+Bruno responds to NY Times flight of fancy
Bishop Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles has responded to the New York Times article I blogged about a few days ago, and I think it's an excellent and pastoral response. Read it on epiScope. Though it's not clear at this point whose imagination or imaginations generated the report, it's now absolutely clear that the story of a recently retired porn star being on track for ordination in The Episcopal Church is entirely fictional.
The lesson for bloggers? If you read an article, whether in the New York Times or the National Enquirer, claiming that the Lakers have just hired me as their starting center and that I'm aspiring to the NBA Hall of Fame, you might want to check it out before writing an article decrying the depths to which professional basketball has sunk if the Lakers are hiring 5'7" female theologians to play pro ball.
NY Times branches into fiction
I groaned as soon as I saw it on my RSS reader: "Man of the Flesh to Man of the Cloth." The New York Times has this story about Ronald Boyer, who as late as January of this year was making pornographic movies, and now is at the Church of the Epiphany, which writer Sharon Waxman claims "is guiding his transformation from pornography star to preacher." While Waxman says that "the process to priesthood will take several years," she reports that Boyer "is undergoing training to become a deacon," and that he met "with his priest and with the second-ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton, to gain approval to establish a ministry among sex workers." "To become a priest," Waxman writes, "he must study in a seminary for approximately two years and his candidacy must be approved by the diocesan bishop."
The Diocese of Los Angeles was my home for over twenty-five years. I know what the discernment process for ordination is like there, and I know +Chet Talton. I also know that it generally takes people with no prior graduate theological education at least three years to finish an M.Div., the degree required under most circumstances for ordination. And so I didn't believe Waxman's story for a minute. It didn't take long before a friend confirmed that Boyer is not in the ordination process in the Diocese of Los Angeles or anywhere else. The Times story is fiction.
And now the always-sharp Jan Nunley has talked with Boyer's rector, Hank Mitchel -- "which is more than reporter Waxman managed to do," she writes. "No one is training [Boyer] for ministry at any level," Mitchel said, and as for the supposed meeting Boyer had with Mitchel and Bishop Talton: "No way!" Mitchel said. Talton "never met with Ron. Couldn't pick him out of a crowd ... he was confirmed with about 150 others by Bishop Talton in May." And Boyer "has a long, long way to travel and a lot of spiritual growing to do before we can even think about thinking about a leadership role," his rector said.
Read the whole story at epiScope. Boyer may be interested in becoming a priest someday. I don't know whether he had any chance last week of becoming one, but as of now, I'd have to say that he's got less chance of becoming a priest than the Times' Sharon Waxman has of being a responsible reporter.
UPDATE 15 July 3:43 p.m. -- looks like StandFirm and TitusOneNine have both fallen for the story. I've got to wonder whether the whole thing was a hoax Mr. Boyer launched to generate publicity for his "Internet ministry." His rector had explained the discernment process for ordination, after all, and while Sharon Waxman should be held accountable for her failure to fact-check in any case, I don't know why she would have invented these particular facts ex nihilo. Bloggers, I understand that fact-checking may not seem like a worthy activity for "Roistering Episcopal Adventurers," but it's important if you want people to take you seriously as a reliable source for information.
UPDATE 15 July 11:09 p.m. -- The TitusOneNine "elves" have posted an excerpt from Jan Nunley's post on epiScope and a comment indicating that they "took the story at face value because it was in the NY Times, and "most of us would assume that the Times did some fact checking."
buy bricks from a virtual office!
The Anglican Heritage Foundation (AHF) -- not to be confused with:
- the Anglican Heritage Society, which does -- well, I'm not sure what it does, as there's no trace of it outside of databases of nonprofits, and it's located in a mobile home in Lubbock, Texas -- and
- the Anglican Foundation, Inc., which at the end of 2005 had net assets of a little over $16,000, takes four volunteers a grand total four hours per week to run, and seems just to be a corporate funnel of funds to Blessed Trinity Anglican Church of Alpine, California
... on July 9 made their biggest announcement to date. Actually, it's their only announcement to date, and their only activity I could find other than registering a domain name on March 9. The big announcement -- carried on the website of the American Anglican Council's Washington, DC chapter (appropriate enough, since the board of the AHF is identical to that of that AAC chapter) -- is of "the establishment of a Legal Defense Fund to assist Trinity Church, Bristol Connecticut [sic]" in their court battle with the Episcopal Church," and their call "upon Anglicans throughout the Communion to contribute ... through AHF's fundraising program, where the donation for an inscribed memorial brick paver will fund the Legal Defense Fund."
I'm sure that Trinity Church is thrilled that such a powerful foundation is coming to their rescue. And that's not all that the Anglican Heritage Foundation is going to do by a long shot: their website announces on its front page (and in boldface AND italics, so you know it's important) "a Nationwide Grant Program" that is "Building a Pathway to the Anglican Church, Brick by Brick" (they love Superfluous Capital Letters even more than A.A. Milne does, it seems). "This innovative grant program," they say, "will create a financial resource for Anglican missions, churches, clergy, and other non-profit organizations to assist them in their ministries when it is needed to build the Anglican Church."
I'm not sure that raising funds by selling "reservations" for bricks with the donor's name on them qualifies as "innovative"; we've all seen pathways and walls and such with such bricks, and the web site for the brick vendor, Gift Bricks® of Wisconsin, has lots of pictures showing examples from other organizations.
But there is one truly innovative thing about this campaign:
It's asking people to reserve real bricks from an organization with only a virtual location.
The Anglican Heritage Foundation is located at 611 Pennsylvania Ave. SE #1400 in Washington, DC -- and that's a box in a UPS Store. Must be a pretty big box to hold all of those bricks. Personally, I think that given their location, they would have been smarter to go with inscribing donor's names on grains of rice. Vivanne Robinson, who writes names on bits of rice in Venice Beach, California, "is available to write Your Name on a Grain of Rice for Birthday Parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Company events, Fairs, or other special occasions," so I'm sure she'd be willing to contract with the Anglican Heritage Foundation, she clearly likes Capital Letters as much as they do, and they might be able to fit more than one donor-funded grain-of-rice "brick" in their UPS Store box. I wonder whether Vivianne could do a tiny golden compass rose on the rice, though. No matter; I'm sure that an organization able to come up with such an innovative program could figure out what other rice-grain-sized bonus could be given to premium donors. Maybe it would work to give them these ear rings to carry around their "donor brick" with 'First Edition Anglican Heritage Foundation Medallion'" with them.
But even without my brilliant plan to call grains of rice "bricks," the AHF has managed to launch their Nationwide Grant Program, meant particularly to benefit Anglican congregations in the U.S. dating from the colonial period, listed here on their website. I should let my old friend Ken Phelps, rector of historic All Saints Sunderland (founded in 1692) know about it. Ken is liberal enough to make me look very conservative indeed, but I'm sure the AHF will be glad to give them a grant and install one of their bricks at his parish.
I'd better move fast, though, if I want to help Ken with a successful grant application. Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC) -- that organization providing (according to their website) "Bold Assistance Action Supporting the Orthodox" and that last October announced a conference (since cancelled) promising "THE MOST EXPERIENCED, DIVERSE ANTI-REVISIONIST TEACHERS EVER ASSEMBLED" to found "Team 2 Million, which will undertake a five-year expansion drive" -- is pleading for funds, since they "have no foundation or deep-pockets [sic] to help," and since David Bickel, President of the AHF, is also one of the founders of LEAC, I bet that LEAC will any second discover this well-oiled machine of a foundation bestowing grants nationwide.
And it looks like it wouldn't take long for LEAC to snap up the AHF's remaining funds. AHF Chairman Bradley Hutt says in a comment on VirtueOnline, "the money ... is currently in our pockets," and their pockets don't seem to be bulging particularly at the moment; Hutt says, "if we can get 10,000 of the faithful to donate $100 we will have $1,000,000."
So, anyone want to found the Anglican Communion Ministry Foundation (ACMF)? I've got some leftover curry and a couple of cans of Diet Coke in my fridge that we could give away in a Galaxy-Wide Grants Program, and if a billion of the world's Christians gave me a dollar, I'd have a billion dollars. It's in the bag!
kudos to +Benjamin Nzimbi
George Conger at Religious Intelligence (hat tip: Stand Firm) writes of Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi's recent call for all politicians running for office in Kenya to be tested for HIV to set an example for the nation and destigmatize AIDS and HIV infection. And the archbishop is not asking of others something he has not done himself: he and the lay and clergy leaders of the cathedral congregation of All Saints in Nairobi were tested and announced that publicly. U.S. Senator Barak Obama visited Kenya (where his father was born) last year and he and his wife were tested for HIV there, saying, "Knowing your status is the first step in controlling the spread of disease. Let everyone be tested." +Nzimbi applauded Obama's action, arguing (in Conger's words) that "ignorance of the disease helped foster its spread," and that Kenyans must not "shun or judge those diagnosed with [AIDS]."
I'm glad to have occasion to applaud Archbishop Nzimbi for his courage and leadership on this point. May it prove to be something that our provinces can rally around together in mission!