Friday, October 31, 2008

One Voice-One Vote






I must admit I am getting quite jaded about the way that votes are counted in our nation, or even in our Church. I used to take great pride in the voting process of both our nation and the Episcopal Church. But after the fiascos of the last 2 presidential elections, the Florida Flimflam and the Ohio robbery, I get very unsure of the whole process.

We spend a great deal of money to have an election. There has been one relief in the unrelenting TV campaign ads in the national quadrennial affair: The campaign humor has been the best that I can remember! I have gotten u-tubes that have seen that have had me guffawing! Too bad there is so much at stake.

I will go and vote and exercise what I believe is my citizen’s duty. But I am not sure where the votes are going. I don’t know who is going to count them and whether my vote is going to be counted the way I have voted. I just have to have faith that my vote is going to go to the right person.

The same feeling arises when we vote in Diocesan elections any more. For the past few years, we have been using the single transferable ballot. We no longer have a single vote for a single candidate. We vote for our highest candidate and then second highest and so forth. The purpose is to save time. But democracy takes time. It takes time to know who the candidates are, what is their specific reason for running for office, and why I want to vote for them. The least we can do is count and report the votes for them.

The problem comes when we want to know the will of the Convention. There is no way now with a single transferable ballot that we can get the mind of the Body of Christ. All we get told is who won. We have no knowledge if there was a wide margin; we have no way of knowing if this is a close election or a landslide. And the way that a single transferable ballot gets tallied is anybody’s guess.

Am I accusing anyone of malfeasance? Not at all! I am just saying that we as a people have gotten away from good old fashioned democratic methods of One Voice-One Vote in our diocesan government. We are throwing away a very important charism of our Episcopal Church just as we are throwing away much of the liberty in our nation by choosing to “streamline” our voting process.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Episcopal Theology?




You know you are an Episcopalian…

…if you reach a point when you're not sure about anything theologically but you still feel completely at home at the altar rail and somehow know you're meeting God there, even though you can't begin to understand how.


I found this statement at the end of a list of funny statements that identify us as Episcopalians. I could not help the smile that came upon my face when I read this. And I couldn’t help but hear the rhetoric of the likes of + Iker, x+Duncan and those who damn the Episcopal Church that we don’t even believe in God anymore.

I majored in theology when I went to seminary. I had studied theology with the Jesuits at Loyola (NO) and Saint Louis University during my Roman Catholic incarnation, so I thought that theology would be a snap for me as an Episcopal seminarian. But the surety of Aquinas’ scholasticism was never an Episcopal thing except in some rather remote circles (i.e. Nashotah House). I soon found that jots and tittles were not observed in Episcopal theology especially at the Episcopal Divinity School. And for the first time in my faith life, theology and spirituality combined.

The more I became Episcopalian; the more I understood the unity of faith and reason. It no longer became an effort to suspend reason to know faith. This does not mean that my faith became more reasonable. Faith goes beyond reason because reason cannot encompass that which is Divine. It just became more reasonable to suspend it. The God that I knew, the Holy One I experienced, broke down those theological pigeon holes that once were convenient ways of describing God. My life became less involved with trying to describe God, or discuss God, and more involved with living with and serving God.

Today I read the likes of Spong, Borg, Wink, Heyward, Fox and find that it is not necessary to put theology into pigeon holes either. As I dance with the Lutherans I hear some heavy theology thumped by some, but mostly I hear the same kind of testing one’s relationship with God against how one is describing the activity of the Divine. And I believe this is a good thing. We are invited to the altar rail with a sense of wonder and acceptance that moves us beyond the ‘thou shalt nots’ and into a commandment to love.

I also see even theologians testing their theology with their spirituality rather than trying to fit God into “reasonable” arguments. I can no longer articulate salvation in the words of redemption economies. I have a hard time talking about salvation at all, except in the sense of the kind of universality that God wants to be a part of everyone’s lives. I have a hard time thumping a theology of human damnation from the fall because I know the mercy of Christ’s life among us. Yet in that acceptance I can know clearly how much I fall short of God’s desire for me. It is in the light of God’s embrace that I know my sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world which bring me to my knees in humility and remorse.

So I DO have a theology of God, Humanity, and Creation. I do have a notion of how sin affects the individual soul and the world. I believe in a sense of shalom that is offered to all which is how I understand heaven. My faith is quite traditional and orthodox no matter how I am seen by those who might label me otherwise. Can I count how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I don’t bother. Some things I can leave up to God.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Sickness unto Death"



I haven’t been posting much lately. Since vacation I have found it hard to write about the Episcopal Church. The various depositions of bishops and the continuing elections to leave the church leave me weary of the fight. I am glad that those leaders and those parishes have left. They have not been Episcopalians for some time. But I the malaise that I feel is about the church that remains.

The description of the September Diocesan Clergy conference was so insipid that it left me no longer angry but just tired. When the diocese cannot even afford a speaker to expand or develop the education of the body of clergy in its midst, it has ceased to be a diocese of any import. Or when the topics deal with navel gazing rather than the care and development of their parishes, there is no reason worthy of attending. The place where the conference is held has no chapel or musical center. The times for sharing and places to do so are cramped and uncomfortable. The atmosphere is angry and defensive.

In comparison, the Upstate Synod ELCA had about 1/3 of their clergy in attendance of all ages. There were ways to allow retired clergy to attend. There was a nationally-known speaker speaking on congregational development. It was held at a retreat center that provided a prayerful setting. Liturgy was centered on the tradition and came from denominational prayer books and hymnals. It allowed the clergy to sing the office reminding them of their seminary days and touching important spiritual centers of their lives. The afternoon of the second day was devoted to relaxation and collegiality. There was a golf outing, winery tours, card playing and good place to gather to share our lives and convivial discussion. It was a place and time of welcome and sharing.

I love the Episcopal Church. I have served in 3 different dioceses and under 7 different bishops. Even in the midst of the schism, I have found my denomination a place of energy and faith. But I have a hard time finding such energy or enthusiasm in my diocese. It is sad. The malaise that seems to be attacking the Clergy Conference also seems to be attacking churches in the area too. Kirkegaard may have been right.