Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Outloud Thoughts

I feel like a character in the novel Perelandra, the second in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. On that fictional planet, there is no firm ground. It all consists of floating islands, constantly rising and falling, making it difficult for one to keep one's footing.

When I was ordained a priest nearly seventeen years ago, I promised to (among other things) "take [my] share in the councils of the church." I didn't give it an inordinate amount of thought at the time. Of course I would go to conventions and councils and meetings and the like. It comes with the territory.

In time, I have more and more learned experientially what I would have known then theoretically, that participating in the councils of the church is more easily said than done. The work I did last summer at General Convention, serving on a hot-button committee that was constantly in the spotlight, was one of the most demanding and exhausting labors to which I have ever given myself. I have still not completely "processed" what went on there, and the meaning of my own share in it.

This coming weekend, the diocese in which I serve as part of the "college of presbyters"--an ancient expression that is worth recovering, with its image of wise "elders" standing alongside the bishop and together leading the people of God in discerning God's vision for His church--as I said, the Diocese of San Joaquin will be convening and considering what is arguably the most important question in our 95 year history; to wit: whether to take a large step in the direction of dissolving our formal relationship with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Some would contend that we are considering doing something that is quite outside our competence. We'll find out, I guess. In any case, we're not pulling the trigger this time around. That opportunity will come at next year's convention, at the second reading of the constitutional change that I expect we will pass on Saturday. So, for now, we're just taking the safety off and cocking the gun.

I have very mixed feelings about this. At one level it's terrifying and sobering beyond words. If we do this, we will be entering uncharted territory, and it's impossible to predict what the consequences will be, especially the unintended consequences. We will also be taking very real leave of some very real people who, while they may have done foolish things that irritate and annoy us no end, are also our friends--people with whom we have worked and prayed and laughed for years and years. This is sad. Sadder still is the fact that we will also be taking our leave of people who have not particularly irritated or annoyed us, and who have not necessarily done foolish things, but who, for various reasons, are not going to accompany us as we step out into the abyss. Anyone who is not brought up short by this fact isn't really thinking.

At the same time, the prospect of breaking free of the madness that has slowly but inexorably tightened its grip on the Episcopal Church for the past 35 years or so is bracing and irresistably attractive. As I have previously written in upstream posts, I believe a realignment of Anglicanism is taking place that will produce structures of interdependence and accountability across provincial lines such as we have not seen before, and which the General Convention will most likely opt not to be part of. So, this weekend, we will hasten the inevitable.

I have also made it clear that I see no necessity of doing what we're about to do at this time. I would have preferred to wait, and let events take a more natural and organic course, and in the end produce pretty much the same result, only with wider buy-in. I can still serve in the Episcopal Church with a clear conscience. Moreover, I am mortified by some of the rhetoric that has been used by many of my colleagues as they have argued for haste in this matter. I fear that we are using an axe for a job that requires a scalpel, casting a wide net when a rod and reel are called for. But even though it's the wrong time, it is the right thing. Strategically, we've passed the point of no return. To back off now would send precisely the wrong message, both to our friends and to our adversaries. God help us, and God save us.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Annual "Holidays" Rant

The whole "Christ and culture" question (kudos to H. Richard Niebuhr, whose 1951 book by that name still frames the discussion) is complex and, for me, infinitely fascinating. This is the time of year when I feel the tension between the "Christ of culture" and "Christ against culture" models most acutely. They grind like tectonic plates.

In days of yore (aka my childhood), "Christmastime" didn't even think about beginning until at least the day after Thanksgiving, and even then rather slowly and gradually, reaching and sustaining a peak in mid-December, and hanging on until the first work/school day of the New Year. As I recall, my family-of-origin put up our Christmas tree around the second or third week of the month, and left it up until New Year's Day, which was a convenient time for taking it down. And nobody seemed to mind the word "Christmas." The vanguard of the political correctness movement admonished us to add "and Happy Hunukkah" after "Merry Christmas" in any generalized public seasonal greetings, which is all well and good, but the fact is, growing up in what were then mid-to-outer ring western suburbs of Chicago, I didn't know more than a handful of Jews, and as I later learned, Hunnukkah is a second or third tier Jewish festival that doesn't carry anywhere near the weight for Jews as Christmas carries for Christians.

Of course, there was a good deal of grousing and complaining about the "commercialization" and "secularization" of Christmas (symbolized by a disdain for "Merry Xmas" signs--ignorant disdain, it turns out, as 'X' is the Greek letter "chi" which is the first letter of "Christ"and therefore an ancient and accepted abbreviation with no secularizing undertones). Santa Claus, despite the fact that his cult is derived from that of an actual Christian saint, was the hapless icon of this commercialization and secularization.

Fast forward to the new millenium, and what passed for commercialization and secularization in those days of yore now seems to be veritably the practice of Christian religion, and Santa Claus, precisely because of his association with Saint Nicholas, is an integral part of that "religious Christmas" we have lost to "holiday trees" and "holiday carols" and "holiday parties" and "holiday gifts." "Happy Holidays" used to mean "both Christmas and New Year's"--or so I understood it. Now it means...well, what does it mean, actually? It includes Hunnukkah, of course, and, apparently, Kwanzaa. What else? Festivus, perhaps?

Retailers know what they're celebrating, I'm quite sure, but I don't know that very many others do. Most, I think, are celebrating celebration. It's an excuse to party. That's OK. Just don't be wishing me "Happy Holidays." I may not take it well.

But wait...there's more.

As a liturgical Christian, I'm swimming upstream in two channels at once. In my world, not only is it "Christmas" rather than "the holidays," it isn't even Christmas until...well...Christmas, or the eve thereof, at any rate. And then it continues--with trees still up and fully decorated--until January 6th, several days past the time when the "world" has settled into January humdrum. So while I'm dutifully frowning at retailers for their "holiday" muzak that begins around Hallowe'en, I'm also a sworn member (by virtue of ordination) of the Advent Police. (And, hey, Advent doesn't even begin for another week!) If the Advent Police were the sheriff's department in Mayberry, part of me would be Barney Fife wanting to ban red and green sweaters from church all during Advent, and decline all invitations to Christmas parties until after the 25th. But the other part of me would be Andy Taylor, who, as we know, never let his deputy carry a loaded weapon. So I'm pretty harmless. I control what I can--i.e. what happens inside St John's on Sunday mornings, and in my own home, to a limited extent--and roll with the rest. Some Valium would help, but I don't presently have a supply.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy C.S. Lewis Day

In the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (of which--yes--I am still a member by virtue of being a presbyter of the Diocese of San Joaquin), today is the optional observance of the lesser feast of "Clive Staples Lewis, Apologist and Spiritual Writer (1963)." In Christian tradition, the obervance of a saint customarily takes place on the anniversary of that person's death, and this is the date in 1963 when Professor Lewis passed into the life to come at (what now seems to me) the tender age of 65. This photo is one I personally took of his gravestone (he and his brother are buried one on top of the other) in the churchyard at Holy Trinity, Headington Quarry Parish, Oxford.

Lewis is undoubtedly the Anglican who is best known in the non-Anglican world. (And possibly better respected by non-Anglicans than by his co-religionists.) Without a close second (though Martin Thornton is gaining ground), he is the single greatest human influence on my own theological and spiritual formation, and the energy behind the sort of pastoral care I so feebly attempt to deliver. So I'm exercising the "option" of keeping the feast today.

Blessed Clive, ora pro nobis.

Oh...yes...I'm still drowning.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm drowning...

...in command performances and diocesan drama--and command performances related to diocesan drama--at the moment, so I barely have time to wipe my nose, let along blog. Plus, most of what is consuming my attention I still don't want to air publicly. But, as our governator here in California says, "I'll be back!"

Monday, November 13, 2006

On Religious Epistemology

During my day off channel surfing, I ran across the film Happy Accidents (2000) on the Independent Film Channel. (Lest you think I just blew off two hours of my life with my posterior planted on a couch, think again: I did a full workout on my Bowflex Motivator, sorted mail, and prepared and ate my lunch while I took in the movie.) Yeah, it's a chick flick (can something billed as a "romantic comedy" be anything else?), but since it had a science fiction angle to it, and being amply secure in my sexual identity, I stayed with it.

The main characters are Sam (Vincent D'Onofrio, of whom I am a fan from his work on Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and Ruby (Marisa Tomei). They meet, there's an instant attraction, and things develop pretty much the way they always do in romantic comedies. Early on in the relationship, though, Sam announces to Ruby that he's actually a time traveller, visiting from the year 2470. Most of the plot development has to do with her vacillation in whether or not she should believe him. But since I am neither Siskel nor Ebert (a good thing, since one of them is dead, though I can ever remember which), I'm not going to go there. Given my larger interests, I want to take my cue from the incidental but significant role that religion plays in the script.

In one of her moments of exasperation with Sam, Ruby lifts her eyes in a direction that might be taken for "heavenward" and pleads sotto voce, "Help me! Help me!" But that can be accounted for as reflexive piety. The more interesting moment occurs when Ruby's therapist, trying to assist her in negotiating the relationship, casually inquires, "Is he at all religious?" The reply? "No, religion went out of fashion in 2033 when they discovered the gene that causes it." We'll see. There's a plausible chance I might still be alive in 2033. Fortunately, I'll be retired, so if religion goes out of favor, I won't suffer materially!

This may have been a throwaway line by the scriptwriter, but here's why I think it's telling: Ruby's not the only one wondering whether Sam is telling the truth about being a time traveller; the viewer shares that curiosity with her, but is probably a good bit less skeptical. This is the way it is with any science fiction story. It is much easier for us to suspend disbelief when we're watching events unfold in a world we don't actually live in. As viewers, we are conditioned to want what we "know" cannot be true to actually turn out to be true. We root for the weirdo as he does battle with the skeptics, even though we would be one of those skeptics if we encountered the same sort of weirdo. So, is Sam diagnosable? A charlatan? Or is he, in fact, a time traveller?

Now, speaking from within the universe of the story, if he's nuts, or an itentional liar, his comment about religion disappearing after 2033 is of no relevance. But if it turns out that Sam is telling the truth about time travel, then what he says about religion is automatically equally true. A "religion gene," huh? Maybe Richard Dawkins is on to something in his latest diatribe against belief in God. What if, in 2033, some research scientist indeed does isolate and identify a gene that predisposes one to believe in God? Would that drive a stake into the heart of the notion of revealed religion, and the whole concept of faith? (Actually, it sounds like a Calvinist dream-come-true, but that's a ball for somebody else to run with.)

This raises the theological/philosphical issue knowns as "the god of the gaps." A study of human history could easily lead one to theorize that we and our ancestors have employed God as a sort of algebraic 'x' factor. When there's a "gap" between what we observe (the volcano on our island erupts from time to time) and what we can explain (we have no idea why the volcano actually erupts), we plug a god or gods into that gap (time to sacrifice a virgin so the gods will make the volcano stop erupting). This technique worked splendidly as long as human experience was full of "gaps." But since the practical empiricism of Copernicus, Newton et al and the later philosophical empiricism of Locke, Hume et al, the number of "gaps" is shrinking, and such ones as remain are getting smaller by the day. I can remember being scandalized in the early 1970s when psychologist B.F. Skinner lectured on my college campus after having just published Beyond Freedom and Dignity, in which he contented that all human behavior can be accounted for as the effect of a huge sum of electro-chemical reactions in our brains and other tissues.

So, what if the last "gap" is finally closed...say, in 2033? Will the jig be up? Will all religion be exposed as an archaic hypothesis?

I have what I believe are plausible answers to these questions, but I'm in an interactive mood as I write. So I'm going to make that portion of the blogsphere that happens upon this corner of cyberspace weigh in first. I'll share my thoughts, but it will take a little prompting. Not much, but some. And I'm especially curious how others might respond to this problem.

On the Due Observance of Sunday

I need to remind myself more frequently what a privilege it is to celebrate Sunday--the Lord's Day--as a parish priest. It's exhausting, particularly when there are add-ons, like a deanery pre-convention meeting in the afternoon. I'm worn out at the end of the day; my introversion is taxed to the max. All I really want to do in the evening is veg out in front of the television. There is invariably someone who says something that causes me to doubt myself, or the effectiveness of my ministry. And at the principal Mass, where nearly half the congregation is, for whatever reason, accustomed to walking in at any point after the Entrance Hymn and before the end of the sermon, I'm always anxious and depressed as that gradual process of pew infill takes place. Nowadays, of course, there is the tension emanating from how the larger Episcopal and Anglican world impacts our life together at St John's. My diocese (San Joaquin) faces a monumental decision in three weeks time--arguably the most important decision in our 95-year history. And we're in the holy season of Stewardshiptide, so there's a certain amount of anxiety over how the Anglican angst might affect our finances locally.

But, my God (and I mean that literally in this case), what a joy it is! What an unspeakable privilege. From Evening Prayer on Saturday night through the last coffee hour on Sunday in the early afternoon, I can't imagine anything else I'd rather be doing. I feel connected with who I am and what I'm called to be like at no other time. How did I get to be so lucky? We have evolved a liturgical ethos at St John's that consistently speaks to my soul and makes my heart sing. I know it does the same for others as well. Do I wish more were sharing in the fun? Absolutely! But I can't remember the last time we had a "dud" Sunday. Every week, my heart is overflowing with gratitude at the conclusion of the final liturgy. I feel surrounded by the beauty of holiness.

And it isn't just the beautiful surroundings of St John's. It's the beauty of the people. Yeah, we come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. But when they're stretching out their hands at the communion rail (into the courts of Heaven, as I am wont to teach them), they're all beautiful to me. I am privileged to have been let into their lives in varying degrees, and as I press the Body of Christ into their hands, it is a precious moment of insight into the mystery of how the brokenness of our lives, when made available to God in Christ, can become the very tools by which God reweaves the fabric of His fallen creation. In giving out the Bread of Heaven, I am watching redemption happen before my eyes. Can it get any better than that?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm Feeling Special


Actually I'm feeling "different":

  • Most of the candidates I voted for in this week's election lost. Most of the ballot measures I voted for lost, and most of the ones I voted against won. No news here, though; it almost always comes out that way.
  • A particular variety of nutrition bars I've gotten very attached to is no longer being stocked by the only store I know that carries the brand. "They weren't selling well enough," I was told. They're willing to special order them for me. But that's a pain.
  • Every time I want to use CD-burning software for one of my apparently esoteric purposes, I wrestle with the assumption that whatever I'm working with must be a "song." I don't work with downloaded music to begin with, but even if I did, the sort of music that I listen to doesn't present itself as "songs."
  • Along the same lines ... while the bazillion music channels I can get on my satellite TV dish are categorized into different sub-genres of Country, Rock, Hip-Hop, etc., my CD collection is broken down into Organ, Piano, Choral (the biggest section, with an entire sub-genre for Evensong), Concertos, other Orchestral, other Vocal (my scant collection of Opera is here), Christmas, and--the smallest category--Non-Classical (mostly Jazz).
  • I'm left-handed.
  • While my gastronomical repertoire has expanded considerably from what it was in my youth, I could probably still be considered a "picky eater." (No fruits, no cream sauces, no salads, very few vegetables.) When we accept a dinner invitation, my wife either has to have a discreet conversation with the host(ess) in advance, or worry that she hasn't.
  • I'm foreign-born. Technically, I guess, that makes me an immigrant, even though I was born a U.S. citizen, since my mother is American.
  • I'm a Cubs fan for life, though I haven't lived in the Chicago area since the early '70s. When I reveal this bit of personal information to my neighbors in the four other states I have lived in since then, I get lots of sympathetic smiles--verbal pats on the head--but very few know what it feels like. I fantasize about moving back to Chicago and just fitting in, wearing my Cubs hat without getting a second look.
I'm sure there's some profound point to be made here, but it hasn't been revealed to me yet! I've gotten used to being "different," and I don't need to tell myself I'm really "special" to help me deal with it. In truth, I suspect I'm probably not all that "special" anyway. I suspect that most every person around me has the same sense of being "different," of not quite fitting in. Just the details are different. This is a sign of the universal human experience of alienation. The older I get, the more aware I am of how so many of the ways people behave--ways that we would consider normal and healthy, and ways that we would consider pathological and dysfunctional--represent an attempt to transcend that experience, to connect in some way with something larger than oneself. Is this not the fundamental human angst?

Sunday, November 05, 2006


For nearly the last five years, I have been a fairly frequent poster on the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv (HoBD--sometimes pronounced "hobdee"). I suspect that my involvement there is pretty much behind me now; times have changed. But I continue on my quest for what some have termed the "alpha issue"--that is, the single criterion that can reliably sort those who are (at least) generally happy about the direction the Episcopal Church has been moving ("liberals") from those who are (at least) generally unhappy about it ("conservatives"). For instance, a little over a year ago, there was a long thread about the various sorts of disabilities people can be born with or later acquire, and whether they should be considered tragic, or unfortunate, or in any way signs of the presence of evil in the world. To my fascination, that question, which would not seem to be tied in any way to the controversey over sexuality, was a dead-on accurate reflection of the liberal-conservative divide. Liberals saw disabilities, whether congenital or the result of illness or accident, as God-given, and therefore considered it poor form to assume that a blind person would rather be sighted or a deaf person would rather hear. On the other hand, conservatives saw disabilities as signs of the Fall, conditions that can be presumed to be within the heart of God to heal.

All the attention recently being paid to the investiture of the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the interviews she has given and the statements she has made, have reminded me of my quest for the alpha issue. I don't think I've found it yet, but I have another candidate, a clash of paradigms that enfleshes the chasm that first world Anglicans stare at each other across.

An autobiographical tidbit would be in order here. I am not a cradle Episcopalian. I was raised in an affirmatively Christian home, but it was of an evangelical Protestant variety. While I am hugely grateful for my early Christian formation, it did tend to inculcate a hyper-individualistic perception. We were concerned with how "I" get saved and you "you" can get saved, but there was very little "we" in the mix. Moreover, salvation had an exclusively other-wordly connotation. This present world was pretty much something to be endured on the way to Heaven. By the time I was in high school (mid-to-late 1960s), the evil of racism began to appear on our church radar screen, as did the moral imperative of benevolent engagement with the victims of urban poverty. For the most part, though, passion for social issues (whether liberal or conservative--remember, my evangelical days pre-date the "Christian right") is not in my genes. I have to work at it.

Consequently, my life as an Episcopalian--working on three-and-half decades--has alway been marked by constant chagrin over the public policy resolutions passed by General Convention. It's not only that I disagree with the vast majority of them on the basis of their actual content, which I do. It's that I am opposed to any public policy resolutions as a matter of principle.

There are two reasons they bother me. First, it seems to me that there are precious few concrete political issues about which Christians of good will and an informed conscience cannot legitimately disagree. For church conventions to pass resolutions about such issues creates winners and losers. It fosters resentment, embarrassment, and cynicism on the part of those whose consicentiously held and not inherently unchristian political views are officially trashed by the church they are attempting to joyfully serve.

Second, and more profoundly, such resolutions bespeak a fundamental attitude that I believe is flawed at the core, and this is where the new Presiding Bishop's public comments both make my blood run cold and clarify things for all of us. She speaks of trying to create "God's realm" and helping bring about "God's dream," and then proceeds to describe "God's realm" (formerly known as God's Kingdom) as a world where everybody has adequate food, clothing, education, and freedom from violence. One is tempted to add, "with liberty and justice for all." It's the old nineteenth century Social Gospel dusted off and propped up--you know, the gleaming vision that died a slow death in the trenches of World War I, the one where it's up to us to "usher in the kingdom," to "build Jerusalem" amid the "dark satanic mills" (per William Blake) of industrial and now post-industrial society.

This is, in my ever so humble opinion, a dangerous attitude, at least if one is purporting to speak for any branch or brand-name of Christianity. The scriptures make it clear that the vocation of the Church is to announce the kingdom ("Aslan is on the move") and to model the kingdom ("look at us for a sneak preview of coming attractions"), but that making the kingdom happen is God's work, subject to God's timing and God's methods. There are parables all over the gospels about how the kingdom of God is like something that just happens, with little or no human initiative or involvement.

In this dangerous way of thinking, there is little attention paid to the paschal mystery, the kerygma, because there's no need for it. This is why the classic notions of redemption and discipleship were so lacking from the Presiding Bishop's investiture sermon. The onus is on us, the Church, to "produce" the "realm of God," and to the extent that we fail to do so, our worship, teaching, evangelistic efforts, and the like, are of no avail. They are means to an end, and the end has not been produced.

Ultimately--and this may be my evangelical roots showing--the vision articulated by Bishop Katharine is not only misleading, but terminally boring. There is nothing in it that raises my pulse or makes me want to sing. A yawn is about all I can muster.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Primatial Inadequacy

Today Katharine Jefferts Schori begins her nine year term as Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. In the corner of the church that I inhabit, this is not greeted as a happy event. The discontent transcends the current presenting problem of how the church should incorporate the faith and the gifts of gay and lesbian Christians into its life. It's bigger than that. Some among my acquaintance go so far as to assert that she ought not to even be considered a Christian.

In the days following her election in June, I defended Bishop Katharine (as I understand she enjoys being addressed) with respect to her use of "mother Jesus" language in her General Convention sermon. (She was drawing from a well that lies clearly within the tradition of Anglican spirituality, though it was a pastoral and strategic faux pas on her part to use it then.) So I've tried hard to believe the best about her, to give her the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, she's a liberal who's all about the agenda of (so-called) "full inclusion." But "not a Christian"? Surely my friends are being a little intemperate.

Well, my friends have also been a little worked up about some comments she made to Time magazine later in the summer, in which, responding to a question about the putative exclusivist claims of Christianity, she said something like, "For those who follow the Christian tradition, we know Jesus to be our vehicle to the divine." But, presumably, God makes other arrangements for those who do not follow the Christian tradition. Troubling. But maybe the interviewer and the interviewer's editor didn't give her ample opportunity to explain and elucidate.

So I was excited when, yesterday, on the eve of assuming office, the Presiding Bishop's interview with public radio journalist Robin Young was made public in both audio and transcript versions. I tuned in to the audio, and then read the transcript. Lucky for me, Ms Young honed right in on the same question that the Time reporter had posed: Is Jesus the only way to God?
Now, for myself, I think I have somewhat generous views on the subject. I do not agree with those Christians who insist that any human being anywhere who lives and dies without ever having said something like "the sinner's prayer," or been validly baptized (depending on what brand of fundamentalism one embraces), is condemned to eternal separation from God and all that it means to be human. Without compromising the truth that all salvation is through Christ, I don't think I'm straying too far off the reservation in thinking that God is capable of saving someone "through Christ" who may not be aware that he or she is being saved "through Christ." It's relatively easy for me to be a Christian. I had the good fortune to be born into a culture that, while no longer overtly Christian, is at least thoroughly marinated in Christianity. Why should that accident of birth give me an advantage over someone born in Mongolia or Uzbekistan or Borneo or the Amazon basin? Perhaps, I thought, Bishop Katharine's views are not all that different from my own. So I was all ears.

Here's what she said:

Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. Umm– that is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through human experience.. through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus.

Uh, what? Kind of opaque. Kind of evasive. Definitely not clear. Maybe she wasn't far enough into her cup of coffee. Appaently, Robin Young thought the same thing, because she just asked the question again:

RY: So you're saying there are other ways to God.

KJS: Uhh... human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them.. with the ultimate.. with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. Uhh.. uh..that doesn't mean that a Hindu.. uh.. doesn't experience God except through Jesus. It-it-it says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their.. own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships; and Christians would say those are our experiences of Jesus; of God through the experience of Jesus.

RY: It sounds like you're saying it's a parallel reality, but in another culture and language.

KJS: I think that's accurate.. I think that's accurate.

Well, there we have it. Parallel reality. That goes way beyond the sort of speculative generosity that I indulge in. It goes against, among other things, the very liturgy of the church over which Bishop Katharine now presides. Look at the fourth of the five Solemn Collects in the Liturgy of Good Friday (BCP, p.279). Here are the opening biddings:

Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;
For those who have never heard the word of salvation
For those who have lost their faith
For those hardened by sin or indifference
For the contemptuous and the scornful
For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and
persecutors of his disciples
For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others
That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to
faith and obedience.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I can't imagine that there could be a more arresting contrast between the Presiding Bishop's response to Robin Young's softball questions and the clear teaching of the Episcopal Church as enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer. And I haven't even opened a Bible yet. Don't even need to. I am particularly troubled by the Bishop's assent to the interviewer's characterization of her position that other religions are "parallel" routes to God for those of "another culture and language." This is not only a theological train wreck (the Church being "catholic"--i.e. universal--and all), it's elitist and racist. What language or cultural vocabulary does one have to be fluent in in order to qualify to be a Christian?

I'm enough of a Catholic in my theology to affirm the baptismal identity of Katharine Jefferts Schori. So I don't go along with those who say she's not a Christian. But it's a distinction with nary a difference. She is manifestly not qualified to be a teacher of the Christian faith. She is not qualified to be the Primate of a Christian church. This is sad.