Thursday, June 29, 2006

No waiting

Well, logic doesn't define the Network. San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Dallas have rejected the Episcopal Church's oversight. Marty Minns has joined the Nigerian Church, from where he can meddle in Episcopal churches with impunity.

Obviously, they were never committed to subjecting themselves to the Windsor process -- just banging TEC over the head with it.

How will the Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop respond? Will they respond?

I haven't seen or heard any comment from the Diocese of Central Florida yet. I wonder if the bishop is planning to jump ship now, or if he'll wait and see how the wind blows. Back in January, he set a special diocesan meeting in September to review General Convention.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

So, if you're getting your way, what are you complaining about?

It occurred to me this morning that the conservative spin on the Archbishop's statement may be a good thing. They're playing up the idea of the two-tier system, with one province in full communion (the Network) and one that's loosely affiliated (The Episcopal Church).

If they're saying they're going to get their way, then they have no justification for splitting in the immediate future. They need to wait for future action from the ABC and his consulting group, a couple of years down the road. That bit of logic may escape them, though.

The ABC's statement is murky, as always, but my take on it is different.

The Archbishop of Canterbury sounds rather supportive of, and noted the intention "to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation."

He doesn't indicate any censure, kicking out, etc., of the Episcopal Church, that the Network bishops wanted from him. The Archbishop's pretty much telling everyone to settle it out themselves -- it isn't his role to play judge or policeman in squabbles among the constituents.

Question: Will the churches in Nigeria, Uganda, an alternate province in the U.S., if such occurs, or others be willing to "limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness," as the ABC stated, to stay in full communion? The conservatives think it will be them setting rules for The Episcopal Church, without any limits put on their "alternative province." I don't think so.

Will polygamy and church-sanctioned hate crimes against gays cease?

Will provinces come into compliance in ordaining women, to meet the ABC's call for greater involvement of women in the life of the church?

Will primates cease crossing their jurisdictions?

What changes would all the provinces have to make to fit this scheme of unity? What changes will everyone be willing to make?

In the meantime, here's an insightful pastoral letter from the Bishop of Arizona about the convention, thanks to the Episcopal Voices listserv. He explains how B033 came to be passed.

Pentecost III, 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have just returned from the 75th General Convention of our church held in Columbus, Ohio, and would like to share with you my thoughts about that meeting in the form of a pastoral letter.*

Much legislation was enacted that will effect our life together, and I would direct you to the Episcopal Church's website ( for further information and the full text of the over 300 resolutions which were considered. In this letter, I wish to focus on what I believe are the three most important actions of the Convention: 1) The election of a new Presiding Bishop, 2) The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, and 3) Our response to the Windsor Report.

1). I have known Katharine Jefferts Schori for several years as both a friend and colleague. You may remember that I asked her to be one of my co-consecrators when I became your bishop two years ago. As a former scientist, she brings a certain calm and analytic approach to the problems of the church. She is deeply centered in prayer, but is courageous and energetic. She flies her own plane, runs marathons, and speaks Spanish. We will be well served by her. Her election was the high point of the convention and a deeply emotional moment, especially for women who just thirty years ago were admitted to the priesthood. The day after the election, many were sporting pink buttons which read, "It's a girl!" Some have asked if her election will jeopardize our standing with other parts of the communion where women cannot be ordained. That may be the case, although part of the Windsor Report calls for greater involvement of women in the life of the church.

2) Most of you probably have not heard of the Millennium Development Goals. Very briefly, this is a plan to eradicate the worst forms of the poverty in the world funded by governments, institutions, and individuals pledging seven tenths of one percent (.7%) of their income to agencies of their choice who are working on such projects as: clean water, basic health services, primary education, and medical care in underdeveloped countries. Economists have predicted that if these goals are supported, worldwide poverty could be eradicated by 2015. The United Nations has adopted this plan, and now our church has. We will ask for such a line item in our own Diocesan Budget for next year, and I would urge your congregation to do the same. Laura and I are already researching how our tithe to the church can include such work.

3) Finally, most of the media attention of last week was focused on our response to the Windsor Report, as was much of the energy of our meeting.

As you might expect, the focus of the Windsor Report debate was on the section which asked the American Church to refrain from electing bishops living in same-sex partnerships and from authorizing liturgies blessing same-sex unions, "until which time a consensus is reached in the Communion."

Their were several resolutions passed in response to this request, which reaffirmed, in general terms, our commitment to the Communion, but complying with the exact words of the Report proved difficult. Very simply put, some conservatives felt that anything short of a total acceptance of the exact language of the Windsor Report did not go far enough and would come across as an example of American arrogance towards the rest of the world. On the other side, liberals felt that to agree to a moratorium towards either action would be a backing away from the decisions made in 2003, and hence a betrayal of gay and lesbian people and was therefore a resolution they could not in good conscience support.

The middle position, one which I share, was eventually adopted. It held that even if we were supportive of the actions of our last convention, we also need to do what was asked of us by the Communion and show restraint in taking further action so the dialogue could continue. It was clear that if we did not come as close to the language of Windsor as possible, then we would most likely not be invited to the upcoming Lambeth Conference and hence be excluded from the Anglican Communion. This would be a tragedy for everyone. We needed to do something to keep everyone talking. The resulting compromise, like all compromises, made no one happy, but at least is workable. It "calls for bishops and standing committees to exercise restraint in consecrating bishops 'whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.'"

I realize that some will be upset by my vote to accept this resolution. I joined with the Presiding Bishop, the Presiding Bishop-Elect and the majority of the House of Bishops in doing so, because I believe that it is not a vote about sexuality, but a vote about communion. Complying as closely as we possibly can with the Report will give our new Presiding Bishop the support she will need in order to continue to be at the table with our Anglican brothers and sisters around the world.

That is good news, but there is more: First, we made it through this convention in one piece. Even though the General Convention process has many limitations (what other legislative body in the world has over 1000 members?), and although legislation is never a good way to deal with issues which are fundamentally relational, we managed to make it through the debate and come out with a compromise position which reflects the broad middle of the church. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I believe we have demonstrated seriousness about being part of the Anglican Communion which will be accepted by the majority of our partner provinces.

This week the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged our resolve and called for further discussion leading to an Anglican Covenant, an idea which our General Convention has already endorsed. This discussion will begin next year when the Primates meet and will no doubt continue when we all meet together at the Lambeth Conference in 2008. It is clear, that for the Archbishop, the Episcopal Church is still very much a part of the Anglican Communion.

There are plenty of people hurting. Our lesbian and gay members will no doubt be saddened and disappointed by my vote. To them I offer my apology, for I know that our decision calls for their sacrifice, not mine. Our more traditionalist members may see what I have done as an expedient compromise. To them I can only give my reassurances of how much I value our place in the worldwide Communion, and how committed I am to keeping our own American church part of it.

We haven't solved the problem, but at least we have kept people talking, and as long as there is that dialogue, there is hope. As Anglicans, we have a long history of living together in diversity; we are the world's experts in finding the "via media." We've done it before, and with God's help, I believe we can do it again.

I returned from our Convention physically tired, but also spiritually energized. We have not solved all the problems of the church, and I am sure that controversy will continue. But I was also heartened by the feeling of the Holy Spirit at work -- ?in our election of a dynamic new leader, in our greater commitment to the needs of the world, and yes, even in our struggle to find a way to turn our attention from our disagreements to our common call to the Gospel mission.

We have a great church. I am proud to be an Episcopalian, and even more proud and honored to be your bishop.


The Rt. Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith

This is a healing sort of letter. For all the noise from the right, the breath of the Holy Spirit was blowing through that convention, (though I write as one who witnessed it only second-hand), and I believe all those who want to be in unity are moving in that direction.

The convention did some important things we've heard very little about in the diocese, but which are exciting: the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and partnerships with other churches to fight poverty.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And all manner of things shall be well...

I was reading Mumcat's great reflection on Katharine Jefferts Schori's election to PB, and it got me to thinking about the role of women in the church through the years.

Mary Magdalene [not the one of the recent novel, but the one of the Gospels] was an apostle; she was never given that title, because she was a woman. Instead, she was wrongly characterized as a former prostitute.

Mary and Martha of Bethany were disciples.

So many women have served God with all their hearts, minds and souls, over the centuries, yet they would have never been considered for ordination.

So it's been with my gay/lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ, unless they simply did not tell.

It's only been a short time women have been eligible for ordination, 30 years in the Episcopal Church, and there's a movement to rescind that, as well as keep out anyone but (apparently) heterosexual men. All this is being held up to the glare of the convention's light.

It's easy to be angry, judgmental and condemning -- to become the enemy -- with a "thick film over the eyes of our soul."

In the words of one of my favorite female saints, Julian of Norwich:

"The soul that would preserve its peace, when another's sin is brought to mind, must fly from it as from the pains of hell, looking to God for help against it. To consider the sins of other people will produce a thick film over the eyes of our soul, and prevent us for the time being from seeing the 'fair beauty of the Lord'-- unless, that is, we look at them contrite along with the sinner, being sorry with and for him, and yearning over him for God. Without this it can only harm, disturb, and hinder the soul who considers them. I gathered all this from the revelation about compassion...This blessed friend is Jesus; it is his will and plan that we hang on to him, and hold tight always, in whatever circumstances; for whether we are filthy or clean is all the same to his love."

"Glad and merry and sweet is the blessed and lovely demeanour of our Lord towards our souls, for he saw us always living in love-longing, and he wants our souls to be gladly disposed toward him . . . by his grace he lifts up and will draw our outer disposition to our inward, and will make us all at unity with him, and each of us with others in the true, lasting joy which is Jesus."

May we yearn over the demagogues, for God. May we yearn over each other for God.

May we all come to unity with God.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A woman for Presiding Bishop! Yowee!

Yowee. My intuition was way off on this one. I expected Parsley or one of the other male candidates to be elected, as a peace-keeping move. There were some good choices among the men, but Katherine Jefferts Schori looks like she's got the spirituality, the brains and the chutzpah for the job.

She's going to have a tough one.

I've been thinking and praying about it since I got the news Saturday. I'm convinced this is, indeed, the work of the Holy Spirit, affirming what she's doing in the world.

I think The Episcopal Church is standing firm on faith.

Of course, the right-wing bloggers are foaming at the mouth. Virtue seems to have some paranoid fantasy where a "cabal" of dissatisfied right-wing and left-wing bishops, led by L.A. Bishop J. Jon Bruno, got together and brokered Jefferts Schori's election. It makes no sense.

Virtue's vitriolic attack ends with "Some very liberal bishops also voted for Schori to stick it in the eye of the Anglican Communion."

Hmm. Substitute Network or AAC and Peter Akinola, and maybe he's got something there, but it's more of making a stand than sticking it in the eye. Not a stand that will make the Network bishops happy.

So what are they going to do? Ask for ALPO? Ikers is already pleading his case to the ABC for alternate province oversight -- basically, leaving the Episcopal Church, but keeping the property. How will the ABC respond to that? How will The Episcopal Church respond?

Politicat, of "Talk is cheap. I'd rather have tuna" fame, is sticking his claws in my knee and saying, "Remember? I told you.
I wouldn't mind if the church just coughed them up like a hairball and got rid of them." But he's only a cat.

Our own Central Florida Bishop John Howe issued yet another fence-straddling letter, praising Jefferts Schori and downing her at the same time.

It reads:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Katherine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, was elected on the fifth ballot this (Sunday, June 18th) afternoon. I have known her for the past five years, and interestingly enough, we sit side by side at our round table in the House of Bishops during this Convention. This noon, at lunch, between the third and the fourth ballot, we found ourselves having nowhere else to sit except at a table for two. (Nice conversation about our families.)

What can I tell you about her? She is an extremely gracious person with a truly brilliant mind. She is a marine biologist (PhD), with a very laid back personality. She is married to a retired professor of mathematics. They have a daughter who is a pilot in the Air Force. (Katherine herself is a pilot with instrument certification.)

She led the voting on every ballot except the second, when she tied with Henry Parsley of Alabama.

She "wowed" the nominating subcommittee that visited her in Nevada, and she pretty much "wowed" the Bishops last March at our meeting in Kanuga.

My concerns are that her experience is quite limited. She has never been a rector; she has been a Bishop only five years; and her diocese is very small. Many parts of the Communion will have difficulty in accepting her on the basis of gender. She voted to confirm the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire at the last General Convention.

Nevertheless, I have promised her my support, and I have asked her to visit Central Florida at her earliest convenience.

I wish her well, and I hope you will too.

John W. Howe
The Right Rev. John W. Howe

Sounds like he's still waiting to see which way the wind will blow.

Ah, well. Life goes on.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A prayer for General Convention

After Politicat's entry, I'd better pray!

Please, Lord, bless all those who will attend General Convention to do your work. Give them discernment to see your will, the strength to do it, and hearts soft enough to love each other as you have loved them. Give them peace. Give them your vision.

In the name of your son, our advocate, I ask these things.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Politicat speaks

'Just cough them up like a hairball'

I've heard entirely too much of this moaning and caterwauling about how the Episcopal Church has chosen to walk alone. It certainly did not. It just made everyone welcome to walk with it.

Those who don't like others who are walking with us are entirely free to leave, of course -- if they choose not to walk with us. But don't blame it on us.

Besides, the catfight isn't really over who's walking with whom. It's over who gets to choose the marching tune, and what that marching tune will be. Those making all the noise want enough people to leave with them -- enough people to buy them pretty pope and bishop robes and support them well enough, while the call the tune.

Otherwise, they'd be gone already. There's plenty of fundamentalist churches out there who like lthe same kind of tunes. Some of their tunes are even more strident.

So, I'll be glad for General Convention to get going next week. Then, the tune-callers will have to put up or shut up.

My guess is they'll have to shut up (or at least quit squalling so loudly). They're not going to find enough people to go with them, try as they might. Why, even here in our ultra-fundie Diocese of Central Florida, only a few congregations left after the "Horror of Robinson."

The schismatics make a bunch of noise about how the schism is going to hit the church and how the schism will play out, and what the schismatics are gonna do, and what the church is gonna do, and what the ABC said, what he really meant, then, why the Global South is the true heir to Anglicanism, now that the ABC hasn't joined their quickstep, ad nauseum.

Talk is cheap. I'd rather have tuna.

I wouldn't mind if the church just coughed them up like a hairball and got rid of them. But I'm only a cat, after all. I'll leave praying for peace, unity and understanding to the UnSaintly One.

I enjoy a good hissy fit once in a while. RAWWWWRRRRR hssssttttt.


-- Politicat

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Moments of calling

Do you ever have visions? I've been having one off an on for the past couple of years. It involves mission work and the call to ministry.

I don't know where or how this will be. The image in my head is of being in a dusty place, full of children running among chickens. There is poverty and sickness. It could be in any third-world country, or it could be up the road, in a migrant-labor camp. I don't know. The picture is probably influenced by cultural ideas of mission work.

Last year's mission trip to Honduras confirmed the calling, though it was not the sort of mission I see. It was more of a visit than a mission. What I see is more permanent, ministering to the needs of a particular community. The thought keeps popping into my mind it would be good to take a paramedic course.

I don't know how any of this would be fulfilled, but I think the Holy Spirit is moving in this. After giving me a break to recover this past year, He's back into it. I saw that vision strongly during an Ascension Day service. I don't know if this will involve any kind of ordination. That seems so unlikely in this diocese, where I'm too old, too female, too liberal.

Saturday evening, I sat reflecting on an Alpha retreat I was involved in at my church -- leading the little group through a guided-image meditation, then praying with people who wanted, or wanted more, the Holy Spirit in their lives. As I sat reviewing, and thanking the Holy Spirit, He was there. It was an electric experience from my head to toe. I could feel the electricity moving through me and off me.

Wow! Hallelujah!

The Spirit reminded me He's here for me too, in the same way I prayed for the Spirit to be with the Alpha participants. He is a very present help. He will guide me through it, whatever form this calling takes.