11/25/2014

Ten wishes for The Episcopal Church in its restructuring efforts:

Here are my top ten wishes for restructuring / re-envisioning of The Episcopal Church, from least to most important:

(10) Reduce overseas jurisdictions. Give oversight of the Episcopal Church in Micronesia (Guam and Saipan) to the Episcopal Church of the Philippines. We would continue to support them, but oversight should come from an Anglican Province nearer than TEC. We also should step away from further colonial based mission projects. Oh yes, and jurisdiction in Europe needs to be reordered.

(9) Support Overseas Regional Autonomy. Actively encourage moves for regional autonomy for overseas dioceses, working imaginatively with dioceses in other countries so that they can form new regional ministries within the Anglican Communion. This would include supporting a francophone province within TEC as a step towards autonomy for Haiti and other french speaking areas in the Caribbean, a new start at a Spanish speaking autonomous Province in the Caribbean, and discussions about how the Virgin Islands might link with the Province of the West Indies. 

(8) Focus on TEC as a US body. Stop advertising The Episcopal Church as an international Province (which it is indeed) but as The (Protestant) Episcopal Church in the United States of America, with overseas jurisdictions, whose autonomy TEC hopes to support. (I'm not much hung up on "protestant," but it is there in the formal title.)  It is important that we keep our eye on the primary task... to be the Episcopal Church, an entity primarily driven to be a reformed catholic community, with episcopal oversight,  of congregations grounded in common liturgy in this country, and part of a world wide community of churches (The Anglican Communion).

(7) Distinguish God's Mission from our work.  Try not to use "God's Mission" as some kind of shorthand for doing what we do as a church. The mission of the Church is indeed a subset of God's Mission, and our task is to find our place in God's work in the world. But that is a far cry from claiming that we know what God's Mission is in any detail, much less claiming that The Episcopal Church, or any other church for that matter, is the way by which that mission is to be carried out. 

 That is in part why it is not useful to single out employees of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society as "missionaries" or "missioners."  For that matter calling any person doing service on behalf of the church "missionaries" is a mistake. Better we call them what they are:  priests, pastors, medical personnel, teachers, preachers, church administrators or ministry facilitators, students, learners, people plunged into cross cultural life, and so on.  That TEC sends such people to work in places where they can make a real contribution should be a source of real joy to all of us. That TEC helps to expose its own members to the abundance of life outside the United States or their particular place in the US, is commendable.  That we work to use the missionary methods of St. Paul or any of the other great workers is valuable. But if the mission is God's mission, then God is the missionary. We who serve in one way or another are instruments of that mission (or not).  Meanwhile we are simply who we are... plumbers, administrators, preachers and those who plow and fish.  Better we be called by our names and what we do.

(6) The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society as a Service Agency. Bishop John Allin, with whom I often disagreed, believed the Church Center staff constituted a service agency. On this he was mostly right.  I think it is high time that that be the core commitment of DFMS staff - service. The limitations on staff and organization should be determined by whether the work and energy meets service needs as determined by General Convention and Executive Council.  TEC's budget for program should be recast from a zero base every General Convention. 

(5) Move the Church Center. The General Convention made it clear that The Episcopal Church Center should be moved from its current location. Period. That nothing has been done to effect this is unacceptable. If nothing is done to respond to this, and if General Convention again requires that The Church Center be moved, and if nothing happens again, General Convention should authorize Executive Council to fire those responsible and bring in persons willing to do the will of Convention.

(4) Let the Medium be the Message. In considering liturgical renewal, changes, and services for particular occasions, clearly distinguish between the prime liturgical task - the adoration of and giving glory to God - from the other ways in which our liturgies speak to people.  The prime liturgical task is not really communication at all (God knows what we have to say anyway), it is sigh, shout and groan of the creation as we await God's full presence.  

Communication of other information - that we are relevant, useful to the world's needs, responsive to changing understandings of commitment and life issues, and so on - is useful, but is primary only insofar as that communication is about life in the presence of God.  Liturgy is the medium, and the message at the same time. It is the shout and the shout is what is done. 

(3) Be clear that TEC is union of dioceses in General Convention and that the General Convention assumes as part of its charge that it will support an Episcopal Church jurisdiction and presence in every part of the territory that is the United States of America. For this reason, if work is discontinued in a particular place because the workers have left for other tasks, or it has failed for lack of effort or opportunity TEC seeks new ways to provide episcopal oversight and direction for ministry in that location. Domestic mission has always assumed that episcopal jurisdiction would include all of the United States.

(2) Clarify the role of Bishop in the Church:  Bishops in TEC are historically distinguished  by their being elected directly by their dioceses.  Yet we train our bishops in matters of administration and governance and expectations are generated about their authority, powers and perks that are not clearly understood by the electors. Further, the American hope was to have bishops that were not princes of the church, but its servants.  Something is amiss and the role of bishop needs to be clarified.

(1) The Episcopal Church as a Religious Order.  In our efforts to re-envision and restructure, we might well think of TEC not as a church, but as a religious order within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Our discipline is the regular worship of the church - Eucharist, daily prayers - in a constant round of adoration, guided in common life by scripture, reason and tradition, trying as we are able to live out a common life of prayer and service.  

If our restructuring and re-envisioning concerns "church" models, in which the accent too easily becomes on size,  powers and relationships between various roles in the church, doctrines that make this a "better" or more perfect church, etc., we will be a church exactly like other churches, guided by those marks of success by which we judge churches.  I would be glad if there were tens of millions of Episcopalians, but it is no shame if there are ten, provided those ten are working at being ordered in worship and work in accordance to the model of such order received by us and modified from time to time as the order so determines.

That is why, for example, I am glad we do not have an Archbishop, but rather a Presiding Bishop, whose powers are limited by a community rule that accentuates the roles of all members of the community and not primarily the role of bishops and their "house."  I am glad we have a Book of Common Prayer that continues as the standard for our order.  I am glad we see our primary task as daily common prayer, and the work that springs from such prayer.  I am glad our catechism does not speak of The Episcopal Church, but of the Church, of which we are a part. 

Well, there there are: ten wishes.

What are yours?




11/19/2014

For those who want high protein Christian stuff, sans bull... Religious Imagineer is the ticket.

OK boys and girls in Episcopal and Anglican Land. Time to move to the big time. All the petty squabbles about just who is most orthodox, who is most Anglican, who is mostly the most, mostly the best, and all that, fall by the wayside.

Jim Friedrich is an Episcopal Priest, but who gives a damn?  Not most of the Episcopal Church, it seems. He is an astounding theologian, but no seminary is much interested. Why? Because Jim (now getting to be a genuine ol fart), was post modern before there was post modernity, and has been working beyond the edges of the liturgical multi-media flab that passes for innovative creative liturgies for so long that all but his closest followers simply accept him as weirdly, well ... Christ centered.

The thing is, Jim is about as good a theologian as we get in Anglican Episcopal Land. He is articulate, passionate about art of all sorts in life and liturgy, astoundingly provocative and insightful about political and social matters, and like all of us, sometimes blind as a bat.  But he sees more than most of us see, hears more than we hear, and speaks the truth as he knows it.

Go over to The Religious Imagineer and read his stuff. It is fine reading, and deeper than the average pile of stuff you can find on the net as regards life and times for Christian folk in these times.  His current article suggests taking seriously this Dies Irae business, particularly in the light of pipelines to no good. He recalls drum circles and lightening flashing in the sky. He calls us back to the wonder of really profound shaking of our complacency.

I'm linking his stuff from mine, but hell, in these days when I am more interested in printmaking than much of what passes as stuff in Anglican Land, don't just link from me to him. Put him on your own watch list. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest - except of course for the few bits that fall short.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Jim is gifted as a writer, and we are the better for it.

11/10/2014

Retired Bishop Peter Beckwith has left the house.

The retired bishop of Springfield, Peter Beckwith, has been taken in by the college of bishops of (The Anglican Church in North America) ACNA. So he has landed solidly in ACNA land.

It's about time. It took him long enough to resettle, but the signs are all there that he was on his way. 

In 2003 he was a founding member of the Anglican Communion Network, the precursor to ACNA, whose work it was to help and encourage realignment.

In 2005 he became a pastoral reference for parishes who had left TEC and sought refuge in the Province of the Southern Cone.

In 2008 Beckwith became the "Episcopal Church Desk" person for the American Anglican Council (AAC):

Here is what AAC said about the possibility of being in but not of The Episcopal Church (as reported on the Stand Firm site):

"Bishop Beckwith and myself and the other bishops on the AAC Board of Trustees do not have our episcopal orders through the AAC but are and remain tied to the Anglican Provinces that hold our Letters. This means that some of our AAC bishops and members who are in TEC might well remain in TEC for the long term, and those who are in other judicatories might do the same, or might go through a time of dual membership with their sponsoring Province of the Communion and with ACNA as well."

Perhaps Beckwith was already out the door then, but running with supposed dual membership.

In 2009, when ACNA was still in formation,  Beckwith was on the ecumenical relations committee of what was the run up meeting to the formation of ACNA.  See ENS article HERE.

But he didn't leave then. He didn't go to the formative assembly for ACNA. Covenant reported,

"As a result of developments in the Diocese of Springfield, The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield, will not be attending the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) Assembly which is scheduled to begin [Monday] at St. Vincent's Cathedral in Bedford, Texas.

Bishop Beckwith was previously reported to be among the list of attendees at the meeting composed largely of former members of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada by Episcopal News Service. The group is seeking official recognition as another North American province of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Beckwith said he had been invited and that he had intended to attend solely as an observer and that his association with the AAC was limited to being a "liaison to the Ecumenical Relations Task Force," adding that "[i]n no sense is he a structural part of either the Task Force, or the ACNA."

At the time of his retirement in 2010 the State Journal Register in Springfield reported that "
Beckwith recently said he had “no immediate plans to join ACNA.” However, he acknowledged that he has more in common with the secessionist church than the Episcopal Church. (Read more: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20100221/News/302219946#ixzz3IgPiylmh)
He didn't leave then. 

Following retirement Beckwith became chaplain at  Hillsdale College in Michigan. 

Apparently he didn't leave then.

I find no reference to his either leaving, being deposed, or otherwise announcing his departure from The Episcopal Church. Perhaps there is such a reference. (I am sure readers will inform me.)

But this year is different.

In May 2014 Beckwith signed on to the Jerusalem declaration and became the assistant bishop in the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes, which began its formation as a small group of dioceses that sought protection from the Southern Cone. (Note above his relation to that group.)
 

On October 10, 2014 ACNA announced that Beckwith had been received into the College of Bishops of that church.

Well, there it is.  So, now I guess Peter Beckwith will no longer be getting invitations to the House of Bishops meetings. He has in all likelihood not been for a while.  He has left the circle. 

The question is, "is that it?"  It took a long time, but Beckwith has up and left, one might even say he as abandoned the communion of this church (The Episcopal Church). In his heart he may have done so long ago.  So a formal cutting of the ties needs to happen - whatever its form.

I don't much like using deposition for having "abandoned the communion of this Church" as the next step, but there at least has to be a formal acknowledgement that he is no longer a bishop in The Episcopal Church.  What form will that acknowledgement take now?  Is Bishop Beckwith willing to at least write the Presiding Bishop and say, "I quit?" Perhaps he has done so.

There's a lot to like about Bishop Beckwith. Earlier today I read a long interview with him about his life and career. It is quite something.  Apparently his career has not ended.  I wish him well.

He does not seem to have taken his personal feelings and concerns and made them the banner under which the Diocese of Springfield had to march.

Still, there is the strong sense that Beckwith was gone a long time ago.

Now at least its clear:  he has finally completely left The Episcopal Church.


11/01/2014

New Anglican Congress? Open how wide?

Last week there was a bit of a splutter of, dare we say, new thought out there in Anglican Land. It's about an Anglican Congress.

A small group of bishops from various dioceses in the Episcopal Church and Africa met at General Seminary in New York. They were: 

The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi
Archbishop of Burundi

The Most Rev. Albert Chama
Archbishop of Central Africa

The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Southern Africa

The Most Rev. Jacob Chimeledya
Archbishop of Tanzania

The Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo
Archbishop of West Africa

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

The Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls
Chief Operating Officer,

The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves
TEC Bishop of El Camino Real

The Rt. Rev. Ogé Beauvoir
Bishop Suffragan of Haiti

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, III
Bishop Provisional of PA


Six Primates and four bishops from TEC, one being non-diocesan, one provisional and one from Haiti. 

It was a fairly "big gun" sort of meeting. In their final statement they suggested:

"Over our time together, we found ourselves referring repeatedly to the spirit of the Anglican Congress of 1963, which contributed greatly to the transformation of our understanding of mission in the Anglican Communion. It gave us the language of mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ and helped lead us to understand ourselves as partners in mission rather than in categories of givers and receivers. In that same spirit, and with eagerness to share the blessings we have received in these days, we express our fervent and urgent hope that another Anglican Congress might be held in the next two years, and encourage the active leadership of all who might help to make it a reality for the good of God’s mission to heal and reconcile the world. We hope that representatives of all the baptized—bishops, priests, deacons, and laypeople—will be present and heard. We hope that the Communion’s strategy to address the next iteration of the United Nations Development Goals might be part of the agenda. Aware that Africa is now the demographic center of the Anglican Communion and has always been mother to us all, we deeply hope that our leaders will take this opportunity to call us home to Africa for such an important gathering of our Anglican family."

Aside from a bit of fluff regarding Africa as the mother to us all and the demographic center of the Anglican Communion, the basic idea is:

(i) An Anglican Congress in the next two years,
(ii) Held somewhere in Africa
(iii) representing all the baptized from within "our Anglican family." 

What are we to make of this suggestion, particularly in the light of the growing sense that Lambeth will not meet in 2018, and GAFCON's most recent bit of triumphalism that it has become an instrument of unity in the Anglican Communion where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primates, Lameth and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) have failed?  It would take a bit of generosity of spirit on all parts to see this idea through, that and a high dose of patience, and perhaps some desire for reconciliation. 

It seems to me the time is right for an Anglican Congress, but one which will dare to included not only representatives from dioceses within the member churches of the Anglican Communion as now constituted (ACC membership being and communion with Canterbury being the touchstones), but also those churches of "Anglican descent" that are in communion with one of the member churches of the Communion, but not necessarily Canterbury.  This would include then members of ACNA, a body with which GAFCON memebers are in full communion, but not Canterbury, the US and who are not part of the ACC. or members of churches with which the CofE is in full communion, but not part of the Anglican Communion. It would include members of the Old Catholic Church, several European Lutheran churches, The Philippine Independent Church, and so forth. 

Perhaps a rule for invitation would look something like this:
"Churches part of the Anglican family of churches throughout the world are invited to send members to the Anglican Congress. Inclusion in the Anglican family of churches is defined by each church being
(i) in communion with the See of Canterbury and part of the Anglican Consultative Council,
(ii) in communion with a church in communion with the See of Canterbury and part of the ACC.

"In communion with" will be understood to mean that the churches "in communion" welcome inclusion of the members of each church in the full life of the other - participation in the sacramental life of each church, recognizing the validity of orders and having a mechanism for easy interchange of ministry assignments, and affirmation of the distinctive life of each church.  

Additionally invited churches would have to understand themselves as part of "the Anglican family" of churches, either by direct historical and episcopal connection or by strong bonds of theological, sacramental and common prayer life formed from the influence of Anglican thinking and witness. That is, they would have to think of themselves as part of "the Anglican family."

There would be some fine lines of distinction and perhaps some quarrels along the way about who to invite. But the trail of links would have to be (I believe limited to two) - Either a church of the Anglican Communion as defined above, or a church in communion with one of those churches.

The question is, would this sort of Anglican Congress make it possible for churches who have broken communion or have impaired communion status with The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, or the Church of Southern Africa or the Church of South India, and so on, to sit in the same room with those they left?  Would The Episcopal Church really be interested in sending attendees to a meeting with those who constantly trash their leadership and the actions of their churches?  Would GAFCON get off its high horse and come to a meeting where Canterbury, Primates, and the Anglican Consultative Council still were considered touchstones for Anglican unity?

The one thing that would have to be avoided at all costs would be to make such an Anglican Congress a PRODUCT of two supposedly world wide agencies - the Anglican Communion offices and instruments on the one hand and GAFCON instruments on the other. The Anglican Congress should not become itself an instrument of further power politics in the church.

My thought is that the invitation to an Anglican Congress should come from a group of bishops (including Primates), priests, deacons and lay people who, of their own volition and with the support of Canterbury and the leadership of a growing number of Churches in the "Anglican Family," JUST DO IT.

Two years out sounds about right. So, think late 2016 or early 2017.  By all means meet in Africa.  Maybe the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia could offer an invitation for us to meet there. Speaking of "mother," pretty close to ground zero, and with not too much Anglican family problems in place.

 




10/27/2014

Anglican Mission Pioneers seen from another perspective.

The Church Mission Society recently held a meeting of 120 "Pioneers" in Oxford.  Apparently it was a lively meeting.

The phrase "mission pioneers" was used several times in the report, based, I suppose in part on our following Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 2).  It's a catchy evangelical sort of phrase - one which makes missionaries the front edge, leading us into the world, as well as making missionaries a kind of extension of the work of Jesus, who is pioneer, etc.

Still, given experiences this summer in South Dakota among the Lakota, and now in Haiti among a people who freed themselves from slavery and are aware of their continued slavery to the masters that still linger, willing to control them, "pioneer" is a word that means exploitation, struggle and death.

The pioneers were, it turned out, carriers of many diseases, some biological, killing off large numbers of people by just being there, some economic and social, some theological. The record of pioneer activity is a graveyard of tragic results for either the people who already lived on the lands the pioneers entered, or for the people they brought as chattel to work for them.  Pioneers, viewed as noble and life giving in many tellings - settling the west, opening the new world, and so forth, are in the accounts of those who suffered their presence, awful pioneers of death.

CMS needs to rethink the use of this notion that the 120 enthusiastic and well intentioned attendees at this conference are "pioneers."  Find another name.  Better yet, find another reason for being in the world in Christ's name than bringing Christianity to the spiritually impoverished.  Being hungry, having no hope, being without money, and being without faith, these are all conditions that are real and need to be met as real. Being poor is a condition often cast on people making them choice subjects for conquest, even conquest by care.

We can do better than send out "pioneers."