jazzoLOG: Episcopal: The Way We Do It    
 Episcopal: The Way We Do It11 comments
picture1 Mar 2007 @ 10:27, by Richard Carlson

Eternity is not something that begins after you are dead. It is going on all the time. We are in it now.

---Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A monk asked the master: "How are you when death arrives?"
The master replied: "When served tea, I take tea. When served a meal, I take a meal."

---Zen mondo

I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.

---Marshall McLuhan

Photo of members at worship around the "table" at an Episcopal church in Indiana.

This is not an evangelical attempt to missionary you folks who aren't Episcopalian. Our denomination has been in the news lately, and mostly we've just gone about our Lenten business trying not to get too excited about it. One Lutheran professor a couple years ago put it to our congregation this way:

The difference between you Episcopalians and us Lutherans is we'll have a huge study committee set about to spend a few years deciding whether openly gay people ought to be bishops, but you guys just consecrate one and figure out the theology later.

That seems to be true about us. And if pressed and even threatened by the Anglican world on this, we'll just elect a woman to be our Presiding Bishop. Is this impudence or what? Are we the wise guys of the Christian community? Now the big meeting in Tanzania has given us 30 days or something to straighten up our act here in the States or else. Increasingly I hear people around my parish say, "Well, if we get thrown out it won't be so bad." Generally I don't like to see liberal groups splintering up all the time, so I was relieved this morning to read an editorial piece in The New York Times~~~

The New York Times
March 1, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
A Divorce the Church Should Smile Upon
Los Angeles

The decision of the global Anglican Communion to threaten the Episcopal Church, its American affiliate, with expulsion is about much more than the headline issue of homosexuality. Yes, the impending divorce has been precipitated by the decision of the Episcopal Church to consecrate a gay bishop and to allow individual congregations to decide whether or not to allow gay marriages. But as so often in religious history, the deeper issue is one of church governance. In effect, the Episcopalians left the Church of England more than two centuries ago.

The problem dates back to the time of the American Revolution, when the Church of England in America was just what that name says: it was the Church of England, merely in America. Since the 16th century, when King Henry VIII made himself, in effect, the pope of England, the English king had been the supreme church authority. Time had somewhat eroded this authority by 1776, thanks in part to the Puritan revolution in the mid-17th century. Nonetheless, the authority structure within the church remained officially monarchical.

So it was no surprise that after the newborn United States broke with the crown in the political realm, the Church of England in the United States did so in the religious realm as well, establishing a democratic form of self-governance under a “presiding bishop,” whose title echoed that of the chief executive of the new nation. The name the new church adopted — from episkopos, the ancient Greek word for bishop — signaled that its governance would be neither by pope nor by king but, as in early Christianity, by elected bishops.

British colonial history did not end in 1776, of course. As the British Empire grew, the Church of England went wherever the crown went, evolving in the process into a religious multinational, called the Anglican Communion, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury exercised a global spiritual jurisdiction. Structurally, however, the Episcopal Church, though long since reconciled with Britain, remained uneasy under this arrangement.

Why? Because the deepest rationale for the creation of the Church of England had been that church governance through separate national churches better reflected the practice of the early church than did papal governance. During its first centuries, Christianity had governed itself as separate but equal dioceses or administrative units, each coinciding with a great capital city, each headed by a bishop; the pope, at that time, was merely the bishop of Rome.

Thus, the same logic that dictated the initial creation of the Church of England dictated that, once the United States had become a separate nation, it ought not to belong any longer to the Church of England nor to the Anglican Communion as a colonial extension.

For sentimental reasons, including now fading American Anglophilia, Episcopalians and Anglicans alike tended to mute this logic. However, under the improbable stimulus of a dispute over homosexuals, the logic may be about to assert itself, with consequences that may be larger for the Anglican Communion, and in particular for the Archbishop of Canterbury, than for the Episcopal Church itself.

Numerically, the 2.3 million Episcopalians do not loom large among 77 million Anglicans. Symbolically, however, given the global importance of the United States, the departure of the Americans will leave the archbishop exposed as a quasi-colonial, quasi-papal figurehead heading a church made up, anachronistically, of Britain and her mostly African and Asian former colonies. This will be an awkward state of affairs, and portends further fissures along the same logic that underlies the impending departure of the Americans.

There is, finally, a quintessentially 21st-century implication to this quite likely split. A solid majority of American Episcopalians supports their church’s stance on homosexuality and gay marriage. A minority disagrees, and some of these members have even sought to pull out their congregations from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with one of the Anglican churches in Africa that have been most vehemently opposed to the Episcopalians’ decisions on homosexuality.

The flip side of such threats is that, along the same lines, any British or Canadian or Australian congregations that wished to disaffiliate from their local forms of Anglicanism might well affiliate with the Episcopal Church. In fact, a few have already signaled their readiness, though in the hope of preserving Anglican unity the Episcopal Church has not encouraged them.

I pass over, for the moment, the many legal complications involved in such rearrangements, the surrendering of church property that is entailed and so forth. The broader point is that communications technology makes new forms of church organization possible, and geographically distant congregations can easily join together. Rather than voting with your feet, you may now vote with your mouse, perhaps the most amicable form of religious divorce.

A generation from now, when we look back on the breakup of the Anglican Communion and on the status of homosexuals within the churches of the world, what may we expect to see? An old proverb holds that “God writes straight with crooked lines,” and at this juncture, the Author of Liberty, as a venerable American hymn names him, seems to have taken pen in hand.

Jack Miles is a senior fellow for religious affairs with the Pacific Council on International Policy and a scholar in residence with the Getty Research Institute.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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1 Mar 2007 @ 12:57 by rayon : Another illustration
for the historical context:


for another great piece Jazzo. Some test to friendship here. In these parts the locals have always taken kindly and happily (with pride to associate), to the individual American, or couple with 2.5 kids say, touring their historical land overhere. If asked however, about the same friendship for a whole coach load of the same, the reaction is not quite the same. It is just possible that this analogy applies to the connumdrum now with the Anglican church.

Good precise article in the NY times, clever to pull the old early Christian heart strings of attachment, like going back to the Old Testament guaranteed to bring feeling of group overwhelming love and harmony. It has connotations of real real good before becoming afflicted with ancient forms of controversial modernity. The writer in NY times, even pulls these heart strings twice, just to get back on keel again with this earthquake ruction going on.

However, does not fool me. And to return my plea to my good good OT friend here, Richardo, to converse with the happily accepted US singleton, to avoid all controversy, may I say that the Theory of Good has been fully written Richard, in many many works, but the Doing of Good and comprehension of theory, by enough people to make it count, is quite another matter, that even the smooth writing NY Times writer can't even cover up. Seven out of Ten for loyalty though. Really good try.  

1 Mar 2007 @ 23:59 by quinty : Liberal groups
splinter because the laity tends to often think for itself, right?

Having been a choirboy in New York's venerable Grace Church (where Broadway turns at 10th Street) I remember the keen Anglophilia some of my fellow members of the choir sometimes exhibited. Many of us also went to Grace Church School, a kind of prep school for prep schools. In my class of 18 there are an inordinate number of names in Who's Who today. And I have an enormous love for that Episcopal church (where I sang Handel, Berlioz, Holst, and others), as well as for the school, camp, and all my fellow students.

But though some of that Anglophilia rubbed off on me I still root for the American liberals who have put conscience above loyalty. But I was also raised in New York's Greenwich Village, where, on 8th Street, the street I grew up on, I daily saw all manner of humanity, including drag queens and the toughs from New Jersey who came over at night to play. And who thought punching a queen in the face was sport. Nor did anyone say or do anything about it at the time. Certainly not me, who was not about to get into a fight over a queen's honor. At the time I just thought it was all part of the crazy uproarious scene.

So I know a little about how gays have suffered. And if the American church wants to lessen their sufferings with a simple and decent display of love and tolerance (without, of course, being condescending) that is fine with me. It's too bad, though, that the Church of England can't approve of this or understand and condone such a simple gesture of humanity. The gays' time has come. Marriage, full civil rights, and an end of cruelty should be their due as perceived by any healthy and sane religious group. They will fight for this, of course. And eventually they will win.

That’s the way it should be.  

2 Mar 2007 @ 10:09 by jazzolog : Fascinating Comments
and thank you both. I'm often surprised by what you 2 have to offer...and I enjoy that kind of learning process---or lack of. (Reading Nicola, I begin to write like her.) The exhibition at Geffrye looks happy and calming. I'd accept lodgings in that almshouse any day. But see here, young lady, as I understand it you have substantial experience being born and living in both the lulling torpor of the "Empire" and the brisk business of London. What do you think of Mr. Miles' ideas of the Church of England choosing the old tribes of Africa over our coachload of Yanks? Does the UK really want to let us go rather than review patriarchal, homophobic traditions?

Quinty, I always presumed you had been Catholic in some earlier life long forgotten. Spain, and all that. I guess we never discussed religion (unless we count Mozart) so I was completely unaware of Episcopal roots...to say nothing of a choirboy history. Allow me to imagine you in black and white...and you can imagine me having newly joined our choir, the first one ever in my life. We could use your baritone. Good grief, aren't we at the age when they wish we would STOP singing? And thank you too, dear friend, for the bleak memories of Bleeker Street. I remember too my beloved New York friends, George and Leonard, a couple of 20 years, who were among the first tragic victims of AIDS.  

2 Mar 2007 @ 10:33 by rayon : Lulling Torpor..
of the empire, love that will use myself sometime!! can't stop laughing. My first reply was a gentle cover up of thorny issues, great man of ohia. This is challenging and in all such times there has to be sure safety check look around to see before picking such items. The easiest comment in reply to the direct question is this. England is really the Chief Lull of Torpor in the english speaking world, the US the Beacon of Modernity Blazing Forth therefore it is much better that that the Lulling Torpors get back together again and nurse themselves if they can eventually to Blazing Modernity, in whatever form, (or whatever the propaganda is for the subject) maybe it is make sure the state of lulling torpor continues uniterrupted allowing Blazing Modernity to show its shine in the world.

Secondly, as you well know, the basis of the debate is about consensual adults and whether they have sworn abstention while in the practice of priesthood, this is actually the crunch of the debate in London in our papers. This is taking precedence here, and this thorn is pricklier than any of yours, and therefore is swept deeper under the Blazing carpet of many colours Modernity from the US. So Quintessential is catholic too, nice, and not surprised.  

2 Mar 2007 @ 10:54 by jazzolog : Some Pictures For Nraye
For your interest in architecture, this is Grace Church about which Quinty spoke~~~


Always a bit hard to capture in photograph a building this spacious somewhat squoonched into a big city.


From the other side.


And the glorious Gothic inside.  

2 Mar 2007 @ 12:39 by rayon : Interesting placement
of musical artefact, the piano with pedals and bellows, presumably it is the area of the rood screen, or is this a view towards the back of the church, (the altar as it were at the always at the "front" or top)? Beautiful in any case. Unfortunately, I did jest not about the central topic being discussed in the UK conservative papers re your schism. Quinty's view s can be seen as the ultimate of kindness, someone must say his views, only right in our time, but it is just that, a view.

And I still think the NY writer of your article was digging deep for justifications for the US position which also screened the real debate. It is not about letting gays go to church or having rights said for them, there will always be someone ready to undertake sideline activities, like doctors doing euthanasia, just not advertised. No one wants to prevent their the practice of their devotions or their need to feel part of a wider group of belonging. But, this is not the cause of the schism, is it Dear Richard? I challenge you to reply now as you forced mine!

Thank you for the challenge, which reply I shall attempt after work. Yes, the view is from the altar toward the rear I believe. Quinty perhaps will confirm.


2 Mar 2007 @ 16:47 by quinty : Grace Church

Thanks for those photographs.

It is a beautiful church, though I haven't seen it since first visiting Europe, where church's make ours look like papier mache or plastic imitations. I have never found the same force of aesthetic beauty and spiritual power in an American church that you can find in any of the ancient churches of Europe. But then in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in America there were no Berninis or Fra Angelicos.

But Grace Church is quite beautiful (that photo of the nave and ceiling is toward the entrance) and has an interesting history. Tom Thumb, it is said, is buried in the cellar. And for many years Grace was the church of choice for New York's high society. I can remember the fox tail coats and chesterfields the oldsters who arrived on Sunday wore when I was a twelve year old kid singing in choir.

Yes, Grace Church stands as an oasis in that corner of Manhattan where Broadway turns at 10th Street, surrounded, as it is, by several dingy buildings. Grace was designed by the same architect who did Saint Patrick's Cathedral and built circa 1860, I believe. And regarding gays, I imagine no one there really cares. When I was a choir boy half the choir sat on its seat when Communion was offered, and no one said a word. (I was one of the boys who remained seated.) We even had a Jewish boy in the choir who also went to Grace Church School. By the way, Cooper Union is only a few blocks away. As you know, this is where Abraham Lincoln made a famous speech which made him prominent in the public eye. It was the start of his run for the presidency.

Gays in my opinion should have full civil rights. Whether or not we approve of their sexual practices or social life and world is irrelevant. This would be a simple acknowledgment of their basic rights of privacy and basic rights as human beings. They will always be with us, let them get married. There are other more important issues.  

2 Mar 2007 @ 18:41 by vaxen : Q&A
Does an Anglican Friar (*Note:"Knight of the Realm") still get by in an Epi Scopal Verse?



STOP: Theta
START: Delta

Delfin Alfa
Carrier: "Alliance"

Saint Peters' Berg
High Command

Rho Delta Alfa
(*Note: "nikita")
"clouds and rain"

Hello World!  

3 Mar 2007 @ 10:56 by jazzolog : Cause Of The Schism
For Nicola, the cause indeed involves developing rites to bless unions, partnerships, marriages of gay couples. Some gays seek to openly celebrate their lives before God in the organized religion of their choice, and that includes their domestic love. It is abhorrent to them to hear sermons from the pulpit declaring not only that they can't, but they will roast in Hell for being the way that they are. Furthermore there are legal issues, such as inheritance after the passing of a partner.

But there's more, and this is the lit fuse that touched off the explosion. Episcopalians consecrated an openly gay bishop who has a partner of many years. Many Christians can't comprehend what worshipping in a church with a gay couple at the head possibly could be like. I mean, isn't the minister's wife supposed to run the ladies' auxiliary and teach Sunday school? You see what I mean. So how can there be a gay bishop putting the wafer in my mouth? People are just appalled!

I'm hoping my own priest gets involved in this little dialogue at NCN, but for the moment I must tell you that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, on your side of the pond, in 1989, when he was Professor of Divinity at Oxford, gave a lecture in defense of holy same sex love, among many aspects of sex and marriage, called The Body's Grace. It's here http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm . The tribal medicine men of Nigeria, now bishops, I can understand, but surely Archbishop Rowan can offer remedy to all this?

PS Vaxen, your knightly sword always honored here!  

3 Mar 2007 @ 16:38 by Quinty @ : I was wondering about
that Archbishop. I had heard he was quite progressive and liberal, against the war, etc.  

4 Mar 2007 @ 11:28 by jazzolog : A Priest Under Investigation Replies
Father Bill also sent me a sermon given last Sunday by Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints in Pasadena. You've probably heard of that church because the IRS has been taking a look at its tax status as a result of a sermon, given there in 2004 by its former priest, entitled "What if Jesus debated John Kerry and George Bush". The White House thinks that may have been too "political", compared to the churches it thinks are doing a better job. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/18/AR2005111802501_pf.html So here's Father Ed on the ultimatum~~

"As a faith community, All Saints is given graces every nanosecond. However, there are four graces I want to hold up as graces that are being tested right now as severely as Jesus’ baptismal grace was tested in the desert. One is the grace of our knowing that Christians are not advantaged before God more than Jews, Muslims, and other people. The very theology of God's universal grace which makes the sun to shine on everyone alike, that very theology of grace is under attack by conservative forces in the Anglican communion. Another is the grace of women who are ordained as clergy. There are certain bishops who are interested in regressing to a time when we will not ordain women to the priesthood. Another is the grace of our open communion – whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith, you are welcome. The fourth grace I want to bring to mind is the grace of blessing same-gender unions publicly and joyfully.

"All four of these graces are under attack by the forces and the theology driving the communiqué in Tanzania. Although the communiqué focused only on Gene Robinson's being ordained to the episcopacy – a holy man living in a holy covenant with his life-partner who is also a holy man and the blessing of same-gender relationships, the energies, and I know them and I've read what they write, the energies who want the Episcopal church to 'fast' from justice toward gay and lesbian people have on their agenda coming after those other graces as well including the grace of open communion.

"The way that these graces are being tested in us is whether we as a church will kow-tow to a regressive understanding of Jesus and scripture for the sake of unity all the while scapegoating those who have been oppressed in the name of the Church for 2,000 years.

"Whenever oppression is going on, whenever abuse is going on, it is an act of choosing destructive power over life-giving power to be in either the role of abuser or to be in the role of the abused. That is the perverse nature of the temptation to abuse. You can choose destructive power in the active role or in the passive role. It is an act of complicity in a situation of abuse and oppression to participate in the abusive power by agreeing with it and complying with it and to internalize the abuse. Internalized oppression is just as real as external oppression and it takes place when you comply with abuse by being silent and by ceasing and desisting even for a season. Justice has no season; justice is for every season. You cannot, you should not, you must not fast from justice for Lent.

"Nor are we to try forcing others to see the world as we see it. But relational, redemptive power rather than dominating power says what we at All Saints will continue to say and to do. We will say to everyone in the Anglican communion, 'We love you. We love Jesus. We love Scripture as we use it critically, discriminatingly, and non-abusively. We love the Anglican communion. And we will continue to bless same-sex unions.'

"Jim Wallis of Sojourner's magazine tells a story that is appropriate for us to savor this morning. At the height of apartheid in South Africa, a political rally had been called and then canceled by the government, so Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, 'Okay, we're just going to have church then.' And church he had. The protesters gathered together in the Cathedral in Cape Town and the police were massing by the hundreds on the outside and they were there to intimidate, to threaten, to try and frighten all the worshipers. Jim Wallis who was there said 'I will testify, being on the inside, that I was scared. You could feel the tension in that place. The police were so bold and arrogant they even came into that Cathedral and stood along the walls. They were writing down and tape recording every thing that Archbishop Tutu said. But he stood there to preach. And he stood up, a little man with long, flowing robes, and he said, "This system of apartheid cannot endure because it is evil."' Jim Wallis commented, 'That's a wonderful thing to say, but very few people on the planet believed that statement at that point in time. But I could tell that Bishop Tutu believed it. Then Bishop Tutu pointed his finger at those police standing along the walls of his sanctuary and said, "You are powerful. You have behind you the power of the state, you are very powerful but you are not gods and I serve a God who cannot be mocked." Then he flashed that wonderful Desmond Tutu smile and said, "So, since you've already lost, since you've already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side!" And at that the congregation erupted and they began dancing in the church. They danced out into the streets and the police moved back because they didn't expect dancing worshipers.'

"Today we at All Saints Church say to the forces of ecclesiastical abuse, 'You have already lost, come and join the winning side.'"  

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