Thursday, July 31, 2008

Miss Manners on Sharing Sustenance

This comes from the The Lambeth Witness, the daily newspaper of the inclusive church crowd at the decennial meeting of the worldwide Anglican Communion. I agree with Katie Sherrod that Miss Manners' column from Wednesday applies to the situation we find ourselves in, but also to all people of faith and goodwill when confronted with those who might be inclined to draw lines between those who are "in" and those who are "out."

Miss Manners’ unintentional analysis of the WCG proposal
by Katie Sherrod (Integrity USA)

The Windsor Continuation Group is floating a proposal whereby a Pastoral Forum would have the authority to impose a diminished status or “diluted representation” on a naughty province. The following column by etiquette columnist Miss Manners seemed an amazingly apt analysis of this proposal. “Party Hosts Who Pick Favorites” ran in the Wednesday, July 30, 2008 issue of the Washington Post.

Question: Dear Miss Manners - Unfortunately, I think I may have discovered a phenomenon that is even tackier than cash bars at wedding receptions. Apparently, some restaurants have begun offering a service called a "half-open bar" to customers who wish to hold private parties. This means that the hosts are allowed to select a set number of "VIP" guests, designated with visible wristbands, who are allowed unlimited free drinks. The rest of the guests must pay for their beverages. I'm not necessarily faulting the businesses that have made this service an option; they are hardly forcing anybody to participate. I am, however, trying hard to quash my uncharitable feelings about the hosts who would employ such a service. As for how this sort of thing reflects on the culture as a whole, I am completely at a loss for words. You, however, rarely are. Thoughts? Can civilization put the kibosh on this nonsense? Are we too far gone?

Answer: Although she is not quite ready to give up on civilization, Miss Manners admits that what has happened to hospitality is an evil portent. In secular society, as in many religions, the willingness to share sustenance freely, even if one has little, is a test. Those who turn others away are in trouble, even if the visitor does not turn out to be a deity in disguise. However, Miss Manners does admire the modern efficiency. What you bring to her attention is a method of insulting guests by making them pay to be entertained, while at the same time making it clear that the insult is personal rather than general.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bishops' Camp

Today's Episcopal Life update is particularly interesting. I especially like this paragraph:

Fire alarm routs bishops in middle of the night
Monday evening's thunderstorm touched off a false alarm about 1:00 a.m. at Beckett Hall on the University of Kent campus, a guest reported. Bishops, spouses and all other guests temporarily residing at the hall had no choice but to wake up, respond, and stand outside in their nighties until the all-clear was called about 15 minutes later.

Can't you just imagine all those bishop's and spouses lumbering out of bed and down the stairs and elevators to stand outside, bleary eyed, and slowly beginning to comment on each other's pajamas and laughing about the absurdity of the event?! It's summer camp for bishops!!!

Now if they could just have a big pillow fight to work out their frustrations! Maybe some camp wide pranks like removing all the furniture from another bishop's room, or changing all the signs on the meeting rooms, would break through the tension and help them take themselves and one another a little less seriously!

Monday, July 28, 2008

More about the March

Bishop Marc Andrus of California has a great video on his blog of bishops and ecumenical participants explaining why they were participating in, or why they thought is was important to participate in the march last week supporting the Millennium Development Goals.

The video includes my former bishop, Wayne Wright of Delaware, and the bishop of Delaware's companion diocese Argyll and the Isles, Martin Smith. I got to meet Martin at my former congregation when at the end of a very long day he celebrated Eucharist for our campus ministry group. At the time of the sermon, he sat on the floor in front of the altar where we were all gathered and invited us into a conversation about the day's reading. I don't remember the conversation, but I do remember how down to earth - literally - the bishop was and how open to dialogue! In this video he says that the march is going to help him re-examine his own lifestyle. It is a humble answer and a good place for us all to start.

080727_MDG_March_final from

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Join the Bishops' March to End Poverty

Today the Anglican bishops who have gathered for the Lambeth Conference, marched in London to Parliament to raise awareness and seek commitment to the effort to end extreme poverty in the world. The Millennium Development Goals have been a rallying point for this work, but as Anglican Observer to the United Nations, Hellen Wangusa said, the Church has been present all along working for this goal.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke compellingly of the need for political will to make this happen. Read the whole story here. And then join the bishops in a virtual march by contacting your congressional representatives here.

Someone said that the United States is generous in its foreign aid. That simply isn't true. We give a fraction of a percent of our national budget to foreign aid. Increasing that aid by the tiniest amount, maybe to a whole one percent of the national budget, could have a significant impact on people's lives. It could also make for a safer and more stable world.

Perhaps we could also address the issues of poverty in our own country. As Gordon Brown said, we have the science, medicine and technology to do it - to address poverty both in the U.S. and in the world, I would contend - all we lack is the will to do so.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


My friend Nathan raises an interesting question on his blog about people of faith both fostering and frustrating forgiveness. He's looking for insight, so tell him what you think.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

All are Welcome?

Lambeth has started in earnest. After spending 2+ days in retreat, the opening worship was held today in Canterbury Cathedral. There are lots of great stories about how important the retreat time was to setting the tone for the conference, and about a willingness to be open to one another and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

There were also a few (very few) comments in ENS reports of bishops commenting on the absence of Bishop Gene Robinson. "Bishop Mark Beckwith, of Newark, noted the singing of the hymn 'All are Welcome' after communion, but referred to the exclusion of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who is in a same-gender partnership. Beckwith said, 'my heart was broken because, in fact, we are all not welcome here.'"

+Gene asked for prayers in his own blog, Canterbury Tales from the Fringe, noting the he has been surprised at the difficulty of being cut off from his colleagues. I trust he'll share his observations of the Inclusive Eucharist that was held this afternoon.

As we pray for all the bishops gathered in Canterbury, let's add a particular prayer for +Gene. It seems to me that he is in the unique position of bearing the burden of exclusion which so many people on the margins experience regularly. It is an imminently priestly act, though I cannot imagine an easy one, even for such a deeply committed priest and bishop as +Gene is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Girl Effect

Thanks to Wendy Porter for posting this video on her blog!

Girls grow up to be women who manage their households. It makes sense that the better prepared and equipped they are to do that, the stronger their households will be. Vast numbers of single, widowed, divorced women have no one to depend on other than themselves. And all the other women who do have a partner, can help share the burden of providing for themselves and their families if they have some tools to do so.

Educating girls clearly hasn't ended poverty in this country... oh, wait, maybe we've given up educating girls - and boys - in this country! We have neglected our educational system, with huge impacts on the socio-economic realities of students who graduate without the abilities to think, and write, and read, and critique, and understand, and analyze, and problem solve in the world. We are condemning them to increasing poverty. So let's educate girls all over the world! And boys, too!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grace in Action

Bishop Gene Robinson preached at St. Mary's in Putney yesterday evening. His sermon is so good that you should leave this blog and go watch and listen to it here. Be sure to watch the whole thing, not just the protest. The congregation, and +Gene's response to the protest is gracious and moving, but the bishop's sermon is even better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Too cute for words!

Nathan is two months old. He's eating like a horse, and is smiling and laughing and getting cuter all the time! I think he looks a lot like his dad, who was also known as a healthy eater at this age!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The Church of England has agreed that the majority of its legislative body wants women bishops, and that it will make plans for how to introduce women bishops to the Church of England. It's a major step forward for women in the Church of England. But it is only one step, and a shaky one at that.

I am a fan of the Book of Revelation thanks to Dr. Sue Garrett at Louisville Seminary. She taught us to see the hope and promise of God's victory through the strange imagery of the book's author. There are many parts that I prefer to ignore - because I think they are about human beings' longing for revenge rather than God's mercy - but then it sings of God's grace and welcome of all, not just the tribes of Israel, but all the nations as they come streaming into the Reign of God in numbers too great to count. It is a message entirely consistent with the witness of all the rest of Scripture.

Revelation is also about judgment, though, and in the message to the seventh church, Laodicea, the author is told by God to write: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16, NRSV)

The message continues about being rich and despising the poor. It's worth looking up. But this part about being neither hot nor cold came to me today.

The Church of England has allowed the ordination of women to the priesthood for about 15 years. I was in college when it happened. Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, was the person who told me the news, at breakfast before a lecture he gave at Austin College. At that time the Church of England decided either that the church wasn't ready to also accept women bishops, or that somehow the episcopate was so dramatically different from priesthood that while women were acceptable as priests, they simply could not be bishops. (The outstanding women bishops of the Episcopal Church have proven that that is not the case.)

Now, the majority of the bishops, other clergy, and lay people of the Church of England's governing body think that women bishops are okay on principal. But there is so much anger and resistance that they can't just make women bishops, they have to first form a committee that will write a report for another committee that will make recommendations that will be given back to the legislative bodies who will amend and approve or deny the recommendations which will or will not be implemented by whoever it is that appoints bishops in the Church of England. Reports say it will be 2014 before the first woman bishop is consecrated.

Does this sound ridiculous to anyone else?!

The fear, malevolence, and vitriol about women coming out of the Church of England is disturbing, to say the least. If anyone has any doubt about the strength of patriarchy, this should make clear that it is alive and well. Clergy are threatening to leave the church in droves, bishops are having secret meetings to figure out how to get recognized by the Roman Catholic church (which does not consider ANY Anglican ordination valid), and men with wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, friends, are acting as if women are some kind of plague, as if Jesus condemned women, and as if Paul were a 21st century Messiah. IT IS CRAZY.

Jesus was never unkind to a woman. Never. He always took the woman's side, he always brought her deeper into his circle, including the circle of apostles (Mary Madgalene was the first to announce his Resurrection!) Paul was a radical progressive in his day. He said wives were as worthy of respect as their husbands, women were leaders in the churches he established. In the first century that was remarkable; a more significant step than deciding to make a plan for how to make women bishops.

It is time for the Church to do its job. To speak for justice. To speak radical community. To stop being neither hot nor cold. Making compromises which allow women-hating people (men and women) to continue to lead the church is wrong. To act as if denying the full humanity of women is appropriate theological discourse is wrong.

Reading the rhetoric of those opposed to women bishops in the Church of England affirms and clarifies the fact that the issues of human sexuality that we've been talking about are deeply rooted in patriarchy and rejection of women's leadership, as well as that of anyone else who doesn't fit the social construct of masculinity.

I'm glad that the Church of England has at least taken this shaky step forward. I hope, though, that they and all of us, will find the courage to make it a definitive step in the direction of God's radical love revealed in Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I just got back from a two and a half week cross-country tour that culminated with the annual General Chapter of the Rivendell Community. The final weekend was certainly the highlight of my trip, which mostly consisted of long meetings and worse. (Though at the beginning I did get to see old friends and spend a day in the ocean at Cape May!)

Rivendell is a Christian Community in the Episcopal Church which began in 1997 when two friends and I decided that we wanted a rule of life to hold one another accountable to the intentions of our lives to be prayerful people of God. Truth be told, the other two friends, Virginia+ and Cathy+, had a better idea of what we were up to than I did. I was knew to the whole idea of disciplined daily prayer and was just discovering the liturgy of the Episcopal Church, and was mostly along for the ride. I'm proud to be a founding member of Rivendell, though.

In the Episcopal Church we have Religious Orders and Christian Communities. Orders are like other communities of monks and nuns. They typically live together and hold all their possessions in common, are required to be celibate, and live according to a rule of life and the order's constitution. There are about a dozen orders in the Episcopal Church.

Christian Communities consist of individuals who do not necessarily live together and are not necessarily required to hold their possessions in common. In Rivendell, our members include people who are married and single, lay and ordained, gay and straight, men and women. Some live in community at our two houses in Memphis, Tennessee and in West Missouri, but most of us live in our own homes with families and jobs and all the other trappings - uh, blessings - of this life. We also live according to a rule and constitution which shape our lives of prayer, worship, and community.

The name Rivendell, of course, is from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy in which Rivendell is the "last homely house east of the sea." It's where the elves live and offer hospitality to those who are on the journey. It's where travelers and pilgrims stop for rest and restoration, story telling and good food, wise counsel and strength for the journey. Our goal, then, is to offer prayer and hospitality to those who stop by and for the life of the world.

General Chapter is the annual meeting of the community. Most members live in or around Memphis and West Missouri, but a few of us are further away. General Chapter is when everyone gets together to renew our life together, strengthen our relationships, and reaffirm our central, shared intentions. We spent most of four days catching up with one another, telling stories, laughing A LOT, praying, singing, eating, and enjoying community life. I had to leave before the business meeting on Monday - but I was there for the important stuff.

Religious Communities are counter-cultural. Men and women first headed out into the desert over 500 years ago in response to a Church that had become too top heavy, too involved in itself, too complicit with the power and wealth of the empire. And today, we descendants of those first monks still seek to focus on the heart of Jesus' Gospel and the true vocation of the Body of Christ. We Rivendellians don't eschew church politics - many of us are on vestries, or general convention deputations, and many of us are priests - but we do try to direct the church's attention to those things which are most important - prayer and faithfulness to God, concern for the poor and marginalized, hospitality offered to all. We seek to follow Jesus.

I am so grateful for these companions who call me to faithfulness and continually remind me, in the midst of my failed efforts and misguided attempts, what it is that God requires.