Daily Archives: August 2, 2009

The Bishop of Western Louisiana Writes his Diocese about General Convention 2009

A response and reflections on General Convention 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Permit me to begin with the Collect for this day, the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. I realize that all of you heard this a moment ago at the outset of the service, but in light of what I am going to share, it bears being offered once again.

“Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” [BCP p.232]

This prayer sums up what is before us, and how this will ultimately be brought to be, if we allow God’s will and the leading of his Holy Spirit to move us beyond the place and condition in which he finds us this day. Many have waited for General Convention 2009, and this being with the hope that it would bring a clearer sense of the direction in which the Church is going. Prior to General Convention I called upon the diocese to share with me in prayers for clarity – clarity that would prayerfully bring us to a renewed place regarding the several issues that have wrought division not just on The Episcopal Church, but the wider Anglican Communion. General Convention is now behind us and many questions still loom before us.

Some no doubt feel that nothing was accomplished over the vast number of days spent in California, but I am confident that our deputation would share that some positive action was taken by the House of Deputies and House of Bishops. Sadly though, just a few resolutions turned the focus from that of a Church on fire for the ministry of our Lord, to one of that was drawn deeper into a questionable future. This was stated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan D. Williams, at the outset of his response of July 27, 2009 to General Convention. The Archbishop follows very quickly on his words of commendation about the hospitality offered by The Episcopal Church at General Convention, with the following. “There has been an insistence at the highest level that the two most strongly debated resolutions (D025 and C056) do not have the automatic effect of overturning the requested moratoria, if the wording is studied carefully.” In the next paragraph Archbishop Williams continues with “However, a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces; very serious anxieties have already been expressed.” [Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future, Monday, July 27, 2009]

Resolution C056, while appearing to avoid the development of rites for same gender, calls for “an open process for consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender-relationships.” Further, it states “That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishop, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources, and report to the 77th General Convention.” Additionally, the fourth resolve states “That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church;” and lastly, “That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality.” When read carefully, the wording of the above resolution very clearly states that not just bishops in certain civil environments, but all bishops can authorize the blessing of same-gender unions, but are not required to do such. The action authorized by this resolution could not be more displacing to the moratoria of the Communion.

What is being addressed in D025 is the fact that while not stating that it is a repeal of B033, the resolution of General Convention 2006 that set the moratoria in place, D025 does state “that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God’s call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst” and that “General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church.” Here again, when carefully read, the content of this resolution also discharges the intent of the moratoria with regard to the election of a non-celibate gay or lesbian to the Office of Bishop.

It is important to note that neither of these resolutions, D025 and C056, addresses specifically Resolution B033 and the related moratoria against the consent and consecration of a non-celibate person, nor the blessing of same-gender persons. But rather, through the manner in which they have been put forth, bring about a dismissal of that provided through B033, and yet, both are critical to the ongoing development of the Anglican Covenant. [It is important to note that neither your elected deputation nor I supported the above two resolutions – C056 or D025.]

Where will this divisive action lead and what is the Communion saying about The Episcopal Church? The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that the Communion is indeed already broken in his reference about “the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces” as shared above. The Episcopal Church has sadly demonstrated over and over again a wanton willingness to allow for a separation within the family, and in this instance, in opposition to the urging of Archbishop Williams at the outset of General Convention for those assembled to not carry out further actions that would divide the Communion beyond where it is today. The reality of this division was so very evident by the noticeable absence of brothers and sisters who have been a part of the Councils of the Church in years past, and yet even with their departure, their lives remain in a state of uncertainty due to the void of recognition by the Anglican Communion and Archbishop of Canterbury.

While separated from some in the sense of the Church, and this due to the behaviour of portions of The Episcopal Church, we are truly one in the Spirit of Christ with them, and must endeavour to live this out in our lives regardless of where we stand. Our love, prayers and support for one another must be rooted in the language of Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians this day, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” [Ephesians 4:1-6]

Thus, after what appears to be too many years of waiting, as I come before you this day, I can’t help but present the need for us to not overreact, but rather, take things one day at a time. The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken before, and of late of a two-tiered or two-track Communion, and while providing a sense of hope for some with respect to the Communion and Covenant process, there still looms before us many questions to be answered, and for that matter, too many to endeavour to explore in this Pastoral Letter this day.

All of us will have the opportunity to talk about these issues and other weighty matters that came about through the action of General Convention as we share in the Post-General Convention Gatherings in the days ahead. (Information on this is being furnished with this letter, and sent to all congregations and clergy.) The things to be discussed are important, for they include legislation on a mandatory health care program and a mandatory lay pension plan that will impact congregations across the entire Church to mention just a few.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I wish there were words that I could offer today that would put our questions behind us and send us forth with a sense of peace, but unfortunately there are none. What I can tell you is to repeat what I have said for the past six years, and this is that we must first and foremost be about God’s work. The mission of the Church is before us and God’s expectation of how this is to be lived out is clearly spelled out for us in the Baptismal Covenant and Catechism.

We have no control over the direction taken by The Episcopal Church, the mechanism for this has been moving and continues to move in a direction that is contrary to Scripture, polity and the Constitution and Canons of General Convention. Yes, the train has left the station and sadly, appears to soon be fully off the tracks as it relates to the relationship of The Episcopal Church with the Anglican Communion.

What we do have control over however, is our Lord’s ministry in this portion of his vineyard, the Diocese of Western Louisiana. We need to continue to be about the exercise of this work as we have been for the past thirty years (Western Louisiana was formed in 1979), and as we have particularly for the past six years. And should we not, shame, shame on us. And what does this look like? We have, and must continue as the Body of Christ to ”“ “… contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” [Jude 1:3] Continue in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles and carry out Christ’s mission to all people. [BCP p.854]; Proclaim the Gospel with faithfulness as we seek to build up God’s kingdom in this place; Seek to fulfill the mission of the Church which is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. [BCP p.855]; Provide a welcoming place of worship for all of God’s people; Engage in and support the Covenant process as a diocese and member of the wider Anglican Communion, in communion with the See of Canterbury.

Where will I, your bishop, be in all of this?

Endeavouring to be ever present in my capacity as bishop for all of you, and remaining steadfast in guarding the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church as handed down from the apostles and down through the ages;

My position with regard to the blessing of same-gender unions remains the same, they will not be permitted in the Diocese of Western Louisiana;

My position with regard to the consent and consecration of non-celibate candidates to the episcopate remains unchanged. I will not give my consent;

My commitment to the work of Communion Partner Bishops as we seek to uphold our place within The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, in communion with the See of Canterbury.

I know well the answers some were looking for today are not here, but I would be disingenuous to imply that I know otherwise. For the moment and in the immediate days ahead, I envision our course of action to be one of following closely the response of the larger Church and further insight coming from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and seeking to build on the “Anaheim Statement” that was developed by a group of us during General Convention and to date signed by 35 bishops of the Church. (This statement can be found on the diocesan web site and in the issue of ALIVE! published this week.)

As your bishop I remain committed to ministering to the whole of God’s people in this diocese, and ensuring that we live with faithfulness into our Baptismal Covenant. To do this, I need your help and prayers and trust you know of my prayers for each of you. In closing I look to the Gospel of this day, and to Jesus words in response to the question, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” “Jesus answered, ”˜The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” and to which he later adds, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” [John 6:28-29; and 35]

Let us pray: “O Christ, we share the strengths and the frailties of your first disciples. We share their devotion to you. We share their weaknesses: we do not fully trust in your power to heal and to save. Nor do we believe that we share in these gifts. We find your words cloaked in riddle and parable, your actions hard to understand. Like Peter, we refuse to believe that rejection, sacrifice, and death can ever be God’s way. Yet, O Jesus, you love us and continually call us to your side. Cleanse our hearts of selfishness and fear; give us the love that bears all things, believes all things, and hopes and endures all things. Amen.”

Faithfully in the light of Christ,

–(The Rt. Rev.) D. Bruce MacPherson is Bishop of Western Louisiana

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

Chaplains on the front lines of Army suicide prevention

(UMNS) Anything a soldier tells a chaplain is confidential ”“ and that fact is the single biggest reason clergy are on the front lines of the U.S. Army’s suicide prevention efforts, United Methodist chaplains say.

“Chaplains have specialized training and are gatekeepers for the prevention programs,” said Chaplain Lt. Col. Scott Weichl, behavioral health program manager at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

“Many, many folks come and talk to us. We are not judgmental, and many who have had serious difficulties just need someone to talk to,” added Weichl, who is a United Methodist chaplain. “We try to discern, to triage who needs to see someone with special training and skills.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Methodist, Military / Armed Forces, Other Churches, Psychology, Suicide

New robots help humans cope with illness

Robots that can cook, dance to Michael Jackson songs or guide the blind are among the gadgets aimed at helping humans cope with illnesses on display in Spain at one of the world’s biggest annual gatherings of new technology enthusiasts.

Standing 58 centimetres (23 inches) tall and with a plastic shell for a body, a humanoid robot called Nao drew a crowd at the Campus Party in Valencia as it danced to Jackson’s “Billie Jean” with a black hat on its head.

“I am thrilled to be at the Campus Party!” it said in in a mechanical voice in English.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

Rob Renfroe: The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal

I have been part of numerous dialogue sessions within the Texas Annual Conference in regard to the denomination’s stance on homosexuality. I have listened and I have been heard. During these dialogues, I heard the deeper issues beneath the presenting issue of homosexuality. They are the same issues I have heard at recent General Conferences. In reality, there are four issues dividing our church that cut to the very heart of what it means to be a church family. They deal with truth, Scripture, revelation, and Jesus Christ….

You never save a troubled institution by refusing to talk about what’s wrong. You save an institution by doing what’s right. You don’t save a hurting institution by maintaining the status quo. You save an institution by changing its present dysfunctional reality. And as important as it is, you don’t make a divided church whole simply by engaging in dialogues. You must at some point provide courageous and, if need be, costly leadership that others will follow.

Like a good counselor, the one thing our leaders must not do is to ignore our deepest issues or act as if they do not matter. They must lead us to those issues and they must speak truth to the Church so that, with a unified voice, we will speak truth to the culture, that the world may believe.

Where are we? We are in a place where band-aid solutions, denial, and institutional responses will not save us. We are in a place where we need leaders to lead and we need people of biblical faith to be people of courage and character.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Methodist, Other Churches

Conservative Anglicans Celebrate Growth; Lament Episcopal Actions

While conservatives see themselves as remaining faithful to Anglican tradition and Scripture, they see The Episcopal Church veering further away from the rest of the worldwide communion.

“The Episcopal Church is heading in a direction that’s incompatible with mainstream Anglican convictions and mainstream Christian faith,” Minns told reporters Friday.

This month, Episcopal leaders approved two resolutions that open the ordination process to all baptized members, including practicing homosexuals, and call for the development of liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex unions.

Those actions, Minns said, takes them “further down the road of apostasy.”

“What comes next is hard to predict but one thing is sure ”“ the leadership of The Episcopal Church has made it very clear that there is no turning back, their ears are closed and their hearts are hardened,” the CANA bishop said in his address Friday at the annual council.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, CANA, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention

An Appleton, Wisconsin, Post-Crescent story on the Episcopal Church's General Convention

The resolution acknowledges a pastoral response is called for in light of changing circumstances in the United States and abroad and in areas that permit marriage, civil unions and/or domestic partnerships involving same-sex couples.

While a substantial majority at the convention believed the Episcopal Church should move forward on matters of sexuality, Jacobus is a member of the minority. A statement was drafted that reaffirmed the minority group’s stance as members of the Anglican Communion and commitment to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ. The group also reaffirmed its commitment not to ordain bishops in committed same-gender relationships, offer same gender blessings or enter into one another’s diocese to do so.

“We’re continuing to take small steps forward to be inclusive of all people, but this wasn’t a big deal like many hoped it would be,” [Bishop Russell] Jacobus said of the convention. “I think if it would have been, it might have divided the church.”

Ah, yes, a small change. Apparently Bishop Jacobus went to a different General Convention than the one Integrity and the New York Times went to. Read it all–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops

In Johnston, Penna., split leaves two parishes, the Anglicans being hosted by the Methodists

When members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 335 Locust St., voted 2-1 in January to remain in the Episcopal Church of the United States, the Rev. Doug Blakelock, church pastor, and about 40 members separated from St. Mark’s.

“One third of the congregation did not want to stay in the Episcopal Church,” Blakelock said in the Oakland United Methodist Church sanctuary.

“Deacon Marion Kush and I led them out, and the very next Sunday we met here.”

The Methodist congregation graciously opened the doors for their neighbors to hold a Eucharist healing service on Jan. 18, Blakelock explained.

The breakaway Episcopalians founded St. Matthew’s Anglican Church. They have been worshiping Sunday afternoons in the Oakland church at 1504 Bedford St. ever since.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), Methodist, Other Churches, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Departing Parishes, TEC Parishes

An LA Times Editorial on the Episcopal Church

With a little more than 2 million members, the Episcopal Church of the United States is far from being the country’s largest Christian denomination. But its recent pronouncements indicating support for openly gay bishops and church blessings for same-sex couples will have reverberations beyond that church, beyond Christianity and even beyond religion. For all the theological issues it raises, acceptance of gays and lesbians at the altar reflects — and affects — the campaign for equality in the larger society.

Meeting last month in Anaheim, the General Convention of the denomination approved two resolutions that will widen the split between the U.S. branch of Anglicanism and many of the other 43 churches worldwide that trace their roots to the Church of England. One resolution calls for a “renewed pastoral response from this church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships.” The other affirms that God has called gays and lesbians to “any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

A Washington Post Article on Rowan Williams: Beleaguered Is The Peacemaker

…[Archbishop Rowan Williams’] latest proposal to hold together the warring factions, a two-track system that could give his rebellious U.S. Episcopal Church a secondary role in the Communion, has disappointed just about everyone.

“It’s well meaning but, I think, a futile attempt to paper over two irreconcilable truth claims,” said Bishop Martyn Minns, former rector of Truro Church in Fairfax City, who heads a group of congregations that has broken from the Episcopal Church because its members think that the church does not follow the Bible closely enough.

Those on the other side aren’t happy either.

“It doesn’t contribute to holding people together,” said Bishop Peter James Lee of the Virginia Diocese. “Even though he explicitly says this is not a first-class, second-class division, it feels that way.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Global South Churches & Primates, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

ACNS: The New Issue of the Christian-Muslim digest is now available online

The July 2009 issue of the Digest of Christian-Muslim relations, which is produced by the Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns in fulfilment of the mandate given to it by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, is now available on this website….

The issue looks at news from China and the oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang region; Iraq and bombing of churches in Baghdad; Malaysia and whether or not Christians can use ”˜Allah’ for God; Somalia and the killing of Christians; Pakistan and the Taliban’s introduction of jizya in Malakand; then at a Global Study of Interfaith Relations conducted by Gallup Poll, which concentrates on the integration of Muslims in Europe.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! Thy decrees are very sure; holiness befits thy house, O LORD, for evermore.

–Psalm 93:4-5

Posted in Uncategorized

The Economist–The next few weeks could determine the fate of Barack Obama’s presidency

IF THE opinion polls are to be believed, Barack Obama is now, six months into his presidency, no more popular than George Bush or Richard Nixon were at the same stage in theirs. His ratings are sagging particularly badly with electorally vital independent voters: two-thirds of them think he wants to spend too much of their money. Two of the most specific pledges he made to the electorate””to reform health care and to produce a cap-and-trade system to curb greenhouse-gas emissions””are in trouble. And an impression is being formed in Washington of a presidency that is far too ready to hand over the direction of domestic policy to Congress; that is drifting either deliberately or lethargically leftwards; and that is more comfortable with lofty visions than details. On the campaign trail Mr Obama showed an impressive ability to change gears. He needs to do so again this summer.

His cause is by no means hopeless. Just as his initial Messianic polling numbers were misleadingly optimistic, his problems should now be put into context. Most obviously, nearly 200 days into office, he has avoided making any horrific mistakes, especially in the fraught business of economic policy. On the hardly insignificant matter of restoring America’s reputation in the world he has delivered a degree of what he promised (though even there the tough times are still ahead of him, as our next leader makes clear). He has had to cope with the worst recession for half a century. He has been curiously ill-served by a press short of useful criticism, with liberal America prepared only to debate what sort of water he walks on best, while conservative radio hosts argue over when exactly he became a communist. And of course, government is darned hard: even when you make the right decision””to close Guantánamo, for instance””it can take years to put into effect.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Interracial Churches

KIM LAWTON, anchor: A tense national debate about racial profiling has continued since Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested in his Cambridge home for disorderly conduct. Gates, who is African-American, was arrested by Sergeant James Crowley, a white officer who had responded to a 9-11 call about a possible break-in. The controversy intensified when President Obama said the police “acted stupidly” when they arrested Gates. The president later said he regretted his choice of words and he hosted both Gates and Crowley at the White House Thursday for a conciliatory beer. The incident and the ensuing debate show how divisive racial issues can be in this country. Even though America has elected its first black president, efforts toward racial integration are often still fraught with difficulties, not least in churches where it’s been said that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. Lucky Severson reports.

LUCKY SEVERSON: If something seems odd or unusual about these worshippers, maybe it’s the diversity, all the different colors and nationalities of their faces. This is the Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, and Pastor Rodney Woo couldn’t be more proud of the cultural and racial mix of his congregation.

Pastor RODNEY WOO (Wilcrest Baptist Church, Houston, TX): I think my main passion is to get people ready for heaven. I think a lot of our people are going to go into culture shock when they get to heaven, and they get to sit next to somebody that they didn’t maybe sit with while they were here on earth. So we’re trying to get them acclimated a little bit.

SEVERSON: Assuming Pastor Woo is right, there are a lot of congregations that need to get acclimated. A recent study found that only 7 percent of churches in the US are integrated. This comes as no surprise to Ohio State sociology professor Korie Edwards, author of the book “The Elusive Dream.”

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Prolonged Aid to Unemployed Is Running Out

Over the coming months, as many as 1.5 million jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits, ending what for some has been a last bulwark against foreclosures and destitution.

Because of emergency extensions already enacted by Congress, laid-off workers in nearly half the states can collect benefits for up to 79 weeks, the longest period since the unemployment insurance program was created in the 1930s. But unemployment in this recession has proved to be especially tenacious, and a wave of job-seekers is using up even this prolonged aid.

Tens of thousands of workers have already used up their benefits, and the numbers are expected to soar in the months to come, reaching half a million by the end of September and 1.5 million by the end of the year, according to new projections by the National Employment Law Project, a private research group.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Megan McCardle–More on Obesity: Is the Government to Blame?

The problem with all these sorts of theories is that they do an okay job explaining the latitudinal data–we’re fat, we’re subsidizing roads, we’re subsidizing corn, so that must be making us fat!–but they don’t explain the trend. I have not done an exhaustive survey, but I’ve been unable to find any study that even attempts to establish in any sort of rigorous way that Americans have become more sedentary in, say, the last twenty or thirty years.

The data is even less persuasive for other candidates. Corn, and simple starches more broadly, have been the cheapest part of the American diet for centuries. As a child, my mother didn’t get any fresh vegetables at all eight months out of the year, because they simply weren’t available. She got frozen or canned, but their two winter staples were sugared homemade applesauce and butternut sqaush, both of which are basically pure simple carbohydrate. Lean chicken was pricier than beef, but fatty pork was cheaper than either. Look in a cookbook from the thirties or fifties and you’ll find that recipes for some sort of mostly starch dish are at least 65% of the book. And those weren’t healthy whole grains, either. They were white flour, or rice, richly laced with fat and sugar.

With the possible exception of corn subsidies (I don’t have good data on the relative penetration of corn into the food supply chain), almost every alleged deficit that is “causing” our obesity epidemic, from highways to bad urban grocery stores, is either basically the same as it was fifteen years ago, or somewhat better. So I find them deeply unsatisfying as a causal explanation for the sudden uptick in overweight people now.

To me, government behavior is at best an incredibly incomplete explanation of what’s happening. A better fit is simply that food–all food–has gotten much cheaper. People spend less of their income on food than they did thirty years ago, despite consuming a lot more of it. Stopping them from doing so will require a great deal more than subsidizing tomatoes.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Politics in General