Archive for October, 2008

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Some of Mrs. Schori’s sock puppets said some things about some stuff:

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin determined October 17 that 16 deacons and 36 priests who opted to realign with the Southern Cone have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.
 
The decision paves the way for Bishop Jerry Lamb to inhibit the 52 clergy unless they recant and return to the Episcopal Church (TEC) within six months. In issuing its ruling, the committee said the clergy violated church constitution and canons both by supporting efforts to remove the Central California Valley diocese from TEC and by repudiating the ecclesiastical authority of TEC and the continuing diocese.
 
“It’s in the bishop’s hands,” said Nancy Key, diocesan communications director, on Friday. Inhibition would mean the clergy would not be allowed to function as Episcopal priests or deacons, or be employed by an Episcopal congregation. Clergy who do not recant will be removed from the ministry of the Episcopal Church.

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

POKER GAME

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

What do you do?  You’ve been taking Pete Lee’s money all game and he’s got the short stack.  You look at the cards you were just dealt and find that you’re holding pocket aces.  You pick up a king on the flop and a third ace on the turn.  After looking extremely nervous for several minutes, Pete Lee pushes all-in:

The historic congregation of Christ Church, Alexandria, Va., is scheduled to vote Sunday on a resolution that would convey to Virginia Bishop Peter Lee title to several acres of property now occupied by the congregation of The Falls Church, one of 11 congregations where the majority of the congregation voted to leave The Episcopal Church in December 2006. The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia have gone to court claiming they hold title to the church properties.

Among the land to which the court said Christ Church held title is a portion of The Falls Church’s ten-acre campus. The original two-acre parcel includes the historic church structure dating back to the 1760s. The congregation has subsequently built another, larger sanctuary where most worship services are held. Christ Church in Alexandria has no ownership interest in the majority of the campus.
 
Last month, lawyers for the Diocese of Virginia informed the senior warden of Christ Church, the Hon. Rawles Jones, Jr., that Christ Church held title to part of the land now occupied by The Falls Church. On Oct. 13, Bishop Lee formally asked Judge Jones whether the vestry of Christ Church would be willing to call for a congregational vote to convey title to the property now occupied by The Falls Church to Bishop Lee in his official capacity. The vestry met in executive session and approved the request on Oct. 15. Both the state and the Diocese of Virginia require a vote by the congregation before a church can transfer title to property.
 
Desperation may be at work here.
 
Last week Judge Randy Bellows declared that title to the property of Christ the Redeemer Church was properly transferred back to Truro Church, another of the 11 CANA congregations. Christ the Redeemer was a mission plant of Truro Church. After Christ Church closed, the congregation deeded the property back to the parent.
 
The assistance of Christ Church, Alexandria, is potentially a welcome development after what Bishop Lee described as a series of “disheartening” rulings by the circuit court of Fairfax County. In an Oct. 16 letter to the diocese, Bishop Lee assured members “that the Diocese of Virginia will vigorously appeal every court decision that denies any Episcopalians their rightful church homes” and that the diocese had faced many challenges in the past and that they would also emerge from this one “renewed and strengthened in our mission to serve Christ’s Church.”
 
Something else may be at work here as well.  Venom.  BabyBlue:
 
The Diocese believes Christ Church owns everything (which of course includes Pohick Church as well, one of the early “Truro Parish” properties). But doesn’t this then assume that congregations do own their own property when its held in trust by their own trustees? Why is this upcoming congregational vote recognized by the diocese while the others caused them to sue eleven congregations? Apparently some votes are more equal than others to the Diocese of Virginia. With TEC lawyers prowling around, other congregations in the diocese should take careful note.
 
Virginia, after all, was a diocese that had worked out a civilized separation agreement with its departing parishes that it unilaterally sank when instructed to by Mrs. Schori and Mr. Beers.  In the sort of “Christianity” practiced in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, obedient lap dogs like Pete Lee can tell you when his yes will be yes and his no will be no only after he hears from headquarters.

THAT’S SO EPISCOPALIAN!

Friday, October 17th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Quick tip: if you want people to stop using a term because you find it offensive, this is probably not a good way to go about it.  And I watched my mother die of Alzheimer’s every single day for about two years, E, so jokes about that disease are a REALLY lousy way to get me to give a damn about what offends you.

ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH, ZIP-A-DEE-AY!

Thursday, October 16th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Today, our tour of the unbelievably splendid wonderfulness that is the Episcopal Organization takes us to Central New York where Bishop Gladstone “Skip” Adams celebrates how gosh-darned spiffy everything is these days in a somewhat unusual way:

In the development of the proposed 2009 Diocesan Budget, it became clear that the financial realities of today’s economy are creating challenges for our congregations in terms of assessment and investment revenue.  Increased energy costs place additional pressures on already stretched budgets. these challenges obviously impact the financial resources available on the diocesan level for staff, programming and ministry.

The mission of the Diocesan Staff is to provide resources to commissions, committees and congregations so they can minister faithfully in their own communities. This will remain our commitment, however, an anticipated reduction in 2009 revenues has required me to make some difficult and painful decisions.

Gladstone “Skip” is going to take a pay cut?  He’s cancelling CNY’s lawsuit?  What are you, high?  He’s firing diocesan staff.

It’s been pointed out here and there that conservative TEO dioceses aren’t doing that well either which is understandable.  When a large ship is sinking, you need to get as far away from it as you possibly can or it will pull you under with it.

MORATORIUM

Thursday, October 16th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Schmoratorium:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The Supreme Court of California has determined that all citizens of our state should have equal access to marriage as a civil right based in our state constitution. The Court’s ruling provides the Church with an opportunity to reflect on our own theology of marriage. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, we have sought to provide the Church’s blessing to all the baptized people of God.

Among those are people who have sought to have same-sex relationships blessed in the community of faith. I know that the acceptance of same-sex unions has caused spiritual struggle and questioning for some members of our Diocese, our Church and the Anglican Communion. My policy has been to allow clergy to respond to the needs of their community with pastoral sensitivity including the blessing of these unions as they deem appropriate to the pastoral context.

Earlier this year, when the court made same-sex marriage an option in civil law, I felt it necessary to convene a task force to develop a diocesan policy by which clergy in our Diocese might officiate at same-sex marriages. The task force has developed educational materials that I hope will help you and members of our Diocese to reflect on the issues involved in same sex-marriage as we discern our way forward.

I hope that all clergy in our Diocese might educate our congregations about marriage and have conversations about it.

Performing and blessing these marriages is not simply theoretical. There are real people in congregations large and small who have waited sometimes for many years for this opportunity, and the witness of their faithful love has been an inspiration to me. Other couples will step forward in the future. I hope you will take the opportunity in the next several weeks to listen to their stories. Many among these couples are members of our congregations.

While no one in this Diocese will be forced to move beyond what his or her conscience allows, we seek to provide that gracious space for those whose conscience compels them to bless the marriages of all faithful people as together we discern the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead us into all truth.

Your Brother in Christ,
J. Jon Bruno
Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles

MCJ CONTEST

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 169 Comments

We haven’t had one of these in a while.  But the Chairman-and-CEO of MidConJo Enterprises has decided that this picture absolutely cries out for a caption contest. 

The contest runs for a week and the winner receives a coffee mug.  Enter in the comments as many times as you like.

Both Anglicans and people who have never been inside an Anglican church are eligible and the decisions of the judge(me) are final.   Entries deemed inappropriate will be deleted and will probably cost you any chance at the title. 

Employees of the MCJ and their families ARE eligible so if in the opinion of the judge(me), I come up with something better than you, I win.

Here’s three to start you off:

(1) Kate and I knocked back a few shots of Everclear before the service and MAN, was I pixellated.

(2) I told you that you couldn’t keep three large anchovy pizzas down, Brian.  You’re not in college anymore, dude.

(3) So how did the prostate surgery go, Doctor Bishop?

UPDATE: The contest is now closed.  Vote for the winner here.

FREE-FALL

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

And then there’s Michigan:

Faced with declining church attendance and dwindling income, the Diocese of Michigan is set to launch a plan aimed at revitalizing the “diocesan household.”  At the core of the plan is an effort to determine the best way to invest a remarkable resource to bring about growth and vitality:  the Extended Ministries Fund (EMF), which includes a bequest to the diocese given 15 years ago and worth more than $9 million today.

In its proposal, the task force notes that “the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan is in steep decline.” Charts included in the document reveal that average Sunday attendance has declined by 22% since 2000.  During the same time period “pledge and plate revenues” for all congregations combined has decreased by approximately $2 million, when adjusted for inflation.

Like Washington, Michigan’s been hitting its reserves for a long time.

The proposal also notes that since 1995, the annual diocesan budget has been dependent on a draw from the “appreciated value and investment income” of the EMF.  In 2007 that draw amounted to 36% of the revenue in the budget.  Tithes and offerings from congregations amounted to only 57% of the budget that same year.

The task force reported that the diocesan budget has been “cut substantially” over the past several years, including a reduction in staff.  It said it concurs with its predecessor body (the EMF Task Force I) that “further budget cuts would cripple diocesan operations irrevocably.”

What does Michigan plan to do about all this?  Nothing in particular.

Specifically, the proposal for the first phase of the project has been designed to “listen, learn, analyze data and develop a second phase for action and implementation.”  The first phase will invite diocesan-wide comment on four key concepts:

  • “Revitalize the diocese through a coordinated strategy to grow congregations and generate enthusiasm and financial support for our diocesan mission.
  • “Design a plan to realign our buildings and physical presence with our mission, as part of financial revitalization and preparing for more effective ministry.” (The goal would be to match building size and function with congregation size while reducing overhead.)
  • “Foster widespread understanding of, and respect and appreciation for the work of diocesan staff in congregations throughout the diocese.
  • “Inspire confidence within the household that funds contributed through the diocesan assessment are used with the greatest possible efficiency and dedication to the purpose for which they are intended.

That should do it.  Tell us again how great everything is in the Episcopal Organization these days, Kate.

WASH OUT

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chane-land admits that MAYBE it MIGHT have a TINY bit of a problem:

Membership and money are the biggest challenges the Diocese of Washington is facing today, according to canon to the ordinary Paul Cooney.

For the past six months, Cooney has been gathering data on the diocese’s membership, church attendance and pledging trends at the behest of the Diocesan Council. He has made some encouraging – and discouraging – discoveries, which he hopes the diocese’s constituent churches will find helpful.

How are attendance and membership doing?

On a typical Sunday, Cooney said, church attendance at parishes in the diocese ranges from 14 to 1,039. In half of the diocese’s parishes, fewer than 115 people attend Sunday services. And in the average parish, Church School draws just 27 children.

Data from parochial reports show that over the last 20 years, the diocese’s membership has remained stable in the low 40,000s. But during that same period, the number of pledging households has decreased by about 20 percent.

Over the last 20 years, “we’ve become modestly smaller,” Cooney said.

Despite a lack of consistency in the way membership data has been recorded, the reports indicate a gradual but marked decline in the last 40 years: Since 1967, the number of active communicants in the diocese’s parishes has dropped by approximately 26 percent.

But on the bright side, Washington Episcopalians are not bothered by having to endure a lot of whiny little kids running around their parishes on Sundays.

“More analysis remains to be done,” Cooney wrote in a recent memo to the council. “However, it comes as no surprise from reviewing the data thus far that we face the challenging situation of fragile and in some cases declining membership. Of particular concern is the typically small number of children in our congregations.”

What’s the financial situation?

Between 2006 and 2007, the aggregate normal operating income (NOI) of the diocese’s (then) 89 parishes increased by 3.9 percent, Cooney said.

Between 2002 and 2006, 26 congregations saw an increase of at least 30 percent in their NOI. But in absolute dollars (not adjusting for inflation) 17 parishes had lower NOI in 2006 than in 2002. After adjusting for inflation, 32 parishes had less buying power in 2006 than they did in 2002.

By 2007, 39 parishes were experiencing a reduced NOI. Additionally, the cost of running a parish is higher than it used to be, due to inflation, the upkeep of aging facilities and the rising cost of health care.

“With diminished membership, inflation and deferred property maintenance we have an operation that costs more than it used to, and fewer people to fund it,” Cooney said.

So Washington’s had to hit up the ol’ reserves.

Parish giving is one of the diocese’s main sources of revenue ($2.8 million in 2007 – which is the base year congregations use to determine their 2009 pledge to the diocese), along with income from the Ruth Gregory Soper Memorial Trust, the Bishop’s Appeal and other interest and investment income.

The Soper Trust, with a value in excess of $27 million at the end of 2007, is the largest of the diocesan trusts in terms of the value of its investment portfolio. While the council (or diocesan convention) may use the earnings as it sees fit, it had planned to phase out the use of these funds in the operating budget over a 5-year period. However, as parish giving has not risen as anticipated, the diocese has needed to use more than $1 million each year from the available income to balance its budget.

What to do?  More paying customers would be nice.

“I’ve come to believe that the diocese’s biggest challenge is less a stewardship challenge and more a membership challenge,” Cooney said. “A congregation that is getting smaller is not going to find the answer in better stewardship.”

But small congregations make up about half of the diocese’s parishes, he said, and “many are having to struggle just to keep the lights on. We’re very sympathetic to their plight.”

For parishes experiencing financial difficulties, he said, “quality of life” is often a concern: “congregations that are struggling to pay the basic expenses are often distracted and discouraged from things spiritual.”

This can make it harder to attract new members, he said, and can cause the time and talent of the existing congregation to focus inward.

But Paul’s not just talking bodies in the seats here. 

But that does not mean attracting members merely to fill the church coffers, he said: Growth initiatives must stem from a genuine desire to share the good news of the Gospel.

The Gospel?  The Gospel?  Well, not so much.

“We’ve got a good thing going that we’d like to tell people about,” he said. “I think our nature of worship is attractive, and that includes our flexibility of worship styles. I think our openness to exploring religious understanding is also attractive as opposed to other denominations that have a more rigid doctrine.”

In other words, we should keep on doing exactly what got us into this situation in the first place and keep on preaching the same ”gospel” that has caused people to abandon us in droves until all those idiots realize just how marvelous we are.  Then the sky’s the limit, baby!

DEATH SPIRAL

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

The Episcopal Organization’s 2007 numbers are out and let’s just say that Mrs. Schori has some serious spinning to do.  Matt Kennedy took a quick look at some diocesan ASA numbers from around the country.  None are particularly impressive.

Here in Missouri, as typical an Episcopal diocese as any, membership dropped to under 14,000 while ASA was less than half that.  Emmanuel, my old parish, showed a rather sharp membership decline from 2006 to 2007 while ASA held more-or-less steady.

But what ought to alarm Locust Street is that St. Michael and St. George, perhaps the Diocese’s wealthiest parish, has shown a steady decline in membership since 2003 while its ASA took a bit of dive in 2007.  At Christ Church Cathedral, another wealthy parish, membership has increased slightly while ASA has been dropping for the last three years.

What about all those gays and liberals who were going to flock into the Episcopal Organization after Gene Robinson got his pointy hat?  It’s not happening here.  The membership at Church of the Advent, one of the Diocese’s Oasis parishes(Christ Church Cathedral is another), nosedived last year.

Back to you, Kate.

DO NOT READ THIS POST

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

I used to think that Gene Robinson was the world’s acknowledged master at what Diogenes once described as “letting the media’s left hand know what his own right hand was doing.”  Boy howdy, was I wrong:

+Gene mostly sat in the background, interjecting only occasionally. He told the PB that he loves stepping out of the spotlight for once and wishes she could stop by more often.

So please don’t spread this around.  Robbie’ll just be mortified.

SHORT STACK

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The next time I play poker with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and I’m dealt Jack-10 off-suited, I’m pushing all-in.  Via e-mail:

The Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) responded to the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruling issued today that found that a parcel of property that once belonged to Christ the Redeemer Episcopal Church was properly deeded to Truro Church trustees, and as a result, is covered by the Virginia Division Statute. 

“We are pleased with today’s ruling, which found that the intent of Christ the Redeemer Church, a former mission of Truro, was to give its property, a parcel of vacant land, to Truro Church.  This ruling confirms that Truro Church owns the land, and that it is to be considered under the Virginia Division Statute, which our congregations have successfully invoked in our defense,” said ADV Vice-Chairman Jim Oakes.  Christ the Redeemer and Truro Church are both ADV members. 

On April 3, 2008, Judge Bellows issued a landmark ruling that acknowledged a division within The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Virginia and the larger Anglican Communion, and that the Anglican congregations in Virginia could invoke the Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9) in their defense.  The Virginia Division Statute states that the majority of the church is entitled to its property when a group of congregations divide from the denomination.  On June 27, 2008, Judge Bellows issued a ruling that confirmed the constitutionality of Virginia Division Statute. 

The Episcopal Church and the Diocese abruptly broke off settlement negotiations in January 2007 and filed lawsuits against the Virginia churches, their ministers and their vestries.  The decision of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese to redefine and reinterpret Scripture caused the 11 Anglican churches to sever their ties.

MOLECH

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

The next time anyone from the Episcopal Organization prattles on about how much TEO respects all life, point them to this Executive Council resolution Jackie Bruchi dug up.  Key paragraph:

It must also be noted that Council was in error in its 1978 statement that RCAR “appears to advocate an unconditional right to abortion” and is thus inconsistent with this Church’s position. This Church does advocate an unconditional legal right to abortion, as expressed in its oft-repeated “unequivocal opposition” to legislative abridgement of that right; the RCAR/RCRC is a coalition of faith communitiesthat, among other things, seeks to preserve that legal right. In addition, although different faith communities may express their positions in different ways, all members of the coalition share this Church’s further position that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be made according to individual conscience and should not be made lightly or for frivolous reasons.

And let’s not have any more of that “What’s the big deal?  This was just the Executive Council” dodge.  The fingerprints of the entire Episcopal Organization are all over this. 

In the 2003 General Convention, Resolution D045 proposed that the Church, and also the Episcopal Women’s Caucus and the Urban Caucus, withdraw from membership in RCRC. Quoting from some publications of some members of the coalition (including a quote from Whoopi Goldberg), it was argued that RCRC takes positions that are inconsistent with the position of the Church. For example, one coalition member was quoted as stating that a woman’s sexuality “is a blessing, not a curse,” that the woman’s “need to express it is to be honored, not despised,” and that the woman is “called to figure out what this unwanted pregnancy is all about” and to do so “without guilt or shame.” This was said to be inconsistent with the Church’s position that sexual abstinence should be taught and that abortion should not be used as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.” No mention was made of the 1978 action of Executive Council described above. The premises that underlay D045 were challenged in committee, and the House of Deputies passed an amended version of this resolution that would have referred the subject of RCRC membership to a standing committee. The House of Bishops took no action and thus the matter died.

Bottom line: the Episcopalians favor abortion without any sort of let or hinderance.  They just REALLY hope you don’t get one for an icky reason.  

But if you do, don’t sweat it because they’re not going to get all up your face about it.  TEO’s not about rules and guilt and all the rest of that fundie crap.

You don’t get it, Johnson, you man you.  Infants don’t pay.  Infants don’t pledge.  And infants divert resources that could be used to keep our outlets in business and/or advance the Millennium Development Goals[peace and blessings be upon them].  You know, all the stuff Jesus would support if He were alive today. 

Infants just aren’t cost-effective, Johnson.

YOU’RE WEARING WHAT?!!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 24 Comments

That guy on the right there, standing next to Purple Haze, is Brian Thom, the new Episcopal Bishop of Idaho.  Idaho’s a beautiful state, somewhere I’d move tomorrow if I had the resources, and I wish the guy the best of luck.

But I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with dude’s vestments.  So far, I’ve got three explanations:

(1) Scrambled porn.

(2) Brian’s rocking one of Sauron’s cataracts.

(3) It REALLY wasn’t a good idea to have the spaghetti-and-meatballs-eating contest prior to the consecration.

This is one of the reasons why people become Puritans.  Churches are not art galleries.  I don’t get up early on one of my days off to go to a big building, stroke my chin and ask, “What’s Brian trying to say here?”

I go to that big building to worship God.

Brian’s job is to direct all my attention to the One I came to worship, not to Brian.  Wearing vestments as ridiculous as that, Brian may think he’s Making An Important Statement.  What he’s actually making is an irritating distraction.

We had two types of worship services at my old joint.  One took place in the main sanctuary and was typical Episcopal pomp and ceremony.  Big organ, vestments out the wazoo, a horn section now and then, that kind of thing.  The other took place in a side chapel.  Minimal vestments, minimal music, minimal ceremony.

Guess which one I grew to love and actually miss.

Are you against vestments, Johnson?  Not as such.  Whether your church’s ministers wear them or don’t wear them is immaterial to me.  I am most emphatically against vestments that attract more attention to their wearers than to the One their wearers claim to be serving.

INSERT POST TITLE HERE

Monday, October 13th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Greg Griffith found this one.  And I’ve got nothing.  Nothing at all.  So let me just say this: ladies and gentlemen, your Church of England!

Congratulations to our friends at the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in England on their aquisition of the building that once housed St. Benedict’s Church Hall. This gives the Goddess Temple additional space for larger public ceremonies and classes.

Glastonbury Goddess Temple was able to come to an agreement with St. Ben’s Parish Council regarding the previous restrictions on the use of the Hall, which was owned by the Church of England and persisted even after the sale of the Hall. St. Ben’s Parish Council has agreed to allow use of the Hall “without let or hindrance” for Goddess activities including ceremonies, courses, workshops, and other community activities, as well as a dedicated space for Pagan marriage ceremonies and handfastings.

One thing.  I don’t want to know what a handfasting is.  I just don’t.  At all!!  So if you Google it, don’t leave it in the comments.

WORDS THAT MAKE YOU STOP READING

Monday, October 13th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Episode One:

Elvis impersonator, Anglican preacher, and federal election candidate Dorian Baxter…

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