General Convention 2006

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, and I will praise you . . . Psalm 43:3-4

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church
met in Columbus, Ohio from June 11-21, 2006.
This blog offers a view of the convention and beyond from the perspective of Lydia Evans, a two-time lay deputy from the Diocese of South Carolina.
Visit the links found below for additional resources
as well as pre- and post-convention coverage.
Thank you for remembering the convention deputies and their families in your prayers. For further resources, visit my webpages.
For all posts from the month of June, click here.
For all posts from the month of July, click here.


The Post-modern Pulpit

Here's another great cartoon from Dave Walker over at Cartoon Church. I love his cartoons. You can also find this one in the latest Church Times.


Guess Who?

I've been doing a little digging around this past week, and in my digging, I bumped into an interesting little coincidence (or is it?).

A095 -- Gay and Lesbian Affirmation is a resolution which originated from the Standing Commission on National Concerns, one of the CCABs during the last triennium.

Guess who chaired the Standing Commission on National Concerns for 2003-2006?

The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, nominee in the Newark Episcopal election, served as chair of the SCNC, which put forth six resolutions for presentation to the 75th General Convention. All in all, these resolutions went unnoticed in Columbus, except for one – A095 Gay and Lesbian Affirmation.

A095 is a resolution which begins by asking for a reaffirmation of the Episcopal Church’s support of gay and lesbian persons and their entitlement to full civil rights as well as the Church’s continued advocacy on their behalf for domestic partnership benefits. Ultimately A095 asks for quite a bit more, however. The last resolve requests that the 75th GC “oppose any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions.”

* FINAL VERSION - Concurred

Resolution A095
Title: Gay and Lesbian Affirmation
Topic: Civil Rights
Committee: 10. Social and Urban Affairs
House of Initial Action: Bishops
Proposer: National Concerns


Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention reaffirm the Episcopal Church’s historical support of gay and lesbian persons as children of God and entitled to full civil rights; and be it further

, That the 75th General Convention reaffirm the 71st General Convention’s action calling upon “municipal council, state legislatures and the United States Congress to approve measures giving gay and lesbian couples protection[s] such as: bereavement and family leave policies; health benefits; pension benefits; real-estate transfer tax benefits; and commitments to mutual support enjoyed by non-gay married couples”; and be it further

, That the 75th General Convention oppose any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions.

For at least thirty years, and even as debate about the role of gay and lesbian people within the Church has continued, successive General Conventions have recognized the equal claim of gay and lesbian persons to the civil rights enjoyed by all other persons. In 1994, General Convention (1994-D006) called on all levels of government to support legislation giving same-sex couples the same legal protections as non-same-sex married couples. In light of recent legislative actions in several states, and a proposed federal constitutional amendment, an affirmation of the Episcopal Church's support for equal rights is warranted.

One more thing -- Fr. Barlowe was appointed to the Social and Urban Affairs Committee at GC2006, and his subcommittee assignment was Human Sexuality. He was in just the right spot to watch the progress of A095, and when needed, to give it a little nudge through committee. And then, when we were up to our eyeballs in unfinished business on the floor of the House of Deputies, somehow A095 got through at the eleventh hour.

Isn't that lucky?


A Rector Writes His Parish in Belgium

The rector of All Saints Church, Waterloo was ordained in South Carolina by Bps. Allison and Haynsworth.

Dear Saints,

Recently, I received an e-mail from a first cousin of mine, who lives in South Carolina, and with whom I had been out of touch for a number of years. As one might guess, she first inquired about recent family news, our health, our life overseas, etc. And, not surprisingly, knowing what I do for a living, she politely but directly asked me for my “take” on the news and recent developments in the Episcopal Church.

A lifelong and loyal Episcopalian herself, she cannot help but be aware and likely distressed by the sometimes sensational press reports predicting and/or speculating on the Episcopal Church’s impending “demise”, “doom”, “split”, “fissure” or “meltdown” (depending upon which news service one happens to read).

I must confess her e-mail sits in my “in box” unanswered as of yet; it’s taken me a while to condense “my take” into a single e-mail. I’ll bet I am not alone in my struggle to “get my head around” all of this.

Wondering about his "take" on the crisis in the Communion? The author was a deputy to the General Convention in Columbus. Can you guess who? Read the rest here.

The Envelope, Please!

And the nominees in the election for Bishop of Newark are...

  • the Rev. Canon Michael Lee Barlowe, 50, who serves as the first congregational development officer in the Diocese of California

  • the Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, 54, currently rector of All Saints Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

  • the Very Rev. Petero Sabune, 53, pastor and chaplain at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and associate at Trinity Church, Ossining, New York

  • the Rev. William "Chip" Stokes, 49, currently rector of St. Paul's Church in Delray Beach, Florida.

  • By far, the most interesting nominee right now is +Michael Barlowe. Why? First of all, Fr. Barlowe is fresh from the short list in the Diocese of California election which took place on May 6th. Second, Barlowe is very upfront about his 24 year relationship with partner, Paul Burrows, rector of the Church of the Advent in San Francisco and a Benedictine oblate.

    Read Fr. Barlowe's biographical information here and here.

    His story begins, in his own words, "When I graduated from Harvard and moved to Manhattan to work on Wall Street, I thought I knew exactly where my life was heading: two years of "real world experience," followed by a return to Boston for an MBA, and on to a shining future of unlimited success and happiness. But a funny thing happened on my way to the B-School..."

    Read the rest in his personal statement.

    The nominees for Bishop of California were asked questions like, What pastoral situations make you most uncomfortable and why? How do you handle conflict? How would you have handled differently a difficult situation in your ministry?

    Here are Fr. Barlowe's answers.

Will the Sun never set on the Anglican Communion?

Ruth Gledhill is calling yesterday's statement an 'ultimatum' from the +ABC "threatening to exclude the liberal wing" of Anglicanism. She notes that there is "speculation that those in Scotland, New Zealand and other liberal provinces could also" become involved.

The possibility that the worldwide Anglican Communion could, in fact, become a two-tier Church with 'constituent' and 'associate' member churches has +Mark Harris, a GC2006 clerical deputy from the Diocese of Delaware, crying foul.

Quoted in The Times, he says, "General Convention 2006 will go down in history, among other reasons, for the clarity with which the Church of England has attempted to exercise direct and indirect ecclesiastical colonial control.”

Why must this always boil down to the oppression of human rights for these folks? This is not about sex. This is not about entitlement. It's really a question of whether or not we are willing to submit to Holy Scripture. And yesterday's statement could not have been more clear. ++Rowan Williams views Biblical authority as an essential part of theological decision-making.

Indeed, it's the place to start.

The Worldwide Episcopal Communion?

Here's a prediction this morning from the The Times Online regarding the acceptance of a covenant within the Anglican Communion.

"The repercussions within the American Church will be profound. It is already deeply split between liberals who supported the ordination of Gene Robinson and conservatives who saw the nomination of an openly gay bishop as anathema. The liberals are eager to show that they are not isolated, however, and have changed their name to the Episcopal Church to cement links with some 16 other Anglican communities worldwide. They will, if they leave the orbit of Canterbury, be seen as a rival Anglican communion — and at bitter odds with conservatives in America, who will side with Canterbury."

Note my earlier prediction here that ECUSA, excuse me... TEC was preparing for this possibility.


What They're Saying about The Statement from Lambeth

This post has been updated throughout the evening.

We've been watching the reaction so far today to the statement from ++Rowan Cantuar. Here’s a quick summary.

The (London) Times Online led with a relatively blunt headline – ‘Worldwide Anglican church to split over gay bishop’, with Ruth Gledhill noting that "the Archbishop of Canterbury has outlined plans to expel the Episcopal Church of the US from the worldwide Anglican Church…proposing a two-track Anglican Communion, with orthodox churches being accorded full, "constituent" membership and the rebel, pro-gay liberals being consigned to "associate" membership." Ruth Gledhill also weighed in on her daily blog.

The BBC opted for a softer approach, sort of an Archbishop-cum-Mister Rogers. The headline, ‘Archbishop raises idea of split’ makes it seem like a friendly suggestion – just an idea. BBC says that the +ABC “favours exploring a system of ‘associated’ Churches” and ‘constituent’ Churches, while acknowledging that those unwilling to enter into a covenant agreement would retain an historical relationship to Anglicanism, much like that of the Methodists.

'Williams Lays Out Two-Tier Membership for Anglicans' is the headline in Daniel Burke's piece for the Religion News Service. According to RNS, the Archbishop sees "the best way forward for the deeply divided Anglican churches" in the adoption of "a Communion-wide covenant and a two-track membership system."

Burke references a number of participants in the Episco-drama, including ACN Moderator ++Robert Duncan, and +Tobias Haller, a NY priest. He also notes the recent statements of Christ Church, Plano, and the Diocese of Fort Worth. Finally, he calls on the fount-of-all-knowledge, the Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon of South Carolina, who says that, "Rowan has a way of standing above it all and trying to connect everything."

The headline from the Associated Press is ‘Archbishop of Canterbury recommends ‘covenant’ for Anglicans,’ and they noted that “feuding Anglicans [were] urged to work toward a structure for co-existing despite differences.” This article from the New York Blade Online, interprets the statement more strongly than I would have imagined, considering their readership is probably primarily LGBT. Their subtitle is “ Episcopals to be pushed out for ordaining openly gay bishop” characterizing today’s statement as a “plan to exclude the U.S. Episcopal Church.”

No matter how they spin this story, so far, everyone’s favorite quote seems to be the acknowledgment that “there is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment.”

‘Anglican leader proposes way forward over gay clergy row’ is the report from Agence France Presse, a news agency based in Paris. You can count on the French to lead with sex, can’t you? They note that the +ABC “raised the prospect of division…with those opposed to homosexual clergy and unions forming ‘associated’ or ‘constituent’ churches.” They noted that such an arrangement would remove direct decision-making, and compared it to the relationship which “exists between the Church of England and the Methodist Church.” This wire service, I think, really glossed over the substance of this morning’s letter, preferring to point to the “outrage within the Church” notably “among more conservative elements in Africa.”

Be sure to watch The Guardian for their take on this story. It’s bound to be interesting.

Here it is. The headline reads 'Williams admits church faces split over gay bishops.' The writer, Stephen Bates, acknowledges a probable restructuring of the Anglican Communion into a "looser federation of... central 'constituent' national churches willing to sign up to a full doctrinal covenant of shared beliefs," along with other "churches 'in association' but outside the constitutional structure, accepting some... Anglican beliefs and disciplines."

The outside perspective in the Guardian article comes from the Most Rev Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Canadian Anglican church, who was interviewed on Monday evening. Aware that the Canadian Church "might find itself in the outer circle as it moves towards the blessing of same-sex partnerships," Hutchison said: "If the covenant helps collaboration, absolutely. But if it is exclusionary and disciplinary, that would be utterly inappropriate and un-Anglican and something I would not favour at all."

The Guardian piece termed today's statement "an about-turn", noting that Williams "had previously indicated his opposition to the creation of a federal structure to replace the communion and stressed the need for both sides to work towards reconciliation."

The New York Times, with their headline 'Proposal by Anglican Leader Could Split Church', calls this a "defining moment in the Anglican Communion's civil war over homosexuality" which could "ultimately force the Episcopal Church USA to decide whether having gay bishops and same-sex union ceremonies is worth losing full membership in the Communion."

'Anglican View on Gays Close to an Ultimatum' is how the International Herald Tribune (Europe) put it, printing essentially the same article that ran in the NYT (with a byline by Laurie Goodstein). But what struck me in this article is the perspective from Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, gleaned during a telephone interview.

Kearon downplays the statement, saying that, "for the proposal to be enacted would take at least half a dozen major church meetings spread out over the next three to four years," and adding that "he did not regard the archbishop's proposal as a step toward schism, but rather as an attempt to clarify 'identity and common decision- making procedures.'

The Telegraph (UK) decided on ‘Archbishop of Canterbury plans Anglican split’ and told much the same story as we’ve seen elsewhere, noting that “the proposal comes after the US Episcopal Church, known for its liberal stance, failed to toe the conservative line on homosexuality last week as the majority of the Anglican Communion demanded.”

It’s interesting to see which photos of the +ABC that each site chooses to run. There’s quite a variety, ranging from the Kind, Fatherly Archbishop in the Purple Cassock to the Bushy Eyebrows-and-Beard (somewhat reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining) photo. Look for your favorite.

The Bishop of Rhode Island Gets It

"I believe that the issue is not sexuality, but ecclesiology."

"Namely, what does it mean to be a world-wide Communion in a time of great global changes, cultural differences, and various mindsets? Is it desirable? If so, then it is possible?"

"The belief that we will arrive at a consensus of opinion on the issues at hand is unrealistic. Will we both find a way to claim that which binds us together and define the limits that we must not trespass?"

"Will we find it necessary to walk apart?"

More here.

The Rev. Barbara Cheney: Shock and Tears

Here’s a distraction from the current situation in the Anglican Communion. The Rev. Barbara Cheney, a clerical deputy from the Diocese of Connecticut had an important chalice stolen last Sunday.

From the Hartford Courant:

Officials of the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James are hoping for the return of a nearly 100-year-old chalice that was stolen sometime on Sunday.

The gold and silver chalice, which is adorned with a dozen semiprecious stones, was consecrated by parishioners in 1909. Church leaders don't believe it was ever appraised, but they consider it priceless.

"The initial response was shock and tears," said the Rev. Barbara Cheney. "I don't know that it ... tests the faith in God. It tests sometimes the faith in other people."

No Turning Back? Integrity, Be Careful What You Ask For

"There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment"

Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

See what the BBC is saying about this morning's statement.

Times Online: Rowan Williams Proposes Anglican Split

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams, is proposing to split the Anglican church (Chris Harris/The Times)

Worldwide Anglican church to split over gay bishop
By Ruth Gledhill

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has outlined plans to expel the Episcopal Church of the US from the worldwide Anglican Church.

"The US branch of Anglicanism is to be punished for consecrating the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, an act which has propelled the worldwide church to the brink of schism.

"Dr Williams is proposing a two-track Anglican Communion, with orthodox churches being accorded full, "constituent" membership and the rebel, pro-gay liberals being consigned to "associate" membership."

Read the rest of Ruth Gledhill's interpretation of the statement from the ABC here and here.

Why we passed A095 and A167

At the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church, we spent hours and hours playing with voting machines and practicing our parliamentary procedure. We got very little done for the first week, and then we nit-picked resolutions in order to free them from the constraints of Windsor language. We didn't have time to consider many worthwhile pieces of legislation. But when all was said and done, the General Convention made sure that a few resolutions were passed -- A095 and A167, sacred cows for a number of members of the Human Sexuality subcommittee of Social and Urban Affairs.

Here's why.

'Buried on Page 195 of Jonathan Rauch's new book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, is this insight into why the government's stamp of approval isn't actually the one that matters most in the battle over gay marriage: "The full social benefits of gay marriage will come when religions as well as governments customarily bless it: when women marry women in big church ceremonies as parents weep and ministers, solemnly smiling, intone the vows," observes Rauch, a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution.'

'In other words, forget courthouses and city halls; the fight for legitimacy for gay couples will be won under a roof topped by a cross and a steeple. About three-quarters of Americans choose to be married by a member of the clergy. When it comes to weddings, if not regular worship, we remain a country of steadfast churchgoers.'

'It's a point grasped by both proponents and opponents of same-sex unions: Marriage is a threshold, a life-changing event because of its distinct combination of legal, social, and religious significance. For many of us, the importance of the institution is rooted more deeply in joint blessings than in joint tax returns.'

From an April 2004 article in Slate magazine.

Here is the final text of A095 and A167.

Anglican Church in Nigeria gathers for Synod, Conference this week

Abuja, June 26, 2006

Hundreds of Anglican delegates will this Wednesday gather in Abuja, to launch the 1st National Conference of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and discuss how to build the welfare of the nation.

The three day conference, with the theme ‘Welfare of the Nigerian Nation: Role of the Anglican Communion in Nation Building’ will be declared open on Thursday by the Primate, The Most Rev Peter Akinola.

Delegates will listen to and discuss papers presented on the role of the Church in education, political development and economic development. The conference will also address the role of the church in health, unity of the country, legal development and youth participation.

Meanwhile, the meeting of the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), otherwise known as the Episcopal Synod begins Monday in Abuja. Over 90 bishops are expected at the two-day meet.

The Bishops are expected to join other delegates for the National conference.

More here.

A Letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion following the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. In addition, he has sent a reflection (see the following post) for "the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion," entitled ‘The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today."

According to Canterbury, "the Primates of the Anglican Communion will meet early next year to consider the matter. In the meantime, a group appointed by the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates will be assisting Dr Williams in considering the resolutions of the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church (USA) in response to the questions posed by the Windsor Report."

Here is the text of the letter:

"Following last week's General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA), I have been preparing some personal reflections on the challenges that lie ahead for us within the Anglican Communion. I have addressed these reflections to a wide readership in the Anglican Communion and they are being made public today on my website. I wanted to bring them to your attention accordingly, for you to draw to the attention of members of your Province in whatever way you see fit.

"These reflections are in no way intended to pre-empt the necessary process of careful assessment of the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report. Rather they are intended to focus the question of what kind of Anglican Communion we wish to be and to explore how this vision might become more of a reality.

"I am also sending you a copy of the press statement I issued at the close of General Convention, which you will see mentions the Joint Standing Committee working party that will be assisting in evaluating the outcome of the 75th General Convention.

"I shall be writing to you again later this week, to invite your own response to me to various questions as the Communion’s discernment process moves ahead.


The text of the press statement mentioned in this letter may be found here.

The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion: a Church in Crisis?

What is the current tension in the Anglican Communion actually about? Plenty of people are confident that they know the answer. It’s about gay bishops, or possibly women bishops. The American Church is in favour and others are against – and the Church of England is not sure (as usual).

It’s true that the election of a practising gay person as a bishop in the US in 2003 was the trigger for much of the present conflict. It is doubtless also true that a lot of extra heat is generated in the conflict by ingrained and ignorant prejudice in some quarters; and that for many others, in and out of the Church, the issue seems to be a clear one about human rights and dignity. But the debate in the Anglican Communion is not essentially a debate about the human rights of homosexual people.

"It is possible – indeed, it is imperative – to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage, to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation, and still to believe that this doesn’t settle the question of whether the Christian Church has the freedom, on the basis of the Bible, and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear expression of God’s will."

That is disputed among Christians, and, as a bare matter of fact, only a small minority would answer yes to the question.

Unless you think that social and legal considerations should be allowed to resolve religious disputes – which is a highly risky assumption if you also believe in real freedom of opinion in a diverse society – there has to be a recognition that religious bodies have to deal with the question in their own terms. Arguments have to be drawn up on the common basis of Bible and historic teaching. And, to make clear something that can get very much obscured in the rhetoric about ‘inclusion’, this is not and should never be a question about the contribution of gay and lesbian people as such to the Church of God and its ministry, about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people. Instead it is a question, agonisingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a Church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against – and so it is a question about how we make decisions corporately with other Christians, looking together for the mind of Christ as we share the study of the Scriptures.

Anglican Decision-Making

And this is where the real issue for Anglicans arises. How do we as Anglicans deal with this issue ‘in our own terms’? And what most Anglicans worldwide have said is that it doesn’t help to behave as if the matter had been resolved when in fact it hasn’t... the decision of the Episcopal Church to elect a practising gay man as a bishop was taken without even the American church itself (which has had quite a bit of discussion of the matter) having formally decided as a local Church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships.

There are other fault lines of division, of course, including the legitimacy of ordaining women as priests and bishops. But... the Lambeth Conference did resolve that for the time being those churches that did ordain women as priests and bishops and those that did not had an equal place within the Anglican spectrum. Women bishops attended the last Lambeth Conference. There is a fairly general (though not universal) recognition that differences about this can still be understood within the spectrum of manageable diversity about what the Bible and the tradition make possible. On the issue of practising gay bishops, there has been no such agreement, and it is not unreasonable to seek for a very much wider and deeper consensus before any change is in view, let alone foreclosing the debate by ordaining someone, whatever his personal merits, who was in a practising gay partnership. The recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report, but on this specific question there is at the very least an acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation in the extremely hard work that went into shaping the wording of the final formula.

Very many in the Anglican Communion would want the debate on the substantive ethical question to go on as part of a general process of theological discernment; but they believe that the pre-emptive action taken in 2003 in the US has made such a debate harder not easier... However, institutionally speaking, the Communion is an association of local churches, not a single organisation with a controlling bureaucracy and a universal system of law. So everything depends on what have generally been unspoken conventions of mutual respect. Where these are felt to have been ignored, it is not surprising that deep division results, with the politicisation of a theological dispute taking the place of reasoned reflection.

Thus if other churches have said, in the wake of the events of 2003 that they cannot remain fully in communion with the American Church, this should not be automatically seen as some kind of blind bigotry against gay people. Where such bigotry does show itself it needs to be made clear that it is unacceptable... It is saying that, whatever the presenting issue, no member Church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship; this would be uncomfortably like saying that every member could redefine the terms of belonging as and when it suited them. Some actions – and sacramental actions in particular - just do have the effect of putting a Church outside or even across the central stream of the life they have shared with other Churches. It isn’t a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognising that actions have consequences – and that actions believed in good faith to be ‘prophetic’ in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences.

Truth and Unity

It is true that witness to what is passionately believed to be the truth sometimes appears a higher value than unity, and there are moving and inspiring examples in the twentieth century. If someone genuinely thinks that a move like the ordination of a practising gay bishop is that sort of thing, it is understandable that they are prepared to risk the breakage of a unity they can only see as false or corrupt. But the risk is a real one; and it is never easy to recognise when the moment of inevitable separation has arrived - to recognise that this is the issue on which you stand or fall and that this is the great issue of faithfulness to the gospel. The nature of prophetic action is that you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that you’re right.

But let’s suppose that there isn’t that level of clarity about the significance of some divisive issue. If we do still believe that unity is generally a way of coming closer to revealed truth (‘only the whole Church knows the whole Truth’ as someone put it), we now face some choices about what kind of Church we as Anglicans are or want to be. Some speak as if it would be perfectly simple – and indeed desirable – to dissolve the international relationships, so that every local Church could do what it thought right. This may be tempting, but it ignores two things at least.

First, it fails to see that the same problems and the same principles apply within local Churches as between Churches...It may be tempting to say, ‘let each local church go its own way’; but once you’ve lost the idea that you need to try to remain together in order to find the fullest possible truth, what do you appeal to in the local situation when serious division threatens?

Second, it ignores the degree to which we are already bound in with each other’s life through a vast network of informal contacts and exchanges... They mean that no local Church and no group within a local Church can just settle down complacently with what it or its surrounding society finds comfortable. The Church worldwide is not simply the sum total of local communities... An isolated local Church is less than a complete Church.

Both of these points are really grounded in the belief that our unity is something given to us prior to our choices - let alone our votes. ‘You have not chosen me but I have chosen you’, says Jesus to his disciples; and when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we are saying that we are all there as invited guests, not because of what we have done. The basic challenge ... ‘Are we joining together in one act of Holy Communion, one Eucharist, throughout the world, or are we just celebrating our local identities and our personal preferences?’

The Anglican Identity

The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralised nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies – a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That is what the word ‘Communion’ means for Anglicans, and it is a vision that has taken clearer shape in many of our ecumenical dialogues.

Of course it is possible to produce a self-deceiving, self-important account of our worldwide identity, to pretend that we were a completely international and universal institution like the Roman Catholic Church. We’re not. But we have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience elsewhere. And we have seen these links not primarily in a bureaucratic way but in relation to the common patterns of ministry and worship – the community gathered around Scripture and sacraments; a ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, a biblically-centred form of common prayer, a focus on the Holy Communion. These are the signs that we are not just a human organisation but a community trying to respond to the action and the invitation of God that is made real for us in ministry and Bible and sacraments... There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional.

But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety. The tacit conventions between us need spelling out – not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure we’re still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. It is becoming urgent to work at what adequate structures for decision-making might look like. We need ways of translating this underlying sacramental communion into a more effective institutional reality, so that we don’t compromise or embarrass each other in ways that get in the way of our local and our universal mission, but learn how to share responsibility.

Future Directions

The idea of a ‘covenant’ between local Churches (developing alongside the existing work being done on harmonising the church law of different local Churches) is one method that has been suggested, and it seems to me the best way forward. It is necessarily an ‘opt-in’ matter. Those Churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness; and some might not be willing to do this. We could arrive at a situation where there were ‘constituent’ Churches in covenant in the Anglican Communion and other ‘churches in association’, which were still bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources, but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion, and not sharing the same constitutional structures. The relation would not be unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, for example. The ‘associated’ Churches would have no direct part in the decision making of the ‘constituent’ Churches, though they might well be observers whose views were sought or whose expertise was shared from time to time, and with whom significant areas of co-operation might be possible.

This leaves many unanswered questions, I know, given that lines of division run within local Churches as well as between them - and not only on one issue (we might note the continuing debates on the legitimacy of lay presidency at the Eucharist). It could mean the need for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between ‘constituent’ and ‘associated’ elements; but it could also mean a positive challenge for Churches to work out what they believed to be involved in belonging in a global sacramental fellowship, a chance to rediscover a positive common obedience to the mystery of God’s gift that was not a matter of coercion from above but of that ‘waiting for each other’ that St Paul commends to the Corinthians.

There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment. Neither the liberal nor the conservative can simply appeal to a historic identity that doesn’t correspond with where we now are. We do have a distinctive historic tradition – a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly. But for this to survive with all its aspects intact, we need closer and more visible formal commitments to each other. And it is not going to look exactly like anything we have known so far. Some may find this unfamiliar future conscientiously unacceptable, and that view deserves respect. But if we are to continue to be any sort of ‘Catholic’ church... we have some very hard work to do to embody this more clearly. The next Lambeth Conference ought to address this matter directly and fully as part of its agenda.

The different components in our heritage can, up to a point, flourish in isolation from each other. But any one of them pursued on its own would lead in a direction ultimately outside historic Anglicanism... Pursued far enough in isolation, each of these would lead to a different place – to strict evangelical Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, to religious liberalism. To accept that each of these has a place in the church’s life and that they need each other means that the enthusiasts for each aspect have to be prepared to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices...


...Being an Anglican in the way I have sketched involves certain concessions and unclarities but provides at least for ways of sharing responsibility and making decisions that will hold and that will be mutually intelligible. No-one can impose the canonical and structural changes that will be necessary. All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion.

That is why the process currently going forward of assessing our situation in the wake of the General Convention is a shared one... My hope is that the period ahead - of detailed response to the work of General Convention, exploration of new structures, and further refinement of the covenant model - will renew our positive appreciation of the possibilities of our heritage so that we can pursue our mission with deeper confidence and harmony.

Read the complete statement here.


William Murchison: Eyewitness to GC2006

"We Episcopalians, here in Columbus, just elected a new presiding bishop named Katharine Jefferts Schori. I guess she's nice enough; she went to Stanford, holds a Ph.D. and speaks well."

"Her experience as a bishop in Nevada? Minimal. Her previous experience as a priest? Less than minimal."

"What got her where she is? Two things: her sex and her commitment to those issues that most fascinate today's Episcopal Church -- peace and justice."

Read the whole story here.

From the "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" department

Catholic Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl emphasized the power of faith yesterday during his first homily and Mass as archbishop of the Washington Diocese.

The archbishop told of a boy named "Little Dominick" whom he met early in his religious career. Dominick said he believed in Jesus through the teachings of the Catholic Church, even though nobody had seen Him in the past 2,000 years, Archbishop Wuerl said.

"I'll always remember it," the archbishop told about 900 worshippers who assembled at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Rhode Island Avenue Northwest. "I find it amazing ... that extraordinary message. ... It requires a great act of faith to accept this."

Read the rest here.

Here's a cartoon while we await the upcoming statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Statement? Yes, there's talk of a word from Lambeth Palace. Stay tuned or check with Kendall, or Greg, or Binky, or your favorite source of Windsor Anglican news. (Could there be other sources of news? Nah!)

Too bad we didn't see this guy last Tuesday morning...
More fun from Dave Walker at Cartoon Church

What it means to be a Windsor Anglican

"As the Mother Superior told Sister Maria in the "Sound of Music," where God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. What window is God opening for Windsor Anglicans in North America?

There is a window open and the window is called Jesus. "Lord, to whom would we go?" Peter said when Jesus asked if the disciples would also leave him.

"You have the words of real life, eternal life. We've already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:68-69.

An excellent reflection from Mary Ailes, a member of Truro Church and a GC2006 blogger par excellence.

Kendall Harmon writes The Times

Reprinted with the permission of the author, who was, at the time this letter was written, a Ph.D. candidate at Keble College, Oxford.

The title of his dissertation? Finally excluded from God?: Some twentieth century theological explorations of the problem of hell and universalism with reference to the historical development of these doctrines.

A Letter to the Editor of The Times (London) in 1992

From the Reverend Kendall S. Harmon

Sir, Conor Cruise O'Brien's arguments (article, April 22) against John Patten's call for greater fear of hell and damnation (report, April 17) may be summarised as follows: hell ``is for the others'', it does not work as a deterrent, and only those whose minds have been ``steeped in traditional Christian theology are capable of reconciling the notion of infinite love with the practice of eternal punishment''. Therefore, it should be left quietly alone.

Throughout his column he focuses his criticism on the idea of hell as ``fire and brimstone'' in spite of the fact that (a) Mr Patten did not specify the ``damnation'' which he hopes Britain will be taught and (b) a careful reading of the New Testament reveals that there are three images of hell and not one: punishment, destruction, and personal exclusion.

The most important function of hell in Christian thinking is the one which Dr O'Brien never discusses: hell serves as the alternative to salvation. Mr Patten recognised this by calling for the teaching of redemption and damnation.

The two belong together: to deny hell in any form is implicitly to repudiate the requirement of redemption.

If men and women do not need to be saved then the central focus of Christianity, the cross, loses its primary significance and the Church loses her sense of urgency and moral seriousness.

Dr O'Brien would do well to think on these words from Soren Kierkegaard:

Do away with the terrors of eternity (either eternal happiness or eternal perdition) and the idea of an imitation of Christ is fantastic. Only the seriousness of eternity can compel and move a man to take such a daring decision and answer for his so doing.


24 Princes Street, Oxford.
April 23.

Just in from Brad Drell

Western Louisiana lay deputy Brad Drell has an interesting report on Bp. MacPherson's visit to St. Paul's, Shreveport yesterday.

And everyone in the blogosphere is frantically hitting the refresh button as we await a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury today.

Kudos for Kay Meyer

From the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander in the e-newsletter of the Diocese of Atlanta:

"Meeting alongside the General Convention was the Triennial Assembly of the Episcopal Church Women, and again we were well represented by women from across the diocese. Kay Meyer, a faithful servant from St. Andrew’s Parish in Fort Valley, was elected church-wide president of the Episcopal Church Women. Congratulations, Kay!"

To read the rest, visit the website of the Diocese of Atlanta and subscribe.

Psyched for Ministry

An interesting read, especially considering some of the stories the Commission on Ministry hears about "the process" in more liberal dioceses.

"The call to Christian ministry came in my mid-20s. At that time, I was living in Tennessee and had been taking classes for personal enrichment at Sewanee School of Theology. I was also leading mission trips to support an orphanage and seminary begun by Anglican Sudanese in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. I found that I had a natural inclination toward preaching and pastoral care."

"So I began an official discernment process with my Episcopal Church in Sewanee. Shortly afterward, my husband and I were obliged to move to New Jersey, where I had my first taste of the paralyzing red tape that governs Episcopal polity. Because I had not officially become a candidate in the discernment process in Tennessee, I was compelled to begin the process all over again, at square one, this time in a new diocese."

"Undaunted, I complied. After all, I still had all of the idealism and high hopes of one who has discovered her passion and vocation in life, and I was chomping at the bit to serve God and God's church. The only thing that was standing in the way, it turned out, was . . . God's church. But I had no idea just what I was in for."

"I remember clearly that first visit to headquarters. With a plastic smile, the smartly dressed "canon for ministry development" (canon is a fancy term for the bishop's right-hand person) described a Byzantine system of hurdles designed to weed out the undesirables and make absolutely sure that ordination is the right path. Then she uttered the lines she undoubtedly repeated to every bright-eyed and bushy-tailed candidate: "Trust the process."

"A big part of that process was psychotherapy. Lots of it. The diocese had recommended one to three years of therapy to nearly half of the candidates who had come forward in the past year. Their calls were put on hold until the psychological evaluations came in. Only then would the diocese decide whether a candidate was truly intended for ordained ministry, or if he or she would be better off selling real estate."

"One full year after that first visit, I faced the next challenge in the ordination obstacle course: the dreaded psychological exam. This consisted of a breathtakingly immense packet of assessments, ranging from the standard Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (intended to weed out psychotic killers and child molesters) to a questionnaire asking for spontaneous word associations. Once completed, these forms were dissected and analyzed over two days on a couch with a shrink, who then wrote a report detailing my psychological profile and her recommendations."

"I considered myself a fairly normal person, but when, early one morning, I received a call from the psychologist, I got a little scared. In urgent, staccato tones, she informed me that I had left so many questions blank that the test would be difficult to score. I nervously explained that I did not know that I had left that many questions blank, and that I had not known how to answer particular questions, such as "Do you like to flirt?" with either a yes or no. (The test did not allow "maybe" answers.) Over the phone, we reviewed the unanswered questions and I obediently filled in the blanks with ayes and nays. When the test results came back, I had scored well within the "normal" range on the MMPI, meaning I got the all clear on diagnosable manias and phobias. What a relief!"

"The fact that I had grown up in an evangelical missionary home, with a strong father who was conservative about sexual mores, presented other problems. When asked to describe my earliest childhood memory, I had recalled the time my father read J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit to my brother and me, and we then played a game of "Captain Hook," with my father pretending to be Captain Hook in search of small victims to be tickled. This tidbit of information elicited an exclamation from the shrink, as if, in mining the deep recesses of my subconscious, she had finally seized upon the prized nugget of gold."

"That's fascinating!" she mused, taking off her horn-rimmed glasses. "The hobbit is a small, marginalized creature trying to assert himself, and Captain Hook is a strong, patriarchal and oppressive figure." Somehow, in the innocent retelling of a childhood memory, I had succeeded in painting my father as an ogre whose oppressive regime I had tried to overthrow."

Read the rest of the story.

Terry Mattingly: When is a reporter a reporter and when is a reporter a blogger?

"Anyone who follows what Ruth Gledhill has to say at her "Articles of Faith" website knows that she has strong religious opinions...Gledhill has a right to her opinions, of course.

"But she isn't just another Anglican with a "weblog," one of dozens of "bloggers" who flooded the Internet with news, rumors and opinions during the tumultuous events this week in Columbus, Ohio.

"Gledhill is the religion correspondent for The Times of London. Thus, she writes waves of regular newspaper stories, as well as columns that mix traditional reporting with her own analysis. And now, blessed by her editors, she writes thousands of words each week at her "blog" -- ranging from coverage of theological issues that may be too complex for the regular news pages to personal observations about her own parish and her own faith. She isn't alone. The Times offers dozens of blogs by reporters covering everything from politics to fashion footwear, from movies to gay family life.

"Many editors want their reporters to blog and many others do not. What happens when journalists who are supposed to write unbiased stories about hot issues start airing opinions online that tell readers what they really think? When is a reporter a reporter and when is a reporter a blogger?"

Here's the rest of the story.

Note: Gledhill is the daughter of an Anglican clergyman. With a lifetime spent in the Church of England and two decades of religion reporting, she offers a unique perspective vis a vis the unfolding Anglican crisis -- one I look forward to reading.

Did you miss this wedding in the New York Times two weeks ago?

Travis Scott Wright and Marc Paul Diaz were married yesterday afternoon at Christ Episcopal Church in Cambridge, Mass. Kerry Brock, a friend of theirs, who was authorized by Massachusetts to solemnize the marriage, officiated, and the Rev. Joseph Robinson, the rector of the church, led a religious ceremony.

Mr. Diaz (above, right) and Mr. Wright met as graduate students at Harvard. Mr. Wright, who holds a master's in education from Harvard, was awarded a doctorate in education there on Thursday. Mr. Diaz, who holds a Harvard undergraduate degree cum laude, received an M.B.A. and a master's in public administration on Thursday.

Mr. Wright is 31. He is on the board of the Points of Light Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Washington that encourages volunteerism. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee.

His mother, Linda Majors of Russellville, Tenn., is a registered nurse at Wellmont Hawkins County Memorial Hospital in Rogersville, Tenn. His father, Charles D. Wright II of Springdale, Ark., is a truck driver there.

Mr. Diaz, 28, is to become an associate in September in the Washington office of McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, where he will specialize in financial institutions. From 1999 to 2001 he was a business analyst at McKinsey's headquarters in New York.

His mother, Diane Diaz of Cooper City, Fla., is the assistant director of the JFK Library in Hialeah, Fla. His father, Jesus Diaz of Mexico City, is the director of marketing and sales at Grupo Sevilla, a hotel chain there.

Source: New York Times


Another Cartoon Flap?

From Sunday's Letters to the Editor in the Columbus Dispatch:

Editorial cartoon insulted church, gays

The June 15 Dispatch editorial cartoon showing two men, identified as Episcopalians, holding hands displays an insensitivity to issues facing most mainline churches in this country. The assumption by the other couple, that the men are both gay and Episcopalian, seems to be a judgment by the editorial staff that the small group of traditionalists in the Episcopal Church should be supported.

This minority faction is hiding church politics behind the smokescreen of religious tradition. This isn’t about religion; it’s about taking control of the church and requiring all members to believe as they do. Where is understanding, compassion and sympathy?

The cartoon is judgmental, saying that the gay community has no place at the table. The kingdom of God should be inclusive and not exclusive. All people fit the kingdom, with no exceptions. Gays should have the same expectations of serving the church in all offices of the church, Episcopal or other! I’m not gay and I’m a member of the Episcopal Church.

Shame on you. As a minimum you owe the gay community an apology.


Here's the offending cartoon:

TIME Magazine, July 3, 2006

From the MILESTONES column, p. 23:

ELECTED. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, theologically liberal Episcopal bishop of Nevada; as Presiding Bishop of the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church of the U.S.A., becoming the first woman to lead a province of the global Anglican Communion; in Columbus, Ohio. Citing her support of the 2003 consecration of openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, conservatives predicted she would further alienate the U.S. church--which 30 years ago made history by ordaining women--from Anglicanism's more traditional branches.

Spin, Spin, Spin...

Oasis California President Warns 'compomise' is dead on arrival

SAN FRANCISCO, June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The head of the Bay Area's LGBT Episcopal ministry warns a "compromise" resolution passed by the General Convention to prevent a schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion is "dead on arrival."

"The compromise measure rammed through the General Convention last week has been undermined by those who are determined to break apart the Anglican Communion," Oasis President Rev. John Kirkley said. "The ink on the resolution was hardly dry when conservative American Episcopalians flatly rejected the compromise. Ultra-conservative Anglican bishops in Africa have joined the chorus, demanding our church 'repent' for making Gene Robinson the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and stop blessing same gender couples."

"The good news for LGBT Episcopalians is: the convention rejected this extreme demand. Only last minute pressure from our top bishops forced approval of an unworkable -- and unworthy -- compromise," he added. "Once again, gay and lesbian Christians were sacrificed for the "sake of the Communion."
"Once again we see that no matter how great a sacrifice gay and lesbians make, we can never satisfy the ultra-conservatives who want to lead their own church."

Huh? Were we at the same convention? Shouldn't that read "once again we see that no matter what happens, the conservatives will never compromise on the Truth of the Gospel?" Here's the rest of their version of the story.

VGR: "My it quick."

Dave Hartline interviews Kendall Harmon, Gene Robinson, Susan Russell, and Greg Griffith -- interesting reading. Here are a few of the questions for ++VGR below.

Dave Hartline: What are your views on abortion? The reason I ask is I have worked with people in the Catholic Church that I knew to be homosexual, and as liberal or progressive as some were, many seemed to be pro-life. They seemed to equate the unborn with their situation. I don’t see that here. How do you feel?

Bishop Robinson: Well, I can certainly understand those you spoke of equating their situation with those in the womb. However, I believe in the Episcopal Church’s teachings. I believe in viability. I don’t counsel women to have an abortion past the first trimester. My advice has always been if you are going to get an abortion do it quick.

Dave Hartline: When is viability? I just put a story on my website about a baby who survived an abortion years ago and she just sang in the Colorado General Assembly. What if a woman came to you and said she’s getting an abortion in her second or third trimester?

Bishop Robinson: Well it’s her right to choose so, though I would be personally against it, that’s her decision. The young woman you mentioned, well, that’s why I believe in getting abortions as early as possible.

Read the rest at Stand Firm.

Conscientious Objection?

This paragraph is taken from the recent Statement of Conscience put forth by a group of bishops, led by ++John Chane of the Diocese of Washington, who rose to prayerfully dissent from the actions of General Convention 2006 in passing Resolution B033 on the Election of Bishops.

"Our conversation has been framed in a flawed paradigm, forcing us to choose between two goods—the full inclusion in the life of the Church of our brother and sister Christians who happen to be gay or lesbian and our full inclusion in the life of our beloved Communion."
Don't they mean 'forcing us to choose between two gods'?

A Statement from the Rector of Holy Cross in Response to General Convention 2006

Dear friends and parish family,

General Convention 2006 is over, and I truly thank you for your constant prayer while we delegates dealt with interminable political maneuvering and resolutions designed to obfuscate. We went to General Convention with one overarching plan – to force clarification upon those who wanted none, and to lose gracefully. It would be an understatement to say that we accomplished our goal on both accounts.

The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops failed to affirm the Windsor Report, and the insipid resolution that we did pass, B-033, was immediately rejected by 20 revisionist bishops who said they would not abide by it. We also passed a resolution that opposes any state or federal constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex civil marriage or civil unions, and we passed a resolution that states that parts of Holy Scripture are Anti-Semitic.

The bishops chose the Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori to be our next Presiding Bishop, and the House of Deputies confirmed her by an approximate 90% margin. Ms. Schori is indisputably the least qualified Presiding Bishop ever chosen, having never served as a rector of a church, and having been a bishop for only five years. In addition, her theological leanings are those of radical revisionism. In her first sermon to General Convention, Katharine Schori referred to Jesus as “our mother, who gives birth to a new creation.” She voted for, and ardently supports Gene Robinson, and she sees nothing but goodness in homosexuality, which she described as just a different gifting.

The Official Convention worship was described as often non-Trinitarian by our Canon Theologian who attended every service. There was no cnfession of sin at any Communion except the Sunday service. The sermons were for the most part borderline heresy; being Pelagian at best, and sounding like Marcion at worst.

What is clear is that we have two entirely different religions now trying to exist under one name. The Episcopal Church as revealed at General Convention 2006 no longer even remotely resembles the Episcopal Church I once knew. As a result, I find that I must repudiate the national leadership of the Episcopal Church as it is presently constituted, and I repudiate the Episcopal Church that the present national leadership would want us to embrace.

Our Diocesan Standing Committee will meet in a special session this Wednesday, June 28th, and I fully expect them to respond to this Convention strongly and decisively. I ask your prayers as we move ahead in the coming months. I also ask you to remember that we are going to be just fine. I join with our bishops who wrote to us and said:

"Our future as a diocese in full Communion with the worldwide Anglican Communion is bright, and our gospel energy in our parishes and missions is strong. What is critical is that we seek to navigate these turbulent waters together as a diocese, and not simply as individuals or even individual parishes. The Lord will bring us through this time stronger than ever before if we all begin to take more initiative as a body.”

May our Lord Jesus Christ give us grace as we navigate these uncharted waters, and may we rely solely upon Him.

John Burwell+


What I Said on the Sunday After the General Convention in 2003

It's interesting to look back at where we were in August of 2003. I ran across this statement on the St. Philip's website which I shared on the Sunday following the last General Convention.

Here's what I said.

The General Convention in Minneapolis was full of irony. About a week before I left, I was praying, and the Holy Spirit gave me a scripture: Isaiah 43:19, and I told a few of you about it. It says, "Behold, I am doing a new thing," and it promises us a way in the wilderness, and water in the desert. And I took great comfort in that scripture...

The incredible irony is that the folks at Claiming the Blessing, the lobby for full inclusion of homosexuals in the Church, use that same scripture to justify their agenda. It just goes to show you that interpretation is everything.

But GOD IS GOOD and He kept His promise to me in Minneapolis: He allowed the complete and total heresy that exists in the Church to be revealed in new and different ways than in past conventions. As we testified at hearings on same-sex blessings and the confirmation of Gene Robinson, we heard one story after another--from clergy detailing illegal blessings that they had conducted in their dioceses with the support of their bishop to blessings that many of them had participated in, and the difference it had made in the lives of them and of their partners....A priest from the Diocese of Maryland read a statement from their youth presence in support of the development of rites for inclusion in the prayer book. Shame on those in the Diocese of Maryland for allowing their youth to reflect their depraved lifestyles. Never before had we heard tales like these. Peter Lee, the bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, stated last Thursday morning and I quote, "The Diocese of Virginia continues to affirm its policy that the normative context for sexual intimacy is lifelong, monogamous marriage." And then we watched as their entire deputation voted in favor of local option same-gender blessings.

He allowed the Presiding Bishop to reach new heights of pluralism. We had some of the weirdest worship ever. Strange new age instruments, the noticeable absence of the word "Jesus." Where was the confession, the penitent language? But the Lord provided an alternative in a wonderful Forward in Faith worship service held by orthodox bishops at the Presbyterian Church down the street. Inspiring hymns, great sermons, and a focus on the Truth. A much better way to start the day.

Everyday during the lunch recess, we'd head to the Lutheran Church across the street from the convention center where the American Anglican Council had set up their headquarters. They had brought in a chef to prepare a light lunch for us each day, and Doug McGlynn from the Diocese of Pittsburgh would give us a great meditation. John Guernsey would give us a legislative briefing. The AAC had volunteers who would sit in on all 24 committee meetings in the early mornings, and then compile updates on the status of all resolutions. Martyn Minns from Truro Church would give us further guidance on what might come up on the house floor in the afternoon. There were around 300 resolutions that required action during the 10 legislative days. The AAC helped organize all of the hearing testimony, and they were available to help us with anything we needed. But the greatest thing they did was to keep us shored up during the really difficult times. They kept us focused, and reminded us that the primates were behind us. And they continue to work on our behalf by organizing an October meeting in Plano, Texas, to plan for the future.

Because although the General Convention managed to turn the Changeless Gospel into the Ever-Changing Gospel, we are not defeated. It is they who have abandoned the Church. We will be fine.

Because God is doing a new thing, and although I don't have all the details, I know it will be according to His plan.

As John Burwell would say, "It is Day Five of the new Church," and the Lord will provide for us as we continue to share His Changeless Gospel at St. Philip's Church in the Diocese of South Carolina!

Let's Talk About Jesus

It has been very important in this last decade for the Diocese of South Carolina to have a presence, voice and vote at the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

But as important as what we say and do at Convention is, I'd much rather talk about Jesus. That's why I've loved serving as the president of the Province IV Episcopal Church Women for these last three years (and why I'm tickled that Margie Williams is the new president).

Part of the fun each year has been coordinating the Province IV ECW Conference at Kanuga. To see a bit of this year's event, check out this slideshow.

A Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina in response to the 2006 General Convention

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

I write in sadness to tell you that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church taken as a whole did not respond adequately to the plea of the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Windsor Report. A number of bishops in the Church of England and Primates throughout the Anglican Communion have agreed with this assessment.

Our worship in Columbus often focused just on God with only occasional references to the Trinity. Our daily eucharists omitted confession of sin (on the one Sunday service we had confession was mercifully included). We elected as Presiding Bishop the person of all the seven candidates who is in deepest disagreement with the theology of the Anglican Communion, and who with her whole diocese moved ahead to allow same sex blessings in October 2003 on the eve of the Primates meeting later that same week. Many more similar actions could be mentioned, but the point is clear: the Episcopal Church as its leadership understands itself to be is at fundamental odds with the majority of the Anglican Communion as well as our common vision here in the diocese of South Carolina.

Let me remind you that the Windsor Report, put together by a large group of people from throughout the breadth and depth of the Anglican Communion, made important specific requests of us as a Province.

We were asked to express regret for what we did and the consequences which followed-and in Columbus we changed the language in which our regret was expressed away from the language of the Windsor report. We were asked to place a moratorium on same sex blessings-and we did not do so. We were also asked to place a moratorium on any person who was in a non-celibate same gender partnership being elected or consecrated as a bishop. At first the House of Deputies voted not to do so on the second to last day of Convention. Then, on the very last day of Convention, using a process which pushed both Houses backs up against the wall, and which violated our own rules, we passed a nonbinding resolution which pleaded with bishops and Standing Committees (but not electing Conventions) 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." Even in this resolution we did not use the specific language of the Windsor Report but the vague language of "manner of life" which presents "a challenge." Immediately after this was passed in the House of Deputies, a number of bishops led by Bishop Chane of Washington, D.C., a friend with whom I have worked for the last year to seek resolution to this crisis, issued a statement of conscience making clear they had no intention of following the resolution.

The overall picture is very clear. As the Council of Anglican Primates in Africa June 22nd statement put it, the General Convention 2006 "elections and actions suggest that" we "are unable to embrace the essential recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqué necessary for the healing of our divisions."

Where do we go from here? Our future as a diocese in full Communion with the worldwide Anglican Communion is bright, and our gospel energy in our parishes and missions is strong. What is critical is that we seek to navigate these turbulent waters together as a diocese, and not simply as individuals or even individual parishes. The Lord will bring us through this time stronger than ever before if we all begin to take more initiative as a body.

Bishop Skilton and I ask your prayers for the Standing Committee as they meet June 28th, and for the clergy day set for July 5th. We also ask your prayers as we prepare to elect a new bishop this September. As is always the case, please be in touch with us directly should you have any questions.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Edward L. Salmon, Jr.
XIII Bishop of South Carolina

William J. Skilton
Bishop Suffragan of South Carolina

Another Daft American Idea

Richard Ingrams in The Independent (London):

"The conflicts over gay bishops etc, which are threatening to break up the Anglican communion, are reported as a struggle between the traditionalists and the liberals. I would prefer to see the dispute as one between those who are still reasonably sane and others who are dangerously bonkers."

"It was a view confirmed by the pronouncement this week by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who in her first sermon told the congregation: "Our Mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation - and you and I are His children."

Kendall Harmon: Must See TV

Video 14 Part I

See how the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon spent his summer. The Canon Theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina gives an insightful introduction to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. This is Must See TV!

We are especially grateful to Kevin Kallsen from The Connecticut Six for making more than two dozen videos which bring you a perspective which you will not get from the Episcopal News Service. To watch all of the videos, visit theCTSix GC2006 Video page.

Kendall Harmon: Part Deux

Video 14 Part II

The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon's trip to Columbus, Part II. Hear more about his impressions of General Convention and the legislation he introduced (which was too dangerous to be brought to the House of Deputies floor for discussion). For more +KSH, visit TitusOneNine.

We are especially grateful to Kevin Kallsen from The Connecticut Six for making more than two dozen videos which bring you a perspective which you will not get from the Episcopal News Service. To watch all of the videos, visit theCTSix GC2006 Video page.


Cal Thomas on GC2006

"The new leader of the Episcopal Church in America, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, says she does not believe homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals were created by God to love people of the same gender."

"As the Episcopal leadership continues to huff and puff to catch up with the world, it would be helpful if it could tell its members what it regards as sinful behavior, or will the concept of sin soon be up for negotiation in order to avoid giving offense to anyone?"

Read the rest of the article.

Christopher Caldwell: A Church Whose Day is Done

"The Republican party at prayer" is the way Americans used to snicker at the Episcopal Church, the snobby, worldly US branch of the Anglican communion. Recently, though, the church has taken on a new identity in the eyes of the world: as the gay-rights movement at prayer.

Church leaders met in Columbus, Ohio, last week to vote on dozens of pressing internal matters. They elected the church's first-ever female presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, to lead it for the next nine years. But all of that won public notice only in relation to the leaders' deliberations over gay ordinations, gay bishops and gay marriages.

"Such questions disturb all churches nowadays but gay issues are a particularly big problem for Episcopalianism. One reason is that the church is dying.

"Through decades in which Americans have moved to more conservative denominations, Episcopalians swam with the social tide and against the religious one, trying to anticipate rather than adapt to new movements that speak in the name of liberation. This won the church political kudos particularly during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa but it never drew spiritually hungry people into the pews."

"With just over 2m worshippers, the Episcopal Church is smaller than in generations. Its influence comes from the inertia of the era when it was the church of the few, the rich and the well-born.

"The US church has another problem: it is at odds with the practices of the global Anglican communion, whose 75m members make up the world's third largest church body. Most of Anglicanism's 38 "provinces" do not ordain women, as the US church has done since 1976, and only three Canada and New Zealand are the others elect women bishops. But it was the elevation of an outspoken homosexual, Gene Robinson, to be the bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 that led the thriving African churches, along with several traditional dioceses in the US, to threaten to break communion with the Episcopal Church. Going into last week's conclave, a schism in Anglicanism looked possible. Now it looks probable."

Read the rest of this article in the Financial Times (subscription required)

A Look Back: The 2003 Annual Convention of the Diocese of Nevada

The PB-elect of the Episcopal Church, ++Katharine Jefferts Schori, attended her first General Convention as Bishop of Nevada in July of 2003 in Minneapolis. At GC2003, she voted for the confirmation of Gene Robinson as Bishop-elect of New Hampshire. In October of the same year, Bp. Jefferts Schori presided over the Annual Convention of the Diocese of Nevada where a resolution authorizing the blessing of same-sex partnerships was passed.

Below are, in part, the opening remarks of the Bishop of Nevada, along with the text of the resolution.

"I have come to understand that sexual orientation is primarily a given characteristic, rather than one that is chosen. I have come to this conclusion after reading the results of scientific studies, and hearing the stories of those who know themselves to have a same-sex orientation."

"...At the same time, I recognize that there are many good and faithful Christians who hold a view that is very different from my own...I am very much aware that there is a fair bit of anxiety in this room about the resolution we will debate this afternoon.

"Before we get there, I want to say that part of our difficulty lies in not having a fully developed and uniformly held theology of marriage, let alone what is being asked for in blessing same-sex relationships. That is largely the result of the way in which Anglicans do theology. We are not a people who figure everything out and then develop a liturgical rite that spells that out in great detail."

"...Our theology continues to develop...We understand marriage far differently today than we did in 1549. We have discovered new things about the centrality of baptism in using the Prayer Book of 1979.

"What gay and lesbian people are asking of the church is a prayer form, a liturgical container, in which partners may make promises to each other that their unions be faithful and lifelong. If we are going to contemplate moving in that direction, I want to make several things clear. No priest can be forced to preside at any service of the church...The nature of blessing a relationship, whether a marriage or a same-sex partnership, means that the community who stand with the couple also promise to bless them. Not every community can bless every relationship.

"Let me summarize my expectations by saying that in any request for the church's blessing on either a marriage or a same-sex union in this diocese I expect the parish to have a policy in place, I expect that counseling has taken place to determine the soundness of the relationship, and I expect that the Christian community who will gather with the couple can also bless their relationship.

"...One of the learnings for me since General Convention has been that Nevada never participated in the church-wide dialogues about human sexuality which the larger church asked of us about ten years ago...I am going to ask every congregation to engage in study, prayer, and dialogue about these issues in the coming year.

And after members of the convention committed themselves to study and dialogue on issues of human sexuality, they passed the following resolution:

Recognize Ceremonies to Celebrate Relationships of Mutuality and Fidelity

“Whereas, the Episcopal Church professes that at its best, a Christian community lifts up its members, freeing their gifts and supporting their life;

"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That the 33rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, desiring to support relationships of mutuality and fidelity which mediate the grace of God between those persons for whom the celebration and blessing of a marriage is not available, does hereby recognize that ceremonies to celebrate the relationships of such persons who are baptized members in good standing in this diocese may be conducted by clergy in the diocese, with the approval of the bishop, respecting their pastoral discretion.”

[passed by a 113-58 margin]

October 2003

Neither this commission, nor the ABC, nor the Primates...

"Matters of church doctrine or discipline in the Episcopal Church are not decided by bishops, or by individual dioceses, but only by the church gathered in General Convention. That form of governance is quite different from other parts of the Anglican Communion...

All of which is a very long way of saying that neither this commission, nor the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor the gathering of primates, can make rules or laws that bind the Episcopal Church."

The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Episcopal Diocese of Nevada
Convention Address
October 18, 2004

Always Have a Contingency Plan

TitusOneNine is experiencing site problems today. If you find it down, please check out Kendall's backup site here.

There you'll find the latest encyclical from the Theology Department of the Los Angeles Times (huh?), along with a new statement from the Anglican Communion Network.

For those regular readers of Stand Firm, in the event that their site is down, go to the backup site.


Goodbye, Columbus

I’m on the plane enroute from Columbus to Charleston with a connection in Atlanta. (Haven’t we heard it said that you can’t even get to heaven without going through Atlanta?) On the way to the gate this morning, I bumped into +Hayes Junkin, lay deputy #1 from the Diocese of New Hampshire who sat directly behind me for the entire convention. Also on the C concourse were +Susan Crane and +Freddy Richardson from Tennessee.

I’ve been listening to Michael Frye’s Be the Centre on my IPod. That’s probably a great way to begin my prayers this morning. Here are the words: Jesus, be the centre, be my source, be my light, Jesus. Be the fire in my heart, be the wind in these sails, be the reason that I live, Jesus.

Good morning, Lord. Thank you for this day. Thank you for bringing me into this world, for giving me life, both on this earth and in the life to come.

Thank you for my family, especially my husband, Don, an incredible support to me for these 25 years and an amazing father to our three children. Thank you for his faithfulness, to me, to our marriage, and to You, Lord. Thank you for Henslee who has been a great companion on this road for the last four days. She is a constant reminder that the official Youth Presence at GC2006 does not represent every Episcopalian under the age of 25. She is a prophetic voice when she says of the House of Deputies, “Y’all need to get your act together.” Lord, please don’t let what she has seen at this convention muddle her view of the body of Christ.

Thank you for Coakey and his child-like love of You and your creation. I know he will welcome me home with a cry of Mommmmy! Thank you for Rivers. I know he has been a great help to his dad, and a tremendous comfort to my Mom while I was away.

I am so blessed to have my brother, Michael, who has been praying for all of us, as well as the deputation from his diocese in Mississippi. We’ve all needed prayers as we navigated the web of church polity and parliamentary procedure. My sister-in-law made it possible for both Henslee and I to be away during this last week, and I thank you for her, Lord.

Thank you also, Lord, for my Mother. She was given the incredible gift of this uninterrupted time with her daughter-in-law, Dawn, and we took great comfort in knowing that she was so well cared for. Thank you for a successful surgery on Tuesday as Mother received a porta-cath in order to continue her chemotherapy. I know you were there guiding the hands of Dr. Baird as he performed this procedure.

Thank you for all who were with us in Columbus from the Diocese of South Carolina. We were grateful for the prayers and encouragement of Annie Belser and Eunice Logan, who reminded us to eat and sleep, and for Lynn Skilton and Louise Salmon, who paid particular attention to our wonderful bishops. Let us not forget how blessed we are to have the strong and steady leadership of these two men.

We have been so encouraged by the faithful witness of the Episcopal Church Women from our diocese: Margie, Catherine, Sue, Nancy, and Katherine. Thank you for their presence in Columbus. I am grateful also for Kay Meyer who has accepted the call to lead the National ECW. Let her hear your voice, Lord, and give her Your vision for the women of the Episcopal Church.

Lord, I have been blessed by the company of +John, +Kendall, +Mark, +Rick, +Peter, Lonnie, Bobby, Wade, and Bob. Thank you for the sacrifices made by the deputation from South Carolina, for the time they’ve taken from families, parishes, and work in order to make this trip to what has seemed at times to be the world’s largest vestry meeting. Lord, let us spend more time in the councils of our church focusing on You, and less time debating the issues. Let us worship You as the Creator of all things, let us remember that You are the judge of all men, that You are our Redeemer, and that You are risen and alive and in our midst.

Thank you for Binky, Elfgirl, and all of the webelves who kept TitusOneNine and all of the sites hosted by CaNN up and running. Thank you for live-blogger Matt Kennedy, Sarah Hey, Kevin and the rest of the orthodox entourage with us in Columbus.

Thank you for Mary, Dana, +Martyn, Angela, Rachel, (especially Rachel!) +Tony, +Sharon, +Ellen, +Karola, +Lorne, +Don, Brad, Michael, Maria, +Freddy, Christopher, +Rob, Greg, and +Robert. We’ve been richly blessed by the support of +Richard Crocker and +Mark Eldredge as we rose to the microphones in hearings and on the floor of the HOD.

We couldn’t have survived the week without the noontime encouragement and reflections of +Ellis Brust. +David Anderson has reminded us of the continuum of events in ECUSA. Thank you for giving Cynthia Brust the words to adequately describe the events of GC2006 and the energy to keep up with the frenetic pace. During these past ten days, you have provided water in the desert and peace in the midst of the storm, and for your provision we say, ‘thank you.’

Be with us as we return home to the part of the vineyard where You have planted us. Make us faithful witnesses that we may carefully and accurately share the events of the General Convention, focusing not on those with whom we disagree, but on our assurance of your continued provision for us. Remind us that we are not properties and structures, but we are the ekklesia, the Church, ‘a people called out’ to know You and make You known to a hurting world. Illumine our hearts that we may see where we have gone astray. And Lord, give us the chance to tell one person today about the Good News we have found in You.

In the Name of Jesus,

We Have Heard Their Cries

"We assure all those Scripturally faithful dioceses and congregations alienated and marginalised within your Provincial structure that we have heard their cries."

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola on behalf of CAPA in response to the Episcopal Church's General Convention

Clarity from CAPA

Note from Lydia: I saw this first on TitusOneNine. As of 3 o'clock Thursday, this statement had generated more than 110 comments. Read them all.

CAPA Primates Statement in Response to The Episcopal Church’s General Convention: An Open Letter to the Episcopal Church USA

We, the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), meeting in Kampala on 21st – 22nd June, have followed with great interest your meeting of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA in Columbus. We have been especially concerned by the development of your response to The Windsor Report, which has been reported to us quite extensively. This is something for which we have earnestly prayed. We are, however, saddened that the reports to date of your elections and actions suggest that you are unable to embrace the essential recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqué necessary for the healing of our divisions. At the same time, we welcome the various expressions of affection for the life and work of the Anglican Communion.

We have been moved by your generosity as you have rededicated yourselves to meet the needs of the poor throughout the world, especially through your commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life and leadership. We have noted the many affirmations of this throughout the Convention. As you know, our Churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion advised you against taking and continuing these commitments and actions prior to your General Convention in 2003.

At our meeting in Kampala we have committed ourselves to study very carefully all of your various actions and statements. When we meet with other Primates from the Global South in September, we shall present our concerted pastoral and structural response.

We assure all those Scripturally faithful dioceses and congregations alienated and marginalised within your Provincial structure that we have heard their cries.

In Christ,

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, on behalf of CAPA
Chairman, CAPA

From the "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30" Department:

General Convention is over. The first female primate in the Anglican Communion has been elected. And Katie Sherrod is still paranoid.

"Covenants developed and adopted by only a few privileged people have no legitimacy.

"The question of whether the Anglican Communion should even have a covenant is still very much in the air. The adoption of any covenant will change the very nature of Anglicanism in deep fundamental ways."

Read this article.

Note that the resolution passed at convention said that The Episcopal Church would "support, follow, and report." The train has most certainly not left the station.

An Understatement from the PB-elect

"Yesterday the bishop of LA spoke eloquently of living in a church with two minds and as he was speaking an image arose in my mind, the image of conjoined twins. Two bodies in one being. And when they wrestle with separating the twins, doctors recognize it is wrong unless both can live full lives. We are in a church like that."