Archive for February, 2010


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, February 27th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Online translation hi-jinx or the continuing misadventures of a wacky Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who wants to meet the Pope:

Editor’s note: Yeah, I know, the grammar, syntax and vocabulary are probably wrong here and there.  That’s because I don’t actually know Italian.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, February 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 49 Comments

Some people like to run regular polls on their blogs.  It’s a fun way to get people involved in your site but it does have a down side since it’s not easy to regularly come up with good questions to ask.  For example, here’s what’s currently running at The Living Church.  Seriously:

How much will your life be affected by Anglican participation in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, which begins March 1?

Um…right.  I guess there are worse questions you could ask.

How physically and emotionally devastated will you be if the St. Louis Cardinals don’t win the World Series this year?  Will you consider suicide?

The government has just announced that a gigantic asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and in exactly two more months, this planet will be smashed into cosmic rubble.  How will this affect your life?

The Episcopal Church has just formally declared the Koran to be the Newest Testament?  Will this move affect your attendance at or financial support of your parish or your diocese?

How much sleep have you lost because of the guilt you feel over the fact that you’ve never hit the MCJ PayPal button and contributed to the site?

[Okay, that’s just wrong– Ed.]


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, February 25th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Know what those are?  Those are three additions to my personal library that I’ve made over the last few months.  The volume on the top is the original House health care plan, the two volumes underneath it(shrink-wrapped) are the original Senate health care plan and the two below those(also shrink-wrapped) constitute the version which Harry Reid rammed through the Senate on Christmas Eve of last year.

So we’re looking at approximately 15 pounds of health care legislation there.  Today, during Barack Obama’s televised health care show, when Virginia’s Eric Cantor tried to quote from the latter bill, which is the basis of the President’s own plan, Mr. Obama called that a political stunt and not conducive to having a conversation.  It’s bad manners to remind people of stuff they actually said.

Verbatim quoting.  Have you no shame, Mr. Cantor?  Is there no low, no political dirty trick to which you and your party will not stoop?

How’s Health-Care-a-Palooza going anyway?  I haven’t seen any of it but the consensus, left and right, seems to be that it was as much of a waste of time as most people thought it was going to be.  Will it change any minds?  Probably not. 

How about the House?  Even if the Senate/Obama version passes, what are its chances there?  From all indications, Mrs. Pelosi just drew 3-10 off-suited, she’s on the short stack, she just pushed all-in and she’s praying for a flush draw.

All I know is that if something doesn’t get passed, one Anatole Kaletsky might just shoot himself.  Because according to Mr. Kaletsky, if Barack Obama can’t bring this thing off today, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!! 

You may not have noticed, but today is a very important day for US politics, world economic prospects and even for the global balance of power between Western democracy and benign dictatorship along Chinese lines. Why? Because today marks either the beginning of the end of Barack Obama’ presidency, or the end of the beginning.

If nothing is done to change the US healthcare system, it can be stated with mathematical certainty that the US Government and many leading US companies will be driven into bankruptcy, a fate that befell General Motors and Chrysler largely because of their inability to meet retired workers’ contractually guaranteed medical costs.

If you are not convinced, just listen to the President’s own radio broadcast last weekend: “What’s being tested in the healthcare summit is not just our ability to solve this one problem, but our ability to solve any problem.” Consider what three years without effective government in Washington could mean, not only for America but for the entire Western world.

The absence of effective US leadership will dash any hopes of progress in foreign policy, whether on broad issues such as energy, trade and climate change or on security threats such as Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East.

But even more troubling would be the economic and financial effects. Gridlock over healthcare would imply similar stalemates on taxes, public spending, the budget, macroeconomic stimulus and financial reform. As a result, an active response to any future financial crisis might become impossible. Even worse, any important action to control US government borrowing could be ruled out. If the financial markets seriously reached this conclusion, all the debates about government debt and public spending in Britain, Greece and other countries would be a waste of breath. A genuine loss of confidence in America’s fiscal outlook would create a financial crisis so horrific that actions by the British or European governments would be swept away like beach huts in a tsunami.

And precisely this possibility must be taken seriously if Mr Obama fails to break the healthcare deadlock. The issue at the heart of America’s present political polarisation almost guarantees that government deficits will continue to widen if he cannot create some kind of consensus. For the deadlock over healthcare is just one instance of a more generalised paralysis on economic issues.

Spoken like a Briton who flies into New York City once or twice a year and thinks he understands America.  Anatole?  Dial it down, buddy. 

The fact is that the eight pounds, give or take, of health care bill pictured above will not cause the world economy to utterly collapse and people to start eating each other.  It will mean that Obama’s opinion of what is needed will have been rejected.

And if it forces the President to seriously consider other ideas, which he has not done yet, so much the better.  Because contrary to popular American liberal belief, not every idea that pops into the head of Barack Obama was sent there by God.

Let Obama compromise.  Let him genuinely listen to people who disagree with him instead of deciding that he already has the correct answer and that, therefore, people who disagree with him are obstructive.  Or worse.

And if we can’t(and shouldn’t try to) fix all of America’s health care system all at once, let’s fix a little bit of it at a time.  If that works, let’s fix a little bit more.  And a little bit more after that.

And so on.

But if you’re correct and western society will completelly and utterly collapse because Obama failed today, I suspect that we Americans will come through a lot quicker than you Europeans do.  Because at the end of the day, we still realize something basic. 

Our neighbor lives a lot closer to us than our national government does.  And the Christian churches most of us still attend every Sunday have a great deal to say about what we owe our neighbor.

UPDATE: “And, like, you have to do whatever I say cuz I’m the President and the president’s exactly the same as a king ‘cept the Founders, ya know, like forgot the word ‘king’ so somebody said to put in ‘president.’  Other than that, they’re exactly the same.  And I should know cuz I taught the US Constitution and stuff.”


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 37 Comments

During a presser following TEO’s recent Executive Council meeting, both Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson finally understood why the Anglican Communion is in such turmoil.  Some of you people read too much:

The press conference was moderated by Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer for The Episcopal Church.  Each reporter that calls in is greeted by Mrs. Fox.

PB is Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Bonnie Anderson is the President, House of Deputies, and Vice President of the Executive Council.

Doug LeBlanc, The Living Church:  In the ENS (Episcopal News Service) report on Friday, you indicated that the PB spoke about the situation in South Carolina, asking people pray for the people in SC.  What change do you hope to see as a result of those prayers?

PB: I want a  clear understanding of realities of TEC and don’t want the people of South Carolina to  rely on erroneous information, provided by other sources.

Bonnie Anderson: Have heard from several of the deputies from south Carolina.  They have a desire for clear and accurate information; prayer all across the church for this situation.

George Conger, reporter at large:  to the PB and President:  You both expressed receiving erroneous information in SC.   What is this erroneous information?  Where did it come from?

PB:  Episcopalians, like many others who use the internet, seek information that is not subject to peer review [Ed. Note:  as information is in academic circles.]   They rely on opinion, not fact.  The South Carolina representation of our theology and polity as a whole is not accurate. There are stated processes of this Church that are not accurate. I would encourage South Carolinians to ask bodies of TEC that are responsible for these decisions and get their facts straight.

Bonnie Anderson: There is a large influx of information coming from multiple sources.  It is  really important for people who are going to be voting on something to get accurate information on the issues before them.

In much the same way as the printing press powered the Reformation, the Internet has powered the Current Unpleasantness.  And the Episcopal Church was extremely slow to grasp that fact; indeed, Mrs. Schori’s comments suggest that TEO doesn’t fully understand it yet.

In the old, pre-technology days, TEO would have had the opportunity to spin Gene Robinson.  His homosexuality would have been downplayed as much as possible and his partner would never have been mentioned. 

At the end of the day,  Robbie would have been portrayed as just another Episcopal liberal, no different from any of the other Episcopal liberals with whom the rest of the world had dealt over the years and even to the right of some of them(whatever else he is, Gene Robinson is certainly no John Shelby Spong).

But the Internet short-circuited that process.  For one thing, media coverage had been relentless.  The rest of the world knew the moment that Robbie’s election was confirmed and decided what they thought about it immediately thereafter. 

Hence the desperate and ever-changing Episcopal justifications of the act over the following months.  Put simply, the Internet meant that TEO and other western liberal Anglicans lost control of the narrative and couldn’t get it back.

And it was the same with all the other big Anglican events over the last six years.  A few of us got up commentaries on the Windsor Report the day it was released.  We could link to and comment on General Convention or General Synod resolutions as soon as they were passed, well before the church was able to get out its preferred interpretation.

The Anglican company line is dead and the Internet killed it.  So it is all kinds of rich to read Mrs. Schori prattle on about sites that aren’t “peer-reviewed,” sites that “rely on opinion not fact,” and sites that she claims misrepresent TEO theology and polity.

Particularly when the most reputable of these sites provide links to TEO’s own writings on these subjects.  So if TEO theology and polity are being misrepresented, Presiding Bishop, it is TEO itself that is misrepresenting them.

People aren’t idiots, Presiding Bishop.  Thanks to the Internet, serious Roman Catholics can quickly tell when they’re being sold a bill of theological goods while serious evangelicals know a heretic when they hear or read one.  Pope Benedict XVI understands how formidable a tool the Web can be and recently urged Catholics to learn how to use it in order to further the Gospel.

The fact that people disagree with TEO’s stance on some issue doesn’t mean that they’ve received bad information, Presiding Bishop.  If they’re serious about this stuff, chances are that they probably have better information than you do because they’ve made the effort to look for it and evaluate what they found.

They don’t disagree with you because they’re stupid and don’t understand your point of view.  They disagree with you because they weighed your argument in the balances and found it wanting.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Rereading the two posts immediately below this one got me to thinking about something.  Could the Episcopalians have pulled off 2003?  Or at least minimized the damage they did to the rest of Anglican Communion?

Theoretically, yes; practically, no.  As Pierre Whalon hints at and Walter Russell Mead comes right out and says, arrogance and indifference to the rest of the Anglican world have been hallmarks of the Episcopal Organization for a long time.

The fact that Frank Griswold insouciantly signed his name to this thing proves better than anything possibly can TEO’s complete and total indifference to the opinion of the rest of the Anglican world.

And the fact that the Episcopalians kept changing their justification for Robbie’s pointy hat(the spirit is doing a new thing, polity, fruits of the spirit, etc.) suggests that they were genuinely surprised by the firestorm Robbie’s consecration caused.

All of which further suggests that the Episcopal Organization(and the rest of the Anglican left including Rowan Williams) was so convinced of the rightness of what TEO had done that there was no interest in taking seriously any contrary viewpoint. 

But what if the Episcopal approach had been entirely different?  What if, immediately after Robinson’s approval, he had been ordered to stay down, to confine himself to his New Hampshire duties and nothing else?  And what if the 2003 General Convention had passed a resolution that said the following to the rest of the Anglican world? 

We realize what we have just done.  But New Hampshire wants this man as its bishop and we are bound by our canons to approve him.

But we know full well why you are angry.  Therefore, we pledge not to approve the election of another practicing homosexual bishop until such time as we have all sat down together and hashed this thing out.

We therefore urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to move up the next Lambeth Conference to as early a date as possible but we are prepared to wait.  And we would like the Conference to deal with this issue and this issue alone.

We believe we have a case to make.  But if that case is not accepted, we will walk away from the Communion, wish you Godspeed and allow any of our parishes or dioceses that wish to remain a part of the Communion to do so with our blessing.

If the Episcopalians had taken that line, most, if not all, of the rancor of the last six and a half years would have been avoided.  But, as has been stated previously, the Episcopalians were and still are incapable of taking that line.  Because that would have required something Episcopalians have never been any good at.



Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Walter Russell Mead is a liberal Episcopalian who is, shall we say, unimpressed by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops:

There’s nothing like Lent for reflecting on the sins of other people; I thought I’d start at the top — with the bishops of my own church.  As the Episcopal church along with the other mainline Protestant denominations diminishes, we don’t have to look far to see bishops and leaders who are largely failing in their core assignments: to tend to the health and promote the growth of the congregations in their area.  Yet even as we have fewer and fewer effective and successful leaders, we have no shortage of political, ‘prophetic’ bishops.  When they can, they meet with world leaders and jet off to exotic locales to bring peace and fight for justice.  When they can’t do that, they sign statements of concern, issue reports and otherwise tug on the skirts of an indifferent public seeking attention for their political views.

Really unimpressed.

But these days an Episcopal bishop would have to go to a lot of trouble to get into the news for backing a liberal political cause.  The headline says it all: Liberal Official of Small, Declining Liberal Denomination Endorses Liberal Idea.  This isn’t news for two reasons: it is utterly predictable and it doesn’t matter.  Trivial and predictable are not news, and the political stands that the mainline clergy take are almost always both.  A statement by an Episcopal bishop will not change one mind or one vote; at least in all my years in the pews I’ve never met a single Episcopalian who said that the opinion of a bishop does or should have the slightest influence on how Episcopalians vote and if the churchgoers aren’t paying attention to the bishops I can’t imagine anyone else is.

Okay, Mead basically believes that Episcopal bishops are, as a body, wastes of perfectly good croziers.

I’m not urging the bishops to change their politics.  I’m urging them to shut up. 

In a diocese not a thousand miles from my home in glamorous Queens, there once was a bishop whose long and public battle with alcoholism rendered him unable to carry out his duties.  For years and years this diocese suffered under grievous mismanagement and its rotten condition was an open scandal widely discussed and lamented throughout the national church.  Yet in the general shipwreck of his episcopacy, this bishop (or what remained of the diocesan machinery) somehow managed to get ‘prophetic’ statements out on political causes of various kinds.  So far as I know, none of these statements ever had any impact on anyone’s thinking anywhere on Planet Earth.

This poor bishop, now thankfully retired, was an extreme case, but why, exactly, would any sane person today pay attention to the political pronouncements of an Episcopal bishop?  Episcopalians are a tiny minority of the population and the church long ago lost its social power and cachet.  The Episcopal church today is in the worst condition it has been since the aftermath of the Revolution; its clergy has visibly failed to keep the church together or prevent its ongoing decline.  I’m afraid that the penchant to make political pronouncements proceeds less from a true prophetic vocation than from a nostalgia for a time when it mattered what Episcopal bishops thought.  In any case, there is nothing more ridiculous than a proprietor of a failing concern who officiously lectures everyone else on how to manage their affairs.  Please, for the sake of what remains of the dignity of your office, give it a rest.

Mead agrees with TEO on the role of homosexuals in the church but states that the Episcopalians have so badly botched their relations with Africa that it might be generations before the Episcopal view becomes the prevailing Anglican one if it ever does.

When members of the foundation left lecture the rest of the world, the need for better relations with the oppressed peoples of the developing world is one of their favorite themes.I would be the last person to say they don’t have a point; I’ve spent enough time in the slums of three continents to have some small sense of the need for some basic changes in our world.  But the bishops of the American Episcopal church have no lessons to teach.  The American Episcopalians are currently engaged in a bitter struggle with their equivalents in African countries like Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda over a variety of theological issues, of which the question of the ordination of openly gay bishops is the most prominent.  Now it’s my view that in the long run as the church reflects on the issue of homosexuality, it should and will come to a place closer to that of the American Episcopal mainstream than to that of the Nigerians.  But this process of reflection and debate will take more time than the Americans want to give it, and it will take some theological procedures very different from those that are currently fashionable in the American Episcopal church.

Be that as it may, it’s clear that if there is a secret to managing respectful North-South relations in the 21st century, the American Episcopal bishops don’t have it.  African church leaders compare their American counterparts to George W. Bush: arrogantly unilateral, deaf to other points of view, seeking to impose a uniquely American agenda on those who do not agree. That’s not entirely fair, but there’s enough truth in it that when it comes to America’s place in the world, the Episcopal church should listen as others speak.  Who knows — maybe we’ll learn something.

That, as they say, is going to leave a mark.  Read the whole thing.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, February 21st, 2010 | Uncategorized | 69 Comments

The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, is as good a liberal as the Episcopal Organization has but he is also something else.  An honest man. 

Admit it, says Pete.  The Episcopalians have not made a serious theological case for the innovations of the last six and a half years:

When I sat with the rest of the bishops in Convention in Minneapolis on the day that our House confirmed the New Hampshire election, I sensed the Spirit was moving. It felt like a holy moment, in other words. But what was the Spirit saying, I asked myself.

We have not finished unpacking the significance of that moment. One thing that has become clear to me is that the equivocations of our church with respect to our gay and lesbian members were being exposed. While I do believe that a case for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people that rests on faithful arguments from Scripture, theological anthropology, etc., can be made, the fact is that this church has not officially done so. Not that our official theology is deficient, but in fact, we have none, other than the traditional teaching still theoretically in force that love is to be sexually expressed only within the bonds of Matrimony between husband and wife. Of course, there are plenty of theologians writing theologies, lots of people composing liturgies of same-sex blessings, and partnered gay clergy are fairly commonplace. But while there are General Convention resolutions that anticipate such developments, no official teaching backs these actions.

Whalon believes that a serious theological case for these innovations can be made. He also believes that “because it makes me feel good” isn’t a serious theological case.

So what was the Spirit doing in Minneapolis on that hot day in late July 2003? In a previous Anglicans Online column, I reviewed the history of the movement from rejection to acceptance of exceptions to full inclusion, working out the implications of the 1976 Convention resolution that affirmed that gay and lesbian people are “children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” (A-69). The stunning fact is that since Bishop Paul Moore ordained Ellen Barrett to the priesthood in 1977 (and was not censured for it), no work has ever been done in any depth that has received the approval of the General Convention to explain why “love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” include access to marital rites and ordination.

It seems to me that the Holy Trinity had had enough of the “don’t ask–don’t tell” policy that was de facto on the church-wide level up until 2003, and therefore the Spirit introduced us all to the new Bishop of New Hampshire. Now we had to deal with the reality of what we doing, and defend it. Not by some appeal to psychology or endocrinology or genetics, or other contested, ephemeral, and finally dehumanizing “scientific answers,” but some honest-to-God theology, a reasoned argument based firmly on Scripture and the other, lesser resources of the Tradition.

Since 2003, we have as a church done nothing to change the situation. Last summer’s Convention resolution D025 declared what a majority of the deputies and bishops believe, but acknowledged continuing disagreement in the last and rhetorically most significant paragraph. I voted for it because it is primarily a statement of fact (“the majority believes this . . . but . . .”) rather than a theological argument.

The Episcopal Organization is doing no one, least of all homosexuals, any favors by making things up as it goes along.

It is my conviction that wherever one is on the spectrum of opinion, to have no theology for full inclusion, while more or less practicing it, is worse than having bad theology. Bad theology cries out for better theology. No theology, however, calls the whole enterprise into question. And here the question of justice, to which appeal is routinely made for permitting blessings and ordinations, applies, but much more widely. It is patently unjust to everyone, including partnered gay and lesbian people, to keep on ordaining them and blessing their unions without providing a theological rationale for changing the church’s teaching.

And the Anglican Communion was quite right to ask us to hold off consecrating any other homosexual bishops.

It is precisely because we then provided no rationale as a church for this change that we were asked to practice “gracious restraint.” It is not that the whole rest of the Anglican Communion disagrees with us—that is simply not true. But even those elsewhere who agree with a full inclusion position do not on the whole support how we have gone about it. While General Convention is the final arbiter of what The Episcopal Church believes, simply relying on bald resolutions and election results does not spell out its teaching. And this is inadequate to the task at hand. Not just to rebut critics inside and outside this church, but for the much larger and more important work of the cure of souls, the pastoring of all the church’s members by the church. None of that has been worked out, except in local ad hoc ways that have not received the acceptance of our only churchwide decision-making body.

What’s truly impressive about this piece is that Pierre Whalon seems to be that rarest of all Anglican liberals.  Someone who is open to the possibility that he might just be wrong.

Finally, I am quite aware that changing a part of the church’s teaching may be in error, and that those leaders who lead others astray will fall under God’s judgment. I do not expect to get handed one day a millstone with my initials on it fitted to my neck size, so to speak, but those are the stakes, and we need to own up to it. Moreover, as a matter of justice, not to mention love, it is simply wrong, that is, unjust and unloving, to continue as a church to live into a new teaching without giving clear reasons—carefully argued and officially accepted by our own church—for doing so. While justice delayed is justice denied, the global scope of our actions is in fact hindering the acceptance of gay and lesbian people elsewhere.

Some have said that the moratoria will end when we act to end them. Such an action, undefended, would only perpetuate the present anomie, and raise a real question about a “General-Convention fundamentalism”—“the majority voted it, therefore God said it, and that settles it.” Rather, we need to continue to keep “gracious restraint” until we have done the necessary work in order to end it. We do not have to wait for the rest of the Communion to approve our arguments, of course. But it is terrible that we as a church have continued to avoid that work, and all therefore continue to pay a heavy price, both within and without The Episcopal Church. If we go on blessing same-sex unions and consecrating people in those partnered relationships, and yet continue to refuse to do that work, will that mean that we cannot justify our actions? And if we cannot, then what — in God’s name — do we think we’re doing?

From the start of the Current Unpleasantness, I’ve said over and over that I would go back to the Episcopal parish I left in 2003 if you would only provide me with a Scriptural case for Gene Robinson. 

That offer still stands.  But the fact that a liberal like Pierre Whalon thinks that a case has not yet been made after six and a half years suggests that I won’t be dropping by my old joint any time soon.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, February 20th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 111 Comments

Sometimes pictures demand caption contests.  That fellow on the left there is Minnesota’s outgoing Episcopal pointy-hat Jim Jelinek.  The guy next to him is the new pointy hat Brian Prior(click on the picture for a larger view).

The usual rules apply.  The contest will run for a week and you can enter as often as you like.  I haven’t figured out what first prize is going to be.  It’s down to a personal e-mail from me telling you that you won[Cheap bastard – Ed], an autographed can of Van Kamp’s Beanie Weenees or something from here.

Depending on the quality of the entries, I’ll let you know.

UPDATE: I may have to cancel this contest and start completely over.  Behold the perfect bad vestment storm; check out the back of Bishop Jelinek’s ensemble as well as the stole on the guy in front of him.  Major props to Greg Griffith.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, February 20th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Brian McLaren, one of the leaders of the so-called Emerging Church movement, is the Episcopal Organization’s favorite evangelical.  Search his name on TEO’s web site and you’ll discover that he’s preached in Episcopal churches and at Episcopal events for several years.

At any rate, McLaren has a new book out, A New Kind of Christianity, and if that title evoked an immediate association in your mind just now, Tim Challies explains why:

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote about Brian McLaren and got in trouble. Reflecting on seeing him speak at a nearby church, I suggested that he appears to love Jesus but hate God. Based on immediate and furious reaction, I quickly retracted that statement. I should not have done so. I believed it then and I believe it now. And if it was true then, how much more true is it upon the release of his latest tome A New Kind of Christianity. In this book we finally see where McLaren’s journey has taken him; it has taken him into outright, rank, unapologetic apostasy. He hates God. Period.

His purpose, he insists, is not to answer the questions, but to provide responses to them. Answers indicate finality, responses indicate conversation and openness. “The responses I offer are not intended as a smash in tennis, delivered forcefully with a lot of topspin, in an effort to win the game and create a loser. Rather, they are offered as a gentle serve or lob; their primary goal is to start the interplay, to get things rolling, to invite your reply. Remember, our goal is not debate and division yielding hate or a new state, but rather questioning that leads to conversation and friendship on the new quest.” But that is mere semantics. Whether answering or responding (whether saying tomato or tomahto), what McLaren does through these ten questions is to completely rewrite the Christian faith. His “gentle lobs” rip the very heart out of the faith.

McLaren plays the all-too-typical “everyone else has it wrong” card. It turns out that most of us (all but a handful of enlightened intellectuals, as it happens) have been reading the Bible through the distorted lens of a Greco-Roman narrative. This narrative produced many false dualisms, an air of superiority and a false distinction between those who were “in” and those who were “out.” These three marks of false narrative have so impacted our faith that we can hardly see past them. But Brian is willing and eager to play Moses, leading us out of the Egypt of our own ignorance and into the Promised Land of the new Christianity.

It would take more time than I’d be willing to give it to offer a point-by-point explanation of what responses McLaren proposes for each of the ten questions or to document the ramifications of his new theology. He denies the Fall, he denies original sin, he denies human depravity, he denies hell. And that is just in the first few pages. Needless to say, all of this leads him to a radically unbiblical view of the cross and the purpose and work of Jesus. Though he insists that he considers the Bible “inspired” (though certainly not in a traditional sense) he also says that most Christians have read it wrong, having viewed it as a kind of constitution in which God gives Spirit-breathed, inerrant revelation of himself. “I’m recommending we read the Bible as an inspired library. This inspired library preserves, presents, and inspires an ongoing vigorous conversation with and about God, a living and vital civil argument into which we are all invited and through which God is revealed.” After all, “revelation doesn’t simply happen in statements. It happens in conversations and arguments that take place within and among communities of people who share the same essential questions across generations. Revelation accumulates in the relationships, interactions, and interplay between statements.”

The arrogance of it all is stunning. McLaren is angrier than he has been before and more scornful. Still, though, he presents his ideas coated with the veneer of a false humility. But, handily, he builds into the book the means he will use to answer his critics. He will simply accuse his detractors of having this old Greco-Roman understanding of the faith. We poor fundamentalists cannot be among the new kind of Christian until we have been enlightened to understand the Bible through an entirely new narrative structure. Only then will this all become clear. Until then, more to be pitied are we than any men.

In other words, John Shelby Spong without vestments.  Read the whole thing.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, February 20th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Mrs. Schori crosses boundaries again:

Jefferts Schori concluded her remarks by telling council members that “things are heating up in South Carolina.”

She noted that Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence has delayed the diocese’s annual convention and attributed the delay “supposedly to my incursions in South Carolina.”

“He’s telling the world that he is offended that I think it’s important that people who want to stay Episcopalians there have some representation on behalf of the larger church,” she said, asking for the council’s prayers for the people of the diocese.

In a Feb. 9 letter to the diocese Lawrence said that the convention would be delayed from March 4-5 to March 26 in order for him, the diocesan standing committee and the diocese “to adequately consider a response” to what he called an “unjust intrusion into the spiritual and jurisdictional affairs of this sovereign diocese of the Episcopal Church.”

Make no mistake, Bishop Lawrence.  You’re going down and you’re probably going down sooner rather than later.  The only reason the Presiding Bishop hasn’t moved against you is that she hasn’t yet come up with a fraudulent-but-superficially-plausible reason.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, February 18th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

We hardly knew ya:

For the sake of the faithful who read Stand Firm, I thought it best to address a number of inaccuracies found within the TEC report circulated at the C of E Synod. As a bit of preamble, I am thankful to God that He sees fit to make me a target of such libel, and that my Lent begins with His blessing: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). I am flattered to receive this much ink from TEC!

The document seems to imply that I secretly changed the parish charter immediately after my arrival in 1992. Actually, the change in our charter came in 2006, upon a unanimous vote from our Vestry, according to the established by-laws of the parish an in accordance with the existing canons of the Diocese of Georgia, which did not require episcopal notification. The change in charter did not alter our ecclesiastical status, but rather defined our parish theologically,  not institutionally, which is the way it had existed from its founding (in 1733) until 1918. The change in charter also brought us up to date with various aspects of Georgia corporate law. The Vestry of Christ Church had for several months requested conversation with the Bishop of Georgia in order to discuss several of our theological concerns with him. After not responding to multiple requests over several months, the Bishop did indeed meet with us, and these(unproductive) discussions present the historical context of our change in our charter, though not necessarily its cause. If I was such a seditious priest, why was I appointed to assist in bringing speakers and programs to diocesan clergy conferences, or appointed dean of the Savannah Convocation (clericus), or even asked to preach at one of the Diocesan Conventions, upon the last-minute cancelation of the invited preacher? Of course, the kicker is, why would the vestry call me and the Bishop of Georgia (then the Rt. Rev. Harry Shipps) interview and approve me if I were such a destructive priest? Keep in mind that TEC was in a different place in 1992, and I am certainly willing to admit so was I. The continued theological fragmentation of TEC continued, and I believe, by God’s grace, my ability to recognize and speak to that fragmentation grew clearer.

The decision to appropriate funds from our Endowment was duly inacted through the Endowment Agreement, which is the legal instrument governing the Fund itself. It required prior public written notice to the congregation, and could have hardly been secretive.

The vote to disaffiliate from TEC was not required by our polity, but was exercised to discern a sense of confirmation from the congregation. Public notice for several weeks was put forth, describing from the by-laws what constituted a “voting member in good standing.” Anyone who wished to vote was allowed to vote, but those votes which were cast by individuals not found on our member-in-good-standing roster were received as provisional votes. The votes was 87% in favor of coming under the ecclesiastical protection of the Province of Uganda, and 13% opposed. There were 28 provisional votes cast. If every provisional vote had been in the negative, the vote would have still been well beyond a “super majority” in favor of disaffiliation. Recently, those provisional votes were opened and counted: 22 in favor of disaffiliation, 6 against. There were over 280 votes cast on that particular Sunday in October, 2007. As far as we can recognize, 22 individuals who may be recognized as somewhat active in Christ Church at the time of the vote are currently worshipping at Christ Church Episcopal.

The figures cast about regarding parish membership are most misleading. Membership roles of old congregations are hard to manage well. An on-roll membership of about 900 would be a good estimate for Christ Church today, though it means little. Our mailing list would be larger; our “members in good standing” list would be smaller. Average Sunday Attendnce (ASA) is probably the best indicator of parish involvement and common life. I checked our worship records, and our ASA for the two years prior to my arrival in 1992 are around 320-350 on a given Sunday, though the numbers were higher from September to May and quite lower in the summer. Today’s ASA at Christ Church is approximatley 375-80 per Sunday, and the variance between summer and the rest of the year is less. In our 2010 stewardship campaign, we received 28 new pledging units, the largest single-year increase in my tenure. This last Sunday, we welcomed five new families into Christ Church. We are very grateful to God for what He is doing in our midst—it is all by His grace and to His glory.

I’m not sure about intimidation. We have had a number of families leave Christ Church over the years, for all sorts of reasons. I can say this: I have never personally sued anyone; but I, along with fourteen other vestry members are being personally sued by the Diocese of Georgia and TEC, as well as Christ Church Episcopal. Would that count as intimidation?

The matter with The Rev. Susan Harrison is the most egregious mis-statement of all. Though we had substantial theoloical disagreements, it was Susan who came to me (in 2005) personlly and informed me that she would be leaving Christ Church and re-assigned to another ministry by Bishop Louttit. We prayed together, hugged one another, and she left. I kept up with her and we prayed for her regularly in Sunday worship during her battle with cancer. Upon hearing of her death, with clear support from Vestry leadership, I offered Christ Church as the venue for her funeral. When I made the phone call, the priest in charge of Christ Church Episcopal and other lay leadership from that congregation were present and discussing funeral plans. Susan’s husband graciously took my call. I went by later to visit the family and was personally informed by him that, while they were most thankful for the offer of Christ Church, they had decided upon a different venue. They repeated their thanks for our offer. I and a significant number of Christ Church parishioners attended Susan’s funeral, though I was unable to receive communion, given our sad divisions.

It is a bit awkward to launch into such personal matters on behalf of my defense. I truly believe in my heart that the Lord Himself is my defense, and though a “miserable offender,” I stand under His most gracious Lordship. Nevertheless, I believe in these conflicted and chaotic times that God is best honored with the truth, and I have done my best to offer it to the readership of Stand Firm for your edification and God’s glory.

May this lenten season bring you God’s peace and grace,

—Marc Robertson
(still) Rector of Christ Church, Savannah


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, February 18th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The MCJ’s deep-cover operative sends along footage of another David Booth Beers-Katharine Jefferts Schori meeting.  We can’t definitively date this one except to say that internal evidence suggests that this took place fairly recently.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

A quick review.  We know that the recent General Synod of the Church of England voted on a resolution that said this:

That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America

We know that the Synod ended up passing this:

That this Synod

(a) aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada;

(b) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(c) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(d) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.

Which is Anglican for, “Cold day in hell.”

We also know that the Episcopalians inserted themselves into this debate, distributing a set of talking points.  Greg Griffith has the complete memo.

Read the whole thing if you enjoy mendacity, misrepresentation, distortion and whining.  No “average” Episcopalian allegedly interviewed here is quoted directly; everyone is “a long-time parishioner” or “another Episcopalian” or similar term.  In short, this memo was nothing more than particularly ham-handed Episcopal propaganda.

Which seems to have worked. 

We were told going in that the member’s motion to recognize ACNA had considerable support.  Yet the measure was amended down to irrelevant mush.  What happened?

Those inside the C of E might have had their reasons for withholding recognition of ACNA right now and might hotly deny what I’m about to assert but this looks for all the world like the first direct public assertion of the new Anglican order.

I suppose the Episcopalians will continue to go through the motions.  But this incident demonstrates that as far as the Anglican world is concerned, Canterbury and the Church of England no longer matter.

The center of the Anglican world has moved to New York City.

Think of it.  A proposal was recently put forward which would seriously impact the Episcopal Organization.  Overcoming their alleged horror at “boundary-crossing,” the Episcopalians successfully got this measure watered down to nothing in particular.

New York gives the orders now.  When TEO said, “Jump,” the mother church of the Anglican world replied, “How high?”

That the Canterbury connection has been rendered completely meaningless should be clarifying to Anglican conservatives.  Will it be?  Will orthodox Anglicans finally stop pursuing the chimera of “official” recognition?
UPDATE: The Episcopal Organization.  Lying through its teeth since 2003.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

I am by birth and by temperament a Westerner.  It’s my dream to retire to and finish out my days in some isolated place in the American West.  Western Kansas, western Nebraska, Idaho, northern New Mexico, places like that. 

And if you ever gave me the opportunity to live anywhere in the United States that I wanted, I wouldn’t deliberately choose to live anywhere east of the Mississippi.

With one exception.  South Carolina.

Why?  Well, the history, obviously, from Sullivan’s Island to Sumter.  Charleston’s a captivating town.  And that state seems to have more than its share of lawmakers who propose things like this:

South Carolina Rep. Mike Pitts has introduced legislation that would mandate that gold and silver coins replace federal currency as legal tender in his state.

As the Palmetto Scoop first reported, Pitts, a Republican, introduced legislation this month banning “the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin” in South Carolina. 

In an interview, Pitts told Hotsheet that he believes that “if the federal government continues to spend money at the rate it’s spending money, and if it continues to print money at the rate it’s printing money, our economic system is going to collapse.”

“The Germans felt their system wouldn’t collapse, but it took a wheelbarrow of money to buy a loaf of bread in the 1930s,” he said. “The Soviet Union didn’t think their system would collapse, but it did. Ours is capable of collapsing also.”

Would it work?  Doubtful.  For one thing, it would probably be considered unconstitutional.

The lawmaker believes that a shift to an economy based on gold and silver coins would give the state a “base of currency” should that collapse come. As one expert told the Scoop, however, his bill would likely be ruled unconstitutional because it “violates a perfectly legal and Constitutional federal law, enacted pursuant to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, that federal reserve notes are legal tender for all debts public and private.” 

And for another, considering what an ounce of both gold and silver costs right about now, the idea of a circulating gold and silver coinage any time soon is ludicrous.  These coins would be hoarded the moment they left the mint leaving South Carolinians with nothing to spend.

Still, you have to admire the spirit behind measures like this.  Mike Pitts is the type of guy who plans ahead.  And if the economy does collapse in the way that Rep. Pitts thinks it’s going to, I can envision gold or silver ingots, with marked weights and finenesses, circulating informally.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A video analysis of this.  Video link here.

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