Friday, May 30, 2008

Gore on Development (Charles Gore)

How extraordinarily interesting, and in some way analogous to the development of the Papacy, is the development of the Roman Empire out of the Roman Republic. That development is continuous; there is no break in it; there is no moment when you can say Rome ceased to be a republic and became an empire. It was a development due to the adaptation of a certain form of polity to the requirements of the time, and the requirements of the time as they were influenced by the genius of some great individuals. There you have a development remarkably analogous to the development of the Papacy out of the earlier forms of Church government. Take another, the development of the modern English Cabinet. This is an interesting development out of the power of the Crown and the power of Parliament into a power which may be said to run a fair chance of becoming a substitute for both.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On Priesthood

It should go without saying, but it bears repeating: bishops and priests are leaders.

It should go without saying because the very names of these orders of ministry bespeak their particular calling. In the New Testament and earliest Church tradition, we find two orders which share in the leadership of the church: the overseers (episcopoi or bishops) and the elders (presbutoroi or presbyters.)

It bears repeating because we live in a cultural context in which established patterns of authority, leadership, and governance are contested and frequently rejected. Quite candidly, we live in a society in which many people have for a long time been deeply suspicious of ancient (which could mean simply pre-American) Christian churches. We have many who have left ‘organized religion’ altogether on a journey of usually self-directed syncretism. We have many more, perhaps far more, who have flocked to “nondenominational” churches marked by casual contemporary worship, informal aesthetics, and clergy who disdain the traditional titles, trappings or styles of ordained status - yet which retain in most cases a particularly strong vision of the authority of clergy (who are almost aways men.)Within the Episcopal Church in particular are a couple of generations of clergy who have sought to revise the identity of bishops and presbyters, sometimes asserting that their main role is to serve as therapists, prophets, counter-cultural rebels, or mystics.

While the ministry of bishops and presbyters may well have therapeutic, prophetic, counter-cultural and mystical results, I would like to assert that bishops and priests are called to serve the whole baptised people of God as leaders with particular charisms of ministry which are not primarily therapy, prophesy, rebellion or mysticism. Moreover, it needs to be said that we in the Church are not merely participants in a gathering of like-minded folks with similar ideas and goals, who have organized ourselves with a form purely of our own devising.

No, we who believe we are living inside a reality shaped not by ourselves but by Jesus Christ, believe that we have been given a form that itself is shaped like the One who formed it. As Rowan Williams writes in his reflection on the work of Michael Ramsey,

“the Church is never left to reimagine itself or reshape itself according to its own priorities of the moment; for it to be itself, it has received those gifts that express and determine its essential self as a place where the eternal self-giving of Christ is happening in such a way as to heal and change lives.”2

In a Godward direction: In God’s Image

Fr. Tobias writes:
God didn’t say creation was perfect. God did not create a perfect world, but a perfecting world. God did not create perfect beings, but created beings that were capable of becoming perfect because they weremadein God’s image—having the power to choose. It was in right choosing that the road to perfection lay. Had humanity chosen obedience, they would have achieved perfection. Through the Fall they lost that ability until the time when God too became human. With this redemptive act, human beings once again become capable of reaching perfection in Christ and through Christ. All creation is awaiting the perfection of humanity, for when human beings take up the task for which they were created, the world can then be perfected. (Romans 8.19-23.) The significance of the Incarnation and At-one-ment affirm that the “happy fault” of Adam was not an incidental episode of salvation (or creation) history. Only through “one man’s obedience” could perfection be realized, a perfection realized “once and for all.”

No, God didn’t say creation was perfect; God said it was good, except for one thing: loneliness. (Genesis 2.18)

I think sex and sexuality are great. They are good, a part of God’s creation. But like a lot of other good things they are imperfect, earthly, and transient. That the risen body will be unlike the “body of death” is a promise of hope. Many things that we think are great now, many “creature comforts,” many things valued in the church, like prophecy and knowledge, will pass away. Love will remain.

Read it all at In a Godward direction: In God’s Image

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Bishop Coadjutor for Diocese of Texas

Canon Doyle, 41, is young to be rector of one of the two largest dioceses in The Episcopal Church, and one of the largest overall institutions of The Episcopal Church in general. But he's got energy for the long-haul, and a vision of the Gospel that creates growth both spiritual and numerical. We need energetic leaders who believe God can do amazing things, even in our old church.

Some of his answers to search committee questions before the election --

  • Our greatest challenge is proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is also our greatest purpose. We can no longer do things the same old way. The Episcopal Church has been in decline for the past 41 years; the average age of parishioners and clergy hovers at 58. In the next decade, 45% of the clergy in this diocese will retire. Our task is monumental and awe-inspiring. It will take a fresh set of eyes, boundless energy, and creative leadership committed to following Christ in order to turn the tide.
  • The first charge to a new bishop is to be one with the apostles, proclaiming Christ's resurrection and interpreting the Gospel. To proclaim a transformational Gospel in a changing culture, we must be intentionally Christian.
  • We must unashamedly read and study the Bible.
  • We must courageously engage in dialogue with others about Jesus, respecting differing opinions. We must live intentionally spiritual lives as we foster discernment and help craft rules of life for daily living. Our Sunday obligation must expand to include worship throughout the week, with time for contemplation and prayerful conversations.
  • We must create loving communities inside and outside of the church.
  • We must cloak the poor and the environment with the mercy of Christ, putting the Gospel into action on behalf of others and the world. Younger, innovative, Gospel-oriented leadership must be involved in transforming our churches into places where belonging leads to believing, dialogue leads to commitment, and stewardship leads to changing the world for Christ’s sake.
  • I believe that the bishop's responsibility to the Church is to conserve the faith, unity and discipline and represent the whole of Christ's body. It does not seek to preserve any one special interest.
  • Anglicanism values communion as a guiding principle and bases decisions upon scripture, tradition, and reason. The Communion is clear about its teaching on sexuality. The Lambeth Conference has reaffirmed this historic teaching. The General Convention of The Episcopal Church has not changed its teaching on sexuality. The Diocese of Texas is clear in its canons regarding the definition of marriage. Therefore, I will not ordain non-celibate individuals, whether heterosexual, gay, or lesbian. I will not give permission to celebrate unions in the Diocese of Texas. As bishop, I will hold true to the canons of the Diocese of Texas. While some would see me as a Windsor bishop, my goal is to be a faithful and discerning bishop. I will not be anxious or have a problem leading the diocese through this time, for I have already been an integral part of the voice and vision.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Little Book That’s Well Worth Reading

By Eric Von Salzen

When Abe Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he famously said, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War!”

One might say something like that on meeting Gene Robinson: So you’re the little man who started this great – well, not war, and let’s hope not even this great schism; let’s just say this great debate – in the Episcopal Church.

And now he’s written a book. In The Eye Of The Storm: Swept To The Center By God, Seabury Books, New York, 2008, (written according to the dust jacket, not by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, but by plain old Gene Robinson). I commend it to your attention not only because it’s written by a central figure in the great debate, but also because it’s an intelligent and often moving discussion of issues that face our church and our society.

I met Bishop Robinson a couple of months ago, when he spoke at our church in Fort Lauderdale. At the reception in the Parish House before his talk, I had the pleasure of chatting informally with him about this and that, and I found him charming, personable, and witty. In that conversation he mentioned that he had a book coming out the next month. Well, “mention”, may not be the right word. He wanted me to remind the Rector, when introducing him, not to forget to say that Bishop Robinson had a book coming out next month.

I described myself to him as a politically conservative and theologically orthodox straight guy who supports inclusion of gays and lesbians in our church. Bishop Robinson responded that people would be surprised to learn how orthodox he is.

In the Introduction to his book, Bishop Robinson makes the same point:

“It might surprise readers (I hope it will) to learn just how ‘orthodox’ I am. Perhaps both my supporters and my critics will be surprised at just how theologically conservative I am. Just because I favor taking a second look at what holy scripture actually says – and doesn’t say – about homosexuality as we understand it today, it doesn’t follow that I believe everything in scripture is up for grabs.”

This book certainly shows that Bishop Robinson is no Bishop Spong theologically. “Christians believe”, says Robinson, that the “life, death, and resurrection” of Jesus “offers the perfect revelation of God.” Throughout his book, Robinson grounds his positions on this belief, as he understands it. Like the good preacher he is, he uses Biblical references and analogies to illustrate his points.

But if one were hoping to find that the Bishop of New Hampshire is a closet conservative, one would be disappointed. Robinson says “I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah”, but then hastily adds that “I don’t believe he is the sole revelation of God’s self to the world”, that he respects and reveres “all those who have come to know God through other faith journeys.” Oh well. The politically correct you will always have with you.

Most readers of this book will want to know how Bishop Robinson justifies inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church when many Christians believe that scripture commands otherwise. I won’t try to summarize here his discussion of this issue – I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. But do take the time to read what he has to say. He treats the scriptures with profound respect, not simply as obstacles to enlightenment as some “liberals” do, but as the basis for inclusion. If I had not already been convinced, Bishop Robinson would have convinced me.

Many in our church who hold no ill will toward gays and lesbians and would like to see them fully included in the church, want inclusion the way St. Augustine once wanted chastity – “not yet”. Bishop Robinson’s book is a compelling lesson about the costs that delaying inclusion imposes on the excluded. He describes the pain, the fear, the guilt of having to be “in the closet”, and the tremendous relief and joy of coming out. He likens it to the raising of Lazarus:

“Years ago, my sexuality seemed like an immovable stone in my way, a burden so huge that it seemed to threaten everything I held dear. Accepting that I was gay was impossible enough; affirming and embracing it was beyond comprehension. And then just as surely as Jesus called to his friend Lazarus to ‘Come out’ of his tomb, Jesus called me to come out of my tomb of guilt and shame, to accept and love that part of me that he already accepted and loved. If I would only look up and see that the stone had already been rolled away, I could have a new and abundant life. That resurrection changed my life.”

If you wondered why Robinson didn’t refuse the Bishopric of New Hampshire when it was offered to him, or why he and his partner decided to formalize their relationship in a civil union blessed by the church, or why Robinson feels it is wrong to exclude him from the Lambeth Conference (although he once told the Archbishop of Canterbury that he might stay away in the interests of unity), you will find his answers here.

This book isn’t entirely about “the gay issue”. There’s a marvelous chapter about Bishop Robinson’s regular Christmas Eve visits with the inmates of the New Hampshire State Prison for Women. There’s also a lot of stuff about religion and politics, about the duty of all Christians to get out into the world to do what they can to make it a better place. And although I agree with the principle, I find Bishop Robinson misses something important here.

Robinson tries, I think sincerely, to avoid claiming that God is on his side politically. That’s what the “Religious Right” does, in his view. “When people of faith mix religion and politics, the goal should be to allow our Christian beliefs and values to inform our personal politics and our political decisions without foisting them on others.” Still, like most politically liberal clerics, he has a hard time imagining that “Christian beliefs and values” could lead a person of good faith anywhere but liberalism. Thus, for example, in his list of “moral” issues that face us as citizens he includes “What is the most humane way to extricate ourselves from Iraq?”, not “Whether we should abandon the people of Iraq to terrorism and sectarian violence by withdrawing our troops prematurely?” He asks, “How can the United States of America, the richest country on earth, not provide health care coverage to the 45 million people who currently have none?”, without even considering whether, in a free country, it is the proper function of government to make everyone get insurance. And, unless I missed it, he doesn’t say a word against abortion.

These are minor cavils, however. No sensible person goes to a bishop for advice on politics. On the issues that count, and are of vital importance to our church and our community, Bishop Robinson is an excellent guide and an engaging writer.

Caveat: If you are unalterably opposed to the inclusion of gays and lesbians in our church, and you don’t want to read anything that would make you uncomfortable with your views, by no means should you read this book.

Fr. Haller on Open Communion

A Review of Canonical and Rubrical Restrictions on Admission to Communion

Tobias S Haller BSG

Introductory Note

The purpose of this brief essay is not to forestall discussion of the administration of communion to those not [yet] baptized, but rather to provide some historical context and background to inform such discussion. Note as well that it is not within the scope of this review to examine the issue of excommunication or refusal of communion for disciplinary reasons. Nor is it intended to address the spiritual restrictions and requirements contained in some of the Prayer Book texts of exhortation and invitation (i.e., being in love and charity with one’s neighbors, intending to lead a new life, repenting one’s sins) since these are largely subjective, and not externally verifiable criteria, and therefore are ill suited to canonical regulation.

Scripture and the Early Church

Scripture itself provides no unambiguous or explicit guidance on the question of communion of the unbaptized. It might well be argued that the question never arose. However, baptism clearly plays an important and foundational role in the community which gathered around John the Baptist and later Jesus. It appears that baptism came to be understood by the apostolic church as an adaptation of Jewish ceremonies for conversion as a step towards (or substitute for) circumcision, which admitted one to the Passover meal (Exo 12:48). Given this understanding (not only for remission of sins or repentance, but as a sign of incorporation) baptism becomes significant in light of Paul’s declaration that Christ is “our Passover.” It is therefore understandable that the apostolic leaders believed that incorporation into Christ’s Body (the church) through Baptism enabled one to “keep the feast” which is the sacramental celebration of that Body.

Jesus’ own teaching presents a mixed witness: the harshness with which the man who shows up at the wedding banquet improperly attired is treated (Matt 22:12) stands in marked contrast to the apparent openness of his table fellowship with outcasts. On the other hand, the lack of any clear demarcation between such table fellowship and the more intimate gatherings of the apostolic band, as well as Paul’s apparent willingness to “give thanks and break bread” with unbelievers (Acts 27:35), appear to offer a conflicting message. So I confess that I can find no “plain teaching” on this subject in Scripture. (The “unworthy” or “improper” reception of the eucharist in 1 Cor 11 does not appear to have to do with baptism.)

There is, however, no doubt that by the patristic era church law and liturgy are abundantly clear on the matter of admission to communion. The liturgy of baptism itself included reception of communion as its climax. Nor was there any question of the unbaptized being so communed — they were not even allowed to remain after what we would now call the Liturgy of the Word. Communion — as well as offering communal prayer — was reserved for “the faithful” — that is, the baptized (seeDidache, and the Apostolic Constitutions). (One wonders if the legend of Saint Martin of Tours might not represent an early rebuke to an overemphasis on the restriction of participation in the Body of Christ to the baptized: Martin, still a catechumen, encounters the living Christ, and his act of charity in giving half his cloak is held as exemplary.)

Because many if not most were baptized as adults, early church laws assumed (and later required) preparation for baptism and the reception of communion which served as its culmination. This preparation involved a period of education (the catechumenate) and involved prayer and fasting, prior to subsequent participation in the church’s liturgy. Though fewer in number, those baptized as infants received communion at baptism, just as did adults.

Infant Baptism and Adult Confirmation

In the period between the fourth and fourteenth centuries, however, infant baptism became the rule rather than the exception. While the Eastern churches continued to commune infants, a changing theology of the eucharist in the West led to a gradual withdrawal of communion from infants, and admission to communion came to be restricted to those who had reached “the age of reason.” In addition, a separate rite of confirmation developed in the West, and in England this led to an additional change in the canonical regulation of admission to communion.

Many of the faithful apparently were not bringing their children for confirmation at the appropriate time. In order to encourage confirmation, the Council of Lambeth (1281), chaired by Archbishop Peckham, changed church law to require confirmation for admission to communion.

This injunction, not originally intended as a restriction on communion but as an incentive to confirmation, was later enshrined in the “Confirmation Rubric” of the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), where it appears at the end of the rite for Confirmation. “And there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion until such time as he be confirmed.” In 1559, the rubric was expanded slightly: “And there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion, until such time as he can say the catechism, and be confirmed.”

The 1662 version added an additional notice at the end of the baptismal rite: “It is expedient that every person, thus baptized, should be confirmed by the Bishop so soon after his Baptism as conveniently may be; that so he may be admitted to the holy Communion.” However, the 1662 Prayer Book softened the Confirmation Rubric itself, removing the requirement concerning the catechism, and adding at the end “or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” This rubric accommodated those who were unable to be confirmed during the unsettled period of the English Civil War. It was retained in the first American Prayer Books where it met a similar pastoral need: there were no bishops in the colonial church, and many American church members were not confirmed, though presumably “ready and desirous” to be so. This phrase allowed for considerable pastoral flexibility even after confirmation became readily available throughout the Anglican Communion, and given this pastoral leeway, the rubric remained in versions of the Book of Common Prayer throughout the Communion.

At the same time, an increasing movement developed to recover the ancient custom of admitting children to communion at their baptism, even though limitation of communion to the confirmed (or those ready and desirous of confirmation) remained in the rubrics of the American Prayer Book. The House of Bishops issued a recommendation in 1971 that young children, after “being instructed in the meaning of this Sacrament,” might be admitted to communion in the context of worship with their family, before confirmation.

Beyond the Confirmation Boundary

Eventually the Confirmation Rubric was dropped altogether in the revision of 1976. With the adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, restriction of communion to the confirmed was formally removed. There was, however, still some question if this change opened the door to infant communion, so in 1988, the House of Bishops adopted a resolution stating,

Whereas, the Church teaches that Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as children by grace, and makes us, at whatever age we are baptized, members of Christ’s Body, the Church; and

Whereas, the practice of the Church has evolved since previous statements by this House [in 1971 and1972] on the subject of communion by young children, so that a statement of the current mind of this House may be useful; therefore be it

Resolved, That the mind of the House of Bishops is that:

Those baptized in infancy may, as full members of the Body of Christ, begin receiving communion at any time they desire and their parents permit; and that the following pastoral principles are recommended to guide the church in communicating those baptized as infants:

1. That the reception of communion by young children should normally be in the context of their participation with their parents and other family in the liturgy of the church;

2. That instruction is required for adults and older children before their baptism and first communion; instruction is also essential for young children after they are baptized and have received communion in infancy, that they may grow in appreciation of the grace they have received and in their ability to respond in faith, love, and thankful commitment of their lives to God;

3. That pastoral sensitivity is always required: in not forcing the sacrament on an unwilling child, in not rejecting a baptized child who is reaching out for communion with God in Christ, and in respecting the position of the parents of a child in this regard; and

4. That the practice of some parishes which customarily give first communion to infants at their baptism, then next offer them communion when they and their parents express a desire that they receive, is seen to be an acceptable practice in the spirit of these guidelines; and be it further

Resolved, that the Committee on Theology be instructed to present a report on this matter to the next House of Bishops meeting.

It is therefore clear that the Episcopal Church now regards baptism as the sole canonical criterion for admission to communion, at least for persons who are members of the Episcopal Church or a church in communion with it.

Admission of Non-Episcopalians to Communion

However, a second issue that arises is the appropriateness of admitting non-Episcopalians to communion. This is not a novel question. Even in the time when the Confirmation Rubric was in effect, the prevailing opinion was that occasional communion by a baptized non-Anglican was not forbidden by the rubric.

As the Lambeth Conference of 1920 noted, the admission of baptized non-Anglicans to communion was a matter of essentially local pastoral discretion under the guidance of the bishop, and “the priest... has no canonical authority to refuse Communion to any baptized person kneeling before the Lord’s Table (unless he be excommunicate by name, or, in the canonical sense of the term, a cause of scandal to the faithful).” The Conference urged that if there was further question as to the propriety of such cases, “the priest should refer the matter to the Bishop for counsel or direction.” (Lambeth Conference 1920, Resolution 12.C.ii.)

The General Convention of 1967 adopted a resolution that permitted baptized non-Episcopalians (who had made public profession of faith in their own traditions) to receive communion in the Episcopal Church “where the discipline of their own Church permits, not only at special occasions of ecumenical gatherings” but whenever so moved by spiritual need. Similar to the Lambeth resolution of 1920, this action was not felt by the Convention to require any change in the canons or rubrics, the apparent tension with the Confirmation Rubric resolved by the fact that since the Episcopal Church at that time did not recognize any equivalent to Confirmation in many non-Episcopal churches, whether such a person could be considered “ready and desirous to be confirmed” was irrelevant. The primary intention of the legislation appears to have been a desire to discourage “what is commonly known as ‘Open Communion”’ — which is to say an open declaration that communion is open to all who are baptized, from whatever tradition. The emphasis here was on the discipline of the church of which the person was a member.

In 1979, the same year that formally made communion available to all who were baptized in the Episcopal Church, including infants, an expansion and clarification of the resolution of 1967 was adopted. While acknowledging the renewed understanding of Baptism as “the sacramental prerequisite for receiving Holy Communion,” and the centrality of the eucharist in the church’s new liturgical formularies, this resolution also expressed the need for “sensitivity to the constraints of conscience on those whose churches officially do not approve of this sacramental participation.” The resolution presented this standard “for those of other churches who on occasion desire to receive Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church”:

They shall have been baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and shall have previously been admitted to the Holy Communion within the church to which they belong.

They shall examine their lives, repent of their sins, and be in love and charity with all people, as this church in its catechism (BCP p. 860) says is required of all those who come to the Eucharist.

They shall approach the Holy Communion as an expression of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ whose sacrifice once upon the cross was sufficient for all mankind.

They shall find in this Communion the means to strengthen their life within the Christian family ‘through the forgiveness of (their) sins, the strengthening of (their) union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet...’ (BCP p. 859-60).

Their own consciences must always be respected as must the right of their own church membership to determine the sacramental discipline of those who, by their own choice, make that their spiritual home.”

The Episcopal Church since 1979 authorized “occasional communion” for baptized members of other Christian churches who are already admitted to Communion in their own churches, who meet the Episcopal Church’s own Prayer Book requirements for all who come to the Eucharist, and who are in basic agreement with the Episcopal Church’s own eucharistic doctrine. It emphasized, however, the individual right of conscience as well as respect for the sacramental disciplines of the other churches.

Many did not feel that the restrictions in this resolution were in keeping with the intent to clarify that Baptism is the sole criterion and means for membership in the universal church, and that all members of the universal church are eligible to share in the Holy Eucharist as an outward sign of that membership, and of the unity that transcends denominational limits. With the growing practice of infant communion the question arose as to the appropriateness of requiring a particular eucharistic doctrine of anyone receiving communion.

In 1982, therefore, the Standing Liturgical Commission brought to the General Convention a resolution amending the membership canon (at that time Canon I.16, now Canon I.17), in order “to bring the Canon into conformity with the concept of Christian initiation and Church membership implied” by the relevant sections of the Book of Common Prayer. The new canon marked a major change in the way membership in the church would be understood, and it also had implications governing admission to communion.

The opening section of the proposed canon recognized that “All persons who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and whose baptisms have been duly recorded in this Church, are members thereof.” The closing section of the Canon read, “No person who has not received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

The proposed resolution, and another similar to it, were referred to and amended by committee and came to the floor of the House of Bishops with two significant changes. The opening clause was clarified to read, “All persons who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, whether in this Church or in another Christian Church, and whose Baptisms have been duly recorded in this Church, are members thereof.” The added phrase emphasizes the universal nature of baptism, transcending denominational divisions, and is in keeping with the Prayer Book’s affirmation that baptism “is full initiation... into Christ’s Body the Church.” The effect of this new canon was to clarify that baptism makes one a Christian, and that recording that baptism in the Episcopal Church makes one an Episcopalian.

The closing section of the canon was simplified: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.” The Bishop of Rio Grande moved to amend this clause by the addition of the word “regularly” at the end of the sentence. This amendment, which would have permitted occasional reception of the eucharist by one not baptized, was defeated. This canon clarifies that baptism, previously defined as to form and matter, whether performed in the Episcopal Church or another Christian church, is the sole canonical requirement for admission to communion.

Due to the substantial change in policy governing confirmation and membership, a final clause was added to the resolution, stating that the new canon would take effect on January 1, 1986, rather than on January 1, 1983, when all other canonical changes would normally take effect. Thus, by 1986, the Episcopal Church had canonically reestablished the ancient linkage between baptism and eucharist as sacraments of the universal church, stressing the former as prerequisite for admission to the latter, and that all who are members of the “People of God” are welcome to share in “the Gifts of God.”

The question arises as to what extent invitation to receive communion should be made, in addition to the exhortations and invitations already in the liturgical texts. While not wishing to invite a Christian of another tradition to disobey the rules of that tradition, neither should the Episcopal Church be placed in the position of enforcing someone else’s rules. This is particularly so when the persons’ presence at an Episcopal eucharist (in itself a possible breach of their denomination’s rules) may indicate a desire and need for pastoral care.

In addition, an increasing number of persons attending church services are not [yet] baptized. Some may innocently feel they are welcome to receive communion, since the liturgy itself does not specify baptism as a requirement for admission to communion, and appears to issue a number of invitations to all who are present. Therefore a brief announcement to the effect that “all who are baptized are welcome at the Lord’s table,” has become customary in many parishes, while a few others have boldly acted contrary to the canonical and rubrical limitations, and issue a general invitation to any moved to receive. Thus we come to the present debate on the advisability of such a change in policy and practice.

Further extensive analysis of the issues surrounding Confirmation, and Infant Communion may be found in Ruth A. Meyers, Continuing the Reformation: Re-Visioning Baptism in the Episcopal Church (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1997). The Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright’s “Who May Receive Communion in the Episcopal Church”(Cincinnati: Forward Movement Publications, 1980) includes a detailed description of the background to the 1979 General Convention Resolution, and its implications for the church at that time.

Andrew Gerns: Appreciatin' Stuff

Gerns writes:

The conventional wisdom is wrong. At least about the Lambeth Conference...

In other words, we have a legitimate series of problems and impasses, that need to be addressed concretely. But instead of building on what we do best as a Communion, and in the Episcopal Church, we have tended to focus on fixing specific symptoms through the use of interest group politics. That is building solutions based on our weakness.

What is it that Anglicans do best?

We worship. We know how to find God in beauty and in the rhythm of day, week, and year. We meet Jesus in word, sacrament .
We are comprehensive. We are tolerant of a certain variety of approaches. We experience the personal costs and spiritual power that being comprehensive brings.
We think. Prayer Book spirituality requires us to be thoughtful because it is not given to handing out snappy answers to complex questions.
We are incarnational. We know that God's whole self in found in the whole person Jesus, and that he lives, and we take seriously the images of being the vine of Christ, the body of Christ and take seriously being ambassadors of reconciliation.
We are mission oriented. The other thing that Anglicans do well besides worship is that we work. We are very effective at organizing and raising money to address real problems ranging from AIDS to alcoholism to homeless to hunger to disaster relief.
We create partnerships. Even with all the division, invasions and upset, there have never been more Anglican partnerships between dioceses than there are today.
We are Biblical. We are not Biblicists, but we delve deeply into what God teaches us in Scripture and we attempt to live that out.
We are traditional. We know that we stand on a past that has been both rich and imperfect, both a blessing and sinful. In bringing forward what the Church has taught and experienced, and in attempting to make that tradition live in the present, we bring forward the teachings of Christ and his redeeming to the present and into the future.

I could go on. But here is what I think our opportunity is:

If the gathered Bishops can build on the positive core, what binds us and draws us together as Anglican Christians; if they can use the stage that Williams and the design team have set for them and allow themselves to appreciate what we have, imagine what we might become, and proclaim what we should be, and then go home and help the rest of us do what must be done, then perhaps, perhaps, this conference next month could be quite revolutionary.

Will it solve all our problems? No. Will it "fix" every pinch? Probably not. Will it prevent those who want to go their own way and form their own Anglican future from doing so? Not if they are determined to make their solution their problem.

But for the rest of us, if we want to build on who we are, what we do best, and stay focused on what Christ is calling us to be, there is always hope.

Lambeth's design is not perfect. The Windsor Report and the need decide whom to invite has gotten in the way. I don't expect earth-shattering results to happen in the first week, month or year after the event. Change of this kind tends not to show itself for a while. If they are doing what I believe they are, it is a very big risk.

But I think +Katharine was on to something when she said to never underestimate the power of tea parties to create change.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Divorce and Remarriage

by Bryan Owen

I first posted this over at Creedal Christian back in August. I offer it again here, not only because the Gospel reading appointed in the Eucharistic lectionary for today (Mark 10:1-12) is about divorce and remarriage, and not only because I continue to believe that this is an important moral issue that the Church largely ignores, but also because I sometimes hear people refer to this matter as though either (a) biblical teaching on these issues is simple and univocal, or (b) because there is diversity in the New Testament, there is no clear, normative biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage.


It’s just my luck that in the daily Eucharistic lectionary for this Friday, the Gospel reading is Matthew 19:3-12 – one of the five passages in the New Testament that deals with divorce and remarriage. That’s not a topic that regularly pops up in sermons (I’ve never preached on it until today’s noonday service), and the relevant passages rarely surface in the Daily Office and Sunday Eucharistic lectionary cycles. It’s not the sort of thing I’m eager to preach about.

Fortunately for me, Biblical scholar Richard B. Hays’ discussion of the relevant biblical texts in his book The Moral Vision of the New Testament (HarperCollins, 1996), provides a nice summary of what the New Testament says about divorce and remarriage – and thus gave me a way to address this topic in a brief homily. Here’s the gist of Hays’ summary:

Relevant Texts
1. Mark 10:2-12
2. Matthew 19:3-12
3. Matthew 5:31-32
4. Luke 16:18
5. 1 Corinthians 7:10-16

New Testament Diversity
1. Mark and Luke categorically prohibit divorce.
2. Matthew and Paul allow for possible exceptions to the norm of life-long marriage in cases calling for pastoral discretion.
3. In Matthew and Luke, only the husband can initiate divorce.
4. Mark and Paul recognize the right of women to initiate divorce.
5. Matthew maintains that divorced women can only remarry as adulteresses, while men may possibly remarry without sin if their former wives were guilty of unchastity.
6. Luke excludes the possibility of remarriage after divorce.
7. Paul advises against remarriage, but acknowledges that options for remarriage may exist for Christians divorced by unbelievers.
8. Mark does not address the problem of remarriage in special circumstances.

New Testament Unity
1. Normative vision: marriage is a permanently binding commitment in which a man and a woman become “one flesh.”
2. Divorce is always an exceptional and tragic deviation from the norm.
3. Rules out no-fault divorce and serial monogamy.

Given this summary of New Testament diversity, it simply will not do to say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” when it comes to divorce and remarriage. There is no single biblical rule here. Instead, there is a moral argument internal to the New Testament canon. So it is not appropriate to make categorical judgments about particular cases of divorce and remarriage on the basis of isolated biblical texts. The entirety of the New Testament’s diverse witness must be taken into account. This is particularly important given the fact that none of the New Testament writers address issues such as spousal abuse as a legitimate reason for divorce. In cases calling for moral and pastoral discernment, other factors may also require appeal to additional authoritative resources in tradition and reason to supplement the diverse biblical witness.

At the same time, the points that unite the New Testament’s diverse voices must also be taken seriously. In particular, the summary third point – that the New Testament rules out no-fault divorce and serial monogamy – strikes very close to home in virtually every Christian congregation. Serial monogamy has displaced lifelong unions as the norm in our culture, and in light of the high divorce rate among Christians, the Church has followed suit. Sober assessment of the Church’s accommodation to our culture ought to make all Christians who claim to take biblical authority seriously think long and hard before we throw stones at others we perceive as sinners.

I think that the New Testament texts on divorce and remarriage need to be read, not only in relation to each other, but also within the larger context of the entire biblical story of God’s grace in creation and covenant. We do well to remember that the Bible is a love story that begins with a divorce and ends with the union of heaven and earth in the New Jerusalem.

Yes, repentance is necessary. But redemption is always possible.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Abp. Anis Withdraws from GAFCON

My very dear brothers in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

First I want to make it clear that this letter expresses my views as the Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt, not the views of the whole Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. I count it a great honour to have been invited to GAFCON.

I appreciate the fact that GAFCON provides an important meeting place for leaders from the South and from the North. I very much understand the frustrations as well as the hopes that led to the organisation of this conference.

I do share your frustration in regard to what is going on in our Communion, as well as your hopes for strong and faithful Anglican church.

I am very disappointed with the direction taken by the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church in Canada. This direction is not only about sexual ethics, which are contrary to Scripture, but also in regard to the fundamentals of the Apostolic Faith as we received it, like the Nature of Christ, the authority of scripture and God's Salvation through Jesus Christ.

In addition they use very ambiguous language and contradictory phrases in their responses to the clear Windsor recommendation as well as the Dar es Salaam ones. It was shocking for me to hear that some now ask for the definition of 'moratorium' after four years of issuing The Windsor Report!

I am deeply concerned that The Windsor Report and Dar es Salaam recommendations were not followed through and now the very people who caused the Communion's crisis are invited to the most important Anglican council which is the Lambeth Conference. It is wrong to sweep all these problems under the carpet!

I also share your hopes that we can go forward to advance the mission of the Gospel and be instruments in building the Church of Christ, founded on the Biblical truth.

Having said all this I am sorry that I will not be able to be with you at your Conference but I assure you that you will be in my prayers. Please accept my apologies. I also look forward to receiving your recommendations before going to Lambeth. My brothers I want to draw your attention to the following: 1) The unity of the Global South (GS) is our great concern.

As you know the Global South was established in 1997 and has been recognized by the whole Anglican Communion. It has been effective in strengthening the South to South links. The GS is composed of more than twenty provinces.

There is now increasing interest from Orthodox Bishops in the North to be affiliated with the Global South. This is because we use a moderate but form of language. In our last Steering Committee of the Global South in March we, in our statement, affirmed the importance of the Global South and its mission: We see an increasing conviction and confirmation of the prophetic and priestly vocation of the Global South in the Anglican Communion.

As Primates coming from different contexts, we were led into deep conversations and helpful clarifications on the challenges before us (Ps 133; Eph 4:1-6; Phil 2:1-5). We reaffirmed our total and collegial commitment to the solemn vocation of the Global South. We resolved, and urge all in the Global South and other orthodox constituencies of the wider Communion to strengthen our hearts and wills to work together for the fundamental renewal and transformation of the global Anglican Communion.

We also stated: Through our conversations together and clarifications made, we are led to understand and appreciate the principled reasons for participation in GAFCON (June 2008) and Lambeth Conference (Jul 2008). Even if there are different perspectives on these, they do not and should not be allowed to disrupt the common vision, unity and trust within the Global South.

For this reason I appeal to you to take the above statements fully into your consideration and to be careful not to make binding decisions which may result in dividing Anglicans in the Global South and elsewhere. At the same time I would like to share with you a little more of my own thinking.

I believe that the best strategy for safeguarding orthodox faith and unhindered mission is to have parallel processes for building unity among those loyal to the biblical historic faith and ethics in both the South and the North. Orthodox leaders in the South and in the North need to continue to work together and support each other.

I would respectfully add that the Global South must not be driven by an exclusively Northern agenda or Northern personalities. The meeting of the Global South in '09 will be critical for the future, and the agenda will need careful preparation ahead of time.

The constitution of the Global South needs to be reviewed in such a way as to clarify representation and appointment of office bearers. The Global South has contributed much to the initiation of the Covenant process, and will need to consider how it is progressing.

If there is no prospect of a Covenant that safeguards orthodoxy and unhindered mission within a reasonable timescale, then the possibility of adopting a "holding covenant" may need to be considered. I urge you all to consider participating in the Lambeth Conference.

The absence of any of your voices will be a great loss. God has spoken to me through the Book of Jonah. So I decided not to withdraw but to go and speak the truth, and leave the rest to God. Please remember that there will be bishops who are not fully aware of the seriousness of the situation. They need to be alerted. Your presence would be a help, as indeed it was in 1998.

I am reminded by the words of Jesus that we continue to live in the world: "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." John 17: 14-16 One last point: we need to combine steadfastness, a peaceable spirit and gracious language.

I believe that the language we use needs to be especially appealing to the "people in the pews" who may be confused or misled, having less understanding of the issues of the controversy, but who want to remain true Christians and Anglicans. "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." 1 Thess 5:24 May the Lord bless you.

Yours in Christ,

+Mouneer Egypt
The Most Rev Dr Mouneer H. Anis
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trinity Sunday Revision of the Anglican Covenant

Tobias Haller writes on his excellent blog that he thinks the Anglican Covenant would be worthy in the form of the St. Andrew's Draft if the appendix and section 3.2.5 were simply removed altogether.

I agree.

In honor of the Holy Trinity which is all the communion that there will be one day when all things are taken into the very life of God in theosis - I have clipped out those silly bits and published the 'Trinity' version of the Anglican Covenant.

If you read it imagining that this were it -- the total and final 'covenant' -- with no secret or appendaged bits lurking behind it with 'teeth' -- it's very appealing.

See it here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Craig Uffman - Toward A Greater Peace

A reader at Covenant, noting my strong opposition to the GAFCON movement, asked if I believe the GAFCON organizers are “a cause of the division we are seeing in the church, as opposed to a symptom of the division.” His question is, I think, the wrong question to ask. The right question is, ‘what is the path of faithfulness?’ In what follows, I suggest that the counsel of many of the GAFCON organizers echoes that of another group who called for battle in Jerusalem, the princes of Judah whom Jeremiah opposed.

I think of Judah, as we find her in Jeremiah 38, just before the fall of Jerusalem. The geopolitical situation is important in that part of the story. Josiah cleansed the land of idols and reclaimed the old lands of the northern tribe during the waning days of the Assyrian-Egyptian empire. In other words, good king Josiah was against Assyria-Egypt in the old Empire’s battles against the rising new Empire, Babylon. Josiah was “for” Babylon. But when he died, his sons switched sides, and allied with Egypt. As a result, in Jeremiah’s time, there was a constant political battle within Judah between those who favored alliance with Egypt and those who favored alliance with Babylon. Like us today, those who shared a common life as Jews were divided over what to do.

We ought to be clear here in saying that once again Judah had a choice to make, just like Moses gave them on the banks of the Jordan. But the choice before Judah was not to be “for” or “against” Empire. Just as it for us, Empire was simply the reality of their times. It was the water they swam in. They could not avoid living in Empire because Empire was the dominant geopolitical fact of their existence. What was Empire in those days? Empire was a predatory, exploitive ordering of the world by a particular nation who was able to project its military and economic power throughout a region in order to impose its will on others in the region.

And so the choice before Judah was not whether to be “for” or “against” Empire. It was not that Judah had a choice at all to choose between being affected by the power politics of Egypt and Babylon.

Rather, the choice before them was to be “for” or “against” a particular way of living within Empire - a particular way of being God’s people given the fact of Empire. The new princes urged that they go back to Egypt - that is, trust in an alliance with Egyptian power and ways of being. Warfare was their only hope for survival. An urgent necessity, they said. Of course, that meant that the proud princes adopted fully the main tenet of those who besieged them that the basic fact of existence is violence. The world consists of chaos that one only survives with power, by becoming more powerful than the ‘other.’ We need to pause here and think about this claim. The basic fact of human existence is violence.

Is that true? Personally, I think many in Western pews today would squirm at this suggestion that the priority of violence undergirds the structures of society. Especially all us Christians, because we know that Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers” and other things about turning our cheeks and loving our neighbor. But I want to press us on this point. I think few would deny the truths they learned on the playgrounds and on the playing fields: that “the universe rewards action,” “life is a competitive struggle,” “survival means learning to swim with the sharks,” “only the strong survive,” and “winners never quit, quitters never win.” Yet, at the heart of these, perhaps concealed, is the claim that “life is a field of warfare.” There’s an assumption that humans are driven by a will to power - the will to affirm ourselves by differentiating ourselves in the encounter with others. But difference, according to Empire, is oppositional difference, a difference by which we compete, displace, or even expel another from power. Whether in the schoolhouse, on the playing fields, at home, or in the public square, the primary reality of existence, according to Empire, is violence.

In this worldview, virtue consists of the heroic exemplification of strength and conquest. Heroic virtue - and thus heroic honor - is all about the ability to project power. And to heroic virtue the would-be leaders of Judah rallied the people.

Yet, here comes the prophet. Jeremiah said, you’ve got it all wrong, princes. That’s not God’s way. That’s not what God intends for us. For the fundamental reality to which Israel is to witness is God’s peace.

Now this was not self-evident to the princes, and it apparently is not self-evident to many of us today, even though we celebrate in daily prayer that Christ has been given “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79), and even though we practice sharing Christ’s gift of peace with one another before sharing the feast Christ sets for us at his table.

This fundamental ontology of peace was not unknown to Israel. The story of Israel begins with the Creator’s gift of order, manifest especially by light that vanquished darkness, for “when God began to create heaven and earth — the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water — God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light“ (Gen 1:1-3). This ordering light of God shone upon ”the garden in Eden,“ where ”God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food“ (Gen 2:8-9). From the beginning, God gave us everything necessary to know and acknowledge our utter dependence on him and to be blessed by the peace and joy of fellowship with him. Israel’s story also told of humankind’s rebellion against God at Babel, where prideful humanity sought to exchange their dependence on God for a manmade stairway to heaven (Gen 11). Yet Israel also knew Isaiah’s good news that God would restore them to the peace that fellowship with him brings, that hope in things unseen when:

“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.” (Is 11: 6-9)

The fundamental reality of peace has its basis in the character of the God of Abraham, a character revealed in the story of Israel, a story in which, in spite of her rebellion, God had chosen never to be without humankind, and never to redeem creation without Israel. Because God is Lord, it is God, and not Egypt and Babylon, who establishes the meaning of history. It is because we know God’s character that we hope in things unseen. It is because we know God’s character that we are empowered to trust in God’s triumph over evil; and it is because of God’s promise of a redeemed Jerusalem - the very symbol of peace - that we are able to obey God’s Word to us and order our common life today as our witness to God’s ultimate triumph. God’s gift of peace makes possible a different way of being - the way of charity, a way we were called and sent to show the world.

And so Jeremiah spoke against any alliance with Egypt. He called Judah back to the alternative way of being found in God’s Word, to her vocation of telling the world what it did not know and does not know about itself: the basic fact of existence is God’s peace. Judah was not to adopt the ways of Empire, he insisted. Instead, Judah was to surrender. She was to live within Empire as a resident alien of Babylon, serving her Babylonian masters loyally, while refusing to adopt their gods or ways of being - she was to fulfill her destiny as the people of Abraham by loving God with all her heart and living truthfully. Only by living as a resident alien, Jeremiah said, would Judah survive.

In response to Jeremiah’s oracle, the king destroyed Jeremiah’s scroll. Judah did not listen to the Word of God. As a result, the Babylonians were literally at the gates. The walls of Jerusalem began to crumble, and there was no bread in the city. This was the king’s and princes’ worst nightmare. Jeremiah’s call for Judah to surrender to Babylon was hardly the way to win friends and influence people. His call for the people to submit to God’s judgment – to resist the temptation of horses and chariots – was aiding and abetting the enemy, the princes claimed. As a result, Jeremiah was humiliated, beaten, and imprisoned. In the midnight hours of the kingdom, Judah’s princes entrapped the prophet of God in a cistern where he would surely die.

But those who seek to live under Scriptural authority know well that God’s Word will not return empty. The stories of our heritage teach us that somewhere, somehow, the Spirit will give the gift of prophetic imagination, perhaps to the least likely among us, and those persons will find the courage to stand firm in God’s Word, to speak truth to power, to choose faithfulness to God’s Word rather than the princes’ path of worldly ways.

Such a person was Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, the true servant of the King, who resisted the princes’ call to the ways of Egypt and Babylon. It was Ebed-melech the Ethiopian who, taking “old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes,” “drew Jeremiah up by the ropes and pulled him out of the cistern (Jer 38:12-13).And it was Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a midnight voice, calm in the midst of nightmare, to whom the Lord said, “I will save you on that day, says the LORD, and you shall not be handed over to those whom you dread. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have trusted in me, says the LORD” (Jer 39:17-18).

It is Ebed-melech the Ethiopian whom we seek in our midst today.

Are the GAFCON organizers the “cause of the division we are seeing in the church, as opposed to a symptom of the division?” I think the question is the same as asking if the princes of Judah were the cause of the aggression by Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. It’s the wrong question. The choice before us in this moment is not to be “for” or “against” the playful nihilism and autonomous materialism that so infects Western society that we feel the apostolic faith is under siege. Rather, the choice before us is to be “for” or “against” a particular way of living within a culture that is anti-Christian - a particular way of being God’s people given the fact of our profound differences.

The principal leaders of the GAFCON movement, it seems to me, are like Judah’s princes who would have us go back to Egypt - to adopt the main tenet of our nihilistic culture that the basic fact of existence is violence. For, impatient with the Covenant process, they sound the battle cry and rally us to the walls to fight for Judah against that which besieges us. We must do now what is necessary to compete, to displace, or even to expel the liberals from our fellowship, they claim. In so doing, they would have us adopt the ways of Babylon and Egypt - the ways of worldly power and autonomy - rather than remaining true to our identity in Christ.

Those of us who are committed to life under scriptural authority and to the fellowship that bears in its common life the apostolic faith must respond with an emphatic, “No!” That’s not God’s way. That’s not what God intends for us. For the primary reality of existence is peace. God’s gift of peace makes possible a different way of being - the way of charity, a way we were called to show the world. And so we can and must take the risk of subjecting ourselves to one another in Communion, trusting that Father, Son, and Spirit will continue to sustain our fellowship in and through Christ.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Amici Curiae in Virginia, Revised

The legal struggle between our Church and the Nigerian Anglican entity over property in Virginia has been joined by some friends on our 'side.' Several other denominations, not all episcopally ordered and not all 'liberal,' or even 'mainline,' have filed amici curiae briefs alongside The Episcopal Church in opposing the notion that local congregations could claim ownership of property in the event of divisions within a denomination. Notably, the United Methodist bishop with oversight of Virginia has joined in, and other United Methodist leaders, along with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and the AME-Zion churches and the Worldwide Church of God. As well, Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Lutherans, and Brethren have joined in. The numbers are now approaching a million Christians joining hands to support the notion that churches are free to operate within their own polities, without secular laws impinging upon that right.

The Nigerian Anglicans have attempted to benefit from just such a secular impingement.

This case will ultimately determine whether or not hierarchical churches may exist functionally in Virginia without being undermined by the secular laws which would give power to any local congregation to 'opt out with property' whenever they wished.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tobias Haller on Bishop Paul Moore

As always, I find Father Haller's perspective and proclamation to be very wise. I post his essay here without permission, having plucked it from his blog:

Feet of Clay

Bishop Sisk’s letter to the Diocese of New York, in the wake of Honor Moore’s book about her father, has generated a lot of comment in the diocese and the blogosphere. Some seem to think the primary concern was Bishop Moore’s sexuality, and I guess for the wider public interested in such things that will be the titillating revelation.

But Bishop Sisk’s primary concern was certainly not Paul’s sexuality, nor his infidelity, but much more importantly, his misconduct, described in the fifth paragraph of Bishop Sisk’s letter. The misconduct complaints were reported to the PB, and dealt with “quietly” but dealt with, over a decade before the present bishop took up his office. I know this because, although I did not know the nature of the charges, it was easy to see at the time that “something” had happened, for Bishop Moore was a member of my parish, and the scuttlebutt was that he was under some kind of discipline.

In retrospect (which is always 20/20) it would have been better for all if the matter had become public, and Bishop Moore openly sentenced, either to suspension or deposition. This would have been very painful, but it would have lanced the wound. We’ve learned a lot in the last twenty years. But people should realize how very much Paul Moore himself was responsible for imbuing a culture of evasion and concealment in the church. While he led the Diocese admirably, it could not help but reflect his own conflicted life over his long service. The mark such leaders leave upon the institutions they serve will not always be discernible but by succeeding generations.

As it is, though, Paul is dead and whatever sentence a higher tribunal will make, in the earthly arena only his memory suffers. Those who hated him in life will feel vindicated; those who admired him will feel to some extent embarrassed or pained, and some of them have directed their anger at Honor Moore or Bishop Sisk.

But Paul himself is not subject to pain inflicted post mortem. Honor Moore might be held up for criticism for telling tales she knows full well her father did not wish to have exposed. But the anger against Bishop Sisk — and the extent to which that anger distorts perceptions of what he actually wrote — seems to me to be entirely misplaced.

This is difficult for all of us. It is perhaps most difficult for those who have canonized Paul Moore in their memories. I knew and admired Paul Moore in several different contexts: as my Bishop, as Visitor to my community, and as a fellow parishioner. I also know how, in spite of his moving the issue forward, he nuanced his support of gay and lesbian people, and distanced himself with distinctions about “orientation” and “practice” when the House of Bishops came down on him. If you want to see a poignant exercise in Paul’s inability to face his own and others’ realities, and what he knew or didn’t know, read his address to the House of Bishops. He did not want to know of others that which he didn’t want known of himself. He helped us to move forward incrementally; but I wonder how much more he might have done so, had he chosen either the hard task of self-discipline, or the even harder task of self-knowledge and revelation.

For I am very weary of those who blame society for Paul’s double life in the closet, and even more those who blame the closet for his misconduct. He wasn’t “forced” — he made choices, choices which affected others than himself.

Hard as it may be for some to believe, there are celibate gay and lesbian people — some in the closet and some out. There are gay and lesbian people who marry persons of the opposite sex and who remain faithful to them — though this is a painful course I would not urge anyone to follow. There are gay and lesbian persons who remain faithful to their partners, again, some in the closet and some not.

Paul Moore was unable to follow through on his choice; he benefitted from the superficial protection it offered him. Had he been fully honest about himself, he would likely never have been a priest, certainly not a bishop — unless he chose the path of celibacy, or the virtual celibacy of the closet-with-benefits favored in his day in Anglo-Catholic circles, and still urged by some as a way to have avoided the present tensions in the Anglican Communion.

Paul Moore was a man admired by many, including myself. He is a reminder to us that not all great men are good and not all good men are great. Paul Moore did not just have feet of clay. He was, in fact, almost entirely clay -- as are we all. He was inbreathed by God, yet lived a fallible life. He is now dead. He will rise again. Christ died for Paul’s sins as he did for yours and mine, and at the judgment he will stand as we will, acquitted solely because the judge is also our only mediator and advocate.

Tobias Haller BSG

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rowan Williams' Letter to Bishops

The Feast of Pentecost is a time when we give thanks that God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes us able to speak to each other and to the whole world of the wonderful things done in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a good moment to look forward prayerfully to the Lambeth Conference, asking God to pour out the Spirit on all of us as we make ready for this time together, so that we shall indeed be given grace to speak boldly in his Name.

I indicated in earlier letters that the shape of the Conference will be different from what many have been used to. We have listened carefully to those who have expressed their difficulties with Western and parliamentary styles of meeting, and the Design Group has tried to find a new style – a style more reflective of that Pentecost moment when all received the gift of speaking freely about Christ.

At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals. Its aim is not to negotiate a formula that will keep everyone happy but to go to the heart of an issue and find what the true challenges are before seeking God's way forward. It is a method with parallels in many cultures, and it is close to what Benedictine monks and Quaker Meetings seek to achieve as they listen quietly together to God, in a community where all are committed to a fellowship of love and attention to each other and to the word of God.

Each day's work in this context will go forward with careful facilitation and preparation, to ensure that all voices are heard (and many languages also!). The hope is that over the two weeks we spend together, these groups will build a level of trust that will help us break down the walls we have so often built against each other in the Communion. And in combination with the intensive prayer and fellowship of the smaller Bible study groups, all this will result, by God's grace, in clearer vision and discernment of what needs to be done.

As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.

Of course, as baptised Christians and pastors of Christ's flock, we are not just seeking some low-level consensus, or a simple agreement to disagree politely. We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus. That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross. But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ's Body as a sign of God's Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice.

The potential of our Conference is great. The focus of all we do is meant to be strengthening our Communion and equipping all bishops to engage more effectively in mission; only God the Holy Spirit can bind us together in lasting and Christ-centred way, and only God the Holy Spirit can give us the words we need to make Christ truly known in our world. So we must go on praying hard with our people that the Spirit will bring these possibilities to fruition as only he can. Those who have planned the Conference have felt truly touched by that Spirit as they have worked together, and I know that their only wish is that what they have outlined for us will enable others to experience the same renewal and delight in our fellowship.

This is an ambitious event – ambitious for God and God's Kingdom, which is wholly appropriate for a Lambeth Conference. And our ambition is nothing less than renewal and revival for us all in the Name of Jesus and the power of his Spirit.

May that Spirit be with you daily in your preparation for our meeting. As Our Lord says, 'You know him, for he lives with and will be in you' (Jn 14.17).

+ Rowan Cantuar

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I have spent much of this year serving as the interim chaplain at the St. George's School in Newport, RI. It has been a great experience working and preaching with 300+ students. One of the neatest pieces of my role has been hearing seniors give chapel talks. I also enjoyed preparing a group for Confirmation.

This past week was Bishop Wolf's visit. I was a little nervous. It was a big service and there were lots of participants to coordinate.

Bishop Wolf preached a very good sermon about finding your passion. The confirmands were great. Everything fell right into place.

In my mind, the great moment in the service happened at the Fraction. As Bishop Wolf broke the bread, she started to spontaneously sing a fraction anthem. She sang in a hushed tone, the mic quietly amplified. The alleluias slowly wafted through the enormous chapel. All fidgeting ceased. It became very quiet except for the alleluias washing over all. It was quite a moving moment of the pronounced presence of the Holy Spirit.

For me, it was a moment signifying hope. It was a moment that showed just how open young people are to transcendence. The Church is always talking about how to reach younger people. We are always looking for innovative ways to accomplish this. Yet, in the midst of a very normal Confirmation, it happened. Maybe, it is less about us, and more about the Spirit.

What is Necessary for Salvation?

by Bryan Owen

A clergy colleague and friend – the Rev. Zabron “Chip” Davis, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, MS – sent me some reflections which I share with his permission.

At a recent gathering of diocesan clergy and General Convention deputies, Bishop Gray led us through a brief study of the Draft Anglican Covenant using, among other resources, the study guide prepared by the Executive Council. I must admit to hearing many of the same conversations I’ve been hearing since I was on the diocesan sexuality study committee mandated by the 1991 General Convention.

In my work as a conflict resolution consultant and consultant with vestries and other governing boards, I find that differences, misunderstandings and misconceptions about process, procedures, mission and the core governing principles of any organization are at the root of many conflicts. Often clarity around these basics will help to reduce tension and anxiety. But, try as I may, I’ve not been able to see how clarity about polity, ethics, or even basic Anglicanism has served to reduce the anxiety and tension I experience in the Church today. Something about essentials seems to be missing in our conversations. (See paragraphs 38 – 39 of Section A and paragraphs 87 – 96 Section B of The Windsor Report.)

Is it possible that we are divided by one of the (if not the) core beliefs of Christianity? After conversations with several of my most theologically educated and articulate colleagues, I am convinced that the time has come to ask a question I haven’t heard asked and that we seem unable to discuss in polite circles. My hope in asking the question is not to divide us further but to see if we have a hope for restoration to unity. Here it is: What is necessary for salvation?

Also, what is the meaning of the second sentence on p. 298 of the BCP: “The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble?”

My hope is that answers will include a discussion of how the norms and principles of behavior (or departures from those norms) impact salvation. In other words, what difference does it make to individual salvation and/or the “soul of the Church” that The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion (or any Christian tradition) would ‘license’ behaviors that seem to be departures from what sound like clear teachings of Holy Scripture?

Another way of asking the question may be, “What is at stake?” When I was a Southern Baptist I was clear, as one who sat in the pew at least 4 times weekly up until my 18th birthday, that my condemnation to Hell was assured if I unrepentantly committed certain well-defined, scripturally prohibited sins. Is the same true of The Episcopal Church? Anglicanism? If so, what are those sins?

Based upon my colleague’s reflections, there are three questions I’d like to put on the table:

  1. What is necessary for salvation?
  2. What is the meaning of this sentence at the top of page 298 in The Book of Common Prayer: “The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble”?
  3. Are there certain behaviors or sins which, if committed without repentance, can condemn a baptized Christian to hell? If so, what are those behaviors/sins?

I am especially interested in responses that reflect the theology of Anglicanism in general, and the Episcopal Church in particular.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Presentation by Greg Jones

This is the beginning of a presentation I'm working up. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Voices from the Pews: Baptism and Communion

I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, and baptism alone wasn’t enough to get you to communion – you had to be confirmed, too. That made sense to me. To “commune” you must first become a member of the community. Membership is more meaningful if it reflects a conscious choice, and confirmation at the age of 12 or 13, after a year of classes, was my conscious choice. Baptism as an infant was not.

So my initial reaction to the posts objecting to communion without baptism was that they set the bar too low, not too high.

Still, I’ve learned not to trust my own opinions without testing them, so I asked the members of my two Education for Ministry groups what they thought, and I sent them links to Bryan Owen’s post, and the post excerpting James Farwell’s piece.

Only one of 20 members supported the position that baptism ought to be a prerequisite for receiving communion, but that one member made a powerful case.

It is called “communion” because it is supposed to represent not only communion with God—Christ’s mystical body—but with the church here on earth. Not enforcing canon law on this, at some point, might lead to the diminution of the sacraments being the central part of what TEC “does” for its members. Sacraments should be taken seriously in the church and by its constituent members who worship in it; don’t you think?

Yes, I think.

But others don’t. They recalled that Jesus wasn’t so particular about who he dined with. One said:

Didn’t Jesus share his meals – and even himself – with the unbaptized? I think we are called to do what he would have done.

Another expanded on the same point:

I appreciate the desire to be authentic to the church canon or to engage the world in a conversation about God’s work in it. There seems to be a desire to show the world how Christians are different by God’s action in the life of the church and the lives of the church’s members.

However, I can’t help but remember how Jesus, time and time again, included in his stories and in his company the very people on the outside, somehow left behind by the Pharisees, who were so concerned about following the laws of their faith.

In preparing for the seder for our EFM group a couple weeks ago [both our groups have celebrated a Passover seder], a co-worker told me about a tradition in her family of inviting a guest to their seder table. It was not necessary for the guest to be a Jew. The purpose of inviting the guest, if I recall correctly, was to share the tradition and experience of the story of how the Hebrews acquired freedom from slavery and the work of God in freeing them from bondage.

Would the Jewish people at the seder table refuse to share with the guest any portion of the seder plate? I asked a Jewish person that question, and the reply was “Certainly not!”

Perhaps we miss an opportunity to share Christ with those “on the outside” because we’ve missed the intention of the sharing at the table all along.

Another EFM member lamented, “Alas the debate of legalism versus grace continues.” And then he said:

For me to participate in the act of worship and Eucharist with my brothers and sisters, however, I do not need to be baptized. I should want baptism, but I should not be required to “have” it. . . . Both baptism and communion allow me to participate in God’s story and are outward indications of the ethical, moral and theological choices I have made to that end. Stated more purely, to live as a Christian is to choose to live in covenant—covenant with God, covenant with my neighbor, etc. Baptism and Eucharist are both elements and evidence of this relationship based in covenant. Can God reach me if I break this covenant or choose not to participate in this covenant? Of course, as is the beauty and profundity of God’s grace. The damaging aspect of this debate, however, is for someone to participate in the dialogue of Christianity feeling as if God’s grace cannot or does not extend to them. The argument in favor of requiring baptism before being admitted to the altar for communion is simply one I cannot reconcile with the nature and character of God. God’s grace does not require a hall pass or some sort of secret handshake. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was for all, not just a select few (sorry Calvin).

One EFM member observed that infant baptism doesn’t meet the scriptural requirements for receiving the Eucharist, and another admitted, “I was baptized as an infant, but I’m not sure I believe what I’m supposed to believe when I take communion.” A third member queried, “Do you not have to first determine for yourself to some degree what the nature of both baptism and the Eucharist are before answering this question? That may be why it is difficult to answer and why there are good arguments on both sides of the equation.”

And the oldest and wisest of us told this story:

While I was recovering from my operation, I had an aide coming to help me. I discovered that she “is religious” when I identified the name of a hymn tune that she was singing. Two days later, she asked me, “Are you a Christian?”


“Have you been baptized?

“Yes, of course”

“Did they push you down in the water?”


“Well then, you aren’t a Christian.”

I quoted to her Jesus: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am also.” Discussion over.

I find all these arguments, on both sides of the issue, very persuasive. They are made by people who take their religion seriously. With God’s help, they live the vows of their Baptismal Covenant daily.

And yet, in the end, I have to come down on the side of legalism. The Canons say what the Canons say. If it were up to me, they might say something different, but it’s not up to me. Perhaps some day my brothers and sisters in EFM who think the Canons are wrong will succeed in changing them, but until that happens, I think we have to adhere to the rules we have.

I cannot forget the words of St. Thomas More – actually, the words of Paul Schofield playing the role of Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

We’d do better in the Episcopal Church if we followed our Canons better, or tried to change them if we thought they were wrong, rather than looking for reasons not to follow them. Our Canons say that the provisions for admission of candidates for ordination “shall be equally applicable to men and women”, yet we have had whole dioceses in which women have been excluded from the priesthood. Our Canons say that no one shall be denied access to discernment for any ministry, lay or ordained, by reason of sexual orientation, yet we allow gays and lesbians to be treated as second class congregants throughout our church. Our Constitution provides in detail how our Church is governed, and it does not assign any say in our governance to any archbishop appointed by the Queen of England or the powers that be in any other foreign land. Yet we have been tying ourselves in knots for half a decade because we don’t want to give offense to the too-easily-offended.

I say, let’s follow our rules.

The Sacraments Are Essential to Our Being

The Assistant Bishop of North Carolina is the Rt. Rev. William Gregg (PhD) who has done a lot of work on Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. I offer this from Bishop Gregg:

What emerges with regard to the sacraments is how deeply Hooker regarded them to be of the esse of the Church. One may rightly argue that the sacraments are, in terms of the Church's capacity to be and become what God calls it to be and become, the hinge. However the Church may be organized and necessary, one comes into the Church through a sacrament, Baptism. One is sustained in the living of baptismal faith through the sacrament of the Eucharist. Without the sacraments, there is no participation in the life of the Father through the Christ in the Spirit. Therefore, we may conclude that the ecclesial life for which Hooker is arguing is accessed and sustained through the sacraments, and has meaning precisely as sacramental.

The strong emphasis on the importance of the Incarnation is foundational to this concept of the Church and sacrament. The Church, in a general sense and through the particular sacraments, is the explicit mode and means of Christ's presence in the world, and of human access to the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit, and hence to salvation. To claim for the Church an essentially incarnational nature, is, in effect, to claim that the Church itself is the primary sacrament. We may reasonably conclude, therefore, that Hooker's concern for polity and law is generally sacramental as well. That is, through the earthly means of law and polity, guided and ordered rightly by the Spirit, the Triune God becomes present really and concretely, though not corporally.

Through this rightly ordered Church which, therefore, is most fully able to convey God's grace and presence, the grace of reconciliation and participation in the life of the Father through the Son in the Spirit is made available and effective for God's people. Participation in Christ is specifically realized and sustained through the sacraments which are a part of the right ordering of the Church.

It was Hooker's intention in Laws to write a document which reflected in its form and content the possibility of a reasonable (intellectually acute and responsible) Church. His conviction was that such a Church subsisted in the Church of England in his day. I would argue that he also clearly believed that the vitality of the polity of the Church both liturgically and judicially, was defined, enlivened, and sustained through God's presence and work through the sacraments. The sacraments were for Hooker effective instruments, and therefore, critically important points of real mystical contact with God. He is clearly successful in his attempt in terms of his intention (at least in the possibility of a reasonable Church, even if perhaps not the Church of England), and in developing a sacramental ecclesiology which becomes explicit and focused in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Short Covenant

from Covenant-Communion

(1.0) By our participation in Baptism and Eucharist, we are incorporated into the one Body of the Church of Jesus Christ, and called by Christ to pursue all things that make for peace and build up our common life. [3.1.1]

(2.0) Therefore, each church of the Communion commits itself: [1.2b and parallels]

(2.1) to live in a Communion of churches; [3.1.2]

(2.2) to seek in all things to uphold the solemn obligation to sustain Eucharistic communion as we strive under God for the fuller realisation of the Communion of all Christians; [1.2.3]

(2.3) to pursue a common pilgrimage with other churches of the Communion to discern the Truth. [1.2.6]

(2.4) to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and reflection to listen, pray and study with one another in order to discern the will of God. [See footnote below][3.2.3]

(2.5) to seek with other churches, through the Communion’s shared councils, the Mind of Christ in all things. [3.2.4]

(2.6) to have in mind that our bonds of affection and the love of Christ compel us always to maintain the highest possible degree of communion, which never admits of any compromise of the aforestated solemn commitments. [3.2.6]

[Footnote to 2.4.] Such prayer, study and debate is an essential feature of the life of the Church as its seeks to be led by the Spirit into all truth and to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation. Any issues that may arise, therefore, must and will be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church. [3.2.3]


Such a radically redacted covenant may be supplemented by procedural appendices for how to put it into action. I would recommend that it take its place alongside the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral in a “Historical Documents” section of each province’s BCP. I would further recommend that no person except by dispensation by the bishop for sufficient cause (such as mental defect) be allowed to be confirmed in the Anglican Communion without either memorizing both the Quadrilateral and the Covenant and/or passing a comprehensive catechetical examination on them, to be issued by the Anglican Consultative Council or some other Instrument of Communion so appointed. The Covenant should be an essential part of any catechesis on the nature and purpose of the Church.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ascension Day

The Feast of the Ascension -- along with Christmas, Good Friday and Easter – Ascension Day is the fourth day of four in which the witnesses of Jesus on Earth proclaim the fullness of who and what Jesus is all about.

Ascension Day --- it was Thursday --- and I bet you missed it.

For whatever reason, in modern times, perhaps going back centuries now, Ascension Day and the Ascension event itself, have become increasingly forgotten, undiscussed, and unknown to many Christians.

You could speculate – as many modern skeptics do – that the Ascension itself wasn’t ever that important to the Church. Some say, “If it were so important – how come there’s really no mention of it in Matthew, Mark or John?”

The Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection are given great attention elsewhere in the Gospels – but only Luke treats the Ascension with any attention at all. “It’s curious,” say the modern skeptics of the faith and it’s defining points.

Yes, I suppose it is.

But, what’s curiouser is not that three Gospels don’t say much about the Ascension if anything, what’s curiouser is how each Gospel manages to be unique in its own way in focusing on what it focuses on – and what’s curiouser even than that
Is the fact that Luke actually tells the Ascension story twice.

Back to back.

And tells it slightly differently each time.

Yes, Luke ends with the Ascension in his Gospel, and begins with it in his second volume, which we call The Acts of the Apostles.

Yes – he wrote them both.

Luke, the literary master, and giant of the New Testament in terms of total words contributed, who is the only source of a great deal of our central ideas about Jesus, bridges the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry with the story of the early church – using the Ascension event as the mysterious transition point ...when the bridge between God and Creation is built in Christ, and now extends both ways ... with divinity manifesting itself in the flesh ... and flesh manifesting itself unto divinity.

The Ascension – as Luke explains – is the fulfillment of the entire Christ Event – the entire cosmic significance of Jesus Christ, and his coming, doing and going.

The Christ Event – which includes Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension – may be described like this:

- God shows up – now in the flesh appearing.
- God embraces our life and its suffering and death.
- God reconciles and redeems all flesh by defeating death in raising Jesus from the dead as the first born of all the new creation.
- God takes us home – as the fulness of both Creation and Divinity are in full communion in Christ and returned to the eternal place of Glory.

It’s a cosmic four stage rescue operation by which the Creator fulfills his will for His beloved creation – coming to us, embracing us, forgiving us, and bringing us home – not in part, but whole.

The Ascension is a foretaste of the future of all things – which is to share in Christ in the powerful purpose and life of God.

In his disappearing as a single holy man into Glory, Christ takes with him not only his own flesh but his whole Body – allowing that Body to be the continuing focus of God’s saving work.

By the mysterious four part saving operation of Jesus, now those who join with Jesus share with Him in the divine life and work.

Luke’s point to the disciples and to us is that we too may share in the powerful purpose and life of God in Christ.

No need for us to stand hear looking off into heaven folks.

Because our identity as the Body of Christ now is to share the gift of living within the life of God already, here, and muchly so.

To share in the life of God, and to bring as many with us as we can. Today, tomorrow, and always – that’s our whole identity.

1. To show up for the world, as Christ showed up for us, in the flesh.
2. To embrace the world, as Christ embraced us even unto suffering and death.
3. To reconcile the world, as Christ forgave us and rose from death.
4. To bring the world into the heavenly kingdom, as Christ ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the father.

Because Christ did all of this for us – and now we live in him – we will do the same – or the truth is not in us and we deceive ourselves.

If we are disciples, in mission, of Christ, we will show up, embrace, forgive and welcome home everybody we can.

For the lord says, “You are my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”

Let’s go.