Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Lutheran Zephyr

I just discovered this blog and want to pass it along. This post sums up how I sometimes feel at the altar. Follow the LZ at The Lutheran Zephyr


The Gift of Worshiping with my Family

I'm a pastor. I wear the funny shirt, the robe, the stoles. I say the P parts of the liturgy. I sit up front. And I love it.

But one thing I don't love so much is that I no longer sit alongside my wife and children in worship. Before I was ordained, I loved worshiping with my children. Yet I no longer worship alongside them, hold worship books for them, whisper instructions to them, or help them with their Bible story coloring sheet. I do enjoy seeing their faces as they worship from my seat up front, and I cherish the opportunity to declare the forgiveness of their sins, and to place the sacrament in their hands. But still ... I'm no longer there, by their side, holding them, whispering to them, coloring with them.

Tonight I received a special gift as I attended my wife's cousin's wedding (yes, a wedding scheduled on the Monday after Christmas!). There we were, Mommy, Daddy, and our two daughters sitting in the pew together (Naaman, our two year-old son, was more than glad to romp around in the nursery. We were more than glad to let him!). I held my 3 year-old up high so she could see the pastor's gestures as he said the Words of Institution. I took her to the bathroom during the Prayers of the Church. I struggled to hold a hymnal as I held her in my arms. Yes, by doing these things, I wasn't tuned into every moment of the liturgy. But I was participating and praying with my children, gathering with them around the table and at the foot of the cross, held with them within the Body of Christ and surrounded by the sights and sounds of God's people at worship. It was a beautiful thing.

And so tonight I am grateful for this wonderful Christmas gift - the gift to worship as a family. I wouldn't give up my job for anything. I love what I do. But I also love when I get the chance to worship alongside my wife and children. Thank you, Ben and Marissa, for getting married this evening. You've given me a wonderful gift!

Blessings to Ben and Marissa, and to all in this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

Amid the Christmas trees, lights, turkey dinners and presents, the Gospel of John engages us on a whole other level. John will not start his account of the Good News of Jesus Christ with a story of birth. John takes us back to God.

John tells us that Jesus, the Word of God, has been part of the divine life from the beginning. The Word was spoken in the process of creation. The Word has long been at the core of the creative power of God. Today, we mark a shift in the location of the creative power of God, this Word. Today, we point to a person, an historical, living, breathing, walking, talking, eating and drinking person and say the Word, the wisdom speaking embodiment of God is present in a child born into the human race.

Today, we celebrate the birth, but we wallow in the mystery of it. God came in flesh. God closed the gap between humanity and divinity. God forever bridged the chasm that separates us from God and one another.

You see, when God takes on flesh, flesh is forever changed. There is a quickening of the very life of God within it. The flesh is reforged, remade and directed towards its original purpose. The flesh is pointed and pushed in the direction of love. We are equipped once again to love the way God loves.

It is the way you love an infant. An infant can’t do anything for itself. An infant is totally dependent on those that care for it. Babies cry, stink, get sick, are messy, sleep strange inconvenient hours and only smile when they are gassy, but we love them, not for their attributes, maybe in spite of them.

This is how God loves, freely, richly, obsessively and in spite of our less charming attributes.

How do I know this? I have seen God in flesh. I sometimes feel that spark in me, that is not me. I see God, alive in the flesh in this world around us, in women and men of faith, in the kindness of a stranger,and in the selfless acts of those dedicated to service.

It all starts in the beginning with the creative love of the Word.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent4c2009-Sermon Notes

We know Mary’s story. We remember Gabriel visiting Mary to announce the mysterious turn her life was taking. We remember Mary’s response of belief and obedient acceptance. We remember Mary’s journey and visit to Elizabeth.

Faith and obedience are Mary’s hallmarks.

But then, we apply a veneer to Mary. We project simplicity onto her. We reason that she was a woman in a patriarchal culture. We guess that she had no education, and maybe she was illiterate. We tell her story as a victory in“ spite of all odds” kind of story. By breaking Mary down, the story has more impact and seems more miraculous.

The truth is our thinking about Mary is largely speculation.

Church historian, Jaraslav Pelikan, wrote a very interesting book about Mary. It is titled, Mary Through the Centuries. It explores how Mary has been viewed throughout history. More importantly, it highlights how various eras have elicited a particular view of Mary.

I think our notion of poor, simple Mary has a lot to do with us. Perhaps, we long for Mary’s receptivity, but find it difficult, so we project a reason for her openness. Our lives are so complicated. We know so much. There is much to be overcome for us to fully invest.

That is what we are talking about, being fully invested in faith. Mary places all in God’s hands in her assent to be the chosen vessel. She gives God her trust, her body, her future and her entire being. We suppose only a simple, illiterate, person without station could do such a thing with such ease.

Maybe Mary knows more than we think. She sings a song which captures her submission to God. It is a song similar to a few women that came before her. Miriam, the sister of Moses, celebrates God’s deliverance by singing her song. Deborah, the female judge, sings a song to encourage troops before battle. Hannah sings a song giving thanks for her son Samuel, last of the Judges of Israel and a prophet in his own right.

Hannah’s song should sound pretty familiar:

1”My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.
2 "There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and on them he has set the world.
9 "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail.
10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed."

So is Mary a poor, simple girl overwhelmed by God? Or, is she a young women full of the Holy Spirit, taking her place in a long line of strong servants of God?

The story of Mary is the continuation of an ancient story. It is the story of God calling a people, and creating a world marked by righteousness. It is the story of Miriam, Deborah, Hannah and Mary. It is our story.

We come to it like Mary, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. The water is the story of God’s pursuit of us.

Mary had said the kind of mercy shown to her would be expanded into "generations and generations" (Luke 1:50), and indeed that is what she now proclaims for Israel in Luke 1:55. Israel is "remembered with mercy" which is extended to the generations of Abraham forever. This is how God triumphs--not through violence, the customary pattern of the powers of this world, but through compassion and love. -(Progressive Blogging lectionary study)

Place the obstacles aside. Share Mary’s vision of service full of the Holy Spirit, like many that have come before us.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Looking ahead to the lections for the fourth Sunday of Advent, we encounter Mary. Her story is well known, so there is no need to recount it here. It is enough to consider her response in the form of the Magnificat.

It is most certainly a play on the song of an earlier Mary, Miriam, the sister of Moses. Miriam sang her song on the the “good side” of the Red Sea. Mary sings her song, knowing a new deliverance is underway. This deliverance will be different; her song makes that clear.

With the support of her family and a visit from a messenger, Mary understands God is at work in the facets of her unfolding story. Mary recognizes that the child of her body is the fulfillment of God’s promise. She revels in her role, as she marvels in its significance.

We celebrate her place of honor in being a vessel of salvation for us. Her blessedness is bound together with her humble openness to God. We celebrate Mary, and with Mary, that we might be free to receive God’s blessing.

Sing Mary’s song.

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Andrew Sullivan on Obama's Nobel Acceptance Speech

The Tragedy of Hope


When I have been asked why I, as a conservative, support this man the way I do, I can only answer: listen to him. What is the philosophy that most affirms "the imperfections of man and the limits of reason"? What philosophy sadly demurs when told that peace is possible on earth, that history is leading to utopia, that war is over, that "freedom is on the march"? And this is the critical distinction between Bush and Obama: Obama is far more conservative than his predecessor. He sees that the profound flaws in human nature affect us as well as them; that we "face the world as it is," not as we would like it to be; that the decision to go to war is a moral and a pragmatic one; that ends have to be balanced by a shrewd and sometimes cold-eyed assessment of means.

For peace to exist, there must sometimes be war. A statesman will sometimes have to bargain with evil men. A statesman will also sometimes have to let evil flourish because he simply does not have the proportionate means to counter it. Human nature is alloyed between good and evil, and evil often wins.

Hope is not optimism. We have little reason for optimism given the first decade of the twenty-first century. Hope is a choice. As much a choice as faith and love.

Friday, December 11, 2009


This is a great article about the health benefits of generosity. It is a very interesting testimony about the complexity of the human and has broad implications for how we exercise our humanity.

A Prescription for Giving

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John and Jesus

John the Baptist is a prominent character on the Advent stage. In the Gospel reading last Sunday (Lk 3:1-6), John received the word of God, marking his authority as a prophet, and he commenced his prophetic ministry. John utilized material from an earlier prophet, Isaiah, to connect his ministry with the traditional hope of Israel. The content of that hope was Israel’s restoration to a former national glory.

In our Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday (Lk 3:7-18), the urgency of John’s message becomes palpable. John called the crowds around him a snake pit. He attacked them with threats of the wrath to come. John told them not to rest on their laurels, basking in the accomplishments of others, but to be fruitful and righteous in their own right. Following specific ethical instruction to everyone, then tax collectors and finally soldiers, John pointed beyond himself to the one coming.

I have often heard the ministries of John and Jesus contrasted. Some like to paint John’s message as fire and wrath. Jesus is the opposite side of the coin, love and mercy. There are certainly ways that this appears to be true, but I think this analysis misses Jesus’ statements about judgement. Jesus preaches love and mercy, but never pretends that there are no consequences to the choices we make.

In some sense, I see their differences bound in their roles. John is the forerunner. He is proclaiming the coming of a new reality and is preparing his listeners to receive it. John’s teaching also contains a starting point for ethical transformation. Jesus, on the other hand, takes a prepared people and transforms them into a community. John’s instruction is about individual preparation for the dawning age. Jesus is the creator of a new community, an alternative in contrast to the present order, his own body.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Lord is Coming

I am a fan of tradition. There is something within me that embraces ancient, well-worn paths that meander through history. It has something to do with a sense of continuity. There is a certain comfort derived from embracing the acceptable, time-honored and tested.

Innovation is subject to uncertainty. Trailblazing might lead to a dead end. There is a cost, however, to maintaining the charted course. You might miss a lot, and lose opportunities to engage the unimaginable.

Our annual remembrance of the events leading to the birth of the Christ child is traditional. We share similar scriptures. We sing the Advent hymns. We contemplate similar themes.

What irony that we practice such tradition around one of God’s greatest surprises. No one expected God to enter history as the child of a middle class craftsman. No one expected the King of Glory to be born in such modest surroundings. No one expected all of it to come about so quietly and go almost without notice.

As we engage in our traditional ways of remembering, I hope we will start a new tradition, a new tradition of expectation. God has not lost God’s ability to come in ways unexpected and unforeseen. I hope we will come to expect the unimaginable.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Toxic Water

A friend emailed me a link to this story. It is about water quality in Newport, RI. Not pretty.

Toxic Harbor


As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it is appropriate to recount the foundations of the feast...Let’s turn now to our friends at Wikipedia.


Monday, November 23, 2009

A Chicken Farm, the Union and a Priest

“This American Life” has a great story about a poultry plant in North Carolina, and the efforts of labor to organize. A labor representative sought the help of the local Episcopal priest. A manager of the plant was a member of the parish. The labor rep hoped the pastor could bring the Gospel into the discussion and influence the manager.

You have to listen to the podcast. It displays so many of the tensions that exist in the Church and the world. You can skip the first two acts by moving 25 minutes into the broadcast.

A Pastor and his Flock

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Notice, Listen and Pray

I caught an interesting segment on “This American LIfe.” Ira Glass interviewed Jim Henderson, an evangelical Christian rethinking evangelism. Henderson believes that Christians should move away from making a sales pitch to building relationships. His advice is for Christians to take notice of people around them and consider their lives. When Christians are in conversation with acquaintances, they should concentrate on listening and not interrupting with their own stuff. Finally, Christians should simply pray for others, for their well-being, for their journey and trust that something could happen. Henderson refers to his methodology as “doable evangelism.”

How simple and novel. Christians building relationships and opportunities for interactions of substance, based in faith and hope. Sounds like someone I know...

This American Life Podcast Jim Henderson's Website

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Canterbury and Rome Sit Down

BBC provides a sketch of a meeting between the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury. Closer relations..Interesting.
So Anglican Orders mean something?

Closer Ties

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The End

The scriptures contain many references to a time of completion and culmination. The Book of Revelation presents wild symbolic imagery, pointing to a time of God’s presence. The letters of St. Paul take the impending culmination and God’s reign as a given. In the Gospels, Jesus makes use of apocalyptic imagery.

The following portion of Mark is one such text. In the Revised Common Lectionary, this was the Gospel text assigned to last Sunday.

Mark 13:1-8

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs."

The Revised Common lectionary assigns the following text from Luke to the First Sunday of Advent.

Luke 21:25-36

Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Thinking about and preparing for the culmination of God’s reign are part of the Christian vocation. Advent is a perfect time to be more intentional about our thought and preparation. In preparation for the annual celebration of the Feast of the Incarnation, the lectionary pushes us beyond it to pondering the ultimate purpose.

Part of my preparation will be reading and facilitating a discussion on The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation. This book is dedicated to a serious consideration of apocalyptic imagery and thought, beyond the distorted message of fundamentalism. The author, Barbara R. Rossing, is a New Testament professor at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She holds degrees from Harvard and Yale. Rossing was a presenter at the Trinity Institute, an annual conference at Trinity, Wall Street.

I hope you will consider joining me in study and discussion. Click HERE to read reviews.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


One of the great benefits of our time is access to so much of the world from our offices and living rooms. With a few key strokes or a click of the mouse, I can find information about most anything. News from around the globe is constantly and consistently at our fingertips.

The access we enjoy is a great asset because it bolsters our awareness of the rest of the people on this planet, and it gives us a sense of the intricate ways in which we are connected to each other. Being conscious and engaging those like us, and those that seem most different can be a powerful force of energy. Knowledge and awareness are the precursor to action.

One of the resources I enjoy is the Day 1 site. It is a collection of videos and articles by some of the most interesting Christian thinkers working today. There are thoughtful sermons and essays of great impact. Click the highlighted link to go to Day 1.

Day 1

I offer it to you that you might engage with fellow pilgrims on the path. I hope you will find the material enlightening, and that it will generate questions and conversation. Being with people of faith, even electronically, is powerful.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wall Street Gets Vaccine

Reports are surfacing about special distributions of vaccine. Certain medical professionals and civil servants have always received priority status, but this one seems odd.

Bankers get vaccine

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From Vatican, a tainted olive branch

James Carroll offers his opinion about the Vatican’s offer to Anglicans. Hold still Rome, this might sting a bit...

Text from The Boston Globe

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Vision From Convention

The convention of the Diocese has come and gone. Resolutions and budgets were passed. This excerpt from the report of St. Columba’s delegation strikes me as being at the heart of our task.

Excerpt from report:

In her formal address the Bishop made the point that in her opinion; the familiar church is passing away. By that she did not mean The Church-the Body of Christ- is dying, but “that our human structure of the earthly church is troubled and that we are being called to discover a re-formed character.” She feels that,” we are living in the throes of a corporate Holy Saturday…when nothing seems to be happening”.

The Bishop went on to point out that the there are 10 characteristics of congregations that are experiencing significant transformations:
•        Changed attitudes to own responsibilities. Instead of acting like victims, they re-set their vision.
•        They are people of abundance who speak of God’s blessings and experience the joy of giving instead of complaining that they
         don’t have enough.

•        Place a high priority on Christian formation for all ages. Informed believers make faithful disciples.
•        See newcomers not as sources of money, but as people who are seeking a Christ-centered community.
•        Create an environment of mutual responsibility.
•        Develop achievable goals, and rely upon shared ministry to accomplish them.
•        Move from triangulation and gossip to effective ways of communication.
•        Give voice to the core of the Christian faith: sacrifice, sin, evil, repentance, forgiveness and love, all redeemed through the
        Word made Flesh.

•        Use new technologies in the service of evangelism.
•        Worship every Sunday.
The Bishop close her address by saying, “ the Christian message is a message of life and eternal hope…we need generous spirits, thankful hearts, and works of mercy, so the Holy Saturday will lead to the Feast of Resurrection”.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Our Man In Rome

Hat tip to BishopBlogging.

We here in Rome have received many questions about the Vatican announcement on October 20 about the setting up of “Personal Ordinariates” for former Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion now with the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some answers to those questions posed by many:

1.What exactly happened?

On October 20 there were two simultaneous press conferences in Rome and in London announcing that Pope Benedict XVI has approved an Apostolic Constitution that will set up a new canonical structure within the Roman Catholic Church that will allow for Personal Ordinariates which will make it possible for groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, preserving within the Ordinariates distinctive aspects of the Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition.

In Rome, Cardinal William Levada, President of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which prepared the Constitution, which Pope Benedict has approved) and Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, of the Congregation for Divine Worship, announced that the Constitution would be forthcoming.

In London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced the Constitution with their view that it brings to an end “a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.”

1.What is new about the “Personal Ordinariates?

The Apostolic Constitution clearly authorizes something “new” in the Roman Catholic Church and it provides “a new way” to enter into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church. For many centuries individual Anglicans have converted to the Roman Catholic Church. There have been, however, a few previous cases in the past in which groups of Anglicans have entered the Roman Catholic Church and have been allowed to preserve some corporate structures of Anglicanism. Examples of this have been the Anglican diocese of Amritsar in India, and some individual parishes from the Episcopal Church in the United States which maintained an Anglican identity when entering the Roman Catholic Church under a “pastoral provision” adopted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

When this development took place in 1982, the Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Rev. William Norgren, wrote:
“In pluralistic America we are accustomed to Christians moving from church to church. It is quite a different matter for one church to organize parishes and institute liturgy taken from another church—all to satisfy the individual wishes of a very few people who have moved. Comments in my hearing from individual Episcopalians, including some bishops, about parishes and proposed Anglican rites have been uniformly negative. This is simply a fact.”

What is new in 2009 is that this provision will be universal in its application. It provides for groups of parishes that will be formed into “Personal Ordinariates” which may be presided over by former Anglican priests, or unmarried bishops, and it provides for distinctive forms of priestly formation for former Anglicans which incorporates aspects of the Anglican tradition.

1.What is the origin of the Constitution?

According to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Constitution emerged as a single model for the world-wide church in response to requests coming to the Holy See from various Anglican groups over the last years seeking to enter into full communion with the Roman See. Cardinal Levada has said:”We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter.”

1.Were we at the Anglican Centre in Rome surprised by this announcement?

For more than a year, we at the Anglican Centre in Rome have heard rumors of groups of former Anglicans meeting in Rome with representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But we were neither informed nor consulted about these conversations, nor was the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the ecumenical office of the Holy See, who are our closest dialogue partners in Rome. The Pontifical Council did not draft the Constitution, nor did it participate in the press conference announcing the Constitution. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he was informed of the announcement “at a very late stage,” and the Archbishop’s Representative to the Holy See, the Very Rev. David Richardson, has said that he was “taken aback by the Vatican’s decision.”

1.What are the ecumenical implications of the “Personal Ordinariates”?

We at the Anglican Centre in Rome expect and hope that the ecumenical conversations with the Roman Catholic Church will continue. We look forward to a response from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the proposed Apostolic Constitution. This will help us to understand how the ecumenical dialogue can continue in a context which has obviously been made different now. As Dean Richardson has said,”It doesn’t seem to me to help the ecumenical dialogue, but perhaps it will galvanize the dialogue.”

1.What are some unanswered questions?

There are four unanswered questions that need to be addressed before we can evaluate the ecumenical future:

a. What does the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have to say about the Apostolic Constitution?
b. What does the text of the Apostolic Constitution actually say ( the document has been announced but we have not seen it), and particularly on the following points, what are the details? What specifics of the Anglican patrimony will be allowed? Will it be more than “spiritual” and “liturgical”? Will it be “ecclesiological” and “theological”? What will seminary formation for former Anglicans entail? How will the “Personal Ordinariates” relate to the authority of the local Roman Catholic bishop?
c. What are the names of the groups of former Anglicans who seek reunion with the Roman See? Names of various groups have been put forward and denied in Rome, so it remains unclear to us what former Anglicans we are talking about. Knowing the identity of those who seek to move will help in our evaluation of the significance of this development.
d. And finally, what will be the response to this development in the many provinces of the Anglican Communion where there is a national Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue?

1.What will our continuing relationships be like?

With this announcement the shape of things to come for Anglican—Roman Catholic relations is at this time unclear. But in a letter of October 20, 2009, Archbishop Rowan Williams has said:”It remains to be seen what use will be made of this provision, since it is now up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution; but, in the light of recent discussions with senior officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression.”

The Rev. Dr. R. William Franklin

Academic Fellow of the Anglican Centre in Rome
(and priest of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe!)
October 22, 2009

Some Sensible Talk About Israel

From Foreign Policy Magazine:

It is possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, not out of some blanket support for either government, but out of a sincere belief that peace is in both people's best interests. I hold that belief as a result of years of work within the Arab and Jewish American communities, working in partnerships not just with J Street but also with such groups as Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, and Israel Policy Forum. I have traveled to the region and remain humbled and inspired by the courage and tenacity of those Israelis and Palestinians who refuse to submit to the cynicism or pessimism this conflict so often demands.

Read Article

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The convention of the Diocese of Rhode Island takes place this coming weekend in Providence. It will begin with a Eucharist, Friday night at the Cathedral of St. John. The business meeting will be most of Saturday. Please keep the delegates and the gathering in your prayers.

Conventions are necessary to pass budgets, set mission priorities and conduct the business of the Church. Some of the work is just that, necessary business. It is important to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. For me, however, the real value of the convention resides elsewhere.

I enjoy coming together as the people of God. It is important to take stock of our visible unity as a catholic Church. Great value comes from strengthening the ties that bind us, for we are bound together into one body. We should celebrate our common life.

In a sense, we are all present at the convention because we are all part of the whole. We are followers of Jesus. We represent parishes. We make up a diocese. We are a church that comprises the Church. It is with a sense of responsibility to the Church catholic in mind, I will go to do the work of the Church.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Unload Your Camel

Father Ned Mulligan, Chaplain at St. George’s School, preached an excellent sermon at St. Columba’s. The text was from the Gospel of Mark about the rich man, who questioned Jesus about salvation. The story is punctuated by Jesus making the familiar pronouncement about it being easier to thread a needle with a camel, than for a rich man to enter heaven.

Father Mulligan told us how the eye of the needle was the night gate in ancient cities. It was impossible to make it through the gate with a “loaded” camel. Camels had to be unpacked, coaxed to kneel and crawl through the narrow passage. It is really a great image.

The rich man, who approached Jesus for salvation was unwilling to unpack his baggage. The rich man chose to remain outside and cling to his cargo. The rich man left Jesus because he had all he could carry.

When I ponder my financial commitment to the Church, I think in these terms. I consider who I am and what I have. I consider the distance between who I am, and who God calls me to be. When I recognize the gifts I have and give them as gifts, I see my best self. For me, taking up the Cross of Christ is about recognizing the gifts I have received, and working to give them to God.

Every season is stewardship season. We are always called to be mindful and thankful for what we have. Some of what we have is uniquely ours, and is treasured. Some of it gets in the way, and needs to be shed. Some of it is good, and needs to be shared as a gift.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What do I Expect from the Church?

The simple word, church, evokes an infinite variety of images. Some think of a building of a particular architectural style from little, white Congregational meeting houses to the transcendent, dark interiors of gothic cathedrals. Then, of course, there are those that will tell you the Church is the people. Church makes us think of worship, Sunday school and choirs.

The images that come to mind probably have to do with experience and expectations. If you grew up going to church, the experience shaped how you think about church. You have either accepted your experience as good and proper, or have made the decision to launch in a new direction. Our formative exposure to church is powerful and it often operates beneath the intellectual realms on a more emotional level. We often describe Church as home because it generates certain a feelings of safety, comfort and intimacy.

It is good, from time to time, to consider our deeply-held expectations. As humans, we are gifted with self-consciousness and it is appropriate to make use of our gift. All too often, we react in careless, self-centered ways because we are stuck on the feeling level. When we find our expectations challenged, we often respond on an emotional level, and we are not doing our best thinking.

I think we expect too little from the Church. We have relegated the Church to the sidelines, making her a warehouse of sentimentality and not enough substance. We have become victims of the quest for a superficial sense of well-being. We have accepted a fleeting time of inspiration and introspection as the substance of the Gospel.

The Church is suffering in many ways as a result of low expectations. We see declining attendance patterns across denominations. We see decline in giving patterns across denominations. I believe it is all tied to our low expectations. I can go anywhere on Sunday morning to have a little moment. Why would I support a place that exists only to give me a moment, once a week?

The Church, God’s vehicle of grace, redemption, mission and life in the world, exists for a much higher purpose. We are called to proclaim the Good News of Christ in all the world. We are called to go out into the world baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are called to make the Kingdom of God present through our communion and fellowship. We are called to be recognized by how we love each other. We are called to work in the world to meet real need. This is what God expects the Church to be.

If we are God’s vehicle, if we respond in faith and love, if we remember who we are called to be, the obstacles will give way. Our buildings will be jammed with people seeking God. Our stewardship campaigns would be successful beyond measure, because we would be invested in the abundant vision of the Gospel.

Through God’s grace and mercy, may the Church give way to meet God’s expectations, not ours.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Fear

The following quote by Nelson Mandela came from the current copy of Networking, the newsletter of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our light shine; we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Comment: Shrinking is not a Gospel value.

Update: This quote is not from Mandela, but Marianne Williamson. Read the comments for more.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Bigger Stewardship Picture

The season of fall brings to mind many things. School starts and all the attendant activities commence as well. Most churches begin a program year. It is also the beginning of the annual stewardship drive.

I suspect most of us consider the annual drive as a season that passes, like fall. For a few months, we hear stewardship presentations. We read letters crafted by the group spearheading the drive. Many of us take stock and make our pledge. Then, it is over until next year.

While the annual drive is an important and necessary element of stewardship, it is not all of it. I think of stewardship as a much more holistic approach to my life as a person of faith. For me, the pledge is a mark of commitment to the Church and God. It is my “Yes!” to God’s invitation to be an active participant in the Kingdom. The pledge has a sacramental quality; it is a tangible sign of God’s work in my life. The sign is important and necessary, but it points beyond itself to something more.

As Christians, we claim that God is the source of creation and the material world. As creatures, God entrusts us with the management of creation and our possessions. On a daily basis, we make personal decisions about allocating our attention and resources. Jesus’ ministry is one of calling us to direct our hearts and minds in God’s direction. Jesus inaugurates a new day of communion with God and one another. Stewardship is our daily investment and cooperation with Jesus’ ministry.

The annual drive is underway. Churches are asking for pledges and support in meeting Jesus’ Kingdom objectives. Stewardship doesn’t end with the signed pledge card.

God, thank you for what I have! God, where do you want me? God, how can I serve you in bringing about the Kingdom?

Monday, September 14, 2009

How We Pray

There is an ancient quote, and I will spare you the Latin, that indicates how we pray actually shapes what we believe. Initially, we might be somewhat resistant to this idea, but it is hard to deny that forms become deeply planted. The use of language, terms and overall structure shape our theology in incredibly profound ways. If doubt remains, consider the differences between the Eucharistic prayers from the various rites in the Book of Common Prayer. They represent different approaches to the same content; the different approaches leave us thinking and feeling differently as well.

As we consider the importance of how we pray, we might consider the collects of the Church and the shape they share. Most collects tend to have three movements: the opening address, the petition and the concluding doxology. Each movement is significant.

The opening address cites the person to whom the prayer is directed. It also does a bit more. The opening address, often, lists attributes or features of the person being addressed. When we refer to God as, “most holy, eternal or heavenly Father,” we are making theological points that inform our thoughts, feelings and hopes.

The petition is the substance of our request. It is what we are asking of God at a particular time. Specificity is important, not because God doesn’t know what we desire, but because prayer is also about conforming our will to the will of God. When we make a specific request, we are entering into an agreement to wrestle with God about the righteous quality of the request. Often in prayer, I discover my will needs to be redirected.

Finally, we close in praise of the Trinity or an individual member of the Trinity. This piece is more important than it might appear. Closing our prayers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit places our prayers within the life of the Church, past, present and future. It provides context for us and our prayers. The concluding doxology places us within that larger context of the Church and coming kingdom.

When you next pray alone or aloud, consider the components of the traditional collect. It is a formula that gives structure to our thoughts and beliefs. Hopefully, consideration could also reduce anxiety about praying aloud in groups.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Flesh and Blood

I am probably in the minority in my enjoyment of the “bread of life” cycle in John. It seems like the same themes are repeated, but I have found them to be quite distinct. It just takes a little digging to discover the nuances of each pericope.

Two weeks ago, in John 6: 35, 41-51, I was very struck by the “I am” language related to the “bread of life.” In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 3:14, God is named as “I am who I am.” The use of “I am” reverberates through the Hebrew Bible is various forms. When Jesus uses the “I am” form, he is invoking a significant name that carries freight. It is about identity and it is the key to understanding Jesus.

This past week, in John 6:51-58, Jesus shifts into sacramental terms. He speaks in terms of the separation of his flesh and blood. He speaks in terms of sacrifice. The separation of flesh and blood brings to mind the religious praxis of Israel.

The meat of an animal was offered in sacrifice. The blood, which was understood to contain the life/soul of the animal, was returned to the earth and covered with earth. There was a reverence for the life, contained in the blood, and that was the preserve of God. LIfe goes back to God.

Jesus speaks, however, of his blood being offered in a different way. Jesus speaks of his blood/life being offered and consumed by his followers. He is obviously speaking in sacramental language. His blood/life are not placed in the earth and hidden. His blood/life becomes the life sustaining fuel of presence for his followers. It is not simply the life of one man, remember the “I am.” Jesus is sharing the life of God. In that sharing, our lives are forever redirected and meshed in the purpose of God.

I almost wish I were preaching this week...but it is time for a vacation. Stay tuned. See you in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pentecost 9, proper 13-Sermon Notes

I have been very fortunate, through the years, to work with people dealing with significant meaning of life issues. One of the most rewarding and important areas has been the field of addiction. I have known many young and old, male and female, black and white who have found their lives spiraling out of control as a result of alcohol or other substances. The stories are incredibly similar, despite the different backgrounds of the individuals involved. No one plans to become dependent on a substance, but those with a predisposition and enough use, become dependent. The fortunate ones recognize they are in trouble and seek help.

Unfortunately, the first efforts are usually not successful. Health is not to be found by throwing a switch, finding self-discipline or just quitting. Most have to reshape and remake their entire lives. One must become honest about reality. One must recognize the inability to find health alone. One must find a personal faith. One must engage in a constant process of self-examination and be prepared to do what it takes to stay in right relationship with God and fellow humans. Eventually, one must be prepared to share the new life discovered with others seeking wholeness.

Most struggle to get to the place where they are willing to do what it takes to recover. For a time, most cling to the idea that they can control their use of substances. Some do stop for periods time, yet cling to self-will and become what some call “dry drunks”. They continue in the same self-destructive behavior. They continue creating a wake of chaos. They are still marked by character defects and they still practice a slash and burn strategy in life, but they are not using. Dry drunks don’t last, they usually devolve into wet drunks.

The mystery is that often in the dark night of the soul, many become willing to do what it takes, and they accept the invitation to live a whole new life. They recognize that just not using is only a mere shadow of what life can be. In the grand scheme of things, not using is a tiny piece of sobriety.

Jesus is faced with a very similar myopic temptation to settle for the minimum in the Gospel. He has just fed 5000 people, maybe more, he has changed location and is regrouping. The feeding, however, seems to have an unintended consequence. The people that follow him now want to see more of the same.

When your hungry, food must be a welcome sight. When you are poor, abundance must mean everything. When you are powerless and irrelevant, being close to something powerful must be positively intoxicating.

Jesus finds himself surrounded by people seeking more of what he has offered them. They desire him to act again and again. They want him to give them more of what they want. Jesus knows why they are there, so he attempts to shift their thinking to help them recognize the fullness he embodies.

Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Jesus pleads with them not to settle for the small, immediate and fleeting satisfaction he offers, but to enter into a fuller and richer relationship with God through him.

Jesus clarifies that he offers more than a full belly or a neat trick, but a new life.

We, too, are offered the opportunity to reshape and remake our lives. We will become honest about our reality. We will recognize our inability to find health alone, and know that we are not alone. We will discover, through God’s grace, a personal faith. We will engage in a constant process of self-examination and be prepared to do what it takes to stay in right relationship with God and our fellow humans. Eventually, we are prepared to share the new life discovered in Christ.

It is the fullness of the new life offered us, beyond temporary satisfaction.

Don’t settle for a full stomach. Seek the new life God offers in Christ.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bread of Life

We are moving into a part of the lectionary where the Gospel lessons seem very repetitive. Jesus refers to himself as "the bread of life". Last Week was the first instance in our cycle, but we will hear echoes of it for the next three Sundays.

As a preacher, I have not always looked forward to this time in the lectionary cycle. I have sometimes felt like each week I am saying, " and another thing about the bread of life." Repetition, however is a very useful strategy.

As we repeatedly reflect on Gospel themes, we encounter those themes in different ways. What first seems like more or the same, becomes subtly different and deeper. Spending more time with a theme, and examining the different dimensions of it, can open new pathways for engagement.

Bread is food; food is necessary sustenance for life and health. Bread is food; food is fuel to propel the body to physical action and endurance. Both dimensions are required.

Bread is also part of a meal, and meals communicate something about the relationship that participants share. Meals are events in the lives of individuals, participation creates a community. Bread can be part of a simple intimate meal, and it can also be part of a highly ritualized, sacramental action. A sacramental meal points beyond the present moment to the past and the future, bringing both into harmony.

Bread is the Body of Christ, and it accomplishes all the features mentioned. As we reflect on "the bread of life", I hope to break beyond the feeling of unenthusiastic, lifeless repetition. I hope to engage the place of Jesus in my life as sustenance, strength, maker of intimacy and the presence of God.

Friday, July 17, 2009

PB writes ABC

16 July 2009

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Williams
Lambeth Palace

Dear Archbishop Williams,

We are writing to you as the Presiding Officers of the two Houses of The General Convention of
The Episcopal Church. As your friends in Christ, we remain deeply grateful to you for your gracious
presence among us recently during our 76th General Convention in Anaheim.

As you know, The General Convention voted this week to adopt Resolution D025,
“Commitment and Witness to the Anglican Communion”—a multilayered resolution that addresses a
range of important issues in the life of The Episcopal Church that clearly have implications for our
relationships within the Anglican Communion.

Because this action is already being variously interpreted by different individuals and groups, we
want to offer our perspective to you with the hope that some background, context, and information will
be helpful in understanding this action of our General Convention. If you have not already had an
opportunity to read it, a copy of the resolution is attached.

We understand Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature—a statement
that reaffirms commitments already made by The Episcopal Church and that acknowledges certain
realities of our common life. Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided
under our Constitution and Canons for many years. In reading the resolution, you will note its key
points, that:

􏰀 Our Church is deeply and genuinely committed to our relationships in the Anglican Communion;
􏰀 We recognize the contributions gay and lesbian Christians, members of our Church both lay and
ordained, have made and continue to make to our common life and ministry;
􏰀 Our Church can and does bear witness to the fact that many of our gay and lesbian brothers and
sisters live in faithful, monogamous, lifelong and life-giving committed relationships;
􏰀 While ordination is not a “right” guaranteed to any individual, access to our Church’s
discernment and ordination process is open to all baptized members according to our
Constitution and Canons; and
􏰀 Members of The Episcopal Church do, in fact, disagree faithfully and conscientiously about
issues of human sexuality.

It is important to understand the process through which this Resolution came into being.

In 2006, the 75th General Convention adopted Resolution B033 which “called upon Standing
Committees and Bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of
any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider Church and will
lead to further strains on communion.”
While adoption of that resolution was offered with a genuine desire “to embrace The Windsor Report’s
invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation” within the Anglican Communion, it has
also been a source of strain within the life of our own Church.

This year at least sixteen resolutions were submitted asking the 76th General Convention to take
further action regarding B033. These resolutions fell into three categories—those calling for the repeal
of B033; those restating or seeking to strengthen our Church’s nondiscrimination Canons; and those
stating where The Episcopal Church is today. From these options, our General Convention chose the
third—along with reaffirming our commitments to the Anglican Communion—with the hope that such
authenticity would contribute to deeper conversation in these matters.

The complex and deliberative nature of our legislative process involving bishops, lay deputies,
and clerical deputies prevents the General Convention from acting rashly. However, it does lead
eventually to a profound consensus. Sometimes this consensus takes years to achieve. As Resolution
D025 itself states, we are still not all of one mind. Passage of this Resolution represents another step in a
conversation that began with the 65th General Convention in 1976 which stated that homosexual persons
are “children of God and have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance,
and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” The discussion of these issues has continued consistently
through every General Convention for the past thirty-three years, and we understand it to be an
important contribution to the listening process invited by the successive Lambeth Conferences of 1978,
1988, and 1998.

Some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution
B033. That is not the case. This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be
seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025.

Some within our Church may understand Resolution D025 to give Standing Committees (made
up of elected clergy and laity) and Bishops with jurisdiction more latitude in consenting to episcopal
elections. Others, in light of Resolution B033, will not. In either case, we trust that the Bishops and
Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church will continue to exercise prayerful discernment in
making such decisions, mindful and appreciative of our relationships in the Anglican Communion.

In adopting this Resolution, it is not our desire to give offense. We remain keenly aware of the
concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other Churches across the Communion. We
believe also that the honesty reflected in this resolution is essential if indeed we are to live into the deep
communion that we all profess and earnestly desire.

Please know that we continue to hold you in our prayers even as we invite yours for us.
We remain,


Your sisters in Christ,

Bonnie Anderson, D.D. The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
President of The House of Deputies Presiding Bishop and Primate

Church Times

Father Jones over at the Anglican Centrist posted this article from the Church Times. It is a good piece. I have highlighted the part that states my position. By the way, I think the highlighted portion is at the heart of our messy ecclesiology.

THE SCHISM in the Anglican Communion has been spoken of as an established fact for many years. As a consequence, events such as this week’s vote in the US General Convention effectively to end the moratorium on gay bishops make little different to perceptions of how the Communion now operates. In one sense, the Episcopal Church had little to lose. The moratorium of three years ago was accepted as a painful means to help keep the Church together. But a swath of US conservatives has since left to form the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), thus undermining the moratorium’s purpose. Dr Williams appeared in Anaheim to remind the Convention, by his presence if not so much by his words, that a global relationship still existed; but that relationship, at least from the Episcopal Church’s perspect ive, has of late involved too many warnings and threats. If they were to be hanged anyway, why not for a sheep as for a lamb?

However people view the outcome — and many will welcome the unambiguous acceptance of gay and lesbian people — Tuesday was not the US House of Bishops’ finest hour. Presented with a straightforward motion from the House of Deputies, the Bishops favoured amending it to something more ambiguous. In the event, they simply tacked a phrase about “mystery” to the main motion. Neither was there much theological depth to the debate. Speakers dwelt instead on what might be acceptable to their dioceses, their consciences, or the Communion as a whole.
The answer to the last question cannot yet be known, not least because, on the issue of sexuality, the Communion no longer thinks, nor now acts, as a whole. The Windsor process is not completed: it did not restrain the Americans; neither can it be invoked to censure them. Besides, those provinces that object to gay bishops have been out of communion with the US Episcopal Church since the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003. The Episcopal Church has not really broken the Communion any more than it was already.

The decision exposes the flaw at the heart of attempts to order the Communion on the basis of single issues. There is no less reason to join together at the eucharist, share theological ideas, engage in jointly funded enterprises, and so on, this week than last. A few Episcopalians have said more clearly what they have believed for some time; many still disagree with them. Nothing much has changed. “Impaired communion” is a useful phrase, but it hides a tangle of relationships that range from complete agreement to utter incomprehension. The point about Anglicanism is that, up to this point, all have existed within the same body, united by an Anglican mix of reticence and charity.

Of course, the accommodations this has required (not the same as compromises) have been too much for some. But unless the Communion can embrace ACNA, whose views are no different from many African provinces, and the US Episcopal Church and its web of global sympathisers, it is not trying hard enough. The great challenge of the 21st century is how people of different faiths can live together. If Christians cannot find the love that transcends differences within their own Church, how can they speak about unity to others in parts of the world where it is a matter of life and death?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bishop of Atlanta Addresses D025 And C056

I spent 5 years in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Neil Alexander was my bishop there and I have deep affection and respect for him. His is an important voice in TEC.

This is an excerpt from his blog to the diocese:

Human sexuality - Several dozen resolutions on some aspect of human sexuality were submitted to the Convention by dioceses, parishes, and individuals across the church. The Convention, working through its legislative committees on World Mission and Prayer Book and Liturgy, combined most of these resolutions into two.

The first of these -- Resolution D-025 -- has been widely reported in the press. The press coverage has essentially said that the Episcopal Church has approved the ordination of gay and lesbian persons. Well, no, this Convention took no such action. What this resolution did was simply to reaffirm our own Canons. Back in 1994, the General Convention created a Canon that opened access to the ordination processes of the church -- for all holy orders -- to all baptized persons. This has been our canonical position for fifteen years and it is consistent with the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer. Discernment for holy orders is serious business and should be. In the Episcopal Church we take such discernment with the utmost of seriousness. There is no "right" to ordination for anyone. Our Canons are clear that all baptized persons are to have access to discernment processes. Whether any persons actually gets ordained is a much more complicated set of questions. To summarize: the principal thing this resolution does is simply to affirm that when our church makes decisions on who can and cannot be ordained, we will discern those decisions in accordance with our Canons. The Canons on these matters have not changed since 1994.

Some will ask, does this ignore the request of the Windsor Report for a moratorium on the election and consent to gay or lesbian partnered priests to the episcopate? Some would say so; I don't think so. I don't find the moratorium concept at all helpful, but unless and until a diocese of the church elects a gay partnered person to the episcopate, and the church gives its consent, there is, practically speaking, a moratorium in effect. And again, the only thing this Convention has said is that when any such decision comes before the church, the decision will be made according to our own Canons. The Convention simply clarified that "state of the question" to those who have been asking. The Convention changed nothing.

A very positive dimension of the resolution was its very strong affirmation of our desire as a church to participate fully in the mission and ministry of the Anglican Communion at every level of the church's life. (On this matter, we are very much ahead of the curve in the Diocese of Atlanta with official partnerships in Ecuador, Brazil, and Tanzania, and less formal but no less important relationships in Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala, and other places.) We also commit ourselves to full financial support of the Anglican Communion. We provide a disproportionally large percentage of the Communion budget and we have committed ourselves to continuing to do so. Let no one question our commitment to the Anglican Communion!

A second resolution - C-056 - is the Convention's response to a large group of resolutions, mostly from dioceses, concerning same sex blessings and gay marriage. At the heart of the resolution are the difficult pastoral needs particularly in those states in which some form of gay marriage or civil unions is the law of the land. There is also the felt need, by many in the church, to work more carefully through the theological and liturgical issues related to the church's pastoral and liturgical response to our members who are living in committed, same-sex relationships. I believe the Convention is looking at this in a creative way. First, we name the "tension" between those parts of the church in which gay unions or marriage is provided for by law and those parts of the church that serve in civil jurisdictions where no legal provisions pertain. Recognizing that tension is important. Secondly, the resolution asks for more theological and liturgical work to be done on the matter and the results of that work be brought to the 2012 Convention. It is impossible to tell at this point what sort of form that work will take. This provision strengthens the resolution, in my judgment, because as a liturgical and sacramental church it is essential to do theological and liturgical work hand-in-hand, and not as separate endeavors. Thirdly, this resolution invites the Anglican Communion to join us in this theological and liturgical exploration. I am confident that this invitation for collaboration will be welcomed by a number of provinces in the Communion. C-056 passed the House of Bishops late in the day on Wednesday and is expected to reach the floor of the House of Deputies on Thursday.

The obvious question is: does this mean the General Convention has "approved" rites for same-sex unions or gay marriage? The answer to that is "no." What the Convention did was to pave the way for more extensive theological and liturgical work to be done in the upcoming triennium. The next Convention will receive a report that will be both theological and liturgical in scope and will almost certainly contain some "model rites" for the church to consider. The 2012 Convention will have to decide whether to proceed further and, if so, in what manner.

With respect to the Anglican Covenant, the House of Deputies has approved a resolution that commits the Episcopal Church to continued participation in the covenant process that grew out of the Windsor Report. It will come before the House of Bishops on Thursday and will almost surely get the bishops' full support.

Full Text-Two days to go

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thoughts on D025

I remember a professor in college making a presentation about conflict. He asserted that the most difficult conflicts are marked by the collision of two goods. He used abortion as an example. Life is good. We view it as valuable and sacred, especially those we love. On the other side, we view freedom as valuable and sacred as well. Freedom grants the human being a certain dignity beyond that of other creatures.

This bind via the collision of two goods has never really quite left my thoughts. So often, we seek to reduce positions and choices to right or wrong, good or evil, sacred or profane. Some aspects of life certainly shake out into well-defined categories, but many are marked elements that are more complex.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is confronting issues that, to my mind, are of the more complex variety. I do not believe we are talking about choices between good or evil. We are wrestling with what it means to be faithful.

Some argue that adherence to a particular understanding of revealed truth is paramount. Others understand the implications of the revealed truth of the scriptures and history of the Church in a different way. Taking the Bible and the theological tradition of the Church seriously is incredibly important. Application of the Gospel of grace to real life is important as well. Our difficult conversations about human sexuality within the Christian Church are best framed as a quest for faithfulness. Conflict arises as we entrench around our particular good.

At this point, Resolution D025 has more or less made it through both houses. There were some minor changes that will send it back to the deputies, but most argue it will clear that house. It is a very descriptive resolution that marks the present situation. We want to maintain relationships at all levels of the Anglican Communion and the majority at General Convention does not see sexual orientation, within the confines of monogamy and fidelity, as a barrier to discernment to any one of the three-fold orders of ministry within the Episcopal Church.

Some have conceptualized our conversation as a choice between two goods on a macro level. One good is the relationship that exists among the constituent churches of the Anglican Communion. Another good is the right relationship among people of the Episcopal Church.

Some bishops have argue that D025 changes nothing. It describes where we are and does not mean the end to the “restraint” of the last several years. Others argue it is a new day. We will see in time what it means in practice.

I continue to pray for the deputies and bishops. They are charged with a difficult task. I pray for their faithfulness and the faithfulness of the Church they represent.

Monday, July 13, 2009

D025 Passes House of Bishops

Resolution D025

General Convention 2009

We are in the midst of the nitty gritty of GC. A number of resolutions that will provoke discussion are in process. The deputies passed D025 and it awaits treatment by the bishops. It basically affirms TEC’s desire to remain within traditional Anglican relationships and supports the participation of gay and lesbian persons within the entire range of the ordered life of TEC. It will certainly be controversial. There will be many prognosticators offering interpretations of what it will mean in practice.

It certainly describes the situation of TEC. Most want to remain within the historic umbrella of Anglicanism, and many see the acceptance of gay and lesbian persons as connected with Gospel imperatives and sacramental theology. Agree or disagree, this is where we are at the moment.

Resolution C056 is making its way through the legislative process. It would authorize the development of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions to be formally considered at the next GC. The resolution came out of committee with widespread support for discussion.

The debates continue and the process lurches forward. It will be interesting and will fuel much more conversation. Whatever we do will have implications in this country and throughout the Anglican world.

To follow along go to General Convention Media Hub.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Acts 5

In the Daily Office lectionary cycle, we are in the midst of Acts. Chapter 5 records a phase of conflict between the religious authorities and the Jesus movement. It is one of my favorite vignettes from Acts.

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time.

Then he said to them, "Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men.

For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared.

After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.

So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail;

but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!" They were convinced by him,

Gamaliel offers a very interesting bit of direction in this passage. He postulates that the Jesus movement looks like many prior movements and they all failed. Gamaliel, however, leaves the door open. God might be doing something in Jesus. If that is the case, it is not to be resisted, but embraced.

What could Gamaliel be saying to us?

Perhaps, he provides a lens to view our approach to the “New Movement”. If God is part of our mission and ministry, we will know it by how well we meet mission objectives. Growth and health have some role in helping us see the presence of God in the initiative.

I don’t mean this in some limited or fatalistic way. I mean big picture, health and vitality. It is more comprehensive than how we might feel as individuals. It is based more in an objective dimension.

The Gospel is about calling people into relationship with God. We help others recognize God’s love is present for the taking and sharing. We are the community charged with this message. On some level, we know it is working and the Spirit is in our midst, when others are responding.

What would it mean for us to apply “Gamaliel’s gauge” to our individual lives, the life of the parish and the state of the Church?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Looking Back at Missed Opportunities

The Lead provided a link to this interesting post on the blog of Thomas Brackett. He speaks of how examining the past is easier than grasping the gravity of the present moment. Brackett applies this to his experience of conversations about the lack of health found in the Church of England. This is my description, not his. His point is that the exclusion of younger people in leadership 20 years ago is part of the sad state of the C of E now.

Growth and health are not accidents. Growth and health are gifts of the Spirit. We can accept the Spirit’s offer or decline it. Too often we reject. We are too comfortable or too afraid to accept the new life offered us.

What if parishes were communities of exploration and experimentation? What if we shed tired programs that feel like burdens and tried new approaches? What if we were to encourage new people in the community to make suggestions rooted in fresh vision and experience? What if we were prepared to share what God is doing in our lives and why Church matters to us? What if we were to recognize the few things we can do well and do them? What if we were to become serious about worship? What if we were to become intentional about the formation of the next generation of leaders?

These questions and more will determine the state of the Church, we enjoy, as we look back to this moment.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

General Convention

        In my diocese, like many others, we hold a clergy gathering with the deputies going to GC. It is a time for sharing information, asking questions and clarifying opinions about the issues on the table. Our GC forum was just last week. In the days since, I have found myself pondering GC itself as a legislative unit, rather than the issues that will be considered.

In the midst of our economic upheaval, some say we should cancel GC. It is too expensive. It should be a teleconference. Some have argued that we should shorten it and just deal with budget. The immediate crisis is rarely a helpful force for sound decision-making or long-term vision.

In a somewhat different fashion, the economic crisis has crystalized my thinking about the Episcopal Church. The failure of General Motors has sparked something for me. GM, once the largest corporation on the planet, has failed and sought reorganization after years of decline. It has been clear through most of my lifetime that GM was not in a position to compete over the long-term with manufacturers like Honda and Toyota. GM has long been top heavy, slow and cumbersome in operation. Every CEO of GM over the last thirty years has promised to improve vehicle quality and profitability. Yet, the slow, stumbling giant has fallen to his knees. An elixir with chunks of SUV will not help him to his feet. What now?

If GM is to survive, it will be through a radical transformation. A top to bottom renaissance is required. I hope GM can make it work.

I wonder what it was like to be inside GM during the long slide. It seems that some raised the alarm. Why was the response inadequate? I imagine some just wanted to believe everything would be fine, after all, we are talking about GM...I am sure many didn’t want to let go of the known for the unknown.

The Church is in the midst of decline. The Mainline has been in a slide for quite some time, maybe as long as GM. As a denomination, we don’t seem to be doing very much about it. Some have examined the data considering birth and death rates. Some have noted growth in larger parishes, and argued that we are experiencing a shift and not decline. Some will argue that faith, health and vitality cannot be quantified.

The numbers included in the “State of the Church” piece of GC seem to illustrate simple decline. There are fewer members of the Episcopal Church. There are fewer people in the pews of Episcopal parishes on your average Sunday.

The Episcopal Church is not a business. There are a zillion ways comparing the Episcopal Church to GM is unfair, but I am thinking about practical dynamics. How connected is GC to the actual state and health of the Church? GC is a legislative body that produces a huge number of resolutions, revisions and what not. How effective is GC at empowering the Church to be the Church? For that matter, how effective is our present model of “being” Church? Do GC, current diocesan structures and parish structure serve the Church well at present, or will they serve the Church of the future?

My questions are not asked out of fear or scarcity. I am not saying we should pare down to run the enterprise more inexpensively. What I desire is a more vibrant, committed, exciting and growing community of servants of Jesus Christ. We face real decisions as the Church. Will we simply operate the way we always have, and pretend that the slide of the last thirty years isn’t happening? Will we expend all our resources and energy propping up an institution that is not currently structured to meet our needs? If GC had the will and support of the rest of the Church, maybe we could do a new thing, a better thing, a more faithful thing. With the aid of the Spirit, it is time for the Church to remake itself.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pentecost and Beyond

The Spirit is the most difficult person of the Trinity to conceptualize. We speak of God as Father. He gets billing as a bearded, sage-like older gentleman. Jesus is of course the Son. He was a human being, so it is simply not that difficult to picture him as a first century Jew. He gets the sandals and the requisite Middle Eastern garb.

But the Spirit simply defies description. Sure, we have the violent wind language. What does wind look like? I don’t think I have ever seen wind. I have seen the effects of the wind, but never the wind itself. I have felt the wind, but not to feel its shape or to know its essence. Yet, I still know it is there.

The Holy Spirit must be something like wind. The Spirit is known by its impact, not by our ability to force it into a form.

I remember being present for a service that included the Veni Creator Spiritus. It is an 8th century hymn that invokes the presence of the Holy Spirit. The most typical setting is a call and response piece. The Bishop starts: Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire. The people respond: Enlighten with celestial fire. It goes on. It is a beautiful piece, even if it is very familiar.

However on this particular occasion, we sang another setting, a Tazie piece, named for the monastic community that is known for the style. The style is marked by its simplicity and repetition. The words go Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni Sancte Spiritus. The congregation sang to line over and over. A cantor began a variation on the line just out of time and pitch with the rest of us. It created this incredible and delightful interplay of sound and voice. The organ gently played in the background, swelling and then fading. The volume of our voices followed the lead of the organ. After what seemed like a long time, voices and organ faded to whispers.

The hair on the back of my neck was standing straight and tall. My flesh was marked by goose bumps. We invoked the presence of the Spirit, and the Spirit obliged. At the reception following, everyone I talked with shared that sense of the Spirit breaking in on us and making us aware of that fact.

The essence of this day is the coming of the Spirit. As Jesus speaks to the disciples in John, he makes it clear that he is leaving, but they will not be alone. The will have a powerful partner to support and guide them. They will be given words. They will be given hope. They will be given the animating force that permeates the essence of God.

Acts demonstrates the way the Spirit comes and makes itself known. It is a force of translation and transformation, breaking into the moment and revealing a deeper, richer, more complete picture of God’s relationship to the world. The Spirit breaks down the barriers of ethnicity, language and allegiance. The Holy Spirit unites those who will accept unity and executes God’s vision for a reconciled people bound together in love. The Spirit comes to accomplish the task.

There is a lot of talk about spiritual renewal in our time. It is usually couched in terms of an inner pursuit. It is often about quiet, inner peace. It is often very individualistic.

Individual devotion is a critical piece of the spiritual life. Believers need internal clarity and commitment.

But the Spirit we speak of this day is a supra-personal. This Spirit is working beyond individuals, and for the peace of the entire body of Christ.

This day we recognize the life-giving power of God calls, supports and sustains us even now. The Spirit of strength, discernment and blessing resides with us. The Spirit is able to break in on us even now and give us life we could never claim alone.

We should gather in expectation that the Spirit just might tear the fabric between heaven and earth. When we gather, we risk the presence and power of the Spirit. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Like many, I have been following the discussion about torture. Bits of information, declassified memos and accounts of conversations are bringing light to this dark area. The discussion has taken a turn that makes me nervous. Did torture produce good intelligence and information?

Using this question as a measuring stick makes me queasy. Results cannot be the ultimate tool for evaluating methodology. If we employ this sort of logic, it becomes too easy to justify terrifying behavior. History is certainly replete with examples of this type of justification.

Diana Butler Bass posted an excellent piece on this topic on beliefnet.

America's Moral Conscience

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney, wrote an interesting piece on atonement theology, a week or so back. It is an interesting little piece published in the Guardian. I link it HERE .

Fraser is quite correctly critical of a particular kind of doctrine of the atonement, we might refer to as substitutionary. The idea is that God demands a sacrifice to restore right relationship with humanity and Jesus becomes that sacrifice. The formulation of this way of thinking about the atoning death of Jesus is much more complex and subtle, but this is the broad brush.

It is troubling for all the reasons Fraser mentions. It smacks of brutality and violence. It doesn’t portray God in a very positive light. In certain global quarters, it might even lend support to practices most of us would consider quite barbaric.

I am not sure, however, that it would be appropriate to divorce Christianity of the atoning death of Jesus on the cross of Good Friday. The scriptures clearly see Jesus death in sacrificial terms. Surely, Jesus death in the minds of the writers of the scriptures, and in my mind was “for us”. So there is a sense in which Christ is the sinless victim for a sinful humanity. I don’t think you can simply walk away from Christian history, teaching and the Bible.

That said, I don’t think we need to be forever tied to a particular vision of the meaning of sacrifice. Usually, ritual sacrifice denotes an unwilling victim to be the offering. In the case of Jesus, the scriptures portray a victim, conflicted, but having a choice. It seems that Jesus chose to accept his death in service of God. The Bible does not indicate Jesus death was a transaction. It speaks in terms of kenosis, the free pouring out of life by choice in service of God. St. Paul certainly speaks of his life in these sacrificial terms. The martyrs of the early Christian Church seemed to embrace this same vision of sacrifice.

Here in the west, we don’t care for sacrifice. We rightly reject the implications of ritual sacrifice. However, we don’t much care for the notion of kenosis either. Offering ourselves and accepting less is not our strong suit. God is not a hungry, blood thirsty beast, that tends to be our territory. Maybe what we need is a deeper grasp of the mystery of Jesus’ self- authenticating, self-sacrificing acceptance of the cost of love?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Octave of Easter-still hearing from Egeria...

Services in the Easter Octave.

Moreover, the Paschal days are kept up to a late hour as with us, and the dismissals take place in their order throughout the eight Paschal days, as is the custom everywhere at Easter throughout the Octave. But the adornment (of the churches) and order (of the services) here are the same throughout the Octave of Easter as they are during Epiphany, in the greater church, in the Anastasis, at the Cross, in Eleona, in Bethlehem, as well as in the Lazarium, in fact, everywhere, because these are the Paschal days. On the first Lord's Day2 they proceed to the great church, to the great church again, that is, to the martyrium.

Moreover, on the eight Paschal days the bishop goes every day after breakfast up to Eleona with all the clergy, and with all the children who have been baptised, and with all who are apotactitae, both men and women, and likewise with all the people who are willing. Hymns are said and prayers are made, both in the church which is on Eleona, wherein is the cave where Jesus was wont to teach His disciples, and also in the Imbomon, that is, in the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven. And when the psalms have been said and prayer has been made, they come down thence with hymns to the Anastasis at the hour of lucernare. This is done throughout all the eight days. 10. Vesper Station at Sion on Easter Sunday.1 Now, on the Lord's Day at Easter, after the dismissal of lucernare, that is, at the Anastasis, all the people escort the bishop with hymns to Sion. And, on arriving, hymns suitable to the day and place are said, prayer is made, and the passage from the Gospel is read where the Lord,1 on the same day, and in the same place where the church now stands in Sion, came in to His disciples when the doors were shut. That is, when one of His disciples, Thomas, was absent, and when he returned and the other Apostles told him that they had seen the Lord, he said: "Except I shall see, I will not believe."2 When this has been read, prayer is again made, the catechumens and the faithful are blessed, and every one returns to his house late, about the second hour of the night.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday of Holy Week

Vigil of Easter

Now, on the next day, the Sabbath,1 everything that is customary is done at the third hour and also at the sixth; the service at the ninth hour, however, is not held on the Sabbath, but the Paschal vigils are prepared in the great church, the martyrium. The Paschal vigils are kept as with us, with this one addition, that the children when they have been baptised and clothed, and when they issue from the font,1 are led with the bishop first to the Anastasis; the bishop enters the rails of the Anastasis, and one hymn is said, then the bishop says a prayer for them, and then he goes with them to the greater church,where, according to custom, all the people are keeping watch. Everything is done there that is customary with us also, and after the oblation1 has been made, the dismissal takes place. After the dismissal of the vigils has been made in the greater church, they go at once with hymns to the Anastasis, where the passage from the Gospel about the Resurrection is read. Prayer is made, and the bishop again makes the oblation. But everything is done quickly on account of the people, that they should not be delayed any longer, and so the people are dismissed. The dismissal of the vigils takes place on that day at the same hour as with us.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday of Holy Week

Good Friday.--(a) Service at Daybreak.

And when they arrive before the Cross the daylight is already growing bright. There the passage from the.Gospel is read where the Lord is brought before Pilate, with everything that is written concerning that which Pilate spake to the Lord or to the Jews;1 the whole is read. And afterwards the bishop addresses the people, comforting them for that they have toiled all night and are about to toil during that same day, (bidding) them not be weary, but to have hope in God, Who will for that toil give them a greater reward. And encouraging them as he is able, he addresses them thus: "Go now, each one of you, to your houses, and sit down awhile, and all of you be ready here just before the second hour of the day, that from that hour to the sixth you may be able to behold the holy wood of the Cross, each one of us believing that it will be profitable to his salvation; then from the sixth hour we must all assemble again in this place, that is, before the Cross, that we may apply ourselves to lections and to prayers until night."

(b) The Column of the Flagellation.

After this, when the dismissal at the Cross has been made, that is, before the sun rises, they all go at once with fervour to Sion, to pray at the column at which the Lord was scourged.1 And returning thence they sit for awhile in their houses, and presently all are ready.

(c) Veneration of the Cross.

Then a chair is placed for the bishop in Golgotha2 behind the Cross, which is now standing;3 the bishop duly takes his seat in the chair, and a table covered with a linen cloth is placed before him; the deacons stand round the table, and a silver-gilt casket is brought in which is the holy wood of the Cross. The casket is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and both the wood of the Cross and the title1 are placed upon the table. Now, when it has been put upon the table, the bishop, as he sits, holds the extremities of the sacred wood firmly in his hands, while the deacons who stand around guard it. It is guarded thus because the custom is that the people, both faithful and catechumens, come one by one and, bowing down at the table, kiss the sacred wood and pass through. And because, I know not when, some one is said to have bitten off and stolen a portion of the sacred wood, it is thus guarded by the deacons who stand around, lest any one approaching should venture to do so again. And as all the people pass by one by one, all bowing themselves, they touch the Cross and the title, first with their foreheads and then with their eyes; then they kiss the Cross and pass through, but none lays his hand upon it to touch it. When they have kissed the Cross and have passed through, a deacon stands holding the ring of Solomon and the horn from which the kings were anointed; they kiss the horn also and gaze at the ring2 . . . all the people are passing through up to the sixth hour, entering by one door and going out by another; for this is done in the same place where, on the preceding day, that is, on the fifth weekday, the oblation was offered.

(d) Station before the Cross. The Three Hours. And when the sixth hour has come, they go before the Cross, whether it be in rain or in heat, the place being open to the air, as it were, a court of great size and of some beauty between the Cross and the Anastasis; here all the people assemble in such great numbers that there is no thoroughfare. The chair is placed for the bishop before the Cross, and from the sixth to the ninth hour nothing else is done, but the reading of lessons, which are read thus: first from the psalms wherever the Passion is spoken of, then from the Apostle, either from the epistles of the Apostles or from their Acts, wherever they have spoken of the Lord's Passion; then the passages from the Gospels, where He suffered, are read. Then the readings from the prophets where they foretold that the Lord should suffer, then from the Gospels where He mentions His Passion. Thus from the sixth to the ninth hours the lessons are so read and the hymns said, that it may be shown to all the people that whatsoever the prophets foretold of the Lord's Passion is proved from the Gospels and from the writings of the Apostles to have been fulfilled. And so through all those three hours the people are taught that nothing was done which had not been foretold, and that nothing was foretold which was not wholly fulfilled. Prayers also suitable to the day are interspersed throughout. The emotion shown and the mourning by all the people at every lesson and prayer is wonderful; for there is none, either great or small, who, on that day during those three hours, does not lament more than can be conceived, that the Lord had suffered those things for us.1

Afterwards, at the beginning of the ninth hour, there is read that passage from the Gospel according to John where He gave up the ghost.2 This read, prayer and the dismissal follow.

(e) Evening Offices. And when the dismissal before the Cross has been made, all things are done in the greater church, at the martyrium, which are customary during this week from the ninth hour3--when the assembly takes place in the martyrium--until late. And after the dismissal at the martyrium, they go to the Anastasis, where, when they arrive, the passage from the Gospel is read where Joseph begged the Body of the Lord from Pilate and laid it in a new sepulchre.4 And this reading ended, a prayer is said, the catechumens are blessed, and the dismissal is made.

But on that day no announcement is made of a vigil at the Anastasis, because it is known that the people are tired; nevertheless, it is the custom to watch there. So all of the people who are willing, or rather, who are able, keep watch, and they who are unable do not watch there until the morning. Those of the clergy, however, who are strong or young keep vigil there, and hymns and antiphons are said throughout the whole night until morning; a very great crowd also keep night-long watch, some from the late hour and some from midnight, as they are able.