Saturday, July 7, 2007

'If I believe God is more than I can imagine, conceptualize or understand...'

It's witness like the following- articulate, Scriptural and spirit based which gives me such deep and abiding grounds for hope in the future of the Church. That it also happens to be penned by a woman I consider one of the greatest blessings to the Communion at this time only gives me greater grounds for joyous thankfulness.
Where indeed would we be today without the countless blessings of the witness and ministry of the women of faith who persisted in responding to their vocations of priesthood within our Communion.
The alternative is too dark to ponder, but even that thought is also ground for hope when we cosider how, even now, the Church is making history as it struggles to open itself to a more unconditional engagement with God's love, and the full spectrum of lived grace in the vocations of my LGBT brothers and sisters in faith.


Pondering the Great Commission: Baptism not a goal, but a relationship with God By Katharine Jefferts Schori July 06, 2007
[Episcopal Life]

I met recently with a group of appointed missionaries of the Episcopal Church. They gathered for 10 days in New York for orientation before leaving to do mission. It was an enormous privilege to meet them and see their energy and enthusiasm (which means "filled with God") for this adventure.
We had an opportunity for conversation, and one young man shared his concern about
how to understand the Great Commission, particularly the directive to baptize,
especially in a multifaith environment. It was a wonderful question that engages
us all at one level or another.
How do we engage in evangelism, and particularly in the specific directives of Matthew 28:19-20? Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the
This passage marks the end of Matthew's Gospel, and its explicitly Trinitarian language should make us aware that it probably reflects the practice of early Christian communities, some time after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Yet the question remains: How do we respond to this sending of the disciples, in which we understand all Christians participate, into a multifaith world?
If we believe that Jesus' saving work is for the whole world, that should relieve some of our immediate anxiety. He is pretty clear that he is not here to judge the world, but to love the world and invite all into relationship with Love itself (John 12:32 -- And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself -- and John 12:47 -- I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world). Judgment comes at the end of time, and until then you and I repeatedly are urged not to judge others.
Yet the ancient question remains: Is baptism necessary for salvation? Theologians have wrestled with this in a number of ways and made some remarkably gracious and open-ended responses. Vatican II affirmed that salvation is possible outside the church, even though some statements by Roman Catholic authorities in years since have sought to retreat from that position.Karl Rahner spoke about "anonymous Christians," whose identity is known to God alone. John MacQuarrie recognized the presence of the Logos or Word in other traditions.
But the more interesting question has to do with baptism itself. Like all sacraments, we understand baptism as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace (Catechism, BCP, p. 857). It is an outward recognition of grace that is both given and already present through God's action.
When we look at some of the lives of holy people who follow other religious traditions, what do we see? Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama both exemplify Christ-like lives. Would we assume that there is no grace present in lives like these? A conclusion of that sort seems to verge on the only unforgivable sin, against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:30-32).
If I believe that God is more than I can imagine, conceptualize or understand, then
I must be willing to acknowledge that God may act in ways that are beyond my
ken, including in people who do not follow the Judeo-Christian tradition. Note
that I include our Jewish brothers and sisters, for Scripture is very clear that
God made a covenant with Israel. That covenant was not abrogated in Jesus.
Scripture also speaks of a covenant with Abraham that extends to his offspring,
including Ishmael. Our Muslim brothers and sisters claim him as their ancestor.
In some way, God continues to act in the tradition we call Islam.
Well, if God is already at work in other religious traditions, why would we bother to
teach, make disciples or baptize? The focus of our evangelical work can never be
imposing our own will (despite the wretched examples of forced conversion in the
history of Christianity), but there is a real urgency to sharing the good
Can you imagine not saying to another, "Let me introduce you to my best
friend. I think you would enjoy getting to know him"? We are certainly not loath
to do that when it comes to the latest movie or book or restaurant we've
enjoyed, and unless we are leery of sharing, we will not stay silent
But let's go back to baptism. What is the urgency? It might be helpful
to reflect on what we claim happens in baptism. We are washed, (usually)
anointed, forgiven, welcomed as members of Christ's body, receive the Holy
Spirit, initiated into the mysteries (welcomed to communion) and begin to take
up life as a saint.
We act in all those ways toward infants who are as yet largely unaware of what is happening to them, and we do it in a sense of eschatological hope that the newly baptized will grow into an ability to claim those promises for him or herself. However, we only baptize adults who are willing and able to claim that hope for themselves.
The evangelical question has to do with free will. Should we, shall we, impose that on those who do not fully desire it? Maybe it would be helpful to recognize that baptism is not the goal, but rather relationship with God (or discipleship). We understand that to
be a relationship in God's Word, whom we call Christ.
Our evangelical work has more to do with the gracious recognition of God already at work in the world about us than it does with imposing our will on others. When Jesus says "make disciples," that has a great deal to do with inviting others into relationship
with the God we know, particularly as we know God in Christ. I do not believe it
has anything to do with forcible or manipulative conversion.It has more to do with showing and telling, through word (Word) and deed, what it is like to
know the gift of that relationship -- to demonstrate the unutterable
attractiveness of that relationship so that another can not imagine anything
more desirable. I do not believe it has anything to do with instilling or
playing on human fear (which is, after all, one of the things we renounce in
How might our evangelical work be different if we began with the
disciple-making part (the befriending we know in Jesus) rather than counting
coup in numbers of baptisms achieved? It is the latter that has given evangelism
a bad name through the ages. My sense is that our evangelical work is likely to
be more gracious if we focus on how our own lives exemplify the actions we claim
in baptism -- washing, forgiving, welcoming, demonstrating Holy Spirit, entering
into communion, living as a holy one of God. Our very lives can be baptism, living water, new life born out of death, to those around us, even though they
may not yet consciously claim membership in the body of Christ. Our
understanding of eschatological hope is that, in the end, God will make right
what is wrong or broken in this world. We are meant to live as though it is
already happening.

Friday, July 6, 2007

What if...

I've just finished feasting on Barbara Brown Taylor's 'Leaving Church,' and the following, from her book speaks deeply to where we find ourselves in the Communion.

...I will keep the cross, even though I am not sure that the symbol can survive its abuse. For me, it is a reminder of Jesus' willingness to risk everything for the love of God's little ones. The cross he died on reminds me that his Way is not a way of violence against his enemies or victory over those who do not believe in him, but the way of self-annihilating love for God and neighbor...

... If I had to name my disability, I would call it an unwillingness to fall. On the one hand, this is perfectly normal. I do not know anyone who likes to fall. But on the othe hand, this reluctance signals mistrust of the central truth of the Christian gospel: life springs from death, not only at the last but also in the many little deaths along the way. When everything you count on for protection has failed, the Divine Presence does not fail. The hands are still there... not promising to rescue, not promsing to intervene-
promising only to hold you no matter how far you fall. Ironically, those who try
hardest not to fall learn this later than those who topple more easily...

...For most of my adult life, what I have wanted most to win is
nearness to God...

...I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was, in other words, and it was not until this project failed that I began to wonder if my human wholeness might be more useful to God than my exhuasting goodness...

...The good news of God in Christ is, 'You
have everything you need to be human. There is nothing outside of you that
you still need- no approval from the authorities, no attendance at temple,
no key truth hidden in the tenth chapter of some sacred book. In your life
right now, God has given you everything that you need to be human...

... While there are clearly many different
ways to be hmuan, and not all of them praiseworthy, it remains possible to
see Jesus not as the founder of a new religion, but as the exemplar of a new
way of being human- a new Adam in the language of the apostle Paul- who
lived and died with such an authentic faith in God that he gave his
followers the courage to try to do the same thing. For obvious reasons, they
could not sustain the alarming freedom for long, so they truned the faith of
Jesus into the religion about Jesus, and the rest is history...

...All these years later,the way many of us are doing church is broken and we know it, even if we do not know what to do about it. We proclaim the priesthood of all believers while we continue living with hierarchical clergy, liturgy, and architecture. We follow
a Lord who challenged the religious and political institutions of his time while we fund and defend our own. We speak and sing of divine transformation while we do everything in our power to maintain our equilibrium. If redeeming things continue to happen to us in spite of these deep contradictions in our life together, then I think that is because God is faithful even if we are not. When we are able to trust the gospel
that our human love of God and one another is the sum total of what we were put
on earth to do, and that we have everything we need to be human, then redeeming
things will continue to happen, both because and inspite of us. They will
happen because God loves life so much that even at the grave we
make our song Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia...

...All the church has ever needed to rise from the dead is memory, bread, wine and Holy Spirit... that, and care for the world that is at least equal to her care for her own preservation. Where church growth has eclipsed church depth, it is possible to to hear very little about the world except as a rival for the human resources needed by
the church for her own survival...

... If churches saw their mission in the same way, there is no telling what might happen. What if people were invited to come tell what they already know of God instead of to learn what they are supposed to believe? What is they were blessed for what they are doing in the world instead of chastened for not doing more at church? What if church felt more like a way station than a destination? What is the church's job was to move people out the door instead of trying to keep them in, by convincing them that God
needed them more in the world than in the church?

Just another example of the great blessings, insights and grace we have been blessed with since women claimed their ordained priestood withi the Church. Amen,

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Poor +Rowan, you've got to feel for the man

This from 365gay, the on-line gay news service

Bishop: Gays, Permissive Society Responsible For Disastersby
Newscenter Staff
Posted: July 1, 2007 - 4:00 pm ET
(London) A senior Church of England bishop says floods that have caused widespread damage in the UK are the result of God's wrath on a permissive society that endorses gay right.
"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," the Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, told the Sunday Telegraph.
"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he told the paper, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws undermines marriage.
"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."
Dow is a leading church conservative. The
worldwide Anglican denomination has been engaged in a feud between conservatives and liberals over the role of gays in the faith since the American branch, the
Episcopal Church, elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New
Hampshire in 2003.
Some church conservatives want the Episcopal Church expelled from the Anglican communion.
The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association called Dow a "bronze age primitive".

Poor ++Rowan, by failing to respond to the earlier acrimonious lunacy from the bullies of the patriarchy left a vaccuum for what appears to be open season for pre-historic mutterings by the likes of +Carlisle.

Not to despair, Christ still meets us in the process, and even this latest is part of the process I suppose. As one radiant brother has reminded me more than once, we are a people of hope living in faith, so time is on our side. Amen.

God's Greatest Blessing for God's Greaest Glory- Nothing Less!

How's This For Radiant Grace?

All I can say is Thank God for Father Antonio Osrio!!

From the Victoria B.C. Times Colonist (with the occasional editorial comment by yours truly in bold)

Anglican priest to bless lesbian and gay couples

Louise Dickson and Matthew Gauk, Times Colonist
Saturday, June 30,

Father Antonio Osorio: "I believe blessing these unions is a justice issue ... I
have done it and I intend to keep doing it."

Father Antonio Osorio is inviting lesbian and gay couples to be blessed at St.
Saviour's Anglican Church tomorrow.
"They need to know they are not second-class Christians," said Osorio. "I am going to bless them as a group because they are faithful and beautiful Christians. And if they want to be blessed as individual couples, I will do it too."
The blessing, which will take place at the 10 a.m. mass, is not a marriage ceremony. Osorio will also ask his gay parishioners to bless him. "It will mean in God's eyes they are equal to me," he said.

Father Osorio's got my blessing- even before the Mass begins!

"The Anglican Church, in my opinion, needs to stop playing games," said
Osorio, who attended the national meeting and voted in favour of blessing
same-sex unions.

"I am very pleased the national church has said blessing same-sex unions is not in conflict with the doctrine of the church," he said. "I believe blessing these unions is a justice issue. Now is the time to start blessing same-sex couples. I have done it and I intend to keep doing it."At Sunday's mass, Osorio wants to send a message that lesbians and gays are part of the Christian family and are welcome at church.

Archdeacon Bruce Bryant-Scott of the Diocese of British Columbia said Osorio is "pushing the envelope" but not crossing any lines. "He knows what the guidelines are. He knows what's acceptable."

As if this paricular envelope didn't need to be pushed, delivered and recycled to uses which aptly reflect our call to be the living embodiment of Christ Jesus in these times?

The church does not want to discriminate against its gay members, said Bryant-Scott. "There may have been occasions when people were refused communion or when baptism was refused to children of same-sex couples -- and that's not on," said the archdeacon.

St. Saviour parishioner Kate McIvor said the blessing won't be "the kind to make
Anglicans' hair fall out." "Same-sex couples will, in fact, be blessing us.
We're not allowed to bless them, but they are allowed
to bless us."

Now isn't this some sort of ironic- Christians not allowed to bless each

Osorio believes a strong group within the church wants to keep the discussion
focused on the same-sex debate at the expense of more pressing work that needs
to be done on issues such as the plight of the homeless, HIV/AIDS in Africa, the
environment and the war in Iraq.

"We need to be a voice for the homeless and the children who are dying in Africa," said Osorio.

At the risk of repeating myself- God Bless you Father Osorio and all the folks at St. Savior's Anglican Church this morning!

God's Greatest Blessing to God's Greater Glory


++Rowan's Form Letter

You've probably guessed.... I am NOT impressed by Rowan's missive- sent out in bulk, during his absence on study leave.

Susan+ Russel, Priest and President of Integrity U.S.A. once again came through for us- getting the text up on the web within hours of it being 'leaked' and once again the Patriarchy has only once again shown itself impotent theological bumblers.

I quote

While is it recognised that Bishop Robinson was duly elected and consecrated
according to the canons of The Episcopal Church in view of the widespread
objections to Bishop Robinson’s ministry in other Provinces of the Communion,
the Windsor Report further recommend that the Archbishop ‘ exercise very
considerable caution in inviting him to the councils of the Communion.

And if that weren't enough, I quote

From the time of the election of Bishop Gene Robinson to See of New
Hampshire, both the representatives of many Anglican Provinces and the
Instruments of Communion made it clear that full recognition by the Communion
could not be given to a bishop whose chosen lifestyle would, in most Provinces
of the Communion, give rise to canonical impediment to his consecration as a

So implicitly or explicitly the consecration of certain Bishops must be subject to the casual approval of 'all Provinces of the Communion' and of any one else who cares to voice an opinion, further malicious speculation or who might have territorial ambitions? Or.... wait a minute is this new ad hoc standard only to apply to LGBT people of faith within the Communion?

As if this weren't enough, once again, Windsor gets hauled out

in the future proper regard should be taken to the bounds of affection and
interdependence between member Churches

And are the people of New Hampshire, the generous faithful of the Episcopal Church and their lives of faith not to be included within these some 'bonds of affection and interdependence'?

It would seem this is where dear ++Rowan once again betrays the height of his impotent ineffectiveness. Not only has he failed to respond publicly to the continued parish-poaching by the bullies of the patriarchy, not only has he failed to publicly respond to the arrogant refusal by the same bullies to attend Lambeth, or to their demands that all parties to +Gene New Hampshire's election and consecration be excluded from Lambeth; he now sets the lives of faith of thousands of our American brothers and sisters and their understanding of God's will outside the 'bounds of affection and interdependence' by his contempt for one of its 'duly elected and consecrated' Bishops.

But it doesn't end there, ++Lambeth refers to

widespread objections to Bishop Robinson’s ministry in other Provinces
of the Communion

This has got to be the absolute height of impotentency. Just what are these objections? If they are anything more than the expression of personal prejudice on the part of vested interests within the patriarchy let them be made public with all parties named and cannonical grounds cited. Resorting to such non-specific inuendo has got to be a new low in this current discussion, and makes me sadder than sad for the desperation it bespeaks on the part of the patriarchy.

Yet once again, it is the radiant fellowship of LGBT brothers & sisters and our friends who are being exemplary by their forebearance, their patience and their insistence on a larger vision and understanding of Christ's call to the Church. Once again it is the grace of these same courageous lives of faith which speak love to fear an acrimony. Once again... once again, and even in the face of the implied insult of +Gene New Hampshire's exclusion, American and Canadian Bishop's have resisted responding in-kind by graciously declining Lambeth's invitation, as so many of the bullies of the patriarchy have done. with public acrimony.

I have but one question for brother +Rowan, which party in these current discussions have repeatedly resorted to threats, acrimony & name-calling; who boycoted the collegial clebration of the Blessed Sacrament in Tanzania; who has continued to show contempt for both a duly consecrated sister Primate and brother Bishop and violated the Provincial integrity of a Province of the Communion?

Though I have never known the gift of prophesy, my sense is that ++Rowan is 'painting himself into a corner' where he will have to call an end to the current 'politics' of Lambeth.

Dare I hope for an apology and the 'normalization' of +Gene New Hampshire's presence and participation at the Lambeth Conference- you bet I do! This is the Church of Christ Jesus, not some ossified old boys club! (Though I do not hold my breath on any apologies being public).

Just imagine the radiant testimony to Christ's call to humanity our Communion will give the world when we witness +Gene New Hampshire, fully vested, in liturgical procession with ++Katherine and all of his fellow Bishops at the the first great Eucharist of Lambeth.

In full faith in Christ Jesus, I claim this- an nothing less. Amen

God's Greatest Blessing to God's Greatest Glory- Always