Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Word and Sacrament, before and after

As I continue on my Sabbatical and troll the various blogs (left, right, and center) describing the current travails in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, I just came across the following quote from Fr. Tony Clavier:
...the majority of parishioners, by far, are moderate people who hate the headlines and worship faithfully in their parish churches, don't much bother about the diocese, don't read Borg or Wright and distrust the National Church on principle, whether that principle is informed or not.
I'm very pleased that someone else is writing what I have been saying for what seems like years -- that, for good or ill, the average person-in-the-pew is primarily concerned about the goings on in his or her own parish, has perhaps a passing interest in the diocese (though there is often a "don't bother is, we won't bother you" sense), and care little or nothing for national church, much less international church (Anglican Communion) goings on.

I have repeatedly told the congregation I serve that regardless of General Convention resolutions, statements from various gatherings, press releases, or anything else we will still gather for worship on Sunday morning, hear Holy Scripture read and preached upon, and celebrate and receive the Eucharist. We will also continue to worry about money, gather for fellowship in coffee hour and at other times, and generally be the Body of Christ of the Episcopal flavor in Albany, Oregon. I say this not to minimize the challenges before the larger church, but to remind everyone (including me!) that the church has often been beset by controversies, disagreements, even schism. Yet, at our best, we are grounded in Word and Sacrament and it in the daily and weekly devotion in the local church that Christ is most directly encountered.

So we pray for the church, but hopefully don't allow ourselves to be caught up in the distractions of the larger body.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Investing in the Future of the World

In my continued Sabbatical (web) Surfing, I ran across a great organization through the web site of another great organization, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, for whom my friend The Reverend Mike Kinman works as Executive Director. What I found was Kiva, an organization that allows a person to not only make micro-loans to people in developing countries, but to choose a specific person to loan that money to! This is not charity, this is money that will used to make a permanent difference in the life of each person, their family, and perhaps their entire village.

With the stock market having just plunged over 500 points in two days, doesn't it make sense to make an investment where not only you get all the money back you loaned, but make a difference in someone's life? I think it does, and that's why I've become a lender. Care to join me? Just click on the link to the left.

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Anglican Non-Anxious Presence

My original plan for my Sabbatical was to take a break, or Sabbath rest, from news of the Episcopal Church. I unsubscribed from the Episcopal Life Online (ELO, which still makes me think of the group Electric Light Orchestra, but that's beside the point...) and vowed that I would avert my eyes from the news of the wider church in the interest of escaping from what seems the continual bad news emerging from various parts of the Anglican Communion.

That Sabbath lasted about a week.

There are two reasons that I decided to re-engage with the news events of the church. Initially it was because, frankly, I couldn't help myself. I hated being out of the information loop. However, in the wake of my experience at CDI-Seattle, my second reason (far better) was that simply running away, even for a time, from the conflicts raging around the church (or even the inevitable conflicts within my own congregation) increasingly seemed to be to be bowing to fear and a spirit of worry and anxiety. This is in sharp contrast to being what the late Edwin Freeman, in his book Generation to Generation, referred to as being a "non-anxious presence" in any given situation. As I see statements and counter-statements rage across blogs, church newspapers, and even the secular press, it strikes me that there is often precious little reason (the third leg of the Anglican three-legged stool) associated with them, and a substantial dose of either fear or anger. My newly-accepted challenge for my life and ministry is to remain present in the midst of national, diocesan, and congregational conflicts while not being overly anxious about those conflicts and discerning where God may be speaking through them.

In that spirit, I ran across the following blog entry on The Episcopal Majority blog. The author, The Reverend Matthew Dutton-Gillett, remarks on the recent essay by the Most Reverend Henry Luke Orambi, Archbishop of Uganda. on the topic "What is Anglicanism?" Fr. Dutton-Gilbert writes, in part,
"Debate about sexuality, or more precisely, homosexuality, is not really the issue; it is, rather, a very significant symptom. The real issue is this divide about how the Bible is to be interpreted and understood, and its place in the life of the church."
That is, in my opinion, indeed true. However, you rarely, if ever, see any sort of debate on that issue. Couple that with the current manifestation of the debate regarding homosexuality, with all the strong feelings and cultural issues that brings up, and you have a very challenging situation.

He also quotes what he takes to be Archbishop Orambi's central point:
"In the Church of Uganda, Anglicanism has been built on three pillars: martyrs, revival, and the historic episcopate. Yet each of these refers back to the Word of God, the ground on which all is built: The faith of the martyrs was maintained by the Word of God, the East African revival brought to the people the Word of God, and the historic ordering of ministry was designed to advance the Word of God."
Thus the entire Church of Uganda apparently stands or falls solely on scripture, and thus the "correct" interpretation of scripture. It is little wonder, therefore, that differing interpretations of scripture would have far more significance for them than for us in the Episcopal Church.

Contrast those pillars with the fourfold pillars of Scripture, Creed, Episcopate, and Sacraments in the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral and you begin to see from whence the divide emerges. Arguably, we in the Episcopal Church have been marked by only one of the three "pillars of Anglicanism" at work in Uganda: the historic episcopate. Our martyrs are few and far between, revival has occasionally quickened the church but not often had a lasting impact, and we do not operate in nearly the sort of adversarial environment that the Church of Uganda does. Similarly, they do not operate in the sort of pluralistic, individual rights-based environment that we do. In the past, that was fine--without instant communication via the Internet, we could pretty much live out our faith in relative isolation. With the rise of globalization, that is no longer possible. So, how then do we live together?

For me, and I suspect for a great number of others, it comes down to what is essential to our Christian faith as opposed to what is important, but non-essential. Doctrines such as the Incarnation, Resurrection, and the Trinity as well as Holy Scripture as "the Word of God [containing] all things necessary to salvation" (Oath of Conformity, BCP, p. 526) seem like basic foundations on which most Anglicans and Episcopalians can agree. Even if that is not the case, all we can really do that is productive at this point is take a deep breath, pray, pray again, and then be as faithful to our own call from God as congregations and individuals as possible.

So, I will, with God's help, continue to be present to congregational, diocesan, and national church concerns, hopefully without giving in to the temptation to be anxious in the midst of inevitable conflict. After all, God is still in charge and it is God's church, not mine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Harry Potter alter ego is...

Well, I saw this on a friend's blog and took the quiz myself, so....

You scored as Remus Lupin, You are a wise and caring wizard and a good,
loyal friend to boot. However sometimes in an effort to be liked by others
you can let things slide by, which ordinarily you would protest about.

Remus Lupin


Hermione Granger


Ron Weasley


Ginny Weasley


Albus Dumbledore


Severus Snape


Sirius Black


Draco Malfoy


Harry Potter


Lord Voldemort


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tourism and Pilgrimage

It is Saturday evening, I'm in the process of making dinner, and I am also slowly working my way through Diana Butler Bass' latest book Christianity for the Rest of Us. (My wife is quickly working her way through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which gives you some idea of the diversity of literature in our household.) In her book, Diana Butler Bass writes about spiritual tourists verses spiritual pilgrims. As I contemplated the difference, it struck me that I am on a pilgrimage in a place awash with tourists! Most people come to Hawaii for a week or two and attempt to cram as much as possible into that time. Things like the "Top 10 Things to Do on Oahu", the Hawaii Vacation Travel Guide, or even the Oahu Visitor's Bureau website are offered for just this purpose. Their purpose is to help you to accumulate experiences of Hawaii of all kinds: cultural, gastronomic, geographic, etc... They are in sharp contrast to the Hawaii Newcomers Guide or Hawaii Moms, two publications that cater primarily to Hawaii residents, not vacationers. They are designed for people who intend to stay and live, not just visit.

Being here for almost seven weeks does not exactly make me a resident newcomer, but it certainly places me well beyond the time-frame of a typical tourist. For one thing, if I spent as much money per week as a tourist typically does, I'd be broke very soon! However, as someone on sabbatical rather than vacation, this trip helps me to contemplate what it is like to be a pilgrim, a wandering newcomer who is neither a seasoned resident living life day-to-day nor a pressed-for-time tourist trying to cram as much as possible into a short span of time.

As someone who has grown up in the church, I've always been a resident, rarely a pilgrim, and never a tourist. Experiencing what it is to be such a pilgrim may well alter how I do ministry, and certainly how I respond to those God brings to St. Alban's on their pilgrimage. Coupled with the renewed appreciation for the riches of the Anglican/Episcopal tradition gained from my time at CDI, I'm beginning to think about how the next chapter of my ordained ministry will unfold. I suspect one hallmark of my ministry will be a sense of peace and lack of hurry. After all, most pilgrims have plenty of time!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Aloha from Hawaii!

I have now been here in Honolulu for several days, gotten somewhat oriented, and am awaiting the arrival of my family before heading out to enjoy what Oahu has to offer. Both the congregation of St. George's, Honolulu and I have survived our first service together and it seemed to go well. It is also, frankly, wonderful not to have a huge "to-do" list in front of me like I often do at my own congregation. So, I'll sit back, relax, enjoy the islands, and store up as much relaxation as I can in preparation for Fall.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Agreement to Disagree (from Fr. Jake's Blog)

For many years I have been of the opinion that matters of sexuality should not be causes of schism or determinative of a person's orthodoxy in essential matters of faith. Now, Paul Stanley, a contributor to Fr. Jake's Blog, has come out with an An Agreement to Disagree. I welcome this succinct agreement which may well be the best summary and plan I have run across for dealing with current difficulties. As I have pointed out in my comment on the post, the "agreement" assumes the authorization of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions or the modification of the marriage canons to allow the marriage rite to be used with two people of the same sex. Whether that will happen or not at General Convention 2009 is an open question, at this point. There are many things that will no doubt happen between now and then.

One of the many reasons I like the above agreement is that it separates sexuality issues from the more core issues and doctrines like the Incarnation, Resurrection, Trinity, etc... which I think should be rigorously defended as they are core pieces of the Nicene and Apostles' creeds and therefore most definitely should be labeled "core doctrine."

See what you think, and comment as you wish.

P.S. Aloha from Hawaii!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The In-Between Time

Well, having left Seattle on Saturday, June 30 and made a brief stop in Albany, I've now been in California for several days visitng family and enjoying some time durng which I have virtually nothing to do. Having moved from life as an active VIcar of a Pastoral-sized parish, to two intensive weeks of the study of church development, I'm now into the relaxation/revival phase of my sabbatical. I leave for St. George's, Honolulu, Hawaii in less than a week where I will both serve as supply clergy occasionally (preach and lead worship) and also house-sit for the Vicar of St. George's, Fr. Mark Juchter. So, the next time you hear from me, it will probably be from Hawaii!