Archive for November, 2012


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, November 29th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 65 Comments

If you’re not paying any attention to this story, you might want to start.  Because if it lasts for any length of time, an already-shaky American economy could take a major hit:

Lawmakers from drought-stricken states along the Mississippi River on Thursday asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and President Barack Obama to act quickly to remove navigation hazards from the river that threaten to slow or stop barge traffic.

Low water levels have made it difficult for the corps to maintain a 9-foot-deep and 300-foot-wide navigation channel for barges along the river, an economic lifeline that carries billions of dollars of agricultural products, coal, chemicals and petroleum.

The low water also gives the corps an opportunity to remove a cluster of troublesome rock formations in several miles of the river just south of Cape Girardeau, Mo. Removing them will require shutting down the shipping channel for 12 hours at a time, creating a temporary headache for shippers.

The Mississippi’s low-water problems begin on the Missouri River in the upper Midwest, where the corps has reduced flows from reservoirs to protect critical water supplies for farms, industries and towns. A group of senators from affected states met Thursday with Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the army for civil works, and requested that the Corps of Engineers study the impact of releasing more water from the Missouri.

“If we don’t get any rain or much snow, will we have enough water for cooling towers, drinking water and all that kind of stuff next summer on the Missouri?” asked Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, one of several senators who met with Darcy.

Some of the same lawmakers sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday requesting an emergency declaration to direct the corps to begin removing the rock pinnacles in the Mississippi.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 39 Comments

Seems it was the ladies that killed female bishops in the Church of England:

Almost half of the lay people who voted against legislation to allow female bishops in the Church of England were women, according to figures released on Monday, as senior members of the church were urged to speed up reform or risk consigning it to years of ignominy and irrelevance.

Voting records released by Church House showed 33 of the 74 General Synod lay members who last week caused the long-awaited measure to fail were women and most of them are affiliated to the conservative evangelical group Reform or the traditional Anglo-Catholic movement Forward in Faith.

Susie Leafe, a member of Reform, insisted the strong showing from female lay members was not surprising. She co-ordinated a petition against the measure which was signed by more than 2,200 women. “This is not an issue of sexism. It is an issue of theological conviction – and conviction crosses across the genders,” she said. “So, as I read the Bible, I am convicted that men and women are equal and different. I am not surprised at all.”

So any “accomodation” for traditionalist opinion is deader than Thomas à Becket’s college roommate Doug.

In an internal memo the secretary general of the synod, William Fittall, urged the church to pursue an “urgent and radical” new strategy in order to see women in the episcopate by 2015. If it did not, he warned, it could face a collision with the state, “the outcome of which cannot be predicted with confidence”.

According to the Times, Fittall outlined a plan which would see the church plough ahead with simpler legislation that would have no provision for opponents. It could, he said, be put to the vote when the synod meets in York in July.

Which is all to the good.  It’s about time that conservative Anglicans waked the hell up and saw the forest for the trees.  But speaking of “LA, LA, LA, LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!” the Anglican Communion Institute thinks that somebody should do something!!

This is a painful letter. It is painful because it concerns un-canonical (and perhaps even unlawful) actions on the part of our Presiding Bishop and her associates. These actions, detailed in the attached appendix and summarized in the bullet points below, have already undermined the good order and spiritual health of our church. We write to you our Bishops because of your responsibility for that good order. We write as Presbyters who have in one way or another faithfully served our church for over half a century. We pray that, despite the painful nature of the story we place before you, you will listen to what we have to say with a clear and open mind.

We disagree with those among you who think the Presiding Bishop and her agents have done no wrong. As our Appendix demonstrates, the evidence is overwhelming that they have violated canons and engaged in discussions deceitfully. We disagree with those who accept the evidence, but think the matter inconsequential. If our leaders will not follow the canons and formal procedures of the church, not only in letter but in spirit, they forfeit any trust they may hold and undermine the mutual trust of the church as a whole. We disagree with those who think that such disregard of letter and spirit is merited by the misbehaviour of Bishop Lawrence. Canonical violation and deceit will never produce peace in the church or render a just outcome. Further, the diocese of South Carolina has, for a long time, struggled to maintain its unity as a conservative Christian body and to remain within The Episcopal Church. Bp. Lawrence was given a tightrope to walk from the moment of his election and did so successfully and honestly. He did not jump from this difficult position but was intentionally pushed by the Presiding Bishop and the Disciplinary Board in ways that were neither necessary nor responsible. We disagree with those who believe that, in any case, all this is of little importance for the future of The Episcopal Church. The departure from The Episcopal Church, under moral duress, by one of our strongest and few growing dioceses, taking with it a range of energies and vital witness, threatens to subvert the hopes and good will of thousands of faithful members of our church and discourage the willingness of younger leaders to come forward in our midst. Indeed, all this constitutes a crisis for The Episcopal Church of the gravest kind.

Seriously?  At this stage of the game, you’re going to write a letter like this and think that it’s going to matter in the slightest?  Do you honestly think you’re going to convince anyone to change their minds?  For the love of God, gentlemen, WAKE THE HELL UP!!


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, November 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

I’m starting to seriously worry about the Picar of Vutney.  Giles Fraser is so incensed about the recent vote in the Church of England’s General Synod against women bishops that he can’t even think straight.  He starts out by talking about a bullied school chum of his who became a Christian:

For his beliefs became a sort of barrier against the cruelty of the world. So the more people said his views were stupid, the more he felt the need for the protection they afforded him. His six impossible things before breakfast were a Maginot line against a world of hurt. Which is why he could never give them up or subject them to any sort of critical scrutiny.

Except that he’s a figment of the Fraze’s imagination.

Actually, I have made this person up.

He’s as fictional as Fraser’s “theology,” in other words.

But I am trying to paint a picture of the mentality of conservative evangelicals, the people who have recently scuppered the female bishop legislation,

All six of them.

without invoking the standard caricature of these modern-day puritans as life-denying fun-sponges obsessed with being right and with other people not having sex. Not that this latter image is all that far from the truth.

It is as far from the truth as the east is from the west, Fraze.  But introducing Johnson’s Fourth Law of Anglican Thermodynamics.  At least 99% of Anglicans who use the word “puritan” have absolutely no idea what that word means.

The problem is that from Marlowe, Shakespeare and Johnson all they way through to Blackadder (and that brilliant episode where his rich puritan relatives come round to fulminate against fornication and inadvertently chomp on a penis-shaped turnip), this has become an overused trope that describes someone who seems to have stepped out of the Tardis from another century. The thing is, they are alive and well in the 21st century.

According to Fraser, six of these “puritans” have the ability to control the entire C of E.

And the more we laugh at puritans, the more it confirms their worldview. Indeed, they have a text from St John’s gospel that seems to cover precisely this: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world. That is why the world hates you.” In other words, the more hated you are, the more right you are. It’s one up from Millwall football club’s chant: “No one likes us, we don’t care.” Which is why the opprobrium that is currently being poured upon conservative evangelicals for voting against women bishops will make no difference whatsoever. It confirms them in feeling right.

So that whole “in the world but not of the world” thing is officially dead then?  Pity.  But that’s not what’s at work here, claims Fraser.  This measure was voted down out of pure conservative malice and for no other reason.

Moreover, the fact that they have put a spanner in the works for everyone else is something they experience as some sort of secret pleasure. For the essence of the puritan mindset is revenge – as Nietzsche accurately described it, the revenge of the bullied who are subconsciously getting back at those who once made their life a misery. As the comedy puritan Malvolio rages at the end of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “I’ll be reveng’d on the whole pack of you.”

What now?  There’s not much that can be accomplished when those dolts intentionally ignore our theological brilliance.

So what can be done? Argument is pretty useless. Conservative religious people are generally locked in a self-referencing worldview where truth is about strict internal coherence rather than any reaching out to reality. That’s why they treat the Bible like some vast jigsaw – its truth residing in a complex process of making the pieces fit together and not with the picture it creates.

Here’s an idea, Picar.  Make an actual theological case for women’s ordination (because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about here).  There is one to be made for the PROTESTANT church that the Church of England obviously is.  Don’t know whether it’s a good case or not but it’s a whole lot better than the Fraze’s, “Well, it’s perfectly obvious, you blinkered, philistine, pig-ignorant misogynists.”


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, November 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

The Communion Partner bishops, who seem to still be a thing for some reason, on the situation in South Carolina:

We, Bishops of The Episcopal Church associated with the Communion Partner fellowship, are grieved at recent developments in the life of The Episcopal Church, specifically in the Diocese of South Carolina. The way in which the complaint was lodged against Bishop Lawrence and the action of the Disciplinary Board itself under the abandonment canon seem to have derailed a good faith attempt on the part of the Presiding Bishop, the Bishop of Upper South Carolina, and the Bishop of South Carolina to address issues of mutual concern. The reaction of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina in its decision to withdraw the diocese from The Episcopal Church is also a source of grief. We lament these developments as symptomatic of a church that is the servant of its procedures rather than the responsible wielder of its own canonical tools.

We are mindful that our disciplinary canons under Title IV since their revision in 2009 continue to be a subject of concern to many in the church. Among our concerns in this case is the misuse of the abandonment canon. Its application in the complex issues surrounding South Carolina’s place in the church have hindered rather than aided the ministry of reconciliation to which we are called. It tragically illustrates the deficiencies in Title IV.

These events remind us “of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith” (BCP, p. 265). They remind us as well that repentance leads to a new beginning. We join with the Standing Committee of Upper South Carolina and call upon all concerned to seek a non-juridical solution to these difficult matters, and not to be limited by our canonical procedures. Our hope, indeed our prayer, is that this painful moment in the life of the church will lead us to new and creative ways to discover Christ’s reconciling love, and to live together in one Body in the midst of our differences.

Meaning?  Nothing in particuar.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, November 24th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 41 Comments

Continuing our look at the Anglican left’s meltdown after the recent defeat of women bishops at the Church of England’s General Synod brings us to the Picar of Vutney:

I am ashamed to be a part of the Church of England. The suicidal stupidity of voting against female bishops has further discredited an organisation that has been haemorrhaging credibility for years.

Giles was not happy, in other words.

But this is not simply a problem internal to the church itself. For as an established church, this decision represents a scandal that burrows deep into our whole political infrastructure: we now have 26 places in the House of Lords deliberately reserved for a male-only club. Before this, it could have been put down to an accident of history. Now it is deliberate.

This is wholly unsustainable. Cries for disestablishment are inevitable – though most politicians will run for cover at the prospect, not knowing what our polity could possibly look like once we start tumbling down that particular rabbit hole. For now, the prime minister was content simply to express his disappointment and urge the church to “get on with it”.

But get on with what? It is in no way obvious how things go next. The church is stuck with a hapless decision-making structure which can only amplify the sense of acrimony that is now coursing through its veins.

The legislation that failed represented a real stretch for liberals, with many only just being able to vote for an arrangement that they believed would create a special category of second-class bishops just for women – and was thus already an institutionalisation of misogyny.

With the failure of even this compromise, there is little prospect of liberals playing ball again. They won’t say this out loud. But the truth is: next time it is all or nothing. Women must be bishops on exactly the same terms as men or not at all. Forget all that stuff about this not being a zero-sum game. Now it is.

On the positive side – and I am working hard to find a silver lining to all of this – it is unlikely that the Church of England will be able to wield as much clout against the idea of gay marriage. With its moral credibility so badly shot, why should anyone now listen?

Within a couple of hours of the vote being announced, my own church council celebrated the eucharist together then gathered in the pub to sit with our curate and to let her know how much we love her and value her ministry. It felt ever so slightly last supperish. Not least because, like then, we all feel so thoroughly betrayed.

Note Fraser’s childish sense of absolute entitlement.  Note also his intellectual tantrum.  A handful of votes in one body of a three-body Synod merely delayed what just about everybody with eyes to see and ears to hear knows is inevitable.  But because Giles Fraser didn’t get his way RIGHT NOW, he is “ashamed” of an institution that has “thoroughly betrayed” him.

In the immortal words of the late Warren Oates, “Lighten up, Francis.”

Something else should be obvious to those Anglican traditionalists, on that side of the Atlantic or on this one, who cling to  the comforting illusion that you can cling to “official” Angicanism as long as “accomodations” are made.  Giles Fraser has just made it abundantly clear how much “respect” the Anglican left has for the conservative position. 

So let me bottom-line it for you, traditionalist Anglican.  You can either leave “official” Anglicanism or get thrown out.  But one way or the other, you’re leaving.

Someone named Sarah Coakley drives that point home.  “Accomodation” is over.

As was again proven by the dismal decision of the General Synod, what our Church now requires is not some sort of palliative or merely pragmatic compromise, but a fresh and uncompromising focus on the underlying theological and philosophical issues which cannot credibly be gainsaid, and without which no lasting solution to the issue of female bishops can be achieved.

Such a coherent “theology of women bishops,” if there is to be such, must be therefore be a renewed and distinctly Anglican theology of the episcopate in toto, and not a capitulation to a second-order “female” form of the office, or to any other political compromise which hides an actual theological contradiction, or – again – to some negotiated pragmatic stand-off which continues to distract our gaze from the already-undermined position of women clergy in our church.

Twenty years ago our Church voted to ordain women. We have arrived at the point when all the indications are that the current theological anomaly of priests who cannot by definition be bishops has become an unacceptable skandalon to the Church’s life. This is not because of a capitulation to secular feminism; it is, as I’ve tried to demonstrate, because of a commitment to the historic nature of Christian ordained ministry and in particular to the distinctive theological principles of Anglicanism.

While I am fully committed to the attempt to find courteously-ordered arrangements for those who currently disagree, I am completely opposed to the introduction of new incoherences into the theological picture. It is truth that is at stake. And while truth can be two-eyed, it cannot be two-faced.

What say we admit the obvious.  Intellectually, the liberals have won the argument (contra Ms. Coakley, the theology is another matter).  If your church ordains women as priests, the idea of forbidding the episcopate to women is absurd. 

And let’s go there, shall we?  If you’ve got absoutely no problem whatsoever associating with a church that ordains non-celibate gays to the priesthood, then breaking communion when that church gives a pointy hat and hooked stick to one of those non-celibate gay priests is just as indefensible.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 | Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Roman Catholics?  I know you have history, apostolic succession and, well, a coherent theology behind you but in this particular area, you people are way out of your league.  Orthodox Christianity?  Please.  And as far as Presbyterians and other Protestants are concerned, take your stapled clerks or whatever they’re called and get out of my face.

Because nobody and I mean


goes more emotionally bat crap over minor setbacks than liberal Anglicans.

Those of you who’ve followed this story for a while know that the good Doctor brilliantly made her considerable reputation on this undeniable and fundamental law of the universe (if you don’t know that, click here, here, here and here).  And with the Church of England General Synod’s recent narrow defeat of a measure allowing women bishops, we have a whole new demonstration of it.


Instead, the verdict exposes the CofE for exactly what it is – a lumbering, divided, grotesque whose lay members would prefer to see it wither away rather than make any accommodation with progress.

Perhaps nothing could have stopped the decline of the Church; there was no future salvation for the CofE. However, by retaining its adherence to barbaric Bronze Age doctrines that demote women to second-class citizens, the emasculation is nearly complete.

Yes – the Church of Henry has been expiring slowly and in agony for many years, but by voting against female ordination, Tuesday’s ballot may well have killed it off, pushing the spear into the side of the half dead institution as it hung limply from its cross.

Okay.  Rowan Williams, who apparently was counting on winning this vote to achieve a legacy of sorts, now gets to wonder where he’ll end up on the Worst Archbishops of Canterbury of All Time list.

The Church of England has “a lot of explaining to do” to the church and to wider society after its rejection of legislation that would have allowed women to become bishops, the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In a strongly worded speech to the General Synod on Wednesday, Rowan Williams warned that the failure of the vote in the house of laity on Tuesday had made the church’s governing body appear “wilfully blind” to the priorities of secular society.

“We have – to put it very bluntly – a lot of explaining to do,” he said. “Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday … the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society.”

So that whole “in the world but not of the world” business is basically dead, then?  Good to know.  Smug alert: in terms that should be familiar by now, Apostasy West’s Susan Russell thinks the Church of England just threw away a golden opportunity.

And I had the same reaction to today’s goings on across the pond. Seriously? Because at the end of the day the victims in this sad, fear based decision are not the women whose vocations have once again been reduced to bargaining chips in a game of church politics or even the conservatives who feel marginalized because of their increasingly minority position.

The real victims are the tender souls yearning for spiritual community and for the Good News of the Gospel and hearing instead from the Church yet-another-reason not to be a Christian. Today’s decision was inward looking, short-sighted and a deep disappointment to all who yearn for a robust proclamation of the inclusive love of God made manifest in Christ Jesus.

Right.  The only thing keeping Britons from flooding into Church of England parishes from one end of that country to the other is the fact that the C of E dropped the ball.  Once the first female British priest receives a pointy hat and hooked stick, prominent British atheists like Ricky Gervais, Philip Pullman and Richard Dawkins will convert to Anglican Christianity at once, Ireland will convert en masse to Anglicanism and a golden age will dawn in the British Isles.  Sounds plausible.

Even people I thought were level-headed went off the deep end.  Ruth Gledhill tweeted the following.

My response was the title of this post.

You can see how deeply Episcopalianism has taken root in Britain.  There’s the same sense of whiny entitlement, the same tantrumish tendency to want what you want RIGHT NOW and the same tendency to view any setback, however small, as a Particularly Grave Crisis.  They’re teeing them up for you, Doc.

Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this.  The Church of England will have female bishops.  And it’s not going to remotely matter.  If anything, that institution’s slow-motion suicide will pick up speed.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

The NFL’s Cleveland Browns will play one home game a year in Paris, France.



Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 44 Comments

What’s the difference?  Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for the comedic stylings of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals!!

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday demanding President Obama skip the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon.

In a letter, the animal rights group argues the annual White House ceremony “makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds.” It also says the annual event “portrays the United States president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry.”


“You understand so well that African-Americans, women, and members of the LGBT community have been poorly served throughout history, and now I am asking you to consider other living beings who are ridiculed, belittled, and treated as if their sentience, feelings, and very natures count for nothing,” wrote PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in the letter.

I got nuthin’.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Sometimes Just Trying To Be FunnyTM has bad consequences.  Particularly when you’re bonecrushingly stupid enough to post your “joke” on Facebook for all the world to see.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

The Church of England delays its final irrelevance for a few more years:

The Church of England’s governing body on Tuesday narrowly blocked a move to permit women to serve as bishops, leaving the church facing more years of contentious debate.

Following a day-long debate on Tuesday, opponents mustered enough support to deny the necessary two-thirds majority among lay members of the General Synod.

The defeat was a setback for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who retires at the end of December, and his successor, Bishop Justin Welby. Both had strongly endorsed a proposed compromise that they had hoped would end decades of debate.

Passage of legislation to allow women to serve as bishops must be approved by two-thirds majorities in the synod’s three houses: bishops, priests and laity. Synod members were voting on the latest compromise which calls for church leaders to “respect” the position of parishes that oppose female bishops – without saying exactly what “respect” means.

The vote was 132 in favor and 74 against. In separate votes, bishops voted 44-3 in favor with 2 abstentions, and clergy voted 148-45 in favor.

CBS Radio News’ Larry Miller reports Bishop of Norwich Graham James voted for women bishops.

“It feels at the moment incredibly disappointing ,” James said.

Church officials say it may take five years to go through the process of taking new legislation to a final vote.

There has been discussion here and there of Parliament stepping in and forcing female bishops on the C of E.  I don’t know the legalities involved but if Parliament can do it and wants to, it might as well.  The narrowness of this vote momentarily inconveniences the inevitable; the Church of England will one day have female bishops.

UPDATE: If this Telegraph story is accurate, Parliament fully intends to intervene.

The Church of England will face a battle in Parliament and the prospect of legal challenges if it fails to approve women bishops on Tuesday, MPs said on Monday.

Special legal privileges and even its position as the established Church could be called into question if the General Synod rejected the plan, they warned.

MPs, who must approve any Synod decision before it receives Royal Assent, warned that a failure to approve the proposal could undermine the Church of England’s position as the established Church. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and a former Anglican priest, said the legislation would face a “rough ride” in Parliament if there were any further concessions to traditionalists. “If the legislation leans too far towards the traditionalist that won’t please the Commons and the legislation would have trouble,” he said.

“There are quite a few of us who think that the way this is leaning is entrenching forever a religious apartheid within the Church of England.”

He added that a rejection would “undoubtedly undermine” support for aspects of establishment, including bishops in the Lords and the role of Parliament approving Church laws.

Frank Field, a former Labour minister who sits on the parliamentary ecclesiastical committee, said that in the event of a no vote, he would table a motion to remove the Church’s special exemptions from equality laws.

“It would mean that they couldn’t continue to discriminate against women,” he said.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, November 19th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Memo to the Anglican Church in North America: as far as I’m concerned, official recognition by Lambeth Palace is NOT a selling point for your church.  If this letter to the Independent is any indication, the Episcopal religion is winning converts in Great Britain:

We, as clergy of the Church of England, stand alongside Rowan Williams, Justin Welby, and the dioceses of the Church of England, in hoping that the General Synod will vote on Tuesday to allow women to become bishops in our church.

We believe wholeheartedly that this is the right thing to do, and that the time is now right to do it. There are many reasons for this belief, and we highlight just some here.

Let’s start off by insulting large numbers of fellow Christians and Christian churches.

First, because the Bible teaches that “in Christ there is no male or female”, but all people are equal before God. Just as the churches have repented of our historic antisemitism and endorsement of slavery, so we believe that we must now show clearly that we no longer believe women to be inferior to men.

That paragraph right there means that whatever follows it is theologically worthless.  Presumably, Church of England ministers have to have college educations so it is difficult to conceive of any allegedly-intelligent people signing their names to something so incredibly dishonest and blitheringly idiotic.

There is no absolutely no attempt to intellectually engage conservative arguments.  Anyone opposed to this measure is equated with anti-Semites and slaveholders who Hate WomenTM and therefore, engagement must not take place. What fellowship hath liberal light with traditionalist darkness?

Undergirding all this, of course, is pure Episcopalianism.  There is not only one right answer, there is only one conceivable answer.  And guess which one of us has it.

Secondly, Jesus treated women radically equally. He encouraged them as disciples, and chose a woman as the first witness to His resurrection, at a time when women’s testimony was inadmissible in law.

But He didn’t choose one to be an apostle.  Guess it must have slipped His mind.  Good thing we have the C of E around to correct God Incarnate’s error.

Thirdly, we have promised as clergy to “proclaim the faith afresh in every generation”. We fear that failing to take this step would do the opposite, proclaiming instead that the church is more interested in the past than the future.

Two things.  The Bible, which these people approvingly quote, was written in the past.  And a church which is not interested in the past is a “church” that can constantly be reshaped into whatever the secular culture wants it to be.  In other words, a completely useless, Laodicean waste of everyone’s time.

The legislation to be voted on represents enormous compromise from all sides. Those who wish to avoid the ministry of women will still be able legally to do so.

In other words, the misogynist bigots.  See above.

We hope and pray that all will feel able to work together in the future with the trust and respect that should characterise our church.

I thought it was self-evident that public slander is never a good way to build “trust and respect” so I don’t like your chances.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Sunday, November 18th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 50 Comments

If you didn’t have to believe all that weird crap like the existence of God or miracles or rising from the dead, that kind of thing:

Consider what this might be like. A secular Christian—I could be a candidate, for example—might go to church for the beautiful or traditional or inspiring music. The church building might be a draw, whether it were awe-inspiring or quaint. Sermons about finding the right path or avoiding the shallow temptations in life or even Bible stories might be edifying. Services could mark the important events in life such as births, marriages, and deaths. Whether the secular Christian went weekly or only a few times a year, the community of good people, eager to help others, would be welcoming. It might give focus to good works, providing opportunities for volunteering and direction for charitable giving.

But—and here’s the interesting bit—secular Christians would reject the supernatural origin of Christianity, would be open about their atheism, and would be accepted within the church community. The Christian church has millions of members who are secular Christians except for the last bit. They’ve lost their faith in the supernatural claims, they’ve admitted this to themselves, but they can’t come out to their church community. The concept of a secular Christian would allow these people to keep their community, charitable, and even family connections.

I’m well aware of two things.  That’s been going on in mainline Protestantism for the last few decades.  And we already have an arrangement like that; it’s called Unitarianism.  But I guess some Episcopalians think that sitting through arcane ceremonies for no particular reason isn’t weird because a few days ago, they kicked this idea around in the comments section at Naughton’s.

A woman named Harriet Baber led things off.  Dr. Baber teaches philosophy at San Diego State University.  Remember that fact because there will be a quiz.

It’s already like this. And “cultural Christians”–heck, Bishop Spong publicly repudiated theism. And lay cultural Christians are hardly closeted: no one asks you about your religious convictions in the Episcopal Church. No one announces that they don’t believe in God because no one would announce that they do.

The important thing is to get it out to the outside world that no one cares what they believe or don’t believe–that they can in honesty enjoy the ceremonies and use the facilities.

Apparently there are a few names even in Sardis because a guy named Nikolaus Bergen thinks the whole idea is kind of goofy.

I hope you are being facetious, Ms. Baber!

The problem with this is that Jews are a race, an ethnicity. One is a Jew by birth. Thus one can be a “secular” Jew. What is presented here with regard to “secular” Christians is simply nonsense.

Sometimes “open-mindedness” just means that the only thing going on upstairs is a draft!

The good doctor didn’t like that response at all.

@Nicolaous Bergen: not “Ms.” if you please–detestable made-up title conservatives like you use to ridicule those of use with whom you don’t agree–and I’m not being facetious. Try “Dr.” or “Professor” and @#$%^&* you.

Meeeeeeeeee-YOWWWWW!!!  That Ph.D cost me a lot of money, pal, so RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAY!!  Put down you pencils, class, we’re going to have a pop quiz.  I did warn you so here goes.

In what subject did Ms., excuse me, Dr. Baber receive her Ph,D and what subject does she teach at San Diego State?  Anyone?  Fuinseoig?

Fuinseoig, you and I both know that no university in the world offers a doctorate in pheromones.   Katherine?  No, a Ph.D in Phlebotomy has absolutely nothing to do with any of this.  Good gracious, Kathleen Lundquist, what possible good would a doctorate in the history of Phoenix, Arizona do anyone at all? 

Ed the Roman?  Okay, phrenology isn’t it but it’s close.  The fact of the matter is that Ms., excuse me, Dr. Baber, whose degree is in philosophy, could have majored in any of those subjects and done less damage to logic and human reason that Ms., excuse me, Dr. Baber does in the next two paragraphs.

I’d just like to see as many warm bodies in church as possible. As far as what they believe, metaphysics isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. And many, perhaps most, people think that theism commits them to implausible, crude, anti-scientific claims about how the physical world works. I don’t think we should exclude them. And, even beyond that, I don’t see why atheists should be excluded from enjoying the goodies of religiosity.

On the other hand I don’t think that clergy should be atheists. We live in a world where religious belief is trashed, déclassé, not acceptable in polite company. And it seems to me that one of the essential jobs of clergy is to support us who are religious believers, to get it across that religious isn’t just stupid, isn’t just for the uneducated lower classes, i.e. for Evangelicals.

Translation: as long as your pledge checks clear, believe whatever you want.  Nobody’s ever going to ask questions.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, November 17th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 83 Comments

Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote a pastoral letter (and yes, I realize the cognitive dissonance involved in associating those two concepts) on the South Carolina situation that’s actually one of her more memorable efforts.  On the surface, there’s nothing particularly unusual about it.  It has her usual meaningless boilerplate:

I want to urge every parishioner and cleric in South Carolina to recognize that, as long as you wish to remain in The Episcopal Church, no leader, current or former, can exile you, remove you, or separate you from it without your consent.  That decision is yours alone.  It is one reason why we have imposed checks and balances on the authority of members of the clergy, including bishops.  In our tradition decisions about the Church are not made unilaterally.

Disagreement about a variety of issues is normal in this Church, and has historically been considered a healthy sign of diversity.  Since the time of the early Church we have recognized that none of us is fully cognizant of the mind of God.  The major struggles of the first generation of Christians were over much-debated issues of inclusion – could the uncircumcised be full members?  Who could be baptized? 

Please know that The Episcopal Church wants you to remain!

Your presence adds to the ability of this community to discern the will of God, even if you disagree vehemently with one or another resolution passed by a particular General Convention.  There will be another General Convention in less than three years, and another after that.  Never in the history of Christianity have all the faithful agreed about everything, and I doubt very much that we will come to full agreement about everything before we join the saints in light at Jesus’ Second Coming! 

Her usual passive-aggressive threats.

Clergy in the Diocese of South Carolina should be advised that they remain members of this Church until they renounce their orders or are otherwise removed by Title IV processes.  They may also continue to contribute to the Church Pension plan until such formal separation.  In any case, the contributions made while the member was active in The Episcopal Church remain vested in the plan and a pension may be drawn when the plan’s rules permit. The Episcopal Church will do everything in its power to support Episcopal clergy in South Carolina who wish to remain members of this Church. 

The same is true of all – The Episcopal Church will do everything in its power to support loyal Episcopalians who wish to remain members of this Church.  My desire, and that of most Episcopalians, is that every member of this Church find a home here that supports his or her spiritual growth in the love of God in Christ, and the love of neighbor.  The Episcopal Church has traditionally been broad and diverse enough to welcome and include a great variety of ways of pursuing that spiritual growth.  We want it to stay that way, because we believe that we have greater opportunity to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit when diverse voices are present. 

And her usual flat-out lies.

Bishop Lawrence was charged by several members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina with having “abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church” by making or condoning actions which repudiate the polity (violate the canons or rules) of The Episcopal Church.  These actions have to do with formally attempting to separate the Diocese of South Carolina, its congregations, and their property from the wider Episcopal Church without its consent.  The Diocese of South Carolina is a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, and that status cannot be altered without the action of General Convention.

The disciplinary processes of this Church carefully considered the matters with which Bishop Lawrence was charged, and the Disciplinary Board found that he had indeed repudiated the polity of this Church.  It then became my canonical responsibility and obligation to limit (“restrict”) his formal ability to function as bishop until the entire House of Bishops can consider these charges.  Bishop Lawrence has an extended period (60 days) in which he can repudiate those charges, and I stand ready to respond positively to any sign that he has done so. 

The other matter concerns nine bishops of The Episcopal Church who have participated in court filings that deny the hierarchical nature of this Church.  Charges have been made by some Standing Committees and other bishops against those nine, and the parties involved are being asked to agree to seek conciliation under the disciplinary canons.  That means that those involved are trying to find a resolution that will end the disciplinary process.  I believe all involved see that as a positive endeavor.

So what makes this one so great, Chris?  Because this is how she opened it.

Katharine, a servant of Christ, to the saints in South Carolina.

May the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus our Savior be with you all.

My but don’t we have a high opinion of ourselves and our writing.  Ayup.  The woman actually opened her little letter like a Pauline epistle.  I have to believe that you’d be hard-pressed to find a papal encyclical with the hubris to start out like that.  And popes generally have useful and worthwhile things to say.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, November 16th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Georgia Episcopal Bishop Scott Benhase on homosexual marriages in his diocese:

I want to first remind us all of some recent history. Earlier this year, anticipating General Convention, I wrote the Diocese explaining the challenges before us, as I understood them. I stated clearly that during the search process for the 10th Bishop of Georgia, I articulated my support for the Church establishing a Blessing Rite for same sex couples. That support remains and has not wavered. I stated after my consecration, however, that no Blessing Rite would be used in the Diocese of Georgia until the Church took formal action to authorize such a rite. My interpretation of past General Convention actions, prior to 2012, led me to conclude that such specific authorization had never truly occurred.

I also pointed out that my understanding of Holy Matrimony is that it can only be between a man and woman, regardless of what secular governments understand it to be. Secular understandings of marriage should not shape how the Church understands Holy Matrimony. Of course, we know that the culture does shape our thoughts, at least to some extent. It is nearly impossible to hermetically seal the Church off from cultural influences. Nevertheless, I must make decisions as free of cultural influences as possible and rather focus all discernment through the lens of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and his grace bestowed in the New Covenant. Thus, in my judgment, any Blessing Rite that is authorized in the Diocese of Georgia had to be plainly distinguished from Holy Matrimony in order to receive my approval.

The Rite approved by General Convention in July of this year failed, in my judgment, to plainly distinguish between Holy Matrimony and a Blessing. The enabling resolution for the Rite that was passed, however, provided Diocesan Bishops with the ability to “adapt” the Rite for use in their respective dioceses. I had hoped the language would have authorized something more expansive than “adaption,” but that did not happen. So, we must work within the structures of what the Church has decided. None of this is perfect. We all look “through a glass darkly,” as St Paul reminds us. I am unconcerned by what is politically, socially, or culturally expedient, or what will be the majority opinion. I am concerned with doing what is right in the eyes of God.

I have discerned that we in the Diocese of Georgia will offer a Rite of Blessing for our homosexual sisters and brothers using the adapted rite found in Appendix 1. This will be the only Rite authorized in the Diocese of Georgia. In Appendix 2, you will find criteria for how the Rite may be offered in the Diocese of Georgia. These criteria are not suggestions. They are expected provisions and guidelines required of clergy and lay leaders who discern within their congregation that they should offer the Rite.

It should go without saying, but I will say it here because uninformed people often create needless alarm. No congregation or priest is required to offer such a rite. The criteria in Appendix 2 requires formal discernment between the parochial priest in charge and the vestry before it may be offered in the congregation and that discernment must be first initiated by the parochial priest. That means I will not allow non-parochial priests (or any deacon) to preside at such a Blessing Rite disconnected from a pastoral cure in a congregation. They may, however, assist the Rector, Vicar, or Priest-in-Charge of the Congregation at the Rite.

Doubtless some may conclude from the requirements in Appendix 2 that I am requiring an unfairly high threshold of mutual consent that is not required of other rites of the Church. I certainly understand how some may reach such a conclusion and I am not unsympathetic to the claim. For some my decision will go too far. For others my decision will not go far enough. I understand. Nevertheless, as your Bishop I must lead us through this in the best way I can given the constraints present and the diversity of positions we respectively hold in the Diocese of Georgia.

Proving yet again that there is only one sin left in the Episcopal Organization, the EpiscoLefties at Naughton’s rip Benhase a new one.  The Swan of Newark leads off.

As if the culture isn’t in the church and the church isn’t in the culture in “traditional marriage”.

Honest to Pete! When will the institutional church and its purple princes learn that you can dress it up in fancy vestments, use theological language and blow holy smoke from a turible all around it but that won’t change a thing. It still looks and smells like prejudice.

Then again, I’m thinking at least some of the folks in GA are quite familiar with “separate but equal”. Separate water fountains and sitting in the back of the bus were eventually ruled for what they are “prejudice”. As I recall, the church assisted in the process of helping the government to see through the charade and to look at the injustice.

Isn’t it interesting that now that the shoe is on the other foot in another issue, the church is the one saying, “Segregation yesterday. Segregation today. Segregation forevah.”

Lizzie?  Those weren’t homosexuals chained up and stuffed into those ships.  Lauren Stanley really needs to use her inside voice.

“Of course, we know that the culture does shape our thoughts, at least to some extent. It is nearly impossible to hermetically seal the Church off from cultural influences. Nevertheless, I must make decisions as free of cultural influences as possible and rather focus all discernment through the lens of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and his grace bestowed in the New Covenant.”

I understand what the bishop thinks he is trying to say, but it is, at heart, delusional to say we are not formed by our culture. JESUS was formed by HIS culture, and no one seems to have minded THAT! PAUL was formed by HIS culture – and we argue over that all the time.

This marvelous blessing that we call “life” never takes place in a vacuum. And neither does God. God does not simply “exist” outside of everything – God exists in US.

So please: If you don’t agree, that’s fine. But please don’t pretend that we can ever exist outside of our existence (which is another way to say, “culture.”)

Homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson, who is a homosexual, homosexually whines that Benhase actually seems to be taking this “diversity of opinion in the Episcopal Organization” crap seriously.

If I were a committed gay couple and looked at this, my reaction would be: “Is that it? Is that all? A 2-minute sidebar diversion, buried in a eucharist?! The blessing of a new altar frontal takes longer!”. And can you imagine what committed straight couples would say if this were all THEY were offered in blessing their relationships??!!

I suppose the Bishop of Georgia has the right to do what he has done, in “adapting” the authorized rite — although even in Parliamentary Procedure, when a resolution is so profoundly altered that the original is no longer remotely present, it is not an “amended” resolution, but a “substitute!”

IMHO, Bishop Benhase offers a “substitute,” and a deplorable, weak and unacceptable one at that!

Jeffrey Shy, M. D. reads the fine print.

(1) This is such a radical adaptation of the Rite that it renders any references to the GC approved Rite meaningless.

(2) The process for allowing this to occur is cumbersome in the extreme. The priest of the parish must “initiate” consideration. If not, then it is a non-starter. It requires a 2/3 majority of the Vestry to approve its use.

(3) At least one of the couple must be a member of the congregation in which the rite is offered. This closes off any real possibility of getting the rite in a parish not one’s “own,” meaning, forget about going to Atlanta to do it. You would have to leave your parish to get it if they are not offering it. Great way to clear out the queers from your ranks?

(4). The couple must sign a document of understanding that this Rite does not now and never will confer any civil rights. It is not “Matrimony” and that they affirm that “Matrimony” is between “one man and one woman.”

Yeah, doc, “clearing out the queers” is exactly why Benhase did it.  Ass.  Homosexual Canon Susan Russell of Apostasy West, who is a homosexual, homosexually descends from Mount Homosexual Sinai to once again homosexually remind us all that as far as The Issue is concerned, there is only one correct homosexual answer.

Let’s not do political, societal or cultural … let’s do Bible. Jesus did not send the Syrophoenician woman away with crumbs from under the table – he healed her daughter. And yet that’s what the Bishop of Georgia offers the LGBT baptized in his diocese – crumbs from under the table rather than the rite for blessing authorized by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Methinks the Bishop of Georgia’s concern about “doing what is right in the eyes of God” would be well served by doing a little remedial reading on the work and witness of the Radical Rabbi of Nazareth.

My heart aches for those who will receive from these cavalier and condescending crumbs offered by this “pastoral letter” another slap in the face from the institutional church rather than a welcoming embrace by the Body of Christ. By offering this pathetic substitute — which the Bishop of New Hampshire has called “deplorable, weak and unacceptable” — the Bishop of Georgia has perpetuated the heresy that LGBT people have some kind of second-class baptism that entitles them to only a percentage of the sacraments.

Having the “right” as bishop diocesan to make this choice does not make it the right choice – for the proclamation of the gospel or for the LGBT people in his pastoral care — and it is precisely an act like this that draws into sharp relief how much work there still is to do to make the 1976 promise of “full and equal claim” to the LGBT baptized a reality and not just a resolution in the Episcopal Church.


PDSAOUSA turned out to be an short-lived acronym.  Give it up for the People’s Democratic Socialist Homosexual Anglican Organization of the United States of America(PDSHAOUSA).


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, November 16th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

Meet Effect:

Hostess Brands — the maker of such iconic baked goods as Twinkies, Devil Dogs and Wonder Bread — announced Friday that it is asking a federal bankruptcy court for permission to close its operations, blaming a strike by bakers protesting a new contract imposed on them.

The closing will result in Hostess’ nearly 18,500 workers losing their jobs as the company shuts 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers nationwide, as well as 570 outlet stores. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union represents around 5,000 Hostess employees.

A letter that Hostess sent to its network of stores that carry its product said it expects “there will be great interest in our brands.” But it said it could not give a time frame for when the sales would take place and its products would be available again.

But even if those brands are bought and restarted, the Hostess workers will not get their jobs back.

“The industry has overcapacity. We’re overcapacity. Our rivals are overcapacity,” said Rayburn in an interview on CNBC. Asked if the shutdown decision could be reversed if the Bakers’ union agreed to immediately return to work, he responded, “Too late.”

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