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+Duncan rejects APO proposal

Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, presumably speaking on behalf of the Anglican Communion Network (since his response was published on their site) has rejected The Episcopal Church's response to the Network's request for "alternative primatial oversight" -- or for a "Commissary" (described by +Jim Stanton as "a sort of vicar") -- or for whatever it was that the Network was requesting following its reported modification of a request for "alternative primatial oversight" after one of its own members pointed out that the Presiding Bishop doesn't have "primatial oversight" in the ways outlined by the petitioning dioceses' request to grant, and therefore it might not be in the far right's interest to, in effect, grant such powers to the PB before any PB requested them.

Admittedly, Bishop Duncan did take as much as six hours (assuming he was waiting breathlessly by his Internet connection for the news, despite his refusal to participate in the conversation that led to the proposal answering his requests) to consider the proposal before rejecting it on behalf of his ACN constituents. I'm sure he spent every minute of that time in consultation with the other ACN bishops, clergy, and laity to make sure that what he said really reflected what they were seeking.

The ACN has, for some reason or a few dozen, declined to seek my advice before issuing this statement. Had they sought it, I might have said that in light of the confusion resulting from their making very public statements before reaching agreement as to whether they really wanted to be under someone more "primatial" than our current polity makes our Presiding Bishop, they might want to think long and hard about whether they wanted to reject something that grants just about all of the points our constitution and canons would allow before rejecting it on the basis that the proposal would leave them without someone sufficiently "primatial" in power over them. I also might have said that, given the "we can't come to the table with a person who doesn't represent us fully" line of thought they're using, it might be wise to make well and truly sure that EVERYONE they need on their side is willing to go as far as they will in this seemingly all-or-nothing strategy they're employing.

I suspect that the speed and lack of conversation with which the response was issued will lead to the ACN's response being taken as an indication of just how little the ACN is interested in real conversation or actual communion with the breadth of those Baptized as and faithful by all creedal and canonical measures of Christianity and Anglicanism.

And, to be honest, this grieves me. I truly believe -- on the basis of our shared Baptism into Christ and our shared declaration of intent to walk in the way of Jesus the Christ's Cross -- that members of the Anglican Communion Network would gain far, far more in their spiritual walk with Jesus and in the mission of God in which Christ's Church participates, if we and they were looking for points of connection in Christ rather than excuses to sever Eucharistic relationship. My sense, in conversation with many people who disagree with me about all kinds of issues related to interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1, is that there are many, many conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics who would be willing, when pressed, to call me a sinner in ways they believe they aren't sinning, but who nonetheless will take it as a sin far more grievous than anything I've done that some will split the church and divert resources from causes like clean drinking water for those who have none to achieve a symbolically important split from the rest of us "sinners."

Last time I checked, we were all sinners. I hope my conservative friends in favor of this very rapid rejection of what is in my perception a profoundly gracious offer will explain to me what they feel they have to gain (if anything) from +Bob Duncan's response. In the meantime, I'm still scratching my head.

Here is the bottom line of where I'm coming from: I promise any and all interested parties that we can have that knock-down, drag-out, winner-take-all fight about sexuality stuff the very second that we've taken care of the extreme poverty stuff that is killing thousands of my sisters and brothers in Christ far quicker than every month. I swear. I do take seriously that personal holiness is important, and that sexual morality is important. I just can't believe it's more important than these basic issues of clean water, good food, basic education, and other life-sustaining issues out there.

I don't agree with our Presiding Bishop about everything -- or even about everything important -- either. I just don't see why we shouldn't be able to agree to lay aside any and all of our concerns with other points that she makes until we deal with the one she's chosen as the centerpiece of her tenure: the totally possible elimination of extreme poverty before the end of her tenure. I'm quite sure that if we do that, I'll be so giddy in 2015 that I'll be inclined to support darn near anyone who's visibly worked hardest in the intervening years to make that happen.

Are you bothered by other points in other people's agendas? Join the club. But let's add a point to the charter club of Christians Eagerly Awaiting Jesus' Eschaton: let's make all the points of fighting among ourselves a list of agenda points for what we do after we make sure that ever child born in this world has a chance to do what we think people are born to do, whether that's accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, understanding and living into their vocation as Baptized members of the Body of Christ, working in the world as agents of God's justice, or whatever else is on life's docket.

Honestly, I have a very hard time taking anyone as being seriously "pro-life" while it's still both possible for someone to be doomed to death before age 7 simply because of where s/he was born. I completely fail to understand what could possibly more more urgent on the world's agenda than changing that.

Literally -- and I don't use this language even remotely lightly -- for Christ's sake, let's take all of these other issues up after we've got this totally solvable and very urgent one solved! The "full employment for litigators" initiatives being pursued so vigorously thus far in so many quarters makes me want to throw up. Everyone, let's get our symbolic victories after we've achieved the real victory of giving every child in this world a chance.

November 30, 2006 in Churchiness, Current Affairs, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

clarity and grace on ALPO

You may remember the meeting that took place September 11-13 in New York, in which bishops discussed the requests for "alternative primatial oversight" (which Father Jake so wonderfully dubbed 'ALPO'). Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth after that meeting announced that he would not participate in any more such meetings, and in response to an invitation to meet again this month, he and Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh publicized this pointed letter declining to take part, and indeed saying that "additional parties," including legal counsel, would have to accompany them to any future meetings.

The meeting took place anyway, and out of it came a proposal that, in my opinion, is in the classic style of our Presiding Bishop: it is clear about our polity, it includes lay leadership (namely the President of the House of Deputies and the Executive Council) in its implementation, and it is gracious in granting voluntarily everything I can think of that our polity allows. It also gets bonus points for dropping Bishop Stanton's "Commissary" language with its unfortunate nostalgia for colonialism, instead calling for the appointment of a Primatial Vicar. The "Primatial Vicar" language leaves unnamed which primate(s) the vicar is representing, and I'm guessing that this is intentional. As long as the arrangement can be read with integrity as being that the Vicar is serving The Episcopal Church's Primate, it doesn't violate our polity; as long as the arrangement can be read with integrity as having the Vicar representing or serving as liaison with the Archbishop of Canterbury, it's coming as close as possible to what the petitioning provinces requested; and similarly there's maximum "room for grace" given to petitioning dioceses as long as it can be read with integrity that the Vicar is performing some "Primatial" functions. The only such function specifically named in the statement being that of serving as chief consecrator; however, in our polity, our Presiding Bishop doesn't do much domestically that could be called "Primatial" in any case, which was a sticking point for conservatives as well as progressives in requests for "alternative primatial oversight."

In other words, while Bishops Iker and Duncan were refusing to come to the table, the Presiding Bishop and others were nonetheless discussing what our polity could allow that might meet their concerns -- at least, the ones they've articulated formally in their request to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

You can read the proposal and a statement from the bishops who drafted it here.

November 30, 2006 in Churchiness, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

every month another 9/11 in Iraq

The BBC reports that 3,709 Iraqis died in the ongoing violence in October. Some 3,253 unidentified bodies were found in September and October, "many thought to be the victims of death squads operating with the collusion of the police." "Honor killings" of women are on the rise, as is rape and sex slavery. The U.S. invasion may have caused as many as 655,000 Iraqi deaths since 2003. Lord, have mercy.

U2, "Peace on Earth," All That You Can't Leave Behind:

Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you

And it's already gone too far
Who said that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
No whos or whys
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth
She never got to say goodbye
To see the color in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth
To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth
Jesus sing a song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth

Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

November 22, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

LEAC "largest ever educational conference" postponed

Remember Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC)? They were the ones who talked retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey to endorse a pseudo-survey on how many people would change their minds on consent to +Gene Robinson's election if they had it to do over again. They've had rather a rough time of it ever since.

When I went to their widely-advertising membership meeting in March, there were only about eighteen of them, but they had grand plans. In July, their "Day of Cathartic Encouragement" (which wasn't technically sponsored by LEAC, I think, but rather by All Saints' Chevy Chase, the address of which is LEAC's address, and which most of LEAC's members attend). Then they started a petition drive to bring presentment charges against all bishops who voted in favor of consent or participated in the consecration of +Gene Robinson, and that was called off before it got anywhere.

Undanted, they quickly announced that they were hosting a conference in Orlando from Nov. 20-21 that they boasted would be the "largest ever educational conference." My recollection is that they offered guaranteed seating (they anticipated standing room only for many sessions, apparently) and other benefits for the first 1,500 "early bird" registrants. Well, "early bird" slots are still open, and in fact they've postponed the conference until Feb. 28- Mar. 1. Reasons cited were the death of scheduled presenter and evangelist Lee Buck in September (though they didn't postpone the conference until two months after that), Bishop Keith Ackerman's being scheduled for "diagnostic investigation" for an unnamed condition, and Bishop Peter Beckwith's back surgery on Nov. 13 (though according to the diocesan calendar, he's still got parish visitations in his diocese scheduled for Nov. 17, 19, and 30). The LEAC press release also claims that the postponed dates "afford improved timing, following critical high-level meetings of leading archbishops and bishops in December and next February."

I'm offering prayers for the bishops' health, and must confess in the meantime to some curiosity about just how many people registered for the gathering before its last-minute postponement. I'm guessing not many.

November 14, 2006 in Churchiness, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

lest we think it was just about bishops ...

The Church of England's General Synod has held its first "virtual question time," which isn't a bad idea. Sadly, it's executed fairly clumsily in technical terms this time; it's in the form of a downloadable Rich Text file with some very goofy formatting. I'd say that the tone of the answers is far from what one wants in a public relations exercise, which is what I'd say the "virtual question time" would be.

But something is, I think, particularly worth noting from this first session. Chris Sugden of "Anglican Mainstream" asks the Archbishop of Canterbury this:

Given the endorsement of the Windsor report by the General Synod and the Primates’ Meeting, has the House considered what are the implications for fellowship between the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and the Church of England of the reported intention of the Bishop of Dunedin to ordain a practising homosexual?

The Archbishop replies:

No. The House has not, in fact, met since this news became known.

He could have said something more like, "The Windsor Report says nothing about ordaining openly gay deacons." That would be entirely true and, I think, far more helpful a response. What the archbishop says instead implies that the House of Bishops of the C of E would consider curtailing fellowship with other provinces in which bishops ordain openly gay clergy, which is highly unlikely, given that they'd have to start by declaring themselves out of communion with themselves.

It's still a helpful exchange, though, in at least one way: it shows that some of the loudest voices demanding "Windsor compliance" are including under that heading things that the Windsor Report does not address, and that complying with all of the Windsor Report's requests will not significantly, let alone permanently, alter the dynamic of relationship with them.

There are far more reasonable people out there who found the Windsor Report a helpful statement of the concerns they have and a vision for interdependence in our fellowship together that they find inspiring and useful. We ought to be concentrating far more on dialogue with them, in my opinion, though we should listen deeply to all of our sisters and brothers around the world. Other more shrill voices get far more press, but it seems clear that they're using the Windsor Report as a header under which they can list their extensive demands that far predate the Windsor Report and General Convention 2003.

The C of E press release on the General Synod's first "virtual question time" can be found here, or you can directly download the Rich Text file with the questions and answers here.

November 14, 2006 in Churchiness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

someone's idea of fun

I generally hold to what's called a "robust anthropology," the belief that, as creatures made in God's image, human beings are fully capable of making moral choices -- in other words, that when God gave the Torah and when Jesus taught the very challenging steps people would need to take to follow him, they wasn't just kidding or setting us up to feel like losers, but actually thought that we had it in us to do what was asked, and that therefore we ought to form communities to encourage and support one another to do it.

But if I were going to buy into Calvanist ideas of the "utter depravity" of human nature, things like this would be what convinced me. Introversion Software in the UK has created a game called Defcon. It was inspired by the classic 80's film Wargames; players take the role of a general ensconced in a secure subterranean command center (think NORAD), and are charged with the mission, according to the website of Ambrosia Software, the game's American distributors, "to successfully exterminate the enemy's civilian population whilst simultaneously disabling the enemy's ability to retaliate." That's bad enough, but the tagline meant to motivate people to buy the game is truly astonishing:

It calls the game "the world's first Genocide-'em-up." I'm not kidding. And if I read the symbols on the developer's website correctly, the game is rated for children of age 7 and up.

The URL for the site where you can see this tagline? http://www.everybody-dies.com.

Here's a screenshot of what you'll see if you go there:


And I thought it was a sad cultural sign of the times when a couple of prominent Episcopal priests at General Convention this summer decided that the only thing more hilarious than some chuckles about human rights abuses against LGBT people to include in their humor newsletter would be to laugh it up about human rights abuses against LGBT people trying to survive genocide in the Sudan ...

If you'd like to contact Ambrosia Software, the U.S. distributors of Defcon, the genocide "game," you can email their public relations department at pr@ambrosiasw.com. Introversion Software, Defcon's developers in the U.K., can be contacted via this web form.

November 7, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack