Saturday, February 26, 2005

Is the split here?

There's been a lot of talk about an Anglican communion split, with the news that Anglican leaders are asking U.S. and Canadian churches to withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council until 2008 because of their stance on homosexuality.

Well, I'm dummy enough to not even know what that council is. Luckily, my Episcopal Voices listserv posted some information.

According to a BBC Q&A program on "Anglican Church Split":

It is a body of bishops, priests and lay people from national Anglican churches who meet and consult in between the once-a-decade Lambeth Conferences.

It is one of the Anglican communion's four "instruments of unity", as
they are called, the institutions which link the autonomous Anglican
churches into a federation.

The others are the Archbishop of Canterbury (the leader of the mother
church), the regular meetings of primates (the senior bishops who head
the communion's 38 provinces), and the Lambeth conference, the meeting
every ten years of all Anglican bishops.

The ACC has no legislative powers, but provides a way for the
different churches to act together.

And, why have US and Canadian Anglicans been asked to withdraw from it?
Answer: The conservatives wanted the North Americans to admit their error over homosexuality.

Does that mean if we don't admit our "error," promise not to do it anymore and remove Bishop Robinson from his post, we will be kicked out of the communion?

I've been reading the comments on Father Jake's blog with interest. Many think this is the first step to real schism and a "trial separation" in preparation for a divorce. Most aren't too sad about it.

My concern is living in a Network diocese. Will the Network try to pull us under a foreign province, as some of its leaders have been itching to do? Our bishop is being noncommital about the whole situation until he confers with the rest of the good old boys Monday. So, we'll have to wait and see.

As far as the Anglican Communion, I'm starting to feel like Rhett Butler: "Frankly, I don't give a damn." Let the ones who want Bob Duncan in charge of the Episcopal Church under someone like Archbishop Peter Akinola get a taste of what it's like, and a lot of them will want out, pronto.

I just don't want my parish being dragged into some awful African or Asian or whatever homophobic, sexist and Calvinistic province, or becoming an AMiA church. I don't want my parish split apart, as many parishes will be, with such a move.

The people engineering this crap obviously don't care about the people. They care about the "purity" of their doctrine and their political ambitions.

What do they think Christ values most? What does he demand of his shepherds?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Meeting Spong

The retired Episcopal Bishop, John "Jack" Shelby Spong gave a talk on sexuality at one of our local universities. He addressed attitudes of homosexuality, sexism and ageism, and our attitudes toward sex itself.

Instead of demanding either marriage or celibacy for
young adults (who come to puberty younger than they used to, but delay marriage to complete educations), homosexuals, or aged widows and
widowers, for whom marriage can cause financial hardships (loss of Social Security benefits or family squabbles over inheritances), the emphasis should be on maintaining a
loving, dedicated, monogamous relationship, Spong

Whether one is homosexual or heterosexual, promiscuity
diminishes one's self and others, he said, adding,
"Sex is a precious gift that should only be shared in
a deep, committed relationship."

The church should be there to "walk beside you,
someone to talk with as you make decisions," he said.

Spong believes all people in such committed
relationships should be able to come to the church to
have their unions blessed, whether or not they seek a
wedding license.

He sees time as healing many things, and for
homosexuality to be debated in the church today means
homophobia is having its last gasp. Maybe this is true, although homophobia certainly still has a stronghold in this part of the world.

The church will move forward, Spong believes. "When
the church moves, some adjust, some drop out," he
said. It is not a painless process.

"I'm not interested in being part of a racist,
patriarchical-sexist, or homophobic church," Spong

My reaction: Amen! and Amen!

I covered the lecture for the newspaper, which gave me the opportunity to interview him earlier that day.

Spong is pretty much vilified by all the local clergy for his views. I asked him about his theological beliefs.

I reported on it as follows:

Conservative elements within the Episcopal Church and
other denominations accuse retired Episcopal Bishop
John Shelby Spong of failing to adhere to basic
Christian tenets. In an interview before his Jan. 31
lecture at Stetson University, Spong answered
questions about his beliefs.

To charges he doesn't believe the Nicene Creed, the
basic statement of faith in the Episcopal Church and
other churches, Spong replied that the creed was
adopted late in the fourth century after Christ. He
chooses to look at the Bible itself and its Judaic
background for answers, not to something written
hundreds of years later, he said.

"How was Jesus understood in the Jewish world?" he
wants to know.

Spong said he doesn't accept the virgin birth, the
physical resurrection of Christ, or the atonement. But
when asked if he believes in the divinity of Jesus
Christ, Spong said, "Yes."

He explained that in the Gospel of Mark, divinity
descended upon Jesus at the time he was baptized, with
no mention of a virgin birth; also, the epistles of
Paul talk about a "declaration" of divinity, not a
virgin birth.

Accounts of virgin birth in the Gospels of Matthew and
Luke were written much later, in the ninth decade
after Christ, Spong said. He added, the Gospel of John
doesn't address how the mix of human and divine came
together in the physical form of Jesus, but talks
about the Word being with God "In the beginning."

Stories of miraculous births abounded in cultures of
the time, always with human mothers who were
considered simply receptacles, and divine fathers. The
knowledge we have, that the mother contributes 50
percent of the child's genes, makes the idea of virgin
birth unlikely, according to Spong. Modern
understanding of physics makes the idea of physical
resurrection unlikely in Spong's estimation, as well.

As for the atonement, which is the belief that Christ
died for our sins, Spong said he can't fathom a loving
God demanding this kind of sacrifice to pay for his
children's sins.

"It's the woodshed theory of atonement," Spong said,
the act of a cruel and punishing God, not the loving
God Spong finds in the Scriptures.

He quoted John 10:10: "I came that they may have life,
and have it abundantly."

"In this Jesus, I met the Holy God," Spong said, and
Jesus is "the life in whom and through whom we meet
this loving God."

Spong refused to be pinned down on a definition or
description of God. He said, "God is a whole lot
bigger than any of us imagine."

While I found Spong engaging, I guess I fall more toward the traditional in theology -- I don't see the need to make God mundane, as many modern theologians do. God is a supernatural being who controls physics, space, time, and the natural, and can make changes in all, just as a composer can conduct his or her own music and throw in riffs and variations to suit the composer's desires.

So, I see the logic of Spong's arguments about the virgin birth and the resurrection and so forth just don't feel compelled by them.

Spong was most gracious in talking with me, which I appreciate. My ex-rector sent an e-mail to the publisher attacking me for "bias," and being overly favorable toward Spong. And for not calling him and asking his opinion on Spong, though he didn't even attend the lecture. A little hubris showing?

Oh, well, just goes to show -- you can't please 'em all.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

See what you think

I found the article the archdeacon was having a hissy about at the convention (see the Feb. 5 post) at the North American Association for the Diaconate. Scroll down the page to the Diakeno newsletter and open this year's Advent issue. The article is on page 5 - "Acceptance Speech for the First Faith in Action Award."

See what you think.

In the meantime, liberal, John Kerry, Al Franken, liberal, liberal, sort of moderate, liberal liberal liberal. Ted Kennedy. Democratic National Committee. John Kerry, Kerry, Kerry.

I'm trying to get the focus of the Adsense ads changed. They've been linking to ultra (I won't say the "C" word) sites, based on my use of the "C" word in my posts.

I need to make a few cents -- click on the ads once in a while. I'm supposed to get compensated according to the number of clicks.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

More news from the convention

Among the trends I've noticed in this diocese the past couple of years is bridge-building to the African churches. It's a response to the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson's ratification and installation; the leadership has been seeking ties with those who agree with them on the hot-button issue of homosexuality.

The African churches are right in (lock)step with the "orthodox and traditional" segment of the Episcopal Church on this: they display a virulent, hate-filled homophobia. They also agree with the ultraconservatives in throwing out Hooker's three-legged stool, and have a very narrow field of vision when they look at Scripture.

I'll give credit and say yes, there are probably some altruistic motives on both sides of this bosom-buddiness that's been so in evidence A.R. (after Robinson), but I'm cynical enough to think politics is the big reason: forming an alliance within the Anglican Union to throw out the revisionists and get everybody back to the "right" thinking of a couple of hundred years ago. Letting the homosexuals know they're not welcome, putting women back in their places, etc.

I posted my concerns about this alliance a year ago, in February 2004:

"The Gene Robinson issue is only a small part of the picture as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to be taken or dragged out of the Episcopal Church into some other "province," or to have authority over it given to foreign primates who have a lot of cultural differences, including polygamy, slavery, child labor exploitation and stoning. I don't think the AAC bishops involved in this realize how dangerous giving away this power is. They think they'll really be controlling things behind the scenes and have the mantle handed to them after they've purged and purified the church.

"Nor do I want to go to some Calivinistic, repressive church where you can have only one interpretation of scripture (theirs, fundamentalist) or you're not a Christian.

Some of the AAC bishops, including the one in this diocese,
have been engaged in talks with these foreign, ultraconservative
bishops: July 15, 2003, Bishop Howe, among other AAC-affiliated bishops, signed a letter to "Concerned Primates" to address "the crisis of Faith and Order that is increasingly unfolding among us:"
In the face of these looming departures from evangelical truth and catholic order, and in line with our commitment to oppose all such innovations in every Godly way, we do hereby affirm the moral and spiritual authority of you, the "Concerned Primates" of the Anglican Communion, and do join in commitment with you to address the situation under your leadership. We desire to act in concert with you, and are ready to take counsel from you. We pledge solidarity with you in sharing common faith and practice within an Anglicanism that is submitted to her sovereign Lord, true to his holy Word, and at one with the catholic Church. We stand ready, in concert with you, to commit to common responses to the deteriorating situation within the Episcopal Church and

I went on to say, "I don't respect bishops who are so willing to hand their flocks over to others. I don't want to be subjected to these primates' "moral and spiritual authority," thank you very much. They need to work on setting their own houses in order...These men seem to have a brew of fundamentalist theology, anger and suspicion toward anything different -- like ordained women or Gene Robinson -- lust for power and contempt for their flocks, from whom they want to conceal so many of their actions, with closed, secret meetings, secret memos and stealthy plans [i.e., the Plano Convention and the Chapman Memo].

I wrote, "Father Dearest [the rector in my old parish] accused me of trying to "discredit" the Network. I don't think I have to -- they do it themselves as soon as the light is shined on their activities."

So, these are the reasons I look with scepticism on the African alliance. I'll have no truck with the hate-filled theology of Peter Akinola or the ultra-right priests who put themselves under a Rwandan or Ugandan or whatever foreign province.

We were treated to a big dose of African music and African-style worship during the convention -- which I enjoyed greatly. Also of Hispanic music (yes, we're universalists, and Hispanics agree with our ultraconservatives on sexuality, too).

All very enjoyable. I could feel the Holy Spirit moving during the church service, and it occurred to me that the Spirit will take this, even when brought forth with a lot of wrong reasons, and use it for good. Maybe we Anglo-Episcopalians can absorb some of this joy in worship while showing that God's love extends to all. I hope so.

I am praying that regarding mergers with African provinces, the Bishop, having taken a look, is backing away from the precipice.

Go here if you want to read his address to the convention.

The homophobia still rages, though. The deacons were all called to share a lunch together. I found out the topic of conversation was publication for deacons containing a magazine article the archdeacon objected to. The article was by a gay postulant for the priesthood in Atlanta. He talked about the terrible days of the 1980s with the AIDS epidemic, losing so many of his friends, and coming through it.

I got just a quick look at the article (I wish I could get a copy of it. I don't recall the author's name). He took some jabs at both the church and the gay community for their response to AIDS. Yet, I could see this man's faith coming through, a faith that sustained him through all the horrible stuff, and through losing so many of his friends.

The archdeacon apparently took severe umbrage at this "gay" story by a gay priest. She apparently wants all the deacons in the diocese on her side of the argument, for she complained to the magazine editor, accusing him of pushing a gay agenda. He responded to her letter, saying he doesn't take any sides, but publishes articles from various points of view.

So the homophobia continues. And I question motives for a lot of things I see around here.

Jesus called for all who are burdened to come to him. He didn't exclude anyone.

Holy Spirit, work all this to your good, I pray.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Conventional wisdom

It's been more than a week since I last posted. That's because a lot has been going on, including our Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida convention.

I had planned to go as an observer, just to see the spectacle and get my own feel for the politicking -- I have never attended convention. Last year, I almost went, but I was just too depressed by everything going on in this diocese. It was probably a good thing, too, as I probably would have left the church when they voted in the AAC/Network.

So, I was set to go observe this time, when my rector said why not come as an alternate delegate. One of the delegates was sick and wouldn't be able to come and another one might not be able to go. So I went as an alternate, which assured me a place to sit and see everything. (Thanks, Father.)

Bishop Howe talked a good talk of conciliation, even quoting Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. I have a trust issue here, though, since last year, he orchestrated (in my opinion) a lot of the conservative movement to join the Network, then at the last minute, played "neutral" and wouldn't vote on it to maintain this new "neutrality."

It was too much like my old rector's behavior, the one who would tell some of us what he thought we wanted to hear, while he pursued an altogether different agenda.

Anyway, I'm reserving judgment on this, pending new developments. It's encouraging that the right wing rabble-rousers are mad at the bishop. Still...

The AAC was present at the convention in full force, with a booth in the display room. Members were distributing unsolicited fliers, suggesting for whom everyone should vote. Not that it made much difference. 80 percent of those on ballots to be elected were AAC members.

A look at the delegation from my old parish fueled that feeling of disenfranchisement -- everyone in the delegation was ultraconservative, even though there is a moderate/liberal population of significant size in that parish. Or at least there used to be.

I looked with cynicism at all the conservative clergy in the convention hall, many of whom were helped into their positions by the very conservative bishop, who handpicked their very conservative delegations.

It did make me appreciate my current rector, who picked a mix to be representative of the parish. My rector was in the minority.

So, the deck is stacked in a completely conservative manner.

A look at the up-and-coming clergy in the diocese was an eye-opener, too. All the newly ordained deacons were asked to stand. They were all female. The current seminarians were asked to stand. About half were women.

The newly hired priests in the diocese were asked to stand. They were ALL male. Mostly older, conservative, white male. Retired from other dioceses to come to sunny, conservative Florida, to work part time. And vote at the conventions.

What does that tell you?

And one of the resolutions voted in was to call for a special General Convention in 2005 on the Windsor Report and related topics. I understand they were hot to press that, because after 2005, the retired bishops (mostly old, white ultraconservative) won't be eligible to vote at convention.

The best thing about going to the convention for me was getting to know fellow delegates and the clergy better.

COMING UP -- STRANGE BEDFELLOWS -- why the ties with the African churches
ALSO COMING -- meeting Bishop Spong (live, in person)