Tag Archives: Covenant

Jordan Hylden: Brave New Church

Covenant Communion

Jordan Hylden hits one out of the park with this:

The seventy-sixth General Convention of the Episcopal Church made headlines last week for moving forward on same-sex blessings and officially opening its doors for partnered homosexuals to serve as priests and bishops. Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal bishop of Lexington and a close associate of the presiding bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, argued that it was long past time to do it: Over thirty years ago, he said, the church had placed pastoral compassion over Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of Jesus to permit remarriage after divorce, and it would be nothing less than hypocritical for the church not to do likewise for gay and lesbian people.

There is a certain logic to this, of course. If we’re going to set aside the teaching of Jesus for ourselves, shouldn’t we do the same for others? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as someone once said. According to Bishop Sauls, this was the most important point he made at the convention. Arguably, it was the most important point anyone in attendance made. The Episcopal Church has now, quite definitively, decided to step out on its own, away from Scripture, tradition, and the rest of the Anglican communion. It was a bold and brave step, for with it the church has decided that it is now a church that takes its own counsel, answerable only to God. No doubt it was a matter of prayerful discernment and conscience for many, and no doubt many will shy away from drawing out the full implications of their decision. But the implications are there nonetheless. It is a brave new thing for the Episcopal Church, a brave new church on its own in the world.

The two key resolutions, D025 and C056, were passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of the convention, the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. The first resolution, D025, effectively gave dioceses the green light to elect bishops in partnered homosexual relationships, thus overturning the commitment of the 2006 convention to “exercise restraint” in doing so. The second resolution, C056, committed the church to develop rites of blessing for same-sex unions with the goal of bringing draft versions for approval at the next convention in 2012. In the meantime, the resolution encouraged dioceses to develop and use rites of their own, with the expectation that such on-the-ground experience will be of value in creating a set of official, churchwide liturgies in the near future.

As such, the two resolutions represent a clear and purposeful departure from the requests made of the Episcopal Church by the rest of the Anglican communion, as expressed repeatedly by all of the official bodies of global Anglicanism over the past several years. Contradicting requests for a moratorium on bishops in same-sex relationships, Resolution D025 asserts that “God has called and may call” persons in such relationships to all of the ordained ministries of the church. And, in the face of requests not to authorize public rites of blessing for same-sex unions, Resolution C056 explicitly calls for their development and authorizes bishops to perform them on a trial basis in their dioceses. It is, in short, a clear victory for those such as Bishop Sauls who have argued for the national autonomy of the Episcopal Church and the need to move forward regardless of Anglican communion requests.

That is, at least, the straightforward interpretation of the resolutions, as understood by media outlets such as the New York Times (“Episcopal Vote Reopens a Door to Gay Bishops,” “Episcopal Bishops Give Ground on Gay Marriage”), the BBC (“US Church Drops Gay Bishops Ban”), Reuters (“Episcopal Vote Widens Anglican Split”), and the Washington Post (“Episcopal Bishops Can Bless Gay Unions”). It is, additionally, how they were understood by Anglican bishop N.T. Wright (“The Americans Know This Will Lead to Schism,”), conservative groups such as Fulcrum and the Anglican Communion Institute, and the ECUSA gay rights lobby, Integrity. Susan Russell, the president of Integrity, celebrated achieving a “clean sweep” on their legislative goals, and justifiably so.

But be that as it may, the official organs of the Episcopal Church have insisted that no matter what it might look like to everyone else, actually nothing much has changed. The two ranking officers of the church, presiding bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies president Bonnie Anderson, wrote in an open letter to Rowan Williams that “nothing in [Resolution D025] goes beyond what has already been provided under our constitution and canons for many years.” By that, they mean to say that since church canons already stipulate that the ordination process is open to all persons regardless of sexual orientation, and since Resolution D025 asserts that future bishops will be considered by following canonical guidelines, they have done nothing new. The 2006 resolution, they note, asked for restraint in granting “consent” to the election of partnered homosexual bishops, and since the new resolution does not mention consent, this has not actually been overturned.

If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, that may be because it is.

via Covenant

Graham Kings>> Formed by God through Scripture in the Daily Office

Recently at St. Francis we have reemphasized the Daily Office.  As part of this reemphasis, I want to commend Graham Kings’ reflection on the Office to you.  This was delivered at the Covenant Conference in Dallas in early Decemeber.  Unfortunately, due to flight schedules I was unable to hear this reflection in person, but thankfully–and to your benefit as well–the recording is available at the Covenant site.  Enjoy!

Introduction

Apart from ‘Daily Prayer’, ‘The Office’ reminds me of two things: firstly, the popular English comedy series, which was recontexualised in Pennsylvania; and secondly an excellent name for a pub. If I ever owned a pub – which I am very unlikely to do – I would consider calling it ‘The Office’. Then, if relatives or friends wondered where you were, you could phone and say, ‘I’m still at The Office’.

In the wonderful collect for Bible Sunday, we pray ‘help us to hear [all holy Scriptures], to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them…’. As we say the Daily Office, we are formed by God through his Scriptures.

Officium is the Latin word for ‘duty’. Whenever we think of ‘duty’ in the Anglican Communion we also think of ‘joy’: ‘It is our duty and our joy at all times and places…’. So, at Morning Prayer, you report for duty and get your orders. At Evening Prayer you clock off, if you like, and you salute. That is one way of looking at the Office. It has got to be done. As we shall see, it is enjoined upon clergy, but also with the ‘tolling of the bell’, it involves lay people as well.

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Where was I last week

Covenant in Dallas

Covenant in Dallastop row from left to right: Craig Uffman (founder of Covenant and on the leadership team of Fulcrum), Dale Rye, Damon McGraw, Ephraim Radner, Christopher Wells (founder of Covenant), Matthew Olver, Jody Howard, Nathan Humphrey, Dan Martins, Will Brown, Sam Keyes bottom row from left to right: Doug LeBlanc, Victoria Heard, Graham Kings, Jean Meade

This is a little late in coming, but I wanted to share some information with you all about the retreat and conference I participated in last week. Fellow Covenanter Doug LeBlanc wrote the following introduction to our time together as well as the reflections and papers which were delivered over the course of the retreat and conference.

When more than a dozen Covenant writers traveled to Dallas this past weekend, we were united by varying degrees of friendship and a shared loyalty to our theologically inclined weblog that’s only 16 months old. We gathered with no plans for issuing a declaration or forming a strategy to save the church.

Instead, six of our number agreed to present short papers on the meaning of Christian communion. We worshiped God together in morning and evening prayer and the Holy Eucharist. Catholic scholar Damon McGraw of The National Institute for Newman Studies joined us for a one-day retreat on December 5, helping us reflect on John Henry Newman’s writings about the church.

Other than one informal dinner in the home of Carrie Boren, the Diocese of Dallas’ missioner for evangelism, and a celebratory meal at St. Martin’s Wine Bistro, we spent all of our time at congregations.

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Philip Turner: The Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church: A Response to my Critics | Covenant

I am pleased that my article “The Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church” has generated the discussion it has.  A number of the responses simply display the toxic atmosphere that sadly prevents the blogs from realizing their potential for furthering genuine debate.  There have, however, been a number that are serious in their intent and deserve a measured response.

I would particularly like to thank those who, like Bishop Pierre Whalon, recognize that the very survival of both The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Communion is at issue in the crisis brought on by the Gene Robinson affair.  Meaningful debate on the issues both TEC and the Communion now face is of vital importance if either or both are to emerge from the present conflicts as coherent expressions of Catholic Christianity.

Unfortunately, meaningful debate receives little support from the current atmosphere in the church—an atmosphere that does little to encourage either a careful and informed reading of TEC’s history or of its Constitution and Canons.  It is also an atmosphere that produces unrealistic assessments of our present circumstances, often accompanied by wishful thinking and uninformed speculation about possible future states.

As much as I appreciate the tone of Bishop Whalon’s response to my paper, I am forced to say that it evidences both wishful thinking and uninformed speculation.  Having said that, however, I wish to add that, in an odd way, his comments both tend to support my basic conclusions, and (even more oddly) indicate that there is more common ground between us than one might initially think.

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What is Realignment? | Covenant

As many of my readers will know, the Diocese of Quincy became the third Diocese to remove themselves from the Episcopal Church, USA recently.  The official line from TEC is still, of course, that only individuals can leave, not Dioceses or parishes.  Yet, I believe out natural human inclination to say that such-and-such parish or such-and-such diocese has left is revelatory.  It reveals the truth that a parish or a diocese is nothing if not made up of the people within it.  It also reveals that the claims of the Episcopal Church to a certain type of formal authority and heirarchy are not only on historically thin ice, but simply do not fit the reality of the moment.

Sometimes attempts at clarification help more than arguments. This is especially true of marital quarrels: I’ll rarely convince my wife I’m right about this or that course of action, but I can at least try to explain what I thought I was doing.

It may be helpful, in light of Fr Dan Martins’ compelling essay, to explain briefly what Quincy thinks it did last Friday afternoon. I can’t claim to speak for the diocese. But I can work through some theological reasons employed at the synod (from the debate itself, and addresses by Bishops Ackerman, Beckwith, and Parsons as well) to try to explain what Quincy thinks it did. This may or may not correspond to what it actually did. I’m not going to judge the synod’s action, which means I’ll neither agree nor disagree with Fr Martins’ assessment of it. I’m merely going to use his terms – rebellion and revolution – to explain what Quincy thinks it did.

The nearest dictionary defines rebellion as “an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler,” and revolution, “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.” Fr Martins rightly notes their virtual synonymity. Different shades of meaning only emerge retrospectively, when history’s victors tell their story – when, that is, rebels become revolutionaries by successfully establishing and valorizing their own regimes. However, rebellion and revolution are identical in one objective condition: the rejection of established political authority.

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine how to apply these terms to the present situation, even if Fr Martin hadn’t already ably done so. A rebellion is in progress, the rebellion of a handful of dioceses against TEC – which nevertheless may in the long-term end up looking more like a revolution. Only time will tell.

Perhaps. The problem with this way of understanding Friday’s action is that Quincy doesn’t think it has rebelled or revolted. I’ve already implicitly explained why. To rebel or revolt, there has to be some established political authority to rebel or revolt against. And though many will beg to differ, Quincy emphatically does not think it has rejected an established political authority. Neither therefore has it rebelled or revolted.

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Invitation to reflection on abortion and the election | Covenant

Dear readers,

Following on Fr Matthew Olver’s piece posted here last night, I am pleased to present a thoughtful exchange–intended to be a conversation starter and an aid to reflection–between Neil Dhingra and Fr Will Brown on the thorny question of how Christians in the U.S. committed to “life” should approach the question of voting in the presidential election next Tuesday. Neil and Will are inclined to different answers to this question–the former believing that a case can be made out for “pro-life” support of Obama’s candidacy, the latter believing that this is not possible (leaving aside the question of whether or not a case for McCain can be made). But much common ground is shared by both writers, as well.

What else can and perhaps should be said? We invite your comments, and wrestling along with Neil and Will and others of us. How to move along the conversation? Is the strategic question of how to vote something about which we can reasonably disagree as Christians who do not disagree about the blight visited upon American democracy and order by the contradiction of abortion tolerated in our midst?

Lord, give us your mind and your heart, to the end of justice in our country, especially for these voiceless and silenced ones, callously killed in the name of “freedom” and “choice.” Forgive us, Lord, for our own complicity in this culture of death. And give us the grace, individually and as a Community of counter-witness, to model for our nation a spirit of repentance, joined to a willingness to make amends for our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invitation to reflection on abortion and the election | Covenant

Fr. Matthew Olver: The Gospel of Life and the Economy of Desire

My new friend Fr. Matthew Olver, a fellow Covenant author and one of three or four Gen X/Y Diocesan Ecumenical Officers at the National Workshop on Christian Unity, has written a fantastic piece reflecting on the value of life. It’s very good and I hope you’ll take the time to read and reflect on it:

In Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men (recently and excellently adapted for the screen by the Cohen Brothers), the sheriff describes meeting a woman at a conference in Corpus Christi, who tells him:

“I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion.”

And I said, “Well, ma’am, I don’t think you got any worries about the way this country is headed…I’m goin’ to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep.”

Which pretty much ended the conversation.

The Gospel is a call to live by grace in union with the Father, by grace to share in that bond of love between the eternal Father and his coeternal Son. The Gospel beckons us into Life itself. Near the very end of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, God puts the choice starkly before them: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Deut 30:19).

Jesus’ summary of his redemptive mission is straightforward: “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This life is the fulfillment of how the Blessed Trinity created us, “in our [God’s] image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). The power of sin’s infection in all creation is profound: it obscures, but does not obliterate, God’s image in us. This tension is where Christians begin in their understanding of the human person.

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