Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The hired hand

I've written about this before. This passage and its meanings have been on my mind quite a bit, lately.

The Gospel of John 10:1-8 describes the true shepherd versus the hired man. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves and protects his sheep.

"I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep."

The metaphor of the shepherd is perhaps the most meaningful one in the Bible, and perhaps the most beautiful in all literature. The shepherd is the one who guides and protects, who literally lays himself down at the sheep gate to protect his flock from nighttime predators. The good shepherd is the one who clears rocks to provide a green meadow full of life sustaining food for his flock. The good shepherd is the one who cleanses harmful parasites from his sheep, literally anointing their heads with oil.

The good shepherd is the one who speaks to his sheep, and sings to them, so they recognize his voice out of all the other voices, and follow him to safety.

The good shepherd is the one who does not leave even the least one behind, but carries him close to his heart.

I love my Shepherd.

Contrast this image of the shepherd to the hired hand, the one to whom sheep are sheep. They're not too smart, but they're a source of income. The hired hand counts them as nothing compared to his own needs and wants.

The role of the bishop is modeled on the role of the good shepherd.

The good shepherd does not trust a man with his flock because the man says the things the shepherd wants to hear, or because the man promises the shepherd a good job working for the hired man's boss. The good shepherd doesn't turn his flock over to anyone who would treat his sheep carelessly, or abandon in the wilderness any of the sheep the hired hand perceives to have a blemish.

Angry sheep

I'm just a sheep, but I know who cares and who doesn't care about me. I don't want a hired hand looking after me.

Most of the time, I'm a nice little sheep. But don't try herding me into any foreign corral, where the hired hands won't take care of me, and might even kick me.

I'm just a sheep, but I can scream loudly, and I have teeth. I'll chew through the rope holding the corral gate shut.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pirates of the Anglican Communion:
Dead Man's Province, Part Quatre

Note: To read Part 1, go here. For Part 2, go here; For Part 3, go here.

After traveling through a dry, barren wasteland for many hours, the Band of the Three-Legged Stool slows as its members approach a river.

Bishop Schori holds up her hand in the universal sign for "stop." On foot, she, Father Jake and Sparrow cautiously approach a rough, wooden bridge spanning the river. It's old, and worn, and bleached white with age. Beneath it, sluggish black water oozes past.

The smell wafting up from the water is rank. It tells a tale of dead things, of decay, of lost hope.

Schori turns to Jake and Sparrow and asks, "Will this bridge carry our weight?"

The two men gingerly step on the first plank. It creaks, but holds.

"Perhaps we should cross it one rider and one horse at a time," Sparrow says.

They stand staring into the sludgy water. The smoky mist rising from it seems to fill the land on the far bank.

Jake understands why MadPriest looked so drawn. As the band drew deeper into the wasteland, an oppression settled over him like a shroud. He felt it pushing him down, as if into the earth itself. The pinched expressions around him tell him others are suffering from it, too.

Jake shakes his head, trying to jar loose the sense of doom.

Schori looks at him with concern.

"We must pray before we take another step," she says.

Schori calls the entire band together. They stand hand in hand, or hand on shoulder, head bowed, as she prays, "Dear mother God, look after us as a hen looks after her chicks. Shield us from danger under your wing. Bless us that we may accomplish your will here, in this strange land. Bless us that we may then return home safely."

She anoints each rider and each horse, and pronounces individual benedictions. Then she approaches the convoy of vehicles.

"I don't think your trucks and vans will make it across this bridge. I don't know what we'll find on the other side. What say you; do you wish to turn back?"

"We stand together," Jeffrey says. "We will not turn back."

"Lisa the Crucifer will hold high the cross. It will be as a beacon for us," he adds.

Lisa, dressed in white, steps forward with determination, holding the cross before her. Its golden light radiates around her.

"Very well," Schori says. "Onward. I'll go first. If it's safe, you, Jake, then Sparrow, then Lisa, then the rest of the horse riders, then those on foot. Remember, one at a time."

Sparrow says, "No, milady. My charge is to protect you, and bring you safely to Lambeth Palace. I cannot let you perish here, in this unholy water." He looks down at it with disgust. "I will go first, and make sure the bridge can be safely passed."

After a bit of arguing and a coin toss with Jake to settle the argument of who will go first, Sparrow proceeds.

Cautiously, he steps onto the bridge, holding his horse's reins. The horse follows hesitantly, with a little nicker of anxiety.

The bridge creaks ominously. The horse's eyes roll with fright, white showing all around.

Sparrow takes another couple of steps. One board breaks, but he and the horse scramble past it. They make it to the misty land on the other side.

The horse's flanks continue to tremble in fear.

Sparrow removes a coil of rope from his saddlebag.

"Jake," he calls. "Catch this. Wrap the middle of it 'round Bishop Schori, and hold fast your end, until she's safe across the river."

"Aye," says Jake. He carefully girdles Schori with the rope, then cinches the end of the rope's length around the saddle horn on his horse, for good measure.

Everyone holds their breath until Schori arrives safely on the other side. Sparrow and Jake hold the rope so tightly, her feet barely touched the planks as she crosses.

Schori loosens the rope around her and wheezes in a gulp of air.

Her horse, like Sparrow's, quivers in fear.

Jake ties the rope around Lisa, then, holding her elbow, he escorts her across the bridge. His horse follows closely behind him.

Another plank breaks, and the horse slides toward the edge, scrambling for footing. Jake pulls on the reins with all his strength, and the horse stops. The animal then follows Jake so closely his nose stays under Jake's arm, as they complete their tortuous journey.

One-by-one, the remainder of the band cross the bridge.

"It's only your prayers got us all here safe," Sparrow says, bowing to the bishop, who bows back to him.

He hears a cracking of twigs in the woods lining the road. Sparrow draws his sword as he turns toward the sound, but it's too late. A horde of screaming Fundamentalists attack the band, beating them with Bibles.

Sparrow senses danger, draws his sword, but it's too late.

Sparrow sees Jake, Schori, Jeffrey, and the rest valiantly trying to repel the blows, but in this place, they're vastly outnumbered. Growly screams, quoting Leviticus and Deuteronomy, are almost as terrorizing as the two-handed swings with heavy Bibles.

Under the hail of thumps to his head, Sparrow falls to the ground, unconscious.

What will happen to our intrepid band? Will it survive this attack?

Be sure to tune in for the next episode of Pirates of the Anglican Communion.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Elvis Rex: There oughta be a law

Note from UnSaintly Pat:
I was going to write my Sunday-evening installment of Pirates of the Anglican Communion, but went fishing instead. Elvis took a turn at the blog while I was gone.

Elvis speaks:

I'm looking for a lawyer. I want to sue, and I'm thinking there's maybe a class-action suit in this for a good lawyer.

It all started last week, when the UnSaintly One went to see an allergy doctor. After a bunch of testing, the verdict came in. The UnSaintly One's allergic to two things, he told her: dust .... and CATS.

Now, I've been thinking about this all week. I'm convinced this is a lie -- more cat defamation. Cats get blamed for everything. Did the dog get blamed for any allergy? No.

Is it ever the dog? No. Did the doctor tell her to keep Betsy, the dog, off the bed? No.

Who's sleeping on the bed now? The dog.

Even the UnSaintly One says, "Betsy's the good girl."

But Jack and I, we're the "bad boys." Just because the furniture gets clawed up -- and that's Jack, not me. So we jump around in the kitchen while she's trying to cook, and knock things off the counter. Knock things off her desk. Chew up and tear up a few things. Yak on the carpet. Pull down the sheers from the window. Big deal.

I don't see why the UnSaintly One minds me drinking from her glass. It's a cat thing.

Let's face it. We live in an anti-cat culture. Think of all the Disney movies. The cat is always the bad guy. Remember the cat in Cinderella? Portrayed as evil, trying to harm those poor little mice. Mice aren't so cute in real life, though I hear they're pretty tasty.

And remember the sicko Siamese in Lady and the Tramp? The list goes on. Just about every animated Disney movie has a cat villain.

The anti-cat movement goes back to the Middle Ages, when we were blamed for the plague.

So, I want a lawyer to go after not just the doctor, who suggested the UnSaintly One should make us yard cats (thank God she didn't), but let's go after the studios, books and magazines, too, on behalf of all cats, everywhere.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Welcome to the neighborhood

We welcome Toewalker at Musings of a Toe-Walker and Lisa at My Manner of Life to this neck of the blogosphere neighborhood.

These Missouri thorns in the right-wing side bring their lives, perspectives and dry wit with 'em.

We in the UnSaintly household particularly enjoyed this image:

You wouldn't expect a furor over something like this, but the Network Purity Police, Midwestern Division, jumped all over Lisa for posting it, accusing her of making racial slurs. Get a life, people.

The truth is, they were looking for something to complain about, without revealing their own prejudices. Thus, revealing their own prejudices.

You've got to admit, the term "Anglican Primates" does create a mental image of our closest relations (now I'll get hate mail from the Creationists) jumping around in robes and mitres!

Lisa and Toewalker have much more than this to say, both humorously and seriously. Check them out.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pirates of the Anglican Communion:
Dead Man's Province, Part Trois

Note: To read Part 1, go here. For Part 2, go here.


rides his horse all the way up to the command post before dismounting. He's immediately beset with questions. Brushing the queries aside, he grabs the coffeepot, fills a mug, and downs it.

"You need everything you've got to keep you going out here," he says.

"Sit down and rest for a moment. Are you all right?" Schori asks.

"Yes. I'm exhausted. It's that place," MadPriest replies. "It's oppressive. With each mile into that Godforsaken land, the air became heavier. Stifling."

"What about the horses? Where's your Geo Tracker?" Father Jake queries.

"I had to abandon the Geo Tracker about five miles in. It just quit. No modern invention works there. Even my watch quit, a bit after the Geo sputtered out. Then the watch started running backwards," MadPriest says, holding his watch up for them to see.

The watch hands jumped erratically, forward and back.

"I think it's trying to right itself now," MadPriest explains.

"Were you able to determine where Province X is? And where we are?" Father Jake asks.

"Maps are useless there. I think it's somewhere in Texas." MadPriest rubs his face. "Although, there were some indicators of Nigeria. It's all very confusing. Where we are now? Just in a wasteland, on the edge of Province X."

"Listen," MadPriest continues. "Most of the people there are confused. They don't know where they are. And it's growing darker and more oppressive by the hour. The people are frightened, and they don't know what to do. They don't know which direction will take them out."

"How did you find your way out?" Father Jakes asks.

"It was the oddest little fellow. He's some sort of mystic. He found me wandering, and told me, 'Madly Priest. This way is no good you go. Go you must back to the real world, and tell them, you will. This: pray you must, if you want the Gospel light. If to pray no one cares enough, then God will not work to perpetuate the lightness. Tell them, pray they must, to free the Gospel light.'"

MadPriest went on, "The gnomish bloke said there's a castle in the heart of Province X. There, the Gospel light is imprisoned. There, also, is the source of a spreading darkness. We must set free the Gospel light, but it will be impossible, without worldwide prayer in support. He gave me the horses, and pointed the way out. He said to find you and tell you."

"How did he know about us?" Father Jake asks.

"I don't know," MadPriest says. "He just seems to know everything."

The three brood for a bit. Finally, Schori says, "Then, that's what we must do. MadPriest, take the truck and go back. Get everyone to pray. Tell them they must believe, and pray."

Schori turns to Jake. "You and I will lead in as many as we can get on horseback. We're going in. We have to."

Jake bows. "I am at your service, Madam."

Soon, a line of riders on horseback threads across the wasteland. Behind follow vehicles, whose drivers refused to turn back. They pledge to follow on foot when their vehicles quit.

Stay tuned for more adventures of the Band of the Three-Legged Stool.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Abandonment of the communion of the Episcopal Church

Here's the article about Bp. John-David Schofield.

I wonder if Pittsburgh's Bob Duncan can't be far behind. In his July 31 speech at a Network meeting, he denounced the discipline of the Episcopal Church, said he's been in communication with other primates (Global South, I would presume) about establishing a mission district here -- with or without the Archbishop of Canterbury. Duncan will also pull the Network and any dioceses he can into an alternate Communion, without the ABC. See the text of Duncan's speech here

From Episcopal News Service:

Committee set to review accusation against San Joaquin bishop

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Monday, July 31, 2006

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee is preparing to deal with accusations that Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.
Bishops J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, Jerry M. Lamb of Northern California, James R. Mathes of San Diego and then-diocesan William E. Swing of California sent the letter to Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina in mid-July. The letter cites Canon 9 of Title IV of the church's canons, entitled "Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop."

Henderson, the senior bishop among the members of the 2007-2009 Review Committee, said July 31 he was not comfortable releasing the substance of the letter.

"There is a provision that is pretty clear dealing with the other kinds of misconduct that says that all of the matters related to a presentment will be confidential. That provision does not appear in Canon 9, but I am not sure whether that is oversight or intentional—but I feel that, unless the whole committee makes a decision otherwise, this ought to be confidential as well, unless I have the release–and I will ask them—of Bishop Schofield and the others," Henderson said.

Various websites and blogs had been speculating in recent days about such an investigation and what it might entail, up to and including a presentment and ecclesiastical trial.

"It is not a presentment," Henderson said. "It is not dealt with in the same sense that other misconduct would be dealt with."

It has been reported elsewhere that the bishops claimed evidence of abandonment in San Joaquin's action at its last diocesan convention, when it changed its constitution to qualify its agreement to submit to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons. Article V, Section 1, of the Constitution says that a diocese's constitution must accede to that of the Episcopal Church.

At its last convention, the diocese changed its constitution to read that the diocese would accede "to the extent that such terms and provisions, and any amendments thereto, adopted by the authority of the General Convention, are not inconsistent with the terms and provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin..."

Henderson said that the members of the 2003-2006 Review Committee have unfinished business from the just completed triennium and thus Bishop Charles Keyser is still chairing the committee. Henderson said he and Keyser have agreed to have the two committees meet at the same time and in the same place, as soon as the former committee receives a report of an investigation initiated as a result of a previously filed allegation. That allegation has nothing to do with Schofield, Henderson said.
A news release on San Joaquin's website says that "the [diocese's] Chancellors have already responded to the initial allegations by challenging the appropriateness of the specific Canon Law [IV.9] being used to bring charges."

"In short, these allegations are neither relevant nor justified," the short statement concludes.

Henderson said he has received a letter from the San Joaquin chancellor and has replied indicating that the 2006-2009 committee would meet for organizational purposes in August or September, and that he told Swing the same thing.

Title IV, Canon 9 says that a bishop abandons the communion of the Episcopal Church if he or she takes one of the following actions:

* open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of the Church;

* formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the
same; or

* exercising episcopal acts [Holy Orders and Confirmation] in and for a religious body other than the Episcopal Church or another Church in communion with the Church ...without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in the Church.

Read the full text of Title IV Canon 9.

Other canons in Title IV deal with other misconduct on the part of bishops, such as crime, immorality, holding or teaching doctrine contrary to that of the Church, violating the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, violating the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church or of a bishop's diocese and violating one's ordination vows.

If the committee determines by a majority vote that Schofield has, in fact, abandoned the Communion of the Church under the terms of Canon 9, it must certify its decision to the Presiding Bishop. If the three senior bishops having jurisdiction consent, the Presiding Bishop must then inhibit Schofield "until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act," according to the canon.

During that time, Schofield could not exercise any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts except those related to the "administration of the temporal affairs" of his diocese.

The three senior bishops are Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia and Don Wimberly of Texas.

Schofield would have two months from the time he receives notice of the committee's certification and the inhibition to declare in a "verified written statement" that the facts alleged in the committee's certification. If he does not make such a declaration, the canon says, he will be liable to deposition, or removal from office.

If Schofield did supply the statement and the Presiding Bishop believed it to be a "good faith retraction of the declarations or act relied upon in the certification" or a "good faith denial" that the bishop made the declarations or committed the acts, the inhibition could be ended by the Presiding Bishop, with the three senior bishops' consent.

Otherwise, the Presiding Bishop must present the matter to the House of Bishops at its next regular or special meeting. If a majority of the bishops entitled to vote gives its consent, the Presiding Bishop must depose the bishop.

The appointments to the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee were Suffragan Bishop Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Suffragan Bishop David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio. Causey, Kirby, Kuhr and Stokes served on the 2003-2006 Review Committee.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.