Usher, Chair, Compass, GITMO and Reconcilation: thoughts on things Anglican

Two weeks ago I was honored to accompany one of the ushers at the Washington Cathedral for the Evensong and reception recognizing volunteers at the Cathedral. Don Matthews was honored for fifty-five years of service. It is an amazing accomplishment. Don continues his ministry at St. Peters, Lewes, the village by the bay and the big waters. He is among the faithful ministers of the altar, historian, usher and a caretaker in the house of the Lord. His ministry is among the "things Anglican" that remind us that service in the Lord's house is high among what makes for our perfect freedom.

While there I took pictures of several things more or less pertinent to this blog and perhaps of interest to readers of Preludium:

The cathedra, with its inscriptions carved in the Glastonbury stone chair, an adaptation of the Chicago- Lambeth Quadrilateral: "Holy Scripture and Apostolic Creed + Holy Sacrament + and Apostolic Order." The reference to "Apostolic Creed" and "Apostolic Order" accent further then does the Lambeth Quadrilateral the claims to authority of both creed and order. The Chicago version of the Quadrilateral refers only to the Nicene Creed. The Lambeth version refers to "The Apostles' Creed as the Baptismal Symbol." Both versions refer not to "Apostolic order," but to "the historic Episcopate." Inscribed into the cathedra, perhaps a stronger claim to Apostolic power was in order. It looks like a very uncomfortable seat.

Things Anglican include odd ways of remembering: The stone for the cathedra comes from Glastonbury Abbey. Gladstonbury is a sometimes mystic source of connection between Anglicanism and the Cup used at the Last Supper.

In front of the cathedra, inlaid in the stone floor is a version of the compass rose symbol of the Anglican Communion. So behind the bishop is a paraphrase of the Quadrilateral. In front is the symbol of the Communion, whose words are "The Truth Shall Make You Free."

Truth, it turns out, is not a matter that keeps us at rest, but rather motivates us to action, to places where there are no seats, comfortable or otherwise. Anglicans know that. There was an interesting meditation on the Compass Rose over at Episcopal Cafe. Read it HERE.

And then, while off to find the men's room down stairs, I saw again, carved into the stone on the stairwell, GITMO. I had seen it before but had always assumed that it denotes some stonemason, or was the stonemason's idea of some sort of masonic graffiti.

But no, it was the abbreviation that most of us never heard of before the United States government authorized extreme forms of interrogation at Guantanamo that led to the accusation that the US condones torture. It is the same abbreviation GITMO, used by the military and others in reference to Guantanamo. Dean Sayer who died recently had that stone inscribed in 1964 in honor of that unusual community. Over the years you can see the marks of people's hands who have touched the stone.

Given what has transpired there, perhaps now there ought to be a rack of votive candles that can be lit by pilgrims in penance for the national shame of having allowed this sort of interrogation to happen. Perhaps this can be a bit towards the reconciliation that needs to come.

Sometimes, it appears, we remember places and things for one reason, and then in our fallen state we find they are reminders of other more painful matters.

At Executive Council, meeting this last week in Helena, Montana, a resolution was passed concerning possible work on reconciliation with people and organizations in the Common Cause Partnership. The resolution reads as follows:

"Resolved, the Executive Council, on behalf of The Episcopal Church, expresses the heartfelt desire to seek the reconciliation we are promised in Christ our Savior, and the unity of disciples for which he prayed, through conversation with the members of the Common Cause Partnership either individually or collectively and without precondition on our part; and

Resolved, the Presiding Officers are requested to appoint a Task Force on Reconciliation for this purpose; and

Resolved, the Task Force on Reconciliation is encouraged to seek a person acceptable to all
parties to facilitate such conversations in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council."

Episcopal News Service and The Living Church have commented on this resolution as have bloggers. Many of the bloggers wonder if this is all just show. Some wonder if such talks will lead to a diminution of commitment to the full participation of gay and lesbian members in the Church. Well, if it really is about reconciliation we ought none of us have any fear. If it is not, it will become dust.

Reconciliation is always possible, and in the very very long run the surety that gives us hope. Anglicans live always in such hope: The stones shout out for it, even those we sit on; the compass is always set on a path towards the vision of it; the memories of our failings fade in its light. Reconciliation stands at the far side of repentance and just actions both. In the end we are reconciled by the blood of the Lamb. Finding reconciliation is a little like seeking the Holy Grail - perhaps only a legend, but perhaps a seeking for the healing of the nations as well.


  1. I am not optimistic about this reconciliation thing ... as I see folks like Schofield, Duncan, Iker & Co adopting the "scorched earth" policy of the Roundheads. But I remain calm, knowing that folks like you were there at the Executive Council meeting. I trust you all would not sell us down the river.

  2. Reconciliation stands at the far side of repentance and just actions both.

    It seems that if we learn anything from these Anglican blogs, we learn that one person's "just actions" are another person's gravely unjust actions, and one person's "repentance" is another person's surrender of deeply held principles.

    I think I would prefer a different model of reconciliation, where "mercy triumphs over judgement" -- a model more closely related to God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Something based on mutual understanding and forgiveness rather than looking to the far side of "repentance" and "just actions".

    I'm afraid, Mark, that if the ligitation continues, then this talk of reconciliation really is just show, and your Task Force on Reconciliation will exist only negotiate the terms of CCP's surrender -- and I don't believe the CCP will be particularly interested in that. They're not going to sell their people down the river either.

    No one is going to buy the line, "We're going to take your churches from you, but we want to be your friends." It may work for you, but no one else will be taken in by that stance.

    TEC will be known by its actions, not by its noble sentiments about reconciliation. And there is no way TEC 's leadership is going to give up on its "fiduciary obligations;" they mean much more to them than reconciliation.

    Sorry to be so pessimistic. I would love to believe you folks are serious about this; I would love to be proud to be an Episcopalian again. But I don't have much confidence in this happening.

  3. I sympathize fully with rb's comment, and see no reason CCP should trust ECUSA in any matter whatsoever. Having said that, there are no hopeless situations for the Christian. I applaud the Executive Council for reaching out to CCP in this manner. Even if the motivations are less than pure (which I am not alleging), we know God uses all things for good.

  4. “I would love to be proud to be an Episcopalian again. But I don't have much confidence in this happening...”

    Well, if you feel that way, you can always leave for some other denomination.

  5. Kurt is under the delusion that the new inclusive Church can afford to keep alienating and rejecting those with criticism.

    This kind of thinking convinces me that there is some kind of pride in the fact that TEC is fast becoming a micro-Church. The only problem is that it isn't going to survive this kind of thinking. It's time to stop the abominations and anathemas and realize that the progressives have hurled the Church past anything near to center big time. This hasn't rested well in many minds.
    Get off their case when they tell you so.

  6. Not only am I not optimistic about reconciliation, I think it's ridiculous!!!

    We've done what Christ asked in TEC, by addressing quietly, then in front of witnesses, then before the ecclesial body and have been rebuffed.

    Reconciliation cannot occur when the Reasserters don't want it. Get over it.

    We're worried about a "franchise?!" Well, all this constant self-sabotage in deference to abusive "brethren" is in danger of losing us the Gospel franchise.

    We worry about losing numbers while ignoring the fact that the unchurched we so want to reach are desperately wanting to see a church who will embody progressive views while having the strength and courage of conviction to stand up to the disinformation and abuse of bigotry.

    It's doing the same thing we've always done, the old Episcopal joke, and it's no wonder it's failing - it's insanity.

  7. Kurt:

    Fortunately, my feelings about the denomination do not extend to my local church, which is a bit more conciliatory. Also, there a number of family considerations, friendships, and relationships which prevent me from leaving. The choice to leave a church is a difficult and painful one, and I would prefer to reserve that decision to myself, my spouse, and my children. Nevertheless, I thank you for your lovely invitation.

  8. (Dan)
    TEC could have avoided the mess had it been willing to adopt real alternate eppiscopal oversight. It refued. Polity trumped common sense.
    We have now seen how TEC wages reconciliation. Depositions. Lawsuits. Bitter denunciations. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me thirty times, shame on me. You will never fool us again. To paraphrase a Johnny Paycheck song -take this church ... (and well, you know), I ain't tithing here no more.

  9. What MarkBrunson said.

    Every poll shows that "the Unchurched" are far LESS homophobic, than even TEC is on average.

    It therefore only stands to reason, that we CANNOT reach the Unchurched (in the main) until we get rid of our collective homophobia.

    I don't want to lose anyone.

    But those committing homophobic actions have been confronted on their sin---even allowed space, and time, to get over it---and they (contemptuously) refuse to repent . . . or even allow the righteous to proceed! (Lord have mercy).

    Time to go.

    Go with God, but . . . GO!

  10. Yeah,

    let's start formulating doctrine and practice by what the "unchurched" think or call worthy and important...or don't we already?

  11. (Dan)
    So let's see. The unchurched never go to church and never contribute to the work of the church. All TEC has to do is invite them to be mebers and promise they never have to come to church or contriute a dime to the church's support and the membership rolls wll overflow. And that will prove resserters ahd it all wrong. With a plan like that, I nominate JCF to be in charge of TEC's evangelism program.

  12. It's called the Great Commission - you may have heard of it.

    Still, your comments, Allen and Dan, show the true nature of your "faith" and "committment."

    Please, go. You have nothing to offer anyone but yourselves.

  13. (Dan)
    In the name of all that is inclusive, Mark, I accept your invitation to go -- out of the darkness and into the light. From spiritual death to health and life. From TEC to a Biblically based and Christ centered church. The dust has already been shaken from my sandals.

  14. markbrunson,

    Jesus told the disciples to go out and poll unbelievers and hold a focus group to get their opinions??? THAT's the Great Commission????

    the Great Commission is,
    "Go...MAKE disciples..."
    Disciples are not ready-made off-the-street. Jesus had the notion that people have to be "fashioned" into something that they are not. THAT's the Great Commission.

    Your churlish comment about my faith is ludicrous on this point. It's a lot harder to "fashion" a person than it is to "welcome" a person. Fashioning requires love, challenge, critique, and commitment. "Welcoming" is just the first step, but many folks leave it there because it gets them off the hook from the hard work of disciple-making.

  15. Allen,

    I have not spoken of focus groups and all the other hoopla you imagine. This is what you wanted me to say, not what I said, thus the ludicrousness lay with you. It seems that you wish to keep the church a reflection of yourself - it won't happen, I'm afraid. Historically, from the beginning of Christianity, the church has changed as it learned from the culture around it. It will die if it doesn't do so now.

    My churlish remark reflects your churlish and childish behavior. If you dislike it so, stop doing it yourself.

    If your behavior here is meant to inspire disciple-making, then - for God's sake, literally - go!

  16. Dan,

    God go with you and have mercy on you, because I'm sorry to say you'll carry the Darkness with you wherever you go.

    Still, with God, all things are possible.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.