Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Transitive Relationships

My Disciples of Christ neighbor and I were talking about ecumenical relationships. I asked him if being in full communion Lutherans meant that Episcopalians were in communion with all those with whom the Lutherans were in communion. The answer, as I already knew, is No.

What has been true about ecumenical relationships has now become true about relationships within the Anglican Communion. All the churches of the Communion are in communion with the Church of England, but not necessarily with one another. This is not something for which I give thanks, but it is a situation which I hope will not get worse. I have no illusions about the prospects for the restoration the Episcopal Church's relationship of full communion with some of the churches in Africa. The best that I can hope for in the short term is that the Church of England will be able to remain in communion with all the Churches of the Communion. Even that seems doubtful at times, but I can still hope.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just Plain Silly

Sarah Palin must have time on her hands, because I can find no other explanation for her criticism of this year's White House Christmas card, which showed a sleeping Bo by the fire in a beautifully decorated room. Mrs. Palin's objection to it was that it had no images of "family, faith, and freedom." I guess she wanted something more like President Bush's card in 2005 which showed the family's two dogs enjoying the freedom of the snow covered White House lawn.

I grew up with very staunch Republican grandparents who would be embarassed by just how silly some Republicans have become. But as a member of the Democratic Party I hope Mrs. Palin and her ilk will keep on the road to silly.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Anglican Covenant

I have long thought that the proposed Anglican Covenant would not provide a healthy way forward for the member churches of the Anglican Communion. What I thought it would do was encourage a culture of compliant within the Communion and could result in less honest communication between those who disagree with one another and more triangulation as member churches chose to lodge complaints with the Communion's Standing Committee. 

I had not, however, taken the time to think about an alternative to the proposed Covenant, something which the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to think is required if the Covenant is rejected. I felt, with some justification, that one need not propose an alternative to an innovation, but could simply reject it. A logical alternative to any proposal of this sort is the status quo. Jonathan Clatworthy has done what I could not do, tackling the question of an alternative admirably in  Instead of the Anglican Covenant at the Modern Church website.


There continue to be arguments that the Episcopal Church is not hierarchical. We have the traditional hierarchy of Holy Orders, but the way the Episcopal Church governs itself isn't much like the most obvious hierarchical church, the Roman Catholic is governed. But there isn't only one way to be hierarchical. While Episcopal parishes and dioceses have a great deal more autonomy than Roman Catholic parishes and dioceses, their autonomy is clearly limited.

Here are a few examples of limitations:
  • The election of Rectors in parishes requires the consent of the Bishop.
  • The election of a Bishop requires the consent of a majority of diocesan Bishops and Standing Committees. 
  • Ordinations of clergy must be approved in accordance with the Canons of The Episcopal Church.
  • The sale of real property by a parish must be approved by the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese.
  • The establishment of new Dioceses requires the approval of the General Convention.
The hierarchy of the Episcopal Church is not so much a hierarchy of clergy as a hierarchy of parish Vestries, Diocesan Conventions, and the General Convention. As in other hierarchical organizations, there are decisions that can be made at every level, but the determination of which decisions can be made at each level is made at the highest level, in this case, the General Convention.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Playing to the Baser

A generation or so ago some American evangelical Christians - but clearly not all - demonized three groups of their fellow Americans: Jews, Roman Catholics, and African Americans. In the past few decades that has changed. Many evangelicals, for reasons that have little to do with respect of Judaism, have made common cause with Jewish Americans in support of Israel. They have also joined Roman Catholics in opposition to abortion, and have found themselves in agreement with many African-American evangelicals on social issues.

But political campaigns often requirs enemies and in the past two decades some Republican candidates have courted evangelicals by demonizing gay and lesbian Americans. Among the latest of these appeals to the baser instincts in voters is the recent Rick Perry ad. The ad appears to have backfired, as Joshua Green pointed out in a recent column in the Boston Globe. In the wake of the negative reaction to Perry's ad I would have thought that Newt Gingrich would have avoided demonizing another group of people by claiming that Palestinians are an "invented people." As smart as he appears to be, Gingrich went ahead with that blatant lie and has not backed down when challenged about it. I hope that another column in the Globe, this one by New Hampshire's former Republican Senator John Sununu, will convince Gingrich to stop appealing the the baser instincts of voters, but I doubt it will.

I had heard the "invented" comment more than twenty years ago, that time from a rabbi who   thought that it was actions of the Israeli government, actions which he did not support, that had helped to create a sense of national identity among Palestinians. I think that was a reasonable observation. A similar observation could have been made about how the actions of the English government helped create a national identity among the people of the American colonies. In a sense we are all "invented people," with national identities that have been created by the events of history. 

Gingrich's observation, however, was not intended to highlight the role of the Israeli government in creating a Palestinian national identity. His comment was intended to dismiss the aspirations of Palestinians, perhaps to garner support among Jewish voters, but more likely to appeal to voters who see all Arabs and Muslims as the enemy. I hope Gingrich's appeal doesn't work, not because I don't want him to be President, which I don't, but because I want to see an end to the use of bigotry and demonizing in American politics.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ashamed To Be a Christian?

When I was newly ordained the Rector of the parish where I was serving reminded me that if I wanted to claim Mother Teresa as a sister in Christ I had to be prepared to claim Pat Robertson as a brother in Christ. Today the challenge is to see that Rick Perry is my brother in Christ, even though his attack on gays serving in the military is repugnant to me. Perry is an embarrassment, but he is still a member of the Body of Christ and I pray that the comments of many others in the Body will help him come to repentance. God, after all, rejoices when a sinner repents.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Elizabeth Warren and TARP

It is interesting that Karl Rove's political machine is attacking Elizabeth Warren for having had oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program which was signed into law by Rove's former boss, President George W. Bush. Rove must be counting on voters in Masschusetts having poor memories. The financial meltdown that TARP was created to address was not Warren's fault, unless Harvard professors have more power than I think they do.

Friday, December 2, 2011


For a long time I have struggled with the issue of privilege. As a fairly well educated white heterosexual man I have had privileges that many people in this country don't have, and most of those privilges are unearned. I have been hoping that there would be more honest discussion of privilege in our country, but recent comments about privilege made by Gov. Rick Perry are not what I would call honest. In attacks on the President, Gov. Perry has made the claim that Pres. Obama has had a privileged life, one that makes it impossible for him to understand hard-working Americans (like Gov. Perry?).  I would never deny that the President enjoyed some privileges as he grew up - the privileges of a mother committed to seeing to it that he had a good education and of scholarships that allowed him to get that education. He also appears to have intellectual gifts that Gov. Perry doesn't have.

What makes Gov. Perry's comments less than an honest contribution to a discussion of unearned privilege is his total lack of any acknowledgement of his own privileges as a white male heterosexual evangelical Christian in Texas, nor any acknowledgement of the less than privileged aspects of the President's early life. I know what it is like to be raised by a single mother, but I have no idea, nor does Gov. Perry, of what is like to be a biracial child growing up in America.

Perhaps there are Americans who will buy Gov. Perry's assertions about the President's privileged childhood, but I hope that most Americans will scratch their heads and wonder, as I did, about whether Gov. Perry has finally lost touch with reality.