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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Elephant on the Election Floor

Well, I was wrong.

I had predicted Beckwith on the 5th Ballot. It was Beckwith on the 3rd.

Let me say, straight up, that I am thrilled beyond the telling.

We voted for the person who

* can hit the diocesan ground running;

* make tough decisions which have grown more difficult because they have been delayed;

* is confident enough in himself and God’s love for him that he will withstand the hatred that will come his way when he leads us in making difficult decisions;

* has a healthy understanding and embrace of the historic legacy and ongoing vocation of the Diocese of Newark;

* has a passion for the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ;

* is, above all else, a person of deep and disciplined prayer who will be a sensitive and loving chief pastor to all the baptized.

When the diocesan clergy gathered last Thursday at St. Agnes in Little Falls, we discussed the clergy one by one, in alphabetical order, for 15 minutes each.

After a lull in the conversation about Beckwith, one of the facilitators (neither one Episcopalian nor ordained), asked, “Well, we have about 5 minutes left. Does anyone have anything negative to say about this man?”

Nervous laughter ensued.

After a few quiet moments, one of our clergy said, “Well, in many ways, he’s the easy vote.”

More nervous laughter.

That was the only negative thing anyone said about Mark Beckwith. I think many of us knew, then and there, that he would be elected the 10th bishop of Newark.

The excitement and renewed energy in the diocese is palpable. My diocese is on its way back! In my 15 years here, I’ve never seen us more fragile and depressed. Not any longer. We’re back. And, we’ve never been more willing to do whatever needs to be done, that all who see our good works might give praise and glory to God through Christ Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Would it have been wonderful to have another woman in the House of Bishops? No doubt.

Would it have been more than wonderful to have had an Ugandan as bishop, representing the Diocese of Newark at Lambeth Palace in 2008? My heart still leaps at the thought.

Would Michael Barlowe have been an amazing bishop here? And at Lambeth in 2008? And at General Convention 2009? And, beyond? Absolutely.

Which brings me to the elephant on the election floor.

One of the things we did not discuss as a diocese – at least not fully enough for my satisfaction – is the disenfranchisement of a specific group of people by The Windsor Report and the resultant response, General Convention Resolution B033.

The fact that a person of Michael’s obvious intelligence, skill, talent and expertise ended up second to last on the ballot, just above the one candidate who was not an actual candidate but a self-acknowledged referendum on the present status of the diocese, is ample evidence of the negative, chilling effect of what has become, in effect, a foreign curia.

Many of us, rightly concerned about the state of our diocese, worried about the effect the media circus would have on Michael’s ability to lead and BE an actual bishop, rather than be “another gay bishop.”

It doesn’t take much to read between the lines of what I have articulated as the reasons I feel we elected Mark Beckwith to understand why we couldn’t elect anyone from the margins of the institutional church. Not that they all weren’t more than qualified – including Chip Stokes, the straight, white guy (God love him) who, from Florida, was the ‘outsider’ of all of the candidates.

I continue to believe that, had we had the opportunity to talk about B033 as a deputation as well as a convention, before taking the vote in Columbus, the vote would have been much narrower, if not much different.

I continue to believe that, had we had more opportunities for transparent, organized, facilitated diocesan discussion about the effects of The Windsor Report and B033 before the election today, it might have gone a bit differently.

I believe with all my heart that a gay or lesbian priest will be nominated and elected bishop in some diocese some where before Lambeth 2008 or General Convention 2009. And, I believe that person will receive the required consents from bishops with jurisdiction as well as standing committees.

I continue to believe that, the farther away we get from the highly charged emotional atmosphere which allowed B033 to pass as legislation, and the more bishops like those who met recently at Camp Allen, distance themselves from wording of The Windsor Report, coupled with some of the African bishops announcing today from Rwanda that they will not sit at table with our newly elected Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori – well, the whole ridiculous notion of “manner of life” as a barrier to election to the episcopacy will become as ludicrously obvious as it obviously is.

The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22 is an optional reading (on Track II) in the Revised Common Lectionary for tomorrow. Here is 2:12-15

12. Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes
our actions; he reproaches us for sins against
the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.

13. He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.

14. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;

15. The very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.

In many ways, Mark Beckwith’s ‘manner of life’ represents an enormous challenge to the rest of the Anglican Communion, in the same way that the ‘manner of life’ of Jesus, in his day, represented a challenge to the ancient religious world of Chief Priests and the scribes, as well as the Sadducees and Pharisees of his day.

Indeed, if we had it right, we would be intentionally looking for candidates to the episcopacy – as well as the priesthood and diaconate and the leadership of the laity – who are “inconvenient to us” and “professes to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child of God,” and whose “manner of life is unlike that of others and whose ways are strange.”

May we one day – soon, oh Lord, soon, – have the courage to live a faith rooted in biblical principals rather than blind obedience to the biblical interpretations of the zealous few who consider themselves “orthodox” – and therefore, unequivocally, indisputably correct.

May we one day – soon, oh Lord, soon – have the wisdom to embrace our common Anglican faith in communion, the Via Media, without succumbing to the directives of a foreign curia, or soothe ourselves with a foreign sense of what is “catholic.”

In the meantime, life – and mission and ministry – go on. We have much to celebrate this day. There is a new bishop in the church. There is new life and energy in my diocese. I do believe we have a renewed and restored sense of our unique and historic diocesan vocation to ourselves, the church and the world.

Rejoice with us. And, may God shield the joyous.


MadPriest said...

Hi Elizabeth

Firstly, my apologies. I don't like advertising in other peoples' comment boxes, but you don't have an email link.

It's just I thought, in light of the above, that you might find this amusing - and it is meant to be amusing not caustic in any way.

MadPriest said...


You approve first.

Good, you don't have to publish my message just go see for yourself.


Congratulations ... blessings all around!

Clyde said...

Thanks for sharing. I have long appreciated your insight and thoughts on your blog (you may not remember but we met briefly at GC 2003) and on this occasion they seem to be spot on. Things will continue to move forward in this church, your diocese and for all people. Our parish, in Beverly Hills, celebrated its 2nd Blessing of a Gay Union today, the first I attended and I can attest, the Holy Spirit was there and continues to work.

Mark Harris said...

You are gracious, honorable, and suscinctly hopeful and holy all at once. How do you do it? Wonderful post about a wonderful and affirming event. And I think your assessment on all the rest is reallllllllly on.

Random Ramblings NJ said...

Dearest Elizabeth,

I very much appreciate your account of today's election. As you know, I was not a delegate from my parish. I was however with you in spirit.

I think that you know me well enough to know that I too am both happy and profoundly saddened by the outcome. I think that Beckwith will be find. And I am tired of stumbling on that elephant that you write of.



Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen to this!

Lisa Fox said...

Preach it, my sister! From your lips to God's ears.