Friday, September 28
By now you may have read the various web-site and media reports regarding the House of Bishops' meeting in New Orleans. When read as a whole they portray a rich glimpse of our deliberations.
The highlights of the meeting, for me, were the reflections of Archbishop Rowan, the addresses from the four members of the Joint Standing Committee, the presentation by Bishop Jeffrey Steenson on his renunciation of orders, and our work day in the city.
The addresses from our Anglican partners were at times painful to hear. As they shared the spiritual and political shape of their dioceses, a sobering spirit descended upon the room. Each in turn, expressed sincere gratitude for the gifts that we have shared in Communion, and the continuing generosity of our Province. On several occasions we were reminded, "Your country and your Church have so much, and to those to whom much has been given, much is expected."
On more than one occasion we were reminded of our political power in the world arena, and how we wield it with little concern for others. One person reminded us that we infiltrate long-standing cultural norms through television, movies, internet, fast food restaurants, cigarettes; securing profits while compromising the fabric of other societies. Many contend that The Episcopal Church is doing the same.
Most of us were humbled by the comments, others thought they were too accusatory.
The process for addressing the issues before us: consent to non-celibate gays and lesbians to the episcopate, and the blessing of same-sex unions, was challenging in its own right. We tried to by-pass legislative action on resolutions, saving a vote for the final message from the House. It's a good idea in theory, but was quite cumbersome in practice.
The democratic process in which majorities make the ultimate decisions, was called into question when dealing with theology and global relationships. The call to honor dissident voices was strong, as I suspect that at times each one thought that their position was in the minority.
Most would agree that the final result was the best that we could do as a group.
Please come and share your thoughts, concerns, questions, Saturday morning, 9-11AM at the Cathedral. Your friends and parishioners are invited, as well. This will help me in hearing the mood of the diocese, and clarifying concerns you may have, to the best of my ability. Doors open at 8:30, with light breakfast offerings.
Thank you for all your prayers, and for the very civilized manner in which we have been able to discuss these concerns over the years. By the grace of God there is respect and kindness, sadness mixed with joy, and a secure, safe place to engage with each other. It only happens because all of you make it so. I am very grateful.
Friday, September 21
Jesus expressed his great love for people in ten dramatic ways. The gospels show us his immense compassion for the suffering, his attentive listening presence, and his energetic celebration of the lives around him. Here are ten ways Jesus demonstrated agape – the Greek word for unconditional, self-sacrificing love – and what we can learn from him.
1. The Way of Compassion
Jesus is depicted in the gospels as a healer who responded to the needs of the suffering even on the Sabbath and was roundly criticized for this by the authorities. He responded to those who would otherwise have been stoned to death. Compassion was perfectly captured in his parable of the Good Samaritan, a man who responded immediately and directly to a wounded man bleeding by the side of the road. Nothing could make him act in a way contrary to compassion – not a busy schedule or social stigma, as in the case of the Samaritan woman most others would not talk to. Jesus just did what compassion requires, whenever and wherever.
2. The Way of Attentive Listening
In interacting with others, Jesus was extraordinarily attentive, showing a humble willingness to respond in depth to what others had spoken. In his many healings, people cry out to him in need. Simply by listening and a touch, he offered them hope and wholeness. He listened carefully to his enemies and responded to them thoughtfully. He had immense patience with his disciples even when he had every reason to be impatient.
3. The Way of “Carefrontation”
Jesus was a master of caring confrontation. He practiced nonviolent resistance to evil, and it was his teaching and example that would inspire Gandhi and the great African-American Christian leaders of the civil rights movement. Jesus asked Peter to put down his sword; he said that those who live by the sword die by it. But he also confronted spiritual hypocrites and the many moneychangers who had set up shop in the Temple. He was constantly challenging people to think and act lovingly, and this meant that he had often to take the risk of confrontation when he saw destructive attitudes and behaviors around him.
Here is a sample:
RESOLVED, The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, mindful that it is the duty of a Bishop to order the public liturgy of the church in his or her diocese, undertakes and covenants not to authorize or permit any public Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in our dioceses or General Convention (consistent with the resolution B020 of the 1991 General Convention and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and the teaching expressed in Resolution Bl0l of the 1994 General Convention,2 and in line with the standard of teaching commanding respect across the Anglican Communion, as most recently expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference),
RESOLVED, The House of Bishops, noting that the Executive Council in their resolution ECO1 1 accepted the report of the Communion Sub-group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council as a helpful evaluation of the 75th General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report, concur with the conclusion of that report, that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a sexual relationship outside of Christian marriage shall not receive the necessary consents, unless some new consensus emerges on these matters across the Communion; be it further
RESOLVED, that, in accord with the pledge of the House of Bishops given in March 20, 2007, and affirmed by the Executive Council in June 14 2007, the House of Bishops undertake to respond pastorally and provide for those groups alienated by recent developments in the Episcopal Church in a way acceptable to them and that enables the Primates to end all interventions. We commend to the Presiding Bishop a renewed consideration of the Pastoral Scheme proposed in the Dar es Salaam communiqué.
You can read a longer article, but here's a snippet:
[Presiding Bishop Katharine] Jefferts Schori has conferred with [Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan] Williams about the invitations, which she extended after a process of consultation with bishops in the Episcopal Church...
"All eight are true bridge-builders who empathize with the concerns and needs of dioceses that are struggling with the issues of the current time," Robertson said, adding that "while all are sympathetic to to these concerns, each is clear that the Presiding Bishop's ultimate goal is reconciliation."
The eight are active diocesan bishops Frank Brookhart of Montana, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina (based in Columbia, S.C.), John Howe of Central Florida (based in Orlando), Gary Lillibridge of West Texas (based in San Antonio), Michael Smith of North Dakota, James Stanton of Dallas, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, together with retired Connecticut Bishop Clarence Coleridge.
Robertson said all have agreed to serve as official "episcopal visitors" (the lowercase adjective referring generally to bishops and their ministries rather than the church's denomination), or to provide "Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" (DEPO), an option provided by the House of Bishops' March 2004 statement "Caring for All the Churches" and a concept affirmed by the General Convention in 2006.
Jefferts Schori's invitation to the eight bishops seeks to delegate the first of three primary canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop, that of visiting each of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses during each Presiding Bishop's nine-year term. The Presiding Bishop's other two principal canonical roles are to "take order" for ordaining and consecrating bishops, and to oversee certain disciplinary actions as needed.
The Presiding Bishop's invitation to the eight bishops "offers opportunities for dioceses to have an episcopal visitor other than herself," Robertson said.
"This gives dioceses the pastoral guidance and care they need while remaining faithful and loyal members of the Episcopal Church," he said. "It is also the Presiding Bishop's hope that at some point in the future she would be invited to visit these dioceses."
...for the first time in years I was being welcomed into a church rather than welcoming people into church. Unable to shake my church-planting mentality, I was particularly sensitive to the way churches approached visitors. After visiting a few different churches, I started to realize something: many churches have forgotten what it's like to go to a church for the first time.
The reason for this seems obvious to me: pastors have been attending church for years. Before they became a pastor, most have received some sort of education while attending a church. In fact, before they even feel the call to the ministry, they have been attending church for years as well--in some cases, they even grew up going to church. All those years of faithful church attendance has groomed them to serve Christ’s church. At the same time, all those years form an insurmountable gap between now and the time they first darkened the door of a church.
Consequently, some churches make some very basic mistakes when they welcome a visitor. If they welcomed you to a dinner party like they welcome a visitor to their church you would never want to come over for dinner again. They are so glad to see you that they make an embarrassing scene. After shaking your hand they ignore you, leaving you to fend for yourself. They exclude you by talking about things you’ve never heard of. They even slip into the common jargon of their friends, leaving you out of the conversation altogether. On top of these faux pas, they forget that you are a little nervous to be there in the first place. Who would want to be at that party? Who would put themselves through that a second time?
What do you think is the most pressing issue for a first time visitor to your church? The doctrine? Now I am a doctrinal stickler, but I’m realistic enough to realize that most visitors don’t care much about this. The music style? Good music can give a great first impression--whether traditional or contemporary--but most visitors will just sing along with whatever you have. The sermon? While a sermon could definitely cause people to leave a church, I don’t think this is the most pressing issue for a first-time visitor. First-time visitors care most about not embarrassing themselves.
There are all sorts of things that can embarrass a church visitor. They might have dressed inappropriately--too formal or too casual. Their children might not know how to act “appropriately” in a church and end up embarrassing their parents. They might be put on the spot as an offering plate is passed to them by a stranger, who they feel is pressuring them to give. They might stand up at the wrong time in the service. They might sing out during the wrong part of a song because the church has a different arrangement than they are used to. The most detrimental embarrassing situation can come from a bad welcome, destroying an otherwise great first impression
Some churches work hard to make people feel welcome, but they undermine their efforts by making it impersonal. Some churches make all their visitors stand up in the middle of the service--a terrible choice considering how much most people fear standing up in front of crowds. I once visited a large church that apparently realized how awkward this made their visitors feel so they did the opposite and asked their members to stand. There I sat, surrounded by towering members in this intimidating church, each hanging over me as they offered me an obligatory welcome and handshake.
Tuesday, September 18
I write to you out of deep prayer for the life of our Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.
The House of Bishops' meeting begins on Wednesday evening, September 19th, with the first two days spent in the honored company of Archbishop Rowan Williams, Primates from the Joint Standing Committee, and other invited guests.
Primarily, we are being called to offer a response to the Windsor Report (including an Anglican covenant), and the Primates' Communiqué from Dar es Salaam. Once the meeting adjourns, the Archbishop is to consult with other Primates to consider a response to our deliberations and resolutions, after which they will give us a timely response. In addition, we will discuss the MDG's, spend a day working in New Orleans, and visit neighboring parishes on Sunday morning.
On Wednesday, September 26th, I will arrive home about two hours before the regularly scheduled meeting of Diocesan Council, and will communicate with you as soon as I am able.
Please pray for me and all our bishops. I leave for this meeting with a deep sense of anxiety, and my prayers have been for wisdom and humility at a time when there seems to be growing entrenchment and self-righteousness. May we honor one another in the honor and glory that is God's gift through Jesus Christ.
May God bless all of us.
Thursday, September 13
XII Bishop of Rhode Island,
invites you to attend the
Seating of the Dean and the Installation of the Chapter and the Canons
The Very Reverend Harry E. Krauss, III
will be seated on
Sunday, September 16th
Cathedral of St. John, Providence
The Reverend Canon John G. B. Andrew D.D., O.B.E., Rector Emeritus of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue New York, will preach.
Reception in Synod Hall