April 25, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

One of the sponsors of some old radio programs I have been listening to on CDs was the General Mills cereal Wheaties. The breakfast cereal first appeared in the 1920’s and has a surprisingly long association with sports and sports figures.

I had never given much thought to the name “Wheaties,” but, listening to the old commercials, it suddenly seemed odd and dated. The name, of course, is derived from the name of its main ingredient, wheat. According to Wikipedia, the name was the winner of an employee contest to rename what was originally called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes.

Clearly, “Wheaties” was an improvement, and it has become part of the linguistic landscape to which people seldom give a second thought. On the other hand, would you be inclined to try cereals called Cornies, or Oaties, or Ricies?

April 18, 2011

Another Poem about Christian Unity

I added another poem on the subject of Christian—and especially Anglican—unity to the Poetry section of Lionel Deimel’s Farrago today. This was not a hard poem to write, but it was a hard poem to revise and make into something satisfying. The poem is titled, perhaps not imaginatively, “That They All May Be One.” The poem and commentary on the writing of it can be found on my Web site, and the poem itself is reproduced below:
That They All May Be One
by Lionel Deimel

“That they all may be one,” they say he said,
But what of us when thus we pray?
Are not our bonds of wine and bread
Sufficient for the Church today?

Must Christians understand as one
The mysteries of God above?
Or should we learn from God the Son
That unity derives from love?

April 9, 2011

A View from Nigeria

Recently, Bishop John Akao, chair of the Church of Nigeria Theological Resource group, published an essay in Church Times under the title “Church of Nigeria and the proposed Anglican Covenant.” It appears that the Akao piece is not yet available on the Church Times Web site to non-subscribers, but it can be read at VirtueOnline.

Akao’s main interest is in explaining why Nigeria cannot sign the Anglican Covenant. His analysis of how the Covenant came to be what it is is instructive, particularly for Episcopalians who have not been paying attention to Communion affairs in recent years and are inclined to evaluate the Covenant apart from its historical context.

Whereas I hardly share Akao’s theological viewpoint, he has the history right, and, for the benefit of those newly attentive Episcopalians, I quote from his essay:
The idea of an Anglican Covenant was suggested by the Global South to check the drift of some members especially in TEC and Canada as well as some other parts of Europe like Germany and Britain in the wake of revisionist agenda manifested radically by the recognition of same -sex relationships by the Church, especially the consecration of two same-sex practitioners as bishops in The Episcopal Church of America.

Unfortunately, the original idea of covenant to bring back erring members who have embarrassed the Communion and torn its fabrics apart, was adopted by the Anglican Establishment, by fashioning a covenant which in motive, content and thrust deviate from the original objective of healing and unifying the communion. The present covenant to the African Anglicans, is crafted to persuade orthodox Anglicans to accept and commit to fellowshipping with revisionist groups who have perpetrated aberrations but who unrepentantly defy various moves and resolutions to bring them back on course.
In other words, a covenant was proposed to control the behavior of (especially) The Episcopal Church. Because the mechanisms to do that have been watered down in order to get agreement, the original intent has not been achieved.

If enough of the churches who wanted to halt the liberal trend in the West eventually do adopt the Covenant, is there any doubt that they will attempt to use it, amended if necessary, to accomplish the original objective?

No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.

April 8, 2011

The Covenant and the Archbishop

I continue to hear from friends in England that votes on the Anglican Covenant within the Church of England have less to do with the Covenant itself than with loyalty to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church of England General Synod had earlier rejected Rowan’s plan to offer stronger concessions to opponents of women bishops, for example, which made Synod members reluctant to hand the archbishop a significant defeat on the Covenant last November. Rowan, after all, seems to have put all his ecclesiastical eggs into the Covenant basket, and his church’s failure to adopt the Covenant would be supremely embarrassing.

From this side of the Atlantic, it is easy to deplore the obeisance shown to Rowan, but I can certainly appreciate it. I do feel proud when our own Presiding Bishop is appointed to a presidential commission or shows up in a television or newspaper story. I think twice before writing anything negative about our primate here or elsewhere. Certainly, the reluctance of our previous Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, to act against the likes of Bob Duncan inhibited effective action by others, and his and Katharine’s support for B033 was sufficiently intimidating to achieve passage by a reluctant House of Deputies in 2006.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, however, is a special case. The incumbent in that office is accorded deference not only by his own church but also by the churches and people of the Anglican Communion in his role as primus inter pares.

Alas, Rowan has increasingly become a threat to the Church of England and to the Anglican Communion. He is, in the end, a political appointee of the English government who has exploited the respect given his office to wield power he has not been granted, to interfere in the affairs of churches not his own—rumor has it that Rowan’s was the hand behind B033, for instance—and to press for a Covenant that will change the nature of the Anglican Communion and, some would say, of Anglicanism itself. Moreover, the Covenant in which he is so invested will enshrine his office as an “Instrument of Communion” and give it even more power, since, as an “Instrument,” Rowan can decide by himself whether to impose the ominous but unspecified “relational consequences” that might be suggested by the Standing Committee.

As I asserted earlier, Rowan has acted as a tyrant. Why should we adopt a Covenant that will make him even more powerful? Episcopalians have no say in who occupies the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. Why should we be any less upset than were our colonial ancestors over the Stamp Act? I say, “No vexation without representation!” Reject the Anglican Covenant and hope that Rowan has the good sense to resign.

No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.

April 5, 2011

A Visit with Archbishop Henri Isingoma

I was intrigued by a couple of Bishop Kirk Smith’s tweets from the recent House of Bishops meeting:
Archbishop of Congo is hopeful about the future.
46 seconds ago

Archbishop of Congo now speaking in French: Does not feel that there has been adequate discussion of the Covenant among the Primates.
6 minutes ago
When I realized that Congo’s Archbishop Henri Isingoma was in Pittsburgh for a few days, I decided that it would be interesting to talk with him. (Actually, a friend suggested that I interview him, but I recognize a good idea when I see one.)

Isingoma’s big public event in our diocese is his preaching tonight as part of the Tuesday Night Lenten Preaching Series. (Apparently, the archbishop, whose preferred language is French, gave his first sermon in English Sunday at Calvary Church. Presumably, that was a trial run for tonight’s service at St. Thomas Memorial Church in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.)

Lenten Preaching Series logo Archbishop Isingoma was at Calvary last night. He took part in a brief Eucharist before addressing Diocesan Council. The service, which freely mixed French—the dominant language—and English, was a bit disorienting for me, who knows a little Latin and a little German, but no French. There was no homily.

Before the Diocesan Council meeting began, I was able to have a little time with Archbishop Isingoma in the sacristy. The Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis stood by to act as translator when my questions perplexed the archbishop. (I was surprised that his restatements in French often seemed very much longer than my original questions.) The archbishop answered my questions in passable English.

I can report that Archbishop Isingoma was charming and forthcoming. His visit to the U.S., which is not his first, will last about three weeks. He is a relatively new primate, having been elected only in 2009. He explained that he missed the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dublin, however, due to a visa problem.

I asked the archbishop a few questions about his church. He told me that there are about half a million Anglicans in Congo, making it a small, though hardly the smallest, church in the Anglican Communion. Services in Congo are conducted primarily in Swahili, but also in French and in several indigenous languages.

Because Episcopalians are perpetually trying to explain to other Anglicans that we elect our bishops, I was interested in learning how Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo selects its archbishop. Isingoma was, in fact, elected by secret ballot by the church’s House of Bishops.

This information offered an opportunity for me to ask Isingoma’s impression of our own House of Bishops. His answer was a bit surprising: at Kanuga Conference Center, he was struck by encountering so many bishops in one room. (His own church has but eight dioceses!) He noted a fact I had never considered, namely that our own church’s House of Bishops is one of the largest in the Anglican Communion. (Nigeria’s is probably larger.) Anyway, he described the size of The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops as “a good thing.”

Of course, I was especially interested in what Archbishop Isingoma thought of the Anglican Covenant and how his church might respond to it. I learned that the Congo dioceses are in the process of studying the covenant, a process that is going on in The Episcopal Church, the Church of England, and, presumably, in other Anglican churches as well. The House of Bishops will discuss the Covenant in June, the archbishop explained, and the Provincial Synod will take up the matter near the end of 2011.

When pressed about his own view of the Covenant, Archbishop Insingoma responded in much the same way as did Katharine Jefferts Schori when asked about the prospects for Covenant adoption. (See ENS story here.) He suggested that the process that got the Communion to where it is now is actually more important than the Covenant itself. Some are satisfied with changing slowly, but others, he asserted, have been in a hurry and have wanted to end discussion quickly. He described the issues being dealt with by the Communion as “complicated,” and he is clearly pleased that there is a lot of listening going on.

Following the lead of our own presiding bishop, Isingoma ducked the question of what he though the Provincial Synod would do. (“That’s why he’s an archbishop,” Dr. Lewis suggested.) Isingoma did, however, say that his church is concerned, that its identity is very much tied to the Anglican Communion, and that he, personally, loves the Communion. He wants to continue in communion with The Episcopal Church and with the Anglican Communion.


It is interesting that many bishops are expressing satisfaction with the discussion and deepening relationships that have seemingly been encouraged by the Windsor Process and development of the Covenant. (I am reminded again of Bishop John Saxbee’s remarks in the Church of England’s General Synod about favoring the process—as long as it never ends.) One can only be encouraged by this. Perhaps our churches were scared into talking with one another. (Of course, some primates continue to turn blue from holding their breath until everyone else agrees with them.)

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to encourage discussion among Communion churches before concluding that a covenant was “the only way forward.” Perhaps we would have discovered another, and assuredly better, way forward.

N.B. When I first posted this piece, my paragraph breaks were somehow lost, decreasing readability. I apologize for the problem and have now restored the originally intended formatting.

April 4, 2011

Stepping Back and Viewing the Forest

A good preacher can offer surprising insights and make them sound completely obvious. This thought occurred to me while reading Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s recent book The Heartbeat of God: Finding the Sacred in the Middle of Everything. In a chapter titled “Opening Doors to Women,” she comments on the current struggle to allow women bishops in the Church of England. In this passage, she illustrates just how ridiculous the whole dispute really is:
The English queen may wear a different kind of hat than a bishop’s miter, but it is the hat of respected and authorized leadership. An Englishman remarked to me recently that he thought the difficulty with female bishops in Britain was that British men didn’t want to be under the authority of women. Well, in England they have accepted the leadership of Elizabeth II—one of her many titles is “Defender of the Faith”—for more than fifty years.
Queen Elizabeth II

April 2, 2011

Short and Sweet

As I’m sure many readers already know, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court last week rejected Archbishop Robert Duncan’s request for a rehearing of his appeal from the decision of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas that awarded diocesan assets to the Episcopal Church diocese. The diocese announced the March 29, 2010, order of the court on its Web site yesterday. No announcement has yet appeared on the Web site of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. (I do hope that the April 1 announcement, three days after the order was issued, was not taken by anyone as an April Fools’ Day prank.)

The Commonwealth Court decision should surprise no one, though Duncan held out hope to his increasingly anxious parishes that the court would be sympathetic. (See “More on the Petition for a Rehearing.”) The body of the court order denying the petition consists of a single sentence: “NOW, March 29, 2011, having considered appellants’ application for reargument before the Court en banc [i.e., before the full court] and appellees’ answer, the application is denied.” I find it amusing that the title of the litigation takes up approximately a page and a half, whereas the body of the order consumes only about a third of a page (see images of the two-page document below).

Order, page 1Order, page 2

What Part of Speech Is That?

Root Sports logoThe baseball season has begun, and I have been watching the first two games played by the Pittsburgh Pirates on the television. The Pirates won yesterday but fell to the Cubs today.

I was surprised yesterday when I discovered the telecast branded as coming from Root Sports, rather than FSN Pittsburgh, last year’s network. A little Internet research led to the conclusion that only the name had been changed, though ownership of the sports network had been transferred somewhere along the line. (See, for example, this post on a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blog.)

It was not intuitively obvious what the significance of “Root” was, and the press release from the Root Sports Facebook page proved something of a red herring:
“The unique distinction of each of the three regional sports networks [including the former FSN Pittsburgh] is that they can speak with the voice of the fan from a local, insider perspective and provide the opportunity to be part of something bigger,” said Geoff Walker, Vice President of Marketing for DIRECTV Sports Networks. “This approach creates an authentic product that is rooted and connected in the community, invested in its people and committed to providing the highest quality shared experience for its teams and their fans. This is the personality and attitude of ROOT Sports.”
Did the name of the re-branded network somehow come from the idea of being “rooted and connected in the community”? That seemed a stretch, and my assumption that “Root” was a noun left me without a good theory of what the name was supposed to mean.

Near the end of today’s game, however, the network ran a spot that seemed to clear up the matter. “Root,” apparently, is a verb, as in “root, root, root for the home team.” Who knew? The name is reasonable, I suppose, but I question whether Root Sports is such a great name if it takes so long to realize that it isn’t nonsensical.

No doubt, the long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirate fans will get used to it.