6/28/2017

Why "The Jesus Movement" movement does not always ring true.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has made "The Jesus Movement" a rallying point and a touchstone for an important effort to focus in on a way to see the work of the Episcopal Church as a continuation of the work to which Jesus calls us, a call presented in the Gospels and the writings of the early church.  That "Jesus Movement," explores, meditates upon, and acts on, the core message of the Gospel, by a "drilling  down" to find strategies and agendas for this day. It is immediately and eternally important to the life of any Christian community. 

I am thankful that the Presiding Bishop has so clearly announced that he and this church of ours need to cling to the movement that Jesus proclaims by his words and actions, and by his death and resurrection.  So something like The Jesus Movement is indeed at the core of our life together in Christ.

The Episcopal Church, by way of the vision and insights of the  Presiding Bishop, has defined "The Jesus Movement" in the following way (from HERE).
 
What is the Jesus Movement?
 We’re following Jesus into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, with each other and with the earth.
How do we join?
First, we follow Jesus. We are simply the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, seeking every day to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Just like Jesus.

What’s our work?
We’re working on simple practices for each priority area – if it’s a Movement, then we should all be able to grasp the ideas and get on board. Then we’re mapping a strategy that inspires and equips all of us to join God and make a difference.

The Jesus Movement takes you places. For the Episcopal Church, it calls us to focus on three specific Jesus Movement Priorities: (Evangelism, Reconciliation, Creation Care)"

All of this is of course shorthand for a much more nuanced set of connections between being a follower of Jesus and a member of a movement. But it is a start.

There are problems, however, with the whole enterprise - the enterprise of understanding the work of the church as the work of the Jesus Movement (however conceived):

It is unclear who speaks for and who, if anyone, governs this movement, except of course Jesus. And, as you may recall, Jesus has returned to the Father, leaving governance of his community in the hands of the Holy Spirit.  It is unclear just how that Spirit acts in the Movement, and who speaks authentically with the Spirit's voice. 

This is not the first American expression of "The Jesus Movement."   The PB did not invent the phrase, "The Jesus Movement." There was a "Jesus Movement" which grew in the 1960-70's and which had considerable impact at the time and then subsided." (See the Wikipedia article HERE.) That Jesus Movement had local presence in Ann Arbor in 1968-72  while I was chaplain at the U. of Michigan. It was a very mixed bag indeed. It was both counter cultural and charismatic, communal, sometimes with authoritarian leadership. It was attractive and repulsive at the same time. This version of "The Jesus Movement" viewed being a member of an established church community (The Episcopal Church for example) as apostate.  It claimed to have the Spirit's voice in ways not available to the established church. I listened, but was not moved very much.

Surely this is not what the Presiding Bishop means by "The Jesus Movement." Still, when I hear people talk about "the Jesus Movement" with great facility and fluidity I become cautious and suspicious. The last Jesus Movement viewed my being an Episcopalian a visible sign of my being apostate. There was no "Episcopal branch" of that Jesus Movement then. This Jesus Movement seems more inclusive.

Having been accused of a "hermeneutic of suspicion" I am hesitant to voice my suspicions, but they are there.

My sense is The Jesus Movement (in both the 60's incarnation and in the present) is both life giving and also life absorbing, both enlivening and costly.  It seems a rallying phrase not to be used lightly or without cause.

Yet there is a lot of "climbing on the band-wagon" going on in the Episcopal Church these days. The phrase "The Jesus Movement" is invoked with considerable abandon, and I wonder about the sincerity of the invocation and wonder if those who lay claim to being part of the Jesus Movement have any sense of the costs of doing so.

Part of the problem presented by the "Jesus Movement" idea is that it is about personal life choices - choices to live in "liberating and life-giving relationship with God and each other and with the earth." At the same time the Episcopal Church, which is a institutional entity, is identified by its leadership as "the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement." But that is not true. The Episcopal Church is not the branch of The Jesus Movement. It might be the institutional tool for some people who are part of the Jesus Movement, but a church is not the incarnation of a movement.

It may very well be that some or even most Episcopalians see themselves as part of "the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement." If so they can move The Episcopal Church to institutional actions that support strategies held by those in the Jesus Movement. But we should be clear, the strategies are those of the Movement, not necessarily those of the Church. 

I find the whole notion that membership in Episcopal Church somehow means we are "a branch of the Jesus Movement"  problematical. The Jesus Movement is extra-ecclesial, that is it is not part of any church, rather churches are seen as institutional instruments for the furthering of the Jesus Movement's strategies and goals. That seems as true now as it did for the Jesus Movement of the 60's.

Beyond the question of the relation between "The Jesus Movement" of five decades ago and  the Presiding Bishop's "Jesus Movement," there is the question of how the Presiding Bishop's call to follow Jesus is picked up by church based media and how it is roundly applauded by various church sorts who in all likelihood have no intention of moving very far from the safety of the institutions of the church to take on movement status.

My diocese is in the midst of choosing a new bishop. Both its profile and the responses of many of those nominated reference The Jesus Movement as promoted by the Presiding Bishop.  The Jesus Movement, of which we are understood to be the "Episcopal branch," is similarly referenced by a number of dioceses and parishes around the country. All of which is fair enough, and indeed a sign that the Presiding Bishop's words have taken hold. Still, it is worth pointing out that the "we" in "we are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement," is not the Episcopal Church, but rather some of its members. And, in my local situation, I find it odd to think of the Diocese, in which I have served for 48 years, as a movement.

We live in a world where it remains true that " “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."(Matthew 7:21, NRSV) And, I suppose, not everyone who claims to be part of The Jesus Movement will enter either. Doing the will of the Father remains. And that will is larger and more life demanding than movement strategies of evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, or any other strategies.

Take care, lest the movement take the place of the Spirit, who as I remember, works through the Church, around the Churches, over the Church and Churches and underground, beneath every attempt to wall it in. May we always be moved by Jesus, and always moved beyond any movement, institution or cause.



6/12/2017

Canterbury responds to GAFCON and ACNA: its a start.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to the ACNA / GAFCON announcement that they were poised to ordain a missionary bishop for service in Scotland, England and Europe. His response, in the form of a letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, can be read HERE.

I suspect the ABC received considerable advice, sought and unsought, concerning what to do. Preludium carried a post several days ago that included the following:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has to speak up, and quickly, to stop the dance. The objection is not about the binding nature of Lambeth 1988 resolution 72 or Lambeth 1998, 1.10,  but about the reality that GAFCON and ACNA are mucking about because they believe that the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of England are corrupted by a false gospel.  If so, they are out of communion with those churches, as they are with TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada.

The rupture in the Anglican Communion now consists of a breach of trust and boundary crossing between some member churches of the communion, and some faux Provinces (ACNA) and the Church of England itself, whose relationships of full communion define which churches are part of the Anglican Communion. It must now be addressed as an internal matter for the Church of England. "


Well, the Archbishop has indeed spoken up. He references the matter of boundary crossing with this observation:

"I would also like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries. It also affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof. The conclusion of this resolution was that in order to maintain our unity, “it seems fair that we should speak of our mutual respect for one another, and the positions we hold, that serves as a sign of our unity”.

The issue of cross-border interventions has continued to come up in recent conversations within the Anglican Communion, and may well be something that is included in the agenda for the next Primates’ meeting, which takes place from 2 to 7 October 2017, in Canterbury."

The Archbishop hints that this will make it onto the agenda of the Primates' meeting in October. That is certainly a venue for further discussion, but it puts off for some time the pressing matter that by mid-summer there will be an bishop of a North American Church operating without diocesan permission in several dioceses in England, Scotland and in Europe.  It may be that the ABC will want to wait, but I would suppose that various bishops in Scotland and England might act sooner and declare that by the presence of that bishop acting within their jurisdiction, a state of broken communion now exists between those dioceses (and indeed those Provinces) and the GAFCON Provinces. in the case of ACNA the lack of full communion status is already the case, ACNA not being part of the Anglican Communion or holding full communion relationship with the CofE or the Scottish Episcopal Church by other avenues. But surely bishops whose jurisdiction is challenged by the presence of this foreign bishop have every business saying that ACNA's actions make any hope of full communion impossible.

The ABC referenced the question of Royal Mandate. He wrote "The idea of a “missionary bishop” who was not a Church of England appointment, would be a cross-border intervention and, in the absence of a Royal Mandate, would carry no weight in the Church of England."  This is an important observation. As I understand it (and I could be wrong) it is by royal mandate that bishops in England are ordained, hold jurisdiction and title, and have attending rights in England. An exemption was made so that British subjects and foreigners might be consecrated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for work in "foreign lands, without such mandate." But within England such mandate is necessary if it were to carry weight with the CofE. 

What this means, I suppose, is that clergy claiming to be bishops in England related in any way to the life of the Church of England or in any way representing the wider Anglican Communion are fraudulent and I suppose subject to legal proceedings. 

So the ABC has taken the first step. Now the bishops whose jurisdictions are ignored and perhaps even the CofE and the Scottish Episcopal Church, need to consider the second step - formal objection and immediate declaration that the ACNA bishop is acting contrary to canon and that impaired communion now exists between the GAFCON Provinces and those dioceses or Provinces so affected. 




6/09/2017

GAFCON and ACNA do the Schismatic Two-Step

GAFON said at the 2017 spring meeting of their primates that were going to appoint a bishop for Europe, with particular attention to the British Isles. While they were figuring out just how to do this and who would be the bishop for this effort, another group (CESA) ordained Jonathan Pryke a bishop for similar purposes. One wonders what that is all about.

But now GAFCON has now decided to use the Anglican Church in North America as the vehicle for its efforts to introduce what it considers "true" Anglicanism to England and Europe. 

Now there will be two bishops beating the bushes in England and all of Europe, claiming to be true Anglicans but denying the ecclesiastical validity of the Anglican churches already there.

GAFCON and ACNA are involved in a schismatic two-step. 

Archbishop Foley of ACNA announced yesterday in Edinburgh, Scotland, that Canon Andy Lines will be ordained as GAFCON bishop

You can read his bio HERE.

Archbishop Foley stated,

"The GAFCON Primates have asked our Province, the Anglican Church in North America, to take on the task of providing a missionary bishop for Scotland. Our Province was formed at the direction of GAFCON 2008 after many of the Provinces of GAFCON had provided the same kind of oversight for clergy and congregations in North America. They have asked us to consecrate Canon Andy Lines."

"Our College of Bishops discussed and decided to accept this responsibility. Following the Canons of our Province, the Executive Committee of the Province was not only consulted, but also voted unanimously to support this endeavor. We also appointed an oversight Committee of Bishops to provide guidance and accountability for Canon Lines as he walks through our consecration process and to support him after he is consecrated a bishop. Archbishop Robert Duncan is chair of the committee which consists of three diocesan bishops: The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood, The Rt. Rev. Charlie Master, and The Rt. Rev. David Hicks."

Two things to note from all this:

(i) ANCA makes the claim that the "Province of ACNA" was formed "at the direction of GAFCON 2008." ACNA makes this claim based on the fact that the Jerusalem Declaration states, "In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognized by the Primates’ Council." 

The Common Cause Partnership was before GAFCON 2008 "a province in the making" and many of its members were present at GAFCON. The notion that ACNA was formed "at the direction of GAFCON 2008" is a stretch. ACNA was formed at the direction of its own leadership, and in particular the leadership of Bishop Robert Duncan, deposed Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh.  To say that ACNA was formed at the direction of GAFCON 2008 makes it sound as if ACNA was a product of GAFCON. It was not.

(ii) Archbishop Duncan, now retired, is still in the mix. He is chair of the committee of bishops who will work with Lines. Duncan is back, and this time will be supporting the ministry of a ACNA bishop mucking about directly in the workings of the Scottish Episcopal, the Church of England and the CofE and TEC work in Europe.

GAFCON and ACNA are continuing to claim the moral high ground, referring again and again to the Lambeth 1998 resolution on sexuality (Resolution 1.10). Like the claim that ACNA was formed at the direction of GAFCON, the claim that Lambeth 1998:1.10 constitutes the established doctrine or discipline that is binding on the whole communion is just not true. It is not true even if the Windsor Report says so, or the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion says so. Lambeth was constituted as an instrument for sharing in a fellowship already established and signaled by being in communion with the See of Canterbury. It is not a binding deliberative body.

Proof of this is that ten years earlier Lambeth 1988 passed resolution 72 on "Epsicopal Responsibilities and Diocesan Boundaries." It too was assumed by many to be binding on all Anglican churches in the Communion. It stated,

"This Conference:
1. reaffirms its unity in the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries; and in light of the above
2. affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.
3. urges all political and community leaders to seize every opportunity to work together to bring about a just and peaceful solution."

Lambeth 1988, Resolution 72, stands just as Lambeth 1998, Resolution 1.10 , as the resolved position of the Communion. The Windsor Report (section 155) called for a moratorium on actions contrary to Lambeth 1988, Resolution 72 just as it did on actions contrary to Lambeth 1998, 1.10.

But neither resolution is binding.

ACNA and GAFCON have regularly disregarded this resolution on the grounds that The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and now the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of England have fallen away from the true faith.

GAFCON and ACNA are now dancing the schismatic two-step in Scotland and England.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has to speak up, and quickly, to stop the dance. The objection is not about the binding nature of Lambeth 1988 resolution 72 or Lambeth 1998, 1.10,  but about the reality that GAFCON and ACNA are mucking about because they believe that the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of England are corrupted by a false gospel.  If so, they are out of communion with those churches, as they are with TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada.

The rupture in the Anglican Communion now consists of a breach of trust and boundary crossing between some member churches of the communion, and some faux Provinces (ACNA) and the Church of England itself, whose relationships of full communion define which churches are part of the Anglican Communion. It must now be addressed as an internal matter for the Church of England. 

This is no longer a matter for the Anglican Consultative Council, or the Primates, or the Lambeth Conference. This is a matter for the Church of England and its Primates. 

The Episcopal Church owes much to the Scottish Episcopal Church and we need to stand by and with the SEC. In addition we too have churches in Europe and they are subject to raiding parties from  ACNA and GAFCON as well. It is important that we stand with vigilance against the possibilities of ACNA and GAFCON incursion into the life of various of our parishes in Europe.

But most importantly, it is time for the Archbishop of Canterbury to act and separate the Church of England from communion with those who call the CofE morally compromised.  Now the CofE is itself being taken to task, and as well the Scottish Episcopal Church. ACNA and GAFCON have come to Europe and are out to finally bring the war home to Mother.

There are now two world wide organizations, the one called the Anglican Communion, is "fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury."(Lambeth 1930).  The other is The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans" organized as the GAFCON primates and their provinces together with certain regional bodies which they consider provinces or provinces in the making.  The two are increasingly adversarial. And GAFCON / ACNA have now moved further into an offensive posture.

It is time to call them to account. It is time to ask, "Are you in communion with the See of Canterbury or not?"


5/27/2017

The rootedness of the Episcpal Church of Haiti, Reconciliation and new beginnings towards autonomy.

Tuesday May 23rd, marked a moment of new hope in the life of the Episcopal Church of Haiti.  

photo from Episcopal News Service, Michael Hunn
The Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, the Bishop of Haiti Jean Zache Duracin, and the now resigned Bishop Suffragan of Haiti Ogé Beauvoir, and members of the Diocesan Standing Committee signed a covenant which it is hoped will focus the Diocese on its future.

The Presiding Bishop preached at the Eucharist which drew the parties to the covenant together with the clergy of the Episcopal Church of Haiti. In that service, the covenant, already signed and in force, was signed again in the presence of the clergy of the Diocese. The Presiding Bishop's sermon may be found HERE. 

Towards the end of the sermon Bishop Curry said, 

"The roots of this diocese are in Bishop Holly’s fervent desire that the loving, liberating and life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ should be proclaimed among the descendants of Africa here in Haiti.

The roots of this Diocese are in Bishop Holly’s passionate conviction that following the way of Jesus the Church here might help the people and nation of Haiti to rise up and to claim the high calling among the nations of the earth.
But ultimately the roots of this Diocese are in the one of whom Isaiah prophesied when he said:

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah 11:1
The roots of this Diocese are in Jesus Christ who died, and was raised from the dead, by the loving power of our God, who the Bible says, makes all things new.

So, standing firm, rooted in the faith of Christ Jesus, let the Diocese of Haiti rise up and reach out anew!"

Bishop Curry's words are moving and totally appropriate to the context. The "root" metaphor is deeply meaningful in Haitian self-understanding. Christy Wampole, in her book, "Rootedness: the Ramifications of a Metaphor" recalls its use by both Toussaint Louverture at the beginning of the Haitian Revolution and Jean-Bertran Aristide in 2004.

"Toussaint Louverture used the root metaphor in 1802 as a rallying cry for the success of the Haitian Revolution, when he declared: "By overthrowing me, they have only brought down the trunk of the tree of freedom in Saint-Dominque: It will regrow because its roots are deep and many."  Jean-Bertran Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, later appropriated this declaration on the occasion of his own removal, in the first speech after his exile in 2004."

The metaphor is also used in biblical literature. Bishop Curry was right to reference the passage from Isaiah, as a sign that the depth of the roots in the Episcopal Church of Haiti are to be found in the stump not only of the Haitian revolutionary tree whose hopes were for the liberation of the people of Haiti, but the stump of Jessie from whom would arise Jesus who liberates us for a new creation.

There is as well another context in which rootedness is a metaphor of considerable importance to Haiti, and Bishop Curry's sermon alludes to it: 

"The roots of this diocese are in Bishop Holly’s fervent desire that the loving, liberating and life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ should be proclaimed among the descendants of Africa here in Haiti.
The roots of this Diocese are in Bishop Holly’s passionate conviction that following the way of Jesus the Church here might help the people and nation of Haiti to rise up and to claim the high calling among the nations of the earth."

Bishop Holly
 In order to get to those roots there was the willingness to cut down Haiti the colony of enslavement, of European power, Haiti the "tree" of colonial empire. The Haitian Revolution had to cut down the tree that had been sustained by slavery and live in the confidence that Haiti, the true Haiti was rooted in the source African voice still present in its people. Those people, now free by virtue of their revolution that cut down the tree of Haiti the slave colony, were called to a new beginning as Haiti the free. 

Bishop Curry reminds us that the roots of the Episcopal Church of Haiti also are deep and many. The tree goes back to the work of Bishop Holly in the 19th Century, work that was both religious and political in its desire to live free in Christ. But ultimately, the "roots that are deep and many" go back to Jesus Christ. Thus, the way out of the conflicts of the day is to recall and regrow from the roots, to renew the church by returning to its roots. For the Episcopal Church of Haiti those roots are Holly, the quest for liberation from slavery and slave making states and the desire to live free, and the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So in responding to a current conflict between the Bishop and his Suffragan Bishop, and between clergy who have taken up the cause of one or the other, the appeal was not to resolution by reference to custom or canon law, but by reference back to the root from which the efforts of the Episcopal Church of Haiti sprang, roots which themselves called on all members of the Church to be followers of Jesus Christ, part of a new way of being. Bishop Curry calls this "the Jesus movement," which is not finally an institutional presence but a commitment to life together as God's people.

Many people have worked to make this resolution of current conflict possible. Bishop Curry has been particularly helpful. Hopefully the way forward to a good electing convention and a positive transfer of the episcopate to a new Diocesan will take place. All signs are good.

At the same time it must be pointed out that there have been times in this lengthy process where the reactions of The Episcopal Church in its bureaucratic voices to matters in Haiti were paternalistic, patronizing, and colonial minded. It is past time for TEC to put away such ways of responding.

I have argued that The Episcopal Church of Haiti is poised to move into ways of being church that would lead to its autonomy as a church. See my essay HERE.  Progress to that end has been delayed by some years by the preoccupations of the past year. Hopefully the new elected bishop of Haiti will stand ready to take the church into an autonomous future which will give voice to the rootedness of which Bishop Holly speaks and Bishop Curry favors - a church truly Haitian, rooted in its people and in the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

5/22/2017

Death and Resurrection of a Seminary: EDS and its future.

The Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) is, as a stand alone seminary of the Episcopal Church, dead. I was able to be there as it breathed its last. It ended with lots of words, possibly inenviable political correctness, and vague promises for an afterlife as a new entity, EDS at Union Seminary. 



Those who hope for its future and those who simply mourn its past both have to deal with the reality that if there is a resurrection body, it is not the same as the body that died.  Whatever EDS will be about in its new Union suit, it will not be the same as it was when it wore Episcopal garb. That much is sure. What is not sure is whether or not EDS/Union will remind us of anything of value in the 160 year history of the Philadelphia Divinity School, the 150 year history of The Episcopal Theological School or of the joint venture, The Episcopal Divinity School. If not, the death of EDS will be just that, death and nothing after.  If there is in the new body EDS/Union some real connection to its predecessor bodies, and those connections bend the trajectory of the work of the new body, then EDS will have found resurrection.



For now, however, the reality is that there has been a death in the family. EDS is gone. 



I have not been a regular attendee at reunions, but this year marked 50 years since graduation from ETS and because I was additionally being honored as a distinguished alumni, I went to part of the celebration of this year's graduating class and alumni days. It was an emotionally confusing occasion. 



I am always struck by the ability of us "older" types to grouse about changes to the way things were. The question is, when are those complaints more than signs of our own calcification of brain pathways and when to they actually provide useful critique? Hard to say. But there was very little to give me hope in the remarks of various elders, or in my own remarks for that matter. 



About the only thing I had to offer was in remarks I made at a panel on "Celebrating our History."  There I suggested that it seemed to me that real theological education took place in community, and that the three year residential program provided a context in which students and faculty could interact with considerable "contact."  While the ways in which community was expressed could and did change, the fact of such community was invaluable to me as a ground for theological inquiry. To lose that immediacy and intimacy of contact makes it easier to be polarized, separated, and isolated.  I have no notion if anyone heard.



Meanwhile, at the last graduation days,  I heard a surprising amount of "special" language, language that was somehow meant to signal that the speakers were all on the side of justice and the virtues of true inclusiveness. EDS went out with a politically correct bang. But I heard little about how God's sense of both justice and mercy might be so unlike our senses of the same as to make our political correctness seem like the sounds of parrots mouthing right words without content. I heard little about humility, limits of reason, and sin ingrained in the righteous and unrighteous alike.



Frankly, the EDS that spouts the proper politically correct words does not impress me at all. Rather I remember with fondness the EDS / ETS communities that were willing to hear out each of us in all our incorrectness.  That aspect of our history of engagement in matters of justice seems more to the point. Any damn fool can believe themselves politically correct. But a community of damn fools, conscious of the limitations of each of its members, might lurch its way forward to do surprising things on the search for God's justice and mercy.



It would be good if some of that seeped into the new EDS at Union thingy... then perhaps the School will live again.