Wednesday, September 24, 2003

WaPo on the Community Meeting. Today's Washington Post carried this report on the Bishop's Community Meeting last night.

And now, looking at the pictures, I can confirm that the obnoxious photographer was Olivier Douliery of the Post. See this picture.
Part 3: Comments and Questions from the Audience. The facilitator had kind of an interesting role throughout this -- basically the woman was reduced to the ringing of a bell at the 2 minute mark (more or less) and the man did all the speaking. What's up with that?

Anyway, here are the comment and questions, as best I recorded / summarized in order.

First was Stephen Barhart (please excuse my misspellings of names) of St. Christopher. He wanted to thank Bishop Lee and the Deputies for voting yes on the ordination of Gene Robinson. He also had a second round of thanks for voting for the blessings resolution. He said its only because of the darkness in our own heart we do not accept this, but that, in time he hopes we will adapt and adjust. (My wife said later that she though he was given about 5 minutes.)

Next was Robert [? There was a lot of noise -- grumbling, I suspect because the first speaker was given so much time -- and I didn't catch this gentleman's name.] of Church of the Holy Spirit in Ashburn. He said that the action taken at General Convention may have already caused a schism. He said this declared the ECUSA to be apostate and heretical and was contrary to Scripture. He then asked Bishop Lee how he voted on Resolution B001 which reaffirmed provisions from the Articles of Religion and the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral. Specifically, "Did you vote for B001, if not, why not? How can you stand for ekklesia if you voted against this resolution?"

Next was Dr. Paul Julienne from Truro Church. Julienne read from the Truro statement of disassociation.

The next statement is verbatim, as it was e-mailed to me by the deliverer (emphasis in original):
My name is Linda (last name omitted), from the Church of the Good Shepherd, in Burke. I do not claim to represent the majority of my parish. This is a personal statement.

I will follow Christ, -- but I do not know if I can continue to follow the Church, a church I have attended in many states.

Autonomy, the concept, and as a principle for voting , I do not find consistent with the concept of One Body, which is the Body of Christ.

I would agree with Fr. Papeal that Scripture must be seen as a whole. Somehow, however, in the wake of General Convention, as I dusted off my Bible, I'm finding different lessons. I believe God loves all of us, but like any good parent, he doesn't always love what we do.

Jesus did not accept everyone's acts. He condemned the legality of the Pharisees; he turned over the tables of the "salesmen" in the Temple; he told the woman who was not stoned - "go and sin no more."

Our disagreement is as fundamental as that word sin.

There are those who would see only the positive, but God also knows us, gives us free will -- and still calls us away from sin.

Sin - that which separates us from the love of God -- sometimes may even have a genetic component. In my own genetic family tree, besides homosexuals, are alcoholics, and those with mental illness. So you can be glad if you're not related to me. But does a genetic predisposition to alcoholism make alcoholic behaviour now sanctioned?

I love and accept my daughter, but I do not accept her living with her fiancee, without the blessing of holy marriage, as no longer sinful because it is accepted by our culture. I dearly love a homosexual cousin, and I like his partner, but I do not find that relationship, in the form that it takes, sanctioned, any more than my daughter's behaviour. If the most important perspective were cultural norms and justice, then we should endorse all loving consensual sexual acts --
[about here, the chair ruled her time expired -- although there were cries to let her finish -- I think everyone was moved by both the emotion and the reason behind what she was saying. However, she has since indicated to me that she was fine with the time limit, wanting to give as many people their opportunity to speak.]

But the chair moved on to Rachel Andrews of All Saints Dale City. Ms. Andrews was equally moving explaining how deeply grieved the actions at General Convention left that congregation. She read from the letter of the vestry and noted that over 400 members had signed letters of repudiation and dissassociation. And then in a statement that caused an audible gasp to arise from the entire crowd she addressed Bishop Lee and said that he was scheduled to conduct confirmations at All Saints in November and very respectfully asked that he not visit All Saints to conduct the confirmations.

John [missed last name] said that he attended St. Michael's in Arlington but he just had sort of a point of order and didn't want to have his appearance at the microphone held against other members of his congregation. The dais ruled that it would count and John merely asked that the Diocese somehow tabulate the cost of the witholding of contributions and so on and publish it.

Before I go on, I do want to note that this is a very important point given the rule imposed on us that there could only be one member allowed to speak from a church until every church in the area had one speaker give an address. This did have a "chilling effect" on the speakers -- knowing if you got up, every member of your congregation was somehow cut off from speaking. I was concerned that this meant that each of the 77 churches in the area would have to be heard from first, but in cross talk on the stage, someone said there were 30 different congregations represented at this particular meeting.

Next up was Rob Higgins from Aquia Church who said that he believed these actions were part of a coordinated effort of Satan to undermine the Church. He concluded by asking how we can hold you, Bishop Lee, accountable.

David Harper, Rector of Church of the Apostles noted that the Anglican communion is a worldwide communion and that we are a communion in mutual submission to one another. He said the actions at GC were a statement that the Lambeth Statement simply doesn't matter. He called this a "breakdown of love." He observed that we will be seen as the heretics and what seemed like a very quick bell cut him off.

Melinda Collier from Holy Comforter (I think that's right -- I wrote down Comfortable-- Freudian Slip?) in Richmond said that her congregation was thankful for the actions taken at GC. She said "we believe that gays and lesbians should not be strangers at the gate. She noted the Episcopal Church is a large tent and hopes that it will create appropriate structures for blessings.

[At this point, I'm going to call it a night == I'll publish the remainder in a Part 4 -- it's late.]
Part 2: The Meeting Starts We sing the hymn accapella:
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

The facilitators are being introduced Dr. Jean Milliken of the National Cathedral and Rev. W. Bruce McPherson on temporary assignment with a church in Annapolis Maryland – St. Stephens.

Bishops Jones, Lee, and Del. PalamoreThe first speaker will be Senior Deputy Russ Palmore. He said that at worship one day at General Convention there was a verse read from Romans, Chapter 10 that contained the following passage: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (quoting Isaiah 52:7) He says there was good news from this convention that over 400 resolutions passed. Blahblahblahblah… There is a photographer literally crawling all over the stage taking pictures. I think it’s the same guy who was outside. I would think the folks on the stage would be highly annoyed – he’s really getting in their faces. It’s so overdone, it’s almost crossing into parody – like a Monty Python skit. Anyway, the Sr. Deputy is almost done talking – he’s noting that the ECUSA want to reach out to persons ages 18-25.

Next up – Jim Papile, Rector from Saint Anne's in Reston. Papile was smooth – like a used Volvo salesman. He has the decency to first acknowledge the twin issues that bring all of us out and then to proudly acknowledge voting for both. He said that this is the fourth such “event” he’s been to in four days and he knows what people are going to say – he’s heard it before and he heard it at the General Convention so he want to address these concerns.

He says he voted the way he did because of the totality of the Scriptures: “The Bible stands for inclusion.” He says that the Bible speaks of a God that called a slave nation out of Egypt and delivered it to Israel, showing his concern for the lowly. (My thought: uh-huh and he told Israel to include the Amorites and Amalekites and Midianites – this is actually one of the toughest themes of the Old Testament – the exclusivity of God.)

He said that when questioned about the essence of his theology, the great “orthodox theologian” Karl Barth said “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” Not, Papile added, that he loves some better than others. “Inclusion and acceptance of all people is the theme that runs through the Bible.”

He said to those who rely on tradition, he asks us to reflect on Martin Luther and Henry (I assume he meant King Henry VIII, the English King who was named “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope and who was instrumental in the founding of the Anglican Church), [Thomas] Cramner, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of whom, Papile claimed went against tradition. Moreover, he said that the tradition of the church grows daily and that it’s not finished being developed

“To those who say our ability to reason should be excluded, I direct you to Augustine” and other great scholars and theologians who employed reason. (I must interject here and note that I have never heard anyone denigrate reason and for Papile to make this claim was pretty insulting.)

To those who say that people are leaving in droves, “I say people are coming.” He then noted that he had two people in his newcomers class, one of whom got very emotional and couldn’t even say his name and the other said she was afraid to bring her 8 year old to church but she’ll bring her next week. (Honest, this was what he said – if he was trying to make a point, it went right by me. Perhaps Papile was trying to indicate that the gentleman was gay and now felt welcomed in church and the woman was lesbian – if that’s what he was trying to articulate, he should’ve said so – it would’ve been more helpful.)

He said “You will hear those talking about dismay, hurt, fear.” Yet Papile sees “promise, hope, opportunity.”

He said that we have a decision to make – is the church broad enough to take in all this or will this be the thing that breaks the deal. Papile said the Holy Spirit will be our guide.

Whereas, the prior speaker introduced Papile, Papile does not introduce anyone.

It’s Russ Randle of Christ Church Alexandria. Russ begins by noting that he was the only lay Deputy from Virginia to vote against the ordination of Rev. Gene Robinson and also the only lay Deputy to vote against the blessing resolution. He says this is the hardest decision he ever had to make. He said that it was a gay evangelical Christian who brought him back to Christ years and years ago, but that both propositions go against the clear teaching of the Church. “The Church has not endorsed sexual relationships outside marriage.”

He objected because we can’t as a church say that “Jesus is Lord” and then turn around and say “Jesus is Lord except of my sex life.”

He objected because we can’t have one standard for a bishop and another standard for every other member of the church.

He asked who had been on a mission trip outside the U.S. He said that he thought most of those who had were opposing these actions of the Episcopal Church because of the severe impact it would have on brothers and sisters in other lands.

He said that the ECUSA can’t take this action in the name of inclusiveness and the write off those who object as expendable or collateral damage.

He then turned his aim on the evangelicals in the audience asking this question: “What did the General Convention do to make any of our ministries less important or necessary?” He said that Jesus did not say to abandon your ministry – and we all have a ministry – because you are angry with your brother.

He cited the example of Thomas – he remained in the fellowship even though he rejected Jesus resurrection and Jesus reached out to him, restoring him. He concluded by saying that none of us is better than the apostles, so we must stay.

Next, Peter Lee spoke. He said that he woke up at 3 a.m. – that he’s awaken at 3 in the morning for many mornings since the General Convention. He said that he’s glad that we can meet together to have these exchange of honest views.

He acknowledged that the General Convention acted in two ways that many find “controversial:” the affirmation of the calling of Gene Robinson by the people of New Hampshire as Bishop and the resolution.

He said the resolution as originally proposed would have added the blessing of same sex unions to the book of occasional services. The resolution was amended and so the “resolution recognizes that” blessing do occur in various diocese throughout the country. He said what was left in was “descriptive” but that these blessing do not happen in Virginia and will not happen while he is the Bishop.

“So how could I have given consent given that we [in Virginia] do not” recognize or utilize these services? “I prayed a lot. I consulted other Bishops. I consulted the Deans of the different regions.” He said that he read his Bible and was struck that “the gospel erases barriers that humans erect.” (I’m trying to avoid a lot of editorial comments, but this statement compels me to ask if he believes the scriptural sanctions were human erected barriers or God-given commands?) He said that he was struck by the power of grace, not law.

He read this passage:
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

He said he saw this as a conflict between hope and fear – hope for the future and fear of change and that he would not give in to the fear of change.

He said that he reread Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and noted that we he, Peter Lee, was considering ordination in 1963, Rev. King was writing this letter in part to white ministers who were condemning King. Lee said that one of the Bishops (he didn't mention the name -- was it George M. Murray?) that King was writing about severely disappointed Peter Lee, because Lee had always admired him, but now that bishop was giving into timidity. Lee said that he resolved then to never be timid and to act out of fear.

Lee said he was ordained a Bishop in 1984 and has never voted against a single candidate for Bishop – whether divorced or whatever – he said he even voted for those bishops now threatening to leave.

Lee said for those with the “permanent orientation of homosexuality” living together with one partner in a long term monogamous relationship is as close to matrimony as there could be. (The implication, I gather is something a lawyer might term “constructive matrimony” meaning it’s okay for Robinson to live in this relationship.)

“What difference does this mean?” he asked rhetorically. The Episcopal Church has no doctrine of infallibility – bishops are wrong – councils are wrong and when we’re wrong we can get over it. He said there’s so much more that unites us in mission than sexuality.

He then launched into his spiel on funding. “Withholding of funds has no impact on New Hampshire.” Not one penny of funding goes from the Diocese of Virginia to the Diocese of New Hampshire. He then used his “financial weapons” analogy and I lost my temper. Rather, my anger boiled up within me and the rage literally made me began shaking. It was all I could do to restrain myself and hold myself in my chair. I was so tempted to stand up and shout out: “this is not a matter of financial weapons. You are asking for money for an apostate Church and we will not give one earring for the calf you are building.” Thankfully, I was restrained – the main reason I mention this is that I did not record anything he mentioned after this. If fact, I’m not sure that I even knew what he was saying. I was livid.

I began to regain control by the time Bishop Gray began speaking. He started off by saying that he and his wife are reading The Purpose Driven Life together. There is something in there about how other Christians will disappoint you. He noted that there is no perfect Church and there won’t be one as long as he is in it – nor as long as you are in it either. The laughter was very welcome and necessary.

He said that Ephesians 4 says to speak the truth in love and he said that is why he was there. He said he believes the General Convention was wrong in ordaining Gene Robinson. He said that our partners around the world advised us not to do this and we did it anyway.

Nevertheless, Gray said that this is not an apostate church. “No General Convention can cause a church to go apostate unless it abandoned the Book of Common Prayer or the Scriptures.” He cited a Latin maxim I was not familiar with, but did not explain it. "Lex orandi, Lex credendi" See this essay by Peter Toon.

He said that he believed in the “Indefectibility of the Church” which he explained meant that the Church might make mistakes, like, he believes it did here, but that in the long run, it will come back to the truth.

He noted that Bishop William Frey once said something to the effect that the defense of virtue has all the same thrill as engaging in vice. Gray said he thought that was true and there were a lot of people experiencing thrills – citing “ecclesiastical money-laundering, self-righteousness and hubris.”

Gray noted I Peter 5:5: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

He acknowledged that the Episcopal Church is flawed, but said that “unity is more important than being right or wrong.”

Next, Bishop Jones spoke noting that he has been to a number of General Conventions and said “many people attended their first convention this year on CNN.” He said that GC is confusing for Bishops and Delegates and people who are there – that there is no way to understand it on CNN. (That why we have CANN!) He said that no bishop or delegate can influence the convention. Nevertheless, Jones said that Bishop Lee was being too modest in not noting his influence in the Convention. He said that “the confirmation issue was directly linked to the blessing liturgy issue” and that Peter Lee was right in the heart of it. In Bishop Jones opinion, the elevation of Robinson to Bishop was insignificant compared to the blessing liturgy. He said that Peter Lee stressed the autonomy of local diocese and that by voting the way he did he was able to influence the outcome on the blessings issue.

He said that he understands the concern and anguish felt by some following Minneapolis. He said he had similar feelings after leaving past conventions and mentioned Phoenix and another. He said that for some, the offense seems insurmountable, but for him, he looks to what Paul wrote in Romans 8
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He concluded “Ultimately, I must put my faith in Jesus.”

Then our facilitators approached the microphone and people began lining up behind the lone mic in the center aisle.
Community Meeting, Part 1 Because it's long, I'll post my summary of the Diocese of Virginia Community Meeting held 9-23-03 at Virginia Theological Seminary in three parts. The first is just pre-meeting stuff. Part 2 will be the statements of the Delegates and the Bishops. Part 3 will be the statements of the people of the Diocese.

Debbie and I arrived at about 6:30 p.m. and went over to the steps of one of the buildings and had our dinner – Subway sandwiches. There was a large group in the center of the quadrangle singing and praying. Debbie verbalized what I was thinking: maybe we should be fasting.

We went over and joined the circle – now numbering about 100-150. Someone was there taking pictures. Not snapshots, but pictures, like a news photographer.

Vic Meyer, who with his wife Joan is Truro Church’s most mighty prayer warrior, greeted us. He told me where the gathering was and I asked if he was going in. “No, I’m staying out here and praying.”

God bless the Vic and Joan Meyers of this world.

So, shortly before 7, I went over to the auditorium to see if my name was on the list. I was handed a “program” and walked in, sitting on the far right side of the auditorium (the entrance was on the left side), five rows from the front.

I wish I had stopped and prayed with Debbie before going in. I wish she were here with me.

The program is interesting. In addition to the agenda and order for worship (we’ll start with a hymn – The Church’s One Foundation), it contains the final version of Resolution C051 and, what is most interesting, the Minority Report drafted by Kendall Harmon.

I am seeing a lot of folks I recognize and not just from Truro. I do love the Episcopal Church and I hate to see it die. Perhaps this is just an extreme sickness and it will recover. There are precedents in the history of the Church, I understand, for resuscitations and resurrection.

It is 7:21 and the bishops have just sat down on stage. A bell is tinkling and the auditorium is growing quiet. Peter Lee is sitting just to the right of the podium – oops – they just scooted their chairs back a little, meaning the podium block my view of Bishop Lee.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Everything You Know is Wrong. From the WaPo Corrections today:
A Sept. 21 item in the Metro in Brief column about a woman fatally shot in Prince George's County and a child who was wounded incorrectly reported the woman's age, the child's sex, the child's location at the time of the shooting, and the street on which the shooting occurred.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Water. We have put together a 3 to 7 day supply of water -- pursuant to the emergency preparations guidelines for terrorist attacks. When the water supply went down, we got to test this. As I indicated below, we had no water at all for 24 hours and are still under a "no drink" order -- don't drink without first boiling the water. When I lived in Taiwan in the early 1960's we had to boil all our drinking and cooking water. Still, I found this episode very disconcerting. More so than if we had lost our power -- or perhaps that's part of it -- I expected to lose power, but not water.

I believe this is a good test of our preparedness -- there were somethings we were fine on -- others need improvement. Sad to say, but I believe there will be a major terrorist attack on the DC area in the next decade that will require full use of these resources.

I get a little irritated at some other folks who haven't taken the initiative to prepare:
"This is the second store I've been to," said Jennifer Hull, 30, in front of the empty shelves. "You would have thought that with all this preparation for terrorism that the water supply would have been a priority."
Umm, are you suggesting that we fund, create and build a warehouse to stockpile Evian? Or maybe do you think that it is up to the individual citizen to do a few small things in the way of preparing on their own.

I stopped at Food Lion this morning on the way home from Church to get some milk for the kids -- the shelves were completely empty -- not something I had expected.