Saturday, September 13, 2008

Anglicans Can Find Common Ground at the Cross

This is a must read from Newsweek/Washington post today. David Abshire was U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 1983 to 1987. The Very Reverend Ian Markham is Dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Today, we feel that the Episcopal Church is viewed by the public through a blurry lens. Their view is distorted by the prominence given in the media to the dispute over wedge issues like gay bishops and female clergy. Press reports of the Lambeth conference or the General Convention inevitably play up these rifts. One might think that all mainstream Episcopal congregations spend most of their time in church discussing how to advance gay and female clergy. For the mainstream congregations that we are familiar with the reality is completely different. Our services focus on the Gospel and the life and teachings of Jesus. We feel that many breakaway parishes don't believe this reality, which is an example of the sort of accusation of false motives and hidden agendas that Guinness decries in his Manifesto.

The rift in the global Anglican Communion can and must be repaired through civil dialogue. This dialogue is impossible when parties refuse to show up at the table as happened at Lambeth. The differences among the vast majority are not as great as portrayed. We and other prominent Episcopalians will release a "Statement of Beliefs" that explains exactly what the beliefs of mainstream Episcopalians are. Among these beliefs are, not only that the risen Christ is "the way and the truth and the life," but also those values that Jesus lived out. He embraced the outcast and downtrodden, believed in inclusion far more than exclusion. He despised most hypocrisy and sanctimony. He believed in equity and justice and Christians making the most of their gifts in service to God. Surely, that represents a common basis for belief far greater than the sum of those points on which we differ.

Rochester Church spat might head to Supreme Court

More on the Church Property suit going on in Rochester NY.

With about 100 similar cases in courts around the country, Episcopal Diocese attorney Thomas P. Smith said the All Saints case appeared to be the first to reach a state’s top court. The Court of Appeals is New York’s highest court.

At issue is whether the parishioners who built the church own it, or whether they simply held it in trust for the Episcopal Church of the USA and the diocese under the national church’s 1979 Dennis Canons, Smith said.
“These were Episcopalians giving to an Episcopal church and not to a free church,” Smith said. “They’re free to leave and join the church of Uganda or wherever, but not take church property.”

The rest is here-

Friday, September 12, 2008

Good Stuff in TEC: Episcopal Relief and Development

More good work by ERD as hurricane Ike approaches.

As Ike advances, Episcopal Relief & Development is communicating with affected dioceses in Texas, West Texas and Arkansas and is ready to respond. Those dioceses are preparing for the potential disaster and monitoring the needs of their communities.

"Communities all along the Gulf coast are in our thoughts and prayers as we wait and watch the path of Hurricane Ike," said Abagail Nelson, Senior Vice President for Programs at Episcopal Relief & Development. "We are ready to help if called to do so."

Episcopal Relief & Development is continuing to respond to the devastation caused by recent hurricanes in Haiti and monitoring the needs of other hard-hit countries in other parts of the Caribbean.

George Werner: What Did Jesus Do?

{The following is an original work submitted by the Very Rev. George Werner, Dean Emeritus of Trinity Cathedral Pittsburgh and past president of the House Of Deputies. George wants it to be clear that what follows is his thinking and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of the authors he refers to.}

The Leadership of the Diocese of Pittsburgh regularly use the mantra, The Episcopal Church has walked away from Jesus. The following is an abbreviated description of the path I believe I have been called to walk towards Jesus. I deeply and sadly regret that my chosen path is not welcome in the Diocese of Pittsburgh at this moment of history.

What Did Jesus Do?

About a quarter of a century ago, as I prepared to visit the Holy land, I started to study the cultural background of Holy Scripture. About ten years later, I met the wonderful Kenneth Bailey. A Presbyterian Missionary and son of Missionaries, Ken had lived most of his life in the Middle East and had just become the Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He is recognized worldwide for his great gifts in this field. His new book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (JTMEE), and his previous works have been instrumental on my pilgrimage towards Jesus.

The Pharisees, Scribes and Teachers of the Law (PSTL) held both secular and sacred power in Jesus’ time. The late Dr. Edward Roche Hardy, brilliant Church historian of the 20th century, taught us that the Pharisees, Scribes, Teachers of the law (PSTL) were committed to living out the Covenant with God in the best way possible. He added, that in addition to the scriptures, they devised more than 600 rules and statutes to define what that meant. He would then chuckle and add: “Of course, many of those rules excluded, banned, forbade, proscribed and exiled groups they believed to be outside God’s kingdom.

These included Samaritans, the ritually “unclean”, gentiles, thieves, tax collectors and usurers and generally anyone who did not follow their strict practices such as fasting two days each week and tithing more than 10% of their wealth. They also had different standards for women, which effectively limited and often isolated them. But when Jesus came, The Messiah, The Christ, The Son of the Living God, he did not embrace their (PSTL) understandings. Instead, he challenged them and defied them.

I ask myself often, not What Would Jesus Do? but rather, What Did Jesus Do?

“A “heathen” approached the famous Rabbi Shammai shortly before the time of Jesus, stood on one foot and said, ‘teach me the whole Law while I stand on one foot.’ Shammai got angry and drove him away. The man then went to rabbi Hillel, the founder of the other famous rabbinic school of the first century, and posed the same challenge. Hillel responded, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.” This is easily recognized as a negative form of the Golden Rule. Jesus apparently took Hillel’s reply and turned it into a positive.” (JTMEE, p.287)

A teacher of the law puts Jesus to the test. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answers the question with his own question: “What is written in the law? How do you read? The lawyer responds: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replies:” You have answered right; do this and you will live.” But the lawyer, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies with a story (parable) about a traveler who is beaten and stripped of his clothes and all belongings and left by the side of the road bleeding and probably dying.
In a style familiar to the time, Jesus describes three men coming along on the other side of the road. First is a Priest, a part of the inner circle of PSTL. He is under discipline to remain spiritually clean and chooses to walk on and not assist the victim of the thieves. The second, the Levite, is also welcome in the circle of PSTL as an officer of the Temple. He too walks on by.

The third man is not the usual “Jewish Layman” but a Samaritan. These were neighbors some 40 miles to the north of Jerusalem who looked to Mt. Gerazim not Mt. Zion; believed only in the Torah or Pentateuch and not the rest of the Old or First Testament; and in a Torah which differed at several points from the standard Masoretic Jewish text. They were the hated enemies of the Jews and the outcasts of the outcasts. Yet Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of the story.

Not only does the Samaritan tend to the wounds of the beaten man, he transports him to an Inn and stays up with him through the night. He leaves funds with the Innkeeper to assist the man’s recovery. This is one of Dr. Bailey’s examples of a “costly demonstration of unexpected love.” since Dr. Bailey goes on to explain why the scene at the Inn would represent a real danger to the Samaritan’s life.

Jesus has challenged the Teacher of the Law and suggests that the true neighbor is the one who chooses mercy and does the will of his father in heaven regardless of being in an unwelcome and unworthy category such as the Samaritans.

The PSTL had good reasons for many of their rules and statutes. When someone became dangerous to the health of the Village, it was necessary to protect the Village. Therefore, any deemed by the elders to be a “leper” would be banished. Removed from home, job, family and friends, they would be sent into a living death. Family and friends were also forbidden to make contact with them. Scholars debate whether “leper” really referred to Hansen’s Disease and some refer to the possibility of psoriasis or ulcerations. Nevertheless, it was understandable yet horrendous and heart breaking for all.

What did Jesus do? He defies the PSTL and heals the ten lepers. The healed lepers race to find their elders and to be readmitted to their former lives. One returns and gives thanks. Luke 17:16 reports that the grateful one was a Samaritan. Jesus says, “get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Another time, at Jacob’s well, Jesus engages someone in conversation. She is a Samaritan, a woman and the ex wife of five husbands. By all rules of PSTL, Jesus is defying and challenging their understanding of appropriate behavior.

“And talk not much with womankind. They said this of a man’s own wife. How much more of his fellow’s wife! Hence the sages said; He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at the last will inherit Gehenna.” Mishnah, ‘Abot 1:4 as quoted in JTMEE p.203

John 4 “So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Dr. Bailey refers to the unusual nature of this meeting with a sub chapter title: The Surprise of the Appearance of the First Christian Female Preacher. (JTMEE) Again, Jesus is not hindered by PSTL’s definition of who is acceptable to God or who may do the will of the father in heaven.

The times were harsh and the strategies were as well. Work was scarce, poverty wide spread. Some chose to join the bands of thieves who lived in the caves. To be caught was a guaranteed death penalty. Thieves and crucified criminals were clearly not acceptable in the circle of the PSTL. Yet, even on the cross, Jesus finds someone dying with him worthy of the promise of paradise.

Another forbidden category was that of the Gentiles. The First Commandment reminds us “That shall have no other Gods but me.” Among the Gentiles, the Roman Legions were certainly taboo for the PSTL. The Emperor was God and they had to sacrifice to him as the deity. Yet we see Jesus again defying the inner circle as he connects with the centurion and others who are not Jews.

In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go up to Jerusalem and meet with the apostles and the elders. When the Pharisees present challenged the idea of Gentiles being accepted without circumcision, first Peter and then Paul and Barnabas witnessed “of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.” As Peter is quoted in Acts 15:11 “On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they (gentiles) will.”

One last example from the Gospels is Zaccheus. Publicans, tax collectors and usurers were despised by the leaders of the sacred. One of the charges against Jesus was that he consorted with tax collectors including one of his own group. But the story of Jesus and Zaccheus is another “costly demonstration of unexpected love.”

Jesus enters Jehrico. The most despised man in town is Zaccheus who has grown rich as Chief Tax Collector. The leaders of Jehrico offered Jesus their hospitality but Jesus chose to eat with Zaccheus and to stay overnight in his home. Luke 19:7 “And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to spend the night with a man who is a sinner.”

In John 21:15ff, Jesus meets with Peter following the resurrection. He asks Simon Peter, son of John, three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter responds affirmatively. And Jesus charges Peter, “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” Earlier, on the night before His crucifixion, John 15:12 records Jesus as saying, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Just what Jesus told the teacher of the Law in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Moses brought all the people to the Promised Land, not just the Commandos. I have believed that was my calling for almost fifty years now. For me to walk toward Jesus means looking among all Jesus sheep and lambs, not just some select few.

I question neither the sincerity or the commitment of those who feel called to other paths on the way to Jesus. After all, “In my Father’s House there are many mansions. As I have
preached for many years, with God there is always more and with scripture there is always more. I believe that we all see through the glass darkly and that we are sinners who need to be saved by grace. Finally, as we yearn for god’s truth, it is better to have all voices at the table, not only those of our own choosing.

George L.W. Werner
Confirmed by Bishop JP DeWolfe 1953
Ordained Deacon by Bishop WH Gray 1962
Ordained Priest 1963
Dean Emeritus, Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh 1979-2000
31st President, the House of Deputies, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church
Deputy, elected by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, 1982; Chair of the Deputation; 1985, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003

Good Stuff in TEC: Virginia

Donating canned vegetables to a food drive or clothes to a Salvation Army drop box and volunteering for the occasional fund-raiser is frequently the extent of many people's charitable contribution. However, some people simply have the desire to do more and the parishioners at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church are just that type.

Over the summer, the church sent three groups of people on three different mission trips to Pomona, Belize, George, South Africa and Philadelphia to help less fortunate communities and to spread their message to the locals there. The trips to Belize and Philadelphia were youth missions, with young men and women in ninth grade and above, while the trip to South Africa was an adult mission for those 18 and up.

You can see all of the good stuff posts by typing Good Stuff into the blog's search engine.

Earliest reference to baseball found in England

Say it ain't so Joe !

Bray wrote that he played the game with both men and women on the day after Easter, a traditional holiday in England. "He was about 18 or 19 (at the time of the diary entry)," Pooley said. "He was a very social man. He enjoyed sports."

The entry reads:

"Easter Monday 31 March 1755 "Went to Stoke Ch. This morning. After Dinner Went to Miss Jeale's to play at Base Ball with her, the 3 Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford & H. Parsons & Jelly. Drank Tea and stayed till 8." Baseball has long been thought to have been an American invention, with roots in the British games of rounders and cricket.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Report from the Flight 93 Service

It was a wonderful and moving ceremony at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville this morning. I had the privilege of being one of those who read the names of those on board who died as heroes. I stood with Yachiyo Kuge whose 20-year-old son died in the crash. She read his name proudly and with tears. Perhaps a thousand people gathered together to give thanks for what these men and women did. The Governor was there as well as John McCain who spent much time with the family members who gather each year on this date to remember. He is shown in the photo looking at the temporary memorial wall with Gordon Felt whose brother Edward was one of the passengers. Gordon is also heading up the effort to create a permanent memorial at the site. I feel very privileged to have been part of the service today.

Crew Members: Age: Home Town:

Captain Jason M. Dahl 43 Littleton, Colorado
First OfficerLeRoy Homer 36 Marlton, New Jersey

Flight Attendants
Lorraine G. Bay 58 East Windsor, New Jersey
Sandra Bradshaw 38 Greensboro, North Carolina
Wanda Anita Green 49 Oakland, California & Linden, New Jersey
CeeCee Lyles 33 Fort Pierce, Florida
Deborah Welsh 49 New York City, New York

Passengers: Age: Home Town:

Christian Adams 37 Biebelsheim, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Todd Beamer 32 Cranbury, New Jersey
Alan Anthony Beaven 48 Oakland, California
Mark Bingham 31 San Francisco, California
Deora Frances Bodley 20 San Diego, California
Marion R. Britton 53 Brooklyn, New York
Thomas E. Burnett, Jr. 38 Bloomington, Minnesota
William Joseph Cashman 60 West New York, New Jersey
Georgine Rose Corrigan 55 Honolulu, Hawaii
Patricia Cushing 69 Bayonne, New Jersey
Joseph DeLuca 52 Succasunna, New Jersey
Patrick Joseph Driscoll 70 Manalapan, New Jersey
Edward P. Felt 41 Matawan, New Jersey
Jane Folger 73 Bayonne, New Jersey
Colleen Fraser 51 Elizabeth, New Jersey
Andrew Garcia 62 Portola Valley, California
Jeremy Glick 31 Hewitt, New Jersey
Lauren Catuzzi-Grandcolas 38 San Rafael, California
Donald Freeman Greene 52 Greenwich, Connecticut
Linda Gronlund 46 Greenwood Lake, New York
Kristin White Gould 65 New York City, New York
Richard Guadagno 38 Eureka, California & Trenton, New Jersey
Toshiya Kuge 20 Osaka, Japan
Hilda Marcin 79 Mount Olive, New Jersey
Waleska Martinez 37 Jersey City, New Jersey
Nicole Carol Miller 21 San Jose, California
Louis "Joey" Nacke, II 42 New Hope, Pennsylvania
Donald Peterson 66 Spring Lake, New Jersey
Jean Hoadley Peterson 55 Spring Lake, New Jersey
Mark Rothenberg 52 Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Christine Snyder 32 Kailua, Hawaii
John Talignani 74 Staten Island, New York
Honor Elizabeth Wainio 27 Baltimore, Maryland

Special Day Today: Flight 93 Memorial

On September 11, 2001, United 93 flew low and directly over St. Michael's (my parish) before crashing minutes later in Shanksville PA. I drove out to the site and was waved through the police barrier before the perimeter was secured. I met my friend and fellow priest Bill Haslett there and eventually we were admitted to the site itself. I can remember being amazed at what a small hole that plane made. The impact crater was extraordinarily tiny. In fact the original reports were that a small plane went down. We helped deliver supplies to the (what were then called) rescue workers and left late in the afternoon. Last year I was interviewed for the flight 93 oral history project. This year I have been asked to be among those who read the names of the brave men and women who died. The memorial service takes place at the crash site. An amazing honor. Family members will be present. I will be paired with Yachiyo Kuge, mother of Toshiya Kuge, the second youngest passenger on the plane. I'll update you later on how it went. The picture is from the day of the crash and appeared in a number of newspapers.

Canadian Primate asks Rowan to convene meeting to discuss cross-border intervention

Yes, please, would you guys just talk to each other?

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he has requested Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to facilitate a meeting between him, the primate of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, Gregory Venables.

The three primates – Archbishop Hiltz, Archbishop de Andrade, and Bishop Jefferts Schori – have repeatedly asked Archbishop Venables to stop meddling in the internal affairs of their provinces. Archbishop Venables has, on his own accord, been providing episcopal oversight to churches that are in serious theological dispute with their respective provinces over the issue of sexuality. Archbishop Williams has said he will do his best to facilitate the request.

Presiding Bishop removes MacBurney's inhibition after retired bishop apologizes

Could it be that things are getting better in the House of Bishops?

Diocese of San Diego Bishop Jim Mathes, who originally asked for MacBurney to be disciplined because he conducted unauthorized confirmations in San Diego, told ENS September 10 that the order and discipline of the church had been "maintained and in some way enhanced by this process." "Bishop MacBurney's decision is the result of my efforts and those of others to find a non-judicial outcome to an unfortunate event," Mathes said September 10 in his weekly email to diocesan clergy. "Today, the order of our church and the collegiality of the House of Bishops have been enhanced."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good Stuff in TEC: Michigan

Churches vow to help homeless

"We have a lot of great programs, especially in Macomb County, but there's just not enough," said Earl, parishioner and volunteer outreach minister at Grace Episcopal Church in Mount Clemens. "It has to be done. A lot of people don't want to believe that there's a guy sleeping under the bridge down the street, but there is. They're out there, they're everywhere."

About six local churches are working together to start the faith-based recovery shelter program, Grace House, said the Rev. Anne Bump of Grace Episcopal Church. The organizers are hoping the additional churches will provide financial support and refer homeless people to the program.

Good Stuff in TEC: Minnesota

St. Luke’s members answer call to ministry.

As any church council member could tell you, finding and recruiting ministers to serve congregations in small rural towns has become an increasingly difficult task through the years. But the congregation at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Detroit Lakes has found a unique way to get around that problem — by recruiting members of its own congregation, through a program known as Total Ministry.

California's top Episcopal bishops oppose gay marriage ban

Notice the distinction between the approval of secular civil "rights" and the Church blessing such unions.

While the Episcopal bishops agreed on the need to preserve the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed, they disagreed about when priests should start presiding over such unions.

Some of the six believe that priests should be allowed to conduct ceremonies now, while others prefer to wait for consent from the Episcopal Church's governing body, the General Convention. It meets next in July 2009.,0,3495332.story


Today we remember Alexander Crummell a black Episcopal priest who faced much discrimination and opposition trying to help Blacks on three continents. A Bio and readings can be found here -

and here including an eye witness to his ministry-

Ann Gillespie goes from '90210' 'hood to the priesthood

"Beverly Hills 90210" fans discover in Tuesday's episode of the "90210" sequel that Kelly Taylor's troubled mother, Jackie, hasn't changed much. The same can't be said for Ann Gillespie, who plays Jackie: She's gone from actress to Episcopal priest.

Between sermons, weddings and funerals at Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., the Rev. Gillespie squeezed in an appearance on "90210," CW's follow-up to the hit Fox series that aired from 1990-2000.

Good Stuff In TEC: Oregon

Feeding the hungry out of Grace Episcopal Astoria.

Oregon's food distribution system for the hungry is a marvel. It begins at a giant warehouse in Portland, where food retailers such as Safeway and Fred Meyer bring product. Then it moves to junctions such as the regional food warehouse operated by Clatsop Community Action. Finally it goes to places such as Grace Episcopal and Manna House, where the public may pick up nutrition. Talk to someone who meets the public at one of these places and they will tell you about the faces of the hungry and of how it comes in all configurations of family or single people.

You can see all of the Good Stuff Posts by typing "Good Stuff" in the blog's search engine

More on the dispute in Rochester

A report out of Albany about the parish property dispute between All Saints Irondequoit and the diocese of Rochester.

The diocese filed a lawsuit to get the property, located at 759 Winona Blvd. A trial judge and a mid-level appeals court sided with the diocese, saying that it was "entitled to the real and personal property at issue in the case that is currently held in trust by All Saints ... for the benefit of the diocese and National Church." But VanVoorhis told the judges Tuesday that the parishioners bore all of the expenses of building and maintaining the church and therefore should be permitted to retain ownership.

A decision from the Court of Appeals is expected late next month.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Baseball legend dies: Don Gutteridge passes away

7th oldest former major league player. That would be Pittsburg Kansas.

For the duration of his life, Don Gutteridge was known as someone who loved the game of baseball and loved the city of Pittsburg.

Gutteridge, 96, passed away at his Pittsburg home late Sunday afternoon.

Over his Major League Baseball career, Gutteridge played 13 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates.

In addition, after retiring as a player, he was the manager of the Chicago White Sox for two years and served as a scout for the Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. Over his career, he had 391 RBIs, 39 home runs and had a career batting average of .256, playing both second and third base.

New York State Supreme Court to Decide Property Issue

The new York Sate Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on a parish property dispute in the Diocese of Rochester.

Arguments were scheduled Tuesday at the Court of Appeals. Trial and midlevel appeals courts sided with the diocese, concluding it was entitled to the property under rules adopted by the National Church in 1979.,0,3848409.story

Developments in the Court Case for Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about developments in the court case involving the assets of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The court has appointed a "master".

"In response to a lawsuit led by one of its parishes, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has agreed to have a court-appointed neutral party inventory all of its property and assets as it prepares for a final vote on seceding from the Episcopal Church. The agreement between representatives of the diocese and Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside, came after a hearing yesterday before Joseph M. James, president judge of Common Pleas Court. In 2005, he oversaw a settlement after Calvary sued the diocese to prevent the transfer of property from the denomination to individual parishes."

The official diocesan press release may be found here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bruce Robison Reflects on the Differences Between San Joaquin and Pittsburgh

A Reflection on San Joaquin and Pittsburgh

--The Rev. Bruce Robison, Rector, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park

At Diocesan Convention in Fresno, California, in December, 2007, the clergy and lay deputies of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin voted by substantial majorities to approve the second reading of an amendment to their diocesan constitution, asserting the decision to remove themselves from the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church. A few minutes later they adopted a new canon associating themselves instead, “realigning,” with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay).

Months later, in March of 2008, a group of clergy and laity from the “former” Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin met in a special convention called by local leadership, with the oversight of the Presiding Bishop, to reorganize as the “continuing” Diocese of San Joaquin of the Episcopal Church. With the approval of the Presiding Bishop they elected the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, retired Bishop of the neighboring Diocese of Northern California, as their Provisional Bishop.

As summer turns to fall, congregations of both of these “dioceses” continue ministry in the cities, towns, and rural areas of the agricultural Central Valley of California. Both “dioceses” as well are engaged in a number of different contests of canon and civil law, as they have asserted conflicting claims about the ecclesial status of their governing structures and, in civil courts, about the corporate identity and assets of the former Episcopal diocese. In several places as well parish groups are challenging one another in court over the continued ownership and use of parish properties and financial assets. There are soap opera elements, day by day, deep feelings, much hurt--and any final settlement of all the conflicting concerns seems some distance down the road.

Now, MapQuest tells me that some 2,562.78 miles separate the offices of our Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, downtown in the Oliver Building on Smithfield Street, from the headquarters of what is now known as the Diocese of San Joaquin of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, , on E. Dakota Avenue in Fresno, California. From those offices, in turn, it is a relatively short hop, 137.31 miles, to Inglewood Avenue, in Stockton, California, where one may find the offices of the Diocese of San Joaquin of the Episcopal Church, . Why do these two places, so far from the headwaters of the Ohio, interest me so much? For a couple of reasons, I guess.

First of all, I have a personal interest. I’m a native Californian. I attended seminary at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, in Berkeley. I began my ordained ministry in the Diocese of Northern California—the diocese directly to the north of San Joaquin. Many of the places and people in this story are well known to me. I have several seminary classmates, friends and former colleagues, now serving in the Southern Cone diocese, and several as well who serve in the diocese of the Episcopal Church. Although Bishop Jerry Lamb began his ministry in Northern California some years after Susy and I had moved to Pennsylvania, Bishop John-David Schofield, long-time Bishop of San Joaquin, now of the “Southern Cone” diocese, was an acquaintance and briefly a colleague in Northern California, when I was a seminarian and a new ordinand in Auburn and he was rector of Inverness. In any case—the San Joaquin story is for me at least a little bit like “home town news,” and I continue to be interested in following the story--and of course I continue to keep all the cast of characters in my best thoughts and prayers.

More pertinently, though, I have continued to follow the San Joaquin situation, and I’m writing this commentary, because I and many others have wondered if there might be a few clues there about what might lie ahead for us here, in Pittsburgh, with our “realignment vote” at diocesan convention now only a bit more than a month away. After all, of the four dioceses of the Episcopal Church that seem on the course for “realignment” (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Quincy, and Fort Worth), San Joaquin went first.

As we might look to San Joaquin as a kind of forerunner, I would note that there are indeed a number of similarities between our two dioceses—Pittsburgh and the “former” San Joaquin. San Joaquin, pre-December, 2007, was a small diocese—perhaps 2/3rds the size of Pittsburgh in terms of membership and number of congregations—but like Pittsburgh it encompassed a region of several larger metropolitan areas (especially Bakersfield and Fresno) and many smaller towns and rural communities. Like Pittsburgh, San Joaquin was a diocese of small churches, though with a few larger places. Like Pittsburgh, San Joaquin has been for many years along the spectrum of church politics a mostly conservative diocese, with leadership expressing a sense of increasing estrangement from the Episcopal Church. Like Pittsburgh, “conservative” San Joaquin has also included clergy and congregations of a more moderate and “progressive” orientation—more aligned with the culture of the wider Episcopal Church and in a conflicted relationship with their own diocesan leadership. Like Pittsburgh, San Joaquin had a bishop in +John-David Schofield who was engaged actively in the “political” battles of the wider Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.

But there are differences as well between the two dioceses. As I noted above, in numbers of congregations and in membership San Joaquin was a significantly smaller diocese than Pittsburgh—although, unlike Pittsburgh, it is situated in a region with some rapidly growing urban areas and higher property values. San Joaquin had fewer large parishes, and neither parishes nor the diocese held the kinds of endowments, trusts, and other financial reserves that we would find in Pittsburgh. Another notable difference would be that until the recent fracture there had been no women ordained to the priesthood or functioning as priests in San Joaquin, while the past three Bishops of Pittsburgh have all supported the ordination of women, with women serving as rectors of parishes and on the diocesan leadership team.

Both Pittsburgh and San Joaquin, as noted above, have had substantially conservative majorities of clergy and laity for many years. However, there has been a difference in terms of proportionality and distribution. In San Joaquin the diocese seems to have been polarized, with a very large majority of very conservative clergy and congregations, and with a small number of more progressive clergy and congregations. (Of course, congregations themselves were somewhat diverse, and many with very conservative majorities also had more moderate and progressive minorities among the membership.) At the time of the realignment vote, fewer than a half dozen parishes of the diocese were committed “as parishes” to remaining in the Episcopal Church.

In Pittsburgh, though with an overall conservative majority, seven of the sixteen largest parishes of the diocese (Rankings I and II), eight of the twelve congregations within the city of Pittsburgh itself (District VII), and, across the wider diocese, parishes representing together something like 35%-40% of the diocesan average Sunday attendance, have indicated an intention not to be a part of the “realigned” diocese, but instead to remain within the Episcopal Church.

Unlike San Joaquin, where most remaining-Episcopal clergy and congregations appear to have been of a more-progressive orientation, in Pittsburgh the remaining-Episcopal clergy and congregations are very diverse, with a substantial proportion and perhaps even a majority theologically oriented in more moderate and conservative directions. Among those remaining in the Episcopal Church will be officers of the diocese as well—present and former members of the Standing Committee, Board of Trustees, Diocesan Council, Growth Fund, and Commission on Ministry, several former members of the diocesan administrative staff, and a majority of the Board of the diocesan Clergy Association.

Although San Joaquin had an organized “Remain Episcopal” group in the years prior to the final vote on realignment, it was a relatively small group, and without the depth of resources of experienced diocesan leadership and congregational participation that exists in Pittsburgh. While in the end some San Joaquin Standing Committee members and others in diocesan leadership did not become a part of the realigned diocese, there was not any significant planning for a canonical transition. Thus, when “realignment” happened, those in the diocese wishing to remain within the Episcopal Church and the leadership of the Episcopal Church itself were put into a situation where some improvisation seemed necessary to call a reorganizational convention and to begin to create anew canonical structures and institutions within the diocese. It has been suggested that a more deliberate and cautious approach to this reorganization could have minimized this improvisational initiative, and I think that is probably true, but also a matter of 20/20 hindsight. At the time, people of good-will felt that this was an appropriate way forward.

In Pittsburgh, in any case, the situation is markedly different. For many months “remaining Episcopal” diocesan officers, clergy, and lay leaders from across the spectrum of diocesan theological diversity and representing all the regions of the diocese, have been working together in the context of “Across the Aisle” conversations to establish plans for an orderly and canonical reorganization of the Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church, should the constitutional amendment concerning realignment be approved at the October 4 convention. These preparations have been taking place transparently, not secretly. Importantly, the leadership of the Episcopal Church has been apprised of these preparations and has indicated a commitment to support the local initiatives for canonical transition.

Despite rumors and anxieties that have moved through the diocese in the past few months, the Presiding Bishop and other leadership of the Episcopal Church have clearly indicated that they do not wish to improvise extra-canonical solutions when canonical solutions are possible, as they most certainly are here. This is an important point, as our clergy, vestries, and congregations seek to discern the best way forward. Ecclesiastical “martial law” is not going to be declared in Pittsburgh, armies of occupation will not descend upon us, and decisions about episcopal leadership and other matters of governance will be made by the clergy and laity of the remaining diocese ourselves, in an orderly, canonical process.

For us in Pittsburgh, as for our brothers and sisters in San Joaquin, remaining-Episcopal or realigning, the future is in many ways a mystery. We have problems to address on both sides of that dividing line, and among the members on both sides, that are going to be challenging. My sense is that in San Joaquin what began as sometimes unsettling and experimental improvisation is now gradually settling into a more orderly pattern of life and ministry, the California courts gradually sorting out the various legal concerns involved--and that as both we in Pittsburgh and the leadership of the Episcopal Church have learned from the experience of the San Joaquin transition, the prospects for a successful transition here have significantly improved.

Cat fight breaks out in Common Cause

If you can make your way through the alphabet soup of REC, APA and DOW you'll see what many have been saying about the culture that Common Cause fosters. Actually the parallels with what happened in San Joaquin are amazing. The Bishop who's left with his diocese for the Reformed Church has said that the Presiding Bishop of APA has overstepped his bounds in what he's done since the announced departure. Fascinating.

In a move that could have serious implications for the Common Cause Partnership, an entire diocese of the Anglican Province of America with some 22 plus churches has fled that Anglican jurisdiction and allied itself with the Reformed Episcopal Church in America (REC).

Bishop Boyce announced this week that he was taking his diocese out of the APA and formally bringing it into the Reformed Episcopal Church, a move that angered the Presiding Bishop of the APA, the Most. Rev. Walter Grundorf, who promptly relieved Boyce of his position as Bishop and appointed the Very Rev. Douglas King as interim administrator of the DOW.

Good Stuff in TEC: Virginia

Church assembles meal packages for Haiti

Operation Sharehouse, part of the nationwide organization Stop Hunger Now, sends representatives to help churches and community groups with packaging events. For those in disadvantaged areas, the food Emmanuel and other local Episcopal church members bag will help improve their quality of life, said Operation Sharehouse's Troy Henson.

"You can't think if you're hungry," Henson said. "You can't go to work if you're hungry. Things just don't run if you're trying to find food."

More than 125 volunteers registered for the event, scooping the dehydrated food for hours at a time. Part of the organization's success is its efficiency, said Meneta Deaton, the Emmanuel youth group leader. Before the four-hour day is done, church members will bag 20,000 meals.

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Its enough to make you want to watch soccer

Front Page of this mornings Post-Gazette. Talk about the agony of defeat. I think its the curse of Francisco Cabrera.

With an excruciating, error-filled erratic 11-6 loss to the San Francisco Giants on an otherwise golden Bay-side afternoon at AT&T Park, the 122-year-old Pittsburgh Baseball Club, the once-proud franchise of five World Series championships and Roberto Clemente and Honus Wagner, achieved an ignominious place in sporting history by clinching a 16th consecutive losing season.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Just because: You can close your eyes.

James and Daughter Sally.

Good Stuff in TEC: Texas

The Diocese of Texas connects with youth -

"It’s not often that one gets to combine a karaoke machine, talent show, visits from a bishop suffragan and bishop coadjutor-elect, kickball and cafeteria food, but almost anything is possible during the senior high Christian Leadership Conference.

Held every June at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, CLC’s stated purpose is to "connect youth through worship, ministry, discipleship, fellowship and evangelism." This mission was carried out by a youth design team headed by Stephanie Grotte of Calvary, Richmond. As an added responsibility, the CLC youth lay director also addresses Diocesan Council each year."

Just for Fun !

Poverty more important than sexuality says Tutu

A report from the BBC. Archbishop Tutu (Shown in a very hip hat) thinks we have our priorities out of order.

Archbishop Tutu told the conference in London that the Anglican Church was ideally placed to tackle poverty because of its presence at the heart of communities in the UK and overseas. However, he said he sometimes felt ashamed of his fellow Anglicans as they focussed obsessively on trying to resolve their disagreement about homosexuality while 30,000 people died each day because of poverty.

"We really will not be able to win wars against so-called terror as long as there are conditions that make people desperate, and poverty, disease and ignorance are amongst the chief culprits," he said.

Tradtitionalists concerned over Covenant plans

The Prayer Book Society (an organization that still won't use the 1979 BCP) complains about the proposed covenant.

Singapore has been selected for the next meeting by the Covenant Design Group, encouraging a non-Canterbury-centric attitude. The last meeting was held in London in January, but included 12 representatives of Anglicanism from around the world who drew up a draft of the new Covenant which would provide a guide of Anglican orthodoxy as suggested in 2004’s Windsor Report.

This was offered for contemplation at the Lambeth Conference, but a letter from the Prayer Book Society notes: “At Lambeth the Bishops' thoughts were that the document, and I quote, 'needs to have a less Church of England basis, particularly in regard to the formularies'.”

Good Stuff in TEC: Episcopal Relief and Development

Episcopal News Service piece on the Good Work Episcopal Relief and Development is doing in the Caribbean.

"Know that you are in our prayers, and those of this whole Church," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote September 5 in a message emailed to Diocese of Haiti Bishop Zache Duracin. "God never abandons us, even though the night seems long and dark."

The one-two-three punch that has hit the Caribbean with more to come, is "pretty unprecedented," said Matthew St. John, Episcopal Relief and Development's program officer for Latin America and the Caribbean.

"The situation in Haiti is extremely serious and there's a possibility for it to get even more serious," he told ENS on September 5.

The situation is also severely hampering relief efforts, ERD said in a news release, which also contains information about how to help those efforts.

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