Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't fry my green tomatoes

I've left the wild wilderness of Virginia, and find myself in an urban oasis about five miles from my home church and...home.

This place won't be home for long, because the kitchen is terrible. Well, perhaps not so terrible: I can look out to my sunny balcony, where grows a "kitchen garden." I have put in some wonderful balcony gardens, but this one is special. Three tomato plants, nine herbs, a pot of parsley, and yes - some flowers.

The women in my family have the proverbial green thumb, and I've grown some magnificent shade gardens in the shadow of high-rise buildings. But look: tomatoes! No one thought it made sense to grow full-size tomato plants in pots on a balcony, except my mother. She told me to put in enough plants to supply my brother, sister-in-law and a few nice neighbors. Putting in a garden makes a place home; when you move in late spring, it's probably more important than unpacking boxes. Some might disagree, but my new home will have flowers and tomatoes that can't be purchased with MasterCard. The last of the boxes can be unpacked when the days grow short and the basil has died.

I'm home. In about three weeks, we'll be crackin' jimmies, and eating sweet corn and vine-ripened tomatoes. My home church has grown on its vine, with a larger (and lovely) physical plant, and a diverse congregation that loves the liturgy and serves the least of us.

Perhaps this kitchen isn't too small. Perhaps my life was too small, and the kitchen too large. Let's ripen those tomatoes on the vine. I have the sweet basil, who's bringing the fresh mozz?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury Will Be elected Inside of A Month: UPDATE UPDATE

Based on ++Rowan Williams utter inability to provide for even the election of a regular bishop this article has reappeared by popular demand. It is odd, but I would have thought that the Archbishop of Canterbury would have a little finesse in he political arena. It my language, "bummer dude!".

The Guardian is reporting that the new Archbishop of Canterbury will be appointed inside of 30 days.

In a stunning turn of events ++Rowan Williams resigned last week from his position as the Archbishop of Canterbury and the titular head of the Anglican Communion, such as it is. It seems that Archbishop Williams was summoned to Windsor Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth, the Prime Minister and the Head of the House of Commons and the head of the House of Lords. This all occurred after the leading primates of the Southern Cone, recently renamed GAFCON, withdrew from the Anglican Communion and named Archbishop Luke Orombi as the new Archbishop of the Anglican Communion.

In related news it it was learned that about 3 months ago the Episcopal Church of the United States, the Church of Canada and several other provinces within what was the last vestige of the British Empire, the worldwide Anglican Communion, rejected resoundingly the document referred to as the Anglican Covenant. Apparently this rejection by a large minority of the churches making up the Anglican Communion set the wheels in motion for the organization known as GAFCON to invoke the Jerusalem Declaration and elect a new Archbishop of the real Anglican Communion. It took three votes. The first vote rejected Peter Akinola as the new archbishop and the second vote rejected Greg Venables. It was then determined by a small committee made up of lessor bishops that put forth a candidate with little real world experience and Henri Luke Orombi was elected the new Archbishop. We are told that the committee consisted of the likes of mostly American bishops including Robert Duncan, Jack Iker, John David Schofield and John Guernsey. At a press conference the newly consecrated Archbishop Orombi stated, "We told the Archbishop of Canterbury he really wasn't necessary but I guess we had to prove it."

In a related press conference, the press secretary for Queen Elizabeth said the Queen was sorely disappointed in the way that Mr. Rowan Williams had slowly ground the last remnants of the British Empire into dust. The Prime Minister stated that he had not seen such a debacle since Lord Chamberlain "gave the world away in the mid 20th century." The Queen's press secretary stated that a new Archbishop of Canterbury will be appointed and will have much less to worry about than the former Archbishop of Canterbury. There was no comment forthcoming from the Queen on the 14 different alternative oversight bishops that are currently operating inside of England from such far away paces as Uganda, Rwanda, Brazil and Australia. Clearly there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the method and manner that Rowan Williams has handled this whole sordid mess but none greater than when Greg Venables, agreed to provide alternative oversight to the Westminster Abbey group that, in a stunning move, rejected Rowan Williams as their primary bishop.

A rising star for the appointment to the Archbishop of Canterbury is the most Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin. A known insider commented that while her name is being bandied about in a real sense the Queen has indicated that if she should be forced to appoint a woman to the Archbishop's role the Queen would seek alternative primatial oversight from Archbishop Mounieer Anis.

The retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said through a spokesman, he was deeply disappointed and distraught that the British Empire could be brought down by a few odd and disaffected people from across the pond.

(just kidding).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Too Many Bishops with Too Much Time On Their Hands

"The Church was to make a formal declaration of its preference for the epsicopacy, and of its intention of obtaining it as soon as possible, but in the meantime White felt that the necessity of the case would fully justify the resort to the presbyterial ordination, and he cited expressions from Cranmer, Hooker, Usher, and other leading divines to support his view."

This was a quote from Mandrake's book on the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. White (despite or in spite of the fact he ultimately was consecrated a bishop) believed we (TEC) could get along just fine without bishops. Of course that is all history. Nowadays, at least in the United States, we believe in the "up or out" theory of work. What I mean by that is best expressed with a military analogy. A member of the military must routinely be promoted otherwise, the member is asked to leave the service all together. This mindset, permeates American culture. We as a work force believe that it is our "God-given right" to a promotion. If one works hard, studies hard and does a good job, we are entitled to a promotion. Few believe, and fewer practice, the idea that there is inherent value in a position, a lifetime work.

This becomes far more complicated in religious field and in the Episcopal Church in particular. Specifically, the priesthood seems to be a mere stepping stone to the episcopate. It would be interesting to run a survey among the various seminaries and see where each seminarian would believe they will be in 15 years. My seat of the pants guess would say that 40 to 60% of those would suggest they will be a bishop somewhere.

Now, before everyone goes ballistic let's think about this for just a moment. How many diocese are there and how many priests do we ordain in one year? Better, more to the point perhaps, how many priests get paid a living wage? How many priests, when faced with a career as a priest can honestly say their salary will be higher (substantially higher?) at the end of their career versus the beginning of their career? So, it is our (the laity) problem, maybe even more so.

So what has happened? Well, we have created a group of clergy that are avaricious, social climbers that are never satisfied with where they are and always seeking the next promotion. My next survey would poll all the priests over 15 years of service and ask them to select three episcopates where they think they would do a better job than the current bishop. None of the above would be a viable answer, one that very few would choose, at least I believe that.

What does all of this have to do with the current state of affairs in the Episcopal Church? If you review all the "current bishops" in the ACNA or similar non-TEC bishops I believe that many who have been bishop for some time would tell us they wanted to be or could do a better job at being the Presiding Bishop and certainly could do a way-better job than some woman! Many of those who went "extra-legal" to be consecrated would say that they have paid their dues, and could be as good if not better than their (used to be) current bishop. I believe all of them would say that this is the next logical rung on the promotion ladder, that they paid their dues and that in their mind, it was time to be promoted.

If this did not lead directly to the current state of affairs in our church it certainly was/is a significant contributing factor. Ask them, if they are honest you will get answers that resemble this post. Of course, honesty is not necessarily these folks long suit. And, history is history and that is that.

What can we do now? We need to change the culture beginning in seminary, if not before. One does not need to be a brilliant theologian to be a good pastor, and after all is that not all we as laity are after? So, seminary needs to begin the process of creating value in and of the position of vicar/rector. We as laity need to begin to value our pastors for the work they do, not the work that they have done. What does that look like? Well, lets start with paying for experience. Let us, as laity, create value in longevity. Rectors/Vicars should be paid for their service to the parish, now. A living wage is all well and good but it does not engender holding on to current priests. Diocese throughout the country need to create pay schedules that reflect real experience. Laity will also have to change our way of thinking in that we need to "not look for the next best thing since sliced bread". We need to continue to challenge our rectors/vicars. We need to provide vacations, sabbaticals, additional work like starting up the regular and routine home visits of parishioners.

We need to de-emphasize the idea that bishops are the end all and be all of clergy. One idea would be to create an administrative position in each diocese that does all the administrative work and relegate a bishop to pastor of the flock. This might very well involve devolution of the House of Bishops. Revolution in the House of Deputies.

What do you all think?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Truth or Fiction?

what is more damaging, truth or fiction? In the Episcopal Church we meet, we discuss, sometimes we yell, sometimes we even act out a bit, but we never fabricate the truth. One may not always like what we as Episcopalians do, but we do it in front of everyone and we generally say what we mean and mean what we say. That seems to be our downfall.

Take for example the members of ACNA, in fact let's talk about the now deposed Bishop of San Joaquin, John David Schofield. For years he was asked, "Are you taking the diocese of San Joaquin out of the Episcopal Church?" For years, he responded with a resounding NO! In fact, there are at least two pastoral letters from Mr. Schofield that clearly stated he had no such intention. Then, like a "bolt from on high, he does just that! Yes, in December of 2007 he pulls the diocese into a half-baked (maybe full baked) province from South America led by a renegade from who knows where. (In a related story, Archbishop Venables is now so broke he cannot pay attention and is need, once again, of the North Americans to come to his financial rescue). Now, Mr. Schofield will vehemently deny he did anything, after all, it was his convention delegates that did all the work, but read his statement to convention of that year, he certainly did not tell the truth.

Now, three years later, the Episcopal Church meets and passes two significant resolutions on inclusion. The Archbishop of Canterbury was there, he spoke. We discussed, debated and then passed the resolution. Then, we simply did what we said we were going to do. Everyone in the worldwide Anglican Communion gets their knickers in a twist and then we, The Episcopal Church, get thrown off committees and bounced from sub-groups. The GAFCON archbishops come together and agree to exercise "gracious restraint" and it turns out that it is neither gracious nor restrained. Nothing happens. The Communion Partners, which Archbishop Williams is particularly enamored with, attends the last GAFCON conference complete with voice at the convention yet they say, "Oh, we just want to be good Episcopalians, we do not want to tear down the Episcopal Church, we want to build it up." Hooey!

So the Episcopal Church says what it means and does what it says and gets blasted. The GAFCON/ACNA/CANA/AMiA folks create fiction, borrow property indefinitely, violate territorial rights, continue to practice holy orders after being duly deposed and generally reek mayhem on the Anglican Communion and they get -- the run of the show! Well, I am glad we got that straightened out!