Archive for May, 2010


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, May 31st, 2010 | Uncategorized | 34 Comments

The Anglican Organization of Canada’s General Synod starts in a few days and Archbishop Fred Hiltz wants the AOoC to be more courageous:

It’s time for the Anglican Church of Canada to get innovative about the ways in which it engages the rest of the world, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate.

Archbishop Hiltz explained that the church needs to “start looking out to the world in very courageous ways…the Gospel calls us to be the church in the world.”

Courageous is always a good thing for any church to be.  So how is GenSyn going to address the issue that is tearing the Anglican Communion apart?  Like scared cowards.

The issue of homosexuality and same-sex blessings, a hot-bed of controversy that has dominated synods in the past, has been relegated to the back burner. Instead, delegates to General Synod 2010 will determine a new process for debating the issue. Period.

Sometimes the jokes write themselves.  Fred Hiltz and the Anglican Organization of Canada, if you need ’em.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, May 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 24 Comments

But whom say ye that I am?

The whole problem with two centuries worth of historical Jesus scholarship is summed up in those seven words: “As well attested a tradition as any.” Because obviously if you don’t mind a little supernaturalism with your history, a story about Jesus being a Roman soldier’s bastard that dates from the second century — and late in the second century, at that — is dramatically less “well attested” than the well-known tradition (perhaps you’ve heard of it) that Jesus was born of a virgin married to Joseph the carpenter, which dates from the 70s or 80s A.D. at the latest, when the Gospels of Luke and Matthew were composed. Bracket the question of miracles, and there’s really no comparison: Giving the Roman soldier story equal weight with the accounts in Matthew and Luke is like saying that a tale about Abraham Lincoln that first surfaced in the 1970s has just as much credibility as a story that dates to the 1890s (and is associated with eyewitnesses to Lincoln’s life).

Now of course what Gopnik means by “well attested” is “well attested and non-miraculous,” which is fair enough so far as it goes. But this no-miracles criterion is why the historical Jesus project is such a spectacular dead end — because what would ordinarily be the most historically-credible sources for the life and times of Jesus Christ are absolutely soaked in supernaturalism, and if you throw them out you’re left with essentially idle speculations about Jesus ben Pantera and other phantoms that have no real historical grounding whatsoever.

Think about it this way: If the letters of Saint Paul (the earliest surviving Christian texts, by general consensus) and the synoptic gospels (the second-earliest) didn’t make such extraordinary claims about Jesus’s resurrection, his divinity, and so forth, no credible historian would waste much time parsing second-century apocrypha for clues about the “real” Jesus. They’d thank their lucky stars that the first-century Christians were such talented narrative writers, and spend most of their time trying to reconcile the discrepancies and resolve the contradictions in Matthew, Mark and Luke, while arguing amongst themselves about how much historical weight to give to the events and sayings recorded in John’s gospel. The gospel of Thomas would attract some modest attention; the later “lost gospels,” very little, save as evidence of how intra-Christian debates developed long after Jesus’s death. For the most part, the argument over how the Nazarene lived and died would revolve around competing interpretations of the existing Christian canon, and the rough accuracy of the synoptic narrative would be accepted by the vast majority of scholars.

Ultimately, those are the only two questions, aren’t they?  Do you accept the Jesus that those closest to Him wrote about?  Or do you constantly parse “ancient” texts in search of a Jesus Who is more congenial to you?


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, May 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

The always-insightful Walter Russell Mead on America’s hidden advantage: 

Sometimes the stone that the builders rejected ends up as the cornerstone of the whole building. That may not quite describe the role of Christianity in American foreign policy, but in some important and little understood ways the massive surge of Christian faith in the developing world is tilting the global playing field in America’s favor. At home, the appeal and the vigor of African-American Christianity, especially of the Pentecostal variety, may be America’s best defense against a sharp increase in home-grown terror. 

In a sense, the United States actually is a Christian nation.  Just not in the way that Europeans understood that term. 

It is a tricky job. Christianity has had its ups and down as a factor in American foreign policy. In its earliest diplomatic efforts to negotiate with the Barbary Pirates, American diplomats were instructed to stress that constitutionally speaking the United States was not a “Christian nation” in the way that the European powers were. At other times, stressing the country’s Christian roots was seen as a way to build alliances. In the Cold War the United States benefited enormously from the perception of many religious people around the world that we were the captain of “God’s Team” in the struggle with atheistic communism. The Soviets, the Chinese and their associated regimes regularly murdered and persecuted believers of all stripes. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews were all viciously persecuted, herded into camps, victimized by economic and educational discrimination and intrusively watched by the secret police. Even today, religious believers can be objects of suspicion and official repression in what remains of the communist world. 

For decades, American elites followed their European counterparts in basically rejecting Christianity. 

Meanwhile, Europeans were increasingly secularist, hostile to religion and faintly embarrassed by the past. With American elites increasingly drifting in the same way direction, after 1989 and even more strongly after 2001 the instinctive response of many people in the foreign policy world was to keep the question of religion off-stage. The failures of the Bush administration–at times attributed (wrongly in many cases) to the influence of religion within the administration–only deepened the general sense that American religion was a problem to finesse, not a strength to exploit. Christianity would not help win the COFKATWOT (Conflict Formerly Known As The War On Terror) and it might even make things worse; why bring up a divisive subject? 

These days, Europeans and the leftist Americans who robotically emulate them are embarrassed by the whole idea of Christianity and God. 

There is some good common sense in this view. Many Europeans do perceive American Christianity (and especially its evangelical variety) as knuckle-dragging barbarism; America’s problems with Islamic public opinion are serious enough without entangling the current issues in 1400 years of Christian-Muslim relations.

Which is a shame, really, because the fact of the matter is that Christianity is winning.

The challenges are fairly obvious to most people in the establishment; the opportunities are less well understood.  Partly because many people in the foreign policy world are nervous about religion (and especially about Christianity) and partly because so much religious behavior happens in places few diplomats and journalists ever see, many otherwise sophisticated observers fail to grasp just how much the global rise of Christianity helps the United States. And Christianity is a rising religion; whatever its problems in western Europe and the United States, worldwide we are living through the greatest and most transformational expansion of Christianity since the earliest times.

Pretty much all over the place.

Virtually everywhere in the world outside the EU and Islamic countries which forbid Christian proselytization, Christianity is on the biggest roll in its 2000 year history.  Both in absolute numbers of adherents and in terms of its global ‘market share’ (the percentage of the world’s population that professes the Christian faith), Christianity is at an all time high.  In the last fifty years it has surpassed Islam both as the most popular religion in sub-Saharan Africa and as the leading Abrahamic religion in China.  The Roman Catholic Church alone claims almost as many members as the total number of Sunni Muslims in the world; all told, Christianity claims almost twice as many adherents as Islam worldwide.

And while Europeans may declare themselves appalled by American culture…

Not all Christians like American values and American ideas; from Pope Pius IX to Dietrich Bonhoeffer modern European religious history is filled with Christian thinkers and writers who have been almost as horrified and appalled by American-style capitalism and society as Sayyid Qutb.

Christianity’s fastest-growing segment most emphatically isn’t.

And the fastest growing force within global Christianity is the most pro-American group within it: the global Pentecostal movement has grown from zero to something like half a billion members in the last 100 years.  This is the fastest growth in percentage terms for any religious movement in world history, and in Africa, Asia and Latin America the growth continues today.  According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Pentecostal Christians and their beliefs are a substantial and in some cases dominant force among Christians in some of Africa’s largest and most important countries.  From beliefs in divine healing and speaking in tongues, to the expectation of Jesus’ imminent return, to faith in the ‘prosperity gospel’ (the belief that God will bless those who truly believe with secular prosperity and physical health), some of the most characteristic beliefs and practices of Pentecostal Christians are found among both Protestant and Catholic Africans across denominational lines.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that you will automatically support the United States no matter what it does.  It will mean, however, that your values will probably be a lot closer to ours than to theirs.

Christianity does not make people pro-American, but Christian faith gives people a perspective on life that is often congruent with American beliefs and ideals (if not always concrete American actions).  For Pentecostals in many developing countries,  America and its friends are seen as good guys upholding freedom of religion (including the freedom to share your religion with your neighbors) and promoting economic development.  The radical terrorists and their various nasty allies are seen as murdering thugs who persecute Christian believers and fight the spread of God’s truth.  Pentecostal Christians are often accused of belief in the so-called Prosperity Gospel: the belief that God favors believers with worldly riches and good health.  This is a tough theology to reconcile with the Book of Job or, for that matter, the life of Christ; however, when preachers tell their congregations in cities like Lagos that God doesn’t want them to stay poor and marginalized, that God yearns to see them well housed, well fed and well cared for, that God wants their children to have an education and a better life — who among us would dare to call them wrong?

Bottom line?  There’s a war going on and pretending that there isn’t is criminal stupidity.

The faith competition between ‘hot Christianity’ and ‘hot Islam’ also matters at home.  The elites pay only a very casual attention to this competition, but a war is being fought in America today for the souls of the African-American underclass.  In our prisons, in our inner cities, even in our military barracks a silent struggle is going on for individual souls, one soul at a time.  A preacher I know told me recently that the battle is for the soul of the forty-year-old unemployed and unmarried grandmother whose eighteen year old unmarried daughter has a one year old child.  “Somebody’s going to reach her,” said the preacher.  “And she’s either going to be wearing a veil or carrying a Bible and singing in church.”

Many Roman Catholics who comment here have regularly expressed a desire for me to join them.  Right now, I doubt that it’s ever going to happen(and I doubt that I’d tell you even if it did) but I get why they do it and I’m certainly not offended in any way.  In fact, it’s actually a great encouragement to me.

I don’t think they do it because they believe that one-true-church, Protestants-might-as-well-be-Muslims-for-all-the-good-it-will-do-them garbage.  I think serious Roman Catholics want me to convert because to them, church is far more than a place to kill a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.

To serious Roman Catholics,  Roman Catholicism in all its facets is a pearl of great price.  And they don’t want to hoard it for themselves; they want to share it with me.

So much for the idea that there is no such thing as Roman Catholic evangelism.

Contrast that with the Episcopalians.  Although they would object if you left them to become a Roman Catholic, an Orthodox Christian of any type, a Southern Baptist or a Pentecostal, they wouldn’t object strenuously enough to want to talk you out of it.

They’d just figure that you weren’t Episcopal material, that’s all, so go ahead and throw in with the snake-handlers, you bigot.  And if that young woman Mead mentioned was forced to become a Muslim, put on a burka and spend the rest of her earthly existence as some man’s property, hey, there are many ways to God Whom we don’t want to put in a small box, now do we?

It’s like this.

If you have something of ultimate value that everyone in the world desperately needs to hear, you will do whatever you have to do to let everyone in the world hear it.  But if you think one religion’s just as good as another, you have no business being surprised, angry, shocked or horrified when people who actually believe what they preach make far more disciples than you do.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, May 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

There are two aspects to a successful Episcopal Organization buzzword or cliche.  It should (1) sound meaningful and (2) communicate absolutely nothing.  Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Ian Douglas takes “live into” to the next level:

“Many churches across the Anglican Communion because of conscience or their belief in what the holy spirit is up to in their local context have lived beyond the moratoria,” Douglas said.

Okay, I’ll play:

(1) I’m afraid I can’t accept this ticket, Officer.  In my local context, I have lived beyond speed limits.
(2) Honey, I’m not sleeping with that woman!  No, no, no, no!  It’s just that in my local context, I have lived beyond monogamy.
(3)  In my local context, I have lived beyond who owns what so no, you can’t have your Rolex back.

It’s got definite potential for greatness.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, May 28th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s pastoral letter, alluded to below, is now available and contains no surprises.  Some selections:

Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues – equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.

What should we do about it?  Nothing in particular.

It is my own passionate hope that our discussion of the Anglican Covenant in its entirety will help us focus on that priority; the Covenant is nothing if not a tool for mission. I want to stress yet again that the Covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control. And this is perhaps a good place to clarify that the place given in the final text to the Standing Committee of the Communion introduces no novelty: the Committee is identical to the former Joint Standing Committee, fully answerable in all matters to the ACC and the Primates; nor is there any intention to prevent the Primates in the group from meeting separately. The reference to the Standing Committee reflected widespread unease about leaving certain processes only to the ACC or only to the Primates.

We are well aware of those American Anglicans who lack the courage of their convictions but who want to remain part of a 500 year old Christian tradition whose “apostolic” claims are questionable at best the Anglican Communion.

Yet at the moment we face a dilemma. To maintain outward unity at a formal level while we are convinced that the divisions are not only deep but damaging to our local mission is not a good thing. Neither is it a good thing to break away from each other so dramatically that we no longer see Christ in each other and risk trying to create a church of the ‘perfect’ – people like us. It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ‘Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. And, as has often been pointed out, there are things that Anglicans across the world need and want to do together for the care of God’s poor and vulnerable that can and do go on even when division over doctrine or discipline is sharp.

Therefore I suggest…window dressing.

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged.  I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.

It’s pretty much all I can do what with my not having any actual power or anything.

I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.

Sigh.  Dr. Williams?  You have more power than you think you do.  You invited the Americans and Canadians to the last Lambeth Conference and you made sure that the single greatest issue dividing the Communion wouldn’t be resolved there.

Seems to me that you could have included in your letter something along the following lines.  “Archbishop Hiltz?  Presiding Bishop Schori?  I’m not saying that you’re not invited to the January, 2011 Primates Meeting.

“I’m just saying that if you show up, the meeting’s pretty much going to grind to a halt.  Reason being that most of that meeting’s going to consist of what to do about the theological innovations of both your provinces.

“Mind you, you won’t have any actual input into whatever discussions do take place or whatever report or communiqué finally emerges.  Fred?  Kate?  You might not want to budget for that trip.  Just a suggestion.”


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, May 27th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 23 Comments

In the Huffington Post, Katharine Jefferts Schori riffs on the Gulf oil spill:

The original peoples of the North American continent understand that we are all connected, and that harm to one part of the sacred circle of life harms the whole. Scientists, both the ecological and physical sorts, know the same reality, expressed in different terms. The Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) also charge human beings with care for the whole of creation, because it is God’s good gift to humanity. Another way of saying this is that we are all connected and there is no escape; our common future depends on how we care for the rest of the natural world, not just the square feet of soil we may call “our own.” We breathe the same air, our food comes from the same ground and seas, and the water we have to share cycles through the same airshed, watershed, and terra firma.

Some of the more cynical among you might attribute sentiments like those to half a lid of high-grade Humboldt County chronic but don’t expect me to agree.  Tomorrow, I had planned on spending my day off strip-mining Blackburn Park, here in Webster Groves, in search of gold but Katharine Jefferts Bumper Sticker has shown me a better way.

The still-unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is good evidence of the interconnectedness of the whole. It has its origins in this nation’s addiction to oil, uninhibited growth, and consumerism, as well as old-fashioned greed

Says the woman who’s pseudo-spiritual debating society is currently spending millions of dollars suing Christians out of their meeting houses.

and what my tradition calls hubris and idolatry.

Slow down there, big smacker.  Are St. John the Divine or Trinity-Wall Street heated by wood-burning stoves?  Does TEO have a fleet of cars that run on cupcakes?  Then you’re as addicted to oil as anyone.  And if using the resources that God provided in this “good gift” of His constitutes “hubris and idolatry,” I guess that means that Katharine Jefferts Buzzword is never going to eat or drink anything again.

Our collective sins are being visited on those who have had little or no part in them: birds, marine mammals, the tiny plants and animals that constitute the base of the vast food chain in the Gulf, and on which a major part of the seafood production of the United States depends. Our sins are being visited on the fishers of southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, who seek to feed their families with the proceeds of what they catch each day. Our sins will expose New Orleans and other coastal cities to the increased likelihood of devastating floods, as the marshes that constitute the shrinking margin of storm protection continue to disappear, fouled and killed by oil.

I wonder if Katharine Jefferts Banality has ever heard the name Ixtoc.  This was another Gulf oil spill that took place in Mexico in 1979 and lasted over nine months.  If my calculations are correct, approximately eight million barrels of oil were pumped into the Gulf by this blowout, three million of which affected beaches in this country.

If oil spills were as deadly as Vapidity Jefferts Platitude seems to think they are, we wouldn’t be having this conversation since the Gulf of Mexico would be a dead zone and the shrimpers, oystermen and fishermen would have moved on decades ago.  Yet since they’re supposedly threatened by this new spill, they’re apparently still there.

Meaning what?  Two things.  Excrement happens.  If the organic grocery next door catches fire and my house burns down, I’m not going to waste time raging against the sin of smug, left-wing self-righteousness.  I’m going to rebuild and if I can’t do that, I’m going to find a new place to live.

When God makes planets, He makes them tough.  Ixtoc no doubt ended some fishing careers but there are no guarantees in this life.  The fact that there’s still a seafood industry in the Gulf that’s there to be threatened by this new spill suggests that the Earth can fix itself fairly quickly.

The oil that continues to vent from the sea floor has spread through hundreds of cubic miles of ocean, poisoning creatures of all sizes and forms, from birds, turtles, and whales to the shrimp, fish, oysters, and crabs that human beings so value, and the plankton, whose life supports the whole biological system — the very kind of creatures whose dead and decomposed tissues began the process of producing that oil so many millions of years ago.

I’ve heard that whale marinated in light crude is supposed to be pretty good.

We know, at least intellectually, that that oil is a limited resource, yet we continue to extract and use it at increasing rates and with apparently decreasing care.

The Presiding Bishop also knows, at least intellectually, that there are plenty of land-based alternatives to Gulf oil(tar sands, oil shale, etc) that this country could be exploring but refuses to.  So until the Episcopal Organization switches to electric cars and discovers the concept of videoconferencing, Triviality Jefferts Bong Hit really ought to keep her mouth shut. 

That oil will move beyond the immediate environs of a broken wellhead, spreading around the coasts of Florida and northward along the east coast of the U.S. That oil will foul the coastal marshes that also constitute a major nursery for coastal fauna, again a vital part of the food chain. That oil will further stress and poison the coral reefs of Florida, already much endangered from warming and ocean acidification.

That oil will develop sentience.  That oil will come on to the land.  That oil will be baptized in an Episcopal church.  That oil will attend Episcopal Divinity School.  That oil will be ordained as an Episcopal minister.  That oil will one day become an Episcopal bishop!!  The Africans will probably bitch again, though.

We are all connected, we will all suffer the consequences of this tragic disaster in the Gulf, and we must wake up and put a stop to the kind of robber baron behavior we supposedly regulated out of existence a hundred years ago.

You mean like buying politicians?  No, wait…


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, May 27th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

It’s kind of like this.  Suppose you were horrified about the appalling working conditions under which farm workers who harvested this country’s sweet potatoes and yams were forced to labor.  As a protest, you organize a consumer boycott of sweet potatoes and yams, urging all Americans not to buy or eat them.

You make a point of calling me and asking me to join the boycott and I enthusiastically agree.  You profusely thank me for my generous sacrifice.  As far as you’re concerned, I’m the perfect Christian, a living saint and the greatest thing since bread itself, sliced or otherwise.

So here’s a question.  Am I, in fact, the perfect Christian, a living saint and the greatest thing since bread itself, sliced or otherwise?

Not so much.  Reason being that there are few foods that I passionately hate more than sweet potatoes and yams so agreeing to give them up is kind of like telling you that I’m giving up genocide for Lent.  In that spirit, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real, the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves:

Responding to requests from two bishops elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, the Bishop of El Camino Real did not attend the consecration of Bishops Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles on May 15.

Bishop Gray–Reeves wrote that her fellow bishops asked her to abstain from granting consent to Bishop Glasspool’s election or from participating in her consecration.

The Rt. Rev. apparently didn’t hear the first part of the bishops’ request.

I consented to Mary’s election without hesitation.

And since the second part of the request was a done deal anyway…

Gray–Reeves wrote that she “did not come easily to the decision of not attending,” adding: “But the truth is, Mary and Diane had plenty of bishops to get the job done, and my hands were not needed there on May 15th. They were needed to reach other places and so I did.”

After all, reconciliation requires all of us to…aw, screw it.

“The successful ministry of El Camino Real depends on us talking, remaining in a graceful conversation that is transformational,” she wrote. “The future of the Communion relies on that same dynamic. An emergent church leader in Seattle I met recently, Eliacin Rosario, said in a conversation I had with him in February, ‘Reconciliation requires something of you.’ That it does. And the big picture of the work may require different things of different people.”

The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, if you need her.  Which you probably don’t.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Meet Robert Chatigny, Barack Obama’s nominee for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals:


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 35 Comments

After the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected lesbian Mary Glasspool as Bishop Suffragan, Rowan Williams had this to say:

The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.

The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.

By His Grace’s own admission, the Rubicon has now been crossed.  So why hasn’t Dr. Williams reacted to Glasspool’s consecration yet?  According to Tom Wright, my gracious lord of Canterbury might just have something a bit more important in mind.

And that, too, is why recent events in America are placing an ever greater strain on the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is, I believe, in the process of writing a pastoral letter to all the churches, and I don’t want to pre-empt what he will say.

If my gracious lord of Durham is to be believed, we have a Very Important Anglican StatementTM from the Archbishop of Canterbury to look forward to.  Any chance that this could be the one that finally breaks the logjam?

Are you high or something?

One would like to think that Dr. Williams has been in contact with the primates and bishops of the Global South and that these primates and bishops spelled things out for him.  Namely, that the Americans and Canadians aren’t going to back down.  Ever.  Glasspool’s election and consecration should have driven that point home.

So what say we bottom-line it for you?  You can have us and still retain your international Christian street cred or you can have North American liberal money and be little more than a British civil servant.

But you can no longer have both.  Your call.

Would recognition of the Anglican Church in North America help keep the Global South onside?  It might, provided that it was actual recognition and not the potential for possible recognition down the road at some as-yet-undetermined point, maybe.

How might such recognition be achieved?  Easy.  Prior to the invention of the Anglican Communion in 1868, how were Anglicans identified?  How did whoever was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time know who to invite to the first Lambeth Conference?

Basically, in the pre-Lambeth period, you were an Anglican if the Archbishop of Canterbury decided that you were.

Which means that if Dr. Williams wants to recognize ACNA, all he has to do is to declare that Bob Duncan is going to be invited to the next Primates Meeting.  The Americans and Canadians would bitch loudly, of course, but such an action would instantly call a new North American province into being, proper Anglican channels be damned.

But I think you see the major impediment here.  Rowan Williams, the current occupant of the See of Canterbury.

Such an action would require boldness, a willingness to offend and the ability to think outside the box, qualities Rowan Williams does not have or at least has not publicly displayed in the last seven years or so.

So what will this “pastoral letter” of Dr. Willliams consist of?  Nothing much.  It will long, dense, circumlocutory and discursive, covering a variety of topics when it should focus on only one.

And it will be ambiguous enough so that just about everyone will be able to tease whatever they want from it.  Expect lots of “What I think Dr. Williams means here is…” to appear all over the Internet.

In other words, same old same old.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

The Democratic Party continues its campaign to ensure Republican victory in the fall elections:

Responding to the massive BP oil spill, Congress is getting ready to quadruple—to 32 cents a barrel—a tax on oil used to help finance cleanups. The increase would raise nearly $11 billion over the next decade.

The tax is levied on oil produced in the U.S. or imported from foreign countries. The revenue goes to a fund managed by the Coast Guard to help pay to clean up spills in waterways, such as the Gulf of Mexico.

The tax increase is part of a larger bill that has grown into a nearly $200 billion grab bag of unfinished business that lawmakers hope to complete before Memorial Day. The key provisions are a one-year extension of about 50 popular tax breaks that expired at the end of last year, and expanded unemployment benefits, including subsidies for health insurance, through the end of the year.

The House could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday. Senate leaders hope to complete work on it before Congress goes on a weeklong break next week.

Four bucks a gallon for gas.  Seems like a good platform to run on.  But why stop there?  Why not make me bail out a Democratic pillar?

A Democratic senator is introducing legislation for a bailout of troubled union pension funds.  If passed, the bill could put another $165 billion in liabilities on the shoulders of American taxpayers.

The bill, which would put the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation behind struggling pensions for union workers, is being introduced by Senator Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), who says it will save jobs and help people.

As FOX Business Network’s Gerri Willis reported Monday, these pensions are in bad shape; as of 2006, well before the market dropped and recession began, only 6% of these funds were doing well.

Although right now taxpayers could possibly be on the hook for $165 billion, the liability could essentially be unlimited because these pensions have to be paid out until the workers die.

Since Bart Stupak basically put a bullet in the back of the neck of the concept of the “pro-life Democrat,” I honestly can’t see voting for a Democrat for any office, large or small, ever again.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

I do not think it means what the Rev. Richard E. Helmer, rector of the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Mill Valley, California, thinks it means:

Chastity means setting aside dominance and control and seeking instead a new way to relate to the world and to God.

That’s not what it says here.  Welcome to Deep Episcopalianism, folks.  Strap yourselves in because you are about to go on one hell of a wild ride.

Having spent an increasing amount of time in conversation with married couples in recent years, the most commonly destructive dynamic in any relationship I have found has to do with a failure of chastity. But I don’t mean sex outside the marriage. By chastity in marriage I mean the challenge of setting aside the stubborn drive to control or change the person we most cherish.

Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  As long as I set aside “the stubborn drive to control or change” my wife, I can schtup every hot female in the parish right up the va-jay-jay and still have a “chaste” marriage?  Apparently.

When couples learn this, the effect in their relationship and family is simply astonishing. Anxiety and anger levels drop almost immediately. There is a renewed simultaneous sense of freedom and connection. Spouses allow their partners to grow. Parents allow their children to seek accountable maturity. Needs are articulated. Resentments are set aside. Rather than using or abusing the relationship to change others, the relationships by themselves become transformative. Everyone is changed.

You’d be in a good mood too if you were bumping uglies on a regular basis.  But chastity isn’t just about families or friends or a three-way with your next-door neighbor’s wife.

Chaste leadership serves and seeks to set example rather than manipulate or control.

Your secretary should want to have that nooner.  She should never be forced or manipulated into it.

Chaste leadership is honest about the power it holds and seeks to exercise it with transparency, deliberation, clarity and the good of others first and foremost in mind.

Does that attractive female canon to the ordinary enjoy being spanked?  Don’t judge her but try to see things from her perspective.  And your wife will never miss that spatula.

And chaste leadership learns to live with the reality that we are never in full control of outcomes,

Particularly since your prostate operation. 

that consequences bad


and good

Despite your prostate operation, you were still able to get it up.

flow from every action, and that ends rarely if ever justify means.

But do you know who most emphatically isn’t chaste these days?

Chastity deserves a thorough study by everyone presently involved in the tired crisis of the Anglican Communion. The desire to manipulate outcomes, to control others, to dominate an otherwise messy situation inherited from our colonial, modern past is all about unchaste approaches to relationship. And our late great crisis is rife with unchastity.

Raise your hand if you didn’t see that one coming.

We see it a lot in bishops and clergy attempting to manipulate the situation to their own ends. We see it in the floundering of the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury attempting to control through appeasement and veiled threats.

Helmer’s too smart to play the martyr.

We see it in the unwillingness to acknowledge our actions within our own Church have unforeseen consequences for everyone — both good and bad.

Directly, anyway.

We have already seen the failed outcomes of dishonest ecclesiastical legislating that is inherently unchaste for its attempt to placate rather than humbly hold the truth. And we know too well the abuse of reports and non-binding councils as instruments of shadow law, and the potential of distorting covenant into a tool of manipulation.

However it’s obvious where Helmer stands.

But there is good news. Chastity has been in evidence in the increasing number of voices of those who recognize our disagreements as a Communion, but yet insist that costly communion in Christ is far more valuable than agreement.

And if that wasn’t clear enough for you…

Chastity has long been in evidence by those courageous, oft-threatened “firsts” of our faith who inhabit dangerous positions not for power or the quixotic pursuit of perfection, but simply by being who they are and following God’s call as best they can. The consecrations in the Diocese of Los Angeles are some of the most recent examples of this form of chastity.

Basically, we’re down to this.  The consecration of a practicing homosexual is a “form of chastity.”  Strenuously objectiing to it is a form of unchastity.  Since chastity really has nothing to do with sex.

Oh, it does if you’re going to get all superficial like the conservatives do.  But to be really chaste, you have to go a lot deeper than that.  So deep that you’re going to need Dick Helmer to show you the way down.

Chastity demands we return to what is real, setting aside the spectacles of objectification, and learn again to see ourselves, others, and the world through Christ’s loving eyes. Chastity calls us to embrace our humility and acknowledge our lack of control — to some degree over ourselves, and to an even greater degree over others. Chastity asks us to hope rather than to expect, to forgive rather than to condemn, to cultivate rather than destroy. Perhaps most importantly, chastity insists that God be God, not a projection of our own desires. Chastity towards the divine is captured in that critical turn of phrase in the Lord’s prayer: “thy will be done…”

Actually, chastity means refraining from sexual intercourse unless you’re married to the person you’re doing or the person who is doing you, as the case may be.  No more, no less.  But any port in a storm, huh, Dick?


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, May 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

From all indications, Europe may finally be learning the one about free lunches:

Across Western Europe, the “lifestyle superpower,” the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

It’s really going to suck not being able affect smug superiority over the Americans anymore.

Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

Especially since the Yankees picked up a good portion of Europe’s tab.

Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. “The Europe that protects” is a slogan of the European Union.

But if the money’s not there anymore…

But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.

Or taxpayers, for that matter…

With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.

Welcome to reality, Europe.  You’ll get used to it eventually.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, May 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Remember when dissent was the highest form of patriotism?  Neither does Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick:

Governor Deval Patrick, even as he decried partisanship in Washington, said today that Republican opposition to President Obama’s agenda has become so obstinate that it “is almost at the level of sedition.”

The Democratic governor, who is close to the president, made the comments at a forum at Suffolk Law School’s Rappaport Center, where he was asked by an audience member about partisan battling in Congress.

Patrick said that even “on my worst day, when I’m most frustrated about folks who seem to rooting for failure,” he doesn’t face anything like the opposition faced by the president.

“It seems like child’s play compared to what is going on in Washington, where it is almost at the level of sedition, it feels to like me,” Patrick said.

Note to self: get out Second National when you get home from work this evening.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 | Uncategorized | 46 Comments

Damian Geminder sends along word of an Episcopal confirmation class in the Diocese of Long Island (PDF file, Page C) that got creative:

The confirmation class at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket recently learned about the Nicene Creed in a new and exciting way that culminated in the composition of a creed in their own words, relevant not only to them but to everyone who has read it as well.

Is it okay if I interject something here?  In trying to determine exactly how and why the Episcopal Organization went off the rails, I’ve always wondered about something.  How much responsibility should the laity take?

That is, did the horrible theology come along first and the laity meekly accepted the innovations because those are really smart people, a whole lot smarter than I am, and I don’t know this Bible stuff?  Or was the horrible theology a response to what the clergy heard from the people in the pews?

Most Christians learn fairly quickly that [cue Barbie voice], “Christianity is hard.”  They also know that there are two approaches to that most basic of Christian facts and only two.  You can try your best, fail, repent, receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, stand up for Christ and the Gospel no matter what the world tells you, offend people who don’t want to stop sinning and get labeled a bigot.

Or you can get some intellectual whore liberal “theologian” to make things easier for you.  Don’t want to make that homosexual friend and co-parishioner mad by suggesting that what he does in his off-hours is a sin?  Not a problem; the best “scholarship” has decided that it’s not so you’re in the clear.

I still remember all the whining from the pew-sitters at my old place about the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  The prayers are too long.  They’re too boring.  They call me a “miserable offender” and I hate that.  What’s the deal with all these thou’s and thee’s and thy’s?  And who the hell even says “vouchsafe” anymore?

Now if you’re a smart liberal, you see those sorts of complaints as the golden opportunity that they are.  Since Episcopalians who care about this stuff have long since bailed or will bail and since most of the pew-sitters who remain either support the liberal agenda or don’t care either way, you can tell people that you’re not actually dynamiting Anglican tradition, you’re meeting a need.

Note three key phrases in that highlighted paragraph above.  “New and exciting way…in their own words…relevant not only to them but to everyone who has read it as well.”  Those aren’t words that people with any sense of eternity use.

People who say things like that think that what some guy said two thousand years ago no longer has any relevance whatsoever.  What’s important is what I think about the Christian religion and what I think the words of a Christian creed need to say.

In other words, if it doesn’t satisfy me, it has no value and I’m not interested in it.  Which, when you get right down to it, means that Christianity should mean whatever I want and need it to mean, no more, no less.

That, by the way, is an attitude that Long Island Capo Di Tutti Capi Bishop Lawrence “Larry Pro” Provenzano is only too happy to encourage.

Bishop Provenzano lauded the project in an e-mail to the class in which he said, “It is a terrific statement of faith and an important expression of your own sincerely held belief. …Your creed is a gift to me and the entire Diocese of Long Island and I am grateful for your sharing it with me.”

Larry Pro even let them use it in actual worship.

Bishop Provenzano offered his blessing for Caroline Church to use this creed during all liturgies on Mother’s Day, and invited us to share it with you, our diocese, through the Dominion. 

What did the kids come up with?  This:

We believe in the Eternal, Sacred, and Mystical God, the Creator of all, who is powerful and all-knowing, who listens, loves, and forgives, and remains willing to be merciful and giving.

We believe in the Selfless, Divine and Human, Rebel Jesus, our Savior and BFFL (“biffle”),* who was a wanderer, healer, teacher, and storyteller. Although He died, He is living today.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the mysterious breath of God, the friendly ghost and mighty wind, who is our comforter and protector.

We believe in God’s Holy Church. It invites and welcomes us home as God’s family. It is traditional, yet intimate. It is a place of learning and worship, where we are given discipline and structure while being fed with holy food and drink.

We believe in believing and learning, in prayer, mercy, and forgiving.  We believe in miracles, beauty, and music. And we believe that we matter.

I guess I could theologically pick this idiocy apart but it would be kind of like your local newspaper sending its art critic to cover an exhibit of the drawings of pre-schoolers.  What would be the point?

*BFFL – Best friend for life


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, May 21st, 2010 | Uncategorized | 20 Comments

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