Thursday, July 31, 2008

Deliberate Distortions

Wednesday at Lambeth, the bishops and their spouses met together in the Big Blue Tent.

Well, not exactly together. The men were on one side of the tent and the women on the other.

The subject for the day was violence - specifically violence against women.

Episcopal Cafe provides extensive coverage here.

My bishop relates his experience of the day here.

There were a number of aspects to the event. It included a Bible study about the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13: 1-22). It also included a dramatic presentation which intertwined several Gospel accounts of Jesus healing women.

Many participants have spoken or blogged about it since. All those who have commented have said that it was a powerful morning.

But most of the media fallout has been about comments by Catherine Roskam, a suffragan to the Bishop of New York.

Her comments are reported here, here and here. Guardian religion editor Riazat Butt comments on it here.

What did she say?

  • She said that men who are violent towards women and children do it because they can. This is a simple statement of fact. The victims of domestic violence do not cause their own victimization - despite what their brutalizer inevitably claims.
  • She said that, within the context of the Lambeth Conference, where more than 700 men are present in a variety of roles, it is probable that there are some men who have perpetrated violence against women. Again, this is a simple statement of fact. If that collection of 700+ men were typical, then somewhere between 70 and 210 (depending on the study) have committed acts of domestic violence. Even is the group is atypical (and God knows we all hope it is) the chances are slim that there is not a single man there who has ever used violence against a woman.
  • She said that some of the participants in the conference are from societies that are more tolerant of domestic violence. Yet another simple statement of fact.
Violence is disturbing - and violence against women particularly so.

What disturbs me about this story is the verbal violence and dishonesty directed against this bishop - this woman bishop - for having the temerity to speak the truth.

In doing so, they have lied again and again, deliberately twisting what Bishop Catherine said to serve their own hatemongering agenda.

  • She did not single out Africans or any other group of bishops - despite the repeated bleating lies of the "conservatives."
  • Similarly, she did not give her brother American bishops a free pass either.

The "conservatives" are in full throated lynch mode. Even the more sensible conservatives have been dragged along with the mob.

The media coverage, even from respectable periodicals like the Times of London and the Guardian, has been shallow and sensationalist. Ruth and Riazat, could you please show me where Bishop Catherine said that domestic violence is not a problem in the United States? Of course you can't, because she didn't.

Violence against women is a fact.

It is a deplorable fact. A shameful fact. A hideous fact.

But it is a fact.

It happens in North America, in England, in Africa, in every society where men and women live together. (And yes, neither is domestic violence unknown among gay and lesbian couples.)

It happens in poor homes and wealthy.

It happens in religious households, secular households, Christian households and Muslim households.

Perhaps it does not happen in episcopal households.

But I doubt it.

After all, if it never happened in episcopal households, why has this been a consistent request from the spouses conference prior to both the last Lambeth and this one?

And why is it that the seating arrangements - separating men and women - was explained in terms of making it safe for women to participate?

Methinks that those in the lynch mob screaming the loudest are perhaps those whose own ox has been gored.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bishop Terry Brown of Malaita, Melanesia

There were a handful of future bishops around when I was at college.

  • To date, the only one of my classmates to become a bishop has been Michael Bird, coadjutor of Niagara.
  • Dennis Drainville, coadjutor of Quebec, was the year ahead of us.
  • Victoria Matthews, formerly of Edmonton and imminently of Christchurch, New Zealand was doing an advanced degree.
  • Tony Burton, soon to be formerly Saskatchewan, was an undergraduate when I was there.
  • Terry Brown, diocesan of Malaita, Melanesia, was tutor in church history.

Terry is quoted at length today in Bishop Alan's Blog (Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, suffragan to Oxford).

Go to Bishop Alan's Blog to get the context. Here is what +Terry has to say:

I was confirmed in The Episcopal Church, by a black bishop of Massachusetts. I was made deacon and ordained a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, in the diocese of Fredericton, a Loyalist diocese, by a bishop whose ancestors ran away from the American Revolution because they distrusted liberalism, political and otherwise.

I was consecrated a bishop in the Church of the Province of Melanesia, a global south diocese, where all the Millennium Development Goals score about 3 out of 10, even though we are great dancers.

And to make matters worse, my own sexuality is "dodgy". I live in and am a part of all four worlds -- The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Melanesia and the pained world of gay and lesbian laity, deacons, priests and bishops.

Yet I am a bishop of a diocese that is full of life and has had much growth. In my last 12 years as bishop, I have confirmed 10,000 candidates. The diocese is deeply involved in evangelism, education, medical work, liturgy and peace and reconciliation.

My life as a bishop in all four worlds is possible only because of my faith in Jesus Christ. I had a conversion experience in which I felt deeply loved by God. That, the Eucharist, the life of Christian friendship and community, and Scripture, have sustained me through thick and thin.

From my perspective, do I have any suggestions for the text of the final Reflection?

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” There are many other competing kingdoms, do not bow to them.

As much as is in you, try to maintain communion and friendship with all, whether inside or outside the church, however deep the disagreement.

Reject the Puritan option. We are Anglicans, not Puritans.

Exercise restraint and urge others to do so, whether locally or globally. Not everything has to be said or written about.

Be very careful in using typologies to classify people, theologies and churches. We are all the children of God, redeemed, with all of creation, by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you have not done so, accept all the gay and lesbian people in your midst, in all their complexity, pain and celebration.

Finally, let the conversations (even debate) continue. Television has finally come to the Solomon Islands, so we now have the privilege of seeing BBC interview both Gene Robinson and Greg Venables. In our case, I do not think the church will thereby collapse. But in other situations, that may not be the case, and the endless talking to the media of both may be destructive. That is my final suggestion -- remember that whatever you say publicly in this wired age, will go to every corner of the world. Honesty and prudence are both Christian virtues. We need to learn to balance them.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bureaucratic Hash

The Windsor Continuation Group have issued their preliminary observations.

I've read a lot of bureaucratic bumph in my day. In my secular life, I've spent more than a decade working in government, for heaven's sake. Circuitous meanderings where many, many words are used to say very little are nothing new to me.


Frankly, this preliminary report makes the average academic musing by +Rowan Cantuar seem positively coherent.

To save you the trouble, it amounts to three preliminary, not quite, and certainly not carved in stone, recommendations.

  • moratoria on blessing same sex unions, ordaining partnered gay bishops and foreign incursions by pretendy "orthodox" bishops;
  • the creation of a Pastoral Forum, yet another tendencious committee to deal with the irregularities that already exist due to the uncanonical and schismatical behaviour of certain foreign prelates;
  • bash on with that mass delusional bit of silliness, the Anglican Covenant.
You may gather that I don't think much of the preliminary observations.

It really isn't anything new. It could have been summed up in one brief sentence: "Make the Windsor Report part of the New Testament."

I mean, really. What is it with this bizarre attempt to treat a committee report like the fifth Gospel?

Jim Naughton at Episcopal Cafe quotes +Martin Barahona, the Primate of Central America: "The Windsor Report. It's just a report. When did it become like the Bible? The Covenant. Why do we need another covenant? We have the Baptismal Covenant. We have the creeds. What else do we need?"

He's right.

So were the Brazilian bishops at Curitiba when they said that the idea of the Covenant, rather than maintaining or strengthening the Anglican Communion, "risks defacing it."

For a calmer view, I refer you to Bishop Greg. But even he "came away feeling that we had accomplished very little of anything helpful toward finding a way forward."


The boycotting bishops have been a recurring issue.

Some of the "conservatives" have been claiming that 300+ Anglican bishops a) have boycotted Lambeth and / or b) attended GAFFEPRONE. They seem convinced that if they spin this falsehood with sufficient earnestness and frequency that it will somehow become true.

First off, about 1/3 of the bishops who attended the GAFFEPRONE picnic are not Anglican - at least, not in the sense that they are in any way connected to the Anglican Communion. GAFFEPRONE won't come clean on the numbers, but a significant number actually belonged to various previous schisms and "continuing Anglican" jurisdictions such as the Reformed Episcopal Church in the US and the so-called Church of England in South Africa.

Second, the number of Lambeth boycotters is nowhere near 300. Of 880 current bishoprics, about 650 bishops are at Lambeth. Some of those bishoprics are currently unencumbered by an incumbent. Some bishops have not come for health reasons or other causes that have nothing to do with the GAFFEPRONE refuseniks. One has been barred on the basis of who he loves. Reasonable estimates say that the boycotters amount to about 200 bishops. A serious enough boycott, surely. One is moved to wonder why Chris Sugden undermines his already limited credibility by exaggerating the numbers.

Of course, even the 200 is open to some . . . interpretation. We already know that at least one Nigerian bishop wanted to attend Lambeth - but fled home after threats to himself and his wife.

The Bishop of Botswana, +Trevor Mwamba adds further light to this issue in the Church Times. Here is the relevant excerpt:

". . . people are continuously talking up the absence of our brothers from four African provinces from this meeting. But the point is that a lot of those brothers of ours – 200 is a nice round figure – would have wanted to come here. That’s important to say.”

Bishop Mwamba described the situation as it had been in Uganda, “where a special Synod is organised and provision passed which would penalise any bishop coming to the Lambeth Conference. That denied freedom of expression in terms of any individual bishop. The invitation to Lambeth is in the gift of the archbishop and it is up to a particular bishop, not a particular province, to say I will come or I won’t come.

“What are we saying about our leadership styles? It was the same in Nigeria- many would have been glad to come. So when they say 200 of our brothers have boycotted the conference – definitely no. Maybe given the freedom, one or two would have stayed behind. It must be clearly understood: the reason why they didn’t come is that they were forced not to come.”


Finally, please go read this next item in it's entirety at Telling Secrets. It tells of a brave woman called Rose Ngeri, a lesbian from Nigeria. She has prepared a leaflet which she intends to give to every bishop she can find - especially the African bishops. This excerpt describes why she thinks this is important. And it tells us just how brave she is.

When Michael, who acted as her scribe [preparing the leaflet], asked her if she was not putting herself in no small amount of danger, she said, with no discernible alarm in her voice, that we must understand that when the sexual orientation of gay men becomes known, they are tortured and/or killed.

What becomes of lesbian women, she was asked.

Oh, she said, they just send men to rape us. But, she added, deeply distressed, gay men are tortured and killed.

As a lesbian, she is only going to be raped, and so she does not want to compare her potential suffering to that of a gay man who stands to be beaten and killed.


It's late for me here - and the bishops have already been up for a couple of hours at Lambeth.

Pray for them.

Pray for all the bishops - those who came, those who could not come, those who refused to come and the one who was barred from coming.

Pray for those who may feel betrayed by what happens in the coming days.

Pray for Rose Ngeri.

Pray without ceasing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A handful of observations

1. One anagram for "Global Anglican Future" is:

Ungrateful Cabal Go Nil

2. There was much fuss and bother over the "Buddhist" chant that by Bishop Duleep de Chikera of Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the conclusion of his sermon at the Lambeth opening eucharist. Many of the usual suspects complained about the syncretism of using "Buddhist" prayers.

Turns out that the prayer, while using a Buddhist form, was profoundly Christian. Here is the translation:

I take refuge in God the Father
I take refuge in God the Son
I take refuge in God the Holy Spirit
I take refuge in the One Triune God.

There is an ancient pre-Christian Irish prayer form called the lorica, which invokes God's protection. St. Patrick adapted the form of the lorica to Christian use with a prayer / hymn of invocation that is still used today. Many will recognize the most familiar translation, which begins:

I bind unto myself, today
the strong name of the Trinity
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three.

I trust those same usual suspects are now expunging St. Patrick's Breastplate from their hymnals.

3. Tomorrow's readings include Paul's confident proclamation:

I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This was the endpoint of the sermon I preached a few months ago at the funeral of a small child. It has always seemed to me the most powerful of the opening sentences of the Burial Office.

Louie Crew has started a new lectionary blog, and his first entry touches movingly and powerfully on this passage.

Priests in my diocese (Newark) often are asked to do funerals for PWAs [people with AIDS] whose families are members of congregations that won’t do funerals for PWAs. When the friends of the deceased person show up, often there are many who have not been near a congregation for much of their life, fearing the condemnation and sometimes even the mockery they would face.

One such came up after the service to ask, “Father, did you write that passage you read?”

“Which one?” the priest replied.

“The one about nothing being able to separate any of us from the love of God, not powers, not…. that one.”

We in the church hold life giving truth for which many outside the Church are spiritually dying, but they will never hear that truth if we don’t love them enough to let God tell them through our lips, “I love you.”

A warning - because of the provocative name Louie has given to his blog, you may get an offensive content warning if you go there. So far at least, he mostly offends in positive and prophetic ways.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Which of these are they against?

A number of "conservatives" have been ranting through the blogosphere about the "unbiblical" Millennium Development Goals and how yesterday's march by the bishops of the Communion was somehow inappropriate - a distraction from the important issue of the Bishop of New Hampshire's sleeping arrangements.

I am curious to know from my "conservative" friends, which of these goals they are so against.

Just sayin' is all.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nothing new under the sun

Perhaps the issue of same sex relationships has been with us longer than we thought.

Telling Secrets and Integrity USA (go to page 4 of the .pdf) present some evidence to support this thesis.

From a plaque at St. Stephen's, Hackington (Diocese of Centerbury):

On the south side of the chancel and within the rails lie the remains of Mr. William Bunce of Camberwell, Surrey. Son of the Rev. John Bunce. Formerly vicar of this parish for more than half a century and of Mr. William Carter also of Camberwell and a native of the City of Lichfield. The former died 22 August 1831 aged 76 years and the later, 2 September 1836 aged 83 years. They had lived in a course of uninterrupted friendship for sixty years. And in the grave they are not divided.

And from The Telegraph, July 22, 2008:

‘Til we were parted after death

Vatican hierarchs… have now even ordered the parting of Cardinal John Henry Newman from his long-time priest friend Fr. Ambrose St. John, in their shared grave in a secluded cemetery on the outskirts of Birmingham, England. The reason: Cardinal Newman may soon be declared a saint ... The cardinal's human remains are to be disinterred, separated from his close friend's, and then buried again in a sarcophagus in the centrally located Birmingham Oratory. For more than a century, John and Ambrose together have rested in the peace of a mutually shared grave -- close friends during life, and close friends even after death…. This was repeatedly requested by Cardinal Newman himself, verily as his dying wish.

And now for something completely different

One of these is a muppet.

With thanks to Fr. David Heron.

Try connecting the d****d dots, George

There's been some discussion here and there on the blogosphere about which of the folk covering Lambeth are "reporters" and which are "shills" or "mouthpieces."

Thing is, there are a lot of people who are not objective reporters in any meaningful sense. They are reporting with a perspective.

In the PR biz, we generally call these people "commentators" rather than "reporters." The best and most ethical of them will admit to the distinction.

I'd call George Conger of Religious Intelligence a commentator. I don't know that he'd agree.

That said, while commentators are not bound by the same standards for balance, they are still bound by the requirement for fundamental honesty. A commentator may legitimately say that Stephane Dion's "Green Shift" plan is an empty shell that won't do any more for the environment than when he named his dog Kyoto. (I happen to agree with that.) A commentator may not legitimately say that Stephane Dion's plan is actually designed to aggravate greenhouse gasses and global warming.

So I was a little surprised by one of George Conger's recent articles.

George says that rumours of one Nigerian bishop defying the Nigerian boycott of Lambeth "have proven false."

Later in the article, he quotes Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola as saying: "any Nigerian who may have chosen to flout our provincial and collective decision will have to answer to the general synod. It as simple as that."

Then he reports: "The Rt Rev Cyril Okorocha, Bishop of Owerri, Nigeria on July 19 faxed a letter to the conference saying he would like to attend, as he was visiting his son in Manchester."

Later still, he refers to a report in the Times of London. "After The Times reported that threats had been made against the wife of Bishop Okorocha, a ban on the names of bishops present [at Lambeth] was imposed."

Now, even a five year old knows how to play connect the dots.

But since George Conger seems to be less adept than the average five year old, I'll draw a metaphorical picture.

  • +Cyril says he's coming to Lambeth.

  • +Peter threatens that any Nigerian bishop attending Lambeth will be hauled up in front of the Nigerian General Synod.

  • The Nigerian Synod is not known for defying the dictates of its Primate.

  • There are unspecified threats by persons unknown against +Cyril's wife.

  • +Cyril doesn't turn up at Lambeth.

I don't think that's a very fanciful presentation of the facts.

Actually, I think you'd have to be pretty dim to miss the connections.

But George either fails to see them - or deliberately ignores them.

Draw your own conclusions.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's called fraud - and it's a criminal offence

The other day, the leaders of the GAFFEPRONE schism issued a poisoned pen letter attacking the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Conference and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In all that mudslinging, they did manage to get one thing right. They said that the St. Andrew's Draft of the Anglican Covenant was not acceptable.

Of course, they thought it wasn't acceptable because it didn't put them in charge of the Communion's membership list.

My reasons for objecting to the St. Andrew's Draft are quite the opposite. I think it goes too far in the direction of establishing an Anglican Inquisition in the persons of the Primates.

So, even what they got right they got wrong.

Oh, yeah. They got another thing wrong as well.

Their malevolent missive was issued in the name of seven Primates: Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Southern Cone (aka the usual suspects), Tanzania and West Africa.

Problem is, at least one of those Primates denies it. Greg Venables of the Southern Cone of America says that he was not consulted about the document and that he did not sign off on it.

Here's a link to the Church Times story:

Four of the Primates (Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya) are among the Lambeth Refuseniks. The other three (notwithstanding the comment in the Church Times story) are at Lambeth with the vast majority of bishops of the Communion.

I am curious to know if Greg Venables was the only one of the seven to have his virtual signature metaphorically forged.

This isn't the first time that this crowd have issued documents claiming that various people had signed off, only to have several alleged signatories deny it. Apparently the tendency to schism has a parallel tendency to dishonesty.

Yes, dishonesty.

A lawyer who is very near and dear to me advises that appending a person's name to a document in this mannner constitutes a criminal offence known as fraud.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Voices of Witness: Africa

This link takes you to a page on the Integrity USA website where you can watch a video they have produced called Voices of Witness: Africa.

Integrity, of course, is an organization which supported the full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons in the life of the Church. They are not, by any means, neutral observers.

Voices of Witness: Africa allows a number of GLBT Africans to tell their stories. The run time is 18 minutes and change. (I can't figure out how one might embed the video - which may be due to operating from my brother-in-law's ancient eMac.)

Ruth Gledhill of the Times of London (no liberal activist she) has described the film as "an incredibly powerful and moving film." She also notes that "these people must be applauded for their bravery" given the legal consequences of being openly gay in many parts of Africa. Those penalties include up to 14 years in prison in Nigeria, and life imprisonment in Uganda. The Primate of Nigeria, the Most Rev'd Peter Akinola, has even been supporting legislation which would make it a criminal offence - punishible by five years in prison - to advocate on behalf of the rights of homosexuals. In other words, if the Primate of Nigeria were to get his way, I could be imprisoned for posting this.

Ruth has also done a video interview with film editor Katie Sherrod of Texas (whose blog, Desert's Child, can be foundd in my list of links), which concludes with short excerpt from the film.

(Normally I know how to embed a YouTube video. But like I say, unfamiliar technology. Let's see how it goes.)

Ruth's blog post can be found at:

Voices of Witness: Africa has, predictably, elicited a torrent of enraged comment from many "conservative" commentators. So angry are they that the voices of GBLT African Christians might be heardd that they have claimed that it is exploitive to let people tell their own stories. The illogic of hate is on full display in the comments section following Ruth's post. That stuff is mild compared to the toxic vitriol at some of the "conservative" Anglican sites - the ones I refuse to link to.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Climb-Down and an Apology

One of the pieces of advice I routinely hand out in my secular work is to ensure that what you say is accurate.

Another piece of advice is this - when you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize - quickly.

One of my frequent complaints about things from the more toxic sites of the "conservative" Anglican blogosphere is a tendency to misrepresent, and to allow misrepresentations to stand.

I hate it when I forget to take my own advice or act by my own standards.

In the past few days, I have made inaccurate statements about certain events in the Diocese of Saskatoon. In doing so, I have been unfair to the Bishop of Saskatoon.

Today, I'm trying to apply my second piece of advice.

The events in question refer to the resignation of a priest of that diocese. The Anglican Journal coverage of these events can be found here (

My mistake was three-fold.

First, the priest in question was not deposed. He was threatened with the suspension of his license, but pre-empted that by resigning.

Second, even had he been suspended, being suspended and being deposed are two very different things.

Third, the context in which I made my comment (as part of a list of penalties against liberal clerics) made it appear that the actions of the Bishop of Saskatoon were of the same order as the other penalties mentioned, and that it was based in a similar motivation, that is, an intolerance of dissenting opinions. I don't believe that to be true and did not intend to imply it was.

So, having come clean on my three-fold error, I will contact the Bishop of Saskatoon directly with my apology. I will also go to the site where I made these comments and refer them to this correction and apology.

The larger context of my comments was a reference to the threat of sanctions against the one Nigerian bishop who registered for the Lambeth Conference and has since headed home. I was trying to contrast the real penalties that have been levied against dissenters with the constant "conservative" complaint of "persecution" by liberal bishops.

In my experience, I have yet to see a case of sanctions against a conservative or "conservative" priest which did not follow directly on some non-canonical action, such as refusing their bishop entry to their parish or declaring themselves to be out of communion with their bishop or, in one case, serious allegations of financial impropriety which the priest refused to answer.

Yet we have seen real sanctions imposed by such "conservatives" against dissenters, including the threatened sanctions against Bishop Okorocha of Nigeria, the deposition of a supposedly "pro-gay" bishop by the Primate of Uganda and the refusal of the Province of Central Africa to ratify an episcopal election because the candidate once belonged to an organization (the Modern Churchpeoples Union) described as "suspect."

These are (primae facie at least) real cases of people being sanctioned because of views they hold or are alleged to hold. Shawn Sanford Beck's case, while not completely dissimilar, is not quite the same either. The threatened sanctions were not due to his views, but due to a stated intention to act in a way that was not canonically authorized. Further, although the sanction was considered, it was not implemented.

I don't know the Bishop of Saskatoon very well, but I do know him. He is, to my experience, a reasonable man and certainly not one to crush dissent. He did not deserve to be included on that list.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And so it begins

The Lambeth conference began today. Most of the blogs linked to the righthand side here have assorted coverage of events. So far, it appears that no one has managed to stage a coup d'eglise and reorder the Communion to their own liking.

Of course, that is partly because those who would do so have mostly decided to boycott the show. Bishops from Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have decided not to attend - and the bishops of the Diocese of Sydney, having had their hands forced when the Primate of Nigeria falsely claimed they'd already decided to boycott - were pretty much cornered into boycotting.

But it turns out that at least one Nigerian bishop, at least one Rwandan bishop, and as many as ten Kenyan bishops (one third of their whole House) have effectively told their imperious primates where to get off. At this point, it appears that only Uganda has managed to enforce it's refusenik position.

The Primate of Nigeria is already breathing fire and has threatened "serious" consequences against this dissenter. So it turns out that the "conservative" myth of oppression (ie, the false claim that conservative clergy in North America are "persecuted") is based on their own behaviour. They know that they use bully tactics when they can, so they assume everyone else is a shameless and wicked as they are.

Of course, refusing to turn up is not - despite their histrionics - the tactic of winners. It is the chosen tactic of those who know that they are losing.

Pity. As obnoxious and two-faced as Peter Akinola and his co-conspirators are, few if any liberals want to see them expelled from the Communion. (Might not shed a tear if they left on their own, perhaps, but that's not the same as wanting them punted.)

In any event, the defiance of at least 12 African bishops has shown up the weakness of those who would set themselves up as a new inquisition.

Pray for the all the bishops who showed up. And pray for the bishops who didn't. And pray especially for the primus inter pares, Rowan of Canterbury. A useful prayer is offered on the righthand side of this page.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Mess of Potage

We've all been to a potluck supper.

I presume we have.

At least, that's what we call it around here.

Everyone coming brings some part of a meal - a salad or a main course or a dessert. It's the luck of the pot what the meal turns out like.

I've learned many things about pot luck suppers.

- There is never enough lemon meringue pie.

- There is almost always too much jellied salad.

- One should never use the occasion of a potluck supper to try out a new recipe.

I learned that last one the hard way.

It was, so to speak, a wifetime ago. We were going to the Christmastide (ie, after December 25 and during the 12 days of Christmas) clergy party in one of the points of my parish. It was to be a family event. We'd eat, and then we'd go carolling. Which would mess people up, of course, because most of the secular world thinks Christmas ENDS on December 25th.

As the only clergy family that didn't actually live in that town, we needed a dish that would travel well. So my children's mother found a recipe for a humus like stew of chick peas, lentils and other stuff. According to the recipe book, there was a tradition that this stew was the "mess of potage" for which Esau sold his birthright.

As I said, we learned that night never to try out a new recipe when you're off to a potluck.

The other thing I learned that night was that Esau was even a bigger yutz than the Genesis account lets on.

The story is simple.

Jacob is cooking a stew. Esau returns from the field and says to his younger brother, "give me some of that stew." Jacob says, "sure - if you sell me your birthright." And Esau agrees.

Well, if that was the stew, Esau was a very stupid fellow. Bland was about the nicest thing you could say about it. Bland and with the consistency of wallpaper paste mixed with feathers.

Quite apart from the quality of the stew, the Genesis story points to Esau's foolishness and faithlessness in failing to give proper value to his birthright. He didn't take what he had seriously - he didn't value it - and so he lost it.

You remember the Joanie Mitchell song, I presume?

Don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
Pave paradise,
put up a parking lot.

We Anglicans have a birthright.

Our birthright is a Church where intelligence and intellect are valued, where questions are honoured, where diversity of opinion and of practice is respected.

Our birthright is a Church where the highest of high churchmen and the lowest of low churchmen can coexist. While the shape of the liturgy may be found in virtually every parish, the style and presentation can vary widely. While some of the clergy may appeal to the Early Church Fathers, others may appeal to the Caroline Divines, to Calvin, to Aquinas. All of them will try to claim the Judicious Divine, Dr. Hooker.

Our birthright is a Church that rejects the exclusive extremism of both Rome and Geneva while embracing the insights of both.

There are those who would have us sell our birthright for a mess of potage called certainty. They would have us set aside our experience as Canadian Anglicans and have us submit to the dictates of a self-appointed junta of foreign prelates - even though the rejection of foreign control was an essential part of the birth of Anglicanism.

Yes, Anglicanism is messy. We don't all look or talk or think the same.

It causes grief for our ecumenical partners. They don't understand our Via Media.

When the Roman Cardinal said we'd have to choose if we were catholic or protestant, he didn't understand that we HAVE chosen - and that we are both.

Messy, messy Anglicanism.

The very messiness of Anglicanism is it's strength as well as it's weakness - the comprehensive Anglicanism that seeks not "windows into men's souls." This questioning, searching, worshipping messiness is our birthright.

Let us not sell it for the bland stew of somebody else's absolutism.