7/07/2019

Preaching then and now... and standing with and for captive refugees.

(A sermon preached at St. Peter’s Church, Lewes, Delaware, July 7, 2019.... Preaching then and now and standing with and for captive refugees.)

Let us pray: 

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be s peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (Collect 5th Sunday After Trinity, Book of Common Prayer 1662)

July 4, 1776 was a Thursday, just as it is this year. The priest of St. Peter’s, Lewes, probably used the collect we just prayed in services that day.  The news of the July 2nd resolution of the Continental Congress, “Resolved, that these United Colonies are and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved,” had no doubt reached Lewes. The Declaration itself had probably not, but the news of the fact of the Declaration probably had reached Lewes. The collect, calling for quietness and peaceful order would have been quite timely.

The Declaration advertised itself to be, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” But of course, as far as the whole people go,  it was not unanimous at all.  The Declaration was of a hope, not a reality. The difference between these brave statements and the reality of a new governing entity called “The United States of America” rested on a successful war and a twice organized government. The difference was years of blood, sweat and tears, and a time of very sharp disagreements.

There were plenty of people in the colonies, now declaring themselves to be states, who were against this happening. The conflict of strong opinion was universal and local both, and the birth of the new nation torn from British control was accompanied by  great violence.

I have often wondered how at that time the priest of this parish dealt with the variety of opinions in the congregation about independence, revolution, and the looming war. What was preached? How? 

In 776 the priest of St. Peter’s, Lewes, was The Rev. Samuel Tingley. We know about him from the  “Brief Annotated History of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church,” which is part of the packet of materials for the Open Door Campaign. You can get a copy from the office, along with a pledge card for the Campaign. The Campaign, as you know, is about continued growth of this church.  Mr. Tingley was a prime cause for our being a strong parish now.  

An ardent Tory supporter of King George III.” His time in Lewes was probably made easier by the fact that Sussex County was mostly Tory. But the Committee of Correspondence in Delaware was having none of that sort of talk. The propaganda effort in support of Independence required forceful action against detractors of independence.  Overt support to the King could lead to very violent response from those supporting the revolution.

Somehow Mr. Tingley survived as priest here until shortly after the war ended. He left in 1783. He survived in part by changing the prayer for the King to a prayer for “those whom Thou has made it our special duty to pray for” and by not “claiming overt allegiance to the King.” He appeared, in other words, to have exhibited considerable caution in expressing his political views. To his credit, Mr. Tingley did the other really important thing: he was faithful to his congregation. He stayed and ministered. He was one of the few clergy in all of Delaware who remained through the war. When it was over St. Peter’s remained a viable parish in a Diocese that was otherwise close to collapse.

Like then, these are times of disunity, fracture, and astounding differences of political and social opinion. In such times, then and now, clergy who preach are under considerable duress. The possibility of being pilloried or tarred and feathered (or their modern social media equivalents) are real. The vultures of various causes are sometimes ready to pounce.  It’s a great time for preaching, but not so much for the preacher.

Some of us preachers have been here before. I cut my preaching teeth during the Vietnam war. Not an easy time! Over the years I have come to understand the duty as preacher this way:

Clergy who preach in the Episcopal Church derive their commission from three sources: (i) prophetic call that comes to everyone born of the spirit to attend the workings of the Spirit within and proclaim what is called forth from them by God, (ii) Ordination to proclaim and preach the Word of God, i.e.  to preach Christ crucified, and (iii) license to preach in a particular Diocese and congregation.  

That three-fold commission comes only to a few of us. I preach and most of you don’t.  Which gives me, as preacher an amazing ONE UP position. The full weight of authority – God’s spirit, call and the churches license – are with the preacher. So, as a general rule, the Preacher preaches and the congregation listens. 
 Of course the congregation can get their opinions into the larger societal mix by making life difficult for a preacher they do not want to hear more from, but that generally outside the service – in the vestry, in the coffee hour, in the parking lot, by the grapevine, now on social media of the internet, and in the larger body politic. 

But not in the moment. In the moment of the sermon it is hard for anyone to get in much more that an a positive AMEN or an negative grunt or stony stare and the occasional walk out. (And don’t think we preachers are not aware of such commentary.)  Why do you think I am reading this carefully, rather than walking about as I usually do?

As a result of this strange dynamic, where I get to speak and you do not, I believe the preacher needs to be careful not to misuse this position. She or he should not opine in sermon or homily on political preference for this or that person in authority, on specifically who people should vote for, or on the support of or resistance to specific court judgements or legislative actions by government. Instead the preacher should appeal to and direct us to God’s Spirit present in us, believing that there are sufficient pointers and guides in Scripture, the faith we have received, and our ability to reason, that would lead us to right action for the good of all.  That is, here, in the Church, in the context of the Word of God and the Sacramental presence of Christ, “we preach Christ crucified.” (I. Cor 1:23).  

Or, in the context of today’s lessons, we preach healing, not as magic, but as the product of simple and humble trust, we preach that God is not mocked, and that all our boasting is nothing and the New Creation is everything. We preach Jesus, who said,” Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, `Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' "

As Preacher I do not believe I am here to cure political and social ills, now matter how you or I might perceive them. If I want to do take on dealing with those ills, I do so in the body politic.  Many of you know I do that “out there” already.

Here, in the Church, I am commissioned to bring the Good News of God’s healing  presence, grace and love. There is no place for bombast and great show, no place for personal opinion, no place for mocking God, no place for cruelty. We are here to  repeat Paul’s plea, ““Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” 

So, how does this work out in practice?  

Well, we preach all the time that we ought to care for the widow and the orphan, for the weak and the lame, for the foreigner and outsider among us, not because it is politic but because it is God’s spirit speaking through us, informing us that God has a preference for the poor and poor in spirit. And we preach noting that  “nothing matters but the New Creation.” 

So today I believe I am compelled to proclaim that we need to stand with and for those who are held in detention at our borders in hard conditions. It is the Word working in us that calls us to this. And I believe we must stand with and for them because we are called, as Paul admonishes us this morning, “whenever we have an opportunity, (to) work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.“ 

When you hear the Word, however it is presented to you, you will know what to do.  And when you know, you will also be given grace to know how to do it. Mr. Tingley go it right, praying for the King is one thing, but better to “pray for those whom Thou has made it our special duty to pray for.”  So let us now pray for, and work for the release of all those who are bound in captivity, especially those “whom Thou has made it our special duty to pray for.” That would be particularly the children.  And may our prayers be echoed in actions. 

I believe strongly in the power of Christ, working through the Spirit, to bring us all to that New Creation, and that that power will be sufficient for God’s good pleasure, for God’s justice and mercy both. 

AMEN.


5/09/2019

Why I am not giving to the"Bless, 2019 Annual Appeal."



On Holy Saturday I received, as did many of us Episcopalians, I suppose, “Bless, 2019 Annual Appeal” from the Episcopal Church Center. I am only now able to get around to responding to this.

I have decided not to respond by supporting this fund. Here is why:

According to the Presiding Bishop’s Cover Letter (on the inside of the front cover of the Appeal booklet), “The General Convention of our Church gave us a goal of raising $1 million over the 2019-2021 triennium, with every dollar going to support the collective ministries of a Church…”

The booklet then features seven individuals whose work blesses and is a blessing. These are people engaged in the “collective ministries” of the Church. I know several of them personally, and they are wonderful people doing really good and important work. They are indeed a blessing and blessed.

Still there are problems with this appeal.

(i) Nothing indicates what the relation is between the funds given and any of these ministries. A number of these are paid employees of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. At least one is a Diocesan staff officer. Several serve in federal chaplaincies and are (I assume) paid by the government.

My sense is this funding request is unrelated to the specific stories being told, rather the funding is to augment the general budget. That is both good and bad. Good, because I would hate to think that these specific ministries were on the line if the funding did not come in. Bad because there is a disconnect between the asking and the stories.

(ii) The general budget of the Episcopal Church is underwritten primarily by diocesan support, investment income, and services rendered. This million-dollar goal, over a three-year period, is primarily meant to offer individuals a way to personally give to the work of TEC. In some ways that is commendable and there are some individuals who will want to do this. But the literature does not point out the fact that we already give by way of our pledges to the church, in that some portion of our parish income goes to the diocese, and the diocese pays into the work of the whole church. That is, the literature for this million-dollar fund does not connect it to the funding we already give. The answer to the question, “did you give to the Episcopal Church” is already yes. But many Episcopalians don’t know it. A teaching moment passed.

(iii) My sense is we would be better advised to relate these ministries described in the funding plea to the reason for contributing to your parish, so that parishioners can see the direct relation between their offerings and the work of the whole church.

(iv) If this funding program is meant to reach people who do not otherwise give to the church, fine, but if so, say so. Make this fund an opportunity for thanksgiving by those who do not already give by way of their pledge or offering through the parish.

Unfortunately, this request comes with only a vague connection to the realities of either the breadth of ministries in the church or the budgetary needs to support them. A rather large portion of the TEC budget concerns administration costs, which have little funding appeal. So it is indeed much more interesting to highlight ministries of blessing. But it does seem to me that unless we can see meetings of various committees, costs of support staff, funding of mission by dioceses, as blessings as well, we are not making a compelling case for funding through this project. This funding proposal is for the general budget of the church, not just the work of easily identified blessings.

I believe the funding of the church is the funding of an instrument of blessing and that the accountability for that funding is not by way of highlighting the “easy” avenues of blessing, but by highlighting the blessing that is the whole thing. Meetings of ecumenical committees, committees studying prayer book issues, coordination of particular sorts of ministries (campus ministry, hospital chaplaincies, etc), investment committees, etc. all need to be brought into the ring of blessings.

So, thanks but no thanks. I already give to the work of TEC, and I pay attention to that giving. And, indeed, I see that as supporting a blessing that blesses.

This project needs more work.

3/28/2019

The Episcopal Church of Haiti works for transparency, unity and a new election


The Episcopal Church of Haiti (the Diocese of Haiti) is setting forth a broad plan to strengthen the diocese through transparent and clear authority, exercised by the Standing Committee as the ecclesiastical authority, a visitor - bishop for pastoral concerns, a chief operations officer, and a committee on reconciliation. This path forward is the result of the work of the 2019 Synod and of the Standing Committee and the Executive Council.

The following letter was sent by the Standing Committee to all bishops of the Episcopal Church.


March 26, 2019

The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
All Bishops of the Episcopal Church

Dear Bishops:


Greetings in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Following a great farewell for Bishop Duracin on February 28, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti immediately assumed its canonical responsibility of becoming the ecclesiastical authority until the appointment of a new ordinary. We are glad to report that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, many lay and ordained leaders have been at work to keep the Church in Haiti on the right path. Attendance at church services remains amazingly strong in spite of the political turmoil that has plagued the country these last months.

We are aware of the confusion created in the minds of many as they hear of all sorts of reports and comments about the last episcopal elections that did not receive the necessary number of consents for the ordination of the bishop-elect. Now that we must move cautiously to ensure that a next election will be successful, we are inviting all concerned to seek the proper answers to their questions by addressing them to the standing committee.

The Standing Committee is fully committed to total transparency and is eager to answer any and all questions concerning its functioning, and the integrity and dedication of its members. No question is taboo.

We count on your prayers and togetherness in this pilgrimage of Becoming in spite of the borders that separate us, the Beloved Community.

A blessed Lenten Season.

In Christ, we remain yours,


Rev. Father Fritz DESIRE

President, The Standing Committee
The Episcopal Church of Haiti


Additionally, the following report regarding the work of the Executive Council was issued:

Haiti Executive Council- Report

The first Executive Council was held March 21 from 9h to 13h at the Diocesan Office under the leadership of the Standing Committee, the ecclesiastical authorities of the Diocese. The following decisions made by the Standing Committee have been announced:
1. The Rev Kesner Ajax has been named Executive Secretary of the Diocese;
2. The Rt Rev Peter Eaton, Diocesan Bishop of Southeast Florida, Bishop visitor;
3. A COO will be named soon in consultation with the Presiding Bishop office.


Other decisions,
1. The Synod secretary must publish a summary report of all decisions made the previous year at the opening of each first meeting of the new year.
2. The Diocesan Committee “ Peace and reconciliation " will start its action among the Clergy according to the Plan submitted by the Standing Committee.
3. Election and installation of the next Bishop Diocesan will be organized during the next two years.
4. The division of the Diocese will be part of the Standing Committee agenda in its discussion with the Presiding Bishop.
5. Business in the Diocesan institutions and Diocesan Committees will keep on going as usual.
Peace,


Rev. Fritz Desire
President, Standing Committee of Haiti


Leadership of the Diocese during this period leading up to the election and installation of a new diocesan bishop is in place, and clear. Principles of transparency and reconciliation are being applied. A process for both a new election and of reconciliation in the diocese is being implemented. It also seems clear that the two processes - for election and for reconciliation - are related but separate. The work on reconciliation will inform the skills and abilities sought for in new bishop candidates, At the same time the Standing Committee will provide the leadership that in turn will guide the work of election and reconciliation both.


Interestingly the Executive Council will take up the issue of division of the Diocese with the Presiding Bishop. The long-standing effort to form new dioceses in Haiti seem now to be coming to fruition.


The Episcopal Church of Haiti is, as a single diocese, is in terms of baptized members perhaps the largest in the whole of the Episcopal Church. Even with the turmoil in the civic sector and conflicts within the church, the Episcopal Church of Haiti is vibrant and alive. There are good reasons to consider dividing the current diocese in to several dioceses, all part of The Episcopal Church of Haiti, working with an ecclesiastical structure influenced by years as part of The Episcopal Church and modeled on Bishop Holly's vision of an autonomous apostolic-orthodox Episcopal church of Haiti.


All of this is very promising.

2/25/2019

Doing the Lambeth Walk: Is it worth it?

Heat, but not much light.

There is beginning to be a bit of heat generated concerning the next Lambeth Conference, set for 2020. 

The Lambeth Conference meets about every 10 years, barring war among nations or infighting among member churches. Ten years out from the last meeting would have meant meeting in 2018, but it seemed inauspicious to do so. So this time the gap is twelve years, not ten. The matter of auspicious timing is still in contention.

Controversies in the Communion at the time of the last Lambeth Conferences led to invitations being withheld and/or bishops refusing to attend.  Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire was not invited because gay and Bishop Martin Minns, a bishop in the new Anglican Church of North America, not in communion with Canterbury but claiming to be Anglican, was not invited because he is not a bishop in the Anglican Communion.  A number of bishops boycotted the meeting because the bishops of the Episcopal Church were in attendance.

This time around, with a new Archbishop of Canterbury in the seat, the ABC  determined (i) to invite all bishops period, and (ii) not invite partners/ spouses of those who are gay or lesbian.  Again some bishops part of the GAFCON movement, are boycotting the meeting.

How many bishops will stay away because those terrible people from churches that in one way or another have affirmed same-sex unions are invited is unclear. There will likely be several hundred who will not attend. How many spouses/partners are struck from the list for being unacceptable is unclear, but it is very small. Maybe three.

But the Anglican Communion leadership will plow on, moving to the date in 2020 when the Lambeth Conference will convene. The engine has been engaged. 

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has spoken about all this in a letter. He speaks of "global excitement." Unfortunately, the excitement is dampened by the limitations imposed by the Archbishop and by the boycott from GAFCON. 

Actually, "global excitement" is a bit of a reach. Most churches in the Anglican Communion have other fish to fry and if this mess is any indication of the concerns of the Communion leadership, excitement is hardly the word for how the Lambeth Conference is perceived.

The notion of the Anglican Communion as a worldwide church is misconceived.

For some of us there is a deeper disappointment in seeing all these pronouncements. They seem to arise from the mistaken belief that the purpose of the Anglican Communion is to speak with one voice, as a worldwide Church and that Communion leadership is charged with making that happen.

We Anglicans are in this mess because there has been an increasing temptation to think of the Anglican Communion as a Church that has a particular role as a church among worldwide church bodies, and therefore ought to speak with internal unity. 

The decision to withhold invitations is justified by reference to the resolution of Lambeth 1988 (1.10) and its statements about marriag and homosexuality.  Whatever the opinion of Lambeth 1988, the basic problem is that Lambeth statements and resolutions were never meant to be binding on the churches in the Communion. But for some reason this one has become elevated in a way previously reserved for such foundational documents as the Creeds. This is profoundly disturbing. It makes some, or at least this, Lambeth Conference resolution binding in an almost creedal way.

The Secretary General at the close of his letter writes, that the Conference, the bishops and spouses, etc, will be "blessing to His precious Anglican Communion." I too pray that the Anglican Communion can be a precious "thing" in God's redemptive presence in the world. I also sense that the Anglican Communion is a precious thing. But believing that the Anglican Communion is precious is, at the very least, a mixed blessing.

Precious does not mean essential.

If we are not careful Anglicans can come to the conclusion that we are essential. We are not. My sense (of no account as it is) is that we Anglicans are held to be precious in God's eyes not because we are essential, but because we know we are one way of being Christian, not the only way. We know we are a provisional community of provisional churches. We may not be the best, and we certainly are not the only, answer to the question, "what is the church?" We are the answer for particular communities whose histories are informed by the Church in England.

But what IS precious about the Anglican Communion is precisely that provisionality. 

This is why the Anglican Covenant is both unnecessary and contrary to what makes us precious. We are not a church with a particular covenant of its own, but rather a community of churches sharing a covenant not their own, but of the church catholic. That is, our covenant is the baptismal covenant and the symbol of that covenant found in the Creed. What we do in our several Anglican Churches is live out the implications (as we understand them) of those primary covenants and symbols. 

The terror of the faith is that we ought to proclaim as central only that for which we are willing to empty our selves, to die for, to commit to fully.  To believe that Jesus is God present with us is worth my life. That is entirely different from my level of belief in the Anglican Covenant statements concerning theological and ecclesiastical unity and conformity. 

I do not fault the Secretary General for being concerned for a peaceful meeting at Lambeth, to which bishops of very different theological sensibilities might come. That is, in part, his job.  But the Archbishop of Canterbury has made that job harder by proposing to exclude those who are viewed as "the problem."  The Archbishop of Canterbury, both the current and the last ABC, has tried to make Lambeth Conference "clean" by sweeping out bishops, and now spouses, who are "problems."  He has tried to make the Conference bearable by making a few adjustments. 

That is, of course, a really bad idea.

Since the original purpose of the Lambeth Conference was to provide bishops a chance to talk, and not something formally including their significant others, I suggest the Archbishop retract the invitation to spouses, period. 

Should that not happen (and I have no particular hopes that it will) I see this whole exercise as yet another reason to consider Anglican Communion self-image to be badly deformed and the Anglican Communion as an increasingly irrelevant idea.

The President of the House of Deputies in TEC, The Rev. Gay Jennings, just spoke this week at the meeting of Executive Council on this matter. She said, 

"I hope that there is still time to resolve this situation and ensure that all bishops’ spouses will be invited to the Lambeth Conference. But if that is not possible, I think that the day is coming when we will need to take a hard look at where and how we invest the resources of The Episcopal Church across the Anglican Communion." (emphasis mine)

One possibility for resolution of this situation might come from advice offered by the Anglican Consultative Council which will meet early on in 2020. President Jennings is a member of the ACC from TEC. I would suppose that she and others might work up a way forward. Jennings rightly notes in her remarks to Executive Council that, 

"The Lambeth Conference does not get to set policy for the Anglican Communion, and the Primates’ Meeting does not get to set policy for the Anglican Communion, and the Archbishop of Canterbury does not get to set policy for the Anglican Communion. That’s the job of the Anglican Consultative Council."

To the extent that the current mess is a product of policy (as in, "it is the policy of the Lambeth Conference not to invite spouses of bishops in same-sex unions") she is partially right. Still, the Lambeth Conference is invitational, and the invitations apparently go to whoever the Archbishop of Canterbury wishes. 

ACC can influence the policy of the ABC concerning this by the traditional, old fashion, political process in which the control of the funds factors into policy decision. To the extent that the Lambeth Conference is funded through the ACC, it is indeed the ACC that "sets policy," even for the other so-called instruments of communion (The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates). The power of the purse is real, and Jennings dangles the possible use of that power in her remarks.

On another level, however, President Jennings is mistaken. The Anglican Consultative Council does not get to set policy for the Anglican Communion any more than the other "instruments of unity." The ACC gets to set policy for it's work in the Anglican Communion, define who can and can not be a member church in the ACC, and it can exclude member churches from continued involvement with the ACC. But those churches remain churches, and their policies and polity cannot be dictated by any instrument of the Communion. The ACC may set policy, but it cannot determine in any way the policies of the member churches. It can indeed exclude, but that is the extent of its power to "set policy."    

There has been more than enough conversation about Lambeth 1998, 1.10, about the Anglican Covenant and about managing conflict by excluding member churches from this or that "instrument" (as in the punishment of TEC by exclusion from theological committees of the Anglican Communion.) Enough. 
When is enough enough?

Twenty-one years ago now, in 1998 I wrote the following.  They were the closing words of a book, “The Challenge of Change, the Anglican Communion in the Post Modern Era,” published by Church Publishing.

“There will be no enduring Anglican Communion, not if we can help it.  But that is not the point. Being Anglican is simply the way some Christians have tried to work out the implications of baptism in specific times and locations. What we have been will be of value to those who come after, and they will count us as among their ancestors.  In doing so we have been greatly blessed by God.  ...

The vocation of the Anglican Communion is to be a force for greater koinonia, for overcoming the fragmentation of life in a vision of the whole people of God, in a time when fragmentation is what seems to be the rule of the day.  It remains only for us to take heart in our “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” (Heb. 12:1b-2a)”


In the light of what has happened between 1998 and now, 2019, I am convinced that in broad outline the issues I raised then have indeed continued to plague and the church, viewed as an ecclesia (an ordered, canonical, hierarchical institution). The crosses we bear in that context are, I believe, unworthy of our vocation. The Anglican Commuion is, as Archbishop Tutu once observed,"very untidy," but we ought not be in the business of condemning one another because of that fact.

Happily, there are those in the ecclesiastical context of Anglican Churches who see themselves primarily as members of a koinonia, (a community of Christians in fellowship, bound together by common prayer, common care and generous inclusion as family). 

That koinonia continues

Those who sought a tidy worldwide internally coherent church are now facing into the demise of the idea of the Anglican Communion as church.  That is, divided as we are on so many levels, it is increasingly apparent that Anglicans worldwide do not constitute a worldwide church.

Of course, we never have been and were never intended to be, a worldwide church. But for a short while many of us wanted very much to be, along with the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, a worldwide entity with sufficient centrifugal force to hold together institutionally come hell, high water, or the fire next time. Time to give up that desire, if we have it.

Instead we in the Anglican Communion are a loosely held gathering of churches in communion with Canterbury. To pretend otherwise is to miss the point. 

We are provisional on purpose, not by accident.

We can ask, at any point in the untidy world of Anglican Communion doings, "is enough enough?" 

Political decisions to "clean up" the roster of persons invited to Lambeth are both silly and misplaced. The Lambeth Conference was meant to be a meeting of all the bishops of all the member churches of the Anglican Communion. Spouses were an add-on.  If there are problems about which spouses to invite, then invite none. 

But Lambeth, rightly, should not determine for member churches which of its own bishops are to be invited. Invite all bishops. In this the Archbishop at least learned from the previous muck-up. The determination of who are the bishops in a particular church in the communion is a matter for that church. The disinvitation of Bishop Robinson was a terrible mistake, not to be repeated. 

There are many good reasons for wanting this strange and wonderful lump of churches, the Anglican Communion, to continue. But there is no reason to try to establish or maintain the Communion as a  worldwide church. 

I hope Lambeth takes place, and I hope as many bishops as possible make their way there and take time together to reflect and pray and form opinions. But I hope it will not attempt to legislate theological policy binding on the member churches. No more Lambeth 1.10 litmus tests. No new litmus test in an Anglican Covenant. Enough is enough.





2/08/2019

The Diocese of Haiti turns to its future


The Episcopal Church of Haiti held its convention on January 29-30 in Leogane, a strong center of church life in Haiti. Archdeacon J. Fritz Bazin, an honorary canon of the diocese, and Archdeacon in the Diocese of South East Florida has written a commentary on that Synod meeting, as has The Rev. Fritz Desire, priest of the diocese. Both are included at the end this post.

The Synod elected a secretary and three new members of the Standing Committee and passed two resolutions.

About the elections, Archdeacon Bazin noted, “The Synod had to elect the Convention Secretary.  As requested by some this election was done by secret ballot.   There were two candidates, Rev. Michelin St Louis was elected with 108 votes while the other candidate received 81 votes.

The next item was the election of 3 members to complete the standing committee, the winners each received more than 100 votes.

This Election reaffirms the mind of the Synod in favor of the actual standing committee.”

These elections were important indications that the Standing Committee, which had been subject to considerable criticism following the special Synod Convention for the election of a bishop, still has the confidence of a majority of the representatives to Synod.

The two resolutions of the Synod give clear indication that the Diocese of Haiti is facing into its future with clarity and resolve.

The two resolutions are described by Archdeacon Bazin as follows:

“The 1st resolution is a request for an appropriate committee of the Episcopal church to work on revision and translation in French and Kreyol of the Prayer Book, in consultation with the Diocese of Haiti being the only French and Kreyol Speaking Diocese of the Episcopal Church and also it’s largest Diocese.

The 2nd resolution states that in accordance with the general Canons, since as of March 1st Bishop Duracin will resign, the standing committee will become the Ecclesiastical authority, consequently they will call for a visiting Bishop for Pastoral duties, a Chief Operating Officer and an Executive Secretary.  These 3 will function under the supervision of the standing committee until such time when a Bishop Diocesan will be elected.”

The resolve to engage the Episcopal Church in the work of producing a French and Kreyol Prayer Book suitable for the work in Haiti signals a continuing commitment to a liturgy that is both contextual and grounded in the Anglican and Episcopal liturgical traditions.

The second resolution affirms the Standing Committee as the ecclesiastical authority, under whose authority a visiting bishop, COO and Executive Secretary will serve. It does not envision an interim Bishop with ecclesiastical authority. It also acknowledges that the Standing Committee will give guidance related to a new election process.

All of this sets in motion the context for the retirement of Bishop Duracin on March 1st.  At the end of the month here will be a gathering in thanksgiving for Bishop Duracin’s 25-year ministry as bishop of Haiti and a closing Eucharist.

Dean Delicat, elected as bishop at a special meeting of Synod, failed to gain the required consents from bishops and standing committees of the Episcopal Church. There has been a criticism of the diocesan leadership, particularly of the Standing Committee, and concerns as to what might need to happen next in the Diocese of Haiti.  

While there were clearly differences that will continue to need to be addressed, the Diocese has set its face to the future and made clear its intentions. The work will go forward and the Standing Committee will act as ecclesiastical authority until a new bishop is elected.

n Archdeacon Bazin’s words, “This Synod clearly demonstrated what I have always believed, that the people of the Church in Haiti are capable, with Gods grace, of insuring a smooth transition to the choice of a new Bishop  and the discernment of a renewed progressive vision for the church in their own context, yet faithful to the wonderful Episcopal Anglican Heritage.”


Here are the two reports in their entirety: 


FROM: Archdeacon J Fritz Bazin

Haiti Synod &  Bishop Duracin’s Last Convention
  
The Diocese of Haiti’s Convention was held in the town of Leogane on the 29th and 30th of January 2019.

Starting Friday afternoon with Evensong followed by the Eucharist in Ste Croix Church, hundreds of delegates both clergy and lay participated in an almost 3 hour celebration animated by two local choirs singing in French, Kreyol and even Latin often over Haitian beats and lots of drumming.

Bishop Duracin delivered a very warm message in French and Kreyol, afterward all joined in for dinner in the cafeteria of the School of Nursing.

On Saturday the delegates gathered in the school auditorium for the Eucharist, followed by breakfast and back to the auditorium for the Synod’s business. 

At 10am, the secretary announced that there was a quorum of 94 Clergy members, 85 were  present.  Of the 122 lay delegates 119 were present.

Words of welcome from Bishop Duracin who also explained the rules of participation.

Immediately the Synod had to elect the Convention Secretary.  As requested by some this election was done by secret ballot.   There were two candidates, Rev. Michelin St Louis was elected with 108 votes while the other candidate received 81 votes.

The next item was the election of 3 members to complete the standing committee, the winners each received more than 100 votes.

This Election reaffirms the mind of the Synod in favor of the actual standing committee.

In great transparence and following parliamentary procedures, with assistance of the chancellors, the Bishop invited the secretary to give reading of 2 resolutions for the future of governance of the Diocese.

The 1st resolution is a request for appropriate committee of the Episcopal church to work on revision and translation in French and Kreyol of the Prayer Book, in consultation with the Diocese of Haiti being the only French and Kreyol Speaking Diocese of the Episcopal Church and also it’s largest Diocese.

The 2nd resolution states that in accordance with the general Canons, since as of March 1st Bishop Duracin will resign, the standing committee will become the Ecclesiastical authority, consequently they will call for a visiting Bishop for Pastoral duties, a Chief Operating Officer and an executive Secretary.  These 3 will function under the supervision of the standing committee until such time when a Bishop Diocesan will be elected.

Both resolutions were voted by show of hands, the second with 127 for, 21 against and 13 abstentions.

This Synod clearly demonstrated what I have always believed, that the people of the Church in Haiti are capable, with Gods grace, of insuring a smooth transition to the choice of a new Bishop  and the discernment of a renewed progressive vision for the church in their own context, yet faithful to the wonderful Episcopal Anglican Heritage.

The report from Pere Desire:

Le 122e Synode diocésain de l’Église épiscopale d’Haïti, un succès…

Des délégués prêtres et laïcs venus de tous les recoins du pays se sont réunis  le mardi 29 janvier 2019, à la paroisse Sainte-Croix de Léogâne pour la messe d’ouverture du 122e  Synode diocésain. Sacoches neuves en main, contenant les procès-verbaux du synode de janvier 2018 et deux autres synodes extraordinaires de la même année, ils se saluent, s'embrassent... Que de bavardages mêlés d’éclats de rires! C’était vraiment une ambiance chaleureuse.

Cette cérémonie fut présentée avec une religiosité sans pareille.  Vêtu tout de rouge, ayant l’anneau épiscopal à l’annulaire, l’évêque qui a présidé la célébration était entouré d'une trentaine de gens ordonnés. Au rythme de la douce harmonie musicale exécutée par l’organiste du jour, ils ont marché lentement jusqu’au pied de l’autel.

Avec ferveur et passion, des ordonnés qui n’ont pas grossi les rangs de la procession d’entrée et les laïcs ont pris siège à l’église où ils commençaient à entonner le premier cantique de la circonstance: «Invoque-moi du sein de la détresse...» tout en respirant l'odeur de l'encens qui monte jusqu’à la nef de l’église, parée de ses plus beaux atours.

Le moment fort de la messe a été le message épiscopal de l’évêque.  «C’est avec la même  joie traditionnelle que je vous salue tous à l’occasion de l'ouverture du 122e  Synode diocésain». Par ces mots, l’évêque a articulé son sermon autour de l’Évangile de Matthieu chapitre 5, verset 1-12. Toujours dans sa verve habituelle, il a insisté sur les notions de pardon, de fraternité et de réconciliation. « L’Église doit être la préfiguration du royaume, au milieu des troubles et de l’agitation causés par les conséquences du péché. Il nous faut nous inspirer de la prophétie d'Isaïe 55 v 6-7: Recherche le Seigneur puisqu'il se laisse trouver.... que le méchant abandonne son chemin et l'homme malfaisant ses pensées. Qu'il retourne vers le Seigneur qui lui manifestera sa tendresse. "Nous les chrétiens, devons continuer à faire la promotion de la paix et devons continuer à être la lumière malgré les vicissitudes du quotidien. Cest pourquoi l'Église n'a pas fléchi face aux actions ténébreuses et méchantes», a-t-il martelé. Nous devons continuer, poursuit-il, à coopérer avec Dieu dans son œuvre et sa volonté de création, de rédemption, de transformation et de rénovation.

Tout en vantant ses réalisations pastorales et administratives durant cette année, Mgr Zachée Duracin a annoncé l’ordination au presbytérat de 17 diacres le 21 février 2019. Une belle floraison pour un bel avenir ! 

En terminant son sermon sous les yeux attentifs des délégués et d’autres fidèles venant assister à la messe, il les a  exhortés à s’engager davantage dans la vigne du Seigneur pour que, grâce à notre collaboration, son Évangile puisse être continué à être prêché dans tous les recoins de la terre.

Au moment de la sainte communion, de merveilleux chants exécutés par la chorale paroissiale et le chœur des jeunes de l’église Sainte-Croix ont guidé le pas des convives à la table sacrée.  A l’issue de cette manifestation de foi, au crépuscule de la journée, les laïcs et les prêtres se sont empressés pour se diriger à la faculté des sciences infirmières où un souper sera servi en leur honneur.

À l'aube de la journée du 30 janvier, la révérende Denise THERVINÉ, assistée par les Diacres Jean Wilfrid PLANTIN, Maccène Ulisse et la séminariste Laurette CROYANCE ont célébré une messe basse; ensuite les délégués ont pu se restaurer au réfectoire de la faculté avant de se rediriger à l’auditorium de la faculté pour les débats sur les activés du diocèse. Le quorum étant constaté, soit  85 sur 95 pour les ordonnés et 119 sur 122 laïcs présents, l’évêque ouvre officiellement les travaux.

Durant toute cette journée de travail, tout s’était déroulé dans un climat fraternel, pendant qu’on observait strictement les canons de l’Église.  C’était un exercice plus qu’intéressant car à chaque petit différend, l’évêque et les prêtres ont brandi leur canon pour faire le point de droit. L’envie du vivre - ensemble était vraiment au rendez-vous et saute aux yeux dans ce synode. Et de cette convention annuelle, la dernière présidée par Mgr Jean Zachée Duracin qui part à la retraite le 1ermars 2019, après 25 ans d’épiscopat, ont été prises  deux résolutions relatives aux nouvelles directives que prendra le diocèse. Ces résolutions ont été approuvées par 121 pour, 21 contre et 2 abstentions.

RÉSOLUTION I

Considérant que l’évêque diocésain de l’Eglise épiscopale d’Haïti prend sa retraite le 1er mars 2019,   considérant qu’à partir du 2 mars 2019, l’Eglise épiscopale d’Haïti connaît une vacance épiscopale ; considérant qu’en vertu de l’article IV de la constitution et des canons de la convention générale de l’Eglise épiscopale en cas de vacance épiscopale, le comité permanent devient l’autorité ecclésiastique. En conséquence, le 122e Synode de l’Eglise épiscopale d’Haïti, réuni à la Faculté des sciences infirmières les 29 et 30 janvier 2019, a adopté la résolution suivante relative à la gouvernance du diocèse durant la vacance épiscopale :  

1) Un évêque visiteur

2) Un secrétaire exécutif diocésain nommé par le Comité permanent

3) Un COO (Chief of Operation-chef des opérations) Les trois travailleront sous l’autorité du Comité Permanent    Fait à Port-au-Prince le 15 janvier 2019.

RESOLUTION II  

 Considérant que le Livre de la Prière commune en usage dans le diocèse d’Haïti est une traduction du Book of Common Prayer, édition 1983, certifié et autorisé conformément au canon II 3,5 par le conservateur du « Book of Common Prayer »; considérant que l’Église épiscopale des États-Unis, en plus du « Book of Common Prayer »,  fait usage d’une version alternative pour l’administration des sacrements et des autres rites et cérémonies de l’Église; considérant que le contenu de la version actuelle du Livre de la Prière commune ne répond plus aux besoins du diocèse d’Haïti pour l’expansion de son œuvre d’évangélisation; Il est résolu que : Le diocèse d’Haïti demande à l’Église épiscopale  des États-Unis de préparer une révision du contenu du Livre de la Prière commune avec une traduction en créole en conformité aux amendements votés par la Convention de 2018, aux exigences des canons locaux et aux besoins particuliers de ce diocèse et en consultation avec l’autorité ecclésiastique de ce dit diocèse.

Vers les 2 h 30 p.m., le soleil pointe encore ses rayons sur la ville. Mgr Duracin a prononcé les mots de remerciement à l’endroit des délégués laïques, visiteurs, observateurs et prêtres pour leur présence. Difficile de se dire au revoir après la prière finale prononcée par le révérend diacre Bob Léger et la bénédiction épiscopale, tellement l’ambiance qui régnait dans l’enceinte de l’auditorium de la Faculté des sciences infirmières de l’Église épiscopale d’Haïti (FSIL) était chaleureuse et enrichissante