Monday, December 31, 2007

Daily Office Old Testament Reading For New Year's Eve

1 Kings 3:5-14

5At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ 6And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’


This reading for New Year’s Eve strikes me as having great resonance, as we approach a new year. Solomon displays a kind of humility and wisdom that we could aspire to embody. He recognizes that he is called by God to leadership, and that he is not uniquely qualified for this great service. He asks God to grant him wisdom for the benefit of Israel.

God honors Solomon’s request to know what is right, because the request is not self-serving. Can we work from the same sentiment that motivated Solomon? Would the Church be a more faithful servant of the Gospel, if we could put our more worldly desires aside, and work for righteousness?

Solomon certainly had aspirations, hopes and fears, but he keeps them in check, and exercises a more holistic vision. In articulating the vision that transcends his own concerns, Solomon receives God’s blessing. My prayer for the Church is to transcend our particularity and see the bigger vision of God. In doing so, we, like Solomon, will be blessed.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007a

Below is the sermon I wrote for Christmas Eve, but didn’t preach.

Preparing to address you on this most holy night of our Saviors birth, I scoured my memory for the right story that would capture the gravity of the Incarnation, and make it relevant to our lives. I thought about all the stories I have heard in Christmas sermons. I even remembered some of the stories I have told in Christmas sermons, but nothing seemed quite right. It would be easy enough to tell a story that would tug at our heart strings, but this year nothing struck me as right.

The story that causes us to gather this night really isn’t about us, as much as it is about something God has done for us. We are observers of the events that unfold in our sight. We look on as a young woman gives birth to her first child that we know, and she knows to be the Son of God. We watch this event as the world sleeps. A few shepherds witness the birth, a father watches and waits, but most of the inhabits of the city, nation and world miss it. Like us, they will only hear about it, and relive it later.

The story we relive gives us clues as to what it all means. The king has come into history to oppose the Caesars of this world. Angelic messengers proclaim that God is now with us. Yet, it all happens in a stable with all its earthiness. The Newborn King is heralded by heaven, more than earth, and we look on witnessing what God has done.

The vulnerable newborn rests in a manger, a feed trough really. We might see the trough and imagine it to be like a bed, but it is not. It is a piece of agricultural tool designed to sustain creatures. I can’t help but think, the Messiah resting in a feed trough is more symbolic, than expedient. For as we look on this child, we see him and know him to be the source of our sustenance and salvation.

We watch for now, but we must leave side of the manger. When we depart, we ponder, like Mary, what we have seen. We seek to lay claim to the meaning of this event in our lives. We give thanks for the gift of this child. This Child seeks to take us somewhere. We will follow, where he leads

Friday, December 21, 2007


Check out this NYT article about St. Bart’s, New York City and the Rev. Bill Tully. Established parishes in urban areas often face unique and difficult challenges. Many of the largest cities in the U.S. are not exactly hotbeds of religious devotion. Doing business in New York is costly. The resources, directed to build these historic churches, are long gone. Patterns of giving to churches has radically changed, and not for the good.

In the article, Father Tully says, “I didn’t want to be known as the rector of a fancy landmark and nothing more.” This quote presents the reality and challenges that many churches face. We spend a good deal of time and money preserving buildings. Managing property is part of our task, but it can’t be out of proportion to our Gospel mission. Our properties are tools to fulfill the Gospel mission and nothing more.

Advent is nearing completion. We would do well to rededicate ourselves to our core task, as we mark the beginning of it. The Christ is coming, and we are called to make it known. Are we dedicated to historic preservation or proclamation?

To Keep Doors Open, St. Bart’s Opens Its Arms

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Very Interesting Look At Anglican Approach to Scholarship

This article deals with some of the issues that divide Anglicans. The author focuses on differences in methodology and approach. I would contend that no matter what our stance on these issues might be, the process of addressing them betrays more serious issues. This is indeed a struggle about the very nature of Anglicanism.

Anglicans Need Deep Learning not Cheap Victory

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sweet And Bitter

Although this post from Connexion is a little over the top, it communicates a truth.


Boycott Nativity Plays!
by Kim

Recently the Catholic League in the US idiotically called for a boycott on the film version of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (it turns out there is nothing to boycott - all the scathing offence of the novel, its prophetic critique against idols and ecclesiastical corruption, has been removed). Well, now I am calling for a boycott on Nativity Plays, and I will be picketing Richard’s church this Sunday morning. Or is it the following Sunday morning? What the hell, I’ll picket both Sunday mornings!

Why? Because the children in Nativity Plays are corrupting our grown-ups. Parents and relatives watch little Johnny with a towel over his head, and little Billy in his dressing gown carrying a shoe box - the traditional sartorial iconography for shepherds and kings - and little Mary playing, er, Mary, cuddling a dumb doll, and they go, “Ah, isn’t it sweet!”, as they take their photographs for the family album.

But the Christmas story isn’t sweet! It is bitter - very bitter. The crib and the cross are cut from the same wood. The Nativity Play is a Passion Play. The message of Christmas is the same message as Good Friday: when God appears, church and state try to kill him, though Pilate and Caiaphas succeed where Herod fails. And those who recognise the Messiah are the least likely ones: at his birth, shepherds (despised by Israel’s Religious Right for working on the sabbath and travelling through Gentile regions), Iraqi astrologer-priests (not only leaders of another faith but representatives of Israel’s Babylonian conquerers); and during his ministry, apostates (like the woman of Samaria), quislings (like Zacchaeus), the filthy (like the woman with chronic menstrual bleeding), and those (supposedly) bearing divine judgement (the blind, lame, leprous = HIV-positive).

Is this the message grown-ups take away with them from Nativity Plays? Is it heck! For Christian parents too Nativity Plays send soporific signals that Christianity is a “nice” religion, turning out obedient children (Jesus ran away from home when he was twelve) and loyal citizens (Jesus was condemned as a dissident) rather than non-violent revolutionaries. The church rants and complains year after year, with boring self-righteous regularity, that our awful secular society has forgotten “the reason for the season”, as if a cheap marketing rhyme will lead to repentance, when it should well know that judgement begins in the household of God.

So boycott Nativity Plays! Unless they are scripted by Quentin Tarantino and the ending is changed to reflect the reality of what Mother Church has done: Mary takes the child and hands him over to Herod.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Critique Of The God Delusion

I came across this out in cyberspace. It is directed toward Richard Dawkins, and I presume his book, The God Delusion. To be 100% upfront, I have not read the book. Those of you that have read the book, or are planning to do so, or have heard about it, might find the following interesting.


Ten propositions on Richard Dawkins and the new atheists
by Kim Fabricius

1. Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists do not like Christians. They like Muslims even less. We are like people who believe in leprechauns, only worse, because people who believe in leprechauns, while ignoramuses, are not warmongers and terrorists (unless they also happen to be Irish Catholics or Presbyterians). So the New Atheists are our enemies. But remember, Jesus said that we should love our enemies, forgive them, and pray for them. Besides, nothing will piss them off more.

2. But Professor Dawkins is not just angry with Christians, with particular dismay at scientists who are Christians, who, of course, are huge flies in his ointment (at the word “Polkinghorne” he grinds his teeth). Dawkins also gets angry with fellow scientists on scientific matters. One of his most bitter and public altercations was with the late Stephen Jay Gould, the famous Harvard palaeontologist. The religious affairs correspondent Andrew Brown wrote a book documenting this rabies biologorum: it’s called The Darwin Wars. So you’ve got to be fair to Dawkins, he is evenly balanced: he has a chip on both shoulders.

3. I should point out that the word “wars” in The Darwin Wars is (I think) a metaphor. Professor Dawkins himself has a knack for the memorable metaphor. His great book The Selfish Gene is a case in point. People can be literally selfish, but not genes. Indeed Dawkins does not even think that there are genes for selfishness. Okay, he wrote: “The gene is the basic unit of selfishness.” But he didn’t really mean it. Not literally. The author of Genesis said that the universe was created in six days. But who would take that literally except some crazy fundamentalists? Oops – and Dawkins.

4. In The God Delusion Professor Dawkins suggests (no, states, Dawkins doesn’t do “suggests”) that “the Christian focus is overwhelmingly on sin sin sin sin sin sin sin.” No commas, unrelenting. And count them: that’s sin x 7. Perhaps this is a clever allusion to Matthew 18:21. After all, even the devil quotes scripture. The self-proclaimed Devil’s Chaplain continues: “What a nasty little preoccupation to have dominating your life.” Yes, we Christians think of little else. But here’s a thought. All those wars like the one in Iraq that Christopher Hitchens is so keen on, or the practice of torture that Sam Harris says is necessary – that couldn’t have anything to do with our “focus”, could it? But, hey, aren’t Hitchens and Harris New Atheists?

5. Their teaching on sin shows the New Atheists to be true children of the Enlightenment – that and their belief in religionless “progress”. Now Professor Dawkins’ case against faith is that it is “belief without evidence”. (For the sake of argument, never mind that this definition itself is belief against the evidence.) So on his own terms we may be permitted to ask Dawkins, “Where is the evidence for this progress?” Forgive me, dear reader, for wearying you with the obvious: the names of such progressive statesmen and harbingers of world peace as the atheists Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Pol Pot. Oh, and isn’t there the little matter that teleology has no place in evolutionary theory? Progress? My money is on the leprechauns.

6. “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.” After this now famous first-line knockdown punch by Terry Eagleton it would be unsportsmanlike to bully the bully. Professor Dawkins does not enter the ring with the intellectual heavyweights of the Christian tradition, though he occasionally throws a bottle at them from the seats. Is he ignorant, hubristic, or just plain chicken? Whatever. The irony is that Dawkins thereby again betrays the very Enlightenment he represents (as Tina Beattie records a comment Keith Ward made to her, with sadness), “everything that the Western intellectual tradition stands for, with its privileging of informed scholarship based on the study of texts.”

7. If Professor Dawkins is the “bad cop” of the New Atheists, the Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee is probably the “good cop”, while Christopher Hitchens is undoubtedly the “corrupt cop”. I saw him on the British TV programme Question Time, contemptuously holding court like Jabba the Hutt. And I sat for half-an-hour at Waterstone’s dipping into the over-priced God Is Not Great as if it were dishwater, a highly flattering simile. Hitchens’ penetrating scholarly appraisals include descriptions of Augustine the “ignoramus”, Aquinas the “stupid”, and Calvin the “sadist”; while Niemöller and Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the Nazis was motivated by a “nebulous humanism”, and Martin Luther King’s faith was Christian only in a “nominal sense”. Enough said. It is all rather embarrassing.

8. There are two reactions to this sort of illiteracy that must be avoided. The first is the response of the right, which, when not hysterical, simply confirms the unquestioned assumption of the New Atheists that God is a huge and powerful supernatural being whose ways with the world are, in principle, open to empirical discovery and verification. This is the God of Intelligent Design. If ID is science, it is either bad science or dead science. “Bring it on!” cries Professor Dawkins, gleefully rubbing his hands together. But even if it were good science (and, by the way, weren’t driven by a political agenda), it would be dreadful, indeed suicidal theology, for the god of ID is but a version of the “god of the gaps”, a god deployed as an explanation of natural phenomena, a hostage to scientific fortune, in short, an idol. The operation of ID can be successful only at the cost of the patient.

9. The second response is the response of the left, the liberals. On this Enlightenment view, science is given its due in the realm of “facts”, while religion is cordoned off from the New Atheists in the realm of “values”. There is a superficial attractiveness to this division of territory – Stephen Jay Gould called it “NOMA”, or Non-Overlapping Magisteria, separate but equal – but in the end it amounts to theological appeasement. For the realm of “facts” includes not only the empirical, natural world but also the embodied, public, political world, while religion becomes the sphere of the “spiritual”, the interior, and the private. The church cannot accept this partition for Leviathan, the nation state, is a violent and voracious beast. Nor, however, is the church called to become the state: theocracies are inevitably gross distortions of power, whether the flag bears a cross or a crescent. Rather the church is called to be a distinctive polis forming citizens for the kingdom of God and sending them into the kingdoms of the world as truth-tellers and peacemakers.

10. The New Atheists don’t only have a dashing if reckless officer leading an army of grunts, they also have their aesthetes, a brilliant novelist in Ian McEwan, a master fantasist in Philip Pullman. Are they dangerous? Of course! Yet if the Russian expressionist painter Alexei Jawlensky was right that “all art is nostalgia for God”, there is nothing to fear and something to gain from them, their didacticism notwithstanding. Unlike atheist writers such as Camus or Beckett who (if you like) have been to the altar but cannot kneel, McEwan and Pullman are unacquainted with the God of Jesus. Nevertheless, McEwan, in novels like Enduring Love, Atonement, and Saturday (titles freighted with theological irony), so elegantly probes the human shadows, and Pullman, in the His Dark Materials trilogy (the title drawn from Paradise Lost), so imaginatively narrates the themes of innocence and experience and exposes the corruptions of false religion, that we feel at least that we have been in the outer courts of the temple. It is certainly better to read this outstanding literature and be disturbed by it than not to read it at all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Good Advent Post From Dr. Bryan Owen


I must confess that I am something of a slacker. I read Morning Prayer most mornings, but read all three lessons assigned to the day. This is my method because the evening office is not a habit.

This reading from the Daily Office reminded me of a previous post about faith and action. The “woes” are Jesus’ critique of those that claim to be righteous, but are really playing semantic games, and engaging in hypocrisy.

Advent strikes me as a perfect time to appraise our faith and deeds. Again, right belief and right action are bound together.
If we are vessels to receive the One who is to come, we must be ready inside and outside.

It is not about fear. It is about congruence. It is about being real.


Matthew 23:13-26

‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

‘Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.” You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, “Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.” How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

From The New York Times

The fraying of ties weighs on the Rev. Keith Axberg, rector of Holy Family in Fresno, which will stay in the church. “You have two different world views in the diocese: There are those with a real concern for purity and orthodoxy, which are very important, and I admire that they stand up for bedrock values, like the fact that Jesus is Lord,” Mr. Axberg said. “The Episcopal Church has stood up a great deal for social justice. You really need both sides to hold each other to the fire. But they have blinders on to one another.”


It would seem difficult to read the Bible, and miss Jesus’ concern for justice. As Christians, Jesus’ concern is our concern. We are charged, as people of faith, to execute Jesus’ just vision of the Kingdom.

We act, not because Jesus’ teaching seems good, or right. We act, because Jesus is the revealed Eternal Word of God. The authority of Jesus’ words stem from his identity as The Word.

For Christians, right belief and right action are inextricable. Both are the product of the unfolding grace of God. All would do well to remember this most basic truth.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

San Joaquin

According to several bloggers, San Joaquin voted at their convention to exit ECUSA, and join the Southern Cone. Below, is posted Bishop Schofield’s address to convention. From my perspective, it is a sad day.


Diocese of San Joaquin: December 7, 2007
The Bishop’s Address
48th Diocesan Convention
St. James’ Cathedral, Fresno

Thousands of years ago two men stood before Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go...’ (Exodus 5.1) Pharaoh’s response? He increased the work load and took away the resources that the people of Israel had come to depend on.

You know the story as well as I do. And, as one of our young priests reminded me recently, after the plagues, the exodus from Egypt, followed by the great deliverance at the Red Sea, when the Promised Land came into view, Moses sent the heads of each of the twelve tribes to spy out the land. Upon returning to report on what they had seen, they dissuaded the Israelites from entering the Promised Land. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes,” they said, “ and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13. 33) The people refused to take what God was offering to them. So, the Lord declared: “Forty years – one year for each of the forty days you explored the land – you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.” (Num. 14. 34) 

One man had stood alone, Caleb of the Tribe of Judah. It was he who declared: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Num. 13. 30) The end result was God’s blessing: “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” (Num. 14. 24)

Timing matters. GOD’S timing is essential! Delayed obedience in Scripture is seen as disobedience when opportunities and blessings are lost.

For twenty years and more we have watched The Episcopal Church lose its way: straying, at first, from Scripture... to the point of dismissing the Word of God, in some instances, as mere historical documents – of value, perhaps in bygone eras – but no longer applicable to us, to appropriating powers to itself through the General Convention it had never had and, finally, on to unilateral decisions about theology, sexuality, and ordination potentially cutting itself off from the Anglican Communion. J. I. Packer, the eminent British Theologian now living in Canada, puts this in clear perspective when he says: “Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverence, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the culture pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the “in thing” at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss.”

For years organizations such as Episcopalians United, Episcopal Synod of America, American Anglican Council, and finally the Anglican Communion Network have been founded to explore ways to keep orthodox believers within the liberal Episcopal Church and to allow some measure of freedom to believe, worship, and practice the faith. The newest organization, the Network, went out of its way to declare itself operating under and within the Constitution of The Episcopal Church. However the gap has only widened; and Episcopalians have begun to do what we have always done... leave quietly. This drain was not mentioned at first, but one could hardly help but notice how a Church that had once claimed 4 million members was now announcing itself to the news media as a 2.5 million member Church. The leadership in New York still clings to this public image even though, by its own statistics, there seem to be fewer than 900,000 parishioners nationally in church on any given Sunday.

Individuals leaving did not seem to cause a problem at first...that is, until they left together as whole congregations. Within a short time two newcomers appeared: the Anglican Mission in America (AMia) whose original bishops were consecrated by overseas Primates and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) sponsored originally by the Primate of Nigeria whose own membership numbers 20 million or more. These two organizations along with others who have fled for protection to the Bishops of: Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Uganda, and Kenya account for more than 360 congregations or the equivalent of some SIX medium sized dioceses. These congregations are reporting amazing growth. 

The rector of a newly formed congregation in Garland, Texas visited my office within the last two weeks. He recounted how he had been given 48 hours to vacate his church premises and find somewhere else to worship. With 80% of his congregation, they moved in that time period. Now, less than a year later, they have tripled in size, purchased six acres of land, and have in hand the money for a new church that will be larger and provide opportunities for ministry never part of the old structure. These faithful Anglicans, along with the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, Springfield and San Joaquin, lumped together with thousands who have simply stopped attending church altogether have been called “the Fringe” or the “insignificant and marginal minority” by the Presiding Bishop’s office... and dismissed. If this were so, one wonders why we seem to be worthy of intimidation, depositions, and law suits. Why not let this insignificant minority go? Why not forget Christ Church, Plano – the largest parish of the Episcopal Church, 20 parishes in Virginia, the Pro-Cathedral of El Paso, Texas who had to buy their way out of The Episcopal Church for $2 million, or the growing number of parishes in Los Angeles and San Diego who are looking for ways to depart? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that every month several more parishes leave while 1,000 parishioners depart WEEKLY for an African Anglican jurisdiction. Growing, while all this is going on, also are the congregations associated with the Network who now see our numbers swelling to over 250,000 members. Again, why is it that within the past year four of our bishops have retired only to become Roman Catholics while another has joined Cana? This has never happened before! Something is drastically wrong!

For the first time publicly, at least, leadership within The Episcopal Church is showing signs of concern. An Interim Report, prepared by the House of Deputies Committee of the Episcopal Church, shows –according to news reports– the denomination continuing to decline with a 41% attendance drop... attributed directly to congregations departing over the sexual innovations in the church. Worrying – at LAST– about identity, mission, and organization, the report states: “We cannot be leaders within our Church nor in the global community if we are unsure who we are or where God is calling us to go. Criticisms that we need to be more proactive... or that we are aggressively reactive ... both relate to our understanding and embrace of God’s kingdom and the Salvation we are offered in Jesus Christ – or to our LACK of such understanding and engagement.” (Emphasis added) 

On November 16 and 17, 2006 the Steering Committee of the Global South, meeting in Chantilly, Virginia, asked two things of Anglicans representing both those within the Episcopal Church and those who had left. They were: 1) To select a single spokesman who has the trust of all and is able to represent the many voices of orthodox Anglicans in North America; and 2) To bring together in a single body as many like-minded Anglicans as possible. (It had been confusing for overseas bishops to hear the voices of so many who were claiming to speak on behalf of orthodoxy.) Those two requests were met. The Rt. Rev’d Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Network was chosen unanimously as spokesman. Shortly thereafter, Bishop Duncan called together the first meeting of Common Cause Partners. What a wonderful response he has had. Representatives of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Amia, Cana, and a number of Continuing Anglican Churches have come together. This Fall over 40 bishops of Common Cause met in Pittsburgh to affirm The Articles of the Common Cause Partnership and its Theological Statement. 

Following the historic meeting in Chantilly, the Primates of the Global South insisted that Bishop Duncan be included in the larger meeting of all the Primates at Dar es Salaam where directives were given to protect orthodox believers within the Episcopal Church. There were unanimous decisions of the Primates to which Katherine Jefferts Schori publicly agreed. These included:

The Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church 
1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention; and 
2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent 
unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion.

The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007. 
If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

On property disputes 
The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations. 

Despite the attempt made to show that the House of Bishops and, therefore, The Episcopal Church, had met all the requirements and were Windsor Compliant, a surprising number of American bishops have continued to state publicly they will not be bound by overseas interference and will continue to permit the blessing of same-sex unions. Even though not elected as bishop, the Diocese of Chicago nominated a lesbian candidate contrary to the directive in the Dar es Salaam Communique. And one has only to read the newspapers to see that litigation is being pursued vigorously in Virginia and California with threats to do so again in the recent letters by the Presiding Bishop to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, and this week to me in San Joaquin.

What are we to make of this duplicity? Surely the Primates are aware, as are we, that a major part of the House of Bishops in The Episcopal Church –along with members of their dioceses– have no intention of complying with the requests of the greater part of the Anglican Communion. Pride alone would suggest that the rest of the world will eventually see the validity of what is being done in the United States. Therefore, we are being prophetic in our actions. It might also suggest that there is a wholesale indifference to what the rest of the Anglican Communion thinks. Whichever it is, WE in San Joaquin need to ask the Lord what WE must do as Anglican Christians both evangelical and catholic.

Today we stand at a critical juncture in history. It would be myopic to imagine that the rest of Christendom, let alone the Anglican Communion, is not watching and praying as we deliberate. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us in the momentous decisions that lie before us.

It is only natural to experience fear, for what we are considering takes the Diocese of San Joaquin into unchartered waters. The leaders of the General Convention have expended enormous energy to spread their mantra: “Individuals may the leave the Church, but Parishes and Dioceses cannot.” No one seems to know who dreamed up this idea. What we DO know is that it is simply not true! During the time of the Civil War in the 1860's when this nation was torn apart, dioceses in those states called the Confederacy withdrew from what was then known as The Protestant Episcopal Church. During the war years they held their own conventions, developed their own Constitution, had there own House of Bishops, elected a Presiding Bishop, and consecrated a bishop for one of their dioceses. Nothing could be clearer. The southern dioceses had departed and had created a separate church. Today we might call it their own Province.

Unlike many of the Protestant denominations, however, it didn’t make sense to Episcopalians to maintain the separation when the war ended. Not only were the southern bishops and their dioceses welcomed back, the newly consecrated bishop was recognized, and no punitive action was taken against anyone. Presumably the southerners had taken their property with them when they left. And, they would not have been the first to do this.

Centuries before, King Henry VIII, with the help of Parliament prevented all English money from going to Rome. This action was followed up by taking all the property of the churches, including the monasteries and shrines –many of which he dismantled and sold. Today, were you to go to Ireland in search of a name or a tombstone of anyone buried before 1540, your search would have to be in Anglican –not Roman Catholic– churches and cathedrals. Somehow the Pope never asked that they be returned to him...and they weren’t.

Colonial churches, especially those in Virginia, whose existence pre-date not only The Episcopal Church but the United States itself, were never given back to the Lord Bishop of London nor to the Archbishop of Canterbury when, after the American Revolution, Anglicans identified themselves as Episcopalians. They took their property with them. 

History is replete with instances in which dioceses, too, have moved from one Province to another – no matter how it was accomplished. Liberia moved from The Episcopal Church to the Province of West Africa, Venezuela moved from the West Indies to The Episcopal Church. Mexico has moved back and forth from The Episcopal Church more than once. 

Historically, Provinces, such as The Episcopal Church, are not, and never have been, an essential part of Catholic Order. On October 14th this year, Rowan Williams, our present Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida: “...Without forestalling what the Primates might say, I would repeat what I’ve said several times before – that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such.” Later, in the same letter, Archbishop Williams strengthened what he had said already by adding: “I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who were most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the ‘national church’.” (Emphasis added) Abstract realities do not own, nor have they ever owned, property.

There is no question that what we are considering today will be called Schism. We will be told that unity trumps theology. We shall be told that we are doing is destructive and against history and Catholic Order. Once again, the words of J.I. Packer are most helpful. He notes: “Schism means unwarrantable and unjustifiable dividing of organized church bodies, by the separating of one group within the structure from the rest of the membership. Schism, as such, is sin, for it is a needless and indefensible breach of visible unity. But withdrawal from a unitary set-up that has become unorthodox and distorts the gospel in a major way and will not put its house in order as for instance when the English church withdrew from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century, should be called not schism but realignment, doubly so when the withdrawal leads to links with a set-up that is faithful to the truth, as in the sixteenth century the Church of England entered into fellowship with the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Europe, and as now we propose gratefully to accept the offer of full fellowship with the Province of the Southern Cone. Any who calls such a move schism should be told they do not know what schism is.”

For those of us who are facing the unknown, Provinces and Property seem to be among the top concerns. As bishop, I would like to suggest to you that a ‘NO’ vote at this convention will not provide the imagined protection needed to get on with our lives uninterrupted. Many do not realize that for 40 years, with the first twenty under Bishop Victor Rivera, and now nearly twenty years with me, as bishops we have been able to provide a buffer for our people from the innovations that abound in dioceses all around us. A quick trip north, south, east or west is all that it takes to wonder if we’re in the same church with those folks. Years ago, it was the moderate Bishop John MacArthur of West Texas who first stated clearly that “we are two churches under one roof.”

A ‘NO’ vote would require my retirement in two years. No reasonable person could expect an orthodox successor. One has only to look at what happened to South Carolina when our own Mark Lawrence, bless him and Alison, went through two separate electing conventions and were close to being unanimously elected at each convention on the first ballot.

The Lectionary, where we draw our biblical lessons from for public services, has already been changed. The fact that you may not have noticed a difference is due directly to the permission I have given to our clergy to continue to use the Lectionary we all know. This along with many other innovations not only would –but will– come about under a new bishop.

If it is property that seems to be your main concern, if you are incorporated and a parish, you own your own property. You, or others before you, bought the land, built the church, have maintained the buildings and grounds, and your name is on the title deed. A ‘NO’ vote might seem to be the “safe” way to go. The effect of such a vote, however, would be to guarantee that this moment in time will NEVER come again before the General Convention meets in 2009. We should need two Annual Conventions to insure the protection we have before us today. With a ‘NO’ vote, everything reverts back to where we were before last December’s Convention. By the summer of 2009 no reasonable person could believe that Canon Laws will not be introduced... making it impossible for dioceses and parishes to leave. There are no such laws now. Property that once belonged to parishes and dioceses will belong to what the Archbishop of Canterbury rightly describes as the abstract reality of the “national church” for whom it will be held in trust. Without a single law suit, it will all be accomplished. Freedom to have the bishop you want, freedom from innovations that are contrary to Scripture, freedom to hold your own property will disappear. A ‘NO’ vote will inevitably bring about the worst of what we have tried to avoid...even if it were to take two years. Job sums it up for us: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3.25)

Finally, lest anyone thinks a ‘NO’ vote would keep the diocese in tact and very much the same is living in a fantasy world. There is good reason to suspect that many of our brothers and sisters’ conscience is at stake because of the major departures from Christianity The Episcopal Church continues to make unabated. Why would San Joaquin be spared the massive exodus of priests and congregations now going on in Central Florida, Texas, Rio Grande, Colorado and California? Many of these dioceses are experiencing a loss that could easily challenge their viability financially. Were we to lose a major portion of parishes where the Gospel is truly believed as God’s revelation and where tithing is accepted as a Scriptural mandate, the Diocese of San Joaquin could be hard put to continue to provide even the basic services most parishes now depend on. No, it is not a matter of “stay the same and be safe” or “leave and face the unknown”. Quite the opposite is true. We are in that critical moment where a ‘YES’ vote tomorrow with a majority brings us into union with a faithful Province, places us under a real Archbishop and Primate who is a holy man of God, and keeps us in the mainstream of Anglicanism. For my part, THIS is worth fighting for!

In the end, it is all about freedom. It is about freedom to remain who we are in Christ. It is freedom to honor the authority of Scripture and to keep the Lectionary we now have. It is freedom to worship with the Prayer Book we know and freedom from innovations and services that are contrary to the Word of God. It is freedom to hold and practice the faith that the Episcopal Church received as a precious gift. It is freedom to “Go” witness, to welcome churches who are looking to us in hostile areas, to plant new churches – in a word, freedom to respond to Jesus’ own command: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28. 19,20) Can we not do these things now? We can, but for how long? A ‘NO’ vote would place us under the authority of those who admit they do not know where they are going and who tell us all relates “to our understanding and embrace of God’s Kingdom and the Salvation we are offered in Jesus Christ– or to our lack of such understanding and engagement.”

This is the time to know who we are in Christ, where we are headed, and to heed the words of Jesus: “Go ye...” 

God, give us the different spirit of Caleb who cried out “go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More Letters

Two letters follow. One is from the Presiding Bishop to Bishop Schofield. The second is his response.

I think his response well represents the impasse. He speaks of being ignored and that his offer of change has not been accepted. This is the third diocese telling the rest of the Episcopal Church, if you don’t do what we want, we quit. Sure, they think they are right, and they may be right about a few things, but quitting doesn’t strike me as a catholic response.

The second point that illustrates the bind has to do with conventions of the church. Bishop Schofield says he will follow the lead of the convention of his diocese. This seems to deny the authority of General Convention. I would argue that our church relies on a semi-democratic form of authority. It might not be the best way, but it is our way. Councils may err, but I think it difficult to base the authority of councils on the outcome one wants. Schofield doesn’t agree with the outcomes of General Convention and House of Bishop’s meetings, fair enough. I am not always thrilled either. Is it consistent to cast your lot with a convention, because it will give you what you want? We either submit to our kind of process, or we don’t.

Those most critical of the Episcopal Church sometimes call it “The General Convention Church”. Does that mean you seek to replace it with your own legislative body that produces your kind of unanimity?

I think we need Iker, Duncan, and Schofield in our church, despite my differences of opinion with them. Pray for these bishops and dioceses. Pray for the Church.


December 3, 2007

The Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield
Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin
4159 East Dakota Avenue
Fresno, CA 93726-5227

Dear John-David,

As you approach your next Diocesan Convention, I would like to remind you of my prayers, and those of many other Episcopalians, for you and for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I continue to be concerned for your health, and for your evident sense of isolation. You have been clear that you feel your views are dismissed or ignored within the Episcopal Church, yet you have ceased to participate in the councils of the Church. It is difficult to have dialogue with one who is absent. While there are a number who disagree with you, I believe many more would welcome your participation, particularly as a sign of your faithfulness to your vow to share in the councils of the Church. The Church will never change if dissenters withdraw from the table. There is an ancient and honored tradition of loyal opposition, and many would welcome your participation.

I do not need to remind you as well of the potential consequences of the direction in which you appear to be leading the Diocese of San Joaquin. In this connection I have in mind, among other things, your support of amendments to that diocese's Constitution that would be plainly inconsistent with the Constitution of the Episcopal Church and that would implicitly reject the Church's property and other canons, as well as your support for the transfer of the membership of your Diocese to the Province of the Southern Cone. If you continue along this path, I believe it will be necessary to ascertain whether you have in fact abandoned the communion of this Church, and violated your vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church. I do not intend to threaten you, only to urge you to reconsider and draw back from this trajectory.

While you may believe that the Diocese of San Joaquin can be welcomed into another Province of the Anglican Communion, I believe you will find that few parts of the Communion will recognize such a proposal. Such an action is without precedent, violates long-standing principles of catholic Christianity, and can only harm those faithful Episcopalians who only seek to follow Christ. I urge you to consider whether there might not be a more honorable course for you, personally, than seeking to violate your ordination vows and the Canons of this Church. Together with many in this Church, I would very much value your continued and increased presence at the table – both the table of Jesus Christ and the table of fellowship.

You and the Diocese of San Joaquin continue in my prayers, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori

Dear Bishop Schori:

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our one and only Lord and Savior.

I have read your letter of December 3, 2007 and thank you for your prayers. There is a pastoral tone to this letter which is much appreciated. Informing me that you are not writing with any threats is most encouraging also. One would hope that this indicates your serious consideration of the Primates’ specific request that deposition and litigation under the present circumstances be abandoned as unacceptable behavior among Christians.

Please know I do not share your feelings that I am isolated. My understanding of the authority of the Holy Scriptures, as well as Catholic Faith and Order are shared by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches and by some 60 million faithful Anglicans worldwide. It is The Episcopal Church that has isolated itself from the overwhelming majority of Christendom and more specifically from the Anglican Communion by denying Biblical truth and walking apart from the historic Faith and Order.

It is true that the House of Bishops has ignored my views for nearly twenty years. After this length of time, one wonders how genuine the offer of change for the Church can be by having the "loyal opposition" present at the table. Despite all of this, we are not pining away here in the Diocese of San Joaquin; we are rejoicing in the truth of God’s word!

The decision to be made by our Annual Convention this Saturday is the culmination of The Episcopal Church’s failure to heed the repeated calls for repentance issued by the Primates of the Anglican Communion and for the cessation of false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Scripture. For years, I have tried in vain to obtain adequate Primatial oversight to protect the Diocese from an apostate institution that has minted a new religion irreconcilable with the Anglican faith. Hopes were raised in February 2007 when leaders of the Anglican Communion met in Dar es Salaam. The direction given by them for the formation of a pastoral council would have provided the protection we requested and would have averted the need for the Diocese to seek sanctuary from another Province. You were in Dar es Salaam, and in the presence of the assembled Primates you verbally signified your agreement to this direction. By the time you returned to the United States, however, you denied your public statement and declared you had only meant to bring it back for further consideration. It was no surprise, therefore, when the Executive Council and the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church later denounced the plan for a pastoral council that you went along with them. This was a clear signal that our religious freedom to practice the Historic Faith as this Church has received it would not be protected by The Episcopal Church. My Ordination vows require me to be a faithful steward of God’s holy Word and to defend His truth and "be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations..." I can do no other.

The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone has graciously offered the Diocese sanctuary on a temporary and emergency basis. This action is unprecedented but so, too, are the apostate actions of The Episcopal Church that make these protective measures necessary. The invitation of the Southern Cone is a matter of public record. In essence it embodies the solution agreed upon by you and the rest of the Anglican leaders at Dar es Salaam to provide adequate, acceptable Alternative Primatial Oversight. To endorse this as a way forward need not be a final nor irreconcilable commitment. Should it be the will of the Annual Convention to accept this most generous gift, I will welcome the opportunity implied in your letter to discuss how it impacts our relationship. In the event that the clergy and laity reject this offer from the Southern Cone, I would, of course, follow your recommendation to participate as a dissenter of the present unbiblical course of action being pursued by the House of Bishops. To do anything else would be to abandon God’s people of San Joaquin and, in the end, prove to be a hireling and not a shepherd. For me, at least, this is the honorable course the Lord would have me follow.

You will remain in my prayers,


+John-David M. Schofield
Bishop of San Joaquin

Monday, December 3, 2007

From Father Jones

I found this on Father Jones. His comments and the article are worth a read.


Gnostic Modus Operandi
The surge in popularity of Gnosticism in recent times is in my view evidence of the "Let's Make Up Our Own Religion" impulse. Many have tried -- whether in pop-historical-fiction like the Da Vinci Code -- or in pop-theology like Elaine Pagels' work -- to argue that the faith claims of Christianity are no longer tenable in light of 'discoveries' of numerous texts long suppressed by the Church.

Most of this speculation, however, simply does not stand up to scholarly scrutiny. The facts continue to reassert that apart from the conviction of Christians and Jews that our canons of Scripture contain definitive texts written, edited and preserved under sacred inspiration, those works are also extremely fine examples of writing. While it is not the ultimate value of "the Bible" for believers - nonetheless we can also take great intellectual joy in the exquisite literary value of the Good Book.

Conversely, as intriguing and artifactually important as the many Gnostic texts are -- they generally read like the rantings of Creation-despising anti-Semites at worst, or bundles of fortune cookie sayings -- which, at best, aren't all that great. Truly the best feature of the Gnostic texts is that they are historically interesting and shed important light on other ideas floating about in the first few centuries of the Common Era. They simply do not have the horsepower of content, construction or continuity with living faith communities across time and space to make a single dent in the heart of the Jewish or Christian faiths.

Moreover, as in their own time, many now most vested in publishing the Gnostic writings widely take liberties with the texts in what they even say on their own. Just as the Gnostics themselves would freely change received texts as it suited them, so to the neo-Gnostics (like Pagels and others) are doing likewise.

The following piece from the New York Times indicates how skeptical we should be about so many of these hyped up 'discoveries' of anti-Church texts:

December 1, 2007
AMID much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced that a lost 3rd-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The shocker: Judas didn’t betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to be killed. Judas’s reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples.
It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society’s transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. While National Geographic’s translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.
Several of the translation choices made by the society’s scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field. For example, in one instance the National Geographic transcription refers to Judas as a “daimon,” which the society’s experts have translated as “spirit.” Actually, the universally accepted word for “spirit” is “pneuma ” — in Gnostic literature “daimon” is always taken to mean “demon.”
Likewise, Judas is not set apart “for” the holy generation, as the National Geographic translation says, he is separated “from” it. He does not receive the mysteries of the kingdom because “it is possible for him to go there.” He receives them because Jesus tells him that he can’t go there, and Jesus doesn’t want Judas to betray him out of ignorance. Jesus wants him informed, so that the demonic Judas can suffer all that he deserves.

Perhaps the most egregious mistake I found was a single alteration made to the original Coptic. According to the National Geographic translation, Judas’s ascent to the holy generation would be cursed. But it’s clear from the transcription that the scholars altered the Coptic original, which eliminated a negative from the original sentence. In fact, the original states that Judas will “not ascend to the holy generation.” To its credit, National Geographic has acknowledged this mistake, albeit far too late to change the public misconception.
So what does the Gospel of Judas really say? It says that Judas is a specific demon called the “Thirteenth.” In certain Gnostic traditions, this is the given name of the king of demons — an entity known as Ialdabaoth who lives in the 13th realm above the earth. Judas is his human alter ego, his undercover agent in the world. These Gnostics equated Ialdabaoth with the Hebrew Yahweh, whom they saw as a jealous and wrathful deity and an opponent of the supreme God whom Jesus came to earth to reveal.
Whoever wrote the Gospel of Judas was a harsh critic of mainstream Christianity and its rituals. Because Judas is a demon working for Ialdabaoth, the author believed, when Judas sacrifices Jesus he does so to the demons, not to the supreme God. This mocks mainstream Christians’ belief in the atoning value of Jesus’ death and in the effectiveness of the Eucharist.
How could these serious mistakes have been made? Were they genuine errors or was something more deliberate going on? This is the question of the hour, and I do not have a satisfactory answer. Admittedly, the society had a tough task: restoring an old gospel that was lying in a box of its own crumbs. It had been looted from an Egyptian tomb in the 1970s and languished on the underground antiquities market for decades, even spending time in someone’s freezer. So it is truly incredible that the society could resurrect any part of it, let alone piece together about 85 percent of it.
That said, I think the big problem is that National Geographic wanted an exclusive. So it required its scholars to sign nondisclosure statements, to not discuss the text with other experts before publication. The best scholarship is done when life-sized photos of each page of a new manuscript are published before a translation, allowing experts worldwide to share information as they independently work through the text.
Another difficulty is that when National Geographic published its transcription, the facsimiles of the original manuscript it made public were reduced by 56 percent, making them fairly useless for academic work. Without life-size copies, we are the blind leading the blind. The situation reminds me of the deadlock that held scholarship back on the Dead Sea Scrolls decades ago. When manuscripts are hoarded by a few, it results in errors and monopoly interpretations that are very hard to overturn even after they are proved wrong.
To avoid this, the Society of Biblical Literature passed a resolution in 1991 holding that, if the condition of the written manuscript requires that access be restricted, a facsimile reproduction should be the first order of business. It’s a shame that National Geographic, and its group of scholars, did not follow this sensible injunction.
I have wondered why so many scholars and writers have been inspired by the National Geographic version of the Gospel of Judas. I think it may stem from an understandable desire to reform the relationship between Jews and Christians. Judas is a frightening character. For Christians, he is the one who had it all and yet
betrayed God to his death for a few coins. For Jews, he is the man whose story
was used by Christians to persecute them for centuries. Although we should
continue to work toward a reconciliation of this ancient schism, manufacturing a
hero Judas is not the answer.
April D. DeConick, a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University, is the author of “The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says.”