Archive for December, 2008

ASK EMPTY COKE BOTTLE

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 24 Comments

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: Welcome to the first of a series of online chats with the director of the Department of Episcopal Church Communications, Bishop Empty Coke Bottle.  Bishop Bottle will attempt to answer any questions you may have about the Anglican world in general and the Episcopal Church in particular.  Bishop Bottle, it’s a pleasure to have you here.

EMPTY COKE BOTTLE: Damn straight it is, Chuck.

CJ: Chris.

ECB: Whatever.  Let’s get started.

CJ: Okay.  A Professor William T. writes in, “I wonder if the ‘Bishop’ could address the theological problems of the ‘consecration’ to the episcopate of an inanimate object as well as the total breach with Church history and anything remotely resembling orthodox Christian opinion that this ‘consecration’ involves.”

ECB: Ooh, sarcasm quotes.  But let me get this straight.  You’re a professor.  And you’re asking an empty Coke bottle about theology and Church history.  Do you kick around Kant or Hegel with your lawn mower?  Has that butt-ugly lamp you got for Christmas disproved the ontological argument yet? 

CJ: Kathleen L. wants to know, “Do you think the differing views on women’s ordination will eventually doom the Anglican Church in North America?  After all, can one church justify both positions with any theological or intellectual integrity?”

ECB: You’re not much for paying attention, are you, Einstein?  What did I just get done saying?  I’m an empty Coke bottle and an Episcopal bishop.  Either one of those facts should inform any intelligent person that I don’t know jack about this stuff.  Next question, Chatsworth.

CJ: Chris.  JanJ. writes, “In view of the Episcopal Church’s position on gays as clergy, along with its apparently settled-for-all-time decision on women’s ordination, is there any point for the Roman Catholic Church to continue ecumenical discussions with the Episcopalians?”

ECB: Oh, for the love of…one more time.  I’m an empty Coke bottle.  I used to be filled with a refreshing beverage.  Now I’m an Episcopal bishop with a big-ass expense account and perks you couldn’t pay for with a year’s salary of whatever your stupid job is. 

You want to discuss complicated crap, you go to somebody with an actual intellect, not the dumpster out back of your apartment complex.  For crying out loud, screen these things, will you, Chopper?

CJ: Uh…actually, it’s…it’s Chris.  Anyway, Ed the Roman writes, “You have to admit that consecrating an inanimate object is pretty unusual.”

ECB: That’s not a question, Ed.  A question has words like “Who” or “How” or “What” in it and has a question mark at the end.  And not much irritates me more than some reporter saying, “The sky was really blue today,” and sticking a microphone in my face.

But I see you working.  Actually, it would be downright loopy in most Episcopal dioceses but Missouri’s had a long tradition of inanimate objects as bishops dating all the way back to Hays Rockwell.

CJ: A Greg G. writes, “What about the charges of nepotism that have lately arisen concerning Bottle and his office?”

ECB: I’m glad this question came up, Chun Hua.

CJ: Chris.

ECB: Like I care.  I assume Greg’s referring to the fact that I hired my girlfriend to a high position here in the Department.  Let me assure everyone that the Rev. Canon Sex On The Beach is entirely qualified to do her job.  I consulted my departmental chancellor, Tricked-Out Mustang, and he saw no problem.  So, well, you know, bite me.

CJ: That’s all the time we have.  Join us again next time for another edition of Ask Empty Coke Bottle.

TALKING TO MYSELF

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 38 Comments

“So what’s on for New Year’s, Johnson?”

“Nothing exciting, Johnson.  Maybe I’ll do the laundry or finally get that haircut I’ve been putting off for a year and a half or so.” 

“I like that Hubert Keller thing you’re rocking these days.”

“Thanks.  Going to have to check out his restaurant here in town.  But I’m getting bored with the look.  I think I’ll also get in a little cold-weather cooking.  A chili, a lentil soup, something like that.”

“You don’t do New Year’s Eve?”

“Nah.  Gave that up a long time ago.  I’m not supposed to eat any of the food at the parties and I’m a horrible conversationalist. 

“So it’s either eating stuff I should stay away from or making small talk.  I’ve always been way too good at the first and I suck at the second.”

“I hear you.  Are you going to start on that CJ:AI recording?”

“Maybe.  Got the last one printed out.  Of course, considering how many takes it took me to finally get a two minute MCJ-TV thing that I liked, I’m not making any guarantees that this thing will ever see the light of day.”

“Speaking of which, when are you going to do another one of those TV deals?”

“When I get a haircut.  And something to talk about.  Rest of the next two days will probably be football, tea, the odd Screwdriver now and then, staring out the window and thinking about stuff.  Same as always.”

“Gotcha.  You want to know something?”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t look very happy.”

“Me, I’m 53 years old, overweight, a credit card debt that could buy me a really good car, single, no even remotely conceivable prospect and a job I don’t particularly care for.  I never EVER look happy.”

“I know.  I just figured you’d look slightly less dour what with getting that new Anglican province and all.”

“I didn’t get a new Anglican province.”

“You didn’t?  Then what did you just get?”

“I got a new Anglican province announcement.  Big difference.  When an actual North American Anglican province is actually recognized, if it ever actually is, I’ll actually be kind of happy.  Ish.”

“Do you think the issue’s in doubt?”

“Of course I think the issue’s in doubt.”

“Why?  Do you think that when 815 says, ‘Jump,’ Rowan Williams replies,’How high?’”

“Yup.  Trinity-Wall Street has a lot of money.  It’s the only plausible explanation I can think of why that broccoli-shaped sock puppet organized the Lambeth Conference the way he did.  It’s also meaningless.”

“Meaningless?”

“Aside from the occasional public libel and slander they can’t help, I stopped caring a long time ago what Kate or Susie or Lizzie or Gene or Fat Jonny or Tommy Three-Sticks or any of the rest of the girls do in their little hen parties.  The Episcopal left hasn’t been relevant to this story for five years.”

“You’re wondering what the right will do.”

“Exactly.”

“Do you seriously think the conservative primates won’t confront Williams at the Egypt meeting?”

“Right now, I’d bet that way.”

“Why?”

“Body of work.  The primates didn’t fight the introduction of the spurious “boundary-crossing” issue in 2003, got rolled in 2005 and let Mrs. Schori into Dar es Salaam in 2007.”

“They boycotted Lambeth.”

“Which in retrospect may have been a big mistake.  Point being, the primates haven’t confronted Dr. Williams yet.  When they do, I’ll be the first to congratulate them.  But not before.”

“But what if Dr. Williams says no?  Or, as is more likely, bureaucratizes the question indefinitely?”

“As he probably will.”

“Doesn’t that imply that the primates must be willing to walk away from Canterbury if recognition or the promise of eventual recognition doesn’t come?”

“Yup.”

“Awfully Roundhead of you.”

“Thanks.  Jim Rome’s got a phrase for this.  ‘Man’s game, bitch.’  You want make an omelet, you’ve got to crack some eggs. 

“Or use some kind of healthy egg substitute but that would screw up the colloquialism.  Anyway, you want to do this Christianity stuff, you have to make tough choices now and then.”

“Easy for you to say.  Asking people to walk away from the apostolic connection, valid sacraments…”

BOB GIBSON PAINTS THE LOW OUTSIDE CORNER, STRIKE THREE, TAKE A SEAT!!  I have a question.  What makes sacraments valid?”

“The apostolic connection.”

“And what makes the See of Canterbury apostolic?”

 ”The fact that the men who have occupied that seat have had hands laid upon them by bishops who have had hands laid on them and so on all the way back to the Apostles.”

“And the bishops below them have had hands laid on them by other bishops and they’ve laid hands on still more bishops, etc.  So Bob Duncan is as apostolic as all get out.”

“Correct.”

“Now tell me something.  Did Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, receive a pallium from Pope Gregory or was it the other way around?”

“Augustine received the pallium from the Pope.”

“So the See of Canterbury used to be under the See of Rome.”

“True.”

“But it’s not now.”

“Right.  That Reformation thing.  It was in all the whatever passed for newspapers back then.”

“Is Canterbury still apostolic?”

“Of course.  You’re not less of an apostle just because you no longer acknowledge the supremacy of a particular bishop.”

“According to the Anglicans.  But answer me this.  Were Peter Akinola, Henry Orombi, Donald Harvey, Bob Duncan and Jack Iker ‘apostolic’ a year ago?”

“Of course.”

“If Anglican theory considers Canterbury an ‘apostolic’ see even after the split from Rome, wouldn’t an ‘apostolic’ bishop who split from Canterbury still be ‘apostolic?’  And wouldn’t sacraments administered by that ‘apostolic’ bishop be, therefore, entirely valid?”

“Well, uh…”

“Where does it say that you get one split but no more?”

“I, er, um…”

“If splitting from Rome did not affect the ‘apostolic’ status of the Archbishop of Canterbury, then why, according to Anglican theory, would splitting from Canterbury affect the ‘apostolic’ status of the Archbishops of Abuja, Kampala or North America?  And why would sacraments administered by any of these by invalid if they split?”

“Well, I don’t know that…”

“Seems to me that you can have one or the other but not both.  Either Canterbury is ‘apostolic,’ in which case those who split from it are still ‘apostolic,’ or Canterbury is not ‘apostolic’ at all and hasn’t been for five hundred years, in which case the ‘validity’ of Anglican sacraments ceases to be an issue.”

“Uh…um…lentil soup you say?”

FORM LETTER

Monday, December 29th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 70 Comments

As most of you probably know, Israel, in response to a year’s worth of rocket attacks by Hamas, has been bombing targets in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip for the past three days.  For two reasons, one serious, the other less so, I dread situations like this.

The serious reason is this: it once again drives home how little I care about the fate of the “Palestinians.”  I know that as a Christian, I should not be indifferent to the fate of anyone regardless of the religion they happen to profess and regardless of whether they hate me or not.

I know that the “Palestinians” are our enemies and always have been.  I know that they backed Saddam Hussein against us twice and that 9/11/2001 was a time of joy for them.  And I know that most “Palestinians” think that “Palestine” extends to the Mediterranean and doesn’t include Jews at all except as hewers of wood and drawers of water.

But they are people.  Misguided and deluded people, perhaps, but people nonetheless.  And the fact that they are misguided and deluded is all the more reason to be concerned for their ultimate fates and not to react with indifference to their deaths.

Nevertheless, that is precisely how I react.  Why?  Because unlike that large segment of the world’s population which can only be roused to life when “Palestinians” die, the murder of Jews bothers me.  The “Palestinians” have been granted chance after chance to make peace with the Jews and have deliberately squandered every single one of them.

So it’s okay to hate them?  Of course not.  I’m just telling you why I react the way I do.

It’s kind of like this, I think.  You have been repeatedly cited for drunk driving.  Perhaps you lost your driving privileges for a period; maybe you even did time.  So if you get liquored up one night, attempt to drive home, slam your car into a bridge abutment and end up paralyzed, you have no right to expect anyone to say, “Amen” when you curse God for what you think is your undeserved fate.

The less serious reason why I hate situations like this is that I’m forced to read mainline Christian reaction to it.  Doddering old fool Desmond “Toot, Toot” Tutu “Goodbye” recently drooled the usual crap about “war crimes.”  And Mrs. Schori had this to say:

Yesterday afternoon in New York, outside the Episcopal Church Center, a demonstration took place in front of the Israeli consulate.  The demonstrators included orthodox Jews. 

Odd that Kate would feel the need to throw that “some of my best friends” line in there.  Which “orthodox Jews” are you referring to, Presiding Bishop?  The ones who think the State of Israel shouldn’t exist and are perfectly okay with making nice with the President of Iran, someone who wouldn’t mind seeing Israel wiped off the map?

All were calling for an immediate end to the attacks in Gaza.  I join my voice to theirs and those of many others around the world, challenging the Israeli government to call a halt to this wholly disproportionate escalation of violence. 

Over the last year or so, Hamas has lobbed something like 3,000 rockets into Israel.  What would be a “proportionate” response, Kate?  Can Israel just indiscriminately fire 3,000 rockets into Gaza?

I challenge the Palestinian forces to end their rocket attacks on Israelis. 

Bearing in mind, of course, that no one, least of all Israel, should be allowed to actually force the Hammies to “end their rocket attacks on Israelis.”  Obviously, our public disapproval of the Hambone tactics should satisfy Jerusalem.

I urge a comprehensive response to these attacks. 

Israel’s got it covered, Kate.  Oh, that’s right, the Honey-Baked Hammies shooting missiles at Israel is a matter of total indifference to us.  Israel defending its people is a “war crime.”

Never mind.

FIDEI DEFENSOR

Sunday, December 28th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

British Roman Catholic Damian Thompson makes the case for continuing the establishment of the Church of England:

The C of E, which – like it or not – is central to what remains of our identity as a Christian culture, relies on its “unfair” established status to survive. Take that away, and it will implode. As it is, worldwide Anglicanism is breaking into separate denominations; only the Church of England has until now been able to hold together Protestant and quasi-Catholic traditions. All that keeps those traditions together now is the glue of establishment – meaning not only the authority of the Crown over the Church, but also the instinctive sense of non-churchgoers that they belong to it.

I’m aware that for a Catholic to defend the Supreme Governorship of a Protestant over our national Church reeks of hypocrisy. But, as I say, the case for establishment is a messy one. Personally, I can put up with a Protestant monarch; the fact that the heir to the throne cannot marry a Catholic, on the other hand, is pretty insulting – but I’d rather live with that than pull out a single strand from our constitutional arrangement in these dangerous times.

Disestablish the Church of England now, and millions of people will cease to be nominally Christian. From some theological points of view, that’s not a big deal, since purely nominal Christians aren’t saved. But I’d argue that our society desperately needs nominal Christians, the folk who only declare themselves C of E when they’re filling out a form.

But the chief beneficiary of the vacuum would be Britain’s most energetic, fast growing and wily religious movement: radical Islam, which in a generation or two could dominate our religious landscape. And that, my friends (as Dan would say), is a fate worse than death.

I’m not convinced.  It is quite true that the American and British situations are not the same.  But the establishment of the C of E will not prevent the implosion that Thompson fears.  And part of the reason for that implosion is the very establishment Thompson wishes to maintain.

It’s like this.  Our two fruit baskets are empty.  You stay home and wait for someone to bring you some fruit.  I go to the store and purchase types of fruit that I particularly enjoy.  Which of the two of us is going to be enjoying a nice pomegranate or D’Anjou pear well before the other one does?

There is a reason why early backwoods America contained so many Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. and it has little to do with history or prejudice and even less to do with the “market.”  It’s something pretty basic.

While the Episcopalians sat safe in their rich, respectable parishes with their rich, respectable fellow Episcopalians, the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. went out and told all those backwoods folks the Good News.  While the Episcopalians waited for the fruit to be delivered to them, the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. went out and picked their own.

In the same way, the Church of England, safe in its position as the English church you joined if you actually wanted to get anywhere in Great Britain, remained inside its cathedrals and its lovely parish churches, waited for the great unwashed to come to it and saw no reason to expend any effort at all to get Englishmen to do what proper Englishmen should have done anyway. 

Might Islam someday dominate Britain?  I suppose it’s possible.  But that domination will not come because there is no longer an established Christian church in the UK.  It will come when the British arrive at the conclusion that Islam has something to tell them while the C of E does not.

After all, it’s not like Canterbury has ever tried all that hard to tell the British much of anything.  The great evangelists who were not Anglican far outnumber those who were; in fact, you can count the number of great Anglican evangelists on one hand and still have fingers left over.

(1) George Whitefield (2) John Wesley.  See?

Since the C of E and many of her children have always regarded open-air preaching as tres gauche, far more people around the world know about the evangelistic efforts of men like Billy Graham or Benny Hinn or groups like the Open-Air Mission than know about the Church Army, the C of E’s evangelistic outreach.

As a conservative, I do not support abandoning this or that institution simply because it doesn’t happen to fit with someone’s interpretation of what modern thinking ought to be.  But neither do I respect something simply because it is very old.

If the Church of England remembers what it is supposed to be there for and acts upon that memory, then it will be “established” by the British people regardless of British legal opinion.  If the C of E considers itself nothing more than yet another “British” institution that should be kept around simply because it is old and British, then it deserves to die and the sooner the better.

WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS

Saturday, December 27th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

People constantly ask me, “How much longer are you going to keep writing about the Anglicans, Wannabe?”  I don’t have the slightest idea.  At several points during the last five years(the Windsor Report, the primates meetings, GenCon 2006 and its aftermath and, especially, the recent Lambeth Conference), I probably should have read the writing on the wall and gotten the cooking blog going.

Yet here I still am.  And I suspect I may be at this a while.  I know it pretty well; after all, if you get baptized into and spend the first 48 of your 53 years in a religious tradition, you pick up a few things.  Guys like John Chane have got a lot of Frank Griswold in them and I got a whole book(which will probably be going out of print soon so order a copy right away) out of my encounters with Mrs. Schori’s legendary predecessor.

But there are two basic reasons why I think I may just keep going(although if the GAFCON primates botch the upcoming Primates Meeting regarding ACNA, I’ll keep going a whole lot less and at a much greater distance than I did before).  One of them’s this.

A little over a week ago, the Washington Post’s “On Leftist Hallmark Cards With The Odd N. T. Wright Commentary Thrown In Now And Then To Make The Rubes Think We Take Their Stupid Ideas Seriously Faith” feature ran a piece in which a certain retired Episcopal bishop had this to say:

Let me lay out the facts: The negativity toward homosexuality emanating from these groups is first based on a naïve and outdated definition of homosexuality, namely that it is a choice made by persons who are either mentally sick or morally depraved. If they are mentally sick they are to be cured if possible and if not, they are to be pitied. If they are morally depraved they are to be converted. If that fails they are to be judged, condemned and ostracized.

Second, these dated and false ideas are then buttressed by biblical quotations that reveal little or no awareness of contemporary biblical scholarship. The favorite verses of condemnation come from Leviticus, which calls homosexuality “an abomination” in chapter 18 and prescribes the death penalty for it in chapter 20; from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18-19, and from chapter one of Romans. They fail to read the rest of Leviticus which reveals attitudes and values long abandoned as immoral in our day or to note that the Bible itself calls the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah the violation of the Middle Eastern hospitality code. In Romans 1 Paul actually argues that homosexuality is God’s imposed punishment on those who do not worship God properly. A strange God this would be!

Several other texts are also frequently cited, but they are usually based on mistranslations of a Greek word (arcenokoitus), which means a wide variety of other practices like Temple prostitutes, with homosexuality being a minor note, if present at all, in that word. All of these texts assume that homosexuality is a choice, for that was the “common wisdom” when the Bible was written some 2000 to 3000 years ago. Other common assumptions of that period of history also found in the Bible are that epilepsy and mental illness are caused by demon possession, that sickness results from divine punishment, that women are property, that menstruation is an abomination, that slavery is legitimate and that God is the cause of everything we did not then understand. These data raise questions first about why anyone today would give credence to a literal understanding of a Bible, containing as it does such obviously outdated ideas; and second, why anyone would pay attention to those who do?

Both science and medicine have obliterated most of these dated attitudes. There is, however, always in every social change a small body of people who cannot embrace new knowledge and who thus will not move to any new conclusions. They shroud their fear in the suggestion that they alone represent “God’s will” and that anyone who disagrees with them is actually disagreeing with God! The Christian Church has dealt with this mentality many times throughout history — when the divine right of kings was challenged by the Magna Carta in the 13th century; when Galileo opened our minds to the size of the universe in the 17th century; when Darwin’s thought was published and when slavery was ended in the 19th century; when segregation was struck down, women emancipated and mental illness recognized as a sickness in the 20th century. Today the energy of this backwater mentality floats around the issue of homosexuality. There is nothing unusual about this. What is unusual is that these ideas in their irrelevant death throes can still command a front page story in the New York Times!

There is, of course, no use pointing out that John Shelby Spong is a gutless atheist, that actual theologians have obliterated this crap, that anyone who owns a Bible can effortlessly do the same or that Spong is an intellectual and theological whore who will say and do anything, however degrading, as long as the secular culture puts the cash on the nightstand.

What’s troubling is this.  Spong’s stupid views don’t ever seem to have ever truly bothered anyone.  In the Post piece, the old fraud prattles on about how awful the conservative bishops with whom he had to associate were but the fact remains that those conservative bishops continued to associate with him and never once brought him up on any kind of charge or even considered the idea.

You didn’t bail until 2003, Chris.  If you only count the years during which you were seriously aware of and following the controversies, you spent thirty years in that church, give or take.  True to my shame.  But I did eventually get out.  And I’m not charged with defending the faith.  The bishops are.

All of which means that John Shelby Spong’s views became just another opinion in the Episcopal Organization.  People may tell you that they consider Spong to be a goofball but they certainly don’t favor actually doing anything about him.  So it will no longer do for you to piously claim, “That has nothing to do with me!!  I and my parish certainly don’t believe THAT!!

You may not believe Spong’s ravings.  But you’re part of a church that considers Spong’s ravings to be a relatively minor matter.  And if you think that anyone’s going to continue to draw a distinction much longer between what you claim to believe and what your “church” tolerates as an acceptable point of view, you love the institution way more than you love the Gospel.

Here’s another reason.  When your “church” has lost all sense of the transcendent, it tends to view courses of action like this one as perfectly acceptable:

Remember—ECUSA first managed to push Merrill Lynch, who is the brokerage house that manages many of the accounts maintained by Bishop Schofield and the departing diocese (as well as the funds of ECUSA itself), into placing a hold, or “freeze” on all those accounts so that no further money could be withdrawn from them without the Church’s and Bishop Lamb’s consent. They did this not by obtaining an attachment order and by putting up a bond, as a normal plaintiff would have to do. No, they accomplished the same result by the simple expedient of naming Merrill Lynch itself as a party defendant. Merrill Lynch panicked at being sued, and froze the accounts. It is now trying to pay them into the court to let it decide to whom they belong.

Before it can do so, however, the court has told both Merrill Lynch and ECUSA that since ECUSA requested, and Merrill Lynch cooperated in, the freezing of investment accounts held by churches like St. John’s in Tulare, St. John’s in Porterville, and St. James’s Cathedral in Fresno—whom they did not name as defendants in the case—they would first have to come to some form of agreement with those entities about the use of their funds, or add them to the lawsuit. Thus far, some agreements have been reached, but some of the accounts still remain frozen.

It’s pretty neat, don’t you think, when you are a big enough bully that you can get a bank to freeze a person’s account just by suing the bank as a defendant, while not bothering to sue the person who actually put the money into the account? ECUSA accomplishes this by citing its ubiquitous Dennis Canon. “Since all those parish moneys were actually held in trust for us as a result of the Dennis Canon,” they say, “we get to have them frozen when they try to leave the Church.” 

But wait—now comes the latest bullying tactic from ECUSA and its legal team. They demanded, as part of the lawsuit, that Merrill Lynch turn over to them copies of all of the diocesan account statements over the previous year. When it obliged, ECUSA found that Bishop Schofield’s diocese had written a retainer check to its law firm, in anticipation of the lawsuit that TEC was expected to file over the impending withdrawal, in the amount of $500,000. (ECUSA has only recently admitted that it spent nearly $2 million on legal fees in the year 2008 alone—$1.5 million over budget. Its budget for 2009, including an unbelievable $600,000 just for legal fees, is in the red by $2.5 million—a feat made possible only because of accumulated prior surpluses.) And guess what: ECUSA—and Bishop Lamb, of course—now want those funds turned over to them, as well!

In other words, ECUSA and Bishop Lamb are trying to see that the money which the diocese budgeted for legal expenses cannot actually be spent for that purpose. And in doing so, the plaintiffs propose to amend their current complaint a third time to name the law firm of the Co-Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese as a new defendant. I have no doubt that this is a prelude to bringing a later motion to disqualify the firm from acting as counsel for the defendants in the lawsuit.

You tell me that you are absolutely appalled at this course of action and certainly do not support it.  Yet you’re still part of a “church” that has undertaken the very course of action you claim upsets you.

Believe me, I know as well as anyone that this moment comes at different times for different people.  That’s why I stayed in the Episcopal Organization for as long as I did.  But there comes a point at which you have to finally admit to yourself that you see what’s right in front of you. 

So I guess that’s why I keep doing this.

NOTES FROM A PEACEFUL RELIGION

Saturday, December 27th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

On the one hand, it’s probably fair to say that the perpetrators of the recent massacres in Mumbai, India would be subhumans no matter what faith they claimed to follow.  But stories like this one make the question of what this country must do to improve its image in the Muslim world into far worse than an obscenity(WARNING: the story contains a modified but still very graphic photo).

PRESSER

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Bishop Empty Coke Bottle approached the podium.  “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I’m Bishop Empty Coke Bottle, press liaison for the Episcopal Church, and I’m here to answer any questions you may have about Bishop Schori’s recent, uh, controversies.

“First off, a couple of ground rules.  I’ll take any question unless it’s stupid; I haven’t got time for stupid crap.  Since most of you are drunks, that bar back there is open so feel free to indulge.”  Bottle then pointed to a woman in the third row.  “Right there, public access.”

CNN’s Campbell Brown stood up.  “Are you referring to me?  Because I’m with CNN.”

“What’s the difference?” Bottle replied.  “Anyway, since I already know your question’s going to be stupid, why don’t you run to the bar and fetch me a vodka martini.  Chop, chop!  Okay, first question.  You.  Hairpiece.”

A gnarled old woman stood up and bellowed, “I always ask the first question at press conferences!!

“Okay, evil troll.  Knock yourself out.”

“You can’t talk to me like that!!  I’m Helen Thomas!!  I’m an American institution!!  And didn’t you take a vow of silence or something?!!”

“Didn’t you die in the Garfield Administration?  Now either ask me something or go back to the home or the crypt or wherever they keep you.”

Argle squonkle ZATZ!!

“Yeah, whatever.  Hairpiece, you’re up.”

NBC’s Brian Williams looked baffled.  “I don’t wear a hairpiece.”

“Yeah.  Sure you don’t.”

“Well, I…er, uh…I wanted to…um…”

“Some time today, Williams!!”

“Didn’t you used to be Maladjusted Bishop of Missouri?”

“The term is Bishop Coadjutor, moron!!”

“Oh, sorry.  But why did you leave?  You were in line to become the next Episcopal Bishop of Missouri.”

“Like that means jack.  And do you what it’s like having people constantly mistake you for George Wayne Smith?  ‘Bishop Smith, Bishop Smith, can you…oh, I’m sorry, you’re an empty Coke bottle.’  Sucks the will to live right out of you, know what I’m saying?  Yeah, blow-dried.”

ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked, “What about Bishop Schori’s recent trip to Coney Island where she commanded the tide to stay out?”

“What about it?” said Bishop Bottle.  “It was a great success.  What have you got for me, tall guy?”

Stand Firm’s Greg Griffith stood up and asked, “Greg Griffith, Stand Firm.  Didn’t most of the Episcopal bishops wash out to sea during Kate’s Coney Island doohickey?”

“Yeah.  So?”

“Granted, I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy but I have to figure that some people might consider Episcopal bishops becoming shark food to be a bad thing.”

“After consulting with her chancellor, that’s not how Bishop Schori interprets it.  What have you got for me, hottest rear end I’ve ever seen on a human female?”

Paula Loughlin stood up and identifed herself.  “Paula Loughlin, frequent blog commenter.”

“How the hell did you get in here?”

“Because Katie Couric pushed all-in with Queen-Jack suited, I picked up the flush on the river and won her press pass.  Plus, I’m going to be doing the CBS Evening News starting next week.  Anything else I can help you with?”

“Is that some kind of sexual innuendo because if it is…?”

“Take a cold shower, assmaster, it’s just another one of Johnson’s lame poker allusions.  I wanted to ask about Katie, er, Bishop Schori declaring that the Bishop of Rome had renounced his orders.”

“What’s the problem?” demanded Bottle.

“What do you mean, ‘what’s the problem?’  The Pope’s in a Rome hospital because he broke a couple of ribs laughing when he got her letter, that’s what’s the problem. 

“Then there’s her letter to the ‘Rome Standing Committee’ in which she says she no longer recognizes them and she’s going to appoint a new one.  Half the damn Curia has to have hernia operations because of that one.”

“At the first opportunity, Bishop Schori intends to appoint a new standing comm…okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay.  Let me just, let me just, you know, get down to brass tacks here.

“You know Kate’s delusional, I know Kate’s delusional.  But the money this gig pays is out of this world, know what I’m saying?  So why don’t you people just enjoy that open bar back there, go back to your offices and make crap up?  Chances are, it’ll eventually be right.  We’re done here.”

CANUTELING

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

On Sunday, January 25, 2009, Episcopalians are invited to a special 9:00 AM service at the Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Avenue in Manhattan.  Bishops John Chane, Gene Robinson, Mark Sisk, M. Thomas Shaw III, Carolyn Tanner Irish, J. Jon Bruno and others will join Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and process to Coney Island in Brooklyn where Bishop Katharine will command the tide to stay out.

DOG BITES MAN

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

How many of these are we up to now?  Seventy-five or so?

US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has bungled the deposition of Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker, scholars from the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) have charged.

The presiding bishop has either violated church law, or created a legal precedent that prevents disciplinary proceedings against any other cleric who “abandons the Communion” of the Episcopal Church, the ACI’s theologians and canon lawyers have charged.

The Dec 11 claim by the ACI, a center right group of American theologians and scholars that has opposed both the secession of conservatives in the Episcopal Church and the leftward drift of the church hierarchy, has come in response to the presiding bishop’s deposition of Bishop Iker through the use of the renunciation canon—a clause in American canon law that permits the voluntary laicizing of a cleric for reasons of conscience.

On Dec 11, the ACI charged Bishop Schori had abused and contorted the canons, and “inexplicably conceded that Bishop Iker has not violated the Constitution and Canons of TEC and that he is no longer subject to its discipline. This clearly unintended consequence not only will have serious implications for any future litigation in Fort Worth, it once again calls into question the canonical validity of numerous actions she has taken over the past year.”

Bishop Schori had led the US church “not merely into canonical abuse and usurpation of power but into canonical chaos and institutional disintegration. Unless checked, this chaos will have grave implications for the future of the Communion as a whole,” they said.

Gee.  YA THINK?!!

I guess it’s no secret that I’ve lost what little faith I ever had in the “inside strategy” mainly because I’m not at all clear on exactly what it involves.  I hear a lot about waiting for the Anglican Covenant, something the Episcopal Organization won’t even consider until 2012 if Mrs. Schori has her way.

No doubt, somebody at next year’s GenCon will propose taking up the Covenant, someone else will second and the question will be ruled out of order for reasons which may or may not be made clear.

And since TEO has already indicated that it will never agree to a meaningful Covenant, it’s also clear that whatever version of the Covenant eventually sees the light of day will have to gum its food.

So while I don’t know what the inside strategy involves, I know what it most emphatically doesn’t involve.  Any sort of meaningful action, particularly one that might be construed as confrontational.

Take the ACI report mentioned above.  One would think that canon violations by a bishop, even a Presiding Bishop, are a serious matter.  And I have no doubt that ACI’s case is a strong one.  I also have no doubt that not a single Waste Of A Perfectly Good Crozier Communion Partner Bishop will ever do anything at all with it.

What’s the point of filing charges?  You know perfectly well how such a trial will turn out.  Then what’s the point of writing reports like this?  And what’s the point of remaining connected to a church whose leadership is allowed to behave in an illegal manner without anyone at all raising any kind of an objection?

Let me bottom line it for you inside strategists.  Show me(I am a Missourian after all) that you’re capable of actually doing something and I’ll start to see you as a little more than a sad, pathetic, cowardly joke.

AND NOW…IDIOTS

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

I suppose that this could easily have been way more embarrassing for the perpetrator of the following.  Dude might have telephoned Michael Nazir-Ali and asked him if he had Prince Albert in a tin:

His outspoken views on gay rights and the integration of Muslim communities have attracted vitriolic criticism and even earned him death threats from outside the Church of England.

Now the controversial Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, 59, has found himself the target of a scatological attack by an aide in the offices of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

A confidential document sent from Lambeth Palace to No 10 Downing Street and the Church of England’s 43 diocesan bishops included the unclerical word “arsehole” appended to the name of Dr Nazir-Ali, Britain’s most senior Asian Anglican.

The rogue insult – which specifically referred to “The arsehole Bishop of Rochester” – appeared in a confidential list of job vacancies and prospective candidates which was drawn up by the clergy appointments adviser, the Rev John Lee. The offending member of Dr Williams’s staff has since been sacked.

Ruth Gledhill is furious.

Astonishing story around today about how a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff referred to the Bishop of Rochester Dr Michael Nazir-Ali as an ‘a***hole’ in a private memo. Anglican Mainstream has the details. Besides all the obvious things I could say about this crude, incredible and outrageous insult to one of the truest bishops on the bench, what really strikes me most is the depressingly low-grade nature of the abuse. It really is the kind of thing an illiterate oaf with an IQ of 60 might say in a Tesco queue. From Lambeth Palace, a more sophisticated forms of bullying might have been expected. Coincidentally, Dr Nazir-Ali is showing the Christian stuff of which he is made in a broadcast tonight on BBC Radio 3′s latest Belief series, presented by Joan Bakewell. I am honoured to be able to give you the transcript, below. I wonder if anyone at Lambeth Palace has ever had to bury a baby in a fruit crate because the parents could not afford a coffin? Truly, the  Bishop of Rochester is a prophet for our times and a mark of this is that he is disdained.

And adds this.  Lambeth Palace is either titanically sloppy or it is not really all that upset about this incident.

One interesting footnote. Whatever Bishop Nazir-Ali said that was so upsetting to Lambeth was said before Lambeth 2008. Rumours were rife at Lambeth about the existence of a document with this very word in it being applied to this same bishop, but everyone we asked about it denied it adamantly, and indeed more than three times.

Since I doubt seriously that the Bishop’s views on proselytizing Muslims would prompt this sort of juvenile reaction, I think it’s obvious which issue did.  And if this is what the left really thinks of Christians who hold traditional and biblical views of human sexuality, it’s one more indication that there is nothing left for Anglicans to talk about.

UPDATE: Damian Thompson weighs in.

It’s not often that the Indy breaks a religious affairs story, but today it informed us that the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, has been the subject of a “scatological attack” by a Lambeth Palace aide who has since been sacked.

The story could hardly have broken at a more embarrassing time for the Archbishop of Canterbury. It goes without saying that Dr Williams deplores the incident, but the awkward fact is that Dr Nazir-Ali is intensely disliked by members of the Archbishop’s entourage. So it doesn’t look good.

The tension between Canterbury and Rochester is unlikely to be eased after tonight’s Radio 3 interview with Dr Nazir-Ali who, once again, has spoken eloquently and straightforwardy in defence of Christianity, just as he did in The Sunday Telegraph at the weekend. No waffle here about an “unprincipled God”.

HISSY FIT

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Susan Russell is so spitting mad about Rick Warren giving Barack Obama’s inaugural invocation that she actually gets a few things right:

I’m sure you’re hearing from a great many voices around the country this week about your choice of Rick Warren to offer the invocation at the upcoming inauguration. I am writing today to add my voice to those expressing regret at the choice and concern that the message being sent by the elevation of someone with Pastor Warren’s values of narrow exclusionism to the “bully pulpit” of Inauguration Day.

How dare you imply that a conservative religious position is a perfectly legitimate one to hold!  Don’t you have any idea what bigots those Nazis are?!

This effort to begin your administration by representing differences of opinion in the selection of a pastor whose theological perspectives are different than your own is something I enthusiastically applaud.

We have the entire range of conceivable opinion here in the Episcopal Organization, from those who enthusiastically support Gene Robinson and same-sex marriages to those who tepidly support both.  But this Warren guy is a right-wing nutjob.

Rick Warren is a not only a vocal opponent of LGBT equality

Why would Miss Russell lead off with that one, he sarcastically asked?  Because, for anyone who’s new to all this, there is one measure of morality in the Episcopal Organization and only one. 

And let’s face it, Big Narcissism would be perfectly okay with Johnny Rotten delivering the invocation as long as the Sex Pistols lead singer was acceptable on The Single Most Important Moral Issue In The History Of The World. 

who does not believe in evolution,

Litmus test much?  But I guess if you think that words mean what they say and that the Bible is the Word of the living God, you’re going to think that the Living God created all this.  As an Episcopalian, Miss Russell, of course, does not have to labor under that handicap.

he has compared abortion to the Holocaust

If I were a numbers kind of a guy, I’d say it was way worse.  But either way, you say that like it’s a bad thing.

and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Allegedly.  But which is worse?  Taking out one guy with nukes who thinks it would be a good idea for Israel to be wiped off the map?  Or slapping UN sanctions on his country while Tel Aviv is still glowing?

His views are far outside the religious mainstream

Pot?  This is Kettle.  Do you any conception how black you are?

and his credentials are steeped in an “Old Time Religion” of narrow exclusionism that ill prepares us for the challenges of the 21st century.

In other words, Warren believes that words mean what they say and we Epicopalians obviously can’t allow that.  Besides, says Miss Russell, there are plenty of other evangelicals you could have asked without making those stupid conservatives think that you take their evil opinions seriously.

There are many fine, strong, evangelical voices in this country who do not carry Warren’s baggage of having been one of the generals in the culture wars. Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis are names that come immediately to mind — pastors who have balanced the challenge of bridging differences while standing firmly in their evangelical tradition.

Then again, what do I know about evangelicals?  The folks Susie names also don’t carry any particular enthusiasm for the Christian religion(call them Episcopal evangelicals if you like) but you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

As someone who didn’t vote for Obama and who will probably have more than a little criticism for him over the next few years, I am forced to concede something.  The more reaction comes in, the more I realize that Barack Obama is handling this Rick Warren situation absolutely brilliantly.

I would like to think(and so far, I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary) that Barack Obama takes conservative views seriously, certainly much more seriously than Miss Russell, Gene Robinson, John Chane and the rest of the Episcopal Organization takes them.

Is all this political?  Maybe.  But let’s put it this way.  Barack Obama knows that evangelical Christians, most of whom are conservative, matter.  Episcopalians don’t.  If he can peel off a significant number of evangelicals, chances are he’s got a good shot at reelection in 2012.

If he gets the Episcopal Organization solidly behind him, he’s four-and-out.

BROKEN CLOCKS

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

The bloom appears to be off the Barack Obama rose for Big Narcissism’s poster boy:

V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, whose consecration caused a painful divide in his church because he is openly gay, said that when he heard about the selection of Mr. Warren, “it was like a slap in the face.”

I thought we were going steady!  I thought we were exclusive!  How could he cheat on me like that?  No, no[sniff], I’m not crying.

Bishop Robinson had been an early public endorser of Mr. Obama’s candidacy, and said he had helped serve as a liaison between the campaign and the gay community. He said he had called officials who work for Mr. Obama to share his dismay,

And was asked who he was and why anyone in the new administration should care?  Unfortunately, no.

and been told that Mr. Obama was trying to reach out to conservatives and give everybody a seat at the table.

Although why Barack wants to talk to stupid bigots about anything at all escapes me.

“I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” Bishop Robinson said,

After all, how can the waiter bring me my food unless he comes to my table?

“but we’re not talking about a discussion,

Damn right you’re not.  You’re talking about yammering until everyone gives up and agrees with you.

we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation.

And that invocation should be given by me or any other representative of the One True ChurchTM not some idiot California snake-handler.  But Robbie accidentally backs into one right answer.

And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”

Can’t argue with that.  Warren’s God exists, actually does stuff now and then, regularly changes lives and actually gets in Warren’s way from time to time.  Your pathetic wuss of a deity just sits there mechanically rubber-stamping everything you say, do and think.

Robbie?  Here’s the deal.  I don’t know the stats are but I have to think that more people show up in Mr. Warren’s church on any given Sunday than show up in every single New Hampshire Episcopal church for an entire month.

Barack Obama knows something that you can’t afford to admit to yourself.  Religiously, politically and in just about every other way one can name, guys like Rick Warren matter; Episcopal bishops don’t.  At all.  Period.

And kindly drop the “discussion” crap, you hypocritical fraud, because everyone knows that you and your pseudo-spiritual debating society have nothing to talk about with the Rick Warrens of the world.  It’s hard to seriously talk with anyone about anything when, as you suggest here, you’re convinced that they’re not only wrong but evil.

OKAY, FINE

Saturday, December 20th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Whatever:

(1) I have no clue how to fix a toilet but I know how to flush one if the need arises.

(2) When I was younger, I had a serious crush on Marie Osmond.  And I still do.

(3) I was an Episcopalian simply because my mother was.

(4) I still like the Sex Pistols.

(5) I don’t know why but when I was getting my Master’s in Library and Informational Science(as opposed to science that keeps stuff to itself) at the University of Missouri at Columbia, Guns and Roses’ “Paradise City” really grew on me.

(6) Give me the choice and I move to western Kansas/western Nebraska/eastern Colorado tomorrow.  Give me the choice and a chance to learn how to work with tools and I move to Alaska the day before yesterday.

Tagged: Price, Mrs. Price, Wannabe, FW Ken, Paula Loughlin, Bill(not IB)

INSULT COMIC

Friday, December 19th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Poor Jim Naughton is feeling awfully marginalized these days:

Having slept on it for a couple of nights, I find myself even more disappointed in this selection that I was originally. Rick Warren has made common cause with those attempting to break up the Episcopal Church, take its property and assume its place within the Anglican Communion. He gave a major address at Bishop Bob Duncan’s Hope and Future Conference in Pittsburgh in 2005 where bishops from other countries ordained priests and deacons to begin forming alternative Anglican Churches within the U. S. He publicly endorsed Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda’s boycott of the Lambeth Conference, saying Orombi and his bishops were right to avoid American bishops who voted to consecrate Gene Robinson. It is hard for me to imagine that a religious leader who had taken similar actions against the Catholic Church or the Southern Baptist Convention would be given this honor. But there are so few Episcopalians that you can insult us without fear of political consequences. And then you can show up at our Cathedral the next day to hold your inaugural prayer service, and count on us being too polite to express our displeasure. I’d still vote for Barack Obama (and I am truly delighted that he chose one of my wife’s oldest friends to read her poetry at this inauguration) but I now have a lot better sense of how little regard he has for my Church.

I knew everything eventually works it way back around to Bob Duncan.  And if publicly disagreeing with the course of a ”church” now constitutes “insulting” that “church,” then, well, guilty as charged.

I hate to break this to you, Jim lad, but Warren has a much higher regard for Christians who disagree with him than your boss does.  So here’s an idea.  Suck it up and count to ten the next time you feel the urge to prattle on about “insults.”

QUICHE-EATING SURRENDER PISKIES

Friday, December 19th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Pete Lee?  I don’t want to say that the Diocesan losing streak is getting, you know, up there but the Chicago Cubs e-mailed and said that they’re really embarrassed for you.  And they’re making jokes about you in France, man:

The judge presiding in the church property trial between the Episcopal Church and eleven former congregations, now affiliated with the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV), ruled in the congregations’ favor today. The final rulings in this case concerned whether four parcels of property owned by the Anglican congregations were covered by the congregations’ Division petitions. 

“We welcome these final, favorable rulings in this case.  This has been a long process and we are grateful that the court has agreed with us,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV.  “It is gratifying to see the court recognize that the true owner of The Historic Falls Church is The Falls Church’s congregation, not the denomination, and that the building is protected by the Division Statute.  The Falls Church has held and cared for this property for over 200 years.” 

“We hope that The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia will realize that it is time to stop this legal battle.  In these economic times, we should be focused on helping our communities and spreading the Gospel, not spending millions of dollars on ongoing legal battles. The money we have been forced to spend to keep our property from being forcibly taken away from us is money that could have been spent in more productive ways. 

“While the judge ruled that issues surrounding The Falls Church Endowment Fund will be heard at a later date, ADV is confident that we will prevail on this last outstanding issue,” Oakes said.

On April 3, 2008, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows issued a landmark ruling that acknowledged a division within The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Virginia and the larger Anglican Communion. Judge Bellows affirmed 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 majority rule should apply when a division in a denomination or diocese results in the disaffiliation of an organized group of congregations.  On June 27, 2008, Judge Bellows issued a ruling that confirmed the constitutionality of Virginia Division Statute (Virginia Code § 57-9) under the First Amendment.  On August 22, 2008, he issued a ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Division Statute under the Contracts Clause of the Constitution.  

“We hope that the Diocese will reconsider its previous promises to appeal.  While we are prepared to continue to defend ourselves, we are ready to put this litigation behind us so we can focus our time, money and effort on the work of the Gospel,” Oakes concluded.

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