Archive for November, 2010

SQUARING THE CIRCLE

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Archbishop Cranmer has a recommendation for Rowan Williams.  Stop pretending that you can save the Anglican Communion and start focusing on your regular job:

If His Grace is honest, he is a little tired of all this: we are not at a moment of historic schism like those of 1054 or 1517. Let the Worldwide Anglican Communion go the way of the British Empire, of which it is but the spiritual ghost. The Archbishop of Canterbury should be wholly concerned with leading the Church of England, not distracted hither and thither in cobbling together endless formulae by which mutually exclusive provinces may continue to perpetuate the perception of communion. You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins: the factions have already decided their courses and will not put aside their differences. The moment a province decides to appoint to the Episcopate Katharine Jefferts Schori and then Mary Glasspool, it is clear that they don’t give a damn about acting ‘with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy’.

His Grace’s initial point cannot be emphasized too strongly.  We’re not talking about the mutual excommunications of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches with all both those mournful events implied.  Nor are we talking about the split between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

We’re talking about a 142-year-old Protestant Christian association of churches whose single oldest province is around 500 years old.  All its other provinces are far younger than that.  So we’re really not talking about churches with genuine historical pedigrees assuming that sort of thing is important to you.

Let’s be honest.  Nobody can say with any certainty just exactly what “Anglicanism” or “the Anglican tradition” really means.  If “Anglicanism” is whatever the Anglican Communion says it is and if the Anglican Communion has never formally expelled any of its member churches for any reason, those Anglican churches who ordain women, for example, are just as “Anglican” as those who do not.

After all, quite a few Anglican bishops opposed to women’s ordination continued to attend Lambeth Conferences with those bishops in agreement with the practice.  If there was a serious move in the Communion to discipline the Americans over the 70′s innovations, I’m not aware of it.  And while there were quite a few individuals and the odd parish here and there who left, there was certainly no mass split over the issue.

What about New Westminster’s same-sex marriages?  What about Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool?  What about them?  As things stand now, the same logic applies.  Both churches were Anglican before 2003 and both remain Anglican now.

No serious effort has been made to expel either church since that time; in fact, as we have all seen, Dr. Williams has bent over backwards to keep both in the Anglican Communion.  QED, the Episcopal Organization and the Anglican Organization of Canada are both still Anglican. Argue whether that should or should not be the case but the syllogism is perfect and you know it.

Where are you going with this, Johnson?  Here.  If you seriously want to end the Anglican Communion controversy, stop pretending that there’s still an “Anglican Communion” anymore and stop caring whether or not an “Anglican Communion” still matters.

Because there isn’t.  And it doesn’t.  There is no more Anglican Communion.

So put it out of its misery.

We can’t do that!!  That will mean the end of Anglicanism as a world-wide Christian presence!!  No it won’t.  Does the success and vigor of Anglican Christianity in places like Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and elsewhere in the Third World depend on its long and prestigious history or how impressive its international structure is?  Or does it depend on what it does for people here and now?

And my gracious lord of Canterbury needn’t worry about a loss of international stature because he’ll still have plenty of that.  Anglican churches around the world will still identify themselves in terms of the Church of England regardless of whether or not they’re “officially” part of a 142-year-old international Protestant Christian association.

Counterintuitive as it might seem but get clear of the cold, dead hand of the Anglican Communion and Dr. Williams and his successors may actually find their international stature enhanced rather than diminished.  Archbishops of Canterbury will never lack an “Anglican” pulpit anywhere in the world they care to go.

Do you want to preach to a General Convention of Episcopalians or a General Synod of Canadian Anglicans?  Go right ahead.  Do you want to deliver a keynote address to a GAFCON or Anglican Church in North America meeting?  Do that too.  Have you been invited to address some Continuing Anglican gathering or other?  Go for it.

Once the Archbishop of Canterbury stops concerning himself over who’s “officially” Anglican and who isn’t, the sky’s the limit for Anglican Christianity.  It’s kind of like this.  Shakespeare is performed and revered in places that aren’t British and haven’t been for hundreds of years.

INSERT ROSIE O’DONNELL JOKE HERE

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Apparently, there’s this Jupiter-sized thing out there throwing comets at us:

A century of comet data suggests a dark, Jupiter-sized object is lurking at the solar system’s outer edge and hurling chunks of ice and dust toward Earth.

“We’ve accumulated 10 years’ more data, double the comets we viewed to test this hypothesis,” said planetary scientist John Matese of the University of Louisiana. “Only now should we be able to falsify or verify that you could have a Jupiter-mass object out there.”

“But we began to ask, what kind of an object could you hope to infer from the present data that we are seeing?” Matese said. “What could possibly tickle [comets'] orbits and make them come very close to the sun so we could see them?”

The cosmic snowballs that form the hearts of comets generally hang out in the Oort Cloud until their orbits are nudged by some outside force. This push could come from one of three things, Matese said. The constant gravitational pull of the Milky Way’s disk can drag comets out of their icy homes and into the inner solar system. A passing star can shake comets loose from the Oort Cloud as it zips by. Or a large companion like Nemesis or Tyche can pull comets out of their comfort zones.

OPEN MIKE NIGHT

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

This country really is being run by a bunch of clueless amateurs:

Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe. …”

Belgium.  Where the capital of the European Union is.  His Grace comments:

Alternatively, [Belgium] could incur huge debt, say 11 times the size of GDP; bankrupt their national treasury; make pledges to creditors which amount to 220 per cent of the country’s annual economic output; call in the IMF and the ECB; arrange a bail-out; and then default on their agreements.

Belgium will then be as prominent as Greece and Ireland.

UPDATE: Really clueless amateurs.

It didn’t get nearly as much play as it should have, but Obama’s June 2009 meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah ended with the monarch flying into a tirade and more or less telling the President to get a grip. This was the Riyadh meeting that Obama took on his way to his insulting and failed Cairo Speech, the better to prepare himself by visiting “the place where Islam began.” The sit-down was such a disaster that Dennis Ross was hurriedly brought into the White House and given a broader role, yielding the impression that the President wanted a Middle East adviser who kind of understood something about the Middle East – and didn’t think he had one.

On one side you had typical left-leaning foreign policy experts, the ones who had been advising Obama from the beginning and who now needed to explain why things turned out the opposite of how they predicted. Their approach to the Middle East is grounded in the two dogmas of anti-Israel foreign policy sophistication: (a) linkage, according to which Middle East pathologies are a result of the unresolved Arab/Israeli conflict rather than vice versa and (b) “if only Israel would…,” according to which the Arab/Israel conflict could be resolved were Israel to offer more concessions. They had promised that an “even-handed approach” to the Middle East that “put daylight” between the US and Israel would lead to Israeli gestures, at which point Arab regimes would reciprocate. Nothing of the sort came out of the Riyadh meeting. Instead of admitting that they had somehow gotten Saudi priorities or intentions wrong, that crowd doubled down and insisted that the Saudis cared so much about the Palestinians that Obama needed to put even more pressure on Israel to bring around Arab countries.

On the other side you had Middle East experts like Dan Diker, who insisted on One Jerusalem Radio’s Omri Ceren Show that the Saudis gave Obama a bruising lecture on what they actually care about, and it wasn’t the Palestinians. Under this theory King Abdullah expected to talk about militarily confronting Iran, and he couldn’t believe it when Obama kept reciting bromides about the earth-shattering importance of the Israeli/Arab conflict and his enthusiasm for solving it. That was a regular public topic between the two – Obama’s first talk with Abdullah focused on Gaza and the President later emphasized his abiding support for Saudi Arabia’s “Israel Has To Commit Suicide” plan – but the King kind of thought he was dealing with a serious person who could separate spectacle from policy. Instead he got the equivalent of an International Relations graduate student enamored with pseudo-sophisticated “insights” he’d gleaned from Arab media outlets. Ergo, meltdown.

NOT AS I DO

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Given the vital importance of Big Homosexuality to the Episcopal Organization and the rest of the Anglican left, the following will, as they say, leave a considerable mark:

Last week, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly voted on a special resolution addressing extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions. The resolution affirms the duties of member countries to protect the right to life of all people with a special emphasis on a call to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. The resolution highlights particular groups historically subject to executions including street children, human rights defenders, members of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minority communities, and, for the past 10 years, the resolution has included sexual orientation as a basis on which some individuals are targeted for death.

The tiny West African nation of Benin (on behalf of the UN’s African Group) proposed an amendment to strike sexual minorities from the resolution. The amendment was adopted with 79 votes in favor, 70 against, 17 abstentions and 26 absent.

A collection of notorious human rights violators voted for the amendment including Afghanistan, Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, North Korea, Iran (didn’t Ahmadinejad tell the world there were no gays in Iran?), Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

Add to this Bahamas, Belize (where you get 10 years for being gay), Jamaica (10 years of hard labor), Grenada (10 years), Guyana (life sentence), Saint Kitts and Nevis (10 years), Saint Lucia (10 years), Saint Vincent (10 years), South Africa (Apartheid? What apartheid?), and Morocco (ruled by a gay monarch!). They are all on the list of nations that do not think execution of gays and lesbians is worthy of condemnation or investigation.

Those against the amendment include every European nation present, all Scandinavian countries, India, Korea, most of Latin America, all of North America, and only one Middle Eastern nation:

DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH DAH-DAH-DAH DAHHHHHHHHHH!!

Israel.

NEW ANGLICAN BUZZWORD ALERT

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

There are two criteria for a successful Anglican buzzword.  It must be a term that (1) intentionally tries to sound impressive and thus comes off as stilted and pedantic and (2) communicates next-to nothing.  In the midst of a speech about the Anglican Covenant, John Saxbee, Anglican Bishop of Lincoln, comes up with a pretty good one:

In relation to the Anglican Covenant, I’m on record as saying in this synod that I entirely support the process, as long as it never ends. Let me explain what I mean. The Anglican Communion doesn’t need a Covenant because Anglicanism is a covenant. It is a way of Provinces listening, living distinctively apart from each other whilst remaining part of one another. That is a way of doing difference differently from the ways in which groups and individuals usually do difference. It is predicated on grace and goodwill, and if there is grace and goodwill then a covenant will be unnecessary and if there is no grace and goodwill then a covenant will be unavailing.

Granted, it’s no “live into.”  I sort of understand what my gracious lord of Lincoln is getting at here.  But one doesn’t do difference.  One differs.  There is no process involved; you’re either in agreement with someone about something or you are not.

As you can see from that first sentence, the rest His Grace’s speech is the usual stupid crap about how we should keep talking until conservatives realize that they’re completely wrong so you can go ahead and ignore it.

THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

At least Judas Iscariot got something in return:

President Obama cancelled anti-missile shield plans in Poland and the Czech Republic to get Russia support for UN sanctions against Iran, documents made public by Wikileaks reveal.

The whistle blowing web site, publishing diplomatic cables and other documents via The New York Times, the Guardian (UK) and other media outlets, show that George Bush’s anti-missile shield plan to station 10 interceptor rockets in Poland not far from the Kaliningrad (Russia) border and a radar system in the Czech Republic was seen as an obstacle by Washington in getting tougher sanctions against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The check’s in the mail, Mr. President.

Russia pushed back Tuesday at U.S. efforts to threaten tough new sanctions if Iran fails to prove its nuclear program is peaceful, a setback to the Obama administration’s desire to present a united front with Moscow.

After meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow believed that such threats would not persuade Iran to comply and that negotiations should continue to be pursued.

“At the current stage, all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process,” he told reporters at a joint news conference with Clinton. “Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive.”

Cross our hearts.

Even as the White House praised Russia for declining to sell antiaircraft missiles to Iran in violation of U.N. sanctions, Russian diplomats were quietly recruiting other countries this week to undercut tougher penalties imposed on the Islamic Republic.

OBITUARY

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Somebody’s got to do it:

“Actor Leslie Nielsen died in a Florida hospital.”

“A Florida hospital?!!”

“It’s a big building with patients but that’s not important right now.”

“Leslie Nielsen dead?!!  Surely you can’t be serious!!”

“I am serious.  And don’t call me Shirley.”

FOR THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING

Sunday, November 28th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

How come none of you people ever thought to buy me one of these?

After billions of years the Sun finally has an owner — a woman from Spain’s soggy region of Galicia said Friday she had registered the star at a local notary public as being her property.

Angeles Duran, 49, told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September after reading about an American man who had registered himself as the owner of the moon and most planets in our solar system.

There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added.

“There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law. I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first.”

The document issued by the notary public declares Duran to be the “owner of the Sun, a star of spectral type G2, located in the centre of the solar system, located at an average distance from Earth of about 149,600,000 kilometers.”

Duran, who lives in the town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 percent to the nation’s pension fund.

She would dedicate another 10 percent to research, another 10 percent to ending world hunger — and would keep the remaining 10 percent herself.

I guess everyone’s heard of the International Star Registry where you pay money and get a star named after yourself or someone else.  I had a similar business idea not long ago.

You have to be at  least 675 years old to understand this reference but when the Beatles were first hot on this side of the Atlantic, a New York City DJ who called himself Murray the K liked to refer to himself as the Fifth Beatle

So I got to thinking that if Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr ever wanted to make a boatload of cash, they should establish the International Beatle Registry where, for a fee, a person could become an officially numbered and registered Beatle.

How cool would that be?  You’re in a band or something and you’d toss out an idea for a song and they’d be all like, “That sucks, man!”  Then you’d get out your International Beatle Registry paperwork and you’d be all like, “Oh really?!  Yeah, well, I’m the 14,257th Beatle, man!”

And they’d be all like, “Whoa!”

SWITCHEROO

Sunday, November 28th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” blast from the past

Chapter 1 – Company’s Coming

Since the rumors in the mainstream press won’t die down, I’m going to go ahead and break the news here. Nicole is pregnant. Didn’t take us very long either; happened pretty much right after we got back from Washington. It was not unexpected since I’m, well, me.

So for the past seven months, apart from occasional unpaid consulting jobs that I did over the phone or the PC, I stayed home and drove my wife crazy. That 60’s-sitcom overly-solicitous expectant father thing; been looking forward to it all my life.

No one could have been happier to see Dale Price effortlessly crack that Vatican Museum heist or Captain Yips just as effortlessly untangle that multi-billion-dollar vestment scam for the Canadian Anglican Network. I watched both of their ticker-tape parades with pride and was delighted to see them get all the attention.

Until the baby was born and probably for a good chunk of time thereafter, I decided to stay completely out of Christian private investigation.

And I was out of it until one Thursday afternoon a while back. Nicky and I had just returned from her obstetrician’s office (everything was perfect but you already knew that) and were relaxing in our living room when the doorbell rang. When I answered it, I was delighted to see Amy Welborn.

For a few minutes, Amy and I got caught up and she and Nicky swapped pregnancy stories. The three of us had gotten very close since our last encounter. But I could tell Welborn was nervous. “So what brings you to Missouri?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” she quietly replied, sitting down on the couch.

“What do you mean?”

“Ever heard of Mark Sullivan?”

“Auxiliary Bishop there in Fort Wayne, one of the youngest bishops in the Church. Impeccably orthodox. An up-and-comer for your team. Some people are even making pope noises.”

Welborn leaned back. “Bishop Sullivan is a local boy, Fort Wayne born and raised. He comes from a very wealthy Indiana family. Nominally Catholic but really lousy in practice except for the mother.”

“Are those the folks they call the Allen County Kennedys?”

“The very ones. Anyway, the Bishop was originally slated to be a corporate lawyer or an investment banker with the family business, perhaps with one of its international branches.

“Back in the day, he was basically the male Paris Hilton with more than his share of flings with more than his share of teen singers and actresses.”

“What happened?”

“His wife happened. He married a very beautiful young woman who was also a very devout Catholic.

“To the astonishment of just about everybody, he was intensely devoted to her so he got more and more serious about his faith. She died when Sullivan was twenty-eight.”

“Oh God. That must have killed him.”

“Devastated him for a while. But when I interviewed him, he told me that one night he realized that he would never love any woman the same way again for the rest of his life and that the signal from God couldn’t have been clearer. So he chucked it all, quit the family firm and entered a seminary.”

“And started moving up the ladder,” said Nicky.

“Yup,” said Amy. “His administrative skills are extraordinary and he’s turned struggling parishes around everywhere he’s gone all over the country.”

“He’s also an incredible preacher,” I remarked.

“A Southern Baptist friend of mine called him the Catholic Spurgeon. She loves his stuff. So naturally he moved up the line fast. He was named Auxiliary Bishop of Fort Wayne last year at the age of 40 which is almost unheard of. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to keep him long.”

“Why not?” asked my wife.

“According to my sources, he’s slated to become an auxiliary bishop in New York City. Apparently Rome would like to groom him to replace Egan.

“There have been rumors going around about Egan’s health and the Vatican would like nothing better than to have a young, vigorous and orthodox voice ready to take over its most prominent American see.”

“I can see why,” I said. “So what’s the problem?”

Amy shut her eyes and was silent for a few moments. Then she sighed, reached into her briefcase and handed me a piece of paper. “Two weeks ago, Bishop Sullivan delivered that sermon.”

I began to read. “In the name of God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Sanctifier.” I looked at Nicky and said, “Uh oh.”

“It gets worse,” said Welborn. “Third paragraph down.”

I found the third paragraph and read, “Through God’s Child Jesus Christ, God gives us all the gift of Godself.” I looked up sharply at Welborn. “What’s going on?”

“There are six more Godselfs after that one,” Amy replied. “And not a Son to be found.”

“Oh my God!” exclaimed Nicole. “What’s causing it? Stress?”

“That’s what I thought and what I maybe still think. What made me come here was the fact that I recently received two visitors. The first dropped by the Saturday before that sermon. A lady I’d never met came by my office with a bizarre story.

“There’s a park not far from Bishop Sullivan’s residence where he likes to take long, slow, contemplative walks. It’s very large and very forested. Sometimes he takes his Bible with him, sits under a tree and reads.

“This woman told me that she regularly saw him there and talked with him all the time. Really liked him too. She said he was always alone, that he never had any company. Until the previous Thursday.”

I walked over to the bar, made myself a bourbon-and-soda and began pacing around the room. “What did she see?”

“She saw him emerge from the park with a man she didn’t recognize. She told me that the two of them got into a car and drove off. And she said that Bishop Sullivan looked very, very scared.”

“Did she report it?”

“She called the police. They went by Bishop Sullivan’s residence that same afternoon, found that he was there and perfectly all right and dropped it. That’s when this lady came to me. I thought she was crazy until I got another visitor.”

“Who?”

“Bishop Sullivan’s mother,” said Amy. “I’ve known her for a long time. She’s old but she’s probably got as much mental and physical vigor as I do and she’s not given over to wild flights of fancy. She’s the most stable one in the family, actually.

“She asked to see me about a week ago. ’Amy,’ she said, ’This is going to sound like I’m losing my mind and I hesitate to tell you. But I have to tell someone.’”

“’What’s the matter?’ I asked her. ’Tell me, whatever it is.’

“Took her the longest time to get it out. Finally she said, ’I had lunch with Mark yesterday afternoon. And I’ve spent a lot of time with him recently. Amy…that’s not my son. I don’t know who it is but that’s not my son. Someone’s taken my little boy.’”

I glanced at Nicole and she looked as bewildered as I felt. Just then, the doorbell rang and Nicky got up to answer it. ”I need to stretch my legs,” she said in a low voice.

I sipped my drink. “What exactly do you want from me?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Welborn replied, looking away. “Help, I guess. Guidance. Some way to clear up whatever this…thing is.”

“You haven’t given me very much. An old woman, one witness and a bishop who’s apparently in one piece. Have you checked out this park?”

“Yeah. I found nothing suspicious.”

Another visitor arrived. It was Wannabe Anglican. He, Amy, Nicole and I caught up for a few minutes before I got back to business. “So what brings you to Missouri?” I asked him.

“Someone dropped by my office a few days ago,” said Wannabe. “Something’s seriously wrong with Bishop Duncan. Two weeks ago, he gave this sermon.” He handed me a piece of paper.

I didn’t take it. “Let me guess. He opened it with that Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier line and it included Godselfs out the wazoo.”

Wannabe looked staggered. “Who…who told you?!” he stammered, dropping the paper to the floor.

“She did,” I replied, nodding toward Welborn, who took a step back, her mouth open. “Have any other Network bishops been affected?”

“None that I know of.”

“Who made the approach?”

“Duncan’s wife.”

“Did she say something along the lines of that man’s not my husband?”

I thought Wannabe was going to faint. “My God, how did you…”

“Never mind.” I asked Amy and Wannabe to sit down, relax and make themselves drinks and then, with a very slight shake of my head, signaled for Nicky to join me in the kitchen.

“What do you think?” I quietly asked as she closed the door behind her and sat down.

“Personally, I think it’s just stress,” said Nicky. “If you’re a bishop, even in Fort Wayne, you’re going to deal with stress. Add to that the prospect of taking the biggest stage in the country and Sullivan’s got to be under a lot of strain.”

“And Duncan?”

“Same thing. He’s the head of the Network, he’s got General Convention coming up and he’s got some very, very serious decisions to make real soon.”

I nibbled on a piece of ice. ”That’s the way I read it. You think I should pass on this?”

“No. I think you should look into it.”

“Why?”

“It’s most likely nothing,” said Nicole. ”But if you can prove that, and you can, it’ll ease Amy’s mind. A friend is always worth a few days of your time. I just wish I could join you.”

“But I hate to leave you right now.”

My wife laughed heartily. “You just heard the report. Everything couldn’t be better and I’m not due for a long time. If something does happen, I’ve got a great support system here and a phone to call you with.

“And frankly, sweetie, you’ve been driving me nuts lately. So hit the road, Jack. Besides, you need me back here to work the computers.”

I could see that I was not going to prevail. “That I do,” I admitted. The two of us went back out to the living room.

“Amy,” I said, “get back to Fort Wayne. Find out where Bishop Sullivan will be this weekend and make sure you’re there. Sit as close as you can. And if you have any other opportunity to interact with him, take it. Watch him as closely as possible.”

“What am I looking for?” she asked.

“Tells. Physical mannerisms you’ve never noticed before. Anything that might indicate that something’s not right. And Wannabe? Do the same thing with Duncan. Get a flight to Pittsburgh today.

“Tell him you want to interview him for your web site; he’d be crazy to turn that down. Anything you can think of to get close. If anything jumps out at either one of you, call me. I’ll meet both of you in Fort Wayne on Monday morning.”

“What are you going to do?” Wannabe asked me.

“Work the phones. Hit up some sources.” I don’t know why, I guess it was the famed Johnson intuition, but I turned to Nicole and said, “Nicky? After I leave, could you check something for me?

“I want to know every airline flight both Sullivan and Duncan have taken for the last month. Start with the most recent and work back.”

“Got it,” said Nicky.

“What do you think this is, Chris?” asked Welborn.

I silently stared out the window for a very long time. “I have no idea,” I finally said to nobody in particular.

Next week – Port and Cigars

TIME TO MOVE ON

Sunday, November 28th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Cole Moreton thinks the Church of England needs to put away childish things:

This week, and with it the Queen’s visit to the General Synod, has been a chance for high-ranking Anglicans to imagine they still matter. And they have another thrill to come, playing host to the biggest royal wedding in a generation – another occasion for silk and grandeur. 

But look beyond the pomp and what you actually see is a group of men clinging to the royal skirts while their institution falls to pieces. This really is the endgame for the Church of England as we know it. I don’t mean the break-up of the worldwide Anglican Communion, although that too seems likely. African leaders have refused to sign up to a new covenant that was meant to prevent a cataclysmic split over homosexuality. 

I’m talking about something close to home, a far more important issue than warring clergy. It’s about all of us in England and in Britain, whose language, laws, culture and lives have been shaped by a deal that lasted for 500 years. 

The Church of England was made keeper of the nation’s soul, with countless special privileges, in return for stating that a succession of monarchs were appointed directly by God. 

The trouble is, we just don’t believe in that stuff any more.

We don’t want it, either. The British have changed dramatically in the 30 years since the last royal wedding, the last great festival of the old certainties. The Church of England is no longer our national church, in the sense of being an institution whose values we all share and which is intimately bound up in all our lives.

The debate about the place of the Church of England in British society has been going on for a very long time.  Charles Spurgeon’s criticism of the pomp and ceremony in the C of E at times used to be scorching.

It comes down to this; what are Christian churches for?  What are they supposed to do?  They’re supposed to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Period. 

With noble exceptions, the Church of England long ago decided that it would be easier to play the state church than to communicate the Gospel in any meaningful way.   There’s a problem with doing that.

When your average Englishman wants to immerse himself in the history of his great country, he can tour a castle, a cathedral or the Houses of Parliament whenever the mood strikes him.  When he wants to go to church, he wants to worship God.

If you’re not going to tell him about God or anything about Jesus Christ, he’s not going to waste his time coming any longer regardless of how impressive the show is.  Pretty emptiness is still emptiness.

If it gets itself back to first principles, the Church of England could still turn things around and resume a meaningful role in Britain’s national life.  But I’m not at all sure its current leadership has the will or the interest to do that.

REALISM

Friday, November 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 43 Comments

Remember where you were and what you were doing when you read this but an Anglican liberal and I completely agree about something.  The Rev. Lesley Fellows thinks that’s it’s high time for both wings the Anglican Communion to stop pretending that they have anything in common anymore:

The first time I went to marriage counselling I was terrified. I had been unhappily married on and off since the day of our marriage, and I had spent eighteen years trying to fix it and to make myself stay. Although my ex is a good man and I am delighted that we had our three boys, the marriage itself had exhausted me and I was ‘all cried out’, I couldn’t go on any more, the eighteen years had cost me very dearly.

So I was terrified that somehow the marriage counsellor would manage some guilt trip that would cause me to stay in a broken relationship. The first thing she said to us was that there were two good outcomes – a good marriage or an amicable separation, and that not every relationship can end in a good marriage but that an amicable separation should always be possible. I was so thankful. I could wholeheartedly say ‘yes’ to a good marriage or an amicable separation. We met five times and it soon became clear that separating was the only option, painful as that was.

I think the same result was inevitable in the Anglican Communion. For some time GAFCON have been very unhappy with other parts of the Anglican Communion, and it has been like watching a couple row.

It sounds like they are packing their bags and moving out. ++Rowan has been desperate to keen the two sides together, but sometimes this is impossible, and it doesn’t represent a failure on his part, the difference between the worldviews of the two sides is massive and growing.

So let us work towards an amicable separation, let us bless each other and ask for God’s joy and peace for each other, and let us try to put the pain of the past behind us as we look forwards to a new future.

I honestly can’t argue with any of that.  I’ve believed for a long time that if what now describes itself as “conservative” or “traditionalist” Anglicanism wants to have a chance at survival, it’s going to have to completely reinvent itself.

And that reinvention is going to have to start with the “connection” to the See of Canterbury.  Since it’s a historical contrivance that only dates back to the 1500′s and no farther, I’m entirely willing to let the Anglican left have it.

Complete reinvention often necessitates discarding associations that tie one down, hold one back, or are no longer of any use.  But Chris,  if the Canterbury connection is broken, traditionalist Anglican churches and provinces will no longer be Anglican!

So what?  What are we supposed to be about here?  The proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the advancement of the glory of British Christianity?

It’s like I’ve said here over and over.  I’ll go to the ends of the Earth to tell one person about Jesus Christ but I wouldn’t cross the street merely to make someone Anglican.  If the term “Anglicanism” is eventually replaced by “Ugandanism” or some similar word, I, for one, would boast about that title.

DEAD ON ARRIVAL

Thursday, November 25th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 18 Comments

For all intents and purposes, the Church of England has approved the Anglican Covenant:

In 1867 the Archbishop of York turned down the invitation to the first Lambeth Conference because it wasn’t a manifestation of Anglicanism that he recognised. In London today the General Synod of the Church of England debated whether or not the proposed Anglican Covenant is recognizably Anglican and an appropriate development for our times.

At the end of a three-hour debate it voted overwhelmingly, by a majority greater than two thirds in all three houses (bishops, clergy and laity), to move to the next stage in the adoption of the Covenant.

A day ahead of the debate the Archbishop of Canterbury used his presidential address to make what was undoubtedly the decisive intervention in the Covenant debate. He cited a famous sermon by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, on “The Catholic Spirit,” which “is neither a climate of imposed universal agreement nor a free for all.”

Coming directly to the proposed Covenant he said: “It is an illusion to think that without some changes the Communion can carry on as usual, and a great illusion to think that the Church of England can somehow derail the entire process. The uncomfortable fact is that certain decisions in any province affect all.”

The Covenant, he said, “offers us the possibility of a voluntary promise to consult. And it also recognizes that even after consultation there may still be disagreement…. To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands. But it is to recognize that we have the option of tying our hands if we judge, after consultation, that the divisive effects of some step are too costly.”

But from the looks of things, GAFCON has decided to stop playing games and to get on with the work of the LORD.

As we have made clear in numerous communiqués and meetings those who have abandoned the historic teaching of the Church have torn the fabric of our life together at its deepest level. We have made repeated attempts to bring repentance and restoration and yet these efforts have been rejected. We grieve for those who have walked apart and earnestly pray for them and the people under their care.

For the sake of Christ and of His Gospel we can no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy and so we join with other Primates from the Global South in declaring that we will not be present at the next Primates’ meeting to be held in Ireland. And while we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.

We remain convinced that the unique character of GAFCON/FCA with its diversity of cultures and its embrace of the Jerusalem Declaration as a common theological confession is a vital contribution to the future of the global Anglican Communion. We are persuaded that we must offer new initiatives to more effectively respond to the crises that confront us all. We must strengthen our communication capabilities and we are also looking to build partnerships with other denominational churches that share our faith convictions.

Specifically, we are planning a leadership conference in the latter part of 2011 that will focus on the need to “Contend for the Faith in the Public Square.” We are also beginning preparations for an international gathering of Primates, Bishops, Clergy and Lay leaders in 2012, provisionally designated “GAFCON 2”. To support all of this we have approved the expansion of the Secretariat.

Five years ago, the idea of an Anglican covenant had merit.  But a lot has happened in five years.  We’ve seen, for example, that Rowan Williams is much more interested in discussing how to solve problems in the Communion rather than actually coming up with concrete, practical steps to solve them.

The last Lambeth Conference taught us all that Toronto and New York are the twin tails that wag the Canterbury dog so there will never ever be an Anglican covenant that does what an Anglican covenant needs to do.  There will only be the usual relentless talking, more talking and still more talking after that.

The fact that these people are still bat crap about the very idea of church discipline and the fact that TEO won’t formally get around to approving this thing for another six years, if it ever does, means nothing.  The Anglican Covenant is far too little and far too late and it is the most encouraging possible sign that GAFCON finally seems to realize it.

FLIPPED OFF

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Back atcha, universe!!

CIRCLING THE DRAIN

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

This year, the Anglican Communion is 142 years old so it would not be a tragedy if the Communion went out of business soon.  And the Anglican Communion is pretty close to going out of business:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has rejected Africa’s call to suspend the Dublin primates meeting, a spokesman for Dr. Rowan Williams’ tells The Church of England Newspaper, and the meeting will go on as scheduled.

On Nov 17 Lambeth Palace confirmed that Dr. Williams had received a letter from CAPA chairman Archbishop Ian Earnest.  This letter raised a “concern about the planning process for the Primates’ Meeting and request[ed] that it be postponed.”

“However, given the closeness of the time, and the fact that the majority of Primates have already indicated that they will attend, the Archbishop of Canterbury is not minded to postpone the meeting whose date was set two years ago,” the Lambeth Palace statement said.

Dr. Williams’ decision not to postpone the Dublin meeting, will likely cause a quarter to a third of the primates to stay away, replicating the divisions surrounding the 2008 Lambeth Conference where a majority of African bishops boycotted the meeting.

The spokesman added that Dr. Williams was “pleased to note that Archbishop Earnest expresses on behalf of the CAPA Primates that there is no desire to exclude anyone from the meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury is anxious that all Communion Primates and Moderators recognise the importance of this event.”

A disconnect between Dr. Williams and the CAPA primates may be present, however, as the CAPA primates told Dr. Williams on Aug 24 during the All African Bishops Conference in Entebbe that if US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Fred Hiltz were there, they would not come.  This view was reiterated in the Nov 9 letter, sources note.

What will happen if these primates skip the meeting? I suspect not much.  Mr. Hiltz and Mrs. Schori will claim vindication.  The Archbishop of Canterbury will continue to pretend that people still care what he thinks and that nothing is wrong.  Some sort of meeting or other of conservative bishops and primates will be scheduled.  And Anglicanism will continue the same intellectual and theological incoherence that has characterized it pretty much since its beginning.

In other words, same old same old.

SARAH PALIN EATS BOLOGNA SANDWICH

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Animal rights group outraged:

Sarah Palin is under fire for clubbing a fish to death on her new reality TV show.

Does that ditz even know what’s in bologna, for crying out loud?!! Or how they make the stuff?!!

The Tea Party darling and her daughter Bristol, 20, were shown on a halibut fishing trip filmed for her new programme, Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

Because we sure don’t.

After catching a fish, Sarah is seen beating it with a club and Bristol later holds its still-beating heart in her hand, a sight Sarah called ‘weird’.

We heard it’s kind of like Mortadella.  Is that true?  We don’t actually know what Mortadella is.  We just heard some Italian chef on this PBS cooking show we were watching the other day claim that it was basically the same thing.

A spokesperson for animal rights group In Defense Of Animals told TMZ: ‘Sarah Palin’s complete lack of compassion as demonstrated in this snuff video is disgusting.’

And why do people pronounce it “baloney” sandwich anyway?  Shouldn’t it be buh-loan-ya sandwich?  Bologna’s an Italian town and that’s how they pronounce it.

The group adds: ‘Most disturbing is the way she seems to enjoy causing suffering to other beings. When they laugh about the beating heart that Bristol holds in her hand, their complete insensitivity to the animal kingdom becomes clear.’

Just seems kind of insulting to Italians to pronounce it “baloney.”

A spokesperson for the Alaska Charter Association told the U.S. website that the clubbing technique is humane because it supposedly minimises suffering.

Not that we’d ever eat the stuff ourselves, what with being animal rights goofballs.

Halibut clubbing is actually a standard practice among fishermen.

Although if we did eat meat, we’d probably be into more high-end cold cuts.  Sopressata salami, that kind of thing.  Maybe a little liverwurst now and then.

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