Friday, June 30
Wednesday morning: hump day. Clare tries to lessen the blow of what often proves to be hardest day to get through by treating us to a French toast breakfast at the Palace. Yum. We linger over the maple syrup and then schlep back to church for more of the same work. We’re a little tired from the week’s escapades, but we manage to still put in a sincere effort to keep the repairs coming. The painting group has started sealing the floor and staining the woodwork in the church. The drywall effort continues, and some raking and weed work happens outside. We eat bologna sandwiches for lunch. It is a good day.
At night, our group splits into two groups. The majority of folks head to the movie theater to see Superman Returns on its opening night. The leftover people stay back at the Palace for a rousing game of Scrabble (George wins) and some down time. The predominant report from the movie is that it’s not that good, especially if you are in the front row of the theater.
After our evening plans we file off to bed. We seem to have no problem sleeping this week – between the work and the heat we knock out fast, regardless of our lodging.
Thursday we are back up and at it again. Today we start a couple of new projects in addition to the dry wall and the painting. A few of us have decided to take on the sacristy of the church, which is in dire need of some TLC. It hasn’t been used since the storm, and the items that were once found there (thuribles, altar linens, tapers, patens and chalices) can be found scattered all over the back hallways of the church. By repairing the walls and cleaning and organizing the sacristy we can make it usable again, which will free up other space in the church. We also start painting the room that will serve as the nursery for the church, a priority for the Grace church community. Finally, we have been asked to stain and repair three large bookcases. In the midst of these new projects, we also keep plugging away on our old ones. The end of our time here is in sight, and we are trying to get as much done as we can before we leave.
As the week has progressed we have adjusted to our surroundings. The closed stores have started to look normal, we are used to the water lines on the area buildings, and the trash on the streets seems commonplace. But then we trip across something that jars us from that normalcy. While cleaning out the sacristy on Thursday we came across one of these things. An old church register was lying in a box on top of a cabinet, its pages purple from the ink and warped from the water. The last date in the register was August 28th, and the lines and pages after that were blank. There were ten people at the service that morning. We learned that some of the people that had been at that service evacuated the area that afternoon, picking up neighbors on their way out of town. They drove to Monroe, Louisiana, where many of them stayed for weeks. These stories are important for us to hear. We do not want to become complacent.
Thursday night brought another exciting event for our group. George had arranged for us to go to a Zephyrs game, Louisiana’s minor league baseball team. We loved having the change of scene. Though sparsely attended, the atmosphere at the game was light and enthusiastic. And the food vendors at this baseball stadium were no joke. We had our choice of Mexican, barbecue, Cajun, burgers, po boys, ice cream, sno-balls, and more. We chowed and cheered, and left at the end of the evening tired and satisfied. But the Zephyrs lost. Bummer.
Friday will be our last day of work here, and we’ll try to accomplish as much as we can at the church. We wish that we can stay longer and do more to help (but we are looking forward to coming home too!).
Thursday, June 29
Have a look. If you get all excited, you can look up the full text of all resolutions proposed, check the status of each one, and see all the amendments.
As you'll see, fighting and sex made up 2.47% of all resolutions. (I just made up that number, but it seems about right.) For some reason, fighting and sex drew about 63% of all media coverage, while our new Presiding Bishop resulted in 32% (again, just go with me here--I was making a point). Almost all the resolutions were about the ordinary business of being a church, and many of the resolutions (related to slavery, elimination of poverty, etc.) were about making us a better church.
Responses have been pouring in to the news of late. I won't list a bunch of stuff here, but I'd encourage you to read at least four blogs, if you want to follow this stuff. Here are my suggestions. Enjoy.
Finally, another bit of humor, which I gleaned from the Questioning Christian (see "suggestions" above).
How about the sale of action figures? I found this one, of Bishop Iker. Perhaps we could have a whole series of figures, ideal for collectors of all theological persuasions.
Please note this disclaimer, for the humor impaired: this is humor. I picked Iker because I saw him. If someone sends links to Robinson-man or any other bishop, I'd be happy to share the humor equally among right and left. I have suggested this idea to the Bishop's Office here in Rhode Island, and I hope they'll get back to me soon. I'm waiting by the phone, but there's no ringing yet!
(I think I saw the Iker figure first on the Stand Firm site.)
Here's the full statement on gambling:
The people of God live neither by chance nor by fate, but rather by the grace of God, and through the victory of Jesus Christ. The plan for our lives as indeed the intended final destination of all humanity is God’s plan, wrought according to God’s decrees in creation, in the creating of humanity in God’s image, and in the redemption of that humanity by God’s Son, our Risen Lord. In the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who spoke through the prophets, discloses God’s will and empowers God’s people to live according to God’s plan and God calls them in this life to bear witness to this good news. This is not a matter of coincidence, or of accident, or of mere fortune.
Games involving throwing dice or other objects were known in biblical times. These games extended to gambling but are only mentioned in reference to Jesus’ clothes (John 19:24). “Casting lots” was a cultural way of determining responsibility and a religious way to know God’s will (Nahum 3:10); (Joshua 18:6); (Acts 1:26). “Casting lots” is never endorsed as a way to get money.
Covetousness and greed, which motivate gambling, are strongly condemned by biblical ethics as contrary to trusting God for our daily bread. Sustenance is the blessing of God (Matthew 6:31-34) and the result of work (Ephesians 4:28). Gambling’s glorification of mere chance denies divine order in nature and disregards the insistence of the church of every age that possessions are entrusted to us and we are accountable for their use. The persistent appeal to self-satisfaction is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness which was taught by Jesus Christ and the Bible.
During General Convention, the Diocese of Fort Worth (Texas) announced they wanted "alternative primatial oversight." This was in protest of the election of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the next Presiding Bishop. You can read the statement on their diocesan website.
On Wednesday, three more dioceses joined Forth Worth in seeking oversight by a different Presiding Bishop. The three dioceses are San Joaquin, South Carolina, and Pittsburgh. Of those dioceses, Fort Worth and San Joaquin have refused to recognize the ordination of women priests or bishops. Quincy is unhappy too, as this statement indicates (PDF file).
Pittsburgh's statement proposes the creation of a tenth province in the Episcopal Church, presumably made up of conservative dioceses. It is not clear how this would be adequate, given that all nine current provinces are part of The Episcopal Church, of which the Presiding Bishop is head. Perhaps the dioceses will eventually seek to be the "covenant" presence in the US, while the Episcopal Church would be the "affiliated" presence, following the bifurcation suggested by Archbishop Williams in his theological reflection.
You can read some coverage of this whole scene on various websites. Here's progressive take on the situation, and here's a more conservative take on what's happening. Here's the AP newswire story and the NY Times article.
Frank Griswold, as reported in this ENS press release, had some words about Pittsburgh. (I try to present sources here for people to read and form opinions, but I feel compelled to note that this news release is some of the most overt spin I've seen coming out of 815. One wonders why the facts wouldn't be presented on their own merits.)
I find the action by the Standing Committee and Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh unsurprising and altogether consistent with their implicit intention of walking apart from the Episcopal Church.The urgency of their appeal indicates an unwillingness to be part of the process of formulating a covenant so clearly set forth in the Archbishop of Canterbury's reflection. I would very much hope that they would remain part of the Episcopal Church as we, along with the other provinces of the Communion, explore our Anglican identity - as the Archbishop has invited us to do.
It does seem to me that Griswold has a good point. What's the hurry? The Presiding Bishop has very little ability to effect any change in the inner workings of a diocese, so why are these four dioceses in such a hurry? What about the Windsor Report's listening process? As if to confirm the thing that wags have been saying for months now, namely that at least some of the conservative impetus is the desire for power, today also brought news that Canon Martyn Minns of Virginia's Truro Church has been elected a bishop in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. That certainly makes clear his desire, or lack thereof, to stay in the Episcopal Church, since Nigeria has declared itself out of communion with the Episcopal Church.
Much happened today. I would encourage prayer for everyone involved. I also hope that all of us (no matter our ideological, theological, or political persuasion) can be honest about who we are, what our motivations are, and what we hope to accomplish. In the last two weeks, we've seen lots of unsavory and perhaps even unchristian machinations emanating from all the extremes in this. It has been reported that some bishops cast their votes in the House of Bishops for a Presiding Bishop candidate whom they felt was unqualified just to further their agenda of schism. Let it stop.
Bishop Wimberly of Texas, no liberal, said this yesterday, in a response to General Convention:
I am going to hold onto the central importance of “communion” and I refuse to trim the notion either by moralizing it or identifying it with confessional agreement.
Wimberly has it right. We need to focus on the important things, on the things the Gospel commands of us. For Anglicans, this is communion, both the literal feasting at the Eucharist and the gathering of the people of God into communities, small and large, local and global. We are to love God with our whole being, we are to love our neighbors, and we are to share our love of God with others.
There are people dying in our world, and there are people who do not know God's love. Those are things worthy of great energy, devotion, and resources.
Tuesday morning, and it’s time for our second day of hard work at Grace Church in New Orleans. Again, we broke up into small groups and prepared to continue most of the work projects that we had started the day before. Dry walling, dry walling, and more dry walling. Which lead to a substantial amount of spackling and sanding. Grace Church has a large facility, with many rooms off a long hallway. Just after the hurricane, there was six feet of water in the building. After the initial flooding, the waters receded to four feet, where they stayed for approximately ten days. As a result, the walls throughout the entire building need to be replaced from eye level (depending on your height) down to the floor. Some of this dry walling has already been done, but there is still much work to do.
In other areas, the painting group finished painting the entire floor of the church nave, and washed some of the water lines off of the walls near the door. Others made food for the masses. Day two seemed to go much more smoothly, as our learning curve was not as steep.
In the morning before we started, we were given our question of the day to ponder. “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” In the evening after our much-needed showers, we met in our small discussion groups to talk about the day and this question. For this group of 33 people, living in community has not always been easy. How do we experience evil or sin? How do we recognize these shortcomings, and work to love one another despite them?
After our small group discussions we piled into the vans and headed into downtown New Orleans to Mother’s Restaurant for some authentic area food. We satiated our hearty appetites with shrimp and oyster po' boys, jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish pie, and debris. With full stomachs we went down to the French Quarter to see the sights, and to appreciate the part of New Orleans that is still bustling with life and joy and enthusiasm. The residents of this city are undoubtedly proud of this part of their culture and their way of life here, and they seem eager to share it with visitors.
Lights went out at 10 p.m. that night – a decision that caused some dissension in the ranks, but essentially was a wise one. We fell asleep quickly, and slept soundly until 6 a.m. on Wednesday…
Wednesday, June 28
Here's a statement issued today by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
I am greatly encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury's timely call to the provinces of the Anglican Communion to join together in exploring our Anglican identity. I am one with him in his desire to develop a covenant capable of expressing that identity amidst the complexities of the world in which we live. I believe it is possible for us hold up a renewed vision of what it means to be Anglican Christians.
The Archbishop's has helpfully raised up in his text the constituent elements of classical Anglicanism, namely the priority of the Bible in matters of doctrine, the Catholic sacramental tradition and a "habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly." This both reminds us of the tradition that has formed us and points us to the future.
The conclusion of this lengthy process is now unknown. Therefore is it misleading that some, in responding to the Archbishop's lengthy theological reflection, have focused their attention on speculations about a yet-to-be determined outcome. And, as we enter into that process of discernment, we must never forget that God can always surprise us, and that the church is not our possession but is an instrument of God's reconciling love in the world.
This statement is posted online by ENS.
Tuesday, June 27
If you look carefully, you'll see some Rhode Islanders in the segment. Even though you won't always see your neighbors in the program, I encourage you to watch this show. It's a great way to keep up with the wider picture of a life of faith and ethical living. Check here to see when it's on near you.
(Another tip of the hat to Tracy Sukraw from the Diocese of MA for alerting me to this.)
I know that many of you are waiting to hear my experiences and thoughts about General Convention. As a member of the special committee charged with coordinating all resolutions regarding the Windsor Report, I confess to my complete exhaustion, and thus the inadequacy of my remarks. However, I know that many of you will be asked to respond this Sunday, so I offer these initial considerations.
First, the election of the Right Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Presiding Bishop-elect was a complete surprise. As one ordained in 1977, I could never have imagined at that time that would happen in less than thirty years. She brings an intelligence and clarity of expression that will serve her well as the public voice of the Episcopal Church. I confess that I do not know her well, not having served on any committees or table groups together, but look forward to the different life experiences and perspectives that she brings to the office.
Second, the Millenium Development Goals are beginning to take hold in our church and diocese. The challenge of giving 0.7% of total giving for developmental work amongst the poorest of the poor is capturing the heart of our church. In fact, as the Program and Budget Committee deliberated on our diocesan budget, we committed ourselves to this goal, awaiting the response of Diocesan Council and our convention in October.
Third, and the work to which I devoted the most time, the Windsor Report resolutions. I believe that the resolution that was passed in both houses on the final day of the convention was the best that we could do.
However, in all honesty, I do not think that it fulfilled what was requested of us in the Windsor Report. I hope sincerely that the Archbishop of Canterbury and his advisors believe that it is enough to continue the dialog now occurring in our Commion.
I believe that the issue is not sexuality, but ecclesiology. Namely, what does it mean to be a world-wide Communion in a time of great global changes, cultural differences, and various mindsets? Is it desirable? If so, then it is possible? The belief that we will arrive at a consensus of opinion on the issues at hand is unrealistic. Will we both find a way to claim that which binds us together and define the limits that we must not trespass? Will we find it necessary to walk apart? I do not believe that we should expect a unity of thought and practice.
In our Episcopal Church, each parish, mission, and diocese have documents that describe the expectations of life held in common. Therefore, I support a "covenant" that describes and identifies the community of the Anglican Communion.
The long corridors of the Covention Hall gave the fourteen members of our official party a good dose of daily exercise. In addition, we were joined by at least twenty other members of our diocese who attended meetings, worked as volunteers, staffed convention booths, and brought us joy and encouragement. Three of our seminarians were present, as were one of our youth members, one of our young adults, and one of our children.
Food in the convention hall had no resemblance to the "pyramid" we've all been encouraged to follow. However, there were some good restaurants and a wonderful farmer's market. The hotel was one of the less expensive choices on our list, which means that it was basic, but comfortable. The night before we returned home, we celebrated the ten days by going out to dinner together. "Schmidt's Restaurant," in the German Village section of Columbus was a great send-off. Filled with meat loaf, potatoes, sauerbraten, creme puffs, and bavarian lager we gratefully returned to Rhode Island. In spite of that calorie-laden send-off, I discovered that I had lost five pounds!
Please continue to pray for our Presiding Bishop-elect, our mission to the poorest of the poor, and our partnership in the Anglican Communion.
Our first day of work started at 6 a.m., the suggested tactic for beating the heat of the mid to late afternoon here in New Orleans: start early, end early. A good idea essentially, but our group was less than enthusiastic when it came time to waking up. After a couple of cups of coffee and some breakfast, however, we were ready to roll for the day. We gathered the group outside of the front of the church to organize for the day.
We were divided into small armies and sent off to start with our work. One group was assigned the duty of feeding the rest of us for the day. One group was responsible for running some errands, and then pulling weeds and taking down dead trees in the back yard of the church. Another group was given the task of putting up sheet rock in the long hallways of the church. The last group was assigned to painting a second coat on the labyrinth that now covers the floor of the church.
We were given this theme for the day from our baptismal covenant: "will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?” and asked to reflect on what it means to do this work in the context of Christian community. Right away we began to bump up against challenges: the sheet-rock crew had a steep learning curve and struggled to acquire new skills on the job. The food crew felt frustrated that they weren’t working harder on direct relief efforts. Others grew impatient with periods of idleness as they waited to be directed to another job.
So one thing we started to think and talk about was the whole notion of being “efficient” and “productive”. Were we there to just fix and repair things and minister through our productivity? Or were we there to listen to people’s stories and minister through our presence? And how did we manage as a community when we began feeling impatient and frustrated? These questions were important for us to raise, and discussing the nature of Christian community will be something we continue to do.
At noon, as the sweltering midday heat became unbearable, we retreated into the cool passages of the church. The food group came through with a series of yummy sandwiches, which gave the workers enough energy to put in another hour of arduous work. Afterwards, we were all sweaty and exhausted, and in desperate need of a shower. Despite Bob’s recommendations that we only take a brief “navy” shower, it seemed as though the hordes of sullied workers were never ending.
Finally, everyone was clean and rejuvenated, ready for a mentally challenging spiritual reflection. At the “Palace,” the more luxurious of our two homes, we organized ourselves into small groups. We focused on the struggles and challenges that each individual may have faced since the trip began. Many grew emotional, reflecting upon the poignant feelings evoked in all of us, upon bearing witness, first hand, to the incredible destruction hurricane Katrina brought to New Orleans. Finally, after a long and strenuous day, we gathered in the living room for a rousing group game. The laughter that echoed through the room was much needed. We will continue to seek that necessary balance of fun, work, and reflection as the week progresses.
Hope to see you there tonight, starting at 7 p.m. Come with questions!
The only reason for being an Anglican is that this balance seems to you to be healthy for the Church Catholic overall, and that it helps people grow in discernment and holiness. Being an Anglican in the way I have sketched involves certain concessions and unclarities but provides at least for ways of sharing responsibility and making decisions that will hold and that will be mutually intelligible. No-one can impose the canonical and structural changes that will be necessary. All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion.
Among the many reactions already online, here are two. Matt Kennedy offers a conservative reading, and Mark Harris offers a more progressive reading. Enjoy.
Monday, June 26
- Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia finds that "the vital center...is intact" in a letter posted to the Center Aisle website. "The far right of the church already is filling blogs with statements of disassociation and repudiation. The fact is the General Convention has responded substantially and seriously to the Windsor Report. But some did not get their way: gay and lesbian people and their supporters who feel we have stepped back, and the extreme right, who find it so difficult to work with those with whom they disagree. The vital center of the church is intact. Much of what Convention accomplished is in the budget and in unheralded resolutions that strengthened the mission of the church." (Thanks to Jim Naughton's excellent EDOW blog for sending me here.)
- The Anglican Communion Institute has a write-up and analysis on whether General Convention has adequately responded to the requests of the Windsor Report. Their conclusion (I'm simplifying) is that we have not done so, and I tend to agree. Should we have done as the Windsor Report asked? That's another matter.
- One British commentator says in an article in the Guardian that the American version of the church, despite its problems, is better than the way things are done in England. "The American church is to be commended for quietly carrying on with its life. The entire Anglican communion has risen up against it, Lambeth Palace included. But it has chosen to maintain its dignity. Last week Katharine Jefferts Schori became the first woman leader of an Anglican church anywhere in the world when she was appointed to head the US Episcopalian church and said there should be 'room at the table' for gay and lesbian members of the church." (Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans, which is well worth reading.)
- Bishop Gene Robinson has written an open letter to "LGBT brothers and sisters" in which he concludes, "It is not arrogant to say that we believe we know how all this is going to turn out. It will end with the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the life and ministry and leadership of the Church. It will take a long time. Some or all of us may not live to see it. But happen it will! In a strange way, I think the conservatives know it too. All we're arguing about now is timing. It will be enough for each of us to play her/his own part. Each of us can provide a pair of shoulders for someone else to stand on, just as surely as we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. This is a never-ending march toward justice for ALL, and NO ONE is going to be left behind. In the end, the reign of God will come. And oh what a privilege it is for each of us to play a small part." asd
- Finally, Christ Church in Plano, TX has said that it will leave the Episcopal Church just as soon as they can get things lined up to do that. This is one of the largest parishes in the country, with around 2,000 in attendance every weekend. Their rector, the Rev'd David Roseberry has been one of the leaders among the most conservative members of our church for several years. "The General Convention of the Episcopal Church, as difficult as it was, achieved clarity and showed a direction and corporate mission for ECUSA that is unmistakable. I would invite you to read the daily posts I wrote from Columbus found on our website. By God’s grace, the Convention has given your Vestry and me clarity as well."
Oh, and it's just the legislation (doesn't include youth festival, ECW, worship, or anything else). If you are starting to be less impressed, just compare this TWO PAGE summary to, say, the "Blue" book. Now, are you impressed again?
Thanks to David Skidmore at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago for producing a lovely PDF, which can be downloaded here.
Our group here in New Orleans is made up of adults and teens from Grace Church, St. Michael & Grace, and St. Martin’s. We arrived here in shifts on Saturday, with the group from St. Michael & Grace winning the prize for earliest arrival, and therefore the earliest departure from RI (4:30am, ouch!). By about 4 p.m. we had all arrived at Grace Church in New Orleans, where we would be both living and working for the week. Unaccustomed to the Louisiana heat, we piled into the air-conditioned chapel at the church to wait for our faithful leaders to get us organized and find our living arrangements. That effort worked...kind of. Half of us are living at the newly named ‘palace’ with great air-conditioning, nice comfortable living rooms, a large kitchen, and decent beds. The other half of us are at, um…the other place. At the ‘other’ place we have a little bit of air-conditioning, a couple of burlap cots, a microwave, and cockroaches (big ones). The Palace was in a neighborhood that was not severely impacted by ‘the storm’, as it is called by the locals. Cockroach Central, on the other hand, was flooded by several feet of water. The difference between these two buildings is stark, and was a small introduction to what life is now like here in New Orleans. The church where we are working was also hit hard by the storm. Before pictures of the church show wood floors and pews, but 9 months after Katrina hit there are metal chairs and a green painted cement floor. Water lines can be seen on the walls and along the lectern and the pulpit. The hallways where Sunday School rooms once were are now vacant and missing walls and floors. The empty space represents hours of work that has already been done. The gutting process is long and difficult, and must happen before the more hopeful renovations can occur. These kind of projects are happening all over the surrounding neighborhood, as evidenced by the heaping piles of trash along the side of every street.
After massive pizza consumption, our group spent a little time in the evening discussing what we had seen and what our work plans would be. After a brief evening prayer service we moved quickly to bedtime, some of us in the luxurious surroundings of the Palace, and the rest of us at Cockroach Central. Regardless of our sleeping locale, we all slept soundly after an exhausting (and hot!) first day in Louisiana.
We woke up well-rested (basically) Sunday morning and prepared to attend the 10am service at Grace. The congregation is small there, as many of their members have left the area, but those that remain are welcoming and kind. After a lovely service (complete with incense, bells, and the sung Sursum Corda) the congregation provided us with an awesome potluck lunch. These people can teach us Rhode Islanders quite a but about a potluck. After lunch we piled into our vans with the Rev'd Walter Baer, Jim, and Martha from the parish, for a tour of the city.
This is when we run out of words to tell this story. There is no adequate way to describe the miles and miles of devastation and destruction that we witnessed from the windows of our vans. Our drive began in middle class neighborhoods, where almost every house remains uninhabited. Spray-painted X’s mark the outside walls of every house, FEMA’s way of noting the date they were there, and the people or pets they did or did not find inside. Fallen trees, ruined cars, and broken windows litter the streets, yards, and driveways. From there we drove past several of the levees that had broken or collapsed under the rising waters, causing the flooding in all of these neighborhoods. The levees have been repaired, and these repairs are the only major reconstruction efforts that we saw during out drive. Our drive continued, past countless closed and abandoned business and houses, the marks from the water levels still showing on the sides of the buildings. Still, in the midst of vacancy and ruin, we were unprepared for the desolation we would experience over the bridge.
There, in the lower 9th ward, we discovered the greatest devastation caused by the flooding. In these neighborhoods there were no neighborhoods. The houses that had once lined the streets were almost all gone. Where houses remained, they had been torn from their foundations and were leaning dangerously or had completely buckled. Especially striking was one house that had somehow landed on top of an upside-down blue ford truck, the wheels of which protruded up from under the foundation. When we stepped out of the vans on these streets to get a closer look, we were speechless. We snapped pictures of the wreckage, not to be fleeting tourists, but to somehow capture something that seemed so unbelievable, so impossible.
The atmosphere of our group was heavy as we drove out of the 9th ward. As we drove we passed a large wooden sign outside of an Episcopal Church which read “The Chapel is Open, can we help you?” This sign seems to be indicative of the current state of affairs in this city right now. The churches play a pivotal role in providing help and support to the residents here. Likewise, the groups that come down on these mission trips are welcomed and appreciated. On our transport van to the car rental place, the driver spoke to us saying, “If it wasn’t for groups like you we’d be in real trouble here. We have over 300,000 wrecked homes, and you don’t see 300,000 construction crews.” He is not the only one to make comments like this one. Most of the locals that we have met have expressed not only their gratitude for our presence here, but also their sincere hope for the future of this city. The hope and the spirit of resurrection that saturates the city are as powerful as the destruction. One church sign that we passed read “He is Risen, and so will we.” This spirit is what inspires us to start our work here.
Saturday, June 24
The Boston Globe has an interview (you may be asked to register; free) with Bishop Gayle Harris, suffragan in Massachusetts. In the interview, Harris shares her perspective on women's leadership, the recent General Convention, and Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori. Here's an excerpt:
In the church, we have seen -- from its very beginning -- controversy, whether it should be Peter as the leader or James; whether circumcision was necessary in order to be a Christian; whether females or slaves could be fully members. In America, the issues of slavery, immigration have always brought questions about who can come to God's table.
I think she will try to make us first focus on what we do agree upon. What we have in common is the love of God and this mission to bring love and mercy, compassion, and justice, to the world.(Thanks to Tracy Sukraw at the Diocese of Massachusetts for pointing me to the interview with Bishop Harris.)
Friday, June 23
Bishop Wolf is, I suspect, exhausted from her work on the Special Committee. I doubt that any bishop worked harder in Columbus than Bishop Wolf. When she has a statement, I'll certainly post it here. She is grateful for your prayers and support during General Convention.
- Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts gave a great interview to NECN. Click this link and then "What's next for the Episcopal Church?"
- The Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa has issued a statement, released by ACNS. It reads, in part, "We are, however, saddened that the reports to date of your elections and actions suggest that you are unable to embrace the essential recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqué necessary for the healing of our divisions. At the same time, we welcome the various expressions of affection for the life and work of the Anglican Communion."
- A number of bishops have issued a "Statement of Conscience" expressing their unhappiness with the moratorium on bishop consecrations. Here's a bit for the flavor: "We intend to challenge the rest of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to honor the promise to include the voices of gay and lesbian in the conversations about the future of the Communion. We pray for the Church, for our Communion, and for our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters."
- A number of other bishops have issued a statement condemning the Convention for not responding adequately to the requests of the Windsor Report. Again, in our theological smorgasbord, here's a sample: "It is our intention not only to point to the inadequacies of the General Convention’s responses, but to declare to our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Communion that we continue as The Episcopal Church in this country who uphold and propagate the historic faith and order we have come to know through the Anglican heritage of apostolic teaching and biblical faith; who desire to be fully a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; and who are ready to embrace and live under the Windsor Report without equivocation."
Thursday, June 22
The Rhode Island House of Representatives unanimously passed the Fire Code Legislation yesterday (Wednesday). The bill is a duplicate of the bill the Senate passed a few weeks ago. The only step to go is the governor’s signature on the legislation. The Governor has given his assurance that he will approve the legislation as soon as it gets to his desk.
It looks like the efforts of all the churches of Rhode Island will soon be realized. Once churches are defined in a separate category, the final task will be for the Fire Code Safety Board of Review to create fire safety rules that provide for a safe environment for all the occupants of our churches and prevent large expenditures that will seriously affect the viability of many churches.
Dennis Bucco, seminarian entering General Seminary was in Columbus doing some volunteer work. Here he was just taking a much-deserved break.
The Rev'd Al Barnaby was in Columbus as an alternate deputy. Here he is at work, on the floor of the House of Deputies.
Empy Schneider was there, doing some volunteer work. She's starting her third year at General, studying at seminary prior to ordination as a priest. She's a deacon now.
Ed Bennett, our chancellor, was in Columbus as an alternate deputy. I ran into him on my way from the hotel to the Convention Center one day and convinced him to stand still for the camera.
Yours truly, photographed by a colleague in the media here. This was the day when the Presiding Bishop election happened. Lots of media in town that day.
Alas, I am not home. After a flight delay and then a fun-filled three+ hours on the tarmac in a plane, I seem unable to leave Columbus. I'm hopeful that I'll escape tomorrow morning. When I get home, I'll post some things. A lot happened today, and I'm eager to get it posted.
For now though, after midnight, I'm eager for sleep.
UPDATE: Sleep, not so much. Airport again. 5:00 a.m. Whoo hoo. Let's hope I can get home now...
UPDATE 2: I did get back to Boston. Had a nice chat with Ian Douglas on the plane on the way home.
Wednesday, June 21
The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement that is cautious. In the statement, Archbishop Williams indicates that it is not clear whether or not the Episcopal Church has adequately responded to the requests in the Windsor Report.
It is not yet clear how far the resolutions passed this week and today represent the adoption by the Episcopal Church of all the proposals set out in the Windsor Report. The wider Communion will therefore need to reflect carefully on the significance of what has been decided before we respond more fully.
Here is the full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement.
Here's a snippet.
If you and I are going to grow in all things into Christ, if we're going to grow up into the full stature of Christ, if we are going to become the blessed ones God called us to be while we were still in our mothers' wombs, our growing will need to be rooted in a soil of internal peace. We'll have to claim the confidence of souls planted in the overwhelming love of God, a love so abundant, so profligate, given with such unwillingness to count the cost, that we, too, are caught up into a similar abandonment.
Here's another bit:
Our invitation, both in the last work of this Convention, and as we go out into the world, is to lay down our fear and love the world. Lay down our sword and shield, and seek out the image of God's beloved in the people we find it hardest to love. Lay down our narrow self-interest, and heal the hurting and fill the hungry and set the prisoners free. Lay down our need for power and control, and bow to the image of God's beloved in the weakest, the poorest, and the most excluded.
The line that caught some people was this one: "Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children." This was not some newfangled radical feminist image; rather, Bishop Jefferts Schori was citing imagery of Julian of Norwich. Compelling and arresting, just like any great metaphor.
I look forward to hearing more sermons from her. If you'd like to read the full text of this one, it's already online.
This morning, the PB addressed both houses and delivered a rather stern lecture to deputies, exhorting them to pass a moratorium that would please the Anglican Communion. Here is the resolution that Presiding Bishop Griswold placed before both houses.
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of heaing and reconcilation; and be it further
Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecreation of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
This resolution has now been passed by the House of Bishops, and it will now be considered by the House of Deputies this afternoon. (This text is NOT official. I borrowed it from another blog, which has a full report on the joint session.)
Alongside the legislative gathering, a young adult festival has been going on during Convention. Here's a summary of what that's been about.
ENS reports that "the House of Deputies on June 20 passed a budget of just more than $152 million for the next three years and sent it to the House of Bishops for final action.
- Justice and peace (with an emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals);
- Young adults, youth and children;
- Reconciliation and evangelism;
- Congregational transformation; and
- Partnerships within the Anglican Communion, and with ecumenical and interfaith entities
The Convention passed a resolution proposed by Bishop David Jones of Virginia, chair of the Evangelism Committee, to study the Joint Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism's concern that the Episcopal Church "may be in systemic decline." The resolution charges the Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism with initiating "a national consultation on methods and strategies identify best practices to reverse the decline in mainline denominations," and making recommendations to the 76th General Convention on ways to reverse that decline in all denominations.
Tuesday, June 20
The main thing that I was at convention for was volunteer work. As a National Church volunteer I served as a page in the House of Deputies. Through this my job consisted of delivering messages; making copies of legislation and forms for deputies; and the extremely important task of delivering coffees to the Rhode Island delegation. Now the coffees were probably the most important because, if it were not for the jump start our deputies may not have stayed awake. Yet, while being on the floor I had the opportunity to listen to the debating and voting of many important pieces of legislation. The best part of that job was that on Sunday the 18th, when the announsement was made about the election of a new Presiding Bishop, I was there. I had the opportunity of being on the floor when history was made, with the election of Presiding Bishop Elect Jefferts Schori. I also, away from the floor, has the opportunity to attend several hearings. I went to hearings of Committee 26, also known as the Special Committee, which delt with the Windsor Report among other things. Also sticking to a legislative note I was able to testify at a Program Budget & Finance hearing about the MDGs. Being able to take part in the legislative portion of General Convention was an intense learning experience. I learned how much hard work and dedication goes into the smallest of details concerning legislation. The passion and effort that goes into the meetings, hearings, and then floor debates and votes is intense. It was wonderful to be immersed into the realm of "Church Politics".
Next came the social portion of my trip. Part of the reason I believe I had such an amazing time is due to the people I was with. I got to spend a lot of time with the members of the RI deputation. It was wonderful to meet a few of our deputies to becoming closer to the ones who I knew very well. Besides spending time with Rhode Islanders, my job with Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation had me intereacting with people from all over the national church. From standing at our booth to circulating the exhibit hall, I got to meet a wide variety of people and form some wonderful friendships. It was an added bonus for me that I got to see people that I met last summer at the Episcopal Youth Event and last April at the Pathways to Ministry Conference. Before arriving in Ohio I was told General Convention is like a massive family reunion, and that is a perfect description. Meeting so many different people from around the country and the world was a constant reminder of the incredible size of the church.
Finally comes the worship part. On Sunday June 11th, before I left for Colubus, I continued my tradition of serving the eight o'clock service at Christ Church in Lincoln. At our service we average about 23 people, and I think that Sunday we had 25. The following morning I attended the daily Eucharist at General Convention, which I am told had several thousand people there. A slight difference. This in itself was also a reminder of the size of the church. Yet throught the various forms of worship I began to truly learn the value of diversity in the church. That we can all come together, as different as we may by, yet still worship and eat around the same table.
While at convention my two favorite services were the U2charist and the Intergity Eucharist. I particularly enjoyed the sermons at both events. Bishop Curry's sermon at the U2charist was all about being a witness, and Bishop Robinson's sermon at the Integrity Eucharist was all about "Lov(ing) them anyways". Looking back on my time at Convention, all the important lessons I learned fit those two sayings. I learned to stand up for my values, to advocate for justice and equality. In other words to be a witness in the church. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start walking two by two with other Episcopalians carrying "Episcopal Life", but I have learned to speak up for issues such as peace and equality. I also learned that while doing this I am going to meet people who disagree. Yet, as a Christian I (and we) are called to "love them anyways". In that spirit I found the daily Eucharists so important. That more matter what we fought about during the day, how much we didn't agree, or whatever we were still able to come together around Christ's table every morning and worship together. Despite our differences, for the most part, we were still able to come together.
As a young person looking to the future of the Church, I am filled with hope. I see us beginning to focus on other issues besides sexuality and schism. Now these are incredibly important issues, that do need to be discussed, but that isn't all we are here to do. I see the Church working to truly being an inclusive Church; working towards being a mission minded Church; and to being a Church of reconciliation. This more than anything was the greatest part of General Convention. Seeing the promise and ability of the Church gave me an intense feeling of hope for our future as The Episcopal Church, but more importantly as Christ's body in the world.
Thank you to everyone who helped me attend General Convention, and make it a life changing experience. I hope that all that was achieved - all the good that was done - during the 75th General Convention can continue through the next three years.
How many deacons does it take...? Quite a few, apparently.
Worship here takes quite a tech team.
After the sermon, people discuss the sermon at small tables. People from each deputation are assigned to scattered tables, so that people have the opportunity to share their discussion with a diverse group.
As I posted a few days ago, there are some children here. In this picture, they are receiving communion.
Other days, the music has been a bit exotic (at least by Rhode Island parish standards, I suspect). Today's music was stiff-upper-lip-Anglican-choir-and-organ.
The organ console is on loan from Trinity, Wall Street. More about the organ here.
Cleanup is a whole different ball of wax in this scale. Bet your local altar guild doesn't have a massive trolley to load up with a zillion chalices.
Here are the vote totals. In the lay order, there were 38 yes, 53 no, and 18 divided dioceses. In the clerical order, the vote was 44 yes, 53 no, and 14 divided votes. The Rhode Island deputation voted against the measure in both orders.
This move will displease some overseas observers, and it was opposed by the most conservative associations in this country. However, conservatives voted against the resolution, perhaps seeking grounds for a breach or perhaps because they thought the measure did not go far enough. The dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and Springfield, among others, joined in the no vote.
Here is the full text of the rejected resolution.
I, Alternatus, attended the Convention in the city of the Navigator. And I said I will give myself to Wisdom. I will buy many books in the Exhibit Hall and learn all there is to know. And I spoke to the marketer of books, who said that the wisdom is in the selling, for there is no end to marketing. And behold, this is vanity.
So I said I will learn the ways of power, and vote to change all things. But no matter how many buttons I pushed, there was no end to voting, and I saw that this was vanity, and a striving after wind.
So I gave myself to pleasure, and said I will go from hospitality suite to hospitality suite, and I will drink wine, both red and white, and eat brie, and maybe some nuts. And I did this until my head was swollen. And behold, this was vanity, and it gave me much wind.
So I gave myself up to despair, and became a beggar on the streets. I received the prayers of many, and $1.37 in change, and also a bus token. And this too was vanity.
And what I have learned: take pleasure in the work God has given you to do; love your neighbor; and the bathrooms outside the House of Bishops are much cleaner.
Here endeth the Reading.
Canon Kendall Harmon has written an article for the web entitled "What Do Conservative Episcopalians Want?" in which he argues forcefully for the approval of resolutions that would comply wholly with the requests of the Windsor Report. He also adds that conservatives "are hurting, we are being caricatured and misrepresented, and in a church which claims the mantle of inclusion." Having read his blog, I can say that it works both ways. Perhaps in all these debates, we would do well to realize that most of us are acting in good faith, and that all of deserve to be treated with dignity.
The Rev'd Nick Knisely, deputy from Pennsylvania, raises an interesting contradiction in the current version of one of the resolutions. It says that we won't consecrate openly gay or lesbian bishops, and then there is an apology for the hurt this will bring to gay or lesbian people. Here is Nick's point:
Truth: We’re not really telling the truth here. We’re apologizing for something even as we do it. If we’re not sorry enough to stop, then we shouldn’t apologize. If we have to apologize for something in advance, then we shouldn’t do it.
This point was also made several times yesterday by representatives from the youth contingent in the House of Deputies. Nick has great notes on the debate among the deputies yesterday. Worth reading.
Monday, June 19
It's still too hard to guess exactly how things will end up. Based on my reading of the current state of the resolutions, and what I hear from deputies/bishops, here are some safe guesses:
- we'll indicate regret for breaching (or straining) the bonds of affection within the Anglican communion by our actions in 2003
- we'll basically promise not to elect/consecrate openly gay or lesbian bishops for a while
- we'll make sure that gay and lesbian voices are heard in all this
- we'll clarify the provision of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral oversight
- we'll apologize to gay and lesbian people for the hardships they've suffered in the church
As things are approved, I'll post here. When I see good media reporting of the subtle world of this legislation, I'll post that too.
You can watch the videos too. I commend the one for Sunday, June 18, which gives a good flavor of the day. You can also view the first press conference with the Presiding Bishop-elect.
ENS has a story, entitled "Anglican leaders react favorably on Jefferts Schori election", which summarizes reaction from several primates. ENS also has some more background information on Jefferts Schori and the election yesterday.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement today. He writes, in part, "I send my greetings to Bishop Katharine and she has my prayers and good wishes as she takes up a deeply demanding position at a critical time. She will bring many intellectual and pastoral gifts to her new work, and I am pleased to see the strength of her commitment to mission and to the Millennium Development Goals." The rest of his statement is online.
The Very Rev'd Sam Candler, dean of the cathedral in Atlanta, issued a statement which sees this election in the context of conversation with the Anglican Communion. Unsure of how the legislative response to the Windsor Report will turn out, Candler says this: "Thus, the Episcopal Church is choosing to respond incarnationally, with flesh, as is proper for any church who is part of the Anglican Communion. And the Episcopal Church is responding in a way that is faithful to our local expressions of Christian faith. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory famously advised the first Archbishop of Canterbury not to impose upon the new church in England customs which were unfamiliar to them: "Choose, therefore, from every Church those things that are pious, religious, and upright..." You can read his full statement on the Diocese of Atlanta's blog.
Conservative reaction has been as expected. The Anglican Communion Network has issued a statement, and Bishop Iker of Fort Worth has some things to say. Iker also read out a statement in the House of Bishops today, in which he appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury so they won't have to answer to a woman. "The bishop and the standing committee of the diocese of Ft Worth appeal in good faith to the ABC, the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative Primatial Oversight and Pastoral care following the election of Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church." Here's the report on that.
More as they come...
UPDATE: The last link, above, is broken as I write this. The Stand Firm in Faith website seems to be down. I'll leave the link up, hoping they fix the problem.
What's the deal, I wondered, on the president of the House of Deputies wearing academic regalia? The Very Rev'd George Werner says that this has been the custom since 1970, when the president then began wearing a doctoral gown. Werner just continued the tradition.
Also, inquiring minds wondered to which passage of scripture the Bible on the podium was opened? Werner writes, "I turn the page every day to a favored piece of scripture…they have included Luke 15, Luke 19, Acts 15, Galatians 5, Philippians 4."
So, dear readers, there it is. A scoop for the Episcopal RI blog!
At 3:01 p.m., the president of the House of Deputies announced that there had been an election. Some time later, maybe about 3:30 or so, after the consecration committee had OKed all the paperwork, the name was read out. The mood was jaw-droppingly ecstatic, as I posted.
After some testimony and affirmative speeches (and one dissenting speech, despite three invitations for negative speeches by the president), Jefferts Schori (now known as the Presiding Bishop-elect) was ratified by the House of Deputies as the next PB. This required the consent of lay and clerical deputies. The votes, by the waym were by diocese. In the lay order, it was 94 yes, 8 no, and 7 divided (this means that in a diocese with four lay deputies, two voted yes and two voted no). In the clerical order, the vote was 98 yes, 9 no, and 4 divided.
Once the overwhelming vote total was determined, Jefferts Schori was escorted in. The standing ovation bordered on joyous pandemonium.
Here is Jefferts Schori walking toward the podium.
She addressed the House of Deputies for a few minutes. Here she's pictured at the podium with Presiding Bishop Griswold, President of the House of Deputies Werner, and her husband, Richard Miles Schori.
Jefferts Schori was greeted by a looonnggg standing ovation. Here is most of our deputation from Rhode Island (the other deputy on the floor at the time was blocked from my view by a TV camera).
The place was pretty full. In addition to the thousand or so usual suspects (deputies, volunteers, and the press), several hundred visitors filled the gallery. Here you can get a flavor for the crowd. The foreground is the press area, the deputation area is on the left, and the gallery is in the background. It was standing room only.
Once she started speaking, people listened intently. This is just a fraction of the visitors who were in the room.
After she spoke with the Deputies, the Presiding Bishop-elect had a press conference.
Lots of people were present for the press conference. Just to my left were two female bishops. In the foreground is Bishop Barbara Harris, and Bishop Gayle Harris is in the background. Barbara Harris is the first female Anglican bishop, and Gayle Harris is a suffragan bishop in Massachusetts now.
Just before the press conference for Jefferts Schori started, David Anderson had his own impromptu media gathering for anyone who cared to listen. Anderson is head of the conservative American Anglican Council. I'll post some reactions from them and other people unhappy with the PB choice tomorrow.
At the end of the conference, we got to give the whole Schori family a taste of the paparazzi. They stood on the platform while we all snapped and flashed away. From left to right: Richard Miles Schori, the Presiding Bishop-elect, their daughter Katharine Johanna Schori, and their daughter's husband--whose name I don't have handy here at 1 a.m. Will try to find it. Sorry.
Sunday, June 18
I don't want to ignore several developments on the legislative front today.
- The House of Deputies joined the House of Bishops June 18 in supporting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and urging parishes, missions, congregations and dioceses across the Episcopal Church to work for their implementation. The MDGs are an eight-pronged declaration that has at its core the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2015. [ENS] Read the whole story.
- The Title IV disciplinary revisions are likely to be referred to an interim body (that's church-speak for a committee that meets between Conventions) for consideration at the next GC in 2009. Pretty much no one liked the proposed revisions, which I covered earlier. Here's the story from today.
- The Rev'd Canon Naim Ateek, director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem, delivered a keynote address June 17 at Trinity Church, Columbus, during which he and four other Anglican peacemakers received awards from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF). Ateek, who received one of EPF triennial John Nevin Sayre Awards, is well known for his advocacy of non-violence. In his address, he praised the partnership of the Episcopal Church and EPF, affirming "our shared work and hope for peace and reconciliation for all the people of Israel and Palestine." [ENS] Read the rest.