Sunday, August 23, 2009

The FOXification of debate in America

Facebook is pretty tame when it comes to viewpoints being shared. Most status updates will garner little in the way of impersonal or inflammatory replies through the "comment" link or the simpler "like" link. Most of the blogs I read regularly will often collect those sorts of comments in the hundreds. So when status updates start to become heated replies to previous status updates you know that a change is occurring. Two days ago I saw this on a friend's status update,

"No one should die because they cannot afford health care and no one should go broke because they got sick. Pass it on."

I did pass it on by making it my status and the comments piled up like never before for me. Most of the dialogue was polite and for the most part focused so that we could work WITH what the others had said and not just spew talking points at each other. It heated up just once and that was enough.
That was Thursday morning. Since then bunches of people have updated their status with something identical or at least similar. And then today, this update from a former campus minister:

No one should die because they are waiting and waiting and waiting in line for rationed medical care, and no one should go broke because they have to pay for this 10 TRILLION dollar deficit.

I guess I could say something like, "you reap what you sow" or "all's fair in love and war." Really I could say anything that properly groups both statements together as of the same category. But isn't there an edge in the reply that is not in the initial statement? Yes we both are using FB for more than it was intended but that is really not the problem with our debate. It's just that now what has developed over the last twenty years -- When was Rush Limbaugh first on the air? -- is now the norm. Advocacy triggers blatancy. And sweet little Facebook is not immune.
So I guess my next status update will be to apologize for opening FB the door to "debate" American-style.
But there must be more to this response than my apologizing for awakening the giant. Otherwise the "village" will never live with the truth but only continue live in fear of some romanticized version of it. That's why there are scapegoats to take sins we'll admit away so that we can then assume without losing power a righteousness/purity/safety that is not only undeserved but in many ways illusory.
It takes denial fueled by talking points displayed in 'all caps" to avoid the real dialogue for which even some FB updates dare to hope. And all the while the truths behind the ideals are waiting and waiting and waiting for enough time and energy and patience and courage to be fully heard. Why are we so afraid that we will not agree to take the time, turn down the rhetoric and listen to the truth?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Keeping One's Vows

60 lbs more, twice as many weddings and bunches of stories later I still remember this event like it was yesterday. I remember how comfortable and excited I was making my ordination vows.

The Bishop says to the ordinand

Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?


I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.

This comes to mind now because Bishop Lawrence of S.C. has concentrated on the same language in his appeal to the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina to refrain from participating in leadership and decision making outside the diocese. Even worse he has presumed to be able to speak to all what the phrase means in a pastoral letter to be read from the pulpit in each congregation.

Perhaps he believes his withdrawal idea qualifies as something other than what Scofield and Duncan have attempted and therefore is more likely to succeed. I can't see that he has chosen to do anything really radical or creative. It just looks like another slowly-bleeding clergy led exit meant to publicly humiliate and then starve the impure remainder and to convince some judge somewhere that Team Lawrence is the true church worthy of state intervention.

What really bothers me is the presumption -- born of denial or ignorance or pious arrogance -- that there is an outcome available for the Bishop and his true believers other than the very same one that simply walking out the door and leaving the keys behind would attain. Claiming some affiliation beyond U.S. soil wins them NOTHING in any court, most especially courts of the State of South Carolina. Appearing polite and humble while they use assets and properties that they will go to great expense to attempt to possess or will eventually abandon without having maintained any proper future provisions for their care and upkeep gains them NO sympathy once the bills are due.

Bishop Lawrence tries to wedge himself and his minions into a niche for which there is NO canonical standard or description. What does he imagine will be the proper role for a diocese that resigns all of its appointments, votes on no legislation, and fails to join in the offerings that become the church's mission and ministry for those in need and THEN prematurely attempts to join itself extra-provincially to the Windsor covenant movement? Does Bishop Lawrence imagine this to be a sacrifice of power to show us that our inclusivity actually excludes a class of believers? Regardless of how you understand the legitimacy of her purported death bed baptism Simon Weil's self exclusion from communion really did indict the church's classism and exclusion. Surely Lawrence doesn't imagine we will understand his planned actions to be as significant as hers.

So, I'm left wondering just what Bishop understood the "doctrine, discipline and worship" to mean when he was ordained. And when did he begin to presume to possess an authority that allows him to claim himself as it's chief interpreter and to pronounce it's meaning?

That's not true, I'm not wondering. I am tired. I'm not tired of all the weddings, or sermons, or free meals, or of the doctrine, discipline and worship to which I promised to be loyal. I am tired of the presumptions that Bishops like Lawrence have partnered so well with a lust for power and a fear of impurity. I am tired of the false humility. I am tired of the routine.

Bishop Lawrence, I am tired of you and your sanctimonious crusade against the church who ordained you and, like me, to whom you pledged your loyalty. Forget the pastoral letter, forget about leveraging the misplaced loyalties of the priests of the Diocese of South Carolina, forget your end-run to Windsor protection, forget your piecemeal attack on the constitution and canons you once swore to obey. Keep your vows to the church that ordained you. Just do that. Change the routine and just do that.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Zero Sum Games

These guys are incredible. The American Anglican Council, the latest incarnation of the pool of friends of Rev. David Anderson -- I'm sorry I can't call him Bishop-- has followed their news of budget and staff cuts at 815 to make an appeal for financial support. Check it out here. I guess they've figured that if The Episcopal Church doesn't have as much money with which to work then they must deserve it.
I love reading into moments like this. could they explain their actions by describing God as full of grace and mercy or do you think they'd have to rely on a description of God that demands accounts be balanced? At least the latter goes with substitutionary penal atonement. BTH.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Elected and Holy

There are several dioceses in the Episcopal Church that are in the process of electing a bishop either to be the one in charge or to serve under and assist the one currently in charge. Two dioceses have announced slates of nominees that include a gay and/or lesbian person. The Diocese of Los Angeles has a slate for suffragan(assisting) bishop that includes a gay man and lesbian each of whom are in an open relationship. Here's a link to their information about the election. The Diocese of Minnesota has information about their search process and the nomination thus far here. DioMinn's slate includes a lesbian in an open relationship.

Mind you, there are other dioceses in their own bishop search processes Georgia and Upper South Carolina are two that come to mind. They are nearby and important to me because of historic ties and current acquaintances. The elections in DioLA and DioMinn. will gather more attention than most because both have nominees in homosexual relationships that are neither closeted or celibate. [Here's a link to news about the news about these elections]

If the aforementioned nominees in LA and Minn were closeted then many of our Anglican Partners would not be paying one bit of attention to the elections. Really, look around, who has blogged or reported about election news in GA and USC? Or who has written about LA's and Minn's elections and NOT made mention of the sexual orientation of some of the nominees. If the nominees were celibate, certainly some conversation/debate would occur regarding the difference that makes in their eligibility. For sure we'd be reading more about that than we would about the nominees in GA.

All our talking about the nominees, regardless of which diocese is in process, is for me just so much like an altar guild arguing about bread recipes. As if somehow we could keep God from making holy that which God choses to make holy by presenting a bread baked from a bad recipe. What priest has not had an discussion with someone about the appropriateness of unleavened bread at the Altar during the Great 50 days. My foil would have equated presenting bread without leaven during Easter to presenting nominees that can't be judged "pure" by a portion of our Communion.

I'm pretty sure those who see only sacramental efficacy thwarted by the nomination of a gay or lesbian will also see a Eucharist undone by the "wrong bread" or a "hapless priest." I'm pretty sure that in that old three part scheme of sacramentality -- regularity, validity, efficacy -- efficacy is that part of the "process" that we can't predetermine or screw-up. Efficacy is God's job. The way I remember the interplay of these parts was that regularity was our part and that God hadn't given us many details about it anyway. K.I.S.S. was the best approximation of how to define our role in making our sacraments regular.

So I guess you could say it is being argued that the presentation/nomination of an openly gay man or lesbian for ordination is a violation or undoing of sacramental regularity or validity. It s in a sense contending that they are incapable of being presented/offered because of their orientation and/or their openness about their it. I've never thought to ask the bread how it felt about its readiness. All Jesus ever did was take whatever bread was available, give thanks, bless it and break it. That approach says to me that regularity is less a tending to the specifics of the recipe and more a result of the extent to which one gives thanks and makes an offering of the element whatever it is. Seems like we do have a expectation to present the best, the first fruits, the tithe of our possessions when we make an offering. but even that points more toward the offering's representative status and less to their "content."

If one were to attempt an argument from the principal of validity, it would necessitate seeing as analogous and equal sexual orientation and/or "practice" to some rejection or pretense during the actual liturgy/election process itself. Perhaps failing to be forthcoming about one's proclivities during interviews and walk-abouts might constitute such an invalidation. I remember when Bob Trache was refused ordination/consecration in Atlanta. It had something to do with his being less than forthcoming about his life during those times set aside exactly for such. Perhaps that is an example.

So . . . are the people of GA or USC concerned about the "recipe of the bread" with which they will make an offering to God so that God can make it holy? I'd say , yes. Go to their web sites and you will say yes with me. Have they done everything to make their part in this sacrament of nomination/election/ordination regular? Sure does look like it! Are they guaranteeing a safe election and therefore valid episcopacy for their respective dioceses? It's to soon to tell. Will the persons they present for ordination be holy? We'll only know after the fact! Efficacy is God's job!

So . . . is it fair to ask the same questions of LA and Minn? Sure it is. If our answers are different than those we gave for GA and USC we have ask ourselves why. It seems to me that as long as a gay man or lesbian is willing to be "bread, blessed and broken," and those who would do that nominating are willing to be forthcoming in their understandings in making an offering of any of the persons listed, then NONE of us has much to say right now about efficacy, the most important of those sacramental principals. That's God's job!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Salvation is Universal Health Care

Many of you whom I love and call friends have already characterized government initiated/enforced health care reform as socialism and in so doing claim you have upheld a more conservative or libertarian and therefore more Christian standard. 

So I ask you to read this article by Jonathan Alter in Newsweek titled "What's Not to Like? Reform? Why do we need health-care reform? Everything is just fine the way it is" and Bill Maher's commentary on "profit making as other than patriotism" 

Go here and then let's talk about Jesus' claim on us and our citizenship.
Peace, Dann

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marion Hatchett on Historic Voyage

Marion Hatchett was my only liturgics professor at Sewanee. Prof. Hatchett's teaching style was lean and mean. He gave us the basics of the 1979 BCP along with the reasons and histories behind those basics. Cradle Episcopalians had the hardest time with Prof. Hatchett because they had to work through the imprinting of years of bad liturgies. I say "histories" because he encouraged us to know as much about Hippolytus as we did about the revision committees who nursed the "new prayer book" into being. He understood them as members in a single voyage with Cranmer and others.  

He taught this once Southern Baptist boy that even written prayers, including those suffering bad translations, like the Lord's Prayer did more for me than I did for God in praying them. He taught me that much of what Jesus sought to reform in that warped practice of Torah he encountered from the hands of the Pharisees and the Temple authorities was largely bad liturgy. He taught me that Prayer Book reform at its best was a Christian practice of good Torah, as if the word was more verb than noun, as if HOW we remembered and passed on our story was as important as WHAT we passed along. Marion was the householder who brought out what was old and what was new.

So seeing the "swamp fox" quoted by Susan Russell was a gift, especially after having been one of hundreds who were praying for Marion's dwindling health as recently as this past spring. The commentary of his she quoted made a unity for me out of what were decades of ideas, thoughts and lingering questions strung together. Good Torah like good Christian liturgy and by association good Episcopal canonical practice requires an honesty about necessity that avoids simply maintaining the status quo, especially when that maintenance fails to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to include the outcast.

Now, the Marion I know would not brag but he also would not be bullied or let himself be dismissed by pious ones claiming "orthodoxy" as theirs or othrs crying " Jesus said" or "the authority of scripture" as first defenses against scrutiny or question. Like he did in class so many times and just like he is doing in this short entry he has defended a historical/liturgical practice of openness and honesty. His calling us the 'flagship" says more about our risk taking in the face of necessity than it does about our presuming to be the first or always justified when we do something others have not. Thank you Susan and thank you Marion for remembering for us our history of making a way for Anglicanism to go where previous of her sailors have not yet gone.

By Dr. Marion Hatchett in the GTS Alumni Magazine, Summer 2009

The American Church jumped way out ahead of the Church of England and other sister churches in a number of respects. One was in giving voice to priests and deacons and to laity (as well as bishops and secular government officials) in the governance of the national church and of dioceses and of parishes. The early American Church revised the Prayer Book in a way that went far beyond revisions necessitated by the new independence of the states.

At its beginning the American Church legalized the use of hymnody along with metrical psalmody more than a generation before use of "hymns of human composure" became legal in the Church of England. At an early stage the American Church gave recognition to critical biblical scholarship.

The American Church eventually gave a place to women in various aspects of the life of the church including its ordained ministry. The American Church began to speak out against discrimination against those of same-sex orientation, and the American Church began to make moves in establishing full communion with other branches of Christendom.

Historically the American Church has been the flag-ship in the Anglican armada. It has been first among the provinces of the Anglican Communion to take forward steps on issue after issue, and on some of those issues other provinces of Anglicanism have eventually fallen in line behind the American Church. My prayer is that the American Church will be able to retain its self-esteem and to stand firm and resist some current movements which seem to me to be contrary to the principles of historic Anglicanism and to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.