Friday, May 30, 2008
Fellow-Boomer Victor Davis Hanson, whom I am not familiar with but who apparently writes for National Review, has rather lucidly explicated the failings of our generation here. (Hat tip to T19.) Read it and weep.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
We, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northern Indiana strongly protest the failure of the Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori and Chancellor David Booth Beers to follow the Canons of our Episcopal Church in the depositions of Bishops John Schofield and William Cox. Deposition is the harshest punishment that can be handed a bishop. It is essential that both the letter and the spirit of the Canons be followed since, in this case, the rights of the accused are protected, in part, by the extraordinarily high level of involvement and concord called for within the House of Bishops by Canon IV.9.2. As others have pointed out, the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church at various times distinguishes between a majority of the Bishops at a meeting, from a vote by a majority of the whole. Mr. Beers was incorrect in his assertion, reaffirmed by the Presiding Bishop in a letter to the House of Bishops (April 30, 2008), that the Canonical language of “the whole number of bishops entitled to vote” can be taken to mean only “those in attendance at a particular meeting.” This makes deposition an action with no higher standard than any matter of routine business. We agree with the analysis provided by the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Dioceses of South Carolina and Central Florida that the Canons plainly require a majority of all Bishops entitled to vote, not just those in attendance at a particular meeting. 
We call upon the Presiding Bishop and the House of Bishops to revisit those decisions and make every effort to follow our Church Canons in this and all future House of Bishops decisions.
We note with alarm that the Presiding Bishop has publically stated her intent to begin, at the September meeting of the House of Bishops, deposition proceedings against Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for abandoning the communion before the diocese votes to do so in November. We plead for calm and prayer in the face of temptations to escalate abuses of power in this way. We agree with the Standing Committee of Central Florida and others who insist that depositions are an unnecessary and unfortunate way to deal with disagreement, dissension, and even division within our Church. We believe it also borders on unchristian.
This statement was written shortly after Trinity Sunday. The Trinitarian faith we profess in our worship is no mere exercise in divine arithmetic. The Trinity helps us know God’s true character within whose being exists a community of divine self-abasement. Thus understood, the Trinity is the foundation upon which truly human relationships are built. Everything the New Testament has to say about Christian relationships flows from this essential understanding of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nowhere is this clearer than in Philippians 2:1-11.
We believe that when we let the same mind be in us that was in Jesus, other ways of responding to division come into view. Those Bishops (or other clergy) who, for sake of conscience, can no longer minister as part of The Episcopal Church can be transferred at their request, or permitted to renounce their vows and join with other Anglican Provinces without vindictiveness or punitive measures. Confrontation in the Church is an opportunity to show the world how Christians conduct themselves in the midst of serious disagreements. It is an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.
We urge the House of Bishops to give attention to these matters in the name of mutuality, humility and concord.
We insist that when it becomes necessary to invoke the Canons, that both the letter and the spirit of the law be dutifully followed.
We encourage the Standing Committees of the various dioceses within The Episcopal Church to investigate these matters for themselves and prayerfully consider an appropriate response.
Peace be to the Church, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northern Indiana :
The Rev. Bennett G. Jones II, President
The Rev. James Warnock, Secretary
The Rev. Canon Richard A. Kallenberg
Timothy C. Gray
Cynthia GuzzoPamela Barnes Harris
Sunday, May 25, 2008
What follows is nothing new. It isn't anything that hasn't been said many times before, including by me. But one should never tire of telling the truth when it needs to be told, and the responses on this thread make it abundantly clear that some critical elements of the truth have not yet sunk in with a lot of the members of this list.
So, here goes ... one ... more ... time.
Everybody I know is willing to stipulate to the substance of the charges against Bishops Cox and Schofield--that they have indeed "abandoned the communion of this church" (i.e. TEC). (One could make a case that the abandonment canon was the wrong one to use in their cases, but that's another conversation.) So nobody on either "side" of this mess is contesting the outcome--that Bishops Cox and Schofield be no longer allowed to exercise ordained ministry as representatives of the Episcopal Church. That ball is not in play and nobody is trying to put it in play.
Opinions vary on this, but I, for one, do not attribute any dishonorable or malevolent motives to the Presiding Bishop or to Chancellor Beers with respect to how the depositions were handled at the March HOB meeting. I think it was an honest mistake on their part. I agree that they were following established precedent. Nor do I blame the bishops for not objecting at the time; they too were following precedent and assumed everything was on the up and up. They may have been culpably ignorant, but they were, I would wager, nonetheless ignorant. Nobody was trying to pull a fast one, and nobody was sitting mutely while an injustice was being perpetrated. But, as has been amply demonstrated, it was a bad precedent, and two wrongs don't make a right. There is a legitimate distinction to be made between the precedent of a judicial opinion and the precedent of an administrative practice. The former helps shape the body of legal tradition. The latter, when it is pursued in error, only compounds the error, and makes it only that much more imperative that the error be rectified.
All this is taking place, of course, in a wider context of grave crisis in TEC and in the Anglican Communion. We are staring at each other across spiritual minefields, from foxholes and trenches. The general level of trust and presumptive good will is at what could be an all-time low in our history. The "bonds of affection" have been strained not only *to* the breaking point but well beyond that point. In such a conflicted environment, process becomes all the more important. Even when we cannot trust one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, a shared commitment to due process--to the rules we agreed to live under in less cantankerous times--becomes the only bit of glue that can bind us together, short of a completely sovereign and veritably miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.
In such a conflicted state, when mutual adherence to constitution and canons is all we have to hang onto, the strict observance of those canons by everyone involved takes on paramount importance--more importance than in more "normal" times, when the resilience of the organism is more capable of tolerating some technical defects in processes like the deposition of bishops. We don't live in such times presently, and, as a body, we don't have the resilience to withstand such defects. There isn't enough trust to go around at the moment. If there were ever a time when we need to be punctiliously compliant with the letter of our own laws, this is that time.
And what do we have now in this time of Anglican angst? We have a widespread and growing *perception* that due process was abused. We have heard officially from South Carolina, Central Florida, and Springfield. I predict there will be more. This perception of canonical laxity extends from the Cox-Schofield depositions to the whole manner in which 815 has dealt with the San Joaquin meltdown--IMO, a much more egregious problem. In such a time as this, even the perception--let alone the reality--of canonical abuse poisons the well from which we all drink.
Fixing the mess, and restoring some modicum of confidence that we are abiding by our own rules, is difficult but not impossible. There are multiple ways this could happen, but the simplest one, in Bishop Schofield's case, would be for the HOB, by a telephone poll, to accept his letter of resignation from the HOB as tantamount to resignation from ministry in TEC, and just be done with it. But if some find that objectionable, then the Title IV Review Committee should meet (a half-hour conference call should suffice) to form the charges against Bishops Cox and Schofield, either using the same "abandonment" canon or, better still, filing a presentment and scheduling a proper trial. My guess is that neither gentleman would show up to contest the charges, so it need not be a matter of inordinate expense. But the benefits of such a move--especially if combined with an effort to face up to the boondoggle that was made of San Joaquin--would be immediately palpable.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Take a good look at this prayer. You may never see it again. Let me know if you want an explanation of the arcane rubrics in the (American) Book of Common Prayer that lead to this collect's obscurity, but, as those rubrics stand, anyone reading this post will long since have assumed room temperature before it is again officially prescribed for liturgical use after Morning Prayer this coming Saturday.
That doesn't mean one can't come back to it in the course of private or extra-liturgical devotion, and I hope many do, for it is a gem of Christian piety in general and an exemplar of Anglican spirituality in particular. It crystallizes the dialectical tension between the present reality of our salvation ("what you have wrought in us") and the ongoing process of living into that reality ("make us worthy of our calling"). We do not deserve God's grace, yet He has "wrought" a new creation within us through His grace. We are not inherently worthy to be His followers, but that same grace is ready to make us worthy.
The late great A. M. Ramsey once wrote (I wish I could recall the citation): "God does not call those who are fit; He fits those whom He calls." I am grateful for that insight just about every day of my life. And I'm grateful that the Collect for Proper 1--here today and then gone for a long while--brings it to the forefront of the Church's attention this week.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It has lain fallow during Paschaltide because I have been preaching extemporaneously (indeed, in a most evangelical expository fashion!) through the First Epistle of Peter. But now I'm back to my more scripted (but, I hope, nonetheless engaging) homiletical mode.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I am especially grateful for Ms Johns' attention to the symbiotic connection between the reading of the Word of God in liturgy and the practice of private prayer--the first overflowing into the second, and the second enriching and enlivening the first. So often, in my observation, people compartmentalize Sunday worship and don't create channels by which it can irrigate both personal prayer and ordinary daily living.
I am also energized by the connection she highlights between personal prayer and the common faith of the Church, how the former must always be disciplined by the latter:
Such a reading, if authentically of the Spirit, will also be consonant with the teaching of the Church, the Body of Christ - Son and Spirit, the "two hands of God" always work together (Irenaeus of Lyons: see, for example, Against Heresies IV, pref., 4).
How apropos this is in an environment where so many are apt to pit dogma (in the best sense of that term) against “Spirit.”
Do give the whole thing a look.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Once in a while, though, I do cry real tears--sometimes of sorrow, and sometimes of . . . I don't quite want to say joy . . . ecstasy might be more like it. When that sort happens, chances are I'm in church and chances are I'm trying to sing something. I cried during my first Easter Vigil, during the hymn right after the lights come on. I cried on Good Friday my first year in seminary, as I literally helped hold the cross while the entire assembly approached it in pairs to kneel and pray while everyone else was singing the Reproaches set to music by the Spanish Rennaissance composer Tomas Luis de Victoria.
But first prize in this category goes to Westminster Abbey. Three years ago last month I made my first (and thus far only) trip to England. On the first Sunday afternoon I was there, I found myself, without any particular planning, outside the abbey at the time they were no longer admitting tourists but were letting in those who wanted to attend Evensong and promised to stay for the whole thing. They waved me past the queue and ushered me not just into the nave but all the way beyond the rood screen into the choir. (The actual choir needed only about one-third the available space in that part of the building.) The Office Hymn that day was a familiar text, Charles Wesley's Love divine, all loves excelling. American Protestants--those who still sing hymns, at any rate--are used to singing it to a rather insipid tune called Beecher. Episcopalians associate it with the incredibly durable Welsh tune Hyfyrdol. The Brits, however, have two other candidates: the very Victorian Love Divine by Sir John Stainer, and another product of Wales, Blaenwen.
It was this last one that we sang in Westminster Abbey at Evensong on that April Sunday in 2005. I was seated next to an elderly gentleman who then lived in Greece but had been a cathedral chorister as a boy in England. We both sang our hearts out. On the last half of the last verse, the organist performed the Anglican musical version of Emeril's "kick it up a notch" cooking move, pulling a 32' pedal reed and slipping in some deliciously unexpected harmonies. But I couldn't finish it myself. I was sobbing uncontrollably. It was liminal, mystical, transcendent, and I will never forget it.
I'm not even sure YouTube even existed three years ago. But I am very grateful for it now because it allows me to revisit the same spiritual territory that I was treading that afternoon in London. The BBC has a remarkable series called Songs of Praise. It's essentially a televised hymn sing. Each program features a different venue--a cathedral, a church, or an auditorium packed with enthusiastic singers, both trained and amateur. And there is a seemingly limitless number of these hymns available on YouTube.
While searching for a rendition of Love divine... to Blaenwen, I ran across this very touching choral anthem version of the text, newly composed for a youth choir festival.
Is the human face ever more beautiful than when singing? I think not. And as much as I love at least 2.5 of the hymn tune versions already available, this one is really quite nice.
I haven't yet found a performance of Blaenwen that can come close to replicating my mountaintop experience in Westminster Abbey, but in case you don't know the tune, have a look at this one. (The singers are quite skilled, but they appear to be outfitted by the costume designer for a Star Trek movie.)
What the various commenters say about the hymn and the tune are probably of more interest than the actual performance, but still . . .
I need to never quit singing hymns, if for no other reason than that a good many of those people who most exasperate me these days are eventually going to be singing beside me and casting their crowns as I cast mine before the Lamb that was slain and the One seated on the throne as we are together lost in wonder, love, and praise. If I didn't believe that, I couldn't keep going.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
So the ears of my heart perked up when I ran across this bit from Cal Thomas' most recent column to appear in the Warsaw Times-Union (he's talking about Time magazine's list of the "100 most influential people in the world"):
Who on Time's list fits the definition of "influential"? Not Tim Russert, who is a terrific interviewer, but how much influence could he have at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning when millions are in church? "If it's Sunday, it is 'Meet the Press'" he signs off every week. No, if it's Sunday, for more people than watch his program, it is church.
I have no intention of marking myself as a fossil by indulging in a "back in the day" rant about the due observance of the Lord's Day. (Although the first time I tried to buy a case of beer in Indiana on a Sunday, I felt like I was "back in the day"!) While I am veritably jubilant to read that there are more people in church on Sunday than watch Meet the Press, a claim I have no reason to doubt, the attitude evinced by Mr Russert in his sign-off remains an emblem of the still-emerging post-Christian era in western society.
Would I have wanted Christendom to endure a while longer--at least until I've moved on to the life to come? Sure. If given the opportunity, I would roll back the clock on that one. Here's the thing: Those of us who are leaders in the old line churches, especially those of a sacramental-liturgical ilk, are pretty much clueless about how to "do church" in any other way than the model we inherited from the era of Christendom. What I and my "religious professional" colleagues are formed for is to be faithful "village parsons"--to lead worship, preach and teach, be the presence of Christ to people at the watershed moments of their lives, and, if we're reasonaby competent, build some community along the way.
In the meantime, though, the acreage of unharvested grain is increasing exponentially (see here for a sobering reality check), and post-Christian Christianity needs to get its act together. The obstacles are a lot more formidable than competing with Tim Russert for quality time on Sunday morning.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
In the cavalcade of events since the 2003 General Convention lit a match to the tinder-dry Anglican forest, the worst-case-scenario-sum-of-all-fears for me and for many others has been the prospect of a monumental schism that cuts to the core of Anglicanism, with a larger chunk, mostly "Global South", spinning off into a theologically orthodox (in an Evangelical sense, with tolerance for some Catholics in their midst) but non-Canterburian post-Anglican body, leaving behind a smaller chunk, mostly European and North American, in a radically downsized but Canterbury-centered Anglicanism dominated by "progressive" theology, with some degree of tolerance for Catholics and Evangelicals who remain with them.
This nightmare scenario remains a clear and present danger. If I were a betting man (which I am so not), I would hedge my bet, but my main money would go with the split. I have long prayed for, and advocated for, an end to the ill-advised boycott of the Lambeth Conference by the Global South bishops and their allies. With a strong united front, it is still possible to consolidate the gains made in 1998 (the statement on sexuality known as Lambeth I.10) and dig a foundation for a strong Anglican Covenant, one that will enable Anglican Christianity to finally come of age for the first time in history. This Lambeth Conference had the potential to be of watershed significance. I think that potential may have been squandered by a series of rash and impatient moves (GAFCON among them) on the part of orthodox Anglicans. But the news that some key voices of mainstream Anglicanism from North America will be at the table in Canterbury this summer is welcome.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
|Addendum in light of the Presiding Bishop’s April 30, 2008 Letter to the House of Bishops:|
|Written by Confidential to ACI|
|Tuesday, 06 May 2008|
A defense now proffered by the Presiding Bishop and her supporters is that the same procedures were followed in the recent cases of Bishops Davies and Moreno. Past violations of the canon’s clear provisions are said to justify current ones. In considering this defense, it is necessary to distinguish three senses of “precedent” in legal usage. One is the well-known sense of precedent as a formal ruling on a legal issue by a competent juridical body. This is clearly not the case here as no one has suggested that the prior cases were determined to be canonical by any body reviewing the canonical issues. These cases are not offered as reasoned legal rulings, but as a fait accompli.
The third type of precedent is one that is often encountered in commercial litigation and corporate law. This is when clear contractual or legal duties are repeatedly violated. Here the past misconduct is to no avail absent an explicit waiver. Especially relevant to the current context is a pattern familiar to any corporate lawyer: that of a closely-held corporation that does not follow its own bylaws. Such corporations, owned by one or a small number of shareholders, have many of the same duties in terms of corporate formalities and procedural regularity as public corporations traded on national stock exchanges. Corporate law requires that proper procedures be followed in order for an enterprise to receive legal recognition and protection as a corporation. Often the sole shareholder of a corporation pays no attention to these formalities or the requirements of the corporate bylaws. The business is simply run as the shareholder sees fit.
But when the litigation arises and a hostile party asks the court to disregard the corporate form and permit a suit directly against the shareholder, those past “precedents” of ignoring the corporate rules are to no avail. In fact, the naked “we’ve done it this way before” becomes evidence for the other side, the primary evidence that the corporate form is a sham. The frequent result in such cases is that the law disregards the corporate form --it “pierces the corporate veil”-- and the shareholder’s assets are no longer protected as intended by the corporation. Corporations that seek the law’s recognition must follow the legal requirements and their own rules. Past malfeasance is not a defense; to the contrary it is proof of a pattern of abuse that exacerbates the current violation. It is a supreme irony that Bishop Lamb is now petitioning the California courts to defer to TEC’s polity and recognize him as the bishop of San Joaquin when the clear provisions of TEC’s canons indicate Bishop Schofield has not been lawfully deposed.
What you see above is the entire addendum, but here's the link to the source. The original memorandum can be seen here.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Start here. Then go here. Remember that these two blog posts (and one yet to follow) are in the form of a hypothetical future memorandum from a future chancellor to a future Presiding Bishop, explaining why the Episcopal Church lost its legal battle in San Joaquin, and suggesting what can be done to reverse the damage.
Friday, May 02, 2008
Nearly four decades ago I had a college professor who never tired of railing against what he called "present-mindedness," a habit of thought that magnifies the insights and attitudes of the zeitgeist, and heavily discounts those of earlier eras. Is not present-mindedness surely the besetting malady of the Episcopal Church? We are veritably amnesiac. We have forgotten who we are. I was raised in midwestern free-church evangelicalism, a subculture that, in my youth, was so amnesiac that it almost believed the doctrinal content of the Christian faith was dropped by parachute on Wheaton, Illinois sometime around the turn of the last century.
So it was a liberating moment for me when I knelt before the Bishop of Los Angeles (33 years ago last month) for the sacramental rite of Confirmation. Without losing anything that I had embraced in my Christian journey before that point, I gained the wisdom and coherence of 2,000 years of Christian tradition. I accepted the givenness of Christianity. It was not my possession, my personal intellectual toy. It was something that had been "handed along" (Greek paradosis--"tradition") to me. As a pastor, all these years later, it is my solemn obligation to "hand along" what we have received to others--intact. I have neither the burden nor the authority to re-invent it.
This is the practice of diachronic koinonia. Until recent years, one could make a plausible case that such practice was in the DNA of the Episcopal Church. Lately, not so much. We are, in fact, rapidly mutating. Bonnie Anderson's assertions (in her message to the House of Deputies this past week) that there is a theology behind TEC's polity, and that such polity is the vehicle for Divine revelation are among the signs of the ongoing mutation. The Presiding Bishop's Pentecost message that speaks not of the Holy Spirit, but simply of "Holy Spirit" is another. Pope Benedict, in his New York remarks, was lovingly and generously holding us accountable to our own identity. We have quite forgotten ourselves.