Monday, December 29, 2008

Do they have a coffee pot?

Paul Handley, the editor of the Church Times, has penned and article in the Guardian with the unoptimistic lead, The Anglican Communion will finally split in 2009.

There are a few points where I think his analysis is off the mark. For instance, I have previously estimated that the recent reorganization of North American schismatics will have difficulty getting broad support among the primates of the Communion. I have also written about how the primates, collectively, aren't really held in the high esteem some of them think they deserve.

In any event, the fad for North American Anglicans to pretend that they are now part of Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria or the southernest bits of South America, and their recent move to organize themselves into a separate denomination (which is NOT, despite their protestations, a part of the Anglican Communion) has put me in mind of an old saying out of Alcoholics Anonymous.

All you need to start a new meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot.

The modern Anglican equipment seems to be a resentment and a pointy hat.

Friday, December 26, 2008

And the keys to his city belong to the poor

Several years ago - nearly 20, in fact - I appeared as Melchior in an amateur production of Amahl and the Night Visitors.

The previous year, the local Lutheran pastor, the local United Church minister and ours truly had appeared as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come in a musical version of A Christmas Carol.  We returned (well, a new United Church minister) as the three kings in Amahl.  Our voice coach took to referring to us as the Righteous Brothers.

Giancarlo Menotti's opera tells the story of a woman and her crippled son who are visited by the magi en route to Bethlehem.  It was originally written for a Christmas broadcast on NBC in the 1950s, and rebroadcast annually for several years thereafter.  My only knowledge of the piece comes from this amateur performance in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan lo these many years ago. 

Melchior's most important aria is a profound comment on the nature of Christ's kingship.  Two decades on, I can still sing the piece by heart.

This isn't me.  The only extant video of our performance a) isn't on YouTube and b) isn't very good.  (I'm not convinced I was that good anyway.)  To set the scene, the impoverished widow has talked herself into stealing a small amount of the gold, and has been caught by one of the kings' attendants.  The young Amahl is defending his mother:  

Don't you dare!  
Don't you dare!  
Don't you dare, ugly man, hurt my mother!  
Don't you dare!  
Don't you dare!

Oh woman, you may keep the gold.
The child we seek doesn't need our gold.
On love, on love alone he will build his kingdom.
His pierced hand will hold no sceptre.
His haloed head will wear no crown.
His might will not be built on your toil.
Swifter than lightning, he will soon walk among us.
He will bring us new life,
and receive our death.
And the keys to his city belong to the poor.

Hat tip to Marshall at Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside for reminding me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Searching for the Christ Child - Reprise

The title isn't quite so allegorical as you think. We actually spent about ten minutes before the Christmas Eve service desperately seeking the Baby Jesus for the main creche at the parish where I serve as interim priest.

It is actually a very interesting creche, set up inside the altar itself. A simple wooden chevron suggests the stable, while the remaining figures stand on black satin.

It was already in place on Sunday last. Actually in the Sunday before last as we compromised the calendar in the interest of the children's pageant. But Sunday last the creche had only its minimalist roof, one ox and one ass. Mary and Joseph were not far away - standing on the altar pavement - but they hadn't arrived yet. The shepherds weren't there yet either, out tending their sheep on the edge of the pulpit. And the magi were in the middle of the aisle at the back of the church, still some ways away.

Tonight, Mary and Joseph, and after some panicked moments, the Baby Jesus, were all installed in their places. The shepherds were "summoned to his stable" during the gradual hymn. And the magi were now half way up the aisle - accompanied by a helpful "Mind the Camels" sign prepared by my good wife.

It was a good celebration in a community which seems increasingly hopeful and future oriented. And generally united. There is no parish on earth that doesn't have some divisions and tensions. But this little parish seem quite determined to be a family together.


We found Jesus tonight at St. James - literally, allegorically and eucharistically. We all came to the same table, together. That is where we belong in worship - at the same table, together.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The God Forsaken God

We held our Blue Christmas service last evening. Fewer people than I'd hoped, more people than I'd feared. Of course, it was just as cold as it had been in the morning (see below) - possibly colder.

There was one person who wasn't previously connected to the parish (that we know of). She and I spoke briefly at the end, though she chose not to stay for tea. She did ask about Christmas Eve services, and was provided a copy of the parish newsletter.

The service seemed to go well. And I'm told the sermon was good. (I thought I'd started going round in circles round about the middle.) Despite the anxieties of the organist and the one warden, the music seemed to work - even Of the Father's Love Begotten.

My sermon did attempt to bring together the elements of the service - emphasizing the Incarnation as an expression of God's love for us and of God's solidarity with us. And I dwelt a bit on what, for me, is the most profound proclamation of the Incarnation: the vignette of Christ's cry of agony from the Cross, the jarring image of the God forsaken God.

For those who might be interested, the liturgy is reproduced below. Apart from the opening discourse, everything is drawn from the Book of Alternative Services.

Blue Christmas
A service for those experiencing loss,
loneliness or despair at Christmas

The gathering of the community

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with you all.
And also with you.

Dear friends,
Christians, following the example of Jesus,
have always had a particular ministry
to walk with those who suffer.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah
as the suffering servant.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus
did not grasp his equality with God,
but chose to empty himself,
and to die on the cross for our salvation.
In Matthew’s gospel, we are enjoined
to feed the hungry,
to give drink to the thirsty,
to clothe the naked,
to visit the sick and those in prison,
for in ministering to those in need,
we are serving Christ himself.
Each of us has come here this evening,
bearing our own hurts.
We may be immersed in our own suffering,
We may be devastated by our own loss.
We may feel that we are alone,
abandoned by our friends,
deserted by our families.
We may even feel that we are forsaken by God.
It can be difficult for us to remember
that Christ is always with us.

But we are here tonight
because the God who came to us as a little child,
who dwelt among us,
who died for us,
who, in dying, experienced for himself
the devastating feeling of God forsakenness,
who rose triumphant from the grave,
who sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,
would not forsake us in our deepest need.
We have come searching for solace
in the presence of God.

Let us pray.
O God of peace,
who taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved,
in quietness and confidence shall be our strength;
by the might of your Spirit, lift us, we pray, to your presence,
that we may be still and know that you are God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn 628 (O Love, how deep, how broad, how high)

The liturgy of the word

Lesson – Isaiah 53: 1-5 (Surely he has borne our griefs)

Psalm 43 (Together)

Give judgement for me, O God,
and defend my cause against an ungodly people;
deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

For you are the God of my strength;
why have you put me from you?
and why do I go so heavily
while the enemy oppresses me?

Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling;

That I may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness;
and on the harp I will give thanks to you,
O God my God.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

God of mercy, deliver those who are weighed down by fear, by loss, by loneliness or by depression. Relieve their suffering, that they may feel the joy and peace of your presence. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

Lesson – 1 John 2: 7-14 (The darkness is passing away)

Hymn 122 (In the bleak midwinter)

Remain standing for the reading of the Gospel.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,
according to John (1: 1-14 – The Word was made flesh)
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

At the conclusion of the Gospel, the reader says:

The Gospel of Christ.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


Here follows a period of silent reflection. Each person has been provided with a blank card, a pen or pencil, and an envelope. During this time, those who wish may write a brief description of the care or worry which oppresses them. The envelopes will be collected and presented at the altar.

The prayers of the people

In peace, we pray to you, Lord God.


For all people in their daily life and work;
For our families, friends and neighbours, and for all those who are alone.

For this community, our country, and the world;
For all who work for justice, freedom and peace.

For the just and proper use of your creation;
For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice and oppression.

For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble;
For those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy.

For the peace and unity of the Church of God;
For all who proclaim the gospel, and all who seek the truth.

For our own needs and the needs of others.

Silence. People may add their own petitions, silently or aloud.

Hear us, Lord;
For your mercy is great.

We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life.

Silence. People may add their own petitions, silently or aloud.

We will exalt you, O God our king;
And praise your name, for ever and ever.

We pray for all those who have died in the peace of Christ, and for those whose faith is known to you alone, that they may have a place in your eternal kingdom.

Silence. People may add their own petitions, silently or aloud.

Lord, let your loving kindness be upon them;
Who put their trust in you.

We pray to you also for the forgiveness of our sins.


Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
in your compassion, forgive us our sins,
known and unknown,
things done and left undone;
and so uphold us by your Spirit
that we may live and serve you in newness of life
to the honour and glory of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy upon you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.

The people may greet one another in the name of the Lord.

The laying on of hands and anointing

Holy scripture teaches us
that in acts of healing and restoration
our Lord Jesus and his disciples
laid hands upon the sick and anointed them.
By so doing, they made known
the healing power and presence of God.

Pray that as we follow our Lord`s example,
you may know his unfailing love.

Those who wish to be anointed may come forward.

If you choose to come forward, please indicate your name to the priest.

N, through this holy anointing
may the Lord in his love and mercy uphold you
by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When all who wish have been anointed:

As you are outwardly anointed with this oil,
so may our heavenly Father grant you
the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Of his great mercy,
may he release you from your suffering,
and restore you to wholeness and strength;
may he deliver you from all evil,
preserve you in all goodness,
and bring you to everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And now, as our Saviour Christ has commanded and taught us, we are bold to say,

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The blessing

May the God of infinite goodness
scatter the darkness of sin and despair
and brighten your hearts with holiness;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you, and remain with you for ever. Amen.

Hymn 132 (Of eternal Love begotten)

The dismissal

Go forth into the world,
always conscious of the power and presence of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside - Updated

Yes, it's a dry cold, but I'll happily have it warm up any time.

It's one of those days our former bishop used to describe as "so bitter that only the aged and infirm can make it to church."

Despite that, we had a decent turnout this morning.

Tonight's Blue Christmas service was advertised in the paper (both in the church section and in a larger ad by the movie listings) and as a Facebook event. I'm hoping for a good turnout.

In the meantime:

In the film Neptune's Daughter (if I recall the plot correctly), Ricardo Montalban and Red Skelton are brothers (I know, that makes me wonder if I do remember) and Esther Williams and Betty Garrett (not the retired priest of this diocese) are sisters. While Montalban is desperately trying to seduce Williams, the roles are reversed for Skelton and Garrett. Neptune's Daughter marks the first performance of a seasonal standard, Baby, it's Cold Outside. It's actually performed twice, the semi-serious Montalban - Williams version setting the stage for the hilarious Skelton - Garrett version.

Montalban - Williams

Skelton - Garrett

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Surely he has borne our griefs

This Sunday evening, the parish will be holding a Blue Christmas service. This is a first both for this parish and for this priest.

A Blue Christmas service is intended as a ministry to those who have trouble feeling joy at this time of year - indeed, who often feel oppressed by the way the world demands they be joyful in the face of loss, loneliness or despair.

The Church has a particular ministry, a particular responsibility to such as these. After all, God in Christ has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The God who set aside his own divine nature to share in our human experience, the baby in Bethlehem, the itinerant rabbi in Galilee, the God forsaken God who cries out in agony when he is nailed to the tree, this God reminds us that in ministering to the pain and need of others, we are ministering to him.

The principle tool we have for this ministry is our own experience of suffering and loss. We do not use this to claim the other person's pain. What is less respectful than to tell someone you know just how they feel? Rather, we simply acknowledge that we, too, have felt pain, and would like to walk in solidarity with them in theirs. Surely, after all, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

Last week, Elizabeth Kaeton posted a story at her blog Telling Secrets. Go read the link, or the rest of this post won't make as much sense.

Here is the response I posted to Elizabeth's blog:

I aspire to cynicism, so it isn't often that something I read on the internet makes me cry. Shed a tear, occasionally. Choke up a little, often. But not cry.

When I was too young to remember, my parents separated and my mother and I went to live with her grandmother, my great-grandmother, Nana. Mother had spent much of her later childhood living with Nana as well, in order to escape a thoroughly unpleasant home life.

This woman was now acting the mother to her great-grandson in the 60s, as she had to her granddaughter in the 50s. Ironically, she hadn't been able to mother her own children through much of the 20s and 30s because there were few social supports for a single mother, and none at all for a single mother whose father had a bit of money. So her children had spent much of their childhood in an orphanage.

Maybe that was why, when I would visit her in the final years of her life, that much of her confusion turned on how we were related. Who was my mother? Was it Nonie? No, Nana. Nonie is my grandmother. Diane is my mother. Only to get the same question again moments later.

The last time I saw her, my mother and grandmother had brought her to Kerrobert, Saskatchewan to meet her great-great-granddaughter, who had the blessing of being a five generation baby on her mother's side as well.

Nana's confusion is apparent in the official portrait. She clearly has no idea who this little baby is, or why we are all gathered for this picture.

That was June. She died in August.

She died in August. She had died years before.

My Nana taught me about the world. She taught me about God. She taught me about politics.

At her funeral, the wife of our former Premier showed me a book she had written about the North Side Ladies CCF Club in Regina. I had never known that Nana had been its president. The book observed that, in those days, she was caring for her young great-grandson, who had since become a party activist in his own right - a fifth-generation CCFer.

I learned, at her funeral, that Nana had been something of a grassroots political leader, and that past and future Premiers had been guests in our home.

Yet what I remember most about her funeral is the guilt.The guilt that I had not visited her in nearly a year before she died.

Her confusion was so painful for me that I couldn't see or couldn't care how painful it was to her.

Elizabeth, thank you for visting this woman.

And thank you for telling the story.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Amazing Grace

In the Canadian Church, November 23 was designated as Amazing Grace Sunday. Every congregation was encouraged to sing the well known hymn - and take up a loonie / toonie collection to support the Church in northern Canada.

(For non-Canadian readers, "loonie / toonie" refers to our currency. When the dollar bill was replaced with a coin depicting a certain waterfowl, it inevitably came to be called the loonie, while the eventual two dollar coin . . well, you see how it goes.)

In any event, Amazing Grace rang out that Sunday, from Tofino to Torbay, from Kandahar, Saskatchewan to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

We're a bit technologically challenged at our parish. We did sing it. We did tape it. Stand by to stand by.

In the meantime, here is a nice video compliation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Overreaching - and a lesson for the Anglican wars

The last couple of weeks have been very interesting in the world of Canadian politics.

Prime Minister Harper, at the head of his minority Conservative government, seemed secure. Canadians had denied him a majority, but seemed quite prepared to let him carry on provided he learned to work and play well with others. Despite some bluster, all three opposition parties seemed ready to go along.

Then Prime Minister Harper demonstrated that he had not learned any lesson from twice being denied a majority by voters. His finance minister introduced a fiscal update which accomplished the impossible - uniting the three opposition parties in a bid to bring down the Harper government.

(Note for non-Canadian readers: like most parliamentary democracies, the Canadian government is required to sustain the confidence of the House of Commons. If no party has a majority, one of the leaders - usually the leader of the largest party - will be asked to form a government, but that government can only continue in office by demonstrating confidence. In other words, they have to be able to win votes on matters that are deemed to be confidence issues, including all financial bills and any resolutions that specifically refer to the House having or wanting confidence.)

Normally, if a minority government is defeated on a confidence issue, the Prime Minister visits the Governor General, who represents the Queen of Canada. On the Prime Minister's advice, the Governor General then dissolves Parliament and calls an election. (The Queen of Canada normally lives in London, where she also serves as Queen of the Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Bermuda and other random bits and pieces. Oh, and the UK. The Governor General acts on the Queen's authority and is Canada's de facto head of state.)

However, if a government falls quickly after an election, the Governor General has another option. She can investigate if there might be another person who could form an alternate government and win the confidence of the House.

Despite the foolish hysterics of constitutional illiterates, this is perfectly legal, perfectly moral and perfectly normal. It has happened several times in Canada, including the federal Parliament of 1925 - 26, the Saskatchewan Legislature of 1929 - 1935 and the Ontario Provincial Parliament of 1985 - 1987.

Mr. Harper overreached himself and singlehandedly put his government - and the stability of the Canadian economy - in jeopardy.

What a yutz.

Then it was the opposition party leaders' turn.

As the Prime Minister teetered and his ministry tottered, the media and the constitutional experts were busily educating Canadians about the possible outcome of a no confidence motion. They were very clearly making the case that a government formed by opposition members was at least a notional possibility - and an entirely legitimate one.

Not content to let events develop naturally, the three opposition leaders tried to force things. Eventually, an accord and a side agreement were produced. The Official Opposition Liberals and the social democratic New Democrats would form a coalition government, with both parties being represented in Cabinet. Because the Liberal - NDP coalition would still have fewer seats than the Harper Conservatives (114 to 143), the coalition would require the support of the 49 Bloc Quebecois MPs. This party advocates for a sovreign Quebec, separate from Canada. In a side agreement, the Bloc made a commitment to vote with the coalition on any matter deemed to be a confidence vote.

Constitutionally, it was perfectly legitimate.

Politically, it turned out to be a disaster. In one afternoon, the Liberals' hapless Dr. Stephane Dion, the New Democrats usually wily Jack Layton and the Bloc's always inscrutable Gilles Duceppe had made the brash and bullying buffoon Harper look like the victim in the minds of many reasonable but utterly ill-informed Canadians.

Now the ball was back in Mr. Harper's court. His very next move . . . was to overreach again. He and his party happily misrepresented the facts of the parliamentary system. But falsely playing the victim was not enough. They decided on a deliberate tactic of ethnic baiting, fanning the flames of anti-Quebec sentiment among English Canadians, particularly in western Canada. Never before in Canadian history has a Prime Minister set about deliberately placing national unity at risk.

Finally, still fearful of his self-inflicted fate, Stephen Harper decided to play the coward, persuading the Governor General to prorogue (suspend) this session of Parliament the very day the confidence vote was to occur. This was virtually unprecedented, prorogual usually being a means of ending a session that has completed its business. Apart from one arguably similar circumstance in the 1870s, when the corrupt Sir John A. Macdonald adjourned Parliament for several weeks to avoid a similar non-confidence motion, this had never been done before. Note that the Macdonald precedent was NOT a prorogual. (And fat lot of good it did for the old drunk. His government fell almost as soon as the House came to order again.)

The net effect of the prorogual is that the entire business of this Parliamentary session just completed was the election of a Speaker and other officers, and a motion thanking the Governor General for reading a speech.

Now, where is the lesson for the Anglican wars?

In the role of Stephen Harper, consider the GaffeProne Primates, the new pretendy province in North America and "all the usual suspects."

In the role of Mssrs. Dion, Layton and Duceppe, consider the real Anglican Provinces in North America.

And the lesson?

Well, like Mr. Harper, the usual suspects are so fond of overreaching they could practically list it as their hobbby on Facebook.

So the lesson is for ++Katharine, ++Fred and all those who really believe in Anglican comprehensiveness. Learn from Stephane, Jack and Gilles.

They violated one of Napoleon's rules of warfare.

"Never interfere when your enemy is shooting himself in the foot."

Now, for fun, I leave you with Jon Stewart's not terribly accurate satire of Canada's political crisis.

(Apparently those yutzes at CTV have a problem with letting us embed video. And they won't let us watch Jon Stewart on the Comedy Central site. Grrrrr.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just because they amuse me

The following are a series of videos I've run across lately in my perigrinations through the blogosphere. Some have "a message," some don't. Mostly, I just liked 'em. Enjoy.

The Weather Report done to traditional Anglican Chant
(hat tips to Praeludium and Seven Whole Days)

Bertie Wooster struggles over Puttin' on the Ritz
(hat tip to Grandmére Mimi)

Old Fat Naked Women for Justice
(hat tip to Grandmére Mimi again)

Modern Scotland the Brave
(hat tip to Mad Priest)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Taming the keyboard

Some of you may have noticed that I recently changed the text in the About Me section. I don't actually remember exactly what it said before. The new wording, though, has a pretty clear message:

Comments here do not represent the official views of my parish, my diocese, my bishop or the Anglican Church of Canada. Neither do they purport to represent the official views of God. They are merely the views of this particular opinionated prairie priest - who hopes that his views on issues are generally consonant with God's views, but claims no certainty on that score.

I think my point is pretty clear. This is a personal blog, not an official blog. Therefore, statements made here by me should not be attributed to anyone else. I'm responsible for what I write here.

One of the links in my blogroll is to the Mad Priest's blog, officially called Of course, I could be wrong. It frequently capers about in the world of the absurd. It is often quite . . . um . . . earthy. It routinely becomes a little caustic. From time to time it can even be a bit . . . too earthy.

The Mad Priest, like me, is a priest. I'll let others judge our relative madness.

Yesterday, he was summoned to a meeting with his bishop.

I've been summoned to a meeting with the bishop. Twice. Neither of these meetings was with my current bishop. Neither meeting was at all comfortable. The second ended, from my perspective, particularly badly. Seventeen plus years later, a call from the bishop can still make me a bit jumpy. Probably a guilty conscience.

Mad Priest's meeting was to discuss . . . his blog. He reports on the outcome of the meeting here.

I was amused by this observation:

A perfectly reasonable request was made. I have to avoid swearing so much. Evidently, it is officially "behaviour unbecoming of a person in holy orders," equivalent to adultery and a lot worse than trying to break up the Anglican Communion. As this is an issue I see no need to become a martyr over I shall try my best.

He then asks his readers to provide appropriate alternatives for a list of words (obscured slightly, but not much, with the use of asterices). Of the seven words on the list, two would be considered of no particular note in Canada, and two others would be mildly incomprehensible.

But it did get me thinking about the issue of self-censorship.

All of us do some amount of self-censorship - much of it based on where we are and what we are doing.

Like my front page says, I am an opinionated prairie priest. I have opinions about politics - both secular and ecclesiastical. I have opinions about organizational and institutional leadership. I have opinions about the poor quality of officiating at Canadian Football League games. I have opinions about the ridiculous amount of violence that is tolerated in hockey (ice hockey for any non-Canadian readers).

There are places I will express those opinions, loudly, unambiguously - and occasionally colourfully. There are other places where I won't.

I refuse to use the Sunday sermon to tell people that they should vote for the New Democratic Party. Don't get me wrong, I do think they should vote for the New Democratic Party. I just think the sermon is not the place for me to say that. I did preach about voting and values on the Sunday before our recent federal election. I just didn't tell them where to mark their "x." (Like they'd have listened anyway.)

There are things I won't say when I am presenting myself as a public spokesperson for my secular employer.

There are things I won't say when I'm presenting myself as an officer (not a chaplain, BTW) in the Naval Reserve.

There are things I won't say when I am presenting myself as speaking on behalf of the Church.

But this little blog, to some degree, is a grey area. While I do make it clear that my comments do not purport to represent the parish, the diocese, the bishop, the national Church or God, there are still some things I don't think I'm prepared to say here.

I don't claim to be eirenic by any means. I really am opinionated and not at all inclined to hold back when I'm responding to utter crap. Those who are seeking to divide our Church and our Communion are seeking schism - that makes them schismatics by the most straightforward definition. And those who knowingly say things which are not true are appropriately called liars.

But much of the present Anglican discord has been fueled - on all sides - by intemperate, ill-considered and frequently inaccurate statements distributed on the internet. Where is the line between fighting fire with fire on the one hand, and randomly flinging gasoline at blazing infernoes on the other?

If Jesus's brother James had lived in our age, he might well have written this:

The keyboard is a simple device, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the keyboard is a fire. The keyboard is attached to our computer as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole computer, sets on fire the entire blogosphere, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the keyboard - a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same keyboard come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ideas for Advent

Here's something thought-provoking.

For Canadian readers: as a rule of thumb, to apply American statistics to Canada, divide by ten. Thus, $450B in the US becomes $45B in Canada.

For more information, visit Advent Conspiracy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The Bolsheviki, nasty lot though they may have been, provided us all with a useful term with their concept of "realpolitik." It refers to the practical and pragmatic strategic and tactical issues involved in generating revolutionary action.

The GAFFEPRONE participants from North America have announced their intention to launch their new and improved North American Anglican "Province" at the beginning of next month. As always, Thinking Anglicans provides us with comprehensive links, analysis and discussion here and here.

There are now four quasi-dioceses claiming affiliation to the Province of the Southern Cone (ur-San Joaquin, ur-Pittsburgh, ur-Quincy and ur-Fort Worth). Traditionally, it takes four dioceses to establish a province, so there you are. There are also an assortment of independent parishes in the United States and Canada claiming various affiliations to the Southern Cone, to Nigeria, to Rwanda, to Kenya and to Uganda.

There are certainly enough folk about (including twelve or so with pointy hats) to create a genuine denomination. The issue is whether or not that new denomination gets to be a Province of the Anglican Communion.

The process of creating a Province of the Anglican Communion is set out in the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, one of the four Instruments of Communion (alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting). The process is defined in Section 3, subsection a, as follows:

3. Membership
a. The Council shall be constituted with a membership according to the schedule hereto. With the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the council may alter or add to the schedule. "Primates," for the purposes of this article, shall mean the principle Archbishop, bishop, or Primates of each of the bodies listed in paragraphs b,c and d of the schedule of membership.

The "bodies listed" are as follows:

  • Anglican Church of Australia
  • Anglican Church of Canada
  • Church of England
  • Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
  • Church of the Province of Rwanda
  • Church of the Province of Southern Africa
  • Church of South India
  • Anglican Church of Tanzania
  • Church of the Province of Uganda
  • Episcopal Church (United States of America)
  • Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia
  • Church of the Province of Central Africa
  • Province of the Anglican Church of Congo
  • Church of Ireland
  • Anglican Church of Kenya
  • Church of North India
  • Church of Pakistan
  • Episcopal Church of the Sudan
  • Church in Wales
  • Church in the Province of the West Indies
  • Church of Bangladesh
  • Episcopal Anglican Church of Brasil
  • Church of the Province of Burundi
  • Anglican Church of the Central America Region
  • Church of Ceylon
  • Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui
  • Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
  • Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Communion in Japan)
  • Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
  • Anglican Church in Korea
  • Church of the Province of Melanesia
  • Anglican Church of Mexico
  • Church of the Province of Myanmar
  • Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
  • Episcopal Church in the Philippines
  • Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America
  • Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Church of the Province of Southeast Asia
  • Church of the Province of West Africa

That's 39 bodies. (The number usually quoted is 38, but the Church of Ceylon, which like the Anglican affiliated churches in Spain and Portugal is extra-provincial to Canterbury, unlike them has representation on the ACC.)

A 2/3 majority means 26 Primatial votes for a new province.

Now, it can be something of a mug's game predicting how people will vote, but here goes:

Defintitely Yes - 8

  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Kenya
  • West Indies
  • Jerusalem and the Middle East
  • Southern Cone

Definitely No - 12

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Southern Africa
  • United States
  • Aoteoroa, New Zealand and Polynesia
  • Ireland
  • Wales
  • Brazil
  • Central America
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Scotland

That leaves 19 provinces unknown (though several probably leaning yes). To win, the schismatics would need to carry 89.5% (17/19) of the remaining provinces.

One province (Congo) currently has no Primate, and is riven with dissension over a number of issues related to the present controversies. It is not clear if or how Congo votes.

If we add in those provinces which are likely leaning yes, we'd include:

  • Central Africa
  • Congo
  • Sudan
  • Burundi
  • West Africa

That makes it 13 - 12 with 14 remaining - and the schismatics needing to win 12/14 or 85.7% of the remainder.

But is England likely to vote for this innovation - especially when there are already Global South rumblings about starting the same sort of campaign against the CofE? Only if Rowan is suicidal, I'm thinking.

That leaves one more no vote needed to end the charade. One vote. That means the schismatics need to win every single vote from among:

  • South India
  • North India
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Ceylon
  • Hong Kong
  • Indian Ocean
  • Korea
  • Melanesia
  • Myanmar
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Southeast Asia

I have no doubt that Bob Duncan and his friends will establish a new Christian denomination come early December.

Establishing a new Province of the Anglican Communion might best be described as a long shot.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the Washington Times item Anne Marie refers to in the comments.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes They Did

Okay, let's face it. It was a transformative night, however you cut it.

It represented the diminution (though not the elimination) of race as a wedge issue. It represented a massive rejection of the failed presidency of George Walker Bush.

Most of all, I think, it represented generational change.

For me, it creates the awkward moment of knowing the the next President of the United States is younger than I am. I don't think I like that.

There were two great speeches last night. Obama's speech was gracious, moving, inspiring.

John McCain's speech was fundamentally tragic.

Yes, it was gracious.

But it was tragic, because it reminded us of the John McCain who should have been running for President - the John McCain that ran for President in 2000, the John McCain who was running for President in 2008 until he was possessed by the twin spirits of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

The only Republican who had any chance of winning in 2008 was John McCain. He had the maverick's appeal to independents and to the Reagan Democrats. That was the John McCain who was able to defy the odds in New Hampshire. That was the John McCain who nearly secured the Republican nomination all on his own.

But that John McCain blinked.

The Quixotic Huckabee bid to continue the race after it was no longer a race unnerved John McCain. It showed that he was not the preferred candidate of the religious conservative base.

Traditionally, candidates play to the base until they've won the nomination. Then they tack back to the centre for the general election. John McCain did the opposite. Having secured the nomination, he then gave himself over to the most hardline - and the least appealing - segment of his party, allowing them to make over his public image into that of an angry and divisive fossil of a bygone election.

They say that generals lose if they fight the last war. This son and grandson of admirals proved that the same foolishness can happen to sailors.

McCain ran the Bush '04 strategy.

There were only three things wrong with this.
  1. McCain is not Bush
  2. '08 is not '04
  3. Obama is not Kerry

In Season One of The West Wing, the fictional Bartlet Presidency is turned around when his staff realize why things haven't been working. Their conclusion? It's the title of Episode 19 - Let Bartlet be Bartlet.

People want authenticity. That's what they liked about Barack Obama. That's what they used to like about John McCain. As one might cynically say, "authenticity is everything - and once you can fake that, you've got it made."

Had Republican operatives "let McCain be McCain," this would have been an entirely different campaign. It would certainly have been a tighter election race.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Real conservatives don't lie

I've previously made the distinction between conservatives (those who, by conviction or inclination are opposed to certain types of change) and "conservatives" (those who mask hatred and bigotry with credible-seeming sound bites).

I used to think Elizabeth Dole was one of the former.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

Turns out that Elizabeth Dole is just another lying, fearmongering bigot who will say anything and do anything to get elected.

Here is a CNN commentary on the single most vile and disgusting ad of the entire US election campaign to date.

Nice, eh.

Why is it that "conservatives" have to lie everytime they say anything?

It's the same as the ongoing crap we see from so many realigners, claiming that Episcopalians in the US and Anglicans in Canada don't believe in Jesus, don't believe in the resurrection, don't believe in sin. Oh, and we're oppressing those liars by refusing to let them steal the silver on the way out the door.


And the technical term in moral theology to describe a person who lies is "liar."

I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Here's what the Charlotte Observer had to say:
“This is indecent. It is the modern-day version of the “white hands” ad, a lie born of Dole’s desperation in a race in which she has trailed for weeks. It is also a deliberate attempt by Dole’s campaign not just to distort the truth, but to shatter Hagan’s admirable record as an elder for more than a decade in Greensboro’s First Presbyterian Church, as a Sunday School teacher and a volunteer in her church’s fundraising campaigns, worship services and community service programs… It has no place in N.C. politics. Unless she admits this egregious, shameful mistake and acts appropriately, Elizabeth Dole has no place in N.C. politics, either.”

Here's the Fayetteville Observer:
The polls show she’s trailing Hagan, and she’s dipping into her own pocket to support her campaign. But jumping into the deep end of the slime pool is no way to catch up.”

The Greensboro News-Record called it "worse than dishonest," "a low blow" and "beyond the bounds."

Here's Kay Hagan's response.

Note the telling piece of scripture she refers to at the end.

I hope Elizabeth Dole pays an immediate price for her disgusting lies.

Of course, there is no possible way the humiliation of an electoral defeat can equal the way Elizabeth Dole has humiliated herself with this vile piece of filth.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Our beloved Grandmére Mimi has received secular validation for her efforts. The Huffington Post has done a feature story on Grandmére - though focussing on her secular political rather than her ecclesiastical political blogging.

Good on ya, Grandmére - though I must say that "Gumbo Granny" doesn't have quite the je ne sais quoi of your usual online appelation.

Apparently, what first got Huffington Post's attention was this lovely bit of online zydeco.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cash and Covenants

Over the past week, two events have arisen from the entrails of the Lambeth Conference.

The first is a matter of mammon. Turns out that the Lambeth festivities fell a trifle short of cash. All told, about £1.2m short. That would be about C$2.5m or US$2.0m. It would be roughly 1.5m Euros or, for the mischievious, 52.5m Rubles.

The Church of Ireland Gazette indicates that there is to be an inquiry.

I should bloody think. Really - £1.2m is almost like real money. It's not pocket change by a long shot. Canada's wartime "Minister of Everything," C.D. Howe had his reputation tarnished for allegedly having callously asked, "what's a million?" (Actually, in a discussion of a C$1.3b wartime appropriations bill, Hansard records him as saying, "I dare say my honourable friend could cut a million dollars . . . but a million dollars from the War Appropriations Bill would not be a very important matter.")

I don't know, offhand, the total budget for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, but I suspect it was something significantly less than £1.3b, so surely the shortfall cannot be so glibly written off.

In my naughtier moments, I've been thinking that the North American Provinces should set up a committee to raise subscriptions to cover the shortfall. The Bishop of New Hampshire strikes me as a good and gracious choice to lead the fundraising drive.

The second item is additional reportage from the Covenant Design Group. The new information includes both qualitative and quantitative summaries of the feedback from the bishops at Lambeth.

Qualitative data is very hard to assess unless one was part of the collection process. The quantitative data, however, includes some interesting tidbits.

Of all the bishops who responded, fully 36% had either "some concerns" or "serious reservations" about the whole idea of an Anglican Covenant. That wasn't concerns or reservations about the current draft. That was concerns or reservations about the very concept.

That 36% included:
  • 50% of the bishops of New Zealand, Central Africa, Central America, Ireland
  • 60% of the bishops of Mexico
  • 61% of the bishops of Canada
  • 67% of the bishops of the United States, Wales
  • 80% of the bishops of Japan, Scotland
  • 83% of the bishops of Brazil
That's fully 11 Provinces where at least half of the bishops have issues with the whole idea of an Anglican Covenant.

Given that the drafts currently in circulation envisage an enhanced role for the Primates of the Communion, possibly in an enforcement role, it is also worth a look at how well these bishops think the Primates Meeting has functioned so far as an Instrument of Communion.

Fully 61.5% of the all the bishops had "some concerns" or "serious reservations" about the Primates' record. That 61.5% included:
  • 50% of the bishops of Brazil, Central America, Myanmar (Burma)
  • 58% of the bishops of Southern Africa
  • 66.7% of the bishops of Korea
  • 67% of the bishops of Australia, England
  • 72.5% of the bishops of Canada
  • 75% of the bishops of Central Africa, Jerusalem and the Middle East,
  • 80% of the bishops of Ireland, Scotland
  • 87% of the bishops of the United States
  • 100% of the bishops of Japan, Wales (Wales was actually 100% "serious reservations")
As one who has, from time to time, analyzed the odd poll result, I don't think the quantitative instrument was all that well designed. This particular question asked only about the record of the Primates Meeting "so far." I wonder what the results would have shown if the research instrument had actually asked about the future possibility of an empowered Primates Meeting. I cannot imagine that the concerns and reservations would have been any less.

So here we have nearly half the Provinces where at least half the bishops are not convinced the Primates are to be trusted (including two Provinces where all the bishops agree on that score), and nearly a third of provinces where at least half the bishops are not convinced about the very concept of any Anglican Covenant at all.

It is worth noting that there were two responses from Kenyan bishops and one from a Rwandan bishop. These three bishops, of course, were at Lambeth in defiance of their respective Primates. It is perhaps significant that all three of these bishops had concerns or reservations about Primatial power.

So should we all.

And now, for something completely different . . . or not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moving forward

Well, our election is over and done with - barring a recount or two.

My party did well - but not as well as I would have liked.

The party I dislike most intensely got thumped around, and had their lowest popular vote since 1867. (Yes, 1867 - that's not a typo).

I'm amused to listen to hysterical Liberals calling New Democrats unprincipled because we didn't roll up our campaigns and go vote for them. The arrogance and the sense of entitlement is breath taking.

Anyway, back to more important things.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Lord, keep this nation under your care.

Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.

Help us elect trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and thus serve you faithfully in our generation to the honour of your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (page 678, BAS)


In the aftermath of the 2004 US elections, All Saints Episcopal hurch in Pasadena, California was subjected to harassment by the US Internal Revenue Service for a sermon entitled If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush. The IRS investigation was based on the suggestion that this sermon - which endorsed neither candidate - constituted political activity inconsistent with the parish's status as a charitable organization. The details of the parish's IRS problems can be found here.

More recently, a group of right wing American evangelicals called upon clergy to preach explicit endorsements of Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin in an effort to challenge those laws which restrict political activity by organizations which have charitable status. It remains to be seen if the IRS will investigate these churches. Will this government agency spend as much energy pursuing 33 clergy for clearly and unequivocally violating the law that they did in pursuing one priest and one parish who unequivocally did not violate the law?

I don't have a lot of use for clergy who use the unanswerable privilege of the pulpit for partisan purposes. My politics are no secret, but I have never used a Sunday sermon to tell anyone what party to support come election time.

I do like Fr. Regas's approach in his October 31, 2004 sermon at All Saints, Pasadena.

He challenges his listeners to consider three issues - ending war and violence; eliminating poverty; holding tenaciously to hope - and how Jesus would have challenged both candidates had He been the third participant in the presidential debates.

Consider Jesus as the sixth participant in our Canadian leaders debates. How would the debates have been different? Would we have judged Him on the relative quality of His French and His English? Or on the content and quality of his message? How would Jesus's participation have shaped the discussion of Canada's mission in Afghanistan? Of the strength of our social safety net? Homelessness? Economic security? Job creation? Child care? The Environment?

Four years ago, at All Saints, Pasadena, Fr. Regas's point was clear in his closing sentence, which repeated a theme used frequently throughout:

When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday, take with you all that you know about Jesus, the peacemaker. Take all that Jesus means to you. Then vote your deepest values.
Amen indeed.

The Anglican Church of Canada has created a very ill-publicized issues page for the current federal election. It doesn't endorse any party either.

People of good faith will disagree about what political approach is likely to be most effective in creating peace, in addressing poverty, in instilling hope. Both the invisible hand of the marketplace and the genius of central planning are human-made idols. But none of us who call ourselves Christian can ignore that Jesus calls us to be concerned about these things.


Vote your values.

Vote all your values.



Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom:

Guide and direct, we humbly beseech thee, the minds of all those who are called at this time to elect fit persons to serve in the House of Commons.

Grant that in the exercise of their choice they may promote thy glory, and the welfare of this Dominion. And this we beg for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. (page 50, BCP).

In case anyone isn't clear on where I stand

The next post will be a priestly admonition for Canadian Christians to exercise their democratic franchise.

This post is an out and out partisan endorsement by a guy whose only qualification is that he owns a blog.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The God of Love

Ten years ago today, a young man named Matthew Shepard died in Colorado.

Ten years ago last Monday, Matthew was offered a ride home by two men in Laramie, Wyoming.

They beat him.

They pistol whipped him.

They dragged him up to a fence on a hill.

And there, they crucified him.

He was found about 18 hours later. The cyclist who first saw Matthew thought he was a scarecrow. When a police officer arrived, she saw that his head was caked in blood. His face was covered in blood, except for two lines stretching down from his eyes, where the blood had been washed away by tears.

Matthew never regained consciousness. He died in hospital six days later - ten years ago today - in Fort Collins, Colorado.

At his funeral, members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas protested with signs that said things like "God Hates Fags," and "Matthew Shepard is Burning in Hell."

You see, Matthew was murdered because he was gay.

The whole story is disturbing.

That men could go out of their way to trick someone into going with them.

That they could beat someone to the point of death.

That they could crucify someone on a fence.

But, perhaps oddly, the thing that disturbs me most is that people who call themselves Christian could say that he had it coming, that he deserved to die, that "God Hates Fags."

No true Christian can say that, for God does not hate any of his children.

Oh, he may well hate things that we do. He certainly hates that people would beat someone and crucify them on a fence. He certainly hates that people would harass a grieving family.

But God - the Christian God, the One True God - does not hate his children.

This song is about how much God loves us.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Moderation in all things

Up to this point, I have not used comment moderation.

That changed today.

It was one individual who brought this about. A person who has no interest in religious matters, but merely trolls through the blogosphere putting rude, crude and homophobic insults in the comment section, usually having nothing to do with the subject of the post.

It was one particularly crude comment, directed at Grandmére Mimi and me, which was the last straw. If he'd tried this shite in my home I'd have tossed him out. I figured I had the right to do the same on my home page.

Fred Preuss, is banned from this site. All of his previous posts have now been removed. There is no court of appeal.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Further to my last:

It's always good when something that desperately needs to be said gets said.

And with that, what more need be said?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Election Fever

In general, I have kept this blog focussed on ecclesiastical issues.

That said, I have always been passionate and partisan about secular politics.

For me, the connection between faith and politics is fundamental. While recognizing that people of faith may disagree on which approach to public policy best serves the common good, I find the suggestion that people of faith should check their beliefs at the door is nothing short of bizarre.

Politically, I am a social democrat - which makes me a New Democrat up this way. For my American readers, that's a completely different thing than an American New Democrat and more like Senator Bernie Sanders - who I met when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont.

Tommy Douglas - former premier of Saskatchewan, former federal New Democrat leader and a frequent visitor at our house when I was a child - had a very useful fable to explain why progressives should be wary of right wing parties that pretend to be progressive. (American friends may recognize the person who introduces the video.)

Over the past few elections, the Liberal Party of Canada has spent a lot of its time squeaking like mice. Squeaking like mice and claiming that the Conservative government was so very, very bad that New Democrats should abandon our own party and align ourselves with the Liberals. During this election, they are claiming that there is nothing in the world more dangerous than a Conservative majority government.

The last Canadian Parliament was a minority - meaning that the governing Conservative Party depended on one or another of the three opposition parties to get its legislation passed. Defeat on any major issue would mean that the government would fall, Parliament would be dissolved and an election would ensue.

Now, if the Liberals really believed that the Conservatives were so very, very bad, you'd think they would have sought every possible opportunity to defeat the government. You'd think that they would be in their places for every single vote, boldly attempting to bring the government down.

You'd think so.

You'd be wrong.

On 43 different occasions, the Liberals ensured that the Conservative government would survive - either by voting with them, by sitting on their hands and abstaining or, most often, by skulking behind the curtains and refusing to vote at all.

In essence, the Liberal Party gave the Conservatives a majority.

Despite however much they squeaked like mice, it turns out they still thought, and behaved, and ate like cats.

Over on my sidebar, you will see an icon for The Absent Opposition. There, you will be able to select one of 43 different videos showing how the Liberals compliantly handed the Conservatives a majority. Enjoy.

And if you are a progressive Canadian voter, don't be fooled by squeaking cats,

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Here is a letter that we'll be sending out over my signature early in the week. It is addressed to those who have presented their children for baptism at our parish between about 1998 and 2005.

Dear friends in Christ:

It’s that time of year again: back to school time for families with school aged children. Our children may or may not be excited about their return to the classroom, but we parents are well aware of the importance of education in preparing them for adult life.

Our Book of Alternative Services includes a prayer that schools may be “lively centres for sound learning, new discovery and the pursuit of wisdom.” That, surely, reflects the hope of every parent as we send our children off to begin the school year.

I’m writing to remind you of one other aspect of your child’s education – their Christian education.

Our regular Church School program at St. James will begin again on Sunday, September 14, 2008, in conjunction with the regular 10:30 service.

There are a lot of good reasons for you to register your child in our Church School – and, of course, to bring your child to Church. For the purposes of this letter, I will only refer to two.

There is a direct correlation between Church attendance and higher grades. That may seem startling, but that is what a recent US study shows. Children who go to Church regularly have higher grades, lower drop-out rates and are more likely to feel like they are part of their school community. They also breathe easier, live longer, are better behaved and more well adjusted. You can find the LiveScience article online (

Okay, so that was several good reasons all rolled up in one. But here is the other reason: because you promised.

A few years ago, you came to St. James of a Sunday morning, bearing a precious bundle, and asking that your son or daughter be made a member of the Church through Baptism. At that time, you made certain affirmations and commitments on behalf of your child. You also made one commitment on your own behalf. The priest asked you, “will you be responsible that the child you present is nurtured in the faith and love of the Christian community?” And you answered, “I will, with God’s help.” Bringing your child to attend Church School allows the rest of us in the St. James family to help you with that promise.

St. James aspires to be a welcoming community, offering spiritual nourishment for all people. We look forward to seeing you.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Malcolm French
Interim Priest

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Katrina and Gustav

One of the remarkable things about the interweb is the manner in which one can build virtual community. Not that virtual community can or should replace corporeal community, of course. But new technology does afford us the opportunity to connect with folk with whom we might not otherwise connect.

Of late, I've connected with Anglican blogger extrordinaire Grandmère Mimi. She's not my grandmère, certainly. Far too young for that. But she is a grandmère all the same - and doubtless a delight to her grandchildren.

She is also a proud native of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Like many people along Gulf coast, Grandmère Mimi - along with Grandpère, whose name I don't think I've ever seen - has decamped to safer ground pending the landfall of Hurricane Gustav. We will all be able to follow her progress at her blog.

Gustav, of course, is arriving three years almost to the day after the massive destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Gustav comes while the people of that area are still rebuilding after the double devastation of nature's fury and society's failure.

Grandmère's bishop - the Rt Rev'd Charles Jenkins, Bishop of Louisiana - has also blogged about his departure from home. He notes that he and his wife have had offers of hospitality from around the country, but that they will only be going as far as Baton Rouge, "so that we can be poised to minister to God’s people here in the place we call home."

Pray for Bishop Jenkins, for Grandmère Mimi and for all the rest of the people along the Gulf coast whose lives were disrupted three years ago by Hurricane Katrina, and whose lives are being disrupted yet again.

As a sailor, my mind turns to the words of a hymn - words that don't quite fit, but which I will make to fit here.

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril from the sea!
Grandmère Mimi and her family are safe according to new posts on her blog.
The Rev'd Jane Bearden, a priest of the Diocese of Massachusetts, is blogging from Biloxi, Mississippi where she has been workin with the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. We need to remember that the threat of Gustav, like the devastation of Katrina, extends along the whole Gulf Coast.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lies, damned lies and distortions

I've always heard it attributed to Mark Twain.

There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.
I've even been known to use it myself.

It isn't quite accurate, though. There are other types of lies.

One of the most effective lies is the half-truth.

Unfortunately, in the current Anglican wars, the "conservatives" have been making tremendous use of this inherently dishonest tactic. Any isolated incident is siezed upon and proclaimed to be the norm in North American Anglicanism. The fact that these isolated incidents have most often been addressed, usually in a timely fashion, is deliberately left out of the story. Inconvenient facts are denied if they get in the way of the "conservative" slander machine.

Today, we have another tissue of lies posing as "conservative" Anglican journalism. Andrew Carey, right wing polemicist and son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has produced an opinion piece recently published at Anglican Mainstream.

As a matter of policy, I refuse to link to Anglican Mainstream. It is, as far as I am concerned, an example of how dishonest people can use poison, venom and slander to destroy lives. It is a pool of toxic sludge, and I refuse to put souls at risk by sending them there. If you want to find the original article, I suggest you go via Mark Harris's Prealudium site - but on your way, take a moment to read Mark's point by point response to Andrew's Big Lie.

The Anglican far right have surrendered any moral high ground they may once have held. Their entire case is now built on a series of lies, damned lies, half truths and distortions. They occasionally round it out with some phoney-baloney statistics as well, where the total (unverified) claimed membership of some "conservative" province is compared to an arbitrarily discounted Sunday attendance statistic from Canada or the United States. (Of course, the idolizing of membership and attendance statistics goes out the window if anyone raises the data for the English Chaplaincy in . . . er . . . Province of the Southern Cone of America or the faster than the national average decline in the "conservative" Diocese of Quincy.)

Oh, and one of Andrew's lies that Mark fails to address is the fatuous pretence that the Church of England is somehow free of any taint of heterodoxy or any hint of clerical misconduct. Get real, Andrew. The naughty vicar and the atheist bishop didn't become staples of English comedy without a reason.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some Odds and Ends

1. I have mentioned my . . . er . . . affinity for penguins before. Following on that theme, Mad Priest provides a link to this wonderful story from Norway via the Guardian. It seems that Nils Olav, a penguin at the Edinburgh Zoo, is the Honourary Colonel in Chief of the Royal Guards Regiment of the Royal Norwegian Army. Last week, he reviewed his regiment, and was knighted by King Harald. Knighthoods for penguins. I heartily approve.

2. During Lambeth, Times of London Religion Editor Ruth Gledhill blogged about many things - including a very provocative post about the prospects of an Anglican Holy Office. Holy Office, of course, is one of the historical names for the Roman Catholic agency now known as the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and also once known as the Inquisition. Many people - and not just me - have expressed concern that the current machinations around the Anglican Covenant and the Windsor Continuation Group amount to little more than the establishment of an Anglican Inquisition.

British comedian Eddie Izzard explains why an Anglican Inquisition is a contradiction in terms.

3. Nasty little reappraiser that I am, I have never actually advocated that the Anglican Church of Canada start solemnizing same sex marriages. I have, both here and elsewhere, defended the Canadian government`s decision to make such marriages legal. But I've stopped short of advocating for this particular change in Anglican practice. My contribution to the Anglican blogwars on this issue have been principally focussed on the propriety of the Church discerning that God may be leading us in a new direction.

All that said, here is a thought-provoking television commercial from California, where the religious right are busily trying to overturn the California court decision to permit same sex marriages. I don`t claim this makes the theological case at all. It doesn't. But it makes the secular case for civil law quite effectively.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dealing with hate

Bullies are usually cowards.

That has been my general experience.

Those who use violent actions or violent words to intimidate or harm others are virtually always cowards.

Turns out the hatemongers of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church are cowards.

These false Christians are well known in the US for picketing gay themed events. When a young gay man in Wyoming, Matthew Sheppard, was crucified (yes, literally crucified on a fence and left to die) by gay-bashers, these faux Christians picketed his funeral bearing signs saying, among other vile messages, "God Hates Fags."

They picketed the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Same signs.

Of late, they've decided to spread their hatemongering filth farther afield. They've taken to picketing the funerals of US servicemen and women. Not that these Iraq and Afghanistan war dead are gay. (After all, don't ask, don't tell). They picket because they claim the deaths of these young men and women are part of God's curse on the US, not for illegally invading another country, but for tolerating homosexuals.

The faux Christians recently decided that God hates Canada too - and intended to picket the funeral of Greyhound Bus victim Tim McLean.

These faux Christians sure have some wierd "logic." Y'know, I can actually follow their twisted "rationale" for picketing the Sheppard funeral and the Robinson ordination. The US servicefolk is a bit of a stretch, but these young men and women did die as agents of a government the faux Christians believe is cursed.

But I can't follow the logic to why they would threaten to picket the funeral of Tim McLean. He was a carnival worker, not an agent of his government. As far as can be seen from media reports, he wasn't connected to gay culture or the Government of Canada.

Of course, the Westboro Baptists aren't about logic. They're about hate.

Our Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day - himself an evangelical Christian and a conservative on gay rights issues - was quick to take the proper course of action. He ordered that this band of American haters not be admitted to Canada. I may not agree with Stockwell Day about gay rights and gay marriage - or about much else for that matter. But good for him. Clearly, while he believes homosexuality is sinful, he understands that no person is beyond God's love. God - the real one - does NOT "hate fags."

It seems the order was enough. The hatemongers never did turn up. Oh yes, some were turned away at the border. The Westboro faux Christians boldly declared they'd sneak across elsewhere to picket the funeral.

But, like all cowards, they ended up backing down. Apparently, they didn't turn up.

What happened to Tim McLean was horrible enough. Tim's family didn't need delusional hatemongers making it any worse.

Pray for Tim McLean, for his family and his friends.

Pray for Vince Weiguang Li, who is clearly a very disturbed person, and for his family.

And pray for the people of Westboro Baptist Church, that they may come to know the true God, to understand the compassion and love of Christ, and to repent of their blasphemy.

Anyway, it got me thinking.

What is our proper response, as Christians, to those who preach hate in the name of the God of love?

After all, secular gay rights organizations can certainly counter-protest. But we Christians have a particular responsibility to publicly proclaim that the hate these people preach is the antithesis of the Gospel and that whatever god they worship, it is NOT the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

The GAFFEPRONE banning gaffe gave me an idea.

Whenever and wherever the Westboro Baptist Church goes to protest, local Christians should gather, surround them, and sing uplifting hymns about God's love.

It doesn't have to be just liberal Christians. Real conservative Christians, whatever they may think about homosexuality, would still condemn this anti-gospel message.

Clergy should come dressed in clericals, religious as religious. Wear whatever you may have that specifically identifies you as a Christian. Carry banners proclaiming God's love. Carry the cross.

Surround these people who are blaspheming against the gospel and sing, sing, sing!

Sing Jesus Love Me.

Sing Amazing Grace.

Sing All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name.

Sing O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.

Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

O sing joyfully, O sing joyfully unto God our strength.
Make a cheerful noise, make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob.

Consider the unquenchable love of God and think, How can I keep from singing?




That'll show 'em.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Playing the numbers game

The "conservatives" like to play the numbers game. It's all about whose biggest (unless they are the minority). And some of them are even prepared to be . . . shall we say . . . economical with the truth.

The constant claim about the 300 bishops at GAFFEPRONE, for example, conveniently leaves out the fact that nearly 100 of the bishops there weren't ever part of the Anglican Communion.

The number of bishops who boycotted Lambeth is one area of tremendous . . . creativity . . . for the "conservatives." They've been floating different numbers ranging up to 280.

It must be the new math.

There are 880 bishoprics in the Anglican Communion.

A handful of those are vacant at any given time. A few bishops didn't attend due to health or other non-schismatic reasons. So, for convenience, let's call it 870ish bishops left, though that's probably high.

The number being bandied about by conference officials was 670 bishops in attendance. The lowest credible number (from the Guardian's Riazat Butt) was 666.

So then, we have a maximum number of refuseniks in the area of 200. Maybe 204. Possibly 195. Who knows exactly.

But 270, 280 it ain't.

Well, if the math fails, make something up. That seems to be the thing in the "conservative" manual - in the chapter right after claiming you're being oppressed.

Now, one of those sites that I refuse to link to because it's too d****d toxic is claiming that the 670 number was inflated by including the assorted ecumenical observers who happened to be bishops. The evidence for this claim seems a trifle sketchy - which is to say that none was provided.

What I don't get is this: If you managed to get nearly 25% of the bishops to boycott - and nobody disputes it - what does it gain you to . . . dissemble . . . your way to a less than credible claim of not quite 30% where your figuires are going to be seen as less than reliable? As a PR guy, I can tell you that a solid 200 that no one disputes would carry far more weight than a 280 that no one but your die hards believes.

The biggest problem the "conservatives" have isn't nasty libeals. It's their own over-reaching.

Lambeth Journal Videos

Trinity, Wall Street (New York) has posted the ten daily Lambeth Journal videos here. It isn't YouTube, so I don't quite have the technosmarts to embed any of them here at simplemassingpriest. But they are well worth the watch at about six to eight minutes each.

I particularly liked Day Nine, where Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts and Bishop Philip Baji of Tanga (Tanzania) discuss how they have maintained a companion diocese relationship despite sharp differences on human sexuality. One anecdote they discuss is Bishop Philip's request to meet with gay and lesbian Christians when he was on a visit to Massachusetts. Listening to the experience of homosexual persons - just like Lambeth 1998 1.10 actually calls for. Wadda concept.

I also liked the comment from Bishop Gabriel Shoji Igarashi of Kyushu (Japan) in Day Ten, where he calls for the Communion to "take time to wait" in the move towards an Anglican Covenant. But then, I would.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Follow the yellow brick road

Rowan Cantuar's final address to the Lambeth Conference is available here.

He says, at one point, "this is emphatically not about forcing others to conform."

I wish I believed him.

The recommendations of the Windsor Report, without any formal process of consent or reception, has effectively been transformed into an edict to which the whole Communion is expected to submit. Similarly, the preliminary observations - note the word preliminary!!! - of the Windsor Continuation Group have now been enshrined as the immutable roadmap to the future.

Rowan, with no real consultation and no real consent, is seeking to impose a centralized and curial Anglicanism that effectively guts provincial autonomy. Under this centralized, curial Anglicanism, we would never have had room to consider our approaches to divorced Christians, nor to consider the role and ministry of women in the Church. We would have been held back until and unless there was broad agreement across the Communion. But the breadth of agreement which does exist on these issues has emerged largely because people have experienced the graceful lives of divorced and remarried Christians, because people have experienced the graceful ministry of ordained women.

I wish I could trust. I want to trust.

But today, I find myself unable to trust.