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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The word is out

The Rt. Rev’d Marc Andrus, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, has announced that the Rt. Rev’d Peter Lee, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, will become the interim dean of Grace Cathedral effective upon his retirement as Diocesan in Virginia on October 1, 2009. Bishop Lee, who is 70, will serve for approximately one year.

My dear friend, John Kirkley, rector of The Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco, has written about it in his usual intelligent and articulate way in his blog, Meditatio.

He writes, in part, “. . . Bishop Lee's selection is something of a disappointment to me. I'm unsure about his capacity to play an iconic role that is reflective of the reality and needs of the Diocese of California. During his tenure as bishop of Virginia, his official policy has been to refuse to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions and to ordain only those gay and lesbian people who agree to remain celibate. He has championed "Windsor compliance" in his diocese. He has not been a dependable ally or advocate for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church.”

I’m fascinated that not one of our worthy adversaries on the Right (some of whom are in the Diocese of VA) has picked up on the story.

Then again, they are still all atwitter and agog about the election of the so-called, “Buddhist Bishop” in Northern Michigan.

Sigh. It’s so embarrassing, isn’t it?

It’s an interesting move by Bishop Marc, an outspoken, bold advocate and activist for sacramental inclusion of LGBT people in the church, civil rights for LGBT people in this country, and human rights for LGBT people in the world.

To my mind, this is much like President Obama’s invitation to Rick Warren to give the Inaugural Invocation. Now, Marc Andrus would be the first to say that he ain’t no Barack Obama and Peter Lee is hardly Rick Warren, but as John points out, neither is the good bishop of Virginia a dependable ally for LGBT people in the life of the church.

So, why would someone like Marc Andrus invite someone like Peter Lee to be interim dean of a Cathedral like Grace in San Francisco?

I’ve been wondering what the Early Christians in Ancient Jerusalem must have said when they discovered that the one they knew as Saul who had persecuted them was now Paul and claiming to be one of them.

It is not recorded, but I’ll bet the grumblings in Jerusalem were loud and persistent and angry enough to be heard from Rome to Alexandria. Perhaps that’s why it took Paul so long – was it two or three years? – to finally get to Jerusalem.

It is seven months between now and Bishop Lee’s retirement and start date as Interim Dean of Grace Cathedral. General Convention is in July, just about the mid point of his exodus from Virginia to California.

It will be interesting to see how the good Bishop votes on critical issues like repeal of B033 and the flurry of resolutions on the Prayer Book Revision of the Rite of Marriage or calls for a Liturgy of Blessing for the Covenant between two people of the same sex. Or what he might have to say about ‘Windsor Compliance’ or the ‘Anglican Covenant’.

I don't expect this zebra to change his outward and visible stripes, necessarily. One of the geniuses of the Spirit of Classical Anglicanism is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in tension. Until just recently, we have also been able to hold two opposing bishops in tension. At the same time. In the same diocese.

I just wonder if Bishop Lee will "bloom where he is planted" in the rich progressive and liberal soil of SanFran.

I have no doubt that the LGBT folk in the Diocese of California will welcome Bishop Lee into their midst with genuine warmth and grace. I trust Bishop Lee will be equally warm and gracious unto them.

The question is: What will he do after he says, “Hello”?

You can be sure of one thing: Christians on the left, middle and right of theology and church politics will be watching closely.


susankay said...

He did vote to consecrate +Gene.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, he did, which is why John says "He has not been a dependable ally or advocate for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church.”

Given the rest of his track record, "Dependable ally" is a very generous application of the term.

David |Dah • veed| said...

The yellow, virtueless journalist has this up; Virginia Bishop Spins Theology, Morality as He Heads to Ultra-Liberal CA Diocese.

I have not read it, I cannot find my hip-waders.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, I did not check there. My heavy-duty asbestos tennis shoes are in the shop, being relined. I blew them out during my last foray into Viagraland. Thanks. I'll head over there after I pick up my shoes from the shop.

Hiram said...

From the point of view of a conservative, this appointment is all of a piece with Bp Lee's ongoing shift to "the left." VTS changed its sexuality policy ten years ago, and that would not have happened without Bp Lee's support. He may not yet be like Fr Bacon or Bp Andrus, but he is headed that way.

Someone once spoke of a four-quadrant grid - in one corner are those who are liberal, with a liberal expression of their convictions. Fr Forrester is an example of that. Then opposite that quadrant are those who are conservative in their faith, and conservative in expressing it. Forward in Faith and the Prayer Book Society are an example of that.

Another corner consists of those who are conservative in theology, but liberal in it's expression - the conservative mega-churches are an example of that, as are many charismatic and evangelical Episcopal and Anglican parishes.

The fourth quadrant is made up of those who are liberal in perspective, but conservative in expression. Most of the "moderates" in the Episcopal Church are in this quadrant. Intellectually, they accept the liberal perspective - but emotionally, they are not prepared to make drastic changes, and so they hang back - for a time. But as their emotions catch up to their ideas, they move towards the liberal expression of things, and find out that they do not die. Of course, it also helps that as the progressives move further to the left, the perceived "center" also seems to move leftward.

Bp Lee may not take the lead in furthering your vision - but he will not oppose anything you want.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Hiram. A very helpful image.

John Bassett said...

He's the interim. And sometimes interims are appointed to do tough things like eliminate programs or staff positions. Maybe he's there to cut a deficit so that the new dean can concentrate on the usual pastoral stuff.


Curiouser and Curiouser ... one thing for sure, my sister ... whatever we say in our memoirs about our life in TEC ... it's rarely dull!

susankay said...

I remembered this NYT Magazine article from 2004.

(obviously I don't know how to do html stuff)

It may or may not give insight into Bp. Lee's thought process.

it's margaret said...

Elizabeth --I posted about this when the news came out last Friday (

For those of us who do advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT in this Diocese, this comes like a final kick to the teeth. He is willing to go and serve alongside those he would not ordain and allow to serve here.

All of his trying to walk the broad middle line to keep this Diocese together has back-fired. The conservatives left any way, and are costing us plenty. And the advocates of full inclusion are still starving second class citizens, if that.

And yes, he did vote to consecrate +Gene, but then said he regretted it.

I, for one, am very disheartened by this.

Joie said...

As one of Bishop Lee's priests, I have heard it said that over the years he has said things to the effect of "we do not know the mind of the diocese" and therefore was unwilling to step out too far re: ordaining openly gay people in committed relationships and allowing for blessings of gay unions. Now, as I told you back in January, the recent council here in VA told our Bishop and our Bishop Co-adjutor where we stand -- overwhelmingly believing that homosexual relationship have integrity and are blessed. TBTG!

Bishop Lee has had a fine line to walk in this, the largest diocese in TEC. I walk the same fine line in my two little parishes -- wanting to challenge people to move forward but not wanting to offend to the point where they no longer are willing to listen and come to the table.

For better or worse, Bishop Lee bent over backwards with grace and love to keep everyone in this diocese at the table. It was the choice of some to walk away but they were never pushed away. I believe he took the long view. Not that I haven't been frustrated by the slow wheels of the church in matters of justice, but he is a man of more grace and love, and compassion for those who have been marginalized by the church than most of us realize. It is my guess that he will be able to grow into that even more in SF.

JCF said...

Bp Lee may not take the lead in furthering your vision - but he will not oppose anything you want.

I look for what GOD wants, Hiram---and, IMHO, that's what the democratic-majority of TEC does. What about you?

Lindy said...

Maybe Bishop Andrus is giving Bishop Lee an opportunity to redeem himself. We still believe in that sort of thing, I think. And when Bishop Lee's year is up, I hope we will judge him by the best things he said and did, not the worst. Who knows, this might be his shining moment.

A girl can dream...

Joie said...

When I look at where some of my brothers and sisters commenting on this entry live and work and minister, I see there is a great divide between urban/somewhat suburban and the far suburbs and rural areas. In these areas, the Episcopal church functions less as a denominational church and more as the village parish. I have many parishioners who have been Episcopalian all their lives and the priests who came before me didn't teach, didn't challenge, didn't want to engage in theological questions for fear of their jobs. So we have people in the pews who are theologically ignorant and don't understand why 40 years ago, a divorced rector would have been run out of town but now the church wants to bless same-sex relationships and ordain gay priests. Somehow, some way, with the help of God people's hearts will be warmed. The only way that can be fully accomplished is through love and loving relationships -- not through extreme view points. I believe that is what Bishop Lee tried to do. He may have failed in the terms of the world but I'm not sure that's what is important here.

I am as liberal/progressive/justice oriented as one can be. I am not even "loyal" to the person of +PJL so much as obedient to him as my bishop and I love and respect him as a child of God. I have been frustrated with him, too - deeply frustrated with his leadership at times because it didn't move as fast as I would like. Still, I find myself very put off by some of the comments here. I have friends who are much more "moderate" than I who get upset with the left extreme as much as the right extreme. This is the first time I think I get why they get upset -- because of the way both extreme sides can act.

I know we need safe spaces to blow off steam but let's remember Bishop Lee is not one of many other bishops who shall remain unnamed and who seek the destruction of the Episcopal Church.

None of us knows what Bishop Lee has been through in this very tough and large diocese. If we could have walked a mile in his shoes we might feel differently.