|Episcopal Core Beliefs
As editors of magazines and newspapers are compiling lists of the "Top Ten" stories, I wondered what might be the stories in The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion that have caught our attention.
I asked readers here and on FaceBook what those stories might be for them. What follows is a highly unscientific and patently unreliable poll of what we might remember from 2011. They are in no particular order of priority. I hope you'll chime in if you think something got left out.
Like it or not (and, I don't), this story dominated the news in our church and in the Anglican Communion for most of the year. I have no doubt - no doubt at all - that it will continue to have a prominence in our religious news in 2012.
According to the website maintained by "No Anglican Covenant: Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity", all thirty-eight provinces (national and regional churches) of the Anglican Communion have been asked to adopt an agreement, the Anglican Covenant (or Anglican Communion Covenant), which sets out reputedly common doctrine and describes a process for dispute resolution among Communion churches.
As of this writing only five provinces have "approved" or "accepted" the Anglican Covenant, The Province of South East Asia has "acceded" to it, The Church of Ireland "subscribed" to it, and six provinces are in various stages of debate and ratification or rejection.
In The Episcopal Church, the Covenant will be taken up at the 2012 General Convention. Various dioceses have passed resolutions both for and against the Covenant. Most notable, because of its detail is a resolution against adoption from the Diocese of California. The Executive Council will offer a resolution at General Convention gently rejecting the Covenant.
I include this next not because it is earth-shattering news, although I hasten to point out that it was a story covered by the NY Times (as well as other major newspapers around the globe) but rather because his election (note to my British friends: not "appointment") and consecration were the very reasons for the Anglican Covenant in the first place. I find it sublimely ironic. The point was not missed by The NY Times which noted:
Since 2003, the Communion’s leaders have labored to save it from outright schism, not just over homosexuality, but also over female bishops and priests.Bishop Gene will retire in January of 2013, which gives this story real "legs' for 2012. It should be interesting to see how - if at all - it will affect process of "ratification" of The Anglican Covenant.
The current strategy, pushed by the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is for each regional province to sign a “covenant” of common beliefs.
The covenant has been slowly making its way through laborious writing and approval processes, which could take years.
Late last month, an international coalition of liberal Anglicans started a campaign to reject the covenant, saying, “The covenant seeks to narrow the range of acceptable belief within Anglicanism.”
The group, Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity, said, “Rather than bringing peace to the Communion, we predict that the covenant text itself could become the cause of future bickering and that its centralized dispute-resolution mechanisms could beget interminable quarrels and resentments.”
As the fallout over "The Great Episcopal Schism" works its way through the court system, time and time and time again, the legislative process has favored The Episcopal Church. I don't have the time or the inclination to track down every story (have at it, if you wish), but there are two notable incidents that caught my eye.
The first is that the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Christ Church, Savannah, GA and its property (valued at nearly $3 million) belong to the national Episcopal Church, not the local congregation.
The court’s 6-1 ruling upheld earlier rulings by the state Court of Appeals and Chatham County Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf.The second is that the governing board of Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh has voted, 11-7, to affiliate with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh more than three years after a majority of parishes left to form the more conservative Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The 45-page majority opinion written by Justice David Nahmias found that the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom of religion “allows the local congregation and its members to leave the Episcopal Church and worship as they please, like all other Americans, but it does not allow them to take with them property that has for generations been accumulated and held by a constituent church of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.”
The Episcopal diocese has about 9,000 members in 29 parishes. The Anglicans have about 20,000 members in 74 congregations.I chose these two stories because I think they speak to the sadness and continued contentious nature of this schism. We are, alas, completely incompatible. And, it's costing us tons of money to discover what many of us already knew. I think it makes Jesus weep.
The governing board and the cathedral's congregation approved a resolution in October 2008 to let the cathedral continue to represent both groups, but congregation officials said the dual affiliation was making it difficult to grow.
Meanwhile, it is important to note that an earthquake rocked the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, causing structural damage that will require millions to repair.
At first, Trinity Wall Street and the movement known as Occupy Wall Street tried to work together, but after the "occupyers" of the OWS movement were evicted from Zuccotti Park, OWS tried to get TWS to allow them to use a vacant lot owned by TWS known as Duarte Park. The church declined, calling the proposed encampment “wrong, unsafe, unhealthy and potentially injurious.”
Even Bishop Mark Sisk of the Diocese of New York and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori wrote public letters of agreement. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was initially supportive, took a few steps back in his second statement - a fairly transparent piece of evidence that the folks at TWS and 815 had made a few overseas phone calls.
This all happened as the Christmas season was full upon us, bringing up interesting theological questions about the need to "occupy" time and place if transformation is going to happen.
I should also note that, across the Pond, the Dean and the Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral resigned over the decision of the Cathedral to deny access of the LSX (London Stock Exchange) "occupyers" to the Cathedral, which brought about a few reversals of the decision. Well done! Good form!
On December 17th, George Packard, retired Bishop Suffragan of the Armed Forces, along with several others, including two Episcopal priests, were arrested for trespassing as he climbed a ladder and scaled the fence the surrounded Duarte Park. There he was, in his purple cassock, going over the fence. And there he was, handcuffed and sitting on a bench with the rest of the demonstrators, surrounded by the NYPD Swat Team. Looking that those two pictures, I, personally, have never been more proud to be an Episcopalian.
I am still baffled that the Episcopal Church of which I have been a member all my life could not--through Trinity--find some way to embrace these thousands of young people in our very diminishing ranks. (Every year for the last five years we have lost 14,000 members.) Just as we pioneered an awareness of the full membership for the LBGT community what's happening here? How hard would it have been for Trinity to convene legal counsel and say, "Give us some options so that a charter could be granted over the winter months?"Except, the way it turned out, The Episcopal Church in general and Trinity Wall Street in particular lost. What did we lose, exactly? Credibility. As Christians who are all about justice and transformation. Big Time. No wonder the fastest growing religion is "The Nones" - those who profess to be "spiritual but not religious" - and claim no religious affiliation. This story is far from over. Stay tuned.
I had proposed that to the Rector and I still think it was a solution. Occupy Wall Street gets a home over the winter (one that would offer food for the Homeless and a clinic--truly bring alive dead space) and Trinity would have the assurance that the lease would return to them safe and sound come Spring. Everybody wins.
At the September 20th meeting of the House of Bishops, Stacy Sauls, former bishop of Lexington and the new COO of The Episcopal Church gave a power point presentation which used eight separate slides to list the church's 75 commissions, committees, agencies and boards -- those he could readily identify, he said -- and another five slides to list the 46 Episcopal Church Center departments and offices, all of which have multiple reporting structures.
He noted that, as it stands in the current budget process, governance is funded first and then asked, "What would happen if we reversed that priority, starting with mission?" Based on that, he continued, what if, in creating a hypothetical annual budget of $27 million, $19 million of that budget went toward mission and the remaining $8 million toward overhead? (The current budget is closer to $35 million, he said.)
Sounds good, on the surface, right? Except that the Sauls' proposal was made without any consultation with any of those 75 commissions, committees and boards or 46 Episcopal Church Center's departments and offices. Including the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson.
Bishop Sauls offered the bishops a "model" resolution for each diocese to submit to the 77th General Convention in 2012 for consideration. The model resolution would call for a special commission to be charged with "presenting a plan to the church for reforming its structures, governance, administration, and staff to facilitate this church's faithful engagement in Christ's mission."
Excuse my left eyebrow, raised in suspicion, but I don't think any plan that does not begin with a full consultation with the affected members - much less the President of the House of Deputies - is at all about mission. Look for this to be a story that gains a sturdier set of legs as we move deeper into 2012 and closer to General Convention where the Very Big News will be the Budget.
The Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has released educational materials and other information surrounding its plan to ask General Convention to authorize a three-year trial use of its proposed rite for blessing same-gender unions.
During that same time period the church also would reflect on its understanding of marriage in light of changes in both societal norms and civil law if convention agrees to a related resolution the commission will propose, according to the Rev. Ruth Meyers, SCLM chair.
According to Meyers, the 18 month process included "a wide consultative process" with "input from a number of people" before being ready to present the final draft to the church of a three year trial use of proposed rite of blessings and more conversation about the civil and spiritual nature of marriage and blessings.
Dr. Meyers, might you speak with Bishop Sauls about "restructuring for "mission"? Oh, and while you've got cell phone in hand, why not call Lambeth Palace and speak with Archbishop Williams about a similar process for The Anglican Covenant?
Katharine Jefferts Schori travels the Globe - England, Scotland, Canada, Africa, Asia - as a tireless ambassador for Christianity in general and The Episcopal Church in particular. She visits. She preaches. She presides. She inspires. She challenges. She charms. Well, most of the time, except in those places - like a certain Cathedral in England where the Archbishop of Canterbury allowed her to carry but not wear her mitre. And, of course, she was "disinvited" by the Archbishop of Sudan to visit his province because "it remains difficult for us to invite you when elements of your church continue to flagrantly disregard biblical teaching on human sexuality".
Well, there it is then. Which brings up a question in my mind about the whole nature of the office of Presiding Bishop. Is she a "presider" or an "ambassador" and how much of her time ought to be devoted to each? As long as her COO brought up the whole issue of "restructuring for mission", I think it's time to try and get our heads wrapped around the whole concept of a "presiding" bishop who spends so much time away from the office. That's not a criticism. That's an observation and a question.
I'd love to see a bit more of a breakdown of her schedule to see just how much time our Primate spends on matters Episcopal and domestic vs. matters Anglican and 'foreign' and how that distribution of time is understood, given our theological understanding of what it means to be a Primate and a Presiding Bishop - if we even have a theology of that office. That's not going to make headlines, but inquiring minds do want to know. I mean, as long as we're talking about 'mission' - which is really all we seem to do about mission. Talk about it. And, how we should be doing it. And how we can restructure for it. Anything but actually doing it.
This is an ugly story about a former Roman Catholic monk who was received as an Episcopal priest even after he admitted to sexual misconduct with a minor. That's a bad enough story line but then it gets worse because the bishop who received Parry into our fold was none other than Katharine Jefferts Schori, now our Presiding Bishop, of course, when she was bishop of Nevada.
"I made the decision to receive him," Jefferts Schori said in a statement, "believing that he demonstrated repentance and amendment of life and that his current state did not represent a bar to his reception."From all reports, Parry has lived up to that repentance and has amended his life. The problem arose, however, because Parry resigned from All Saints' Episcopal Church in Las Vegas when a civil lawsuit was filed alleging that he abused a minor in 1987. At the time of the alleged abuse, Parry was a monk and choir director at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo.
Current Nevada Bishop Dan Edwards said Thursday that Parry has not been accused of wrongdoing since his Episcopal ordination. "His voluntary resignation was for the good of the church." Parry has not functioned as a priest since his June resignation and will not be permitted to return to ministry, Edwards said.
All sorts of questions have been asked about that process of reception and how much was known and by whom and when and how. It's all so awful that the temptation to minimize or 'duck and run' is great, but it does beg the questions: Do we believe what we preach and teach about 'repentance' and 'amendment of life' and where do we draw the line?
Well, truth be told, this entry is here because it really is last. Honestly? I couldn't find ten top stories in The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion that were really newsworthy, so this one is really a filler. That being said, it occurs to me that it's a way to end this list the way it began: with a story about the increasing efforts to centralize power in the institutional church at all levels.
The Pope has been busy devising ways to 'steal Anglican sheep'. Indeed, just last month, Cardinal Donald Wuerl announced that Pope Benedict XVI will establish an ordinariate for American Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Two Anglican communities--one in Texas, the other in Maryland--have entered into full communion in recent months and are expected to become part of the ordinariate. The Pontiff established the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales in January 2011
Meanwhile, Rowan seeks to be thoroughly Anglican and 'cordial' to El Papa. In his ecumenical letter to the churches, Rowan wrote:
"Whatever stories we tell ourselves, whatever strategies we develop for keeping ourselves safe, the truth is always that being human is being subject to change and to the risk of suffering. Solidarity must now find expression in humility and generosity, and in the search for true justice for all."All this whilst Rowan continues to work on establishing the Anglican Covenant as the enforceable law in the Communion. So much for "humility and generosity" in the "search for true justice for all".
Meanwhile, our Presiding Bishop exhibits all those characteristics and walks into a Cathedral in the Church of England with her "hat" literally in her hand, and the Pope eats our lunch in our own backyard. You know, you just can't make this stuff up!
So, there it is, kiddies: My perspective - and those of a few faithful readers of the blog and my FB page - on The Episcopal Year in Review.
I'm delighted that the election and consecration of Mariann Budde as the first woman to be bishop of the Diocese of Washington, DE is not headline news. That's the best news, I think, of 2011.
As I consider it, 2012 has to be better. Overall, 2011 couldn't have been much worse.
Then again, 2012 will bring us General Convention AND the Church of England Synod which will consider both the "appointment" of women to the episcopacy and the ratification/approval/acceptance of The Anglican
Fasten your seat belts, dearies. Looks like may well be a bumpy ride after all.