4/25/2015

TREC and The Episcopal Church as an international church.

It is clear that the TREC (The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church) Report to the 78th General Convention concerns itself with The Episcopal Church. That is, its mandate grows from concerns about the future of TEC viewed as a spiritual, social and political agency or entity within the United States of America.

The mandate for its work is stated this way: "To urge The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself, so that, grounded in our rich heritage and yet open to our creative future, we may more faithfully: proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; teach, baptize, and nurture new believers; respond to human need by loving service; seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation; and strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth."

The mandate engages the "Five Marks of Mission," which has become a kind of "Anglican Communion " icon.


Many in the Anglican Communion make use of the five marks of mission as a touchstone for what it would mean to be faithful to the Gospel. Each of these Five Marks are universal in scope, although some imply locale. The hope is that these "marks" found wherever Christians gather, might indeed reasonably map out the missionary scope of the Church worldwide.

The Five Marks are interestingly not described in a sacramental or incarnational form, but rather in operational form. We are to baptize, teach, nurture, respond in service, transform, challenge, strive to safeguard. These are things we do, but they are not seen as outward and visible signs of Grace, nor are they seen as embodiment of God's presence.

So it is possible, as the TREC report so clearly shows, to hold up the five marks of mission as something which we must faithfully be about, and yet spend most of the energy in the report on a "reimagining" that hardly touches on the doing of these five marks. For this report "reimagining" preceeds "doing." 


We should note that the TREC report has astonishingly little to say about the "Foreign" work of The Episcopal Church. It looks primarily at the "Domestic" side of the reimagining, and the church it images is one growing primarily out of local engagement. In its "engagement process" there was little to indicate any involvement by Episcopalians outside the US.  

All this is appropriate, given that it is precisely the "local" with which parish churches have lost touch. As local social conditions have changed, and people and groups have gone and come, what used to be neighborhood churches have become churches disconnected with locale. It is quite understandable that TREC has focused on the work needed to be responsive in local terms - on a variety of levels of "location."  In spite of there being TEC congregations and dioceses outside the United States of America TREC quite rightly has focused on changes as they relate to life in the church in locations part of the US. TREC has, as a result, very little to say to the notion that TEC is an international church. 

The one place where the "Foreign" in the title of the church as a corporate entity (The Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society) is concretely addressed is in the interesting proposal that the General Convention be closely tied in with a "Missionary Convocation."  The section on this reads as follows: "the Church could convene a General Missionary Convocation both in person and virtually, potentially concurrent with General Convention." (p.47)  The canonical provision is simply this, "Each General Convention shall function for the Church both as a legislative body and as a mission-oriented convocation." (p. 61).  There is no suggestion one way or another that "Mission" in this general missionary convocation concerns foreign as well as domestic issues and concerns.  I assume it would.But the report says little about this.

The sixty two page TREC report references "foreign" 26 times, always concerning the title "Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society."  It is silent on just what "Foreign" might mean in practice, except to refer in turn to Anglican Communion interests.  "International" comes up exactly once, in reference to the Presiding Bishop's role. (p.12). 

TEC has touted its "international" character, noting that there are 16 jurisdictions outside the USA that are part of TEC. But TREC says very little about those jurisdictions. 

TEC is international in its internal life. We are increasingly conscious that we are a church made up of indigenous peoples,of immigrants from England, the islands off shore from mainland Europe, from Hispanic, Haitian, Caribbean islanders, African slaves, and Asians, and more. But that is in TEC itself.  What about the overseas jurisdictions? Are they what give TEC its international character? 

TREC does not address the issues related to our missionary efforts in these other nations. Surely, as part of our reimagnining we might think of a policy or image of the future in which those jurisdictions become fully churches of their own. 

TREC has little to say to the future of our engagement with emerging churches in jurisdictions not part of the USA. 

My sense is that this failure by TREC needs to be addressed. To the extent that it is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society that is our core corporate model, we ought to have a policy, or at least a imagining of TEC as a jurisdiction always devoted to autonomy for those areas outside the USA. 

How will TREC's reimagining move us to a missionary zeal to see those parts of TEC in other countries become autonomous? 

 

3/30/2015

Dance, dance, wherever you may be...

 If we Christians of a liturgical bent get through the three days - Maundy Thursday to The Vigil of Easter - we take part in a holy event unlike any other in the Christian year. 

In a wonderful meditation on the meaning of the Triduum Jim Friedirch writes
 
"To treat the Triduum as a la carte, or to skip it altogether, would be to miss the richness of the interrelated whole. Imagine only seeing one act of Hamlet, or skipping the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. There are things we can only find out by entering into them fully. The journey is how we know."


Read the whole thing HERE. 

The journey is how we know. It is true, often true, that the only way to know is to walk, to journey, to go from here (messy meals with friends and disaster following to absolute devastation in execution), to there, ( the stunning and strange emptiness that points to fullness of life, and joy.)  Sometimes the only way to know is to take a journey. And the liturgy of this journey can be powerful.

I remember one year at St. Thomas' Newark, where I was interim, we paid considerable attention to Holy Week, and in particular the Triduum (although I didn't call it that at the time). We did indeed see and experience it as a whole. One of those who came for every part of this liturgical cycle said, "Thank you for making Holy Week holy."

It solidified my sense that we ought to look at the whole of that time (including the "intermissions" between services) as a time of meditation on last and then first things, on weeping and then dance.

At the close of Jim's meditation he says, 
 
"In the apocryphal Acts of John, Jesus leads his disciples in a dance. Some are resistant, but he tells them, “Those who do not dance do not know what happens.” By the time we reach the Vigil finale Saturday night, dancing around the altar to “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” we will all know what happens."  

Here at the church by the bay and the big water in Lewes, Delaware, people are not much given to dance in the physical space that is our church, but perhaps, just perhaps, we will have been on the same journey, and the dance will be by the heavenly beings that hover 'round us when we sing with delight that indeed "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."  And who knows, maybe there will be dancing in the aisles.

3/27/2015

Bishop Ogé Beauvoir leaves Diocese of Haiti for Haiti Office of Food for the Poor. (corrected)

Bishop Ogé Beauvoir is leaving his appointment as suffragan bishop of Haiti to work for Food for the Poor, an interdenominational relief and development agency working primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean. In a news release on 3/26/15 posted on the  Food for the Poor website, 

"The Board of Directors for Food For The Poor-Haiti has named Bishop Ogé Beauvoir as Executive Director/FFP Haiti Office. He will be responsible for the charity’s operations within the country and provide a vital link to the organization in the United States. The appointment is effective on May 1. 
...
He is currently Bishop-in-charge of the Northern Region of the Episcopal diocese of Haiti, a role he will relinquish when he begins work with Food For The Poor."


Bishop Beauvoir was ordained bishop in Haiti May 22, 2012. 

The Episcopal Church of Haiti, which currently consists of a single diocese, has grown so large that it may soon request to become two dioceses.




3/26/2015

Learning a new language, the language of Calculus

Here in Preludium land an experiment is underway.  Blogger me (Mark Harris) is attempting to learn the language of calculus.  I'm very bad at it, just as I am with Spanish, French and Creole. So why in the world try?

Well, three reasons:

(i) as the text "Calculus, from Graphical, Numerical and Symbolic Points of View" (by Ostebee and Zorn) states, "Here is another reason to study calculus" because calculus is among our species' deepest, richest, farthest-reaching, and most beautiful intellectual achievements." It begins to see the abstract mathematical language as a language that tries to make sense of change, variables, in a context where change itself is understood as a function of a world view. And the beauty of it is that if I can grasp even a bit of it, I grasp an idea that permeates my thinking and talking about a whole range of complex ideas.  Well, at least I hope so! deep, rich, far reaching and beautiful... sounds good to me.

(ii) as a bona fide ol' fart, I need to exercise the grey cells with some depth or lose them entirely. This stuff is exercise indeed. The problem is, as an ol fart it is also hard as hell, but there it is. It's supposed to be hard.

(iii) I have a sense that beauty in mathematics is linked to beauty in other realms, and I am in other realms - spiritual life, liturgy, poetry and printmaking, walking with beauty all the time. So the guess is that doing this work, as much as I am able, is another window into the world where the mind and the world are one, because beauty in the last instance is one.

What does this have to do with Anglican futures?  Well who knows. Maybe not much, but I think otherwise. Just as I think making art is a factor (dare I say a function) related to Anglican futures. Not directly of course, but in that round about way that living in community, with all its various spiritual, mental and even mundane ways, is a complex variable system in which beauty often escapes our notice, caught up as we are in the flow, the change, the flux, of things. 


by Mark Harris, woodblock
Being Anglican is a difficult way to be Christian, for the assertion of faithful being is, for us, not a settled thing, but rather made up of constants and variables interlaced and unsettling. Being Anglican means keeping mind and heart and soul in constant relation such that the faith is expressed every day in ways that surprise and renew.



From Rocky Horror Picture Show

More, I am convinced that living biblically (as Stringfellow would say it) is about living in a world of constant engagement with life and language and meaning, such that The Word of God lives creatively in us. There is a strange calculus of engagement with the biblical world that requires grasping the reality of God in words that always fail, in deeds that always fall short, in live that always are too short for wisdom's maturation. Perhaps a bit of training in calculus is a reminder that the grammar of theology is filled with variables within functions that name at least part of the range of our experience of God's presence.
by Mark Harris, etching

And, of course I am stating it badly.

Suffice to say, the experiment may fail completely, for mental agility is sometimes a younger mind. But, maybe Dylan is right, and we can be forever young. I also have a lot of help from a mathematician in the family, Jo Ellen, who is putting up with petite problems (although large to me) along the way.

Meanwhile, Preludium will also be scoping out the vineyards where the grapes of wrath (and otherwise) are found.  Not giving up my night job just yet!




3/25/2015

Communion Partner Bishops doing the Anglican Covenant two-step. (reformatted)

Bishop Dan Martins, of Springfield, a fine man and great blogger, wrote this in his comments on day four of the House of Bishops Spring Meeting:

"The time slot after dinner was dedicated to various interest groups, so I hung out, naturally, with my Communion Partner colleagues. CP is dedicated to fostering the highest degree of fellowship possible between TEC and the other Anglican Communion provinces, especially those in the Global South, and advocating continuously on behalf of the Anglican Covenant. We had some strategizing to do as we look toward General Convention."

Well, there it is: the Communion Partner Bishops had a chat up at the House of Bishops Meeting and worked on strategies related to General Convention. 

What might they have been strategizing about? Certainly strategies concerning the "highest degree of fellowship possible between TEC and the other Anglican Communion provinces" are in order. I would think most of those strategies would be of great interest to the World Mission Legislative Committee. Some of the critique of the Continuing Indaba thingy of the Anglican Communion office will surely come up. Certainly there will be issues concerning relations the Global South provinces and relations with GAFCON (they are not the same). And of course there will be the concerns of missionary action in a hostile world and the relation with Islam in its many forms.

But sure as the sun comes up, the strategies will indeed include "advocating continuously on behalf of the Anglican Covenant."

Last time around, when asked if TEC would assent to, sign on to, approve, or adopt the Anglican Covenant, the General Convention responded with "not now."

There is already a resolution being suggested for this Convention regarding the Anglican Covenant, coming from the Task Force on the Anglican Covenant. I am sure that there will be from one source or another a simple resolution, reading something like this:"Resolved the House of ________ concurring, that the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Salt Lake, Utah, June 23-July 3, 2015, adopts the Anglican Covenant." Likely there will be one resolving that GC reject the Covenant.

There was some passion last General Convention for and against the Covenant, many supposing that because we were asked we were under some constraint to answer at Convention.  Those advocating for the Covenant and those advocating against the Covenant wanted to put the General Convention on record. None of the passionate were pleased with the result, which rejected both positions.

This time around, I detect little passion. Time has passed the Covenant thingy by. The big items on the agenda this round are about marriage, the budget, re-imaging the church, electing a presiding bishop, and maybe doing something about theological education. 

The Anglican Covenant will not draw much careful interest.

That is both a curse and a blessing. I believe it should get no attention at all. That is, the Task Force should note that there is little new action out there on the Covenant and have done with it for the moment, recommending that we continue to monitor the developments regarding the Covenant and make recommendations as necessary in the future.

 
But if it gets some attention from the Communion Partners, and little attention by those opposed or wanting to kick the can further down the road, we could end up having a up or down vote get to the floor, where in the rush of legislation it might slide on by with a tepid yes vote.  

So it becomes important to know just what the Communion Partner bishops are thinking about doing, and to know just what sorts of resolutions are coming forward and from where. And it becomes important to have witness at the hearings who speak against the Covenant, or for continued non-engagement. 

The counter to advocating for the Anglican Covenant by adopting it is still not necessarily advocating against adoption ever. It might still be to advocate not adopting it now.

We might remember that there is no definitive "no" vote. A "no" vote now could be changed in three years to a "yes."  The Anglican Covenant managers in the higher realms of Anglican land are not (I believe) interested in the "no's"... those can change over time. It is the "yes" votes that count.

Of course "yes" can be reversed as well, but saying "yes" and later saying "no" is a bit more difficult to pull off with grace.The value to the yes vote is that it is evidence that things are moving along and all will be well in Anglican land lead by the Anglican Communion Office.

At the moment I can think of no reason to say "yes" and buy onto the Anglican Covenant. I believe it to be a seriously flawed document. The arguments against it are increasingly persuasive, particular the arguments that draw on decision making in the Church of England - decisions which would have been much more difficult had the CofE adopted the Covenant. See Lionel Deimel on this HERE.

If it came to a yes or no vote, I'd advocate for the "no."
But I don't think it needs to come to that.

Those who think TEC is going down the wrong path on many fronts would perhaps love it if we voted "no."  It would simply prove their case once again.


Why give them the satisfaction?  

And of course, should they prevail, we would all be in deeper than we want. Suddenly those who believe TEC is the terrible thing GAFCON believes it is would have many cases to prove their point. And bishops (and others) in TEC would have grounds to bring the wayward into line on the grounds that their actions ran counter to world wide Anglican norms. 

The whole trouble with this Anglican Covenant thingy is that it is the prelude to a world wide Anglican Church - it is the prelude to the Anglican Communion as yet another branch acting like a tree. There are too many branches acting like trees out there already, and too much of that wood has been used to burn out the heretics and malcontents. Do we really need a world wide Anglican Church, whose purpose is to keep the party line pure and the local franchise undefiled? 




Not now, not ever.