Sunday, August 31, 2008

Katrina and Gustav

One of the remarkable things about the interweb is the manner in which one can build virtual community. Not that virtual community can or should replace corporeal community, of course. But new technology does afford us the opportunity to connect with folk with whom we might not otherwise connect.

Of late, I've connected with Anglican blogger extrordinaire Grandmère Mimi. She's not my grandmère, certainly. Far too young for that. But she is a grandmère all the same - and doubtless a delight to her grandchildren.

She is also a proud native of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Like many people along Gulf coast, Grandmère Mimi - along with Grandpère, whose name I don't think I've ever seen - has decamped to safer ground pending the landfall of Hurricane Gustav. We will all be able to follow her progress at her blog.

Gustav, of course, is arriving three years almost to the day after the massive destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Gustav comes while the people of that area are still rebuilding after the double devastation of nature's fury and society's failure.

Grandmère's bishop - the Rt Rev'd Charles Jenkins, Bishop of Louisiana - has also blogged about his departure from home. He notes that he and his wife have had offers of hospitality from around the country, but that they will only be going as far as Baton Rouge, "so that we can be poised to minister to God’s people here in the place we call home."

Pray for Bishop Jenkins, for Grandmère Mimi and for all the rest of the people along the Gulf coast whose lives were disrupted three years ago by Hurricane Katrina, and whose lives are being disrupted yet again.

As a sailor, my mind turns to the words of a hymn - words that don't quite fit, but which I will make to fit here.

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril from the sea!
Grandmère Mimi and her family are safe according to new posts on her blog.
The Rev'd Jane Bearden, a priest of the Diocese of Massachusetts, is blogging from Biloxi, Mississippi where she has been workin with the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. We need to remember that the threat of Gustav, like the devastation of Katrina, extends along the whole Gulf Coast.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lies, damned lies and distortions

I've always heard it attributed to Mark Twain.

There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.
I've even been known to use it myself.

It isn't quite accurate, though. There are other types of lies.

One of the most effective lies is the half-truth.

Unfortunately, in the current Anglican wars, the "conservatives" have been making tremendous use of this inherently dishonest tactic. Any isolated incident is siezed upon and proclaimed to be the norm in North American Anglicanism. The fact that these isolated incidents have most often been addressed, usually in a timely fashion, is deliberately left out of the story. Inconvenient facts are denied if they get in the way of the "conservative" slander machine.

Today, we have another tissue of lies posing as "conservative" Anglican journalism. Andrew Carey, right wing polemicist and son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has produced an opinion piece recently published at Anglican Mainstream.

As a matter of policy, I refuse to link to Anglican Mainstream. It is, as far as I am concerned, an example of how dishonest people can use poison, venom and slander to destroy lives. It is a pool of toxic sludge, and I refuse to put souls at risk by sending them there. If you want to find the original article, I suggest you go via Mark Harris's Prealudium site - but on your way, take a moment to read Mark's point by point response to Andrew's Big Lie.

The Anglican far right have surrendered any moral high ground they may once have held. Their entire case is now built on a series of lies, damned lies, half truths and distortions. They occasionally round it out with some phoney-baloney statistics as well, where the total (unverified) claimed membership of some "conservative" province is compared to an arbitrarily discounted Sunday attendance statistic from Canada or the United States. (Of course, the idolizing of membership and attendance statistics goes out the window if anyone raises the data for the English Chaplaincy in . . . er . . . Province of the Southern Cone of America or the faster than the national average decline in the "conservative" Diocese of Quincy.)

Oh, and one of Andrew's lies that Mark fails to address is the fatuous pretence that the Church of England is somehow free of any taint of heterodoxy or any hint of clerical misconduct. Get real, Andrew. The naughty vicar and the atheist bishop didn't become staples of English comedy without a reason.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some Odds and Ends

1. I have mentioned my . . . er . . . affinity for penguins before. Following on that theme, Mad Priest provides a link to this wonderful story from Norway via the Guardian. It seems that Nils Olav, a penguin at the Edinburgh Zoo, is the Honourary Colonel in Chief of the Royal Guards Regiment of the Royal Norwegian Army. Last week, he reviewed his regiment, and was knighted by King Harald. Knighthoods for penguins. I heartily approve.

2. During Lambeth, Times of London Religion Editor Ruth Gledhill blogged about many things - including a very provocative post about the prospects of an Anglican Holy Office. Holy Office, of course, is one of the historical names for the Roman Catholic agency now known as the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and also once known as the Inquisition. Many people - and not just me - have expressed concern that the current machinations around the Anglican Covenant and the Windsor Continuation Group amount to little more than the establishment of an Anglican Inquisition.

British comedian Eddie Izzard explains why an Anglican Inquisition is a contradiction in terms.

3. Nasty little reappraiser that I am, I have never actually advocated that the Anglican Church of Canada start solemnizing same sex marriages. I have, both here and elsewhere, defended the Canadian government`s decision to make such marriages legal. But I've stopped short of advocating for this particular change in Anglican practice. My contribution to the Anglican blogwars on this issue have been principally focussed on the propriety of the Church discerning that God may be leading us in a new direction.

All that said, here is a thought-provoking television commercial from California, where the religious right are busily trying to overturn the California court decision to permit same sex marriages. I don`t claim this makes the theological case at all. It doesn't. But it makes the secular case for civil law quite effectively.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dealing with hate

Bullies are usually cowards.

That has been my general experience.

Those who use violent actions or violent words to intimidate or harm others are virtually always cowards.

Turns out the hatemongers of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church are cowards.

These false Christians are well known in the US for picketing gay themed events. When a young gay man in Wyoming, Matthew Sheppard, was crucified (yes, literally crucified on a fence and left to die) by gay-bashers, these faux Christians picketed his funeral bearing signs saying, among other vile messages, "God Hates Fags."

They picketed the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Same signs.

Of late, they've decided to spread their hatemongering filth farther afield. They've taken to picketing the funerals of US servicemen and women. Not that these Iraq and Afghanistan war dead are gay. (After all, don't ask, don't tell). They picket because they claim the deaths of these young men and women are part of God's curse on the US, not for illegally invading another country, but for tolerating homosexuals.

The faux Christians recently decided that God hates Canada too - and intended to picket the funeral of Greyhound Bus victim Tim McLean.

These faux Christians sure have some wierd "logic." Y'know, I can actually follow their twisted "rationale" for picketing the Sheppard funeral and the Robinson ordination. The US servicefolk is a bit of a stretch, but these young men and women did die as agents of a government the faux Christians believe is cursed.

But I can't follow the logic to why they would threaten to picket the funeral of Tim McLean. He was a carnival worker, not an agent of his government. As far as can be seen from media reports, he wasn't connected to gay culture or the Government of Canada.

Of course, the Westboro Baptists aren't about logic. They're about hate.

Our Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day - himself an evangelical Christian and a conservative on gay rights issues - was quick to take the proper course of action. He ordered that this band of American haters not be admitted to Canada. I may not agree with Stockwell Day about gay rights and gay marriage - or about much else for that matter. But good for him. Clearly, while he believes homosexuality is sinful, he understands that no person is beyond God's love. God - the real one - does NOT "hate fags."

It seems the order was enough. The hatemongers never did turn up. Oh yes, some were turned away at the border. The Westboro faux Christians boldly declared they'd sneak across elsewhere to picket the funeral.

But, like all cowards, they ended up backing down. Apparently, they didn't turn up.

What happened to Tim McLean was horrible enough. Tim's family didn't need delusional hatemongers making it any worse.

Pray for Tim McLean, for his family and his friends.

Pray for Vince Weiguang Li, who is clearly a very disturbed person, and for his family.

And pray for the people of Westboro Baptist Church, that they may come to know the true God, to understand the compassion and love of Christ, and to repent of their blasphemy.

Anyway, it got me thinking.

What is our proper response, as Christians, to those who preach hate in the name of the God of love?

After all, secular gay rights organizations can certainly counter-protest. But we Christians have a particular responsibility to publicly proclaim that the hate these people preach is the antithesis of the Gospel and that whatever god they worship, it is NOT the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

The GAFFEPRONE banning gaffe gave me an idea.

Whenever and wherever the Westboro Baptist Church goes to protest, local Christians should gather, surround them, and sing uplifting hymns about God's love.

It doesn't have to be just liberal Christians. Real conservative Christians, whatever they may think about homosexuality, would still condemn this anti-gospel message.

Clergy should come dressed in clericals, religious as religious. Wear whatever you may have that specifically identifies you as a Christian. Carry banners proclaiming God's love. Carry the cross.

Surround these people who are blaspheming against the gospel and sing, sing, sing!

Sing Jesus Love Me.

Sing Amazing Grace.

Sing All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name.

Sing O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.

Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

O sing joyfully, O sing joyfully unto God our strength.
Make a cheerful noise, make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob.

Consider the unquenchable love of God and think, How can I keep from singing?




That'll show 'em.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Playing the numbers game

The "conservatives" like to play the numbers game. It's all about whose biggest (unless they are the minority). And some of them are even prepared to be . . . shall we say . . . economical with the truth.

The constant claim about the 300 bishops at GAFFEPRONE, for example, conveniently leaves out the fact that nearly 100 of the bishops there weren't ever part of the Anglican Communion.

The number of bishops who boycotted Lambeth is one area of tremendous . . . creativity . . . for the "conservatives." They've been floating different numbers ranging up to 280.

It must be the new math.

There are 880 bishoprics in the Anglican Communion.

A handful of those are vacant at any given time. A few bishops didn't attend due to health or other non-schismatic reasons. So, for convenience, let's call it 870ish bishops left, though that's probably high.

The number being bandied about by conference officials was 670 bishops in attendance. The lowest credible number (from the Guardian's Riazat Butt) was 666.

So then, we have a maximum number of refuseniks in the area of 200. Maybe 204. Possibly 195. Who knows exactly.

But 270, 280 it ain't.

Well, if the math fails, make something up. That seems to be the thing in the "conservative" manual - in the chapter right after claiming you're being oppressed.

Now, one of those sites that I refuse to link to because it's too d****d toxic is claiming that the 670 number was inflated by including the assorted ecumenical observers who happened to be bishops. The evidence for this claim seems a trifle sketchy - which is to say that none was provided.

What I don't get is this: If you managed to get nearly 25% of the bishops to boycott - and nobody disputes it - what does it gain you to . . . dissemble . . . your way to a less than credible claim of not quite 30% where your figuires are going to be seen as less than reliable? As a PR guy, I can tell you that a solid 200 that no one disputes would carry far more weight than a 280 that no one but your die hards believes.

The biggest problem the "conservatives" have isn't nasty libeals. It's their own over-reaching.

Lambeth Journal Videos

Trinity, Wall Street (New York) has posted the ten daily Lambeth Journal videos here. It isn't YouTube, so I don't quite have the technosmarts to embed any of them here at simplemassingpriest. But they are well worth the watch at about six to eight minutes each.

I particularly liked Day Nine, where Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts and Bishop Philip Baji of Tanga (Tanzania) discuss how they have maintained a companion diocese relationship despite sharp differences on human sexuality. One anecdote they discuss is Bishop Philip's request to meet with gay and lesbian Christians when he was on a visit to Massachusetts. Listening to the experience of homosexual persons - just like Lambeth 1998 1.10 actually calls for. Wadda concept.

I also liked the comment from Bishop Gabriel Shoji Igarashi of Kyushu (Japan) in Day Ten, where he calls for the Communion to "take time to wait" in the move towards an Anglican Covenant. But then, I would.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Follow the yellow brick road

Rowan Cantuar's final address to the Lambeth Conference is available here.

He says, at one point, "this is emphatically not about forcing others to conform."

I wish I believed him.

The recommendations of the Windsor Report, without any formal process of consent or reception, has effectively been transformed into an edict to which the whole Communion is expected to submit. Similarly, the preliminary observations - note the word preliminary!!! - of the Windsor Continuation Group have now been enshrined as the immutable roadmap to the future.

Rowan, with no real consultation and no real consent, is seeking to impose a centralized and curial Anglicanism that effectively guts provincial autonomy. Under this centralized, curial Anglicanism, we would never have had room to consider our approaches to divorced Christians, nor to consider the role and ministry of women in the Church. We would have been held back until and unless there was broad agreement across the Communion. But the breadth of agreement which does exist on these issues has emerged largely because people have experienced the graceful lives of divorced and remarried Christians, because people have experienced the graceful ministry of ordained women.

I wish I could trust. I want to trust.

But today, I find myself unable to trust.

Reflections - final version

The final version of the Reflections document is available here.

Para 91 is now para 106, but it still retains the misguided idea that the 1998 1.10 listening process was about listening to straight bishops and not GBLT Christians. If this is what passes for intelligent analysis among bishops . . .

Para 131, now para 145, retains the delusional belief that the proposed moratoria will survive beyond next weekend. Apparently they haven't heard that Nzimbi of Kenya (on behalf of the GAFFEPRONE schismatics) already told them to get stuffed.

I did notice one other clanger that should be of concern to any authentic Anglican.

150. Anglican Consultative Council. There is a lack of knowledge in the Communion about the Council and its members and therefore an uncertainty about its role. Some believe it exercises too much authority; others would like to see it reconstituted and given more. One suggestion was of a two-tier Council with a tier of Primates and another of clergy and laity with the inclusion of younger representation. There was a desire to enhance the presence of clergy and laity in decision making at the Communion level.

Let there be no illusion about what this means.

It means handing control of the Anglican Consultative Council to the Primates. The enhanced presence of clergy and laity would be offset by reduced authority as the Primates sieze power.

Ironically, the very next para recognizes the grasping and overreaching of the Primates Meeting over the past few years. Giving the Primates effective control of the ACC is hardly the solution.

If I wanted to be ruled by a Pope and a Curia, there is another Christian body on offer.

I did not become an Anglican to be a pretendy Roman Catholic - or rather, given the theological leanings of the coup plotters, a Roman Calvinist.

This Primates have already made one unsuccessful attempt to take over the Anglican Consultative Council.

Para 150 is a clear and unequivocal power grab.

Authentic Anglicans must be on their guard.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Draft reflections - and misplaced sacrifice

The fourth draft of the Reflections paper (which will be the only formal output from Lambeth) can be found here. Episcopal Cafe has a decent analysis of several points - and several bishops' comments - here.

I only want to comment on a couple of points which are . . . what is the phrase I'm looking for . . . irredeemably stupid.

131. The moratoria cover three separate but related issues: Episcopal ordinations of partnered homosexual people, the blessing of same-sex unions; cross-border incursions by bishops. There is widespread support for the moratoria. This could be the “generous act of love” the communion is looking for. The moratoria could be taken as part of a sign of the bishops’ affection, trust and goodwill towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and one another. The moratoria will be difficult to enforce, so there are some fears as to whether it will hold. But there is a desire to make it do so. There are questions to be explored in relation to how long the moratoria are intended to serve. Perhaps the moratoria could be seen as a “season of gracious restraint”. In relation to moratorium 2 there is a desire to clarify precisely what is proscribed. Most believe it relates to public authorised rites, rather than pastoral support. It is critical that all three moratoria are seen as inseparable and must be applied equally.

All very nice, I suppose. But the current boundary crossers have already told the Communion to get stuffed. Frankly, the declared intent of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda et al to continue their massive criminal conspiracy to steal the property of the Canadian and American Provinces pretty much leaves all three proposed moratoria, whatever their merits, null and void.

91. The third meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1976 spoke about the Communion in this way: “As in the first century, we can expect the Holy Spirit to press us to listen to each other, to state new insights frankly, and to accept implications of the Gospel new to us, whether painful or exhilarating. (ACC-3 p.55)” Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, while reiterating clearly the traditional stance of the Church, also called for sensitive listening. The Bible study and indaba groups gave us the opportunity to meet in a spirit of generosity and prayerful humility which helped us to listen patiently to each other and to speak honestly.

Well, at least they acknowledged that 1998 Lambeth 1.10 called for "listening" - a fact the "conservatives" consistently ignore. But the idea was to "listen to the experience of homosexual persons," not heterosexual bishops. Apparently the drafters of this document fail to comprehend that relatively straghtforward clause.

Here's a hint, folks. In order to "listen to the experience of homosexual persons," you have to have some homosexual persons in the bloody room. Listening politely to straight bishops from North America does NOT fulfill the obligations of 1998 1.10, whatever the myopic drafters may think.

In relation to this confusion, I refer you to another story at Episcopal Cafe.

The language now is about sacrifice. What are people prepared to sacrifice in order to maintain communion. And clearly, the North American Provinces are being asked to sacrifice the full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered.

Thing is, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered aren't being asked, and they have no voice to answer.

The people who are being asked to make a sacrifice are not represented at this conference.

Katherine Ragsdale, also from the Witness, put a finer point on it with her question. It is the essence of Christianity to sacrifice one’s self for others. It is in the inverse of Christianity to ask others to sacrifice themselves for you. The future of the Anglican Communion may rest on the willingness of gay and lesbian Christians to “sacrifice” for it.

And the Communion doesn’t have the good grace to ask them to make that sacrifice directly, preferring to pretend that the Western churches have the moral authority to act as their surrogates.

This is the feudal morality—lords making decisions for their vassals.

Henry, go to your room

Who would have imagined that I would ever agree with The Telegraph? Little card-carrying Christian socialist me, agreeing with the most right wing of Britain's "quality" papers. The one formerly owned by Conrad, Lord Black of the Florida Department of Corrections. The paper that makes Canada's National Post sound like New Democratic Party apologists.

But here we are. I find myself in complete agreement with The Telegraph.

And I'm not quite sure what to do about it.

The story doesn't begin at The Telegraph. It actually begins at the Times of London on Friday, when the Primate of Uganda, Henry Orombi, was a featured guest columnist.

Well, arguably, the story begins much earlier than that, back when Henry Orombi, Peter Akinola and the rest of "the usual suspects" tried to blackmail Rowan Williams by declaring that they would boycott the Lambeth Conference if any of those horrible North Americans were allowed through the door.

Rowan, made of sterner stuff than some realized, didn't submit to their edict. He invited all the legitimate North American bishops - well, all but one.

The refuseniks couldn't climb down, so here they are. Or rather, here they aren't.

But they have attempted time and again to disrupt the Conference they declined to attend and which they described as irrelevant.

It has been a mixed effort, under the careful management of orchestra leader Chris Sugden (or rather, The Reverend Canon Doctor Sugden as he prefers to be known). Chris is the leader of a group of fundamentalist evangelicals in the UK who amusingly pretend that they are the Anglican Mainstream.

Chris has orchestrated a series of metaphorical roadside bombs in his efforts to blow up the Conference. The two most significant IEMs (Improvised Explosive Missives) were the GAFFEPRONE attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion and the XXIth century signed by all the usual suspects - including at least one who said he hadn't signed ( I wrote about that one here) - and yesterday's Times of London hatchet job by Orombi (you can read his venomous screed here).

So, what did The Telegraph say that was so brilliant?

Well, you can the read the piece from their religion editor's blog here. But it is so good (and sufficiently brief) that I'd like to share it with you in it's entirety.

George Pitcher
Lambeth Conference: Uganda chips in

Thursday, July 31, 2008, 05:51 PM GMT

I bump into a senior church figure near the Conference's Marketplace, a hangar behind the Sports Centre where you can get dressed as a bishop and buy all their books. I ask him what he makes of remarks from Henri Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, about the Archbishop of Canterbury being little better than a remnant of colonialism and, unlike the Pope, being unelected and appointed by a secular government.

My eminent friend looks distant for a moment. "It's Orombi's way of getting into the conference," he replies. "If he's got something to say to us, he should have come here to say it. It's a sign of how frustrated the boycotters are that the Anglican Communion is getting on with its business without them. And it's a very childish response."

Sounds about right. To which one might add that Dr Orombi's talk is of colonialism and the removal of authority from the Archbishopric of Canterbury. So it's good to know for certain now that all the protestations from the alternative conference Gafcon about the boycott not being an African power-play, but rather a claim for authentic Christian witness based on biblical authority, are worth about as much as the Archbishop of Uganda's respect for his fellow bishops.

"A very childish response."

Yes, that does sound about right.

Weeks of people who refused to show their faces trying to control the agenda from afar.

Weeks of people who don't have the integrity to tell people off to their face lobbing bitchy letters, desperately pretending to be relevant.

The thing is, the GAFFEPRONE boycott is a failure.

They have failed to control the conference.

They've had some limited success in running the media coverage - but that is less a function of their own scheming than a failure of the inept media relations put in place by feckless Lambeth Palace officials.

The Potemkin Village which is GAFFECON suffered several blows over the course of the Conference as it emerged that only two Provinces (Uganda and Nigeria) were able to keep their people home - and that only by threats and intimidation - including reported threats against one bishop's wife.

They have failed.