Monday, July 30, 2012

Something is rotten in the medical industry.

I have been grumping about this for a few weeks now and now am ready to rant.

Sometime in the past decade the medical ‘profession’ changed from being a profession into an industry.  I had had the same doctor in NY for 10 years so I didn’t notice it until I came to TX.  Now, I am aware that TX is a ‘business state’.  It is a state in which businesses are considered persons and the corporate fervor that has invaded the economic system of the USA is writ large.  But the whole issue of health care is problematic here.

First of all, it is almost impossible to find an established doctor who will take Medicare as primary insurance.  And since Medicare doesn’t allow the retired to use it as secondary from the get-go, seniors find it difficult to follow their grandchildren to the great state.  Secondly, when you call a doctor for an appointment, you must provide information about your insurance first.  There is no question about your ailment, your disability, not even your name.  You are asked for your birth date before anything else so that they can tell you that they don’t take Medicare.

Doctors and dentists now want to be paid BEFORE they examine you.  Dentists, especially.  Then before even seeing you they take x-rays, or do blood work before they even know what is wrong.  They evidently think that the tests will tell them what is wrong.  What’s wrong with just LISTENING TO the patient?  But doctors are no longer professionals.  They are employees or extensions of Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies.  Today, your doctor does not even know your name unless it comes up on the computer in front of them.

Many years ago when I started teaching, the teaching endeavor was considered a profession.  Teachers were respected as people who cared for the children of a society.  But somewhere in the early 70’s teaching was organized, first by the NEA and then unionized.  They began collective bargaining and the profession was denigrated to that of Labor.  What once was a noble profession became a mechanical job of baby sitting with lots of papers to fill out.  It was no longer the work of the teacher to challenge young minds.  It became a job that taught to tests and teach by rote.

The medical profession used to be filled by noble men and women who cared about the people that came to them.  They were a respected part of the wider social community and people you could turn to when there was someone in need.  Here in TX I have encountered doctors who take great delight that they only work 3 days a week for a corporation that says that you can only meet with your patient for 10 minutes.  They like driving their Benz or Jag or their Escalade, and visit their summer homes in Jackson Hole or the Bahamas.  They spend more time on the golf course than visiting their patients in the hospitals.  Most primary physicians here do not even have hospital privileges; they turn all hospital issues over to ‘hospitalists’.

I know that the medical profession has changed over the years and the cost of healing has skyrocketed, but why?  England and Canada do not have this problem.  We hear stories from pundits that they have horrible systems, but why then would the UK express the health care system in the opening of the London Olympics?  Everyone I have ever talked to who has experienced their systems, except doctors, appreciate the care they have been given.

I don’t know why I must pay for lavishly decorated doctor’s offices?  I don’t know why I must pay for the plastic giveaways that accompany every hospital visit?  Everything that touches a patient nowadays is plastic and goes into landfills.  And there is no more prevention from infection now that before the plastic era.

All I want is to talk face to face with my doctor about whatever is ailing me and for them to find a way to fix whatever I have.  Some illnesses (like growing older) you can’t cure, but you can learn to live with.  I have asked for ways to deal with some of the things I have and been told to look it up on line. 

What is happening to medicine is what happened to teaching.  The teachers became employees—became staff no longer professionals.  They lost their ability to meet with the parents of children.  I remember my principal in the early 70’s castigating me because I went to the home of one of my Hispanic children and talked with the parents.  The principal did not what to have to deal with ‘those’ Spanish-speaking parents so that they could get free lunches.  When teachers became robots of the school system or doctors become minions of insurance companies there is a loss of the whole of the profession.  No longer are the teachers considered part of the fabric of the community.  No longer are doctors considered the wise souls of the town.  They are formed by the almighty dollar and healing goes out the window. 

As a priest who has known both the experience of being a professional in the community and now experiencing the whole destruction of the Church, it is hard to know where to turn.  I am quite sure that the Texas medical environment will eventually lead to socialized medicine because it is too hard for the poor to access any care whatsoever.  Somewhere, somehow, a conscience will rise up to show us the Lazarus at the gates of our hospitals and dental schools. Maybe a squadron of Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity will have to come to TX and they did in Calcutta.  The government will be the only thing big enough to quell the avarice of the AMA.  If they continue this line of thinking, the US will have no choice because the sick will line our streets, rather than be healed in our hospitals.  When the relationship between patient and doctor, teacher or priest is lost, the glue that holds our communities together falls apart.  There is nothing that demands that we know one another, have concern for each other or even respect each other.  Something is rotten in the medical industry.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Building Church

2 Samuel 7:1-14a Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
We have some interesting readings today.  The first reading has to do with King David’s image for a house of the Lord.  David moves from being a shepherd to becoming a warrior and a king of Judah.  When he finally rests from his warrior ways and decides not to return into that nomadic tent-living existence and settles into fine living in the city of Jerusalem.  He has conquered not only the Philistines and Goliath but has gone on to invade the stable agrarian communities around him.  He is now living in a fine home, no longer living at a substance level.  It is nice.  He can smell the rich, sweet smell of the pine wood of his home rather than the dust of tent-living.  And he thinks of God who is still “living in a tent.” 

Since the time of Moses, the God of Israel was worshipped in a tent.  And like religious institutions the world over, the priests lagged behind because of tradition.  I am sure that the sons of Aaron had been just as unwilling to change things as many vestries I have had.  But David had a vision of providing for God a house—a temple.  As we all know, it was not David who built God a temple; it was his son Solomon who built the 9th century BCE First Temple.  But we hear David’s vision here in this passage from 2nd  Samuel.

The building of religious buildings is an amazing endeavor.  Some of your founding members may be sitting here.  I remember when Christ the King was moved from out in the country to its present place.  It implies permanency.  It implies strength of purpose.  And yet…and yet…  We know that no church building says anything about faith, the honoring of God, or the proper living of God’s commandments.   Buildings do not last or stand forever.  But it is faith that lasts.  Gradually the Temple that was built by Solomon was to be a worship place for all the nations.    But over the years the Temple was restricted to only certain select persons, those who were circumcised, those who followed specific cultic strictures, those who ‘fit in’ were allowed to enter into the Temple.  By Jesus’ day, the Temple began to be restricted to those who were circumcised.

In the Epistle, Paul is writing to the people in Ephesus to remind them of whose they are.  He is trying to bridge a major division in the synagogue between the circumcised members of the community and those who were called ‘God Fearers.’  In the couple of centuries before Jesus, Judaism had become a proselyting faith.  People who were not ethnically Jewish came to Judaism because of its monotheism and its clear ethical precepts.  In those communities farther away from large ethnically Jewish locals, the synagogues were often as much as half-Greek speakers as they were Hebrew or Aramaic speakers.  Most Greeks saw the body as beauty and found the whole idea of circumcision as repugnant.  So there was a division between those who had been circumcised and those who followed the Law of Moses but were not circumcised.  Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus to say that circumcision is not what is important.  Peace is what is important.

Now this is an important concept because in Roman Imperial talk, it was Caesar who brought peace. The Imperial propaganda was always full of how Caesar was  the god who brought peace.  Paul is saying that is the love of God that brings peace in terms that were not only fresh but slightly treasonous.  The ones who were ‘once far off’, those who were not ethnically part of the Chosen People, were brought near through baptism. It is the love of God that has brought these once foreigners are now part of the body of God’s chosen.  This is language that was really only reserved for the head of the Empire.  But Paul makes the case that  Jesus is who makes them one.  It isn’t Caesar who makes them citizens.  It is God who makes us one body, one nation, one people with access to the Temple.

Paul’s theology about circumcision is the first theological argument of the Church.  It is found in Acts of the Apostles how Paul and Peter argue about the place of the ‘God fearers’.  But Paul argued that God is universal—that access to the faith was to remain always mixed and varied. And that it is the power of the relationship with the Holy One was what made it possible to know that humanity could know peace without having to be alike.  Baptism became for the church the sign of our unity in God.

In our Gospel today, we find Jesus being hounded by those who wanted to sit at his feet or have them heal them.  Jesus understood the need for personal prayer, the need for solitude or quiet to rejuvenate his ability to share God’s love.  We often think that the pastoral life of Jesus’ day was not as hectic as it is today.  In between these two pieces of scripture is the feeding of the 5,000.  So it is not surprising that people would follow him just to sit at his feet.  Jesus was a super-star, but more than that.  Jesus had a message of peace that rang authentically, something that was unfamiliar in the religious practice of his day. 

 I hear a real message to build the Church in our own day.  I hear a call from these passages a charge from God to provide a house for God that may not be made of the cedars of Lebanon but made to serve a world that is more conversant with computers than they are with their neighbors.  I hear a message of peace that says that we as the Episcopal Church is unwilling to exclude the ‘different’ just to make us comfortable.  I find in them the call to self-reflection to claim what is authentic in the words of Jesus and to live them out.  I drink deeply of the scenes of each of these passages and find myself trying to figure out just how I am to assist in the visioning of a new Church for an era that we can’t even understand.

I sat in a Diocesan meeting yesterday listening to those who are just as confused about how we are to plan for the next 3 years as you are.  Are we going to have a house for God? Or are we going to spend yet another year praying out of our box?  Are we going to be able to be at peace if we get our church back or not?  Are we going to have money to do this or that? What are we to do when our priest is ill?  Are we going to be able to find a place of relationship with the Holy One of Israel?  And most of all, where can we find a bit of solitude to know Jesus a bit better?

These lessons speak loudly for us today.  They call us to drink deeply of the peace that God holds out to us in the word, in the Sacrament, in the community of faith and in those moments alone.  We want to make this ‘house of God’ we are building to last—maybe it won’t be of bricks and mortar but of the substance that allows all to find Christ in it.  We are building a new church just like David—it is a vision needs to be spoken.  It is a vision that needs to be shared so that when it comes time for our children to rebuild—or our children’s’ children to rebuild, the peace that Christ calls us to will be found.  It will come from our steadfast holding on to the relationship with Jesus to direct us.  And most of all, are we willing to be that Church?

Will we ever be as strong as we once were?  Will the Episcopal Church still be the bastion of a certain social-class?  Will the Episcopal Church once again have the influence it had in the 1970’s?  I hope not.  But hopefully we will have found a way to live the authenticity of faith as followers of an itinerant rabbi in Galilee who had the audacity to teach love, peace and community to the Roman Empire.  May we become the kind of followers of Jesus whose message is that it isn’t the building that makes us Church.  It isn’t the doctrine that makes us Church.  It is the love of God that is shown to the world by us that makes us Church.  AMEN

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings is from the same parish in Syracuse, NY that I come from.  She has just been elected as the President of the House of Deputies, a position that she is more than qualified for.  She has been in charge of CREDO for the past several years and before that was Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Ohio.  I knew her parents well even though Gay had already been ordained by the time I knew them.  This post at the Washington Post is her first as PHOD and a response to the disgusting op-ed pieces from the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal.  My prayers will go with her for the next 9 years.  It is not an easy job to be in charge of the HOD but it is an important one.  We will be well led.

Episcopal churches: Short on politics, sexuality debates and long on Jesus

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Washington's first female and ninth Episcopal Bishop, smiles during her consecration service at the Washington National Cathedral Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (AP)
Every three years, the Episcopal Church lays itself open to criticism and ridicule by gathering about a thousand people together for eight days and thinking out loud.
The people at our General Convention come from all over the church, which includes nearly two million people in 16 countries. The topics we discuss also come from across the church: it’s relatively simple for Episcopalians to submit resolutions for legislative consideration. The result at our recently concluded gathering in Indianapolis was that the world was able to watch us debating issues including the blessing of same-sex relationships, peace in the Middle East, and whether dogs have souls.

Our bicameral legislative structure was borne of the same revolution against England as was Congress, and we look alike. It’s easy to stand on the outside and view our democratic process with the same disdain and cynicism that voters feel toward what transpires on Capitol Hill, or to assume we’ve sold out our faith in favor of the secular world.
I believe these criticisms are misplaced. Episcopalians are remarkably sincere about church democracy. We believe that the Holy Spirit is working through our legislative committees and debates, even when we misinterpret her guidance. Part of the reason our General Conventiontakes so long is that we spend significant time in worship, reading scripture, and singing.
When things get rough or tempers flare, we usually take a break to pray together before resuming debate. If we need more time to discern where God is leading us, we take it. Our recent moves to include lesbian and gay Christians more fully in the church, for example, are the result of more than 30 years of theological study, prayer, and conversation. One can disagree with these initiatives, but they were not born of a desire to reject our Christian truth for secular wisdom. Many of us who hold quite traditional views on the nature of sin believed that our church needed to repent of the sin of homophobia.
My mother used to say that the church’s only problem is that it is riddled with human beings. Our big, public legislative process puts all of our human frailty on display for critics and cynics to gawk at. Like the previous two thousand years of Christians, we’ve got colorful characters and prophetic voices, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. God is still speaking, as the United Church of Christ likes to say, and sometimes doing so in voices that make us uncomfortable. I don’t suspect anyone would have been happy to see Martin Luther or St. Francis of Assisi standing at a microphone at the end a long legislative day, ready to offer their detailed objections to the way in which the church was doing business. Yet, clearly, the church would have been poorer had it failed to hear them.
Enduring occasional mockery is a cheap price to pay for a church that elects its leaders and recognizes that lay people, clergy, and bishops must share decision-making authority in the church. Unfortunately, it tends to obscure what actually transpires at our General Convention.
The most significant legislative action we took in Indianapolis was a unanimous vote to begin reorganizing our church to meet the challenges of preaching and living out the Gospel in a rapidly changing society. Led by people like the Diocese of Washington’s bishop, theRight Rev. Mariann Budde, we are ready to spend the next three years flattening our hierarchy, streamlining our governance, and creating a budget that will keep more resources in local congregations and communities. A surge of enthusiastic Millennial and Generation X leaders is accelerating our shift toward flexible grassroots networks and away from a corporate model that no longer fits our focus on local mission.
It might disappoint sensationalist critics, but Sunday mornings in most Episcopal churches are short on political rhetoric and debates about sexuality and long on Jesus. Episcopalians are devoted primarily to praying together, serving people in need, and wrestling with hard questions that don’t have easy answers. We value Christian community over lockstep liberalism or any other ideological position, and even though it opens us to ridicule, we keep inviting everyone to join in.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wall Street Journal is beginning to look like FAUX

I have seldom seen such unfair reporting on the Episcopal Church in a major US newspaper as I did in  this article. (excluding FAUX, of course).  I have seen the neo-conservatives publish this kind of drivil but I have seen few major newspapers report such a load of bunk as this guy.  The ad homonym comments about our Presiding Bishop and the nasty way that this article reeks of those who have left the Communion to participate in the me-me dimension of Christianity top-heavy with bishops that we are exporting to Africa and beyond.  This guy may call himself an Episcopalian but it is clear that he has had little or no experience of the Episcopal Church that I have known  and loved for the past 40 years .  He has not found in his attendance and participation in the sacramental ministry of the the Church a degree of Christian community that would change both his own life to that of caring for others.

I don't know why I really think that the Wall Street Journal should be better than other media venues, but it once had a respected editorial polity.  Evidently it is no longer the case.  I tried to leave a comment on their on-line editorial, but of course it is no longer allowing such thing.  Damn, I am getting tired of this kind of crap!

Friday, July 13, 2012

General Convention 2012

Apologies to my readers.  I am having some problems with Blogger re.  

The problem with blogging after General Convention is that there is too much to write about.  There are rants of all kinds that could be let loose and there are all kinds of considered approaches to theology that could be written about.  But there are a few General Convention things that I would like to address:
Anglican Covenant
I had hoped that the General Convention would have done something definitive about the Anglican Covenant.  The Executive Council had made a fairly definitive statement prior to GC that would have made it clear that the AC was not in keeping with the spirit of Anglicanism or the polity of our Church.  But instead a resolution to not vote on it kicked the can to GC2015.  I am disappointed in the way that the resolutions were handled by the committee and I am disappointed in the way they were handled.  As one colleague said:  “Ah, the tyranny of the nice.”  It is clear too that neither of the houses were willing to enter into another year of acrimonious fighting.  And there is nothing wrong with recognizing that the Church is tired of fighting.  It is time to kick the can down the road and let another generation deal with the inanities of the Anglican Covenant. 
Same-Sex Blessings
I am pleased that there was passage of this resolution with such support from a heavy majority of both Deputies and Bishops.  It means that the liturgies provided will be used and then be re-evaluated by the next convention.  It meets the pastoral needs of the Church and also speaks the kind of inclusivity that the radical hospitality that our Church wishes to offer.
Inclusion of the Transgendered
This is going to be a difficult issue to deal with because even the LGB community is not really conversant with the issues that are present in the lives of gender identity and transgendered people.  Hopefully we will be able to be more aware and open to these people and offer the dignity that they deserve through inclusion and ordination.
Comportment of the House of Bishops
The HOB evidently did not do much about policing its own house.  From what was seen, no censure by the HOB was made on the bishops that signed the Amicus Briefs and have meddled in the Diocese of Quincy and Fort Worth.  I don’t get it.  I don’t understand why bishops will sit and do nothing in the face of blatant boundary violations.  I do not understand why bishops allow fellow bishops to get away with it.  It is time for the House of Deputies to call the HOB to account.  If we are going to be an ‘Episcopal’ Church  the episcopoi are going to have to start acting like Christians.  Perhaps the most damning comment on the HOB was the point of personal privilege by +Gene Robinson caught on tape.  This is not just disagreement—it is character assassination.  It is the kind of misconduct that if a priest participated in such behavior, s/he would be defrocked.  It is time for the HOB to clean up its act.  It is not just a club where those who don’t like the way that the game is going can pick up their marbles and leave.  This is the Church and we need to employ the dictates of Jesus.

General Convention
I am for the most part beginning to wonder about the effectiveness of General Convention as it stands now.  The cost and the burden of it are great.  Am I for a smaller convention?  I am not sure.  Am I for a shorter convention, not really.  I might be for smaller conventions more often if there were a way to lessen the cost like having it on a college campus or the like.  But it should not cost us our souls to govern ourselves.

It's the Second Friday of the Month Friday Five...

...and you know what that means--yet another edition of a Random Friday Five!
So, without further ado, let's get our random on!

1.  If a spaceship landed in your back yard, and three very cute little aliens knocked on your door and asked you to show them around Earth,where would you take them?  (Remember, you have superpowers from last month's Second Friday Five, so if you need to use them for transportation, feel free to do so.)

First of all I would take them to Stonehenge.  For me that is one of the primordial places or perhaps to the cave paintings in France.  Then I might take them to NASA--or the Air and Space Museum.  Then I would take them to the Galapagos and then to a Canadian forest.  Then I would take them to a desert--Kalahari and then perhaps Chernobyl.   

2.  What is making you grumpy these days?

Blogger!  It is not adding photos like it should and it isn't posting the graphics or the text size I want.  I apologize but I am going to a computer tutorial this afternoon and perhaps my geek can teach me how to get around these problems.

Sifting through the effects of General Convention.  Conventions always make me grumpy.  We have the possibility of doing so much and we not only waste so much time, effort and money on doing so very little.  I am proud of the same-sex blessings liturgy that we have passed and the inclusion of trans-gender people.  But I am disappointed that so much is wasted in time, cost and effort for such little done.  And that there are still those still who pick up and leave rather than working with the reality of the Church.

4.  I am pitifully, once again, trying to grow a garden.   Last year I only harvested one cucumber.   This year, I have zucchini, cucumbers and tiny tomato plants.   Everything is abloom, but the jury is out whether there will be any yield.   So, do YOU have a garden?  What are you growing?   If you don't, what is your favorite fresh summertime vegetable/fruit/flower?

'MATERS.  I live for July and August to get fresh tomatoes.  Sliced with bacon and lettuce on wheat toast!!!  God is good when tomatoes are luscious and red or yellow or now a purple.  

5.  If the aforementioned aliens suddenly demanded all the contents of your closet, OR ELSE (as in clothing, shoes,  etc.) but kindly said you could keep three items, what would they be? 

At this time of the year it would be a pair of cargo shorts, a sleeveless tee and a pair of Teva sandals--or my Guabya clergy shirt.  But I would also think those aliens quite cheeky!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hometown Prophets

Proper 9B July 7-8,2012 Mark 6:1-13
Jesus has just preached in his home town.  And those who have heard him have been scandalized by him.  “Who is this upstart carpenter—this kid from just down the street that he should preach to us?” they say.  “We know his family.  We know he is just a carpenter. Where did he get this wisdom?”  And the most poignant phrase in the passage is:   And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.

What is it about human nature to reject that which is near to them as being déclassé?  Is it because it is familiar and ‘familiarity breeds contempt?” –Or is it that we think so little of ourselves, that we cannot find joy in one of our own doing well?  In Mark’s Gospel we do not hear what he spoke to the people of his home town as we do in Luke’s Gospel.  But we get the idea that Jesus called the people to repent—the same as he was doing in the countryside.  And perhaps Jesus got a little too close to home—to coin a phrase.  He was preaching a message of service to the poor; he preached against the acquisitiveness that had broken down Jewish concerns for widows and orphans and he was teaching that the yoke of the Law had destroyed the sense of community and respect for each other as it was intended.  In short, Jesus’ prophecy was pinching his neighbors.

Prophecy in the Hebrew sense was not a matter of telling the future.  It isn’t a matter of being psychic.  Prophecy was uttered by those who had been called by God to speak God’s word about the world.  For the great prophets of Israel, prophecy was a warning that society had gotten off track –off the path toward holiness and righteousness—the way of God.  It was a call to return to the ways of loving-kindness, humility and sharing.  The job of a prophet was to remind the people of Israel that fidelity to God was more important than consorting with that which abolished trust, care for others and honesty.

The kind of dishonesty that kept the Roman Empire in place during Jesus’ day was undermining the fabric of society.  And Jesus taught that freedom came in truth.  Reform came in repentance and a way of living that proclaimed both God and Light.  Repentance, reformation and recommitment led to throwing off the slavery of imperialism.  And while whoever heard Jesus were moved by him, not all welcomed this brave new way of relating to God.  They were comfortable in their religion, in their acquisitive world, and feared change.

Jesus’ words make us uncomfortable even today.  “Blessed be the poor, Blessed be the peace-makers, Blessed are those who morn, the merciful, those who hunger for righteousness.”  These still make us uncomfortable because we know that though we may strive for them, we never really become all that Jesus calls us to.  Prophecy is always a call to be more than we are.

While I speak, in Indianapolis, our Church is meeting in our triennial General Convention.  The General Convention is the way we govern ourselves in the Episcopal Church—we decide how we are to worship, how we are going to spend our resources, how we are going to meet the various social crises of our day—in short how we are going to live out the Gospel as Church.  Of course, in this economy, the biggest test is how we are going to be Church with diminished funds.  Our convention is designed on the Congress of the US and consequently I expect that some legislation will be blocked by the same political machinations that our Congress is being blocked by those who love to control.  It is the nature of democracy to NOT be nirvana.  Democracy is always tempered with compromise—even in the Church.

Our Church is undergoing a tremendous change:  Those areas which have always led—like the Northeast are losing members at an extreme rate—as much by population shift as from disenchantment.  Arcane organizational powers resist change in the face of a new era.  Fear of loss causes those to dig heels deep into intransigency. 

 We here in Ft. Worth have seen how destructive that is and what it can do to tear the fabric of society in ways that the whole Church does not.  We have deep wounds in the fabric of Church here and yet we have survived in a very vital way.  We are being resurrected not by programs, outpourings of cash or reorganization.  We are being revitalized in faith and organization by the resiliency of love, of care and welcome in the name of Christ. Somehow we have heard the call of Jesus to repent and to have faith and to follow.  We have taken the message that we don’t have to have great wealth in order to be Episcopalians—all we need is truth, fidelity and love.  It is a message that our larger Church needs to hear.

We have found here in Ft. Worth that we don’t need to have grand buildings to proclaim the Gospel. We have found that we don’t need to have packaged programs to live the Gospel.  We have found that sharing our faith with one another spreads the story, welcomes others, and embraces those who are seeking to know the Holy in their lives.  And this is precisely the message that those in other dioceses, heavy with too much property and not enough people need to hear. 

 People of the Rust Belt need to know that inventive ways of being Church are available to them if they are but willing to respond to the Spirit moving among them.  People of the West and Northwest need to know that Eastern modes of being Church are not necessarily what it means to be Church there.  The people of the Southeast need to know that Anglicanism does not demand the evangelical certainty as does the popular religion of their surroundings—and they do not have to drink that Kool-Aid in order to be faithful to the message of Jesus Christ.  And those dioceses that have drunk deeply from the well of Anglo-Catholicism do not have to ape Rome to know themselves as catholic.  These are things that we are learning here in the Diocese of Fort Worth simply because we have experienced the pain of schism.

We here have a faith we can proclaim to the Church at large.  And we must become the voice of prophecy to the larger Church.  We must be willing to share what we have learned from God in all of this and we must be willing to not return to the ‘same ole-same ole’ of being Church 'if and when we get the property back.'  

 Church is changing.  It has already changed!  We cannot be the top-heavy organization of the past.  We cannot expect national offices to direct the Church.  We must be willing to say:  “Look, our lay-led parish is flourishing!”  We need to be willing to proclaim: “It isn’t our lovely buildings that draw people to holiness—it is community!  It is belonging!”  We need to be able to herald that the love for God is alive and well not because we are better or holier—but simply poorer. Paul said it in our Epistle today:  "So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

We are prophets in our own community and we need to proclaim that message.  We may not even be heard here in Ft. Worth, but hopefully the whole Church will.  It may transform us in ways we have no idea.  But our faith in the One who loves will allow it to be heard.  AMEN

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hot Damn~!

From ENS...

Disciplinary process set to begin on complaints against nine bishops

Title IV actions object to bishops' part in property litigation cases

[Episcopal News Service] Two complaints apparently have been filed about the involvement of five active bishops and four retired bishops in property litigation in two Episcopal Church dioceses.
Word of the complaints surfaced on various blogs and e-mail lists on June 30. No information about either complaint was released by the Episcopal Church, including the name or names of the complainants.
According to the reports, including an extensive one here, Bishop Clayton Mathews e-mailed two groups of bishops to tell them that he had received complaints against them and that “in the next few weeks” he would begin the disciplinary process as called for in Title IV.6.3-4 of the canons of the Episcopal Church.
It is highly unusual for the existence of a complaint to become public knowledge at this point in the process, regardless the order of the person against whom the complaint is filed.
“As cited in Title IV, disciplinary matters are confidential at this stage,” Episcopal Church Public Affairs Officer Neva Rae Fox told Episcopal News Service July 2. “We are honoring that confidentiality.”
In one instance, the complaint apparently concerns the fact that seven bishops endorsed anamicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute, the pending appeal of a court ruling involving the Diocese of Fort Worth and the bishop, clergy and laity who broke away from that diocese in November 2008.
The brief objects to the trial court’s ruling that told the dissidents to return “all property, as well as control of the diocesan corporation” to the Episcopal leaders of the diocese.
Tarrant County District Court Judge John Chupp said that because he found that the Episcopal Church’s governance is hierarchical in nature “the court follows Texas precedent governing hierarchical church property disputes, which holds that in the event of a dispute among its members, a constituent part of a hierarchical church consists of those individuals remaining loyal to the hierarchical church body.”
Those named in the Fort Worth complaint are retired Diocese of Texas Bishop Maurice M. Benitez, retired Diocese of Central Florida Bishop John W. Howe, Diocese of Dallas Bishop Suffragan Paul E. Lambert, Diocese of Albany Bishop William H. Love, Diocese of Western Louisiana Bishop D. Bruce MacPherson, Diocese of Springfield Bishop Daniel H. Martins, and Diocese of Dallas Bishop James M. Stanton.
MacPherson is also named in the other complaint, along with retired Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Edward L. Salmon, Jr. and retired Diocese of Springfield Bishop Peter H. Beckwith. Matthews e-mailed them to say that a complaint has been received against them because they signed affidavits opposing to a motion for summary judgment made by representatives of theDiocese of Quincy and the Episcopal Church in the fall of 2011 to secure diocesan financial assets from a group that broke from the diocese in November 2008.
The motion for summary judgment in that case was rejected in December 2011 and the case is due to go to trial in April 2013.
The Title IV canons outline ecclesiastical disciplinary procedures in complaints about the actions of deacons, priests and bishops. Those canons also outline the types of offenses that are subject to the procedures.
Mathews, who heads the church’s Office of Pastoral Development, also serves as the “intake officer” (the person designated to receive complaints alleging offense) for the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops, a body called for in Canon 17 of Title IV. He was appointed the Title IV position by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Title IV.6.3-4 says the process begins when the intake officer receives any complaint, after which he or she “may make such preliminary investigation as he or she deems necessary, and shall incorporate the information into a written intake report, including as much specificity as possible.”
When the Anglican Communion Institute announced in April that the bishops had signed onto the Fort Worth brief, its statement said that [the bishops had] “no intention of withdrawing from the church, but it is precisely because they intend to remain in the Church that they are concerned that the trial court ruling has misunderstood, and thereby damaged, the constitutional structure of The Episcopal Church.”
Diocese of Fort Worth Communication Director Katie Sherrod told ENS July 1 that she could not comment on the reports of a Title IV complaint being lodged against the seven bishops because, due to the confidentiality of the proceedings, she had no information.
Jack Iker, who leads to breakaway Fort Worth group, said in a statement that “we are saddened by the report that [the Episcopal Church] is initiating disciplinary measures against seven faithful bishops of the church who have signed an amicus brief in our direct appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.” He accused church “authorities” of resorting to “manipulation and intimidation in an effort to stifle dissent and silence any opposition to their claims.”
Bishop Love of Albany told his diocese June 30 that “I have not been officially charged with anything and may not be depending on the outcome of the initial investigation of the ‘complaint.’” He promised to address his participation in the amicus brief with Matthews and others involved in the Title IV process “at the appropriate time.”
Springfield’s Martins said in a July 1 blog post called “Speaking the Truth in Love” that he was “distressed” that the July 5-12 meeting of General Convention “which was already going to be a tense time, will be complicated ever further” by the filing of these complaints. He said he signed on to the amicus brief “reluctantly and reservedly” and that he opposes “litigating church disputes in secular court.”
Martins said it is “immaterial” if his support of the amicus brief helps either side in the Fort Worth case. “I took the action I did with the best interests of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Springfield, as nearly as I can discern them, at heart,” he wrote, noting that he was not speaking for the other bishops. “My principal concern was to not leave unchallenged the assertion that the Episcopal Church is a unitary hierarchical organism at all levels, and that the dioceses are entirely creatures of General Convention. I viewed signing the amicus brief as consistent with my vow to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.