation in this church. Thomas Ken was not loath to publicly rebuke his king or to refuse a royal order. He understood that a personal oath made to one king was not transferable to another, which cost him his post as Bishop of Bath and Wells. And despite his trials ecclesiastical and political, Thomas Ken kept on singing. He was able to bless even that which the world thought of as wretched, demeaning, and hopeless.

Integrity means soundness and wholeness, being undivided. It implies that ability to look in more than one direction, or to focus on more than one object, yet see only oneness. It is a Godly view of things.

That Godly view of things underlies the apparently different worldviews of today's gospel. The story is set in the midst of a crowd, all of whom are seeking healing, trying to touch Jesus, looking for hope and help. And then it says, "Jesus looked up" at his disciples. He looks up from the crowd around him, sees that motley crew of misfits and begins to pronounce blessing. He sets together ailing crowd and failing disciples, poverty and blessing, hunger and blessing, grief and blessing, persecution and blessing, hate and joy. How can he look at the abject absence of abundance in the midst of that crowd and find hope, joy, and blessing?

That divine vision sees beneath the surface, beyond what the world sees as loss or death or rejection. That vision of blessing sees the fundamentally gracious nature of reality, it sees the ground of loving being that continues to arc toward justice in spite of the emptiness or evil of the world's current reality.

To envision poverty as blessedness sees potential, sees the fulfillment - the filling full of empty bellies and sightless eyes - that God expects and hopes for and encourages this world to make real. Seeing the blessing comes from the ability to see both lack and possibility in a kind of multilayered reality. That multiple reality is present - the kingdom of God is all around you - but it takes eyes that can see at multiple focal lengths.

It is the same kind of seeing that has begun to understand light and all electromagnetic radiation as both particle and wave. There are occasions when it makes more sense to treat light as a wave, and other times when using particle physics is more fruitful. Both are accurate, neither is sufficient.

The MDGs are about that kind of multifocal vision. They announce prophetic judgment on the world's need, but they also announce prophetic possibility - yes, the hungry can be filled, and the ill healed, and the rejected restored to community.

Living in community also requires multifocal lenses, and we've had some small experience here in doing that. We've looked beyond ourselves to the Anglican Communion, and internally toward our varied members. We are trying to see with others' perspectives, and sometimes it can be both painful and annoying. We don't see as clearly or easily when we gaze on unfamiliar depths, when we are invited to hold together both Radner and Grieb, both unchanging truth and continuing revelation.

There are some kinds of fish and other aquatic animals that actually have bipartite eyes - they see at the same time both above and below the surface of the water, and their brains figure out how to interpret those quite different images and make a coherent whole.

As a body, we are wrestling with a collection of images - perhaps even more like the eye of a social insect, with multiple facets - but most of us assume that the image we form most easily is the only right and true one. The blesser of the gospel, however, sees more than that one, easy image. The blesser of all invites us into that deeper seeing as well - stretch, strain, imagine, and you, too, can begin to see like the Three do, like the One does.

When we have seen that blessing, however briefly, it begins to rise into more easily visible depths, it comes more clearly into focus and into what we call "normal reality." To see as God sees is to begin to make real, whether it is the work of the MDGs, the work going on now in Louisiana and Mississippi, caring for the homecoming soldier, or liberating those in chains. To see as God sees is to bless what is into the reality of the God's reign.

One of the curiosities of very small particle physics is that measuring the position or speed of a particle changes it. Seeing the particle changes it to something else or somewhere else. Seeing with the eyes of God, or blessing another, changes or moves both the blessed and the blesser.

Thomas Ken sang praises to the God of blessing. May we bless with the eyes of God, bless the world into greater reality, more closely into the reign of God.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise God all creatures here below
Praise God above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Quoth Rowan

Lambeth Palace has released this quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury:

"This initial response of the House of Bishops is discouraging and indicates the need for further discussion and clarification. Some important questions have still to be addressed and no one is underestimating the challenges ahead."