January 11, 2007

Just to Be Clear ...

My last post on the upcoming primates’ meeting was long in coming. I had intended to write about possible outcomes of the meeting, but I was diverted, first to consider the value of the Anglican Communion, then to ponder how our Presiding Bishop should conduct herself in Dar es Salaam. The danger in writing a moderately long essay without first outlining it is that the project can take unexpected turns. That is also the joy of just jumping in when you feel you have something to say, even if you don’t quite know how your ideas fit together. It gives God an opportunity to work a little magic.

The essay that became “Advice to the PB for the Primates’ Meeting” never did go where I expected, but I’m not sure my imagination is good enough to predict what might be the outcome of the meeting, anyway. It is probably more productive to try to encourage a favorable outcome than it is to fantasize about the worst possible one. In any case, in the middle of writing the piece, by chance—I was driving to church for an evening meeting—I heard a radio commentary on the Democrats’ plan to require the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical firms on behalf of seniors for lower prescription drug prices. Sadly, the commentator suggested that passing the proposed legislation would have little actual effect because the government was unwilling to not buy a particular drug if its manufacturer failed to offer a significant discount. He contrasted this approach with that of the VA, which has been able to negotiate meaningful discounts by being willing to alter its formulary based on what drugs it could and could not get economically.

And what does a government prescription drug program have to do with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion? The commentary gave me an idea which became the central ideal in “Advice.” That idea is so important—and perhaps not as prominent as it might have been had it been in my mind when I began writing—that I thought I should reiterate it here.

The Episcopal Church has been treated like dirt by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion because it has behaved with such extraordinary affection and restraint toward its Communion partners. The Puritanical primates of the Communion have concluded that The Episcopal Church will meekly accept whatever abuse they heap upon it, and they are taking advantage of this insight to create a tyrannical fundamentalist curia intended to dominate the Anglican Communion in the future. The Episcopal Church has become the co-dependent enabler of this behavior. Alas, this dynamic would have been impossible without the feckless coöperation of Archbishop Williams, who, all along, had the power to, if not break the cycle of abuse, then at least to expose it clearly for what it was.

Let me be perfectly clear: We have no hope of finding ourselves in a satisfactory Anglican Communion as long as we are unwilling to walk away from the Anglican Communion as it presently is.

The notion that we should intimate that we are willing to walk away from the Anglican Communion would be broadly upsetting. The loss of the American church as the designated Anglican scapegoat would, to some degree at least, cause those who have been united in their vilification of The Episcopal Church to turn their passions against one another, since their views on Christianity are not as uniform as they would have us believe. Our showing our courage and determination to live out our beliefs would embolden liberal elements of the various Anglican provinces, particularly the Church of England, but it would be disruptive throughout The Episcopal Church as well. Cultivated by the clever propaganda campaigns of the likes of the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network, many Episcopalians who, as recently as a few years ago, had hardly heard of the Anglican Communion, now view it as a mystical bond that tethers us tenuously to the Church Universal. Some quick re-education will be necessary in our own back yard.

The Episcopal Church has made many mistakes since August 2003, and we cannot undo the various battles we have lost. We can, however, realize that we are followers of Jesus Christ and not of Rowan Williams or Peter Akinola. Let us lay aside our white battle flag, pick up The Episcopal Church standard, and ride proudly forward in the name of Christ, our Savior, promoting a Gospel that speaks to our time, and not one belonging to some mythical world that never was. Please, ++Katharine, make us proud and grateful to be members of The Episcopal Church.

Episcopal Church shield

Advice to the PB for the Primates’ Meeting

The next major crisis facing The Episcopal Church in its conflict with reactionary forces within the Anglican Communion is the primates’ meeting to be held in Dar es Salaam in mid-February. In the last three years, our Presiding Bishop has seemingly approached such meetings with nothing more than a hope and a prayer that they will not end as disastrously as they inevitably have. This is a trend that needs to be stopped.

The prospects for the Dar es Salaam meeting are inauspicious. The meeting will be the the first gathering of the primates since the 2006 General Convention engaged in unseemly and obsequious groveling in what was clearly a doomed effort to get the Anglican Communion to leave us alone. It is the first meeting since the General Convention elected a woman to be Presiding Bishop and certain primates suggested that some of her new colleagues “cannot sit together” with her at the meeting. It is the first meeting of the primates since the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference issued its misguided and ignorant pronouncement on the Diocese of Fort Worth’s policy of not ordaining women. And it is the first meeting since the Archbishop of Canterbury announced what appears to be a heavily reactionary Covenant Design Group that will first meet later this month. It is a meeting to which the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is entitled to attend, yet the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to have invited her grudgingly. He is also inviting other “contributors” from The Episcopal Church to attend a session before the formal meeting “in which the situation [in The Episcopal Church] may be reviewed.” (See Archbishop Williams’ December letter.)

There are, therefore, two meetings about which we should be concerned. It is not clear who will be invited to the “session” preceding the primates’ meeting. Will the Presiding Bishop be included? What is the exact purpose of the meeting? Will it have any effect on the agenda or participants of the succeeding meeting? Among other topics, the main meeting, apparently, will deal with the “adequacy” of the General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report, the proposed Anglican covenant, the shape of the 2008 Lambeth Conference and invitations thereto, and the “anxieties” of those in The Episcopal Church concerned about “how they should secure their relationships with the rest of the Communion.” In other words, the agenda is largely about listening to dissidents in The Episcopal Church and disciplining The Episcopal Church for trying to be responsive to the needs of God’s children in a developed, Western society.

Striking the Right Attitude

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, we may safely predict, will not have a fun time in Tanzania. It is to be hoped that she has a strong sense of self-worth and very thick skin; they will come in handy. Her charm, poise, and sharp mind will endear her to some of her fellow primates, but they will be useless with others.

If The Episcopal Church is not to be—as they say in the ’hood—disrespected in Dar es Salaam, ++Katharine must not play the role of disobedient child or indulgent, enabling, codependent spouse. Instead, she must be the strong, confident, yet modest leader of a proud and powerful institution.

Many Episcopalians are perplexed by Rowan Williams’ consistent favoring of the so-called “orthodox” elements of the Anglican Communion over the more traditionally Anglican ones, including the majority faction of The Episcopal Church. Why has a scholar and theologian seemingly forgotten the History of Anglicanism and betrayed what we all thought were his own liberal views? The answer, assuredly, is that ++Rowan wants to “preserve” the Anglican Communion at all costs, and those threatening to destroy it (see, for example, this statement from the Church of Nigeria Synod) are being consistently placated to avoid the schism that many increasingly see as inevitable. By this theory, The Episcopal Church has gotten short shrift—the origin of this phrase is interesting in this context—because it has been a well-behaved child that has not questioned the punishments that its “orthodox” enemies are determined to heap upon it. Until ++Rowan realizes that The Episcopal Church is willing to leave the Anglican Communion rather than betray its principles and be humiliated—see my essay on whether the Anglican Communion is a necessity of our ecclesiastical life—he will continue to treat The Episcopal Church with disdain. It is ++Katharine’s mission in Dar es Salaam to make it clear to the primates—and particularly to the Archbishop of Canterbury—that our commitment to the Anglican Communion is not absolute, and our patience is not inexhaustible. She must demand respect for herself and for her office because failure to command that respect would result in a further indignity against The Episcopal Church and, as we understand it, the Gospel itself.

A Presiding Bishop’s Checklist

No doubt, ++Katharine will be required to make many decisions in Tanzania that will call for quick but careful thinking. She can plan in advance to make certain moves, however, and to steer clear of some obvious pitfalls. Here is a short checklist to aid her meeting planning:
  1. The Presiding Bishop should privately and politely ask the Archbishop of Canterbury for an apology for suggesting that she is present only by his sufferance. He had no right to exclude her, and to have suggested otherwise was an affront to her and to the church that she represents.

  2. I have assumed that ++Katharine will be included in the “session” that ++Rowan has announced will take place before the primates’ meeting, but this is not totally clear, nor is the exact purpose of the gathering or whether other primates will be present clear. The Presiding Bishop should certainly protest if she is excluded. She probably should not walk out and return home, however, as we do no want to lose the symbolic value of having the primates sit down at the same table with her (or not!).

  3. Assuming that the “session” is some sort of fact-finding affair, ++Katharine should protest, even to the point of declining to participate, if the American invitees do not fairly represent The Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop, of course, represents the entire Episcopal Church, so that a meeting of, say, Katharine Jefferts Schori and Robert Duncan, would be wildly unrepresentative. (Significantly, at this meeting, the Archbishop of York will represent the Church of England, since, in a very real sense, the Archbishop of Canterbury represents the whole Communion.) Assuming that all the American participants are bishops—another assumption ++Rowan has given us no data to evaluate—there should be nine +Chanes, +Brunos, and +Jenkinses to every +Duncan, +Iker, or +Salmon. Moreover, it will be hard to justify excluding Bishop Robinson, whom the primates constantly talk about but never talk to.

  4. Looking now at what is presumably the main event, ++Katharine should insist on being treated as an equal by the primates generally and by ++Rowan in particular. Other primates should not receive special dispensations such as being seated at another table because their “theology” does not allow them to sit at the same table with ++Katharine. Jesus, remember, had no such sensibilities. One hopes that the Presiding Bishop will not have to walk out of the meeting to preserve her dignity and the honor of The Episcopal Church. Support for her being treated decently should be discussed with other sympathetic primates in advance of the meeting. Episcopal News Service should be prepared to document any indignities the primates try to visit upon its leader.

  5. I’m sure that ++Katharine does not need to be reminded that the primates have no right to discipline The Episcopal Church or to exile it from the Communion. Our church has suffered enough at the hand of the self-important autocrats at this meeting, and ++Katharine should refuse to be a part of any discussion even that requests concessions from our church. I would suggest that ++Katharine announce to the group that The Episcopal Church rescinds its decision not to participate for a time in the Anglican Consultative Council and will never again consider a similar request to be in order.

  6. Now a word on some of the particular matters to be discussed at the primates’s meeting. I would hope that ++Katharine will make it clear that all bishops of the Communion must be invited to Lambeth. In particular, if Bishop Robinson is not welcome, it is likely that no loyal Episcopal bishops will attend. She should also make it clear that The Episcopal Church will not likely approve any Anglican covenant that places any ecclesiastical authority above that of the General Convention. She should reiterate the fact, repeatedly articulated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, that he has no authority over The Episcopal Church. She should emphasize that the primates and the Archbishop’s Panel of Reference, likewise, have no such authority.

  7. I think it likely that Bishop Griswold was able to sign communiqués of the primates' meetings only because he was able personally to interpret them in a manner that was not inimical to the interests of our church. This was not, in the end, helpful. Our new Presiding Bishop should sign no document which she believes could in any way be construed as contrary to the interests of The Episcopal Church. In practice, she will likely be unable to sign anything having to do with current controversies within the Communion. So be it.
Good Luck!

Bishop Jefferts Schori has a difficult task ahead of her. If all goes well, she may be able to reverse, if not of the dissolution of the Anglican Communion, then at least the abandonment of the principles that made Anglicanism a significant force for good in the world. Saving Anglicanism, even from itself, will not be easy, but doing so would represent a great victory for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The prayers of loyal Episcopalians are with you, ++Katharine. Good luck!

January 9, 2007

Do We Need the Anglican Communion?

In preparation for a post I was planning to make regarding the upcoming primates’ meeting, I had listed all the advantages of being in the Anglican Communion that I could think of off the top of my head. Before I got a chance to write my essay, however, I read a post called “Revisiting ‘The Question’” on the blog daily episcopalian. The lead paragraph of Jim Naughton’s post was the following:
It’s time to ponder once again whether membership in the Anglican Communion is actually worth it. Today I’m wondering whether it is an asset in evangelism.
It was difficult not to see this as a challenge to address the general question of whether The Episcopal Church actually benefited from its membership in the Communion. I therefore left a rather long comment on the blog addressing that question. The issue seemed important enough, however, that I thought it would be useful to reproduce my commentary here, with as few changes as necessary.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that, until a few years ago, The Episcopal Church’s being in the Anglican Communion was largely a blessing. Membership of late, however, has become—to put it as delicately as possible—a thorn in our side. Alas, the situation threatens to get worse and never get better, as reactionary forces turn what had been a fellowship into a tyranny. My remarks, then, are not meant to address what the Anglican Communion has been in the past, but only what it is now and what it—inevitably, it would seem—is becoming. It may be possible to avoid the dark, totalitarian Anglican Communion I see in the future, but, to do so, The Episcopal Church and its allies—we do have allies—will need to challenge the primates and their allies who intend to deliver that future. I am not hopeful, but, if we cannot save the Communion from this madness, perhaps we will at least be able to save part of it.


Here is my list of the major benefits of belonging to the Anglican Communion:
  1. Clergy are easily exchanged between members.

  2. We have the opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest.

  3. Travelers can identify churches in foreign lands in which they may comfortably worship.

  4. Certain kinds of mission are facilitated (e.g., relief efforts following a natural disaster can be co-ordinated through the local Anglican community).

  5. Ecumenical efforts (e.g., discussions with the Roman Catholics) can be pursued by the Communion, rather than by individual churches.

  6. Association with a “75-million-member Communion” gives The Episcopal Church a certain perceived significance in the public mind that it would not have when seen only as a “2.2-million member” church.

  7. There are miscellaneous advantages to clergy, and, to a lesser degree, laypeople (e.g., once-a-decade junkets for bishops to England, opportunities for primates to pad their résumés).
We can disregard (7) as largely trivial.

Item (1) is primarily a benefit to clergy (and, perhaps, congregations). The number of people directly affected, in practice, is small, and one could imagine other arrangements being adequate in the absence of a Communion.

Items (2) and (3) are quite real, but, as certain elements of the Communion exchange their Anglican heritage for Puritanism, discussion becomes more irritating than helpful, and finding a place to worship in a foreign land becomes as troublesome as it might be without a Communion. Of course, Anglicans from other provinces are also drawn to Episcopal churches because of our Anglican connection, and our formal disconnection from the Anglican Communion could be confusing to them and harmful to some of our parishes.

Item (4) is real, but Anglican churches are not everywhere, and organizations like Episcopal Relief and Development are very good at what they do, irrespective of whether there are Anglican resources on the ground or not.

There is value in (5), I suppose, both for us and our partners in discussion. On the other hand, individual churches are likely to engage in the discussions that matter most (think of our relationship with the ELCA and our discussion with the Methodists). I realize that many will disagree with me, but I consider the Communion’s discussions with the Roman Catholic Church to be, at best, a complete waste of time, at least in my lifetime. At worst, they allow for unelected negotiators to sell out our beliefs in the name of an elusive Christian unity.

Item (6) is real, but, as Jim Naughton pointed out in his daily episcopalian post, this cuts both ways. If we are seen as associating with bigots and Fundamentalists, how is our public image as a church enhanced?

On the negative side of the ledger, we are now regularly told how defective both our theology and our polity are, and our enemies within our church are regularly given aid and comfort by our Anglican brothers. (We don’t hear much from our Anglican sisters.) And we are ever being told what we can and cannot do.

All in all, Anglican Communion membership doesn’t seem like such a great deal, does it?

What about Christian unity—that we all may be one, and all that? Well, I do not believe that Christian unity requires Christian uniformity. If God had a particular theology he expected all of us to follow, he screwed up big time in letting us know what that is. I grew up Presbyterian and considered myself a good Christian. I am now an Episcopalian and consider myself a good Christian. If, tomorrow, I join the United Church of Christ, my feelings about my Christianity will not have changed. I consider my Anglican brothers and sisters fellow Christians, but my view of Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Methodists, and Baptists is the same. We are all part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, even if we do not agree on everything.

But what about Apostolic succession, you ask. It is a lovely, romantic concept, but I do not believe it is magic. All Christians are sons and daughters of the Apostles, even though our take on Christianity may be different. Christ does not call us to be and do exactly what first-century converts were called to. Hello! The world has changed. We know more than we did then. The needs of the world are different than they were then (though, surely, many of the old needs remain).

The Anglican Communion is not an end in itself or a good in itself. If it facilitates the mission of The Episcopal Church, we should embrace it enthusiastically. It is increasingly difficult to hold that it does, however. It is time for us—and for our Presiding Bishop—to work for the health and mission of The Episcopal Church, rather than for the peace and quiet of the Anglican Communion. If we truly believe in what we see as our mission, we are failing our God if we do not advance and defend it.

January 8, 2007

Can You Hear the L?

The letter L is usually not the first letter one thinks of when silent letters are discussed. Three years ago, however, I began compiling a list of words in which an L is silent, and many of these words are quite common (think “walk” or “should”). I have just added another word to my list of such words on my Web site (“Silent Ls”). The new word is “malkin,” an old British word with a variety of meanings: a slattern, a scarecrow, a particular kind of mop, a cat, or a hare. “Malkin” is one of those words that can be pronounced with or without an L sound. (More information on the word is available at Dictionary.com.)

My interest in silent Ls has become something of a crusade to get people to eliminate L sounds from common words that shouldn’t have them. How many words in this list do you mistakenly pronounce with an L: almond, alms, balk, calm, embalm, folk, palm, salmon, yolk? My current list of silent-L words is more than 50 items long. Potential additions to the list are welcomed.

January 7, 2007

Unity Collect

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is fast approaching. With minor exceptions, this is celebrated between January 18 and 25. Episcopalians, particularly, may want to pray especially hard this year.

In 2004, I wrote a collect with a Christian unity theme. It was a part of a series of liturgical resources on reconciliation written by me and others in anticipation of the annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. As I do with many things I write, however, I also put the collect on my Web site. I was surprised when, in 2006, it showed up on the official Anglican Cycle of Prayer for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is on that prayer list again this year.

I am humbled at the thought of my prayer’s being commended to the entire Anglican Communion and, perhaps, used throughout the world. I am still mystified by how one’s collect finds its way onto the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, since no one ever contacted me about inclusion of the collect.

You can find the collect, with appropriate links, on my Web site. I hope that Episcopal churches, especially, will see fit to use the collect this year.

Syndication Joys and Woes

I have made it easier (I think) to subscribe to Lionel Deimel’s Web Log. I am still new to the notion of syndication, however, and my perception of what is adequate may or may not be on the mark. You can subscribe using Atom, but not RSS. If anyone thinks this is a problem, let me know.

Blogger generates the files for syndication feeds automatically. This is the good news. The bad news is that editing an older post makes it show up in the feed as if it were new. There is a certain logic to this, though it gets in the way right now, as I make minor changes to the format of my blog pages or correct typographical errors. Let me apologize in advance to anyone who may be duped into thinking that an old post is actually a new one.

For a long time, I thought that syndication was not especially appropriate for my blog. Because I neither post frequently nor post on a single topic, I don’t have loyal readers checking my blog every day. If there are people out there who tend to like what I write whenever I get around it it, however, subscribing to Lionel Deimel’s Web Log may be a great idea, since, if they check the status of many blogs at once, with little effort, they can check my blog at the same time.

My main Web site, Lionel Deimel’s Farrago is not maintained using software that automatically generates syndication files. When I add something interesting to my Web site, however, I can now publicize it to syndication subscribers by posting to my blog. I won’t promise always to do this, but it is an idea I plan to try. We’ll see how it works.

If you have any thoughts on syndication, please write to me.

Thanks for reading.

January 5, 2007

Blog Improvements

I have been a blogger for nearly five years now, although even a casual look at my blog archive will reveal that I have not always been a very diligent one. Anyway, over those five years, Blogger, the service that “powers” my blog, has undergone a number of changes. Under its new owner, Google, the pace of change at Blogger seems to be accelerating. While not changing the basic design of my blog—today, the design seems rather unusual and, I hope, not merely quaint—I have tried to take advantage of blogging innovations. I have increased the font size on my blog, added more distinctive titles, added a search bar, added a syndication feed, and made it easier to access individual posts. Most of this will not seem remarkable, of course, as new bloggers enjoy, with no effort, enhancements I have had to introduce manually. Such is the fate of the early adopter, however. (Actually, I didn’t think of myself as an early adapter in February of 2002.)

In order to implement real titles, I have just republished all my posts. In the process, I have updated links and made other minor corrections to individual essays. If you find any residual editorial errors, broken links, or other problems, I would appreciate hearing about them. Click on my name at the bottom of the column at the left to send me e-mail.

Readers may wonder why I have not implemented other common blog features. My posts do not have subject tags. Nor does my blog support comments. Well, my posts tend to fall into one of only a few broad categories, and none of those categories seems in need of finer classification. My site map has a table of contents of all my blog posts, with brief descriptions, characterized by topic. That seems an adequate guide to trolling for something to read. In fact, most readers land on my blog directly from a search engine, where they entered terms for some of the crazy things I write about. Because the topics of my little essays are, like those of my main Web site, all over the map, I have not really attracted a loyal following here, a circumstance that suggests that offering a comment function might be a waste of time. On the other hand, I do sometimes write essays that are widely read, and I am somewhat afraid of committing to the effort that might be needed to read (and perhaps police) the reactions they might elicit if people could provide immediate feedback. Since my “popular” posts are inevitably about The Episcopal Church, I have pursued the strategy of having other bloggers (such as Father Jake) write about them and moderate the resulting comments. I appreciate such favors.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Lionel Deimel’s Farrago, I should point out that the topics I deal with here are pretty much the same ones I write about on my main Web site. Essays tend to show up here, rather than there, because they are, by comparison, short, frivolous, less polished, or of rather ephemeral interest. Or maybe not.


January 2, 2007

Public Reading

For a number of years, my church has used the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols as its principal service on the Sunday after Christmas. Since the service is primarily the responsibility of the Organist-Choirmaster, most of the lessons (i.e., Scripture readings) are read by choir members. Whereas some of the readers may be regular lectors, most read in church only occasionally. This year, I found myself, a non-lector, reading the story of the Fall. Volunteering for this duty caused more anxiety than it might otherwise have because, as a member of the Worship Commission, I have been a vocal critic of youth readers. Youth readers tend to mumble, read too fast, speak too softly, and never look up from the page they are reading. I knew that clarity, speed, and volume would not be problems, but maintaining eye contact with the congregation without losing my place has never been easy for me, particularly since I began using bifocals.

A conversation with a choir member who is a lector led me to try something new, and I pass along my experience in the hope of helping others who read only occasionally in a formal, public venue.

As I always do, I printed my text in a large font with generous spacing between lines. The trick I learned, however, was to break up the text into logical chunks and to put a single chunk on a line. (If a chunk was too long, I indented the continuation line.) A chunk is basically text that, when read, is surrounded by pauses but has no internal pauses. Not everyone will want to read a passage the same way, so I will not offer rules for parsing a text, but I will give a sample of what I did. Consider this sentence: The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” I printed this sentence as follows:

The man said,

“The woman whom you gave to be with me,

she gave me fruit from the tree

and I ate.”

I used a finger to keep my place as I read, and I looked up after mentally taking in a line—most lines, anyway. I tried to look in the general direction of everyone in the congregation over the course of the reading. (This takes some effort in a church like St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, where people are seated in a long nave and two transepts.) It was particularly easy to read slowly, as my preparation had made me very confident. (Reading fast is usually a sign of nervousness.)

Apparently, my technique worked fine, as I received several compliments on my reading, and I have reason to think them sincere.