Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Limits of Tolerance (Taber-Hamilton)

by the Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton

On my refrigerator door I have a cartoon of two people dressed in simple 17th-century garb tied to stakes with wood piled at their feet. At the fringe of the wood pile is a crowd clearly dressed as Puritans carrying burning torches with one (the minister?) reaching forward to set the wood alight. And one victim says to the other: “I’m sure if we just try and engage them in dialogue one last time, we’ll be okay!”

One of the most significant failures of modern progressive Episcopalians is the belief that the application of reason to any given conflict will ultimately prove effective in convincing our opponents of the correctness of our cause.

This is proved false again and again, of course; people are often irrational. But our own innate – sometimes arrogant – belief in the reasonableness of humanity and its susceptibility to what we perceive as rational discourse seems to have the ability to overwhelm the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

This is clearly the case in the current struggle within the Anglican Communion. The majority in the Episcopal Church continues to maintain a tolerant attitude to those within our own province and in Africa who have adopted a stance toward our actions that has profound echoes of the scapegoating and exclusion that the first Puritans practiced.

It should be said that the perception of Episcopalian tolerance by these Puritan heirs is quite different than our own self-understanding. Part of their concern is, I think, that the very beliefs they abhor will be imposed on them, either by canonical action or the pressure of the majority. Calming fears is surely a part of toleration.

Yet those who stand against our vision are driven by a narrow imperial ideology that denies our right simply to exist and seeks to delegitimize our identity as Anglicans. The overall conservative message – certainly presented by the leadership cadre of this group – is “Think as we think, be ‘our sort of Christian,' or we will seek to exclude you from the Anglican community of Christians.”

Such rhetoric is not an empty threat. We continue to see well-planned and organized attempts to bring about the replacement of the Episcopal Church as the U.S. embodiment of Anglicanism by such groups as the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network, Forward in Faith North America, and, most recently, the “Convocation of Anglicans in North America” (Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola’s extra-territorial “Nigerian” mission to the U.S.A.).

And such a strategy is being pursued elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, most notably in Canada, England, and Australia.

Until now we have not prepared well to face this assault. And so we have been blinded to this narrow totalitarian vision seeping into our nation’s and our faith’s – and even our Communion’s – DNA. It is a vision that threatens to destroy our open North American society and emerging Christian identity.

A refusal to see the threat as threat, disagreements in strategy and direction, and the general progressive malaise of much talk with no consequent organized action have also afflicted our part of the Episcopal Church. As a consequence, the neo-Puritan assaults are tolerated or even dismissed, as if they will have no effect on us or on the view of other Christians within our Communion about us.

The truth is beginning to dawn on us, however: toleration has its limits. Unlimited tolerance will lead to the end of tolerance, for the tolerant will be stamped out, leaving only the extremists. A tolerance that is unlimited in scope and boundary-less in expression represents a fundamental error of judgment on our part.

The canaries in the Anglican coal mine are our gay brothers and lesbian sisters and their supporters, attacked with increasing vehemence by the shrill voice of conservativism. Having spent the last 30 years berating and seeking to marginalize various ethnic minorities and women, conservative rhetoric condemning gays and lesbians has reached an Inquisitional pitch. If we are not alarmed by this trend, the liberating teachings of Christ will succumb to the religious fascism of our age.

If, therefore, we continue to tolerate those who are uninterested in conversation, mutual acceptance, and radical inclusion, then we place our own necks on Mme. Guillotine’s block and hand our opponents the executioner’s cord. These neo-Puritans are focusing intently on the destruction of tolerance’s foundational values. Our demise would result in the success of their narrow and puritanical agenda within the broader Church, and herald a similar victory over the open society of our North American culture.

We cannot allow this to happen. The foundation of any social contract is the preservation of the rights of individuals and communities, including the right to be free from the oppression of religion’s worst excesses – excesses which have contributed to some of the worst crimes in human history.

It is therefore our obligation within a free society and a faithful Church to preserve human rights based on our founding principle that all people are created equal.

It is also incumbent upon us as Christians to speak and act in defense of our expanding vision of Jesus’ inclusive, justice-based faith.
The time has come for us to claim the correct character of tolerance by establishing its limits in order to protect this very value from those who would take advantage of its practice. We can be tolerant of difference but we cannot be tolerant of the theological tyranny which threatens human diversity and dignity with doctrines of domination and conformity.

We must, therefore:
  • Keep the faith. We must continue on the pathway of diversity and inclusion begun with the ordination of women and the Book of Common Prayer 1979 in partnership with all of our members.

  • Be clear that we will abandon no one, and especially not those minorities who have, historically, been oppressed by the Church.

  • Be firm that, while we welcome everyone on this journey, we will not allow bigotry or threat to destroy this emerging vision of Christian faith in light of a God who makes all things new.

  • Be vigorous in preserving the institutional integrity of the Episcopal Church, including taking immediate legal action when any attempt is made to alienate the real property of our denomination, encouraging every bishop and Standing Committee to do the same.

  • Resist all attempts by some in our Communion to impose an un-Anglican institutional vision upon us and our fellow Anglicans world-wide, including opposing any Anglican “Covenant” or curial instruments, as threats to the faith on which our institutions are based.

  • End the prevaricating, and, instead, organize, network, communicate with each other, speak out, and act.

© Nigel Taber-Hamilton 2007 -- Permission granted to reprint with attribution

About the Author: The Rev. Nigel Taber-Hamilton lives on beautiful Whidbey Island, Washington, with his wife, Rachel, and their two collies and two cats. He is rector of St. Augustine's in the Woods Episcopal Church, Freeland, in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. He is a deputy to General Convention and has served on, and chaired, committees and commissions of several dioceses and Province V.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lambeth Invitations: A Personal Reflection (Fly)

by the Rev. David K. Fly

When I was a little boy, I was afflicted with that little boy problem of saying mean things about people who were different than I was or people I didn’t like or people I just didn’t know because nobody like them lived around me. And invariably, when I said such things, my mother would say to me, “David, you’re bigger than that.” And I must have said mean things quite often, because she said it enough that it got indelibly stamped on my conscience.

Later in high school, in the mid-1950s, when the world started coming apart down in Little Rock, Arkansas, just 100 miles or so from where I lived, and President Eisenhower was sending troops to deal with the violence surrounding the integration of Central High School, I encountered a football coach who also taught social studies – a man who became my hero. Pat Steele was a young white guy from Little Rock who had taught in the schools there and had not only witnessed the events that had happened there, but could interpret them for us kids who lived in lily-white Monett, Missouri, and who, for the most part, parroted our parents’ prejudices. Essentially what he said to all of us was, “You’re bigger than the narrowness your lives will be if you continue to mimic the attitudes of your elders. You are bigger than your prejudices. You can come to know a world in which all people are treated with respect.”

It was also during that time that I read a couple of books that changed my life. One was by the Episcopal Bishop of Arkansas, the Right Rev. Robert R. Brown, who wrote in his book Bigger than Little Rock about our Church’s involvement in the events that were changing our world. As I read his book, I had a vision of my Church stepping into the most controversial issue of the time and acting as an agent of healing, transcending the alienation created by racism and calling all men and women to be brothers and sisters. The other book, Light the Dark Streets, by C. Kilmer Myers, spoke of the Church’s ministry to the outcast in New York City – a ministry to the so-called “untouchables” of our society. And I was proud of my Church. I was proud that it could rise above a society that seemed to tolerate such painful divisions and proclaim a kingdom in which each of its citizens was given an honored place at the table.

There are moments when we, as individuals or societies or churches, are called to be “bigger than that.” They are usually hard times because we are called to put away views that we have lived with for a lifetime and see things differently. It has been that way from the beginning. People have attempted to define who was “in” and who was “out.” One of the big discussions in the Old Testament is whether God’s revelations are meant for the Jews only or whether the Jews have been favored by God to be the messengers of a much broader message to all of humankind.

Those kinds of disagreements were still going on in the day of Jesus. There were all sorts of arguments for exclusion: folks who didn’t keep the rules; folks who were considered foreigners; the Gentiles; the Samaritans, those people who were a sort of mixed breed; and the list goes on and on. Jesus didn’t seem keen on getting in on the debate. What did he say? Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” “All!” Jesus said, “All.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that in an incredibly radical statement. And we’re still having problems with it. Nobody is excluded from the love of Christ. God in Christ is calling us to be bigger than the narrowness of our own prejudices.

As I ponder the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to invite the Right Rev. Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference, I am saddened because it reflects the narrowness that has begun to characterize the Anglican Communion. Orthodoxy has been reduced to one's views on human sexuality. A Communion that has been characterized as being big enough to accommodate all sorts of diverse views, a Communion that incarnated the qualities of comprehensiveness and inclusiveness, has become a small place dominated more by prejudice than by the love of the Gospel of Christ.

Here we are again at Pentecost, that powerful moment when the fledging Church was called by God to grow bigger by reaching out to all people. Peter reminds those who were there that God has declared that “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” “All!” There is that word again. A tiny but mighty word that should make those who think they know God’s will tremble. And yet, as Bishop Tutu says, in the Anglican Communion, “we seem hell-bent on excommunicating one another!”

In my years as a priest in this Church, I’ve lived through a lot of meanness on the part of church people against one another, but the level of nastiness seems to have reached a new low. Frankly, it puzzles me. It puzzles me not because I’m surprised that people disagree with one another over the issues of sexuality. I understand and appreciate that. What does surprise me is that I’ve always experienced my Church as being “bigger than that.” I’ve known my Church could rise above its disagreements and find unity in the Christ who has called all of us to be brothers and sisters – even when we don’t like one another! We’ve said we want to have a discussion in which the issues of sexuality can be understood and appreciated. Yet, we will not invite to the table the very people who should be a part of that discussion.

God has always surprised us. Just when we think we know what God’s up to, God changes the rules on us (or at least the rules we’ve decided God has immutably decreed!). So I’m not worried about what the Church is going through right now. I’m not worried because I remember a time when I was a boy and was given a vision by a young teacher who believed in a country that could be bigger than Little Rock. I’m not worried because, throughout my ministry, I have caught sight of the world envisioned by those clergy who wrote in the '50s of a world in which there were no outcasts. I am convinced that God is saying to the Church something like my mother once said to me: “David, you’re bigger than that.”

Perhaps the Lambeth Conference is the first place to live up to God’s call.

About the Author: The Reverend David Fly, a retired priest living in Missouri, is the President and co-founder of The Episcopal Majority. During his active ministry, David served in urban, rural, and campus ministries. He was elected five times as a Deputy to General Convention. Since his early retirement in 1998, he has been in demand as a preacher, teacher, and conference leader. He is the author of Faces of Faith: Reflections in a Rearview Mirror (Church Publishing Inc.), and his essay, “An Episcopal Priest’s Reflections on the Kansas City Riot of 1968,” was published in the January 2006 issue of the Missouri Historical Review.

From Arizona

Bishop Kirk Stevan Smith's "E-pistle for May 25, 2007," reflects on the recently-issued invitations (and the withholding thereof) to the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Speaking of Archbishop Williams' decision not to invite Bishop Gene Robinson, he observes:

It also seems to me remarkably odd that the Anglican Communion, which has pledged itself to a "listening process" of the experience of Gay and Lesbian Christians, should exclude from that process one of its leading witnesses.

Although I am deeply disappointed by the Archbishop's decision and grieve personally for my friend, it is important that none of us, whatever one's perspective, respond in a reactive way to this news, which can only foster further division. I plan to follow the advice of our own Presiding Bishop who counsels "a calm approach," and who reminds us that "aspects of this matter may change in the next 14 months, and the House of Bishops' meeting offers us a forum for further discussion." I look forward to that meeting when the Archbishop will be with us.

Click here to read Bishop Smith's entire "E-pistle."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lambeth-ology (Woodward)

by the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward

There are several directions blogs can take in times of crisis. One is to advocate for a position against what one sees as threat. Another is to provide information about who really did say what and about what relevant documents show. In Lambeth-ology, I want to explore some of the issues involved in the invitations and lack thereof to the upcoming Lambeth Conference and to make some suggestions that are in, outside, and under the box.


I believe it is wise to throw our weight behind our Presiding Bishop and our President of the House of Deputies. They have shown in their recent statements and in their statesmanship in recent months that they understand the issues, the moral imperatives and the necessity that the Episcopal Church remain fully committed to the vision I and others have held before the church. I trust their work with our own bishops and with the Anglican Communion.


Bishop Gene Robinson has recently reiterated his suggestion to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he be given guest status at this Lambeth Conference rather than receive an invitation that would further divide the Communion. His words mirror the graciousness, generosity, and compassion for those who oppose and even vilify him. At a time when some people are hurling reckless charges about biblical standards, I am inspired by +Gene’s Christ-like response at this difficult time.

A Time for Circumspection on the Right

Network, Windsor-compliant, Camp Allen bishops have an unnoticed but important stake in the full inclusion of Bishop Robinson in the deliberations and attendance at Lambeth. Why? It is because once the precedent has been set that those who cause discomfort for significant blocks of bishops may be excluded, that precedent may fall back on those who might least expect it. For instance, many of our Anglo-Catholic bishops have been the most involved in matters of social justice. What if their stance was so clear and so compelling as to alienate the powerful bishops of other provinces? Would not they expect the support of their House of Bishops regarding Lambeth? Of course they would. Of course they should. Do conservative bishops want an Episcopal Church that will stand up for its bishops when they find themselves taking a stand against a significant part of the Anglican Communion? While that support should come free, there is a price to pay – and now is the time to pay it. This is the time to assert the full collegiality of our House of Bishops, affirming that significant differences will always be a part of the life of that body. The alternative, in Pastor Niemoeller’s words, will be the ecclesiastical version of

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.

A Time for Solidarity

As several have suggested, all bishops should be encouraged to wear a pink triangle, a rainbow pin, one of those "Ask me about Gene" buttons from the 2003 General Convention, or something similar – if for no other reason than that the attacks on Bishop Robinson have involved an attack on our own polity and the integrity of the Episcopal Church and our dioceses to follow our own constitution and canons.

When I was Episcopal chaplain at the University of Wisconsin, a local evangelist threatened to expose all the gay members of the state legislature and the Madison city council. Several legislators and city council members gathered with the campus clergy and others to plan a response. I was chosen to work directly with those involved. The following week, local newspapers reported that the mayor and the entire city council had passed a resolution which stated: “In response to the charges of the Rev. Wayne Dillabaugh that there are gay people in the city council, we hereby affirm that we, the mayor and all city council members are gay.”

We, as a community and House of Bishops, should do no less.

Not to Invite is to Invite – or “Beyond the Box”

The whole matter can be dealt with by logic. The argument that first surfaces against the consecration of Gene Robinson was that he was consecrated, not just as the Bishop of New Hampshire, but as a “bishop in the church of God.” So, the argument went, he was also a bishop in Nigeria, Bolivia, and West Texas. However, by not inviting him to Lambeth, the Archbishop of Canterbury is acknowledging that Bishop Robinson is merely a bishop in New Hampshire – and not centrally “a bishop in the church of God.” However, if that is so, the argument by Archbishop Akinola and part of the Windsor Report is moot. Therefore, since Bishop Robinson is not primarily a bishop in the church of God, but only a bishop in New Hampshire, he can and should be invited. Put in a way that Johnny Cochran would approve: “not to invite is to invite.”

As a footnote, while much has been made in denigrating Bishop Robinson’s consecration that bishops are primarily “bishops in the church of God,” it is true in our polity as well as from the early years of the Christian church (the Council of Nicaea) that no bishop can perform an ecclesiastical act in another diocese without the express permission of that bishop.

"Let Those Who Have Ears to Hear . . .” (Jesus of Nazareth)

As Bruce Garner, member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has noted, there is something seriously out of whack in the reasoning attached to excluding Bishop Robinson. Says Bruce: “We constantly hear the call to engage in dialogue with lesbians and gays as part of the 'Windsor Process' among other notions and processes. Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury essentially squelches that possibility by not including +Gene in the next Lambeth gathering.”

Most of us know by name several bishops who have received their invitations to Lambeth and have chosen not to be open and candid about their homosexuality. What insight they could provide to the other bishops at Lambeth! That probably will not happen, because those who have lived in that kind of fear for so long are not easily moved to a life of openness and candor – and because +Gene Robinson and others have the kind of integrity that will not allow them to expose those who have chosen to remain silent – even when it would be to their own advantage to do so.

It is obvious that our vocation as a Communion is to listen to one another – and we can’t do that by proxy. This Lambeth Conference, still in the planning process, provides an opportunity for repentance and renewal for our bishops and for us as a church.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More on the Lambeth Invitations

The Episcopal Café continues to do a fine job of collecting news and commentary. See their overnight news summary here. They also carry a report that two other Anglican bishops (Kunonga of Central Africa and Cavalcanti of South America) may not be invited to Lambeth; they print the story here.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson (President, House of Deputies) have both urged a restrained and thoughtful reaction. Meanwhile, CANA bishop Minns has issued this statement excoriating the Episcopal Church, and Nigerian Archbishop Akinola has declared that the Archbishop's failure to invite +Minns may precipitate a boycott by the entire Nigerian delegation.

As usual, Brother Tobias offers a thoughtful analysis. Read his Invitations Sent and Withheld, which begins:

Much is being made of the guest-list to Lambeth. To my mind, it seems above all that +Cantuar is giving +Abuja the opportunity to walk apart.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pittsburgh ... Following in the Footsteps of Fort Worth?

The Diocese of Pittsburgh today posted a summary of a diocesan leadership retreat. Entitled "Sober Leadership Retreat Considers Future of Diocese," it begins:

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh's Standing Committee, Board of Trustees and Diocesan Council discussed the future path of the diocese at Antiochian Village May 20-21. Speaking at the beginning of the retreat, Bishop Robert Duncan told diocesan leaders that "we're here together…to discuss our way forward in light of our failure to obtain Alternative Primatial Oversight."

Diocesan organizational consultant Cynthia Waisner helped the leadership identify a number of different choices in the light of the rejection of the 2006 appeals and, more recently, the House of Bishops' rejection of the pastoral plan put forward by the Primates of the Anglican Communion. The diocese could simply keep doing what it has been doing, remaining on the periphery of The Episcopal Church, but not attempting to reach a concluding moment in the conflict. It could submit to the will of the Episcopal Church in its majority, reversing the diocesan convention's actions over the last four years. It could attempt to separate as a diocese from The Episcopal Church, an option a number of Anglican Communion Network dioceses are considering. It could attempt to create space for conserving parishes to negotiate an exit from the diocese.

and concludes:

"We have reached a point where, one way or another, there will be a parting of ways. I pray that all of us, regardless of where we stand, will treat each other with grace and charity as we plan for our futures," said Bishop Duncan.
The whole thing is worth a read. It sounds like Pittsburgh is moving toward "a Fort Worth moment."

Lambeth Invitations

We are mindful that the Archbishop of Canterbury today announced his invitations to the dance that is Lambeth. His office most pointedly noted that Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson will not be invited, nor will CANA bishop Martyn Minns. Many people and organizations have issued statements in response to this news. Go to the Episcopal Cafe for a very fine round-up of the news and reaction. The Episcopal Majority joins those who are dismayed by the Archbishop's decision, and will issue a statement after some further reflection.

Grace Is Free (Marts)

About the Author: Pepper Marts is a member of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With a deep interest in the Church’s polity, he is a founding director of the Episcopal Information Network and editor of Network News. As a reporter he has covered General Conventions of the Episcopal Church since Philadelphia in 1997. The article below was written just over a decade ago as the introduction to a resource booklet for the first “Beyond Inclusion” conference at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. Sad to say, the piece required very little in the way of updating. Nevertheless. . . Excelsior!

Grace Is Free – Lunch Is . . .
(by Pepper Marts)

choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15( NIV)

… I say to this Church that there will be no outcasts.
Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning

When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Joshua climbs the mounded rocks at Shechem and speaks to the crowd. Canaan’s conqueror recounts salvation history and makes the ringing declaration: “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Imagine his sigh of relief: Thank God that’s over with! Now imagine Joshua’s surprise when he discovers that the decision cannot be taken once, for all; it will be a daily challenge.

How easy it is for Anglicans of a certain bent (I like to think of it as the gospel bent: an inclination toward love) to consider Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Right Reason, then come down squarely on the side of inclusion. But can even this decision be taken once, for all? At his installation as Presiding Bishop some two decades past, the Rt Revd Edmund L. Browning declared: “I say to this Church that there will be no outcasts.” How many times afterward was that dear and gracious man forced to take that decision again? What opprobrium and calumny did he bear for deciding each time that the Episcopal Church would consign not even one human person to the darkness?

Early on I learned that decisions have consequences: trusting my weight to a rotten branch; ignoring a parent’s caution; saying to myself “Surely, just this once…” Ah, friends, pain hurts, and most of us try to avoid pain. Sometimes, however, we cannot avoid it. And there are times when even to make the attempt is an act of unfaithfulness.

When an informed conscience leads us to stand against those with authority over us – or more dangerous, those with power over us – we must be prepared for the logical consequences. First, and easiest to identify, is the injury that a dominator may inflict on us and on those whom he identifies with us. Second and far more dangerous to the soul is the temptation to respond in kind: to encourage and become part of a continuing cycle of violence and hatred.

Do not think that I counsel even passive acceptance of domination. No, not at all; for therein lies the sin of complicity. Indeed, failure to name the evil I see and to take action against it is to put my sisters and brothers (and myself) at ever greater risk.

Gandhi, the modern non pariel of proactive non-violence, said he’d rather work with a warrior than a wimp. The warrior can be converted to non-violence; the wimp has courage for nothing – and the courage to be gentle is certainly needed if the opposition are to participate in their own redemption.

Yes, Gandhi was angry with the British: angry with what they had done and with what they were yet doing. But he did not hate the British. We want them to leave India, he said, but to leave as friends.

So we are called to expose evil and hold it up to the light. We must refuse always to countenance evil, whether by silence or by acquiescence or by willful blindness.

And all the while we shall remember that God loves our opponent no less absolutely – and forgives our opponent no less completely – than we ourselves are loved and forgiven. Only in the grace of this certainty can we avoid the snares of objectifying and demonizing. Only so can we plan and build and bind, committed to the glory of love.

The grace of discernment – of insight – lets us identify evil. The grace of congruence – of faithfulness – calls us to name what we see. The grace of hesed – God’s steadfast love – picks up the tab for lunch, then treats us to a double-fudge brownie for dessert.

The story is not yet over. Attempts at domination continue in Communion and Provinces, in dioceses and congregations. Pray for all of us, even as we pray and work for a whole church and a whole creation.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Black Hole of Fort Worth (Click)

For many months, The Episcopal Majority has encouraged Episcopalians in dioceses such as Fort Worth, Dallas, San Joaquin, and others to share their stories with the wider community. We are grateful that Barbi Click has been willing to submit this essay for publication on our site. It appears that the Communion generally hears from the dissidents who object to the direction of the Episcopal Church, and their voices create a skewed perception of our church. We invite other loyal Episcopalians to share their stories here.

Black Hole of Fort Worth
(by Barbi Click)

Sometimes, amidst the deafening silence, we forget that our voice can be heard by those outside of this diocese. Similar to a nightmare where the dreamer is trying to scream but no sound comes out – that is what it is like here in the Diocese of Fort Worth. We try to make our voice heard, but to no avail. Even the strongest grow weary with time.

There are good people here in Fort Worth, good loyal Episcopalians who want to be members of the Episcopal Church – far more loyal Episcopalians than anyone from the diocesan offices would ever admit. There are people here who disagree strongly with the bishop of Fort Worth on many issues. Yet at what price? Many have been worn down into silence simply because they have fought for so long to no noticeable avail. Some continue to stay the course under a constant barrage of derision. Others have been driven off. Some merely walked away in disgust. There are non-denominational churches here full of past Episcopalians. There are few Episcopal choices of parishes to attend if one stands out from the crowd. I drive 50 minutes each Sunday, passing at least four other parishes just to get to one that welcomes me. This commute makes it a bit difficult to be a full part of the parish life, particularly during the week.

Because of the widespread and well known animosity to those who disagree (whether loudly or not so loudly) with the diocesan "party line," a parishioner may be sitting next to another of like mind yet never know it. It is just not talked about. There is too great a risk in voicing an opinion to one who is in full agreement with the politics of the diocese. Too many people are just not willing to poke the sleeping bear. They "just want to go to church." Therefore, the wider Episcopal Church – not to mention the Anglican Communion – does not hear the voices of the loyal Episcopalians marooned in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

This situation negatively affects not only lay people, but also clergy. Many of the clergy are fully vested in the Church Pension Fund; some are biding their time. Some of those same ones are here because they know they were called by God to be here as pastors. What would happen to their people if they bucked the system too much? If they pushed just a little too hard? While vested, they are not necessarily ready for retirement. If they do not toe the line, they are ostracized, derided, reprimanded. To whom do deacons and priests turn when it appears they are totally alone? Of course, the sanctimonious will answer that question with "Well, to God, of course!" But the church is supposed to be about community – our relationships with one another – also.

Then there are those clergy who are here because they consider themselves "in exile." They do not feel welcome in other dioceses of the church. They don't want to be in other dioceses either, simply because they have such antiquated feelings toward women. Their options have been reduced to Fort Worth, San Joaquin, and Quincy. Then there are those who have finally been able to come home; they have been in other parts of the church, in other dioceses that they considered too liberal. Now they are safely ensconced within the boys-only club.

So what is a person to do to survive? Many hide out in their parishes, believing that if they just keep their heads down and go about the business of the church, then all will be well. They do their work – preaching and pastoring, altar guild, lector or lay reader, flower guild, Daughters of the King, women's or men's groups, Bible study, vestry stuff – and try to find hope in all of that. Many succeed. Others go to the service and then back to their secular lives.

From the time of its creation in 1983 (when it was formed out of the western section of the Diocese of Dallas), this diocese has never been a part of the Episcopal Church. Those who disagree with the official diocesan stance have always been alone, cut off in significant ways from the life of the Episcopal Church, because too many people outside this diocese believed the words coming from inside; they have believed it is just "a few whiny women" complaining. As the words and actions of this diocese's leaders have grown more extreme, others are beginning to see that this is not the case. It is not just a few whiny women, nor merely a few malcontents.

There is a deep seated problem in the Diocese of Fort Worth. It may be true that no canon laws have been broken yet; but these certainly have been bent. There is discrimination here for sure. The Episcopal Church in 1976 authorized the ordination of women to the priesthood and determined that gender should not be an automatic disqualification from the discernment process, but Fort Worth has been allowed a squeaky way to violate that canon since its implementation. Of course, finding someone to speak out against the diocese might be a bit hard. Not too many of those women who have been able to squeak through the infamous (but not infamous enough) "Dallas Plan" will speak out against the practices here. They have too much to lose. Is being a priest or deacon worth that much? And what can be said of a church that allows the price to be so high for one particular group? And isn't it strange that men deacons so often are transitional deacons, while all the women deacons are members of the permanent diaconate? I am not judging the permanent diaconate or those in it – merely making an observation about the lopsided gender ratio.

What parish here will call a woman? Or better yet, what parish here will find ways to call a woman priest even when the bishop says no? What woman will sacrifice her call to say "no" to the purported adequacy of the "Dallas Plan" and demand by canon law that she be allowed to be raised up by her own parish, by her own priest, by her community into the ordination process? What woman is willing to go through the possible years of canonical wrangling? For sacrificing her call and fighting legal battles is exactly what it would entail. What a spiritual community would have to surround her to do that! What spiritual energy and fortitude it would take to sustain that journey down that long road! The woman may be found, but I don't know if the community – locally or nationally – can be.

Despite this latest puff of hot air from Fort Worth, we realize it will probably be at least 1½ years before Fort Worth makes a move to abandon the See. Since it takes two consecutive diocesan convention votes to change the constitution, the earliest action should be November 2008, assuming the diocese plans to honor its own constitution and canons. So, as I noted in another blog, it is all just posturing. Thinking that the changing of the constitution will make them one less iota part and parcel of the Episcopal Church is as convoluted as thinking that women cannot be priests. This diocese exists only and because of the fact that it is a part of the Episcopal Church. Saying it isn't so, doesn't make it right.

About the Author
Barbi Click is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. She is Vice President of the South Central Region of Integrity, co-founder of Fort Worth Via Media and Via Media USA, and a novice Companion in the
Rivendell Community, a religious community of the Episcopal Church. She holds a Masters of Theological Studies from the Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A New Moses or an Old Lemming?

Thoughts on the Fort Worth Statement
(by the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward and the Episcopal Church Institute)

News from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is causing a considerable stir within the Episcopal Church and the World Wide Anglican Blogosphere. (Several references are provided at the end of this post.) Some on the “orthodox” side see Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker as the new Moses, leading the faithful out of a wayward and oppressive church into a land of plenty. Other “orthodox” are crying out to centrist and progressive parts of the Episcopal Church to save them from Fort Worth’s recklessness, saying, in effect: “Make TEC agree to Windsor, to the Primates, to whatever Covenant anyone devises – so Fort Worth will reconsider!” Most others will see Bishop Iker and his cohorts as Old Lemmings, leading one another over the precipice of the nearest ecclesiastical cliff.

Bishop Iker and the Executive Council of his diocese have announced their disdain for the Episcopal Church and their desire to disassociate themselves from it (even further than they did months ago). They note that “every attempt to find ‘an American solution to an American problem’ has failed.” That simply is not true. An American solution to this American problem was presented to Fort Worth by our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, in late November. The American solution was offered; but Fort Worth snubbed it.

The question that comes to mind is: “What was unacceptable to Fort Worth in our Presiding Bishop's offer to them?” Is the problem that it was offered by a woman? Or is it that the primate appointed for the Alternative Primatial Oversight would be accountable to a woman? If it were on theological grounds, Bishop Iker should have informed his people that, contrary to those who have been misrepresenting and twisting her remarks, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is firmly within the orthodoxy of the Anglican Communion and the church catholic. (See Bishop Whalon's remarks for one example countering the inappropriate and inaccurate attacks by the dissidents.)

The Episcopal Church Institute has informed The Episcopal Majority that it is prepared to offer a three-point American plan to keep the Diocese of Fort Worth within the Episcopal Church.

  1. Upon word from the Diocese of Fort Worth that it will accept Alternative Primatial Oversight from a bishop appointed by our Presiding Bishop on the condition that she will release that Alternative Primate (AP) from accountability to her, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will appoint the Primate of Canada to provide Primatial Oversight to Fort Worth.
  2. Given the objections of Bishop Iker and his disciples within Fort Worth to the ordination or consecration of women, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has consented [This is not public knowledge yet, so please do not pass this around] to be referred to by her middle name, nicknamicized as “Jeff.”
    This decision has come after considerable conversations with various theological committees which, together, concluded that because what is specifically male or female is not involved in the performance of any sacramental or sacerdotal action, that the only viable objection to the ordination and consecration of women to the priesthood or episcopate is that Jesus only called people with male names to the office of Apostle. Ipse dixit (and facto), “Jeff’s” orders can now be fully recognized within the dioceses of Fort Worth, Springfield, Quincy, Rome, and others.
  3. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth can invite one of the four members of the Episcopal Church Institute who are still in this country to consult with them about the meaning and importance of the consecration vows of Bishop Iker signed in the presence of his family, the bishops who consecrated him, and others, which read: “I solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.”
    The consultant will also provide a detailed analysis of the notion of obedience within ancient and traditional Christianity, especially as related to priestly and episcopal vows, noting that vows of obedience were never meant to end with matters any of us would do on our own, anyway.
So What about Moses and the Lemming?

What Bishop Iker and his Executive Committee have forgotten is that, in their leaving the Episcopal Church, all diocesan property (real and personal) belongs to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Bishops, clergy, and laypeople who leave the Episcopal Church and its doctrine, discipline, and worship leave like Moses and his band – with a few loaves of unleavened bread – and that is all.

The Cathedral, the parish churches, the embossed stationery, vestments, pipe organs, plaques from community organizations, and probably even the episcopal vestments worn in the past by Bishop Iker – they all belong to the Episcopal Church. The crosier stays for the next bishop of Fort Worth. With that in mind, is this about Moses or the Lemming?

Property law in Texas is about the same as it is in New Mexico. Both Texas and New Mexico are “Deference States,” whose laws defer to the hierarchy in property matters. We went through this recently in New Mexico when the State Legislature was asked to change the basis of the law from deference to church hierarchy to deciding property matters on "neutral principles" (which holds in California). The change was rejected because the State does not want to get into the adjudication of church disputes. They said, in effect: You have a structure; let those at the top decide this. The bishop and Standing Committee of Fort Worth may leave as individuals with their nametags, but …that's all, folks.

What is some foreign jurisdiction going to do with an Iker, several clergy, perhaps hundreds of parishioners with no money and no property? Is the new primate going to build new churches for this lot, buy new vestments for the bishop, provide cars, health insurance, and rectories for the clergy? Does that look like what Archbishop Akinola or any of the "Global South Primates" have been dreaming about?

If that weren’t enough, given that Fort Worth turned down a sincere and genuine offer of AlPO (Alternative Primatial Oversight) within the U.S., what overseas province would want to take a chance on its loyalty to a foreign jurisdiction when disagreements arose – money aside?

If this is a new Moses, it is a deceptive Moses – or, probably better put, a Lemming in Moses’ clothing. Our canon law is clear about property – and it is clear about who can leave the Episcopal Church. One entity that cannot leave is a diocese, no matter how hard they want to believe what isn’t true.

The Episcopal Church will continue to care for those who stay in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Even if Bishop Iker, the full membership of all diocesan committees, as well as other clergy and laypeople leave the Episcopal Church, the diocese will remain with all its buildings and property to be used wisely and prayerfully by those who remain. The Episcopal Church will continue in Fort Worth.

Moses himself may have been the prototype Anglican of pre-Christian and pre-Reformation days, for he led a group of people with enormous differences amongst themselves into a strange and often baffling culture, eventually transforming it. His leadership was courageous, and it was open to a developing and increasingly complex faith in the God who was calling him and his people to be God’s people for the world. Moses and others have been known as the pioneers of our faith, as they have led the way forward into new ways of being God’s community and new ways of expressing God’s inclusive love for all creation. Lemmings, however, are not guided by such a vision, nor are they heedful of those who warn them of their own self-destruction.

As we look around our beloved church, we can often recognize the Mose figures and the lemmings amongst us. We pray for a common vision and for a future based on the inclusive love, righteousness, and passion for justice and mercy we have met in Jesus Christ.

About the Authors
The Episcopal Church Institute, patterned after the Anglican Communion Institute in Colorado (currently decimated after the departure of Don Armstrong and some impressive financial backing), comes down to four middle-aged guys in the Southwest with no website and too much time on their hands. Members of the Institute are Arthur Sargent, Pepper Marts, Bill Easter, and Tom Woodward.

Addendum: Two Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth have written about the latest statement. See Barbi Click's "Posturing Imitators" and Katie Sherrod's "Flying Chickens."

Links and Background

On Wednesday, London Times columnist
Ruth Gledhill managed to create quite a stir with her "scoop" that Fort Worth, Quincy, and three other dioceses to be named later were about to announce their departure from the Episcopal Church. When the dust settled and Fort Worth released their highly-touted statement, nothing of the sort had occurred. (If you can't access the PDF file from the Fort Worth site, go here for an online version.) As the ever piquant Father Jake put it: "It appears the Diocese of Fort Worth has issued a statement, which can be summarized as 'we want Alternative Primatial Oversight (AlPO), and we really mean it this time!'" Other worthies have already commented on the Fort Worth statement, including Episcopal Majority member Mark Harris, and Episcopal News Service now has a story here.

The Fort Worth statement is not being uniformly welcomed by the dissidents, as is evident in the comments (verging on in-fighting)
here and here.

At the Network's November 2005 "Hope and a Future" conference hosted by Bishop Robert Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Archbishop Akinola urged the faithful to make their choice between scriptural fidelity and clinging to property:

"Many of you have one leg in ECUSA and one leg in the Network," declared Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. "You must let us know exactly where you stand - are you ECUSA or are you Network?" . . . . Best-selling author and Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren delivered the keynote sermon, during which he warned conservative Episcopalians not to fight over property. "It's your faith, not your facilities," Warren admonished. "Jesus didn't die for buildings. He died for people, not a steeple." [As reported by ENS and several other sources.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More on the Anglican Vocation

We are pleased to present some additional commentary on Dr. Ephraim Radner's essay, "Vocation Deferred: The Necessary Challenge of Communion."

A friend directs us to Deacon Ormond Plater's blog, where he has published "Communion In Christ: A Liturgical-Theological Reflection," from the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission (APLM). It bears upon Sargent and Woodward's "Radner Redux" as it addresses the proposed Anglican Covenant and the issues of church unity. Here is but one snippet:

To try to effect an artificial unity of the Body of Christ through doctrinal enforcement will only lead to yet another scandalous division in the Body of the Lord. It is also idolatrous, substituting a written agreement for the saving work of Christ on the cross, and the living, catholic call of the Gospel to incarnate Christ’s ministry in all places and in all times.
Click here to read the APLM's entire reflection.

Brother Tobias Haller offers a more direct response to Dr. Radner's essay in his "Rearranging the Chairs." Like Sargent, Brother Tobias takes issue with Radner's dichotomy of "confessionalist" vs. "localist." He suggests the significant dichotomy is between systemic change and renewal in accordance with the founding charism of the community. He begins:

In an otherwise well-thought out essay, the always well-worth-reading Ephraim Radner makes, in my opinion, an unhelpful dichotomy. He refers to two models for the church as “localist” and “confessionalist.” At issue are the political structures of and between the various churches; this is all about politics, about who relates to whom, and how they do so, and how decisions are made and enforced. In short, our present turmoil is about ecclesiastical polity, the form of church (or inter-church) government.

The main problem with this current essay is that Dr. Radner’s categories aren’t based on the real division, and I find he creates a distinction without a difference. Read his confessionalist definition and I would say it applies equally to the localist — that is, the church is entire wherever the forms and structures are intact, the sacraments administered, and the gospel preached. That’s the traditional Anglican definition, and it works for me as it has worked for Anglicanism up until very recently — it is the holographic model by which the church subsists entire in each particular provincial instance, much as Christ is truly present in every fragment of the loaf. The fact that Dr. Radner avoids the classical language in his first definition (and uses it in his second, thereby tipping his hand a bit) only makes it seem that the definitions are different.

But, of course, this isn’t the issue. Both of Dr. Radner’s “sides” would agree on that. The problem is “How do these various parts remain united under (or within) a form of governance?” The difference of opinion plaguing us at present is not about the nature of the church (local or universal), but about the day-to-day realities of recognition of orders, cooperation in mission, common worship, and so on. It is not about what the church is but what it does and how it does it.

The real difference is between federalists and unionists: those who want a dispersed authority based on autonomy of and cooperation by the interdependent members of the communion (what we’ve had in Anglicanism since the mid-19th century), and those who want a centralized authority based on a consensus of leadership with the authority to excise from membership those who buck the consensus (the impetus towards a superior synodicality).

In the "comments" section of Brother Tobias' blog, he and Dr. Radner engage in some further dialogue. Click here and read the entire analysis.

Addeddum 05.17.07: Many thanks to Marshall Montgomery (in the comments below) for pointing us to his two posts, which engage both Radner's essay and Haller's response. His posts are here and here.

Radner Redux

Radner Redux: A Fatal Misunderstanding of Anglicanism


Ephraim Radner is perhaps the chief theologian for the "orthodox" in and leaving the Episcopal Church (TEC). The Archbishop of Canterbury believes him to be one of the bright lights of Anglicanism in America. However, as Arthur Sargent shows, Radner’s understanding of the Anglican Communion is based on a dangerous minsunderstanding.

It is crucial that we counter this misunderstanding, as Dr. Radner is a key figure on the right. The Archbishop of Canterbury has appointed him to the Covenant Design Group, charged to draft the proposed Anglican Covenant (Their first draft is here.) In the midst of that process, Dr. Radner accepted membership on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, an organization that is well known for its ongoing efforts to undermine and subvert the United Methodist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches. This is not a time for overlooking a vision which would undermine our church.

Same Old Song, Second Verse
by Arthur L. Sargent

The author served as a university chaplain in the "troubled" sixties and early seventies. Experiencing massive burnout, he and his family tried the life of expatriates in Canada. He subsequently returned to this country and pursued a 25-year career in community service planning, development, and evaluation in Dallas, Baltimore, Chattanooga, and Oklahoma City. He is now retired, living in his own corner of paradise outside of Taos, New Mexico.

Ephraim Radner has once more delivered himself of wave upon wave of words in his essay, “Vocation Deferred: The Necessary Challenge of Communion.” In over 7,800 words Dr. Radner sets himself the task of reflecting on:
  • "the difficulty we [the Anglican Communion] have had in facing up to the challenge of Christian communion,"
  • "the consequences of this avoidance," and finally
  • "a possible way of understanding communion and Anglicanism in terms of a particular vocation or mission . . . . "
The first task is disposed of in a mere 2,100 or so words, if the reader is willing to accept his assertion that the Anglican Communion is split between two differing ways of being the church – "localist" and "confessionalist" – and the absence of a definition of what “the challenge of Christian communion” may be. In this context read TEC for “localist.” “Confessionalist” refers to some, but not all, conservatives. In any event, neither way of being the church is valid in Radner’s opinion.

Unlike the first, the second task is disposed of quite succinctly (if prematurely), since it is accomplished in the introduction to the discussion of the first task. But let us be thankful for the brevity and not quibble. The consequence is " . . . a turning away from communion . . . [that] . . . will most certainly destroy the practical realities of the Anglican Communion itself."

The third task consumes the remaining 5,000 words or so of the essay. However, for those whose time is short, go straight to the last sentence of the 35th paragraph: "living in Christian communion is a service that is properly fulfilled only as it is subject to the needs and counsels of the Church as a whole." [Emphasis added.] The highlighted phrase foretells where it all will end.

Now fast forward another 1,359 words to the next to last paragraph:

This is why, in my opinion, the proposed Covenant is so important . . . . Anglicanism now needs . . . a "rule" . . . [a reference to an earlier discussion of the Benedictine Rule with special attention to obedience to the Rule as interpreted by a discerning Abbot, whose interpretation is subject to intervention if he errs.] [T]he Covenant needs to be revised in a way that better expresses . . . the formational means by which obedience [emphasis added] can mold the virtues of this missionary life.
The only thing new is Radner’s admission the Covenant needs revision.

It is not self-evident to me what revision(s) Radner believes are needed. However, based on his lengthy paean to the Benedictine way of life, I suspect he desires the incorporation of a Rule in the Covenant to which all provinces would pledge unquestioning obedience. The content of such a Rule is not defined. I also suspect Radner equates a primate to a Benedictine abbot. Thus, primates (like abbots) would be responsible to a higher authority for administering the Rule. In the draft Covenant, the Primates' Meeting would be such a higher authority.

I am not the first to note that subjection to any authority is antithetical to the ethos of TEC as initially defined in the Preface to the first American Prayer Book. It is also a radical departure from what the Anglican Communion has been from its inception, for to this day the “Anglican Communion lacks any central body which has legal jurisdiction over the whole” and there is no “canon law globally applicable to and binding upon member churches of the Communion,” nor is there “any institution . . . with competence to create such a body of laws.” (See section 2.1 of John Rees' “Some Legal and Constitutional Considerations,” in the “Supporting Documentation” section of the Windsor Report.)

Radner saves the real surprise for the last paragraph. After thousands of words presumably demonstrating the necessity of a vocation to communion through obedience to a Rule, Radner writes: “There are no doubt other ways to approach the vocation of communion, if it is a vocation at all.” [Emphasis added.] My reaction to this surprising and quite unexpected questioning whether there is a vocation to communion was to wonder if the essay is no more than the ecclesiastical equivalent of a shaggy dog story (i.e., an extremely long-winded tale featuring extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents, usually resulting in a pointless or absurd punch line). Upon reflection, however, I am more inclined to see this paragraph as a crie de cour provoked by the realization that – despite his torrent of words – his vision is not going to carry the day. Thus the descent to an apocalyptic vision: "But perhaps the fire is already set, and another prayer of our Lord is wending its way to fulfillment (Luke 12:49)." [The biblical reference is: "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!"]

To make a long story short: Dr. Radner yearns for a curial authority in the Anglican Communion. There is nothing new there, except for his use of the image of a Benedictine Abbot as a surrogate in this essay. Having dismissed the "localist" and "confessionalist" models of being the church, Radner gives us a hierarchical and authoritarian model. For me there is nothing in the three models resembling the Anglicanism of the Episcopal Church that won my heart’s affection over fifty years ago and which has held it to this day.

Tom Woodward Responds to Arthur Sargent’s Analysis

I am grateful to Arthur Sargent for guiding us through this long and difficult piece. I have no disagreements with his analysis or conclusions. I merely want to focus on what Arthur has identified as the critical deficiency in Radner’s analysis.

I believe Ephraim Radner is mistaken on several issues right from the start in this and other pieces he has written. He revels in academic theology or what could be called abstract theology – and so he misses out on making the connections with the Christian faith as it is lived out. While theologians must possess the analytical tools necessary to their trade, they must also show some evidence of human engagement over the issues with which they struggle; otherwise, their theology ends up being vapid and their conclusions divorced from the incarnational roots of our Christian faith.

When Dr. Radner reflects on vocation, he sees only the big picture, whereas vocation is a matter that should be taken seriously on all levels of the church. My vocation as a priest and someone else’s have many things in common, but over the years we have most likely been called to express our vocations in significantly different ways -- just as St. Paul noted would happen in his various celebrations of diversity in the Christian community. (See Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12:4-31, and Galatians 5:22-23]. The same is true within each Episcopal congregation: our parish vocation may be spelled out in a mission statement, but it is also expressed in the interaction and fruit from the various vocations within the congregation.

In a healthy parish, various vocations to service, prophetic utterance, and the like are honored, while the vestry is guided by its mission statement. That statement is not intended to filter out the spiritual gifts of members of the congregation. No congregation of more than three people has a simple vocation.

The same is true of a diocese. In my diocese there are congregations that are called to ministry to the poor, others called to ministry to the surrounding culture, others to the work of prayer and intercession, etc. We, as a diocese, are not monochrome, nor are we committed to a single vocation.

Isn't this also true of our various provinces? Why does the vocation of the Episcopal Church have to be the same as that of Rwanda? Consultation is one thing among the provinces – which, of course, is different from consultation between primates; giving veto power over the vocation of another province is quite another. We live in a church based on the incarnation. Truth, for us, is not abstract, but incarnational and sacramental. God is incarnate, present sacramentally in different parts of the world and in different cultures. Woe to abstractionists like Radner, who would recast the Christian Church into something quite, quite different.

Radner misunderstands the vocation of Christians on the local level, on the diocesan level, on the level of our national churches and provinces and Communion – and even on the broadest possible level, the worldwide church of God, expressed in the work of the multitude of the various denominations as the full Body of Christ! Our vocation as Anglicans worldwide is not the same as the vocation of the Friends (Quakers), the American Baptists, the Greek Orthodox, or the Moravians. God allots the spiritual gifts as necessary for the entire vocation of the fullness of the church. [See again the Scriptures cited above.] Radner’s view of the church seems the equivalent of going to the circus to watch two and a half hours of elephant acts. A decent circus has elephant acts, but it also has trapeze artists, clowns, performing seals, balancing acts, horseback riders, jugglers, and people selling popcorn. That is the way St. Paul saw the church, and that is the way Jesus chose his apostles.

It is ironic that those dioceses in the Episcopal Church that insist on their right (or their perceived vocation) to have a male-only priesthood are those who are most insistent that the Episcopal Church not be permitted to assert its vocation to have a fully inclusive priesthood. Thus, bishops like Jack Iker, John-David Schofield, and Keith Ackerman can demand respect for their fairly peculiar position on the priesthood and episcopate while demanding – in the ironic next breath – that TEC be punished for its position which is supported by a large majority of Episcopalians around the country.

What Radner does not "get" is that the vocation of TEC is probably always going to be different from that of the Anglican provinces in Brazil or Nigeria or Rwanda or Malaysia. Even the Roman Catholic Church recognizes that in its own life – with quite different expressions of the church in Italy, Scandinavia, the United States, and Central America! Ephraim Radner seems to want to outdo the Curia in enforcing a common vocation for our various provinces. Where is St. Paul when we need him?? St. Paul would have been appalled at such a rigid, authoritarian, and homogeneous view of the church. So much for the “faith once delivered to the saints.”

I believe and our General Convention believes that it is the vocation of the Episcopal Church to be fully inclusive. That belief is founded upon decades of Bible study and theological reflection and the desire to follow where the large majority of our church believes God is calling us. That has integrity. Ephraim Radner and the bulk of Episcopalian theologians differ regarding that decision, but Episcopalians have always had those differences. That diversity and comprehensiveness used to be our glory. I believe it still is and always should be our glory. Radner seems to stand over against that glorious vision and practice – both in his words and, unfortunately, in his affiliations.

A world of diversity, complexity, and variation of vocation throughout the world? Yes. A world of Curial-enforced conformity? No.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Anglican-Episcopal Literacy Quiz

After seventeen days of extensive research and consultation, The Episcopal Majority has finally developed a quiz which will most likely qualify one for several offices in the Episcopal Church, including deputy to General Convention, bishop of an endangered diocese in either the northern or southern part of the United States, Official Commenter at Fr. Jake Stops the World, TitusOneNine, and Stand Firm in Faith, and as Certified Co-Pilot for our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts-Schori.

-- The Rev. Thomas B. Woodward

The Quiz

Please answer the following questions honestly, without consulting prominent web sites or looking at your neighbor’s computer. Your answers will determine the authenticity of your orthodoxy or "orthodoxy." Good luck and Godspeed.

Part One

In the past, Anglicans have struggled with many weighty issues. Some have caused splits, while others have not. Which of the following religious issues, having ardent supporters on both sides, have caused splits in the Episcopal Church?
  1. May Christians participate in armed combat, killing other humans on demand?
  2. May Christians use birth control methods?
  3. Must women cover their heads while in church?
  4. May Christians own slaves?
  5. Are women as suitable for ordination as men?
  6. Is abortion always wrong?
  7. May the church bless a life-long commitment between two people of the same gender?
  8. Given the clear Biblical prohibition against touching pigskin, may Christians play football?
  9. May murderers be ordained to the priesthood?
  10. May a gay priest with 30 years of exemplary service to the church be consecrated bishop?
  11. Should the tithe of 10% be mandatory for full membership in the church?

The following have divided Episcopalians, but have not caused splits within the Episcopal Church: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 11.

The following have caused splits within the Episcopal Church: 5, 7, and 10.

The following divided a congregation which had already split from the denomination: 3.

Bonus Question: Is there a common theme among the things that have caused splits in the Episcopal Church? [Hint: It is, apparently – at least in the minds of some – more important to God than money, murder, families, biblical commandments, or owning slaves.]

Note: One congregation that left the Episcopal Church over the issue of consecrating gay priests as bishops later found itself divided over the biblical issue of women having to cover their heads while in church. Those who felt that biblical commandment was no longer binding decided to return to the Episcopal Church; they were welcomed back.

Part Two
  1. Name five heroes in our biblical tradition who have served time in prison or have committed murder without serving time in prison.
  2. In the genealogy of Jesus, there are four women who are noted for "sexual irregularities." Name three of them.
  3. Name three crimes noted in Leviticus as deserving death.
  4. When Jesus is quoted as saying "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), which groups of people who believe in him and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit does he mean to exclude?
  5. When Jesus is quoted in the Sermon on the Mount as saying, "Judge not, that you not be judged?" which groups of people did he intend for us to continue judging?
  6. Are there sayings of Jesus or dicta of Paul which contradict or qualify the blessings in the Beatitudes for certain groups of people?
  7. In what is referred to as The Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus described those who will be saved and those who will suffer eternal punishment by their responses to the hungry, the poor, and the like. What happened to Jesus’ footnote, identifying those who would be excluded from the kingdom no matter how responsive they were to the poor?

    Bonus Question:

  8. Where does St. Paul contradict the saying of Jesus recorded in John 13:35, that "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" by saying, in effect, if you are gay or lesbian it doesn’t matter what Jesus said – you are damned through eternity if you express your love physically? [Hint: It is probably in Paul’s Epistle to the city where Pope Benedict now lives.]

    Double Bonus Questions:

  9. When the clear words of Jesus are contradicted by Paul, whose side would orthodox Christians choose?
  10. If the matter might involve the possibility of touching on human sexuality, whose side would "orthodox" Christians choose?
  11. Is it worth asking why?
  1. Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul
  2. Tamar, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth, Mary the Mother of Jesus [Corrected thanks to Julie+ and Jane Ellen+ in the comments section]
  3. Cursing one’s parents, touching pigskin, homosexual relationships, etc.
  4. None, absolutely none
  5. None, absolutely none
  6. None, absolutely none
  7. There is no such footnote. There never was such a footnote. You can find qualifications, denying certain groups from the kingdom, but not from the lips of Jesus. He does not distinguish the sheep from the goats by our prejudices, nor by Paul’s.
  8. Romans 1:26-27
  9. Jesus
  10. Paul
  11. Either "yes" or "no" is correct

Part Three
  1. When the Network, in its video, Choose This Day, refers to the Episcopal Church as a "foreign, alien and pagan religion," how does this comport with any reasonable standard of reason, grace, sanity, or even truth?
  2. Is it possible to disagree about matters of capital punishment, abortion, poverty, and biblical inerrancy, and still belong to the same denomination?
  3. Who said the following?
    a. "Peter Akinola is the Dick Cheney of the Anglican Communion."
    b. "The Roman Catholic Church cannot conceive of women priests. The Episcopal Church has woman priests who can conceive."
    c. "They wouldn’t be in CANA if they didn’t know what they’re doing – and they are not there."
    d. "We elected him bishop because we know him, and we know the Holy Spirit in him, and we trust in God’s presence."
  4. What would be the response in the Roman Catholic Church if a group of dissidents left the church and, in doing so, claimed the property of the parish for themselves?
  1. It doesn’t.
  2. Apparently so. We’ve done it for centuries.

  3. a. Hint: It wasn’t Dick Cheney. It was a member of the Episcopal Church Institute.*
    b. Mark Russell
    c. Mort Sahl (adapted)
    d. The people of the Diocese of New Hampshire
  4. Riotous laughter, followed by a brief pause and then twenty minutes of snickering and guffawing
* Note: "The Episcopal Church Institute" is a group of four loyal Episcopalians living in the Southwest, who have gleefully adopted the model of the Anglican Communion Institute, an impressive sounding "orthodox" group of six (now three) guys with a website, located in Colorado. So far, the worthies who comprise the Episcopal Church Institute share one computer amongst themselves. When their website is fully operational, the ECI Board of Directors will be listed there.
[Editor's Note: Perhaps these four worthies should read the news that the Rev. Don Armstrong, late of the Episcopal Church, has declared meaningless the work of the Anglican Communion Institute. In a newspaper article reporting that the ACI had "ditched" the Rev. Armstrong, he is quoted as saying, ". . . essentially ACI's work is done. Their mission is no longer valid as the Episcopal Church enters its last days, and their house of cards comes tumbling down." Somehow the Episcopal Church Institute appears to have more sense and more staying power than its "orthodox" predecessor. Any comments?]

Part Four: Essay Question

In 50 words or less, explain why Paul’s opinions about homosexuality are as important as the Incarnation, Resurrection, Holy Baptism, and the theology of our Book of Common Prayer.


If you have gotten this far, you have scored "Excellent." If you have failed to answer over half of the questions or have failed to provide the correct answer to more than three questions, you still have scored "Excellent," as we live by Grace. Amen.

The Episcopal Majority invites you to score yourselves and post your scores, comments, and quibbles below.

If you need an Official Certificate, please print the document below. Although the temptation to fund the work of The Episcopal Majority via a lucrative mail-order diploma business is strong, we have decided to operate on the Honor System. The Certificate is yours for the printing.


This certifies that _____________________ has completed the Anglican-Episcopal Literacy Quiz with a passing grade of ____ and is thereby qualified for the position of [check one]

__ Deputy to The General Convention of The Episcopal Church

__ Bishop of an Endangered Diocese of __ the North, __ the South of The Episcopal Church

__ Official Commenter on

__ Father Jake Stops the World
__ Stand Firm in Faith
__ TitusOneNine
__ The Episcopal Majority
__ Certified Co-Pilot for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori

__ other [please specify]: ______________________________________

Monday, May 07, 2007

The God of the Liar, the Larcenist, and Laughter (Woodward)

Reflections on the Visit of Archbishop Peter Akinola to Enthrone Martyn Minns in Virginia
(by the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward)

(Editor's note: The Reverend Woodward submitted this essay on May 3.)

In his book, The Prostitute in the Family Tree, Doug Adams notes that part of the historical reality behind the constant phrase throughout the Psalms of "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" is that
  • Abraham was always ready to lie when it was to his advantage,

  • Jacob’s life of crime began while still in the birth canal as he stole his brother’s birthright, and

  • Isaac’s name, in Hebrew, means "laughter," for the laughter of his parents at the news of Isaac’s birth during his parents’ old age.
Thus the characterization of the three great patriarchs of our faith as "The Liar, the Larcenist, and Laughter."

That was then; this is now. Now we are confronted in the church with the God of the Larcenist and the Liar, though it is no laughing matter.

The Larcenist

Just weeks ago, and just after his stint as advisor or consultant to a gathering of "orthodox" bishops of the Episcopal Church, Father Don Armstrong was charged in a formal presentment by his bishop and the Standing Committee in the Diocese of Colorado with diverting close to a million dollars in parish funds to his own use. The presentment, available now to the public, is a lengthy, detailed series of charges against Fr. Armstrong, based on the work of a top notch forensic auditing company. The very day Fr. Armstrong was notified that his church was prepared to hold him accountable for massive theft, he announced that he would transfer into Peter Akinola’s beachhead in the United States, CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America).

Martyn Minns, the ultra-conservative priest Peter Akinola chose to lead the incursion into the Episcopal Church, has set a new low in standards for ordination in any denomination by receiving Don Armstrong within hours of his being charged. The Biblical equivalent would have been Jesus proclaiming, "Thou art Judas and upon this betrayal I will build my church." This is not, as they say, a good beginning.

The Liar

This weekend marks the visit by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola to this country to enthrone Martyn Minns as head of Akinola’s scheme to replace the Episcopal Church with what some have described as a fundamentalist, neo-Puritan church. That visit raises two big questions. The first, as noted above, is the kind of inverted moral leadership we find so blatant in this new denomination, as with its newest cleric – and with the vitriolic attacks on gay and lesbian people by the Archbishop and several who serve him.

The second is a thinly disguised attempt to replace the Episcopal Church by another denomination, formed for the specific purpose of replacing us. The rhetoric of CANA and Archbishop Akinola is that of ministering to Episcopalians who no longer trust their own denomination; however, the paper trail of their organizations being built specifically to undermine and to replace TEC by those who call themselves "orthodox" has been verified over and over again – including this report by Jim Naughton.

Secret documents with detailed plans for the takeover surfaced early. The burgeoning movement was then financed with the bottomless pockets of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, including trips by "orthodox" bishops to various provinces in Africa to consult with Akinola and others about this new denomination – which would be described not as something new, but as "The Real Thing" as opposed to the church of our Book of Common Prayer, the Holy Bible, the Nicene Creed, and the General Convention. For proof of the superiority of this new denomination, its proponents quote Leviticus, Romans 1, and John 14:6 (leaving alone the witness of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and the bulk of John).

The new denomination was then buttressed by the formation of the Network of Anglican Confessing Dioceses and Parishes, later renamed the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, and finally wishing to be known as the Anglican Communion Network or merely "the Network." This is an organization of supposedly “orthodox” laypeople, clergy, and bishops representing somewhere between 5 and 15% of the Episcopal Church. Though many in the Network are among our finest clergy and laypeople in the church, that organization’s aims and morality were exposed in their creation of the organization’s organizing DVD, "Choose This Day." (The video is available online here and is sold by the Anglican Communion Network.) In that video, clergy and laypeople take turns lambasting the Episcopal Church as "heretical," "a new religion," "a forgery," as a "hijacking" of the Church, "a foreign and alien and pagan religion," and a "non-Christian religion." Members of the Network were told to take this video into the homes of loyal Episcopalians in an attempt to wean them away from the church they loved.

Again, while there are many fine church people in the CANA movement, the driving force behind the movement has been based on misrepresentations and lies, such as the rhetoric of the Network video.

No Laughing Matter

One of the central issues for any church is the moral leadership it provides – in particular the kind of moral leadership we have learned from Jesus, the Christ. While we have argued about various interpretations of Scripture and whether or not we are bound by a literalist interpretation of a small collection of Scripture dealing with homosexuality, we have ignored the issue of moral leadership.

Is there a place for people disaffected with the Episcopal Church and wanting something more strict and tending towards Biblical literalness? Of course there is – both inside and outside the Episcopal Church. Progressives and moderates in the church are pushing no one out. We retain the Book of Common Prayer, the Nicene Creed, our Constitution and Canons, our dioceses and parishes and missions, and the authority of the General Convention. All are welcome under that umbrella. For those who do not find that sufficient, we wish them well and want to support them in any ways we can – but free from larceny, and free from lies and misrepresentations, and free from claiming to be what they are not: a replacement or cozy branch of the Episcopal Church. And that is no laughing matter.