9/29/2007

Being Killed, Killing, and the need for laughter.

The Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, aka The Anglican Communion Network, who is also the Chair of the Common Cause Partnership and the Council of Bishops, has a lot on his mind these days. Perhaps too much.

Two different reports of his Sermon at a Eucharist during that meeting stressed references to killing.

ENS in Episcopal Life quotes Bishop Duncan's sermon to Common Cause Partnership:

"My prayer for us who have gathered here is that...we will be such a threat to the present order that we will be found worth killing, if only Columba's white martyrdom, but, if it be so, let it be the red martyrdom," Duncan said, contrasting the "martyrdom" of asceticism with that of death.

David Virtue reporting on the Sermon by Bishop Duncan:

"During his sermon in the cathedral, Duncan said that there hasn't been an Archbishop of Canterbury worth killing since 1645, citing Anglican historian Philip Jenkins."

The two references use the words, "worth killing" as a way to indicate the positive value of some people… praying "that we might be found worth killing," and negative value of others, "there hasn't been an Archbishop of Canterbury worth killing since 1645."

I wonder if the Bishop knows how strange this all must sound. On the one hand praying that you are such a threat to the "present order" that you will be found worth killing is a lot different from praying that IF you are seen as a threat you will bear up and hold fast, even IF that involves your death. Then to turn around and suggest that no Archbishop of Canterbury has been "worth killing" both is a slam to the Archbishops and oddly suggestive that a value might be placed on killing people so that some are worth the price and others not.

Any commerce in which people are a commodity whose value, alive or dead involves judging whether or not people are "worth killing" brings cost benefit analysis to a new low. And, not to put too fine a point on it, it is obscene.

There is considerable talk in dissenter circles of spiritual warfare and some talk about the relative merits of martyrdom and the enduring battle of the forces of good and evil. The language needed for this kind of talk is too easily taken from the annals of war or novels of high romance, kings and princes, and sometimes mobsters. The language for this kind of talk is too often idolatrous.

I think it is mostly unbecoming conduct to pray either to be such a pain in the ass as to cause someone to determine that killing you might be worth the effort, or to weight the merits of killing this or that Archbishop.

In the conflict that rages now I suggest a different line of attack. Instead of being killed or killing, perhaps we could fight with laughter, not scornful laughter which has its own problems, but a laughter of robust delight.

For example, when the Moderator suggests that the church has (as ENS reports) "lost its way" and is "weak, in decline and uncertain about Jesus," we might respond, not by deciding we have had enough of this bishop and we ought to kill him, but by deciding to laugh. Laugh loudly and with gusto, laugh not in derision but with fondness, turning the other cheek, as it were.

Biblical warfare using laughter. Great idea. Beats the hell out of setting fire to people, killing them, deciding to kill them, or wanting to be good enough to be killed.

So when they say of The Episcopal Church, they are "weak, in decline and uncertain about Jesus," perhaps all we need to do is laugh. Such laughter requires practice. That is why an occasional visit to The Mad Priest is good for the soul.

When the Church really screws up (which churches do all the time) perhaps its OK to laugh, even in the midst of struggle against its foolishness. Sometimes I think, " What a foolish gang of people the Church is, and what a fool I am for wanting to be with them, and maybe I sell out to their foolishness and make it my own." What did I expect? Well, what I expect is hope in spite of hope - hope not for what I want or think, but hope for what will be revealed.

We will not all die (or kill or be killed), but we will all be changed... And knowing that I laugh.


20 comments:

  1. In the midst of conflict, +Duncan might want to reflect on one father's advice: "Son, do you think you are doing the right thing?"

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  2. I caught the martyrdom comment last night and thought it deeply strange, but had missed the "1645" bit. So much for Temple (II) and Ramsay, I guess.

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  3. The triumph of Christ. These fools may not have known they were Christ's, but whose else could they be?

    http://asheville.indymedia.org/article/107Clowns

    Saturday May 26th the VNN Vanguard Nazi/KKK group attempted to host a hate rally to try to take advantage of the brutal murder of a white couple for media and recruitment purposes. http://www.volunteertv.com/special

    Unfortunately for them the 100th ARA (Anti Racist Action) clown block came and handed them their asses by making them appear like the asses they were.

    Alex Linder the founder of VNN and the lead organizer of the rally kicked off events by rushing the clowns in a fit of rage, and was promptly arrested by 4 Knoxville police officers who dropped him to the ground when he resisted and dragged him off past the red shiny shoes of the clowns. http://www.volunteertv.com/home/headlines/7704982.html


    “White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.

    “White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

    “White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

    At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”

    The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”

    It was at this point that several observers reported seeing several Klan members heads exploding in rage and they stopped trying to explain to the clowns what they wanted.

    Apparently the clowns fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the rally, they believed it was a clown rally and came in force to support their pointy hated brethren. To their dismay, despite their best jokes and stunts and pratfalls the Nazis and Klan refused to laugh, and indeed became enraged at the clowns misunderstanding and constant attempts to interpret the clowns instruction.

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  4. Well, we are numerically in decline, weakness is in the eye of the beholder (God's power being made perfect in weakness), and as for being "uncertain about Jesus," your mileage may vary. I am concerned about the fact that we appear to have no compelling missionary rationale or impetus in the Episcopal Church. Why should people become Christians, much less Episcopalians, when any other religion (or combination thereof) will get you where you want to go just as easily? Why join the church when many secular organizations have just as much (perhaps more!) passion for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as we do without any of the spiritual baggage?

    My opinion is that the only reason to join the Episcopal Church is that within our tradition is found a transformational faith in Jesus Christ. Frankly, we are not going to be the best social service agency, political action committee, or even patron of the arts. What we can do is be the best Church we can be, the place that people come when they are spiritually hungry with the expectation that they will meet Jesus and will be transformed by that encounter. Any decline of the Episcopal Church is not due to our views on homosexuality but because of a reliance on a combination of spiritual inertia, ecclesiastical nostalgia, and a rapidly eroding "establishment church" mindset.

    We need to rediscover our missionary zeal, our deeply rooted spirituality, and our incarnational service to the world. Until we do that, we're just moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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  5. If you want another example of the threat of violence, go to this listing on Titus One Nine in which violence is threatened against people who have somehow upset Bishop Steenson.

    http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/
    t19/article/6484/#comments

    I find this trend among the conservatives extremely troubling. Dare I fear, some of them are becoming unbalanced, and dangerously so? And why should we worry about losing such irrational people, for their own health as well as our own?

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  6. +Bob Pittsburgh can be such a bellicose drama queen.

    Fritz in Olympia

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  7. Fr Jake has a post up showing where this language leads. Commenters on SF are weighing whether "it's worth it" to shoot KJS with a gun. And Greg Griffin is saying that it's a good thing to "take up your sword."

    When people feel they are losing they get desperate and use desperate language. But also some desperate person just might think if it's not the worth the price of a bullet to kill KJS - so you're out a bullet - why not.

    It's very very dangerous talk.

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  8. Tom,

    You make several cogent points. But there are many options for TEC to find its niche in the spiritual spectrum.

    1. We could explode the parish model and go with missionary territories focusing on providing spiritual and intellectual support for the moderate and liberal disenfranchised among sacramental Christians throughout the USA.

    2. We could put more emphasis on media based ministry - Internet radio broadcast of Daily Prayer, Education on Feasts and Fasts, Lessons from the BCP....with email/call-in shows.

    3. We could put forward our special charism as inclusive, incarnational, intellectual, and inspired....

    4. We could refocus our efforts on small, inexpensive, simple neighborhood chapels with Lay Readers and Stephen Ministers instead of huge buildings and staffs - or, make more cathedrals and bishops responsible for smaller territories....

    5. We could emphasize common prayer for common people....

    6. We could rethink what a TEC seminary needs to be and while we're about it, what of resurrecting a Practice of the Presence of God and Buberian theology?

    7. We could advocate thanksgiving in the every day....

    8. We could make common worship in the fields and parks across America, under bridges and overpasses, in the streets and parking lots of stadiums befoire games.

    9. We need to SING! SING! SING! the old hymns, the new hymns, joyfully and invitingly - sing alongs in the churches and streets

    10. We can walk our talk and emphasize living into the Gospels daily, quietly, honorably, consistently, and supporting one another.

    11. We can put together Freedom Caravans for those under supression of schismatic bishops and take DEPO to them with joy and laughter.

    These, Tom, are only a few of things TEC can do...care to come along?

    Marc in Dallas

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  9. uoThomas Sramek, Jr. - that was wonderful - glad I had the opportunity to read it - reminded me of Frost's words - 'Home is a place where when you have to go there, they have to let you in.' I am willing to do anything to keep that place alive.

    Heidi

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  10. I have posted the essay at Fr. Jakes, which references this one, on HOB/D.

    As I said in my preface: "Hopefully, this is simply a matter of a poor choice of words, but since words like these would not be overlooked by security in any airport in any country in the world, I think we might want to consider taking them with equal serious consideration."

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  11. +Bob's been carrying around a cross for the last couple of years beggin' someone to put him up on it.

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  12. I am reminded of Holden Caufield's former teacher who noted that that the difference between an immature man and a mature one is that the former wants to die nobly for a cause while the latter wants to live humbly for one.

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  13. Marc in Dallas: I'm putting these on my blog. Thanks.

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  14. Or as Tom Waits puts it "come down off the cross, we can use the wood", Patriarch of the West.

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  15. Marc: Actually, I am coming along, just as fast as I can. My biggest challenge is that I depend on the institutional church for my livelihood, so must be satisfied with small gains rather than radical departures in many cases.

    My point is simply that when people talk about decline in the Episcopal Church, it isn't because of our views on sexuality, it is because we often still don't get the fact that we are no longer the culturally established church. Time to start renting storefronts and working off the (perhaps virtual) shoe leather!

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  16. Canon Richard T. Nolan1/10/07 6:38 AM

    In S.F., presiding U.S. Episcopal bishop affirms same-sex unions
    Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer

    Monday, October 1, 2007

    On Sunday - the deadline set by church leaders for the Episcopal Church to roll back support for same-sex unions - the U.S. church's presiding bishop said unequivocally at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral that there would be no retreat.

    "All people - including gay and lesbian Christians and non-Christians - are deserving of the fullest regard of the church," the Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori declared during an hourlong discussion before services. "We're not going backward."

    Jefferts Schori said these are the views of the church's bishops as well as its lay members - who have increasingly affirmed rights for same-sex couples. As such, Jefferts Schori's comments served as the punctuation to a historic day.

    What will happen next is unknown. But a number of U.S. bishops on Friday declared that they are unifying the scores of breakaway churches that view homosexuality as sinful. They are seeking alternative oversight from conservative leaders based abroad.

    "A schism of sorts seems inevitable," said the Very Rev. Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral, who moderated the Sunday discussion with Jefferts Schori.

    Anglican Communion leaders issued a communique in February for the U.S. Episcopal Church's bishops to state by Sept. 30 that the church would not authorize rites for same-sex unions or approve gay clergy as bishops. Conservatives viewed it as an ultimatum. Some have suggested that the Episcopal Church's price for noncompliance might be lesser status within the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, the body of churches whose roots are in the Church of England.

    The issue of whether gays and lesbians in committed relationships can have their unions blessed by their churches may be the single most divisive issue in U.S. Christianity today. Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran denominations all are torn over the issue. But it plays out dramatically on a global scale among Anglicans, who are the largest, most unified Protestant body in the world.

    Jefferts Schori and other Episcopal bishops believe the Anglican Communion is defined by a tolerance for a wide set of beliefs. They believe the communion should continue to minister to a variety of views.

    "The pastor's job as shepherd is to mind the whole flock," Jefferts Schori said, referring to a biblical parable of a shepherd who goes searching for one lost sheep. "I am continually, prayerfully reminded of those who are wandering off. The job of the church is to reach ever wider to include the whole."

    That Jefferts Schori was in San Francisco on the deadline day was a coincidence: She had accepted the invitation to come over a year ago, long before the Anglican Communion's leaders issued the communique on same-sex issues in February. But her views, the Episcopal Church's direction and the setting all affirmed each other.

    "It's an accident in some sense, but it's a blessed accident," Jefferts Schori said in an interview about the significance of her speaking Sunday in San Francisco.

    The 27,000-member Diocese of California, based in San Francisco, has ordained more gay and lesbian clergy than any other. Priests in the diocese - which includes San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa counties and part of Santa Clara County - have blessed same-sex unions for more than three decades.

    Those practices, once on the margins of the Episcopal Church, have become the mainstream.

    The church's House of Bishops gathered in New Orleans last week to discuss how to respond to the communique. They chose to maintain the status quo: They would "exercise restraint" by not consecrating any gay, partnered candidates for bishop, and they would not authorize "any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions."

    For conservatives, the statements were hollow because it allows priests to privately bless same-sex unions.

    "This is neither prohibition nor restraint," said a statement issued Wednesday by the Right Rev. John-David Schofield, bishop for the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin. "It is simply turning a blind eye."

    Conservative bishops and priests in the United States believe Anglican leaders in Africa hold a truer understanding of Christ's teachings.

    "The church in the West has lost its way," the Right Rev. Robert Duncan, the bishop of Pittsburgh, said on Friday, in announcing the new coalition. "The church in the 'Global South' is utterly clear about what it is to follow Jesus Christ."

    Jefferts Schori said on Sunday that she sees the path of Christ in a different manner.

    "Jesus hung out with people on the margins," she said. "He hung out with people who were unacceptable to the Judaism of his time.

    "He didn't spend a great deal of his time seeking to throw people out. My sense of what it means to follow Jesus is to love the image of God in our neighbors and respond to the needs of the image of God in our neighbors."

    Jefferts Schori is skeptical of the fate of any breakaway churches or diocese, saying Duncan's efforts would be the latest in a line of splinter groups that failed.

    "There's such a long history of splitting that it would be a sign of the Spirit's movement if he were able to gather them into a coherent whole," she said.

    "American Protestantism is characterized, unfortunately, by the desire to fracture," she said. "There's a piece to American character that we have to have fully defined, black and white, precise understanding. And that's not a terribly Anglican characteristic."

    Many of those gathered Sunday applauded Jefferts Schori, saying they support her views and believe that the direction of the church will ultimately lead to full equality - having formal, authorized rites for same-sex unions.

    But some view the current treatment of gays and lesbians as tantamount to second-class status.

    Christopher Hayes, 40, of San Francisco said he and his partner of 13 years are in the planning stages of their same-sex union, a ceremony that will take place in Grace Cathedral. But he feels frustrated by the state of events.

    "I want to hear that we're not satisfied with where we are right now," he said.

    Jefferts Schori said the time is not right - yet - for such a moment.

    While some conservatives may leave because of the church's views, she said others may be drawn to the fold.

    "Decisions the church as a whole makes can open the door wider for people who have not been part of a faith tradition or this part of Christianity. ... The church always is changing."

    E-mail Matthai Chakko Kuruvila at mkuruvila@sfchronicle.com.

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/01/MNI9SHAUQ.DTL

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  17. The really strange thing is that the Common Cause folks are fighting to uphold the current order. They are fighting to uphold a traditionalist position.

    Is he suggesting that conservatives will be martyred for attmepting to oppress and expel homosexual people?

    Isn't it the conservatives that need to apologize for centuries of oppressing, closeting, and (sometimes) killing homosexual persons?

    Isn't traditionalists that have often turned a blind eye to violent oppression of homosexuals?

    Isn't it CCP folk-hero Archbishop Akinola that supports laws that oppress and imprison folks for speaking about their sexual orientation?

    This is screwed up and shows how out of whack some of the more schismatic forces in the AACNCCP are. Let's hope he doesn't actually believe what he said and what just trying to gin up a rhetorical victory.

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  18. My lord of Pittsburgh hopes "we will be found worth killing."

    Sorry Bob. But you are worth a good belly laugh.

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  19. I vote with Alison. Let's have a mass moon-in of the CCCP (|)(|)(|)
    These folks are seriously in need of some kosher drama coaches: kwityerhamming!

    NancyP

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  20. Elizabeth: As I said in my preface: "Hopefully, this is simply a matter of a poor choice of words, but since words like these would not be overlooked by security in any airport in any country in the world, I think we might want to consider taking them with equal serious consideration."

    at first I thought that Bobby simply chose his words poorly, and that the rest of them were just being boorish. and then I read Elizabeth's comment, and remembered that Gene wore a bulletproof vest to his consecration.

    I hope these folks were just having a bad moment. I hope Kathy doesn't have to start wearing a bulletproof vest all the time.

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