Archive for October, 2008

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Friday, October 31st, 2008 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

Because Tim Fountain could use a kind word right about now.  Leave comments there, not here.

SAWDUST TRAIL

Friday, October 31st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

As a Christian, what does the term “mission” mean to you?  This is what the term means to Katharine Jefferts Schori:

YASC is an example of mission in this church. It sends adults under age 30 to work for a year in some part of the Anglican Communion beyond this church. It engages the passion many young people have for service to others, while at the same time inviting them into vocational discernment.

Mission takes many forms, from working with sick children to engaging the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden in conversation about the possibility of greater partnership and even full communion.

Mission also looks like engaging our own political systems. In this season running up to a presidential election, we’ve heard a great deal about religion and politics. It’s not a matter of the church endorsing candidates, which is inappropriate for many reasons — not least because we serve a diverse body of human beings who include both supporters and opponents of particular candidates, but, more importantly, because no individual candidate is ever going to fully represent God’s political agenda (dream for creation).

Our role does include urging our members to learn all they can about the issues involved in elections and to discuss their understanding of what gospel values imply about those issues. The church’s task includes equipping the saints to be fully competent members of society, informed by their faith. That doesn’t happen if we are afraid to talk about challenging issues at church, like health care, abortion or the war.

We also may discover that the quality of Christian community is deepened and strengthened when we do find the courage to discuss our views with our neighbors and learn about theirs. I urge all qualified Episcopalians to register to vote and to cast an informed ballot. Pray about it first.

The church is politically involved on the national and international scene in many ways, perhaps most publicly around the Millennium Development Goals. We’ve adopted the MDGs as part of our first mission priority as a church because we believe they set us on the path toward building the reign of God. They don’t go all the way to that great dream of God for a restored creation, but they do hold us accountable for making progress toward it. 

Mission also looks like rediscovering our history and making public confession for the church’s involvement in the sin of slavery. That is an opportunity awaiting most of the dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

When we begin to dig under the surface, we discover that slave trading and slave holding existed in North and South and that slave owners included clergy, historic churches and seminaries.

The impact of slavery continues to this day, in disproportional racial balances in our prisons and the enduring effects of removing men from the heart of their families. The economic consequences touch almost every American — when we look behind the recent past, we discover that profits from the slave trade and slave labor have mingled through most strands of our banking and industrial economy. None of us is clean. Recent immigrants cannot say this is only a matter for those families who have been here through many generations, for privilege continues to accrue to a portion of the population.

I never actually went on any of these but at my old parish, “mission trips” consisted of sending young people(or adults who began these things shortly before I left) to Indian reservations or Appalachia or some other poor part of the country.

They’d spend exactly five days building a playground, restoring or renovating some structure or other or any other useful task that needed doing.  Then they’d leave.  And I always used to wonder, “Did they ever tell anyone why they were there in the first place?”

Because one doesn’t need to be a Christian in order to do good works.  Non-Christians and entirely secular groups accomplish much in this world that is noble and praiseworthy.  The difference between us and them, though, is Who sent us.

And if we don’t make a point of telling people that He’s the reason why we’ve taken time out of our lives to try and help, what, at the end of the day, is the difference between the Episcopal Church and the Lions Club?

HOUSE RULES

Friday, October 31st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

There are two subjects I don’t like to cover here unless I absolutely have to.  One of them is John Shelby Spong.  I already know the answer to “Do you know what Spong just said?”  The megalomaniacal old fraud said something stupid, anti-Christian and completely unsupportable by any honest person with even a smattering of theology, Church history or an ability to read.

The other is Gene Robinson.  As everyone knows, Gene’ll knock your 2-year-old daughter to the ground in his zeal to tell a group of reporters and television cameras that he just wants to be the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire so I really don’t want to feed the habit of that publicity junkie.  But it seems Robbie was in a chatty mood the other day:

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson said he led a confidential retreat a few years ago for gay Roman Catholic priests.

About 75 Catholic clergy from around the U.S. participated without notifying their bishops or provincial leaders, Robinson said. In 2005, the Vatican issued a document affirming the church’s stance that men with “deep-seated” attraction to other men should not be ordained.

The retreat was held outside of New England, but Robinson would not say where.

Come on, Robbie.  How are their bishops going to know where to send the wood for the auto-da-fes?

Robinson briefly discussed the retreat during a question-and-answer session after a viewing Saturday of a documentary featuring his life story called, “For The Bible Tells Me So,” according to The Laconia Daily Sun.

The film makes a link between sexism and anti-gay prejudice, contending that, “at its root, the hatred of gays is driven by a hatred and second-class status of women,” Robinson said.

The Roman Catholic Church hates women?  Who knew?  I guess that accounts for all the Hail Josephs those people are always saying.  Some of us have a real theological problem with Rome’s Josepholatry, frankly.  And I guess that’s why all Catholic saints are male.  You know, like St. Christopher of Siena and St. Theodore of Lisieux.

Idiot.

“I had said to them, ‘It’s too dangerous for you to come out as gay to your superiors, but I believe that if you work for the ordination of women in your church, you will go a long way toward opening the door for the acceptance of gay priests,” Robinson said.

Robbie may have stumbled into an actual point there.  Just before women were ordained in the Episcopal Church, the wife of the rector of my old joint was studying at the United Church of the Zeitgeist seminary across the street, evidently figuring that women’s ordination in the Episcopal Church was a done deal. 

She joined my old place, eventually becoming associate rector.  And I used to dread her sermons.  She was the sort of preacher who thought that connecting with the congregation was way more important than actually communicating something useful about the Gospel.

She talked about herself a lot.  And she was the sort of person who injected emotion into her words whether what she said called for it or not.  She didn’t just buy lettuce at the supermarket yesterday, she bought LETTUCE at the SUPERMARKET YESTERDAY!!

This style and approach(and this woman was by no means unique) went a long way toward making the Episcopal Organization what it is today; a body where doctrine is not particularly important but how one feels about doctrine is. Women’s ordination did not start this process(the Episcopalians were well on their way prior to 1974) but it did benefit from it. 

Because a serious case for it was never made.  To its supporters, women’s ordination was so obviously correct that having to make a case for it suggested that people who disagreed with the idea had perfectly valid reasons for doing so.  And such bigotry was not to be tolerated.

The same dynamic was in play when Robbie got his pointy hat.  To Robbie’s supporters, no case needed to be made because it just felt right.

So anybody who demanded a justification(a serious one, not TEO’s spirit doing a new thing, God not knowing about committed same-sex relationships or any of the other absurd and borderline-blasphemous ones they’ve come up with over the years) had to be a bigot for resisting something so obviously correct.

With Gene Robinson, we see the triumph of emotion over Scripture in the Episcopal Organization because Robbie is all emotion.  If you and the Word of God think that homosexual sex is a sin, you and the Word of God don’t merely disagree with Robbie.  You hate him. 

And he doesn’t have to justify himself to bigots.

POP QUIZ

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

The following program will take place on the 12th of November.  Read its description and decide what kind of Christian church will host it:

Make plans to hear Meg Rice as she discusses how we can make a difference in the lives of our teenagers by giving them the tools they need to navigate a world that says that “anything goes!”

Meg is a Christian mom in Houston, Texas who developed a Christian based abstinence course for teenagers and their parents 15 years ago. This program is Biblically based and addresses the teens’ needs where they are. It’s time for parents and the church to stand up and make a stand…Sex, God & Me will help you accomplish this.

The answer’s here.

ON-DECK CIRCLE

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Received via e-mail:

The Right Reverend Keith L. Ackerman, VIIIth Bishop of Quincy, has announced to the Standing Committee his retirement as Diocesan Bishop effective November 1st, 2008. Bishop Ackerman has reached this decision after much thought and prayer. The Bishop and his wife Jo conferred with his physicians, many trusted friends, and the Standing Committee before making this decision.

While Bishop Ackerman is retiring from his administrative duties as executive officer of the Diocese, he plans to remain in the area of the Diocese for some time and will make himself available, under arrangement with the Standing Committee, to perform Episcopal acts and provide spiritual counsel to members of the Diocese, as have Bishop Donald Parsons and Bishop Edward MacBurney, the VIth and VIIth Bishops of Quincy.

Under diocesan canons, the Standing Committee will continue to act as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese, as they have since the Bishop’s sabbatical began in late August. Day to day operations of the diocese will continue to be handled by the various officers and department heads.

Bishop Ackerman wants to assure everyone that he has no intention of abandoning the diocese but will continue to provide spiritual and pastoral support as asked by the Standing Committee.

Will this prevent Mrs. Schori and her pusillanimous lapdogs ERRRRRRRRRR the House of Bishops from “deposing” Ackerman anyway if Czechoslovakia ERRRRRRRRRR Quincy so much as glances toward the exit? 

Probably not.  It didn’t stop TEO from capping a retired bishop with a very sick wife(William Cox) so it certainly won’t stop TEO from fabricating an excuse to make the Quincy Standing Committee disappear and add yet another diocese to its universalist empire.

DUCKS IN A ROW

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Mary Ann Ramer of New York Squared will be just fine with an Anglican covenant as soon as the rest of the Anglican world catches the hell up:

Thank you, Presiding Bishop, for your great good sense! Not only has the entire concept, structure and justification (theological, political, and mission-centric) for the so-called Anglican Covenant not been in the least clarified, but the basic WHY of such a binding document on the Anglican Communion has to date never been established.

It’s because your pseudo-spiritual organization gave a pointy hat to an unrepentant sinner and changed 2,000 years of Christian teaching without so much as a by-your-leave.  Pay attention, dimwit.

Given the glacial progress that has been made in achieving equal dignity for women, for persons of color,

Like Peter Akinola?  Henry Orombi?  They’re archbishops, you know.

and for those who have other than a heterosexual orientation,

It’s like I keep saying.  Eventually, Robbie’s not going to be optional.

let alone the Communion’s response to the Millennium Development Goals,

Peace and blessings be upon them.

the “progress” of the Covenant through our ranks feels like paper shoved down our throats. Let’s not get stampeded!

Speaking of getting “stampeded” and having stuff “shoved down our throats,” now you know how a lot of us felt in 2003, M.

THE BIG BLIND

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Meanwhile, Newark Episcopalians are raking in the jack:

Mr. Richard Graham reported on the current status. Income and cash flow remained the biggest challenges for the Diocese this year when looking forward to FY 2009. There was currently a $633,000 deficit. Pledge income received was $366,000 below budget, an improvement over last month’s income deficit of $395,000. Significant pledge income remained outstanding from 2007. Expenses were approximately $15,000 under budget.

The Council received $1.5 million in pledge income through September versus a budgeted amount of $1.875 million. Additional funds of approximately $260,000 were due to Council from investment sources that had not yet been recorded. Event and other income had been limited to date.

Pledge income for FY 2008 picked up in September. Income of $224,000 was 9% over the projected amount. YTD was still 20% behind projected year to date income (received = $1.5 million vs. projected $1.9 million). Over 5% of the outstanding pledges (against budgeted total) at the end of 2007 remained unpaid 9 months into this year. (NOTE: Prior year unpaid pledge amounts will continue to change as reconciliations are received and pledge data recalculated). Over 19% (22) of 2007 pledge reconciliation forms remained outstanding. Of the 22 outstanding reconciliations, eight were with congregations in transitions and three that faced serious financial situation. The Finance office continued to advise congregations of past due pledges and reconciliations through monthly statements, phone contact, etc.

Overall our expenses were $15,000 under budget. Most departments were at or under budget. We remained behind in projected pledge payments to the Episcopal Church for 2008 and 2007. The $406,000 that had been budgeted to expense by 30 September had not been paid. However since the expense was incurred it appeared on the financial statements under Outreach expenses. There had been no payments into the Lay Pension Plan this year. As of 30 September 2008 we were $127,000 behind. Our budgeted expense for 2008 was $170,000. In September payment was made to the EC against our 2007 pledge. To date, 74% of the FY 2008 budget to date was spent.

The 2009 budget process had begun and will be based on a forecast of lower income for 2009. Expenses will be looked at closely to ensure that the budget reflected the mission and priorities of the Diocese. Ways to reduce budgeted expenses where there were alternative approaches/flexibility available would be considered. A subcommittee of the Council will be reviewing the 2008 budgeted financial statement to provide advice on current year results and opportunities to improve in 2009.

UPDATE: On second thought, things can’t be too bad if they’re having their clergy conference in the Poconos.  Pretty fancy resort there, E.

COMPLIANTOUSNESS

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

They’re laughing at you, Dr. Williams.  That is, unless you’re in on the joke:

The 224th annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut passed a resolution October 25 “imploring” Bishop Andrew Smith to allow clergy “to exercise pastoral care in officiating at services of holy matrimony for same-sex couples.”

The resolution, which passed 174-123, came two weeks after Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled that state laws allowing only heterosexual couples to marry but giving all the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law. The court said that such laws single out “a group that historically has been the object of scorn, intolerance, ridicule or worse.” The ruling takes effect October 28.

The text of the resolution “implores the bishop to allow priests in this diocese to exercise pastoral wisdom and care and follow the lead of their consciences in whether or not to participate in marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples.”

In his annual address the day before the resolution passed, Smith said that he and bishops suffragan Laura Ahrens and James Curry were “looking at three areas of complex questions [that arise] from the court’s ruling: Are priests ordained in the Episcopal Church permitted to officiate at civil marriages of gay and lesbian couples? What standards of commitment should we have for ordained deacons and priests (or bishops) who are in same-sex relationships? In all things, how can we be the face of Christ, to invite, welcome and pastorally care for seekers and believers who are gay and lesbian, including those who seek to be married?”

These folks too:

The bishop of Ottawa wants to open the door to same-sex blessings in his diocese and will ask permission from the Canadian House of Bishops at its meeting October 27-31.

“This hope is not and must not be understood as a conclusive statement affirming that the church must and ought to proceed with the blessings of same-sex civilly married couples,” said Chapman. “As the church was not able to come to a clear mind regarding the priestly ministry of women, so we must take the process of discernment to a place beyond discussion.”

The issue has been discussed in the Anglican Church “since I was a seminary student in the mid-’70s,” he said. “In order to further the discernment process, we must ‘experience’ the issue as church before clarity of heart and mind might be attained.” For this reason, he added, “I hope to proceed, but slowly and cautiously.”

These people are also giggling:

After this week’s discussions with bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Barry Clarke of Montreal plans to launch a process to work out a rite for blessing same-sex couples in the diocese who have been married in civil ceremonies.

In an opening statement October 24 to the annual synod of the Diocese of Montreal, the bishop said he believes that in the current debate about same-sex issues some are being called to speak with a prophetic voice, others with a voice of caution.

“For reasons, perhaps known only to God, I believe we, in the Diocese of Montreal, are among those who have been called by God to speak with a prophetic voice,” he said. “It is our voice that is called to affirm that all people are loved, valued and precious before God and the church. It is our voice that is called to affirm that all unions of faithful love and life-long commitment are worthy of God’s blessing and a means of God’s grace. In time our voice will either be affirmed by the body, or stand corrected.”

I guess you’ve got a comment or two about my gracious lord of Canterbury’s deliberately inept handling of the last Lambeth Conference and his disgraceful stewardship of the Anglican Communion in general.  Me, I think I’ve run out of adjectives to describe what a train wreck Rowan Williams has become.

ANSCHLUSS

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

For those of you who still believe that John-David Schofield’s “deposition” had something to do with Episcopal Organization “order” and “discipline,” here’s the latest development from the Illegal Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin:

Delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin’s Oct. 24-26 annual convention meeting in Hanford overwhelmingly approved creation of a new “equality commission” and an agricultural outreach ministry to the Navajoland Area Missionary Diocese.
 
The commission is to include at least nine lay and clergy members to support, engage and affirm marginalized communities within the diocese.

And if you don’t know what that means then no offense intended but you are too stupid to live.

Echoing the baptismal promise to “respect the dignity of every human being” the resolution identified the marginalized as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender persons;

Well of course they did.

women;

Opposed to women’s ordination?  You’re free to stick around.  That is, as long as you don’t raise too much of a stink about the female rector you’re going to get and your greatly-increased pledge checks clear.

various ethnic communities; the disabled and those adversely affected by socioeconomic circumstance in the life and worship of the Church, as the Diocese works toward

Kissing up to anyone who will send us large sums of money.

justice, reconciliation and peace.”

To-may-to, to-mah-to.  The Illegal Diocese also plans to do the following so either 815′s sending them a boatload of jack or I want some of what they’re smoking.

In other convention business, delegates approved a $600,000 budget and approved resolutions to provide Episcopal Life and Episcopal Life/San Joaquin publications to all members and constituents of the diocese; and to authorize missionary outreach to establish new congregations.

600 grrr for all that?  They must be getting national TEO scratch.  I have to figure the lawyers hired to sue Schofield and the Real Diocese out of their real estate will eventually cost at least three times that.

REVISED STANDARD VERSION

Monday, October 27th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Some first-century Jewish guy:

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

A reading from First Katharine:

When you pray or fast or do some charitable deed, sound a trumpet before you so everyone can see your spirituality in action and be edified thereby.  And be sure to sound your trumpet again some time later on for the benefit of those who didn’t hear or see you the first time.  In other words, never EVER neglect an opportunity to display public piety for there are few more effective ways for people to realize just how wonderful a person you are.

MANSERVANT

Monday, October 27th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Mr. Richard Warren of Newark, Ohio really does think that the Episcopal tail wags the Anglican dog:

How unfortunate for the Episcopal Church that Rowan Williams saw fit to dignify the former current Bishop of Pittsburgh by meeting with him. It is a slap in the face for TEC and the PB and says a lot about Dr. Williams’ regard for us. I would ask that we reconsider helping Lambeth out with any more of financial assistance for anything until his term as ABC ends, let them go to the British Parliament with hat in hand next time they run short of money.

Whatever you do, PLEASE don’t let Mr. Richard Warren of Newark, Ohio know if Dr. Williams forgets to invite Mrs. Schori to the next Primates Meeting or shows up at the next GAFCON get-together or something because I’m thinking it’ll be Katie-bar-the-door.

AMNESIA

Sunday, October 26th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

A new “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” adventure
 
Chapter One – Time Capsule
 
That Sunday, I got out of bed about 8:00 AM which was very late for me; I usually eat breakfast watching the sun come up. I woke up around my usual 5:00 AM and switched on my weather radio.
 
The National Weather Service told me that western Kansas would have early-season thunderstorms all day long which precluded getting anything done so I dozed off for another three hours. Not that anything needed doing since I hadn‘t planned on getting seriously started for another couple of weeks.
 
After I got dressed, I walked into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. Breakfast was a couple of thick slices of some elk sausage that I‘d made last winter. That stuff aged really well. I lazily munched on it and gazed at the sky out the window. 

Bad storms were definitely on their way in and would probably arrive by late morning. Ever since I’d moved out here, I’d gotten terribly good at weather-forecasting.

And since they’d be here until at least early evening, I figured I’d spend the day watching a DVD or two. Weather-wise, 2003 promised to be a very interesting year,

I poured myself a cup of coffee and took a leisurely walk around the stone wall which surrounded my land just to check on things. The wall was solid enough and high enough to keep most of the local wildlife out.

Last October, though, the source of my morning’s breakfast got over it and started snacking on my rutabagas. I calmly laced him with my bow and arrow, butchered him on the spot, improvised a smokehouse and I’ve been eating really well up to now.

I don’t eat a lot of meat. I don’t have anything against it but I eat mostly vegetables; it’s just easier, that’s all.

I don’t want to raise stock and have to see it through the winters here so when I want to vary my diet, I mostly settle on whatever happens by. One elk so far, squirrels mostly along with whatever I take out of the river now and then.

I went in the house, poured myself another cup of coffee, went back out on the porch, sat down and watched people on their way to church. One or two families went to church in a horse and buggy; people still do that around here. A few of them waved at me but most just stared at me and a few intentionally looked away.

I’ve been considered an oddball ever since I moved out here eight years ago. Outsider, big-city boy, you name it, I‘ve been called it all. Partly it’s because I mostly keep to myself, I guess. But a lot of it has to do with religion.

People around here keep asking me the same question. Mostly it‘s in jest but sometimes it‘s serious. “Are you an atheist?”

They ask me that, I suppose, because I rarely go to church. Why? Mostly because in most of the churches I’ve attended around here, the worship, if you can call it that, was just as barren and sterile as the Episcopal worship I was dragged to as a kid.

Not that all the churches here emulate the big-city churches I’ve read about that have abandoned worship entirely and just use their buildings as meeting halls to plan their next big “social justice” project(although many here do). For the most part, people in western Kansas still spend Sundays in church.

They just don’t seem to do much when they go there. How bad is it? Somebody talked me into attending St. Matthias United Methodist Church up the road a while back.

“Worship” started with square dancing and quickly went downhill from there. Calvary Presbyterian was pretty much the same except that their “worship” began with a sea of maypoles on the church lawn.

At Pool Of Siloam Baptist, over to WaKeeney, “worship” consisted of the pastor spending an hour telling us how vitally important it was that the people there volunteer at the new WaKeeney abortion clinic. And that was pretty much it.

The parish at St. Michael’s Episcopal in Hays quickly and robotically went through the 1979 liturgy before moving on to the vital importance of lobbying Congress to advance gender pay equity worldwide. The concern of Grace Episcopal, over to Salina, was for much higher tax rates on “big corporations.” The “Gospel imperative” or something.

I’d heard that Roman Catholic worship was supposed to be serious and dignified, it was “Take a Friend to Church” Sunday at Our Lady of the Plains in Ness City and someone actually took the time to convince the county weirdo to go so I went.

The priest there was a guy named Steve. Because there were so many newcomers, Steve, dressed in white shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops, explained that he didn’t want us to call him Father Steve. Too hierarchical. He preferred Brother Steve.

And the worship? The Old Testament reading was the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel performed as a comedy by giant papier-mâché puppets. The kids there got a huge kick out of it.

The New Testament lesson concerned Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. Steve, walking up and down the aisles, occasionally putting his hand on people’s shoulders, explained to us that that was not a miracle(and Steve made quote marks with his fingers when he said that word) but an instance of a large group of people, under the influence of Jesus’ words, sharing what they had with their neighbors.

Same with the Resurrection, he went on. Christ didn’t physically get up and walk out of the tomb; that was impossible. What lived on, said Steve, was Christ’s teachings in the minds of his disciples.

Which led into the Eucharist. I’ll spare you the details except to say that the people didn’t have go to the altar since the Body of Christ was brought to them. The Body of Christ consisted of…sandwiches. Any kind you wanted. I had one of the hard salami. Sharing and all that.

Since there were little kids there, the Blood of Christ was provided in the form of caffeine-free Diet Coke. With ice cubes if you wanted. As soon as I safely could, I bolted out the door and drove home really fast.

Don’t get me started on what these people consider Eucharistic Adoration.

I’ve even visited what few Jews and Muslims there are out here with basically the same results. Now and then, I’ll even drop in on the Amish settlement a few miles up the road, that is, when it doesn’t bother me to be made fun of in Low German.

So the answer to their question, then, one that I think but never say is, “I believe in God. Just not the one you pretend to worship.”

But mostly, with men like Elijah and John the Baptist as my inspirations, I stay by myself on my land, read my Bible and try to pray. Or read the Psalms aloud when the words don’t come.

Let’s just say that I’m used to it.

Because I’ve been a loner ever since I can remember. My mom was the only person in my family I was close to and when my dad was irritated with me, which was often, and when my brothers, sisters or friends made me the butt of their jokes, I early got into the habit of going into my room and shutting the door.

In fact, that was part of the reason I came out here. When she died, my grandmother left me this place and three million dollars. Does that sound like a good thing to you? Actually, it was my grandmother’s way of telling me how much she despised me.

My grandmother was an incredibly successful businesswoman. An only child, she inherited the family business and turned it into one of the most lucrative multinational corporations in the world. She was worth billions when she died.

She also had a Samaritan passion for husbands. When I was born, she was on her third and she eventually had three more. My mom was her only daughter and she doted on my brothers and sisters.

And detested me.

According to my mom, it started before I was two hours old. My grandmother, a busy women, barged into the room where my mom was holding me after I had entered the world(Grandma had a dinner engagement that evening) and snatched me out of my Mom’s arms. Immediately, I started crying at the top of my lungs.

For the rest of my infancy, every time my grandmother wanted to hold me, I either squirmed uncomfortably, cried or both. Since she believed that none of her other grandkids had reacted to her in this way, my grandmother decided that I hated her.

And she soon began to show it. When we visited her house, she’d gently admonish my brothers and sisters for things they did wrong. She’d scream at(and sometimes slap) me.

Sometimes, she liked to loudly point out things I did at the dinner table that she thought were hysterically funny(the way I held a fork, the way I shook a salt shaker, etc) to my intense humiliation and the laughter and delight of my brothers and sisters.

My father, with whom I wasn’t at all close(he was former military and I had an excessively sensitive nature; do the math), used to be enraged at his mother-in-law when she did that. Although I was a disappointment to him and remained one until the day he died, my dad also had sense of fairness so I’d at least get an ice cream cone out of it.

On birthdays and Christmas, Grandma pulled out all the stops for presents for my siblings. My presents, if they got there at all, were invariably something she’d have some underling pick up at the dollar store. Many were the times my folks would buy me something and put Grandma’s name on it.

At first, I was devastated. Why did Grandma hate me? I couldn’t figure out why someone who was supposed to love me treated me in this way and I‘d cry all the way home. I did get some encouragement from the terrible rows Mom and Grandma would have about Grandma’s treatment of me.

But about the age of ten, I stopped caring. Who gave a rat‘s ass if the old crone didn‘t like me? She’d be dead soon anyway. If I couldn’t arrange to spend the weekend with one of my few friends during family visits, I’d just avoid the old lady(what I took to calling her and I didn‘t care if she heard me or not) as best I could.

Whenever my grandmother took the family on one of her “religious” experiences, I could usually be counted on to anger the loathsome old harridan. My grandmother grew up Episcopalian, decided that was too restrictive and became an Ethical Culturist(my mother‘s own Episcopalianism was a sore spot with Grandma).

“Religious” pilgrimages consisted of lectures, trips to the UN, handing out fliers for Democratic Party candidates, things like that. I either refused to go or looked so bored the whole time that my grandmother would start screaming at me. As I got older, I would just silently smile back at her, turn and walk away, which enraged her all the more.

Then a funny thing happened. Ten years ago, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I guess the experience of watching her only child die painfully and horribly radically changed my grandmother because she and I got real close after that.

I started to visit her regularly and I was the only one in the family who did. We’d sit and talk for hours and even go out to dinner from time to time. She tried, in her way, to tell me that she regretted how our relationship turned out. And I tried, in my way, to tell her that it didn’t matter anymore.

Then Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. When she was still lucid, she told me that her estate would be divided equally between all her daughter’s kids. But when she died, I discovered that my siblings had gotten to her and convinced her to change her will.

Because my brothers and sisters had each ended up with hundreds of millions of dollars in both money and properties and ownership of corporations that would make each of them billions. I got $3 million dollars and title to the farm I currently live on.

Grandma was born there. And she hated the place with every fiber of her being.

It was about this time that a lot of things happened in my life all at once. Main one being that I decided that Christian private investigation was not ever going to pan out.

Nicky had left me. Then Nicky came back to Webster Groves to get married at All Saints Episcopal, the church where I’d met her.

She and her fiancé put a note in the church bulletin inviting everybody in the parish to the wedding. I planned on being big about it and going; hell, it was the party of the millennium around Webster Groves and Nicky, I told myself, was never a viable option anyway. Bought ‘em a great present and everything.

And I would have gone until that Sunday morning during coffee hour when I told that to a really good “friend” of mine at All Saints and had him grimace back at me and snap, “Nicky doesn’t want you there, man!”

“But this is open to everybody in the…”

“Just don’t, all right, a-hole?!!

JEEZ, you’re a moron!!” a woman with whom I thought I was rather close spat at me.

A few minutes later, I popped into the kitchen for a Diet Coke. As I did, I heard two women talking about Nicky’s wedding. “Yeah, well, at least Johnson’s not going to be there,” one of them said.

The other woman chuckled. “Did you know that dork asked me on a date the other day? It was all I could do to keep from laughing in his face.”

Next Friday evening Nicky got married. I ate dinner at McDonald’s and watched the cars and limos arrive. Then I walked home, feeling something you shouldn‘t feel when you pass your church; a gnawing, corrosive loneliness. Back at my tiny apartment, I poured myself a bourbon-and-soda.

I hadn’t even finished it when I came to a conclusion.

To hell with it.

To hell with everything and everybody. I didn’t care about any of them anymore.  My family didn’t like me. By then, my father had basically taken over my grandmother‘s role of constantly letting me know what a failure he thought I was.

My siblings got all the money? Well then let them look after the old man.  I didn’t give a damn.  In fact, I didn’t even bother to attend his funeral.

To my church “friends” in Webster Groves, I was a joke. They tolerated me when they had to, never when they had a choice.

Screw them all.

I had motivation, I had resources, and I had a place to go so I decided to go there. The very next morning, I closed down all my bank accounts and hit local bookstores looking for anything I could find on growing things.

Then I loaded everything I owned into my beat-up pick-up and left Webster Groves for Ness County, Kansas. Forever. The house was still in pretty decent shape and it took no time at all to get water and power going.

After talking to the County extension service, I paid to have an oil well dug in the back corner of my land which brings in a steady income that basically pays the bills. Took me a year but I found my stride after that.

And I forgot family, the past and the world. Not that I’m completely isolated. I have a television and you can get cable out here. Assuming you want it which I don‘t.

I rarely watch TV except for the odd DVD now and then. The storms that come through here are better than movies anyway.

I‘m not hooked up to the Internet and I don‘t care. The few times I want to surf the Web, I drive into Ness City and sign up for computer time at the public library.

Does it get lonely out here? Sometimes. Particularly during the winter when there’s little to do except eat and sleep, I’ll think back on the old days and what went wrong. And wish–no, pray–that God, if He cares, will someday send me somebody to talk to.

Other times, though, I wouldn’t live anywhere else. This place is my world, the only world I want. Nobody can hurt me here and I can’t imagine ever going back to Webster Groves for any reason.

Anyway, back to that Sunday. The thunderstorms were as glorious to watch as they usually are. I even saw a tornado go by just to the north. It went through open country and didn’t destroy anything.

In between storms, I decided that I’d watch a few documentaries later so I went to my bedroom to get out my DVD player and a few DVD’s to watch with it. As I was pulling it down from the closet shelf, I heard something drop to the floor in the back.

It took a good bit of rummaging before I eventually found it.  It was a sealed envelope with my name on it. It felt like there was some sort of plastic case inside. And it looked like I had written my name myself.

But I had no idea what it was. I didn’t remember bringing it with me when I moved out here so I guessed it was just something I‘d forgotten about.

I was about to open it when I heard a loud rumble of thunder. So I tossed the envelope on a chair and went back outside.

The next round of storms last a good deal longer than the first one. In between that bunch and the last round, due in a couple of hours, I went back inside, passed the chair with the envelope on it, calmly opened it and slid out its contents.

It was a DVD. But there were no markings on it, nothing to indicate what it was a DVD of. For a moment, I thought it might be something from my past, home movies maybe, and I dreaded the idea of watching it.

Finally I decided that I had to know. So I hooked up my DVD player, slid it in and, because of its subject matter, got the shock of my life.

It was about me.

But it wasn’t a me that I recognized at all. On the DVD, I had not given up Christian private investigation. In this thing, I was called the Anglican Investigator and apparently solved case after case after case.

The DVD contained clips of dozens of news reports(“The Anglican Investigator cracks another one!”) and documentaries about me. There were parades and award ceremonies from all around the world, all celebrating my accomplishments.

In one of them, I was at the Vatican receiving some sort of award from the Pope and Dale Price was alongside. Dale Price?

What the hell? Back when I was still an investigator, the one and only encounter I could remember with Dale was e-mailing him for some information and never hearing back from him.

Then there was a shot of me getting out of a limousine outside Westminster Abbey. I was wearing a tuxedo and there was a gigantic crowd which cheered wildly when they saw me. I went inside the Abbey to get married to…

Nicky?!!
 
Then there was coverage of the birth of my…son?!!
 
WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS THING?!!

At once, the tone abruptly changed. There were clips of news reports about a massive dark cloud that began at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco and spread all over the world.

This cloud was erratic. Some people were apparently not affected at all while others were affected horribly. I saw footage of one beautiful young woman literally dissolving as she and the people around here screamed in terror.

I saw some footage of a group of soldiers somewhere dissolving while some of their comrades remained behind. Some school children on a playground disappeared while others didn‘t.

I watched a baby disappear from out of her mother’s arms. A terrified little boy, aged 3 or so, watched his mommy dissolve and ran after her shrieking in that most primal and basic of all fears, “MOMMA!! MOMMA!! DON‘ LEAVE ME ‘LONE, MOMMA!!

I saw reports of absolute panic setting in everywhere. Next came a news conference with the President of the United States and a number of senators and congressman. The President came out…

Nicky?!! 
 
My God.

Hysterical reporters screamed questions at her, not even trying to take turns, and she answered them as best she could. She tried to sound calm but she looked as scared as I’ve ever seen a human being look.

“No, I don’t know where Chris is,“ Nicky told one reporter, her voice shaking. “I don’t know what we’re going to do about this.” Then she abruptly and quickly ended the news conference and hurried away.

Order completely broke down. Everywhere. I saw footage of television stations who decided to let their cameras run so their people could try to save themselves. But none of it mattered as that cloud came relentlessly on, devouring some and leaving others alone.

But as disturbing as all this was, the last part of this DVD was the worst of all. Somewhere or other, I couldn’t tell where, I was talking to a webcam. I looked like I hadn’t showered or shaved in quite some time and I had apparently been drinking heavily because my words were slurred.

Fighting to keep control, I looked at the camera and said, “It’s almost over. It’s almost here. I can’t run anymore. I’m so tired. So tired. I have to get all this ready before the cloud gets here.

“I don’t know where Nicky and Paul are. I don’t know where any of them are. Or who they are. I finally got hold of Price and he doesn’t know who I am. Neither do Welborn and Wannabe or any of the others I e-mailed.

“We can’t beat this thing. I have no idea what it is and I don’t know what else to try. So I’m just going to pass out until whatever this is gets here.”

The me on the DVD then took the webcam off and pointed it at the lower-right-hand corner of his lapper‘s monitor. “This is today‘s date.”

The date read March 17.

2008.

Exactly five years into the future.

The other me put the camera back and wearily continued. “I don’t know if you’ll get this. I don’t know what kind of shape it’ll be in if you do. But based on everything I’ve seen and heard, I‘m taking the wildest possible wild guess.

“I don’t know if it will work but it’s all I’ve got left. Chris, I don’t know what your life is right now but I’m pretty sure about this.

“Everything you know is wrong. Everything about your life is a lie.”

Next week – Magic

YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US

Sunday, October 19th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Some woman writes the Pittsburgh Standing Committee:

October 9, 2008

The Rev. Geoffrey Chapman
Mr. Kenneth Herbst
Dr. Theresa Newell
Mr. Wicks Stephens
The Rev. David Wilson
The Rev. Karen Stevenson
Ms. Gladys Hunt-Mason

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I am writing to you because I have been informed that you held positions on the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh prior to and/or during the most recent Convention of the Diocese in October 2008. It has come to my attention that in the past year you have taken actions in support of an attempt to take the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh out of the Episcopal Church and into an affiliation with the Province of the Southern Cone. I understand that these have included supporting amendment of the Diocese’s Constitution and Canons and attempting to organize as the Standing Committee of an entity that identifies itself as a Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone. These actions directly conflict with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

Canon I.17.8 of the Episcopal Church provides that “[a]ny person accepting any office in this Church shall well and faithfully perform the duties of that office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church and of the Diocese in which the office is being exercised.” In light of your recent actions, I find that you have been and are unable to well and faithfully fulfill your duties as members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh under Canon I.17.8. Accordingly, with this letter I inform you that I do not recognize you as members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

I regret the decisions that you have made to attempt to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church and the necessary consequences of these actions. I give thanks for your service in the past, and pray that it may once more be a blessing to the Diocese. I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori

Busy man that he is these days, Father David Wilson nonetheless found time to dash off a reply:

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Church
815 Second Avenue
New York NY 10017-4503

Dear Bishop Schori,

The statements contained in your October 9, 2008 letter to the members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh are not authorized by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and are not authorized by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In particular, and without limitation, the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and of our Diocese give you no authority to “find” anything relating to the Standing Committee nor do they give you authority to “recognize” anyone, including authority to “recognize” any one as the ecclesiastical authority of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Indeed, they give you no authority to “find” anything regarding any Diocesan Standing Committee. Thus, your “recognition” of anyone as ecclesiastical authority of a diocese is of no canonical effect.

The only reason we are the ecclesiastical authority for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is because of your illegal “deposition” of Bishop Robert W. Duncan. Your effort to take advantage of this illegal action by following it with a subsequent illegal action (i.e., seeking to “recognize” members of a diocesan standing committee despite the fact that you have no jurisdiction or authority to do so) is wholly improper.

Finally, I stress that despite your illegitimate attempt to challenge our proper role as the ecclesiastical authority of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, we hold no ill-will toward those parishes of the Diocese that are now seeking to form in Western Pennsylvania a new diocese affiliated with The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Pittsburgh stands ready to work with these parishes to reach a fair settlement of all claims and/or disputes regarding property.

Sincerely,

The Rev. David D. Wilson
President
Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

CORRECTIONS

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I guess someone at ENS decided to take a three-day weekend or something because here’s what Simon Sarmiento actually meant to say about Bob Duncan’s recent visit to London:

Former Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, who was [not legally] deposed from the episcopate last month, has warned traditionalists in the Church of England that, in his view, what [has not legally] happened to him could happen to them.

Duncan spoke to journalists at a press conference on October 17 at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, chaired by Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream. Duncan was [not] deposed on September 19 by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori with the consent of [nowhere near the canonically-required number of] the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Duncan was charged with “abandonment of communion” for his actions in thoughts of openly [approving of the idea of] planning to remove removing his diocese from the Episcopal Church to align with the South America-based Province of the Southern Cone.

Glad to help, Simon.

BENIND THE SCENES AT THE MCJ

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

We’ve gotten so many entries for this MCJ Contest that I may not be able to announce the winner on Wednesday as I originally planned.  However, two members of the MCJ Board of Directors have graciously agreed to help me out with the judging so I’m going to try to declare it then.

After a VERY quick perusal of the entries so far, I’d give Heather Price a slight lead at the turn followed closely by Little Myrmidon, Wayward Episcopalian, Smurf Breath, Father Wilson, tired, Christopher Hathaway, Toral, DeeBee, Therese Z, Megan Loughlin, Sacerdotal451, and several others.

So it’s still anybody’s ballgame.

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