"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Thursday, September 30, 2004 Not sick of my shoving Bono speeches at you and want to read one of the best -- even entertaining and humorous -- and most profound speeches about our call to heal AIDS in Africa? Then read Bono's speech to the Labour Party Annual Conference.
Is there any doubt this guy would turn General Convention on its ear in a great way? How can we not invite him!
| Mike at 9/30/2004 05:48:00 PM
Tuesday, September 28, 2004 Former Newark Bishop John Spong had some harsh words for the Archbishop of Canterbury recently:
His actions have revealed a fatal character flaw.
He has no courage, no backbone and no ability to lead.
Seldom have I watched a quicker collapse of potential.
It was an abdication of leadership so dramatic as to be breathtaking.
He is now destined to be a long-serving but ineffective and empty
man who has been revealed to be incapable of carrying the
responsibility placed upon him.
Leaders have only one opportunity to make a first impression. Rowan Williams has failed that test miserably."
I couldn't disagree more with Bishop Spong's characterization of the Archbishop of Canterbury. More than that, I think it is quite harmful to the work of reconciliation that is the whole church's mission.
There isn't one of us who can begin to imagine the scope of Archbishop Williams' call. Just as an American president is called to be president of the whole country, not just the liberals or conservatives who elected him, the ABC is called to be primate of the whole communion. The office of bishop exists in large part to represent and uphold the unity of the church. For Bishop Smith, Bishop Spong and Archbishop Williams, this is their sacred charge that they have taken sacred vows to uphold.
Many on the conservative side were highly skeptical of Rowan Williams' ability to fulfill this call when he "assumed the throne" because of his published writings expressing liberal views on homosexuality. There were assumptions that he would immediately side with liberals whenever these issues came up.
It appears that Bishop Spong expected this too ... and is upset that his expectations were not met.
But Bishop Spong makes some assumptions as to why these expectations were not met ... assumptions I challenge. Bishop Spong writes "His actions have revealed a fatal character flaw. He has no courage, no backbone and no ability to lead." I believe Bishop Spong is deeply upset because Archbishop Williams is not acting in accordance with his (Bishop Spong's) beliefs. He sees it as an act of cowardice because he knows that they are beliefs that Archbishop Williams shares.
Bishop Spong fails to allow for the possibility -- which I view to be the case -- that instead of shrinking back, that the Archbishop of Canterbury is stepping forward in the sacrificial model of Christ to set aside his own deeply-held convictions and beliefs in order to most fully live out his sacred charge to preserve the unity of the church. And in doing so he is actually exhibiting the very qualities Bishop Spong accuses him of lacking -- courage, backbone and ability to lead.
Let's delve into that further. Our ultimate goal as a church is to reconcile the world and each other to God in Christ. That is a process that involves conversion. As our own Presiding Bishop is fond of pointing out (and rightly), conversion and conversation come from the same root and are intimately related. True conversation can lead to conversion. And conversion can't happen unless all parties concerned don't allow for the possibility of having their deeply-held beliefs challenged and even changed through conversation.
If Archbishop Williams had come down firmly on the side of we in America who consented to Bishop Robinson's election, he would have immediately created a line in the sand and the provinces of the communion would have had no choice but to line up on either side of it. This differs from the choice presented at General Convention. The Bishops who voted for Bishop Robinson's consent in the House of Bishops had no such choice. You cannot table a resolution on consent. Bishop Smith and others had to make a choice and voted their conscience in doing so. Whether we agree with it or not, whether we view it as the work of the Holy Spirit or the spirit of division, that choice has put the unity of the church in peril at least for the moment. It is the Archbishop of Canterbury's job to choose how he will respond to this situation.
Archbishop Williams has a choice. He has a choice between his personal beliefs and the vows he took to safeguard the unity of the church. I believe he is making the choice that he feels best fulfills the call he has been given as Archbishop of Canterbury. A sacrificial call to put beliefs that I am led to believe he holds dear aside for what he believes is the greater good of the church.
Bishop Spong and others have and will continue to cry that the kind of leadership that is needed is "prophetic leadership." Of course, they may be right. There are certainly cases in our church's history when people have taken heroic and unpopular stands on issues and have changed the church and the world because of them. Those first bishops who ordained women in Philadelphia and Washington come to mind.
But there is much romance to the notion of prophetic leadership. There's something that feels good about it in ways that are not about responding to call but about feeding our own self-righteousness. That isn't to say there isn't a time and a place for it, but that it isn't EVERY time and EVERY place.
There is much at stake here. We live in an increasingly globally connected world and the problems we face increasingly require us to act together. As we experience the richness of each other's cultures, we become increasingly aware of our deep need for each other on so many levels. As Desmond Tutu rightly says, "we can only be human together." In a world such as this, communion isn't just a nice idea or a history desirous of being preserved, it is nothing less than our best shot at effectively being the body of Christ on a planet screaming out for it.
That means our Communion is a gift to be treasured and honored -- and if it should be sacrificed it should be as an absolute last resort and only after doing everything possible to save it. That is what I believe Archbishop Williams is trying to do. I cannot think of a more difficult job in the church right now, and I believe he is doing it with patience and grace and a sacrificial heart that we should applaud, support and continue to pray for rather than condemn.
Is it worth holding a middle ground on this issue, no matter how much it might mean to us? I believe it is. Frankly, there are issues far greater out there -- issues of global economic and social injustice, issues so systemic and ingrained that we need the varied gifts that God has given all of us to muddle and ultimately break through them. We can make good arguments that the struggle over full inclusion of GBLT Christians is a part of that struggle ... but at best it is only a part. And no matter how much we may care about this part, we must recognize that.
One more thing. We may not like it ... but we need to respect that those who disagree with us on matters of scriptural interpretation on these and other issues are not ignorant hate-mongers (at least no more than we are!). There are people on all sides of these and other questions who have come to their opinions through a great deal of prayer, conversation and study. And, by the way, even though we have come to difference conclusions we need to acknowledge that they do have a valid argument! We cannot escape that all references to homosexuality in scripture are prohibitive. We need to struggle mightily with that and not dismiss that if our own arguments are to have validity. We may disagree vehemently with the way they interpret those passages, but that interpretation is a historically legitimate school of scriptural interpretation not something they came up with over a couple gin-and-tonics trying to figure out how to "get us."
We need to honor their attempts at faithfulness even as we need to expect them to honor our attempt. Anything else is un-baptismal. When we are called to seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbor as ourselves, we must realize that begins first by us gazing into the eyes of folks like Kendall Harmon and Paul Walter and Bob Duncan and the Archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda and you fill in the rest of the blanks. As our former bishop was wont to say, "Jesus is in all people, just sometimes he is in deep disguise." So it may be with them ... and so it may be with us. Our salvation lies in all of us continuing the quest to seek and serve him.
Monday, September 27, 2004 Beth Maynard reminds me that if you want to (legally) download Vertigo, it is now for sale at Itunes.
And, lest I forget, happy birthday to Steve Kerr, patron saint of Arizona basketball well before he won four NBA championships carrying the likes of Michael Jordan and David Robinson on his back.
For a happy 39, everyone together now:
And, no, if you weren't in Tucson in the mid-1980s you probably don't have any idea what that's about. It's OK.
| Mike at 9/27/2004 02:40:00 PM
The new U2 single is out! Beth Maynard describes it as "The Ramones meet the Waitresses on acid." I really like it, but listen to it and judge for yourself! (this is not a download site, just a "play it from the website site" ... so don't sic your copyright lawyer friends on me!)
Oh ... it's called Vertigo.
Hello, hello (¡Hola!)
We're at a place called Vertigo (¿Dónde está?)
Lights go down, and all I know
Is that you give me something
I can feel your love teaching me how
Your love is teaching me how
How to kneel, kneel
And finally (shameless plug), if you haven't gotten your copy of Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog -- order it now.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004 Vicki Sirota once told me that there are two roles I would have as a priest -- my actual job description that was in my contract and what I vowed in my ordination vows. Many times they would fold nicely into each other, many times they would not. The tendency when they don't is to go with the job description because there are usually people you want to please holding you accountable to that. Our call is to go the other way and at all times uphold the vows. It's some of the best advice I've ever gotten.
After morning prayer every weekday at Rockwell House, I lead those present in a reaffirmation of their baptismal covenant and they lead me in a reaffirmation of my ordination vows. We do this to remind ourselves as we begin each day of who we are and who God calls us to be. I find that, like most things, if our vows sit on a shelf gathering dust they have no effect on our lives. But if we continually reaffirm and revisit them, they shape us. As I revisit my baptismal, ordination and marriage vows regularly, I start to think in terms of them. For me, that means when things come up in my life during the day, they become the foundation on which I make decisions and shape my behavior. To use another analogy, they become the scaffolding upon which I hang my life.
Frankly, we probably should go back further. For the baptismal covenant, we should go back to the renunciations and adhesions. That's where it gets to the core stuff about renouncing evil and turning and accepting Christ and putting your whole trust in his grace and love. It's not a bad idea to at least once a day re-affirm that vow to put our whole trust in Christ.
For the ordination vows, we should probably go back further, too. The first thing the bishop says to the ordinand in the service is this:
Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work.
to which you reply
I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.
Vows are about putting ourselves under authority ... under the authority of God, Church, scripture, bishop, spouse, community. I think it's easy to forget how completely counter-cultural this is in a society that elevates individual liberty to almost the be-all and end-all of virtues.
You can't talk about discipleship without talking about being under authority. When I became baptized, I gave up freedom. When I became ordained, I gave up more freedom. I gave it up believing that in "conforming" (a four-letter word to a lot of people) to the life of a disciple as we in the Episcopal Church understand it, that I will actually become more free as I am freed from the undisciplined life that imprisons me, from the life led by the whims of my own desires that governs me.
This doesn't mean that I can't be a prophetic voice ... but it means that I must pick up that mantle with great trepidation. I can push the envelope, but recognizing that I have a deep responsibility to only do it if I feel it is moving the church into a fuller living and understanding of what it means to be "loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ." And, as someone under bishop and canons, I must be willing to accept any consequence that comes of my envelope-pushing.
THis is one of the hardest aspects of ordained ministry ... and it is one of the big things that separates us from congregational churches. We are responsible to more than just ourselves, we are responsible to the wider church in space and time.
Much has been made of this in the current controversy over the consecration of Bishop Robinson in New Hampshire. People (like me) who supported it are being accused of violating this vow. And that is something we need to take very seriously. I hope and believe that all clergy who voted at General Convention did so believing they were living most fully into this vow. I shudder when I see evidence since convention that different factions of the church are slipping alternately down a slippery slope of "anything goes" or putting down a rigid standard of Biblical fundamentalism -- neither of which has ever been part of the doctrine, discipline and worship of Anglicans.
I am willing and ready to do so. It's kind of like taking the red pill in the Matrix. It's an invitation to go down the rabbit hole and see how far down it really goes.
But when you think of it, it's all really an extension of what we promise in baptism -- as all ordination is. When you look at it, it's just another way of asking the same questions:
Do you turn to Christ and accept him as your savior?
Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
When it comes down to it, there really aren't any other questions out there. All the rest is trying to sort out the How.
| Mike at 9/21/2004 11:53:00 AM
Sunday, September 19, 2004 In honor of today being International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here is the treatise from Baldwin, Archbishop o' Canterbury (1185-1190, translated into pirate (courtesy of the fine lads and lasses at some website I can't remember). I think you'll find it has all the poetry and beauty of the original (which is on Friday, Sept. 10 if you want to scroll down):
"Davy Jones's Locker be strong, for it can rob us o' the gift o' life. (Yarrr, more grog, wench!) Love too be strong, for it can restore us t' a better life.
"Davy Jones's Locker be strong, for it can strip us o' this robe o' flesh. (Aaaarrrhhh!!!) Love too be strong, for it can take Davy Jones's Locker's spoils away 'n give 'em aft t' us.
"Davy Jones's Locker be strong, for nay one can withstand it. (Aaarrrrhhh!) Love too be strong, for it can conquer Davy Jones's Locker itself, soothe its stin', calm its violence, ,'n brin' its victory t' naught. (Bloody privateers!) The time will come when Davy Jones's Locker be reviled 'n taunted: 'O Davy Jones's Locker, where be yer stin'? (Yo-ho-ho!) O Davy Jones's Locker, where be yer victory?'
"Love be as strong as Davy Jones's Locker because Christ's love be the very Davy Jones's Locker o' Davy Jones's Locker. (Yarrr, more grog, wench!) Hence it be said: 'I will be yer Davy Jones's Locker, O Davy Jones's Locker! (Yaaarrrr!) I will be yer stin', O hell!' Our love for Christ be also as strong as Davy Jones's Locker, because it be itself a kind o' death: destroyin' the old life, rootin' out vice, 'n layin' aside dead works.
"Our love for Christ be a return, though very unequal, for 'is love o' us, 'n it be a likeness modelled on 'is. (Arrgh!) For 'he first loved us' 'n, through the example o' love he gave us, he became a seal upon us by which we be made like him. (AAARRGGHHH!) We lay aside the likeness o' the earthly person 'n put on the likeness o' the heavenly person; we love him as he has loved us. (Bloody privateers!) For in this matter 'he has port us an example so that we might follow in 'is steps.'
"That be why he says: 'Set me as a seal upon yer heart.' It be as if he were sayin': 'Love me as I love ye. (Bloody landlubber!) Keep me in yer mind 'n memory, in yer desires 'n yearnin's, in yer groans 'n sobs. (Yo-ho-ho!) Remember the kind o' bein' I made ye; how far I set ye above other creatures; the dignity I conferred upon ye; the glory 'n honor with which I crowned ye; how I made ye only a little less than the angels 'n set all thin's under yer feet. (AAARRGGHHH!) Remember not only how much I have done for ye but all the hardship 'n shame I have suffered for ye. (AAARRRRHHH!!!) Yet look 'n see: Do ye not wrong me? (AAARRHH!!!) Do ye not fail t' love me? (Bloody landlubber!) Who loves ye as I do? (AAARRHH!!!) Who created 'n redeemed ye but I?'
"Lord, take away me heart o' stone, a heart so bitter 'n uncircumcised, 'n give me a new heart, a heart o' flesh, a pure heart. (Dead men tell no tales.) Ye cleanse the heart 'n love the clean heart. (Aaarrrrhhh!) Take possession o' me heart 'n dwell in it, contain it 'n fill it, ye who be higher than the heights o' me spirit 'n closer t' me than me innermost self! (AAARRGGHHH!) Ye be the pattern o' all beauty 'n teh seal o' all holiness. (Aaarrhhh, me parrot!) Set the seal o' yer likeness upon me heart! (Aaarrrrhhh!) In yer quarter set yer seal upon me heart, O God o' me heart, O God who be me portion for ever!"
Wednesday, September 15, 2004 Bishop Bullen Dolli of the Anglican Diocese of Lui (S. Sudan) was with us tonight. He spent 90 minutes in conversation with a group of students and then preached at our community Eucharist.
It's so easy for my world to get small, and tonight was a wonderful reminder of how huge and rich the world is. Not just wonderful, but powerful. The stories he told were amazing ... stories of him getting taken out of his church at gunpoint and made to stand in front of an open grave, of him being spared when his would-be killer's heart was moved by his prayer. Stories of dropping to the ground 8 meters away from his Cathedral as it gets bombed into rubble. Stories of faith and hope and joy.
What was most exciting is watching the students get excited. Watching Emily and Reynolds and Cat get excited about the prospect of traveling to the Sudan and seeing it for themselves.
Maybe the best part of the night was when James and Terry invited him to come to Doorways and visit. We're going to try to make it happen.
Monday, September 13, 2004 You know you're in trouble in a church or religious discussion when someone starts talking about the Holy Spirit ... especially when it involves the words moving, blowing, flowing or anything of the sort.
Not that I don't believe in the Holy Spirit (still definitely a Trinitarian), but it sure seems like everyone and their crazy aunt is invoking the movement of that sucker to justify whatever it is they feel needs justifying.
And there's the problem. We believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe she (and, BTW, the proper pronoun is "she" -- the first instance of holy breath is in Genesis, and the word, ruach, is feminine) is the power of God moving in us, among us and through us so we believe that blowing, moving, flowing stuff actually happens. But the very nature of it is such that she rarely, if ever, leaves a business card to let us know that it is really her.
So we're left with trying to figure out (or, to use a churchy word, to "discern") whether something is of the Holy Spirit or not. And, lo and behold, it just usually works out that when it matches our own personal beliefs and agendas its the work of the Holy Spirit and when it goes against those same beliefs and agendas it's not.
Of course, the big example is the uberbattle over sexuality, which is also an uberbattle over Biblical authority and interpretation in our church. The left (either "progressives" or "revisionists" depending on which side YOU are on!) claims they are only agents of the Spirit. The right (either "orthodox" or "traditionalists" ... take your pick) claims that it is THEY who have the Spirit, and that it ain't blowin' anywhere except back to a time before we made so many mistakes in doctrine!
Big problem here is that for the extreme left, when you push it, defining where the Spirit is present comes down to when something feels good on an emotive level. I'm not opposed to feeling good and don't think God is opposed to it either ... just think it's a poor basis for theology.
And for the extreme right, when you push it, defining where the Spirit is present comes down to preserving in stasis modes of thinking and the cultural assumptions that went with them from hundreds if not thousands of years ago without entertaining the possibility of evolution or continuing revelation.
And the problem for everyone in the middle is that usually all we hear from and about are those on the extremes!
I'm not saying that people are just using the Spirit to add punch to their argument. I think people on each side completely believe the Holy Spirit is on their side. But how can we really tell?
In other words, when is our call to act and become truly from God and when is it not?
So I've been thinking about this. And I don't think there is a clear formula, but I've got some ideas. I don't think they're liable to be too popular, though.
If you want to test whether or not the call you're feeling is of God, see if it involves sacrifice. See if it involves not gaining for yourself but giving up yourself for the sake of others. See if it involves putting Christian discipleship first (and not some smug expurgated version of Christian discipleship that only conveniently includes the stuff you're doing already and eliminates the nasty stuff that might involve things like, I don't know, selling all you have and giving it to the poor) and being convicted by its demands.
Jesus said that if we want to save our lives we have to lose them. If it involves us losing our lives, it might be of the Holy Spirit. If it doesn't ... well ... I'm thinking not so much.
Basically, it comes down to this -- is it about Holiness. And holiness is never about what we get and always about what we give up for the sake of God and God's creation.
It sure is easy to claim the Holy Spirit seal of approval on our agendas ... but is what behind it sacrificial and is what it is calling us to sacrificial? That won't necessarily give us an answer but it should give us a clue as to how to approach these things!
Every morning when I wake up I remind myself that "my life is not my own. I do not own my life." It usually takes me about 3 seconds to forget it and to start acting like I really own my life. But I don't.
Who owns it? Well, my baptism says that God and Christ own my life. My marriage says that my wife and family own my life. My ordination vows say that my church and (in our polity) my bishop own my life.
As a Christian living in three vowed, covenantal relationships, I really don't own my life ... and what is incomprehensible in an America founded on individual rights and freedoms is that that is a GOOD thing. Hell, it's a GREAT thing. Because it gives me a structure of relationships to give my life away, to lose my life in order that I can save it.
It's those three seconds between when I affirm that my life isn't mine and when I forget and act like it is that are my salvation!
So what does this mean for our current situation? Well, not any easy answer ... but maybe a better way to have the conversation.
For the left, is this about getting to do more and fulfilling individual rights (not really sacrificial) or is it about creating space for people of non-heterosexual orientation to enter more fully into relationships that are about self-sacrificial love and giving away of self?
For the right, is this about preserving what is traditional for the sake of a feeling of comfort and/or superiority and about a broader anti-cultural agenda or is it about striving for a church where we all truly submit ourselves to the authority of scripture -- not just in areas where it means someone else needs to change their behavior but in areas where we are called to change our own at the deepest levels.
I think this conversation would be a lot different if we were to have it on the level of talking about sacrifice on all sides. And I think we'd be a lot more hesitant to write the Holy Spirit as a reference on the resumes of our arguments if we did.
| Mike at 9/13/2004 04:20:00 PM
Friday, September 10, 2004 "Death is strong, for it can rob us of the gift of life. Love too is strong, for it can restore us to a better life.
"Death is strong, for it can strip us of this robe of flesh. Love too is strong, for it can take death's spoils away and give them back to us.
"Death is strong, for no one can withstand it. Love too is strong, for it can conquer death itself, soothe its sting, calm its violence, ,and bring its victory to naught. The time will come when death is reviled and taunted: 'O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?'
"Love is as strong as death because Christ's love is the very death of death. Hence it is said: 'I will be your death, O death! I will be your sting, O hell!' Our love for Christ is also as strong as death, because it is itself a kind of death: destroying the old life, rooting out vice, and laying aside dead works.
"Our love for Christ is a return, though very unequal, for his love of us, and it is a likeness modelled on his. For 'he first loved us' and, through the example of love he gave us, he became a seal upon us by which we are made like him. We lay aside the likeness of the earthly person and put on the likeness of the heavenly person; we love him as he has loved us. For in this matter 'he has left us an example so that we might follow in his steps.'
"That is why he says: 'Set me as a seal upon your heart.' It is as if he were saying: 'Love me as I love you. Keep me in your mind and memory, in your desires and yearnings, in your groans and sobs. Remember the kind of being I made you; how far I set you above other creatures; the dignity I conferred upon you; the glory and honor with which I crowned you; how I made you only a little less than the angels and set all things under your feet. Remember not only how much I have done for you but all the hardship and shame I have suffered for you. Yet look and see: Do you not wrong me? Do you not fail to love me? Who loves you as I do? Who created and redeemed you but I?'
"Lord, take away my heart of stone, a heart so bitter and uncircumcised, and give me a new heart, a heart of flesh, a pure heart. You cleanse the heart and love the clean heart. Take possession of my heart and dwell in it, contain it and fill it, you who are higher than the heights of my spirit and closer to me than my innermost self! You are the pattern of all beauty and teh seal of all holiness. Set the seal of your likeness upon my heart! In your mercy set your seal upon my heart, O God of my heart, O God who is my portion for ever!"
Thursday, September 02, 2004 Bono was on FoxNews' The O'Reilly Factor last night. The full transcript is well worth reading.
As he always does, he holds up to America the image of what we can be, what we are when we're at our best. But also tells it like it is. We're No. 22 among rich countries in terms of percentage of giving to poor countries (and his .15% that he quotes is a liberal estimate).
The big message in all of this is that the world is looking to us ... the world is waiting for us.
Since I've been back in the U.S., every day ... in many ways every waking hour ... I've been aware that there are people in Ghana who are looking to me for hope. Me personally. I know the community at All Souls in Buduburam is. I know James is. I know Emmanuel is. I know they are looking to me in hope because I have so much wealth and power and ability just by virtue of my American citizenship and the family of the church I have here.
Some days that weighs heavily on my soul. I'm not about to forget them, but just knowing that they really are counting on me is at once a great creator of meaning and purpose for my life and a drain of energy.
I didn't feel this way before I went to Ghana ... but the truth is that it was still true even before I went. The rest of the world is looking to us in hope. We are the world's hope. We are their hope for a better life ... and in many cases just for life, period. My time in Ghana just brought it home personally ... put faces and deep and wonderful relationships on it. But it didn't create anything new that wasn't there before.
Jeffrey Sachs says that we in America have all the resources it will take to end poverty. The world knows it ... the only ones who don't seem to know it is us. The world is watching and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
| Mike at 9/02/2004 12:33:00 AM
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."