Sunday, September 28, 2008

Angels in the Attic

Today's lessons and service focused attention on the subject of angels as we celebrated Michaelmas Eve. I thought Charlie did an excellent job talking about the good angels. He did ignore the bad ones, but I will let that be an opportunity to open the floor for comments about my question, "is there a doctrine on angels?"

I looked up old Thomas Aquinas and Summa Theologica, and I found that there was an awful lot of thinking about the subject back in the day.

As an example,
"Article 1. Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal?"
Objection 1. It would seem that an angel is not entirely incorporeak. For what is incorporeak only as regards ourselves, and not in relation to God, is not absolutely incorporeal. But Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii) that "an angel is said to be incorporeak and immaterial as regards us; but compared to God it is corporeal and material. Therefore he is not simply incorporeak."

Objection 2. Further, nothing is moved except a body, as the Philosopher says (Phys. vi, text 32). But Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii) that "an angel is an ever movable intellectual substance." Therefore an angel is a corporeal substance.

Objection 3. Further, Ambrose says (De Spir. Sanct. i, 7): "Every creature is limited within its own nature." But to be limited belongs to bodies. Therefore, every creature is corporeal. Now angels are God's creatures, as appears from Psalm 148:2: "Praise ye" the Lord, "all His angels"; and, farther on (verse 4), "For He spoke, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created." Therefore angels are corporeal.

On the contrary, It is said (Psalm 103:4): "Who makes His angels spirits."

Now this does not make for good sermons, so I think Charlie did a good job bringing things down to a personal level. To answer his question, do Episcopalians keep "angels in the attic?" The answer is "no" when it comes to our service and music, but the answer may be "yes" when it comes to our daily lives.

My point is if Episcopalians put even good angels in the attic and generally ignore their presence, what have Episcopalians done with the bad angels? Have they been placed in the basement? Do Episcopalians have a doctrine on angels? Do Episcopalians believe in demons? Do I hear Screwtape at work?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bishop Henderson's Rules

Charlie Foss delivered a good sermon today on Matthew. Although the focus on the heart as opposed to the "statutes" did not deter me from proceeding on with today's posting.

It looks like Black has lost two Bishops.

I never was good at chess. The main problem is that you have to run through a number of possible moves and the anticipated moves of your opponent. Give me a good old game of chance. Any Episcopal parish, diocese, or Bishop unhappy with the current state of the Church had better be good at chess. Not only that, but they have to anticipate "House rules" being declared at any time. I am still analyzing Bishop Henderson's moves in the matter of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

His statement is found here, and I have reproduced it below. I have added 'House Rules' at certain points.

"From Bishop Henderson, re: House of Bishops
September 18, 2008

The Feast Day of Edward Bouverie Pusey

Sisters and Brothers, Greetings from Salt Lake City, where the House of Bishops is meeting. Yesterday we focused on our experience at the Lambeth Conference in July, about which, more anon. You are probably more interested today in the action of the House of Bishops regarding +Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Last night we met for more than an hour discussing the canons, their meaning {'House Rules'} , and the process {'House Rules'}leading up to the present situation. This morning we began our discussion of the certification of the Title IV Review Committee, based on information provided by attorneys for certain clergy and laity of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, as well as the Presiding Bishop {'House Rules'}, that Bishop Duncan had abandoned the communion of this Church by renouncing the discipline of The Episcopal Church (which renunciation is defined as abandonment in the Canons){'House Rules'}.

The following is a fairly accurate account of my statement to the House at the very beginning of discussion; after identifying myself (always the practice, whenever one speaks) by name, diocese and as President of the Review Committee, I continued:

As an attorney-and self-appointed {'House Rules'}President of the House of Bishops Bar Association-I am wondering whether we are permitting the letter of the canons undermine the spirit for which the canons were crafted {'House Rules'}.

"Let me say clearly that I concur completely with the finding and certification of the Review Committee. My only concern is with the timing. There is no question in my mind that +Bob Duncan intends to leave The Episcopal Church-and in his heart and mind perhaps already has {'House Rules'[he might argue that the Church has left him-U.P.]}. I don't doubt that Duncan intends to do exactly what he has said he will do, personally, and with his diocese.

"I am persuaded by the legal argument of the (Presiding Bishop's) Chancellor regarding interpretation {'House Rules'} of the phrase ‘whole number of bishops entitled to vote'; it is akin to my own views on that issue. So I do not question the validity and legitimacy of our action in finding that John-David Schofield had abandoned.

"And I am concerned, too, about the legal issues (especially those relating to property), should abandonment by Duncan not be found at this particular point in time. I appreciate the presentation already made by Bishop Sauls (who had discussed relevant laws of Pennsylvania), but expect that, despite our action, the matter of title to property will nevertheless end up in the secular courts.

"But I am influenced heavily by the impact on relationships-relationship within The Episcopal Church and relationships within the Anglican Communion, if we act now rather than acting AFTER the Pittsburgh Convention has its second reading on the proposed constitutional change. To be sure, there will be a price to be paid whether abandonment is determined now or then-but I think the cost will be considerably higher if we are seen to act precipitously. There is a matter of "good will", of mercy, as well as justice, which I consider relevant.

"Yes, Duncan intends to abandon within the meaning of the canon {'House Rules'}-no doubt in my mind whatsoever. But I think the finding of abandonment will be viewed as less unacceptable, less unfavorably, if the diocesan convention has acted the necessary two times, rather than just one. I also believe that we should put the ball back in Duncan's court-let the decision be his, not ours.

"I also consider it important that we attempt as much as possible to separate what we think and feel about Bob Duncan (and others considering similar moves) from the greater good of Christ's mission and Church-that is, separate personalities from what, by God's grace, we can do to promote more effectively both the mission AND the unity of the Church.

"I am anxious to hear the thoughts and opinions of others, but this is where I am at the moment. I am not compelled, or even impelled-but I am inclined to vote no on a finding of abandonment now, and to vote yes on any effort to suspend action until after the Pittsburgh convention acts.

"My prayer for myself at this point is similar to the line from the hymn we sang today during Morning Prayer: ‘Listen to the voice of wisdom...."

After several hours of discussion and prayer, I ultimately voted "no" on the proposed resolution which would authorize the Presiding Bishop to make a finding of abandonment as defined by the canon. The resolution, however, passed.

For more information on today's action, see the statement prepared by several of us bishops who, although voting on opposite sides of the resolution, were asked to draft a statement for public release. It may be found through a link on our diocesan website, and on the website of The Episcopal Church.

As I stated for the benefit of that draft: "This is one of the most somber and solemn occasions in my experience as a bishop. It is a time for prayer for all of us-especially for Bishop Duncan and the Episcopalians of the Diocese of Pittsburgh."

Coveting your prayers as always, I remain faithfully yours in our Lord, +Dorsey USC VII"

Did you ever hear this one,
St. Peter greeted two newcomers at the Pearly Gates. One was the Pope; the other was a lawyer. He ushered The Pope to a small shack and settled him in to his austere quarters; then led the lawyer to a huge, luxuriously appointed mansion.

“I don’t understand,” the lawyer puzzled. “That man was a Pope, and you gave him a shack. And yet, you’ve said I am to live in this luxurious, huge mansion. Why?”

“Sir,” said St. Peter. “We’ve had lots and lots of Popes, here. But, you, sir, are our very FIRST lawyer.”

It sounds like in spite of our Lawyer Bishop's "No" vote, he was in agreement with the charge of "Abandonment." To me it sounds like Bishop Duncan was tossed overboard before he could abandon ship.

I could not help but think of Bishop Duncan as Jonah and the H.O.B. as the crew in Jonah 1:7-15,
"The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ ‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.
Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’ Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging."

If Bishop Henderson had felt strongly that Jonah should be thrown into the seas later, Jonah still would be in the drink. Couldn't Bishop Henderson as "self appointed President" of the H.O.B. "Bar Association" have done something earlier to slow the process down in the review committee of which he serves as "President" before it came up for a vote (in his speech he did ask for a strategic delay but only after it was out of committee and presented to the House). After all, aren't Episcopalians famous for talk and delaying decisions (witness Lambeth 2008)?

The hasty actions of the H.O.B., acting before the Dio of Pittsburgh's convention makes any outcome of the convention highly predictable. The people will probably vote to follow their ex-Bishop into another branch of the Anglican Communion. This is assuming that the Episcopal Church does not have a game plan to try to nullify the results of the convention. This is where my dislike for the game of chess comes in. The possible moves are beyond me.

Give me a game of backgammon any day, you don't lose any Bishops to the enemy Queen in backgammon.

Friday, September 19, 2008

House Rules

Growing up, there was always some kid who played by different rules. In the spirit of the playground we developed the concept of "house" rules. This meant that when you were in my house, I could change the rules of the game at any point by declaring "House Rules." These rules changes usually were enacted when the home team was trailing.

Thursday's vote by the House of Bishops to depose Bishop Duncan of the diocese of Pittsburgh made me think about our childish ways of dealing with disputes.

For those who are not clear on the facts of the rules changes that were needed to get this deposition accomplished I refer you to the Anglican Curmudgeon's in depth analysis of the game. In this recitation the Curmudgeon has a,
"NEWSFLASH for the Chancellor and the Parliamentarian: The House of Bishops governs itself by Roberts Rules of Order in situations not expressly addressed by the House's own rules. And Roberts Rules Revised (latest [10th] edition) provides, at page 573:

'Each society decides for itself the meaning of its bylaws [here: Canons]. . . . An ambiguity must exist before there is any occasion for interpretation. . . . Again, intent plays no role unless the meaning is unclear or uncertain, but where an ambiguity exists, a majority vote is all that is required to decide the question.'"

The behavior of children and Bishops is why Robert had to write his rules.

The problem with T.E.C. and the H.O.B. is this make it up as you go along mentality they use to guide themselves (and us) through our inevitable issues and conflicts. I wonder if changing the rules of the game can be considered a manifestation of a "liberal" mindset, or is it considered "going where the spirit leads?"

The Majority of the voting Bishops present have gone astray (Bishop Henderson reportedly voted "No" and we are awaiting his blog comments). These Bishops are more than happy to let people "do the new thing" except when any parish or diocese dares stand up and tell the House that the new thing is wrong and those dissenters seek a new shepherd. Just try that and see how quickly "house rules" are applied.

This is the song of the H.O.B.,
"All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Appreciative Inquiry

Beware the "Listening Process," as proposed in a resolution to the West Virginia Diocesan Convention (resolution 2)

“A facilitated listening process using tools such as Appreciative Inquiry would afford us, as a diocese, an opportunity to listen to one another in a meaningful way, learn from one another and hold one another in respect and with love as brothers and sisters in Christ even as we explore our differing beliefs which we hold across a continuum concerning..."
(you know what)

And what is Appreciative Inquiry? Here is a description from AI commons,

“Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives ‘life’ to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. In AI the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design. AI seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between a whole people and the massive entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, elevated thoughts, opportunities, benchmarks, high point moments, lived values, traditions, strategic competencies, stories, expressions of wisdom, insights into the deeper corporate spirit or soul-- and visions of valued and possible futures. Taking all of these together as a gestalt, AI deliberately, in everything it does, seeks to work from accounts of this “positive change core”—and it assumes that every living system has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link the energy of this core directly to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.”

A.I. = Absent Intelligence

Linking A.I. to a change agenda might give you exactly the change you hope for.

If you have an agenda, you are not really listening.

And I always thought inquiring minds would appreciate the opportunity for a little "negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Holy Cross Sunday

Fr. Dunbar provided today's sermon on Holy Cross Sunday at ECOOS. He did a great job providing some historical background and traditional meanings of the cross as well as more modern looks. Fr. Dunbar spoke about the vertical member of the cross being a visual representation of our favorite word, "I". With the horizontal crossing out the I, or a way of looking at the cross as a symbol of surrender of self to God.

I present to you the following quotation. Your job will be to guess the author and his/her denomination.
"Now the beautiful fact of the matter is that, at the core of Christianity, is the cross. It stands as a balance between earth and sky. It demands both a vertical and a horizontal. It demands both the love of God and the love of Man. It demands both worship and action. It demands both fine liturgy and fine fellowship."

"The horizontals need to be reminded of the need for reverence in worship, the need for contemplation and study and adoration and tradition. However, being more conservative/vertically minded myself, I (and others like me) need to be reminded that service of others, love of others, fellowship, peace and justice, and all that horizontal stuff is also true and necessary and good."

Can't guess, well it is Fr. Dwight Longenecker from Greenville South Carolina.
Former Anglican priest, now Catholic priest. His blog is "Standing on My Head" .

Today was also commissioning Sunday and this year things were done a little differently in that everyone present was asked to stand at the same time and be "commissioned" in their various ministries of service and/or worship. Even the pewster was asked to stand and be commissioned!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ramadan, Fasting, and the Price of Oil

Remembering 9/11, praying for peace, but the bad guys might be praying for victory, and during the month of Ramadan no less.

I could not resist this lead sentence on "Fasting not fighting as Muslims mark Ramadan" by Charles Onians.
"CAIRO (AFP) - Muslims around the world this week begin the fasting and feasting month of Ramadan amid hopes of violence easing in some of the Islamic world's conflict hotspots but hit hard by rising food prices."

Never mind the problems with the construction of the lead sentence, or the paradox of "fasting and feasting month," I was interested in the mention of how high food prices were affecting Ramadan.

After reading how some Muslims were aiming for a peaceful month,
"Pakistan marked Ramadan by halting a major military campaign against Taliban rebels on its border with Afghanistan,"

while others were clearly taking aim at their enemies,
"But in Somalia Islamist militia commander Yusuf Mohamed Siad told reporters that his fighters will intensify attacks against government and Ethiopian forces.
'We will double our attacks against the Ethiopians and their Somali government stooges even during the month of Ramadan until we root out the enemy of Allah from the country,' he said."

we learn about the economics of Ramadan,
"But soaring food prices have left many Lebanese worried about making ends meet, with charities working to provide low-income families with food to survive the month.

Gulf governments enjoying windfalls from high crude prices and high-profile companies are keen to be seen to be sharing some of their wealth with the less fortunate, splashing out on free iftars for the poor.
With inflation running in double digits in many Muslim nations, governments have been trying to ensure an adequate supply of staples in order to prevent retailers from taking advantage of Ramadan to raise prices."

Am I hearing echoes of things being said elsewhere about greedy oil companies, and the government being responsible for the food supply and the prices?

Feeling somehow responsible for the plight of the feasting fasters, I dug a little deeper looking for the source of my angst.

What have we been told to be the cause of high food prices? This from the IMF,
"• Strong food demand from emerging economies, reflecting stronger per capita income growth, accounts for much of the increase in consumption. Although demand growth has been high for some time now, the recent sustained period of high global growth contributed to depleting global inventories, particularly of grains.

Rising biofuel production adds to the demand for corn and rapeseeds oil, in particular, spilling over to other foods through demand and crop substitution effects. Almost half the increase in consumption of major food crops in 2007 was related to biofuels, mostly because of corn-based ethanol production in the US; and the new biofuel mandates in the US and the EU that favor domestic production will continue to put pressure on prices.

• At the same time, supply adjustment to higher prices has remained slow, notably for oil, and inventory levels in many markets have declined to the lowest levels in years.

• The policy responses in some countries are exacerbating the problem: (i) Some major exporting countries have introduced export taxes, export bans, or other restrictions on exports of agricultural products. (ii) Some importing countries are not allowing full pass-through of international prices into domestic prices (less than half a sample of 43 developing and emerging market countries allowed for full pass through in 2007).

• Drought conditions in major wheat-producing countries (e.g., Australia and Ukraine), higher input costs (animal feed, energy, and fertilizer), and restrictive trade policies in major net exporters of key food staples such as rice have also contributed.

• Financial factors: the depreciating US$ increases purchasing power of commodity users outside of the dollar area; falling policy interest rates in some major currencies reduce inventory holding costs and induce shifts from money market instruments to higher-yielding assets such as commodity-indexed funds."

I just knew the U.S. was to blame, but shouldn't food prices fall during Ramadan if everyone fasts? I would have guessed that per capita caloric consumption and prices would fall.
Those iftars must be quite a feast.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Today marked the beginning of another Sunday School year. Episcopalians at ECOOS, with the possible exception of the adult Forum Class, were given God's permission to take the summer off (as far as education, supper clubs, etc. goes). They were welcomed back by Mary Cat who gave today's sermon focusing on community and congregation before referencing Matthew 18:15-20 and giving us a little discussion on conflict and conflict resolution at the local level.

It was not the purpose of her sermon to highlight the conflict in the larger Church, but the readings from Ezekiel 33:7-11 and Romans 13:8-14 were an open invitation to take on the issues. Of course, Bishop Henderson wants us to be "mission" and not "issue" people since he has seen what happens to congregations who start inquiring about issues.

Alas, the rector and vestry of St. Christopher's in Spartanburg on May 4, 2008 may have taken Ezekiel to heart,
"You, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me." v. 7.

Or perhaps they recalled Romans 13:13-14,
"let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."

Or perhaps they remembered the failed attempts at conflict resolution as outlined in Matthew 18:17,
"If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector."

These words bring us to the responses the overwhelming majority of Anglicans have with the Episcopal Church's failure to listen to the orthodox, and it's failure to heed calls to give up the ways of the flesh and return to the Communion. You find these sentiments at the core of the GAFCON 2008 Final Statement,
"The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel. This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word written and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation from sin, death and judgement..."

"The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel. These declarations have resulted in a realignment whereby faithful Anglican Christians have left existing territorial parishes, dioceses and provinces in certain Western churches and become members of other dioceses and provinces, all within the Anglican Communion..."

"The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008."

To the GAFCONers, the Episcopal Church must now be considered Matthew's Gentiles and tax collectors.

My understanding is that Gentiles and tax collectors are fair game for conversion. We have gone past the issue stage, but we in the Episcopal Church can still be saved but it may be through the mission and outreach of the GAFCONers.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Satellite image from NASA

This week's poem from Poem of the Week might have been chosen because of the Atlantic hurricanes taking aim at the U.S. Or maybe I just read that into it.

James Thomson (1700-1748)

"HOW chang'd the Scene! In blazing Height of Noon,
The Sun, oppress'd, is plung'd in thickest Gloom.
Still Horror reigns, a dreary Twilight round,
Of struggling Night and Day malignant mix'd.
For to the hot Equator crouding fast,
Where, highly rarefy'd, the yielding Air
Admits their Stream, incessant Vapours roll,
Amazing Clouds on Clouds continual heap'd;
Or whirl'd tempestuous by the gusty Wind,
Or silent borne along, heavy, and slow,
With the big Stores of streaming Oceans charg'd.
Meantime, amid these upper Seas, condens'd
Around the cold aërial Mountain's Brow,
And by conflicting Winds together dash'd,
The Thunder holds his black tremendous Throne,
From Cloud to Cloud the rending Lightnings rage;
Till, in the furious elemental War
Dissolv'd, the whole precipitated Mass
Unbroken Floods and solid Torrents pours"

Finding new meanings in poetry or images may be part of the intent of the artist. When we make Biblical interpretations of various verses, chapters, or books, I wonder what the author would do. WWTAD?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Madonna and Child

Throughout the ages the subject has been irresistible.

Well, almost irresistible.