Saturday, September 29, 2007

More House of Bishops Summaries and Analysis

Well, the blog beat goes on in the wake of the recently-concluded House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. An excellent, though somewhat tongue-in-cheek, summary of the meeting is posted by The Rev. Susan Fawcett on Episcopal Cafe.

There is an interesting time-line shaping up here. If the Anglican Consultative Council follows the pattern they have established of meeting every three years, then they will meet in 2008, the same year as the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference. One or more Primates Meetings, of course, may be held at any point in time. Following both of those meetings, the Episcopal Church will meet in General Convention in 2009. By that time, the overall direction of the Anglican Communion should be pretty clear, meaning that GC2009 will probably be dealing with the results of such meetings (possibly redrawing diocesan boundaries, etc...) rather than replying to yet another set of inquiries.

Keep praying...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dancing Around the Center

As the initial flurry of responses and analysis of the statement from the House of Bishops has begun, I've attempted to keep up with some of the discussions that have ensued. As I remarked earlier, folks on both the conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum are unhappy with the statement. It is difficult to find a moderate take on the statement, but I happened to run across an article in the Church Times (London) that pretty much summarizes my opinion on the whole thing. Most especially, this observation:
By making this concessionary statement, allying themselves to the Windsor process, and inviting further debate, the Episcopalian Bishops have placed themselves firmly in the Anglican mainstream, however others prefer to define that word. There is nothing to stop the US conservatives’ continuing to combine with provinces in the Global South, but such moves will take them away from the centre.
I think that the author has it exactly right: the House of Bishops said what they could reasonably say, given the constraints of polity and power under which they operate. They served notice that they expect other provinces to actually engage in the "listening process" called for in Lambeth 1.10 (acknowledging how difficult that process might be in certain cultures), and staking out a middle ground that isolates the more conservative folks (who left early anyway) as they seek to cast an image of the Episcopal Church as radically liberal. I hope and pray that most provinces aren't buying it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sabbatical Re-Entry

Well, I'm back. Back in the office, back at the church, back doing the Vicar thing. On the positive side, nothing flared up during my absence. On the negative side, the same problems that were there before are still there. Sigh. In any case, the point of a Sabbatical is not necessarily to solve the problems, but to change the way the person taking the time away looks at them. I'm certainly at a much better place in my life and ministry now than I was three months ago.

Certainly many eyes are on the recently concluded meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Their statement seems to at least move the conversation forward without giving up to much in the way of at least perceived progress. Everyone acknowledges that the issue of homosexuality is not going away any time soon. The fact that both folks on the conservative and liberal end of the spectrum seem to be less than enthusiastic about the statement seems to be to be a good indication that it strikes a moderate tone.

That's pretty much all I'm going to say on that. Others have written on their first impressions and the statement (and responses) will no doubt continue to be discussed. For me, things like our upcoming Fall Pledge Campaign, participation in the diocesan strategic planning process, and the myriad of housekeeping (churchkeeping?) items are more at the front of my mind these days.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

PERCEPTions in Southern California

As my Sabbatical winds down (ending this Saturday) I am currently in Southern California (Lake Forest, to be precise) taking a three-day course at the headquaters of The Percept Group, the demographics organization that generates reports about the shape of congregations and their surrounding communities. With one day down, I have learned much and look forward to making use of that information in both my congregation and the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. Having begun with the Church Development Institute in Seattle focusing on development of my own congregation, it seems fitting that I end my Sabbatical with a focus on both the immediate surrounding community and the diocese as a whole. It will likely take me weeks, if not months, to process what I have learned and to get my brain up to speed with all of the things I've learned as well as all that needs doing at St. Alban's. Should be an interesting next several months, though.

I'm unlikely to post another blog entry before the end of my Sabbatical and my first Sunday back behind pulpit and altar, so consider this my closing Sabbatical blog! See you on the other side.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nigerian bishop says gay people are "Not fit to live"?

UPDATE: Mark Harris reports that "...the reporter for the News Agency of Nigeria may have misquoted Bishop Orama of Nigeria, or worse deliberately done so. UPI has pulled the story pending further investigation." I'm happy to hear that, but the environment that spawns even the possibility of such statements continues to exist in far too many quarters and from far too many people, including clergy.

Normally I attempt to stay somewhat out of the current wrangling in the church regarding sexual ethics. As a centrist, I try to steer a balanced, middle course. However, every time I'm tempted to veer a little towards the conservative end of the spectrum, a conservative cleric comes along and gives me something that either causes me to veer the other way or, occasionally, just makes my jaw drop. Such was a quote by the Anglican Bishop of Uyo (in Nigeria). A recent article quoted him as follows:
"Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God's purpose for man,'' the Bishop said."
I cannot believe that a man of God, someone who professes to be a Christian, would seriously say that anyone is "insane, satanic, and...not fit to live." Such rhetoric, far from being helpful, appears to indicate, at least to me, that the "listening process" mandated by the much-referred-to Lambeth resolution has had next to no effect in parts of the Anglican Communion.

In any case, as the September 30 "deadline" looms, it may be well to recall that some of the "orthodox" harbor the above view. Many do not, but there is a strain of folks in the seperatist movement who regard homosexuality as utterly evil and those who "practice" homosexuality as people who should be cast into the darkness or the fires of hell. Hard to see a via media (middle way) here...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor and Love

It is Labor Day here in the United States, a day on which we honor all who, as the saying goes, put in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. I personally am in the process of counting down the last two weeks of my Sabbatical, beginning to stir my heart and mind and consider both the church development project I will be undertaking as part of my course of study from the Church Development Institute, but also what, in the longer term, God might have in mind for St. Alban's and for me in the months and years to come. The work of a priest is both job and relationship, both the challenges of running a nonprofit business (sort of, since the church is hardly just another charity) and the ups and downs of a relationship that is much like a marriage -- with all of the joys and difficulties that such a covenant relationship brings.

As I contemplate my own ministry, I ran across this article in Episcopal Cafe regarding Mother Teresa's ministry in the slums of Calcutta. I have blogged earlier about how troubling it is for me that she labored so hard and so long while in spiritual darkness. However, the article gives a rather different take on it from someone who has actually worked in that ministry. After reading the article, I've somewhat changed my mind about the things I wrote in my earlier blog post. While it is always best to serve out of a conviction of purpose and relationship, I think that there is something to be said for simply living what you believe, serving Christ even in the absence of reassurance. After all, what relationship is perfect? How many marriages end simply because one or both partners don't "feel the love" strongly enough for their own comfort? Certainly, in both marriage and ministry, sometimes one must simply put one foot in front of the other and walk the path that has been set before us and make the journey to which we have committed ourselves.

Interesting thoughts for a Labor Day. Sometimes, the labor of love is truly labor, even if done in love.