Well, the three free books are accounted for and on their way as I write this. However, if you would really like a copy still, let me know because I may be able to get the publisher to send a couple out.
Well, the three free books are accounted for and on their way as I write this. However, if you would really like a copy still, let me know because I may be able to get the publisher to send a couple out.
For non-US readers, "DL" is a common sports term over here that stands for Disabled List. And that's what I'm on right now after a nasty spill at the weekend that screwed up my already bad right knee even more. It didn't happen in any exotic way - I was loading some household stuff on the back of a pickup, and when I was done, I was standing on the tailgate thinking, "I must find a safe way to get down from here."
Well, somewhere milliseconds after my brain thinking it, I turned to figure out how to get down, and my knee just felt like it separated completely and twisted around about 90 degrees. Having seen the models with rubber bands for the ligaments, I swear my brain was visualizing what was going on inside my knee even as the excruciating pain was traveling up my nerves at approximately the speed of light. I overbalanced and fell off the tailgate, landing on wet tarmac. My butt and my right wrist took the load about equally. My wife, who was inside the storage unit we were emptying out, just saw the part where I was in mid-air and the crash landing.
Somehow, we managed to finish up what we wanted to do over the next couple of hours. I realized if I stopped that I'd never get going again, so we took stuff to the house and also managed to do a run to the dump (always fun.) Sure enough, it stiffened up pretty badly. I thought I'd be able to tough it out until Monday when i could go see my doctor, but I realized Sunday morning that wasn't going to work, so Sue ran me up to the ER. Five hours later, I exited in a massive Velcro brace (see picture) and with medications to take care of the pain. Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up Vicodin...
Well, I don't get to see the ortho surgeon until next week, but I'm guessing that surgery is up front and center this time around.
The book in question is this: Going To Heaven, The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson. (Amazon Canada, Amazon UK)
With all the furore over Anglican Communion goings on of late, it is very timely that I could get around to reading Going to Heaven, a biography of Bishop Gene Robinson with particular emphasis on his election as Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. My post on Women in the Church apparently caught the eye of the publishers and they asked if I'd like a copy to read. Well, what did I have to lose, so they sent it along and I put it into the reading pile.
The last week I've been alternating that with An Acceptable Sacrifice. The two complement each other quite well. Acceptable Sacrifice is more on the theory side (well, so far as I've read), while Going to Heaven is more on the practical side.
I'll admit I'm only two thirds through Going to Heaven, but there's no way this book can fail to keep my attention the rest of the way. The first forty pages or so, devoted to Robinson's life growing up in a dirt poor fundamentalist family in West Virginia, and his subsequent escape to college and the Episcopal Church are a bit slow. And, while I don't really want the prurient details, there is precious little about the experiences that shaped his sexual identity. Apart from a few oblique allusions here and there, you'd be hard pushed to tell this was the story of the most famous gay bishop in history.
Still, once we move on to his ordination to the priesthood and his marriage, the pace picks up a little. His first taste of parish ministry was, um, interesting. The narrative glosses over the details of his thirteen year marriage, although ti seems fairly idyllic, blessed with two kids, and there's precious little explanation about what triggered his decision to divorce. Still, it's amusing the way Adams describes the way he starts cruising the gay dad's scene, and in mid-winter, picks up a copy of the Advocate and signs himself up for a solo vacation in St Croix, where he met the guy who would be his partner for life. It's a bit jarring, really.
The narrative really picks up as we find out about Robinson's career in the Diocese of New Hampshire after the divorce as he starts working for Bishop Doug Theuner. It's easy to see why New Hampshire, after twenty years of service in the diocese, thought he was the right person for to succeed Bishop Theuner. Adams does a nice job weaving the different stories and themes leading up to the New Hampshire election, General Convention 2003 and on to the consecration. As a window on Episcopal polity it's without equal. Of course, books on Episcopal polity are pretty few and far between (with good reason, for the most part.) The General Convention chapter is gripping and brilliantly written - it alone is worth the price of the book.
Member of a New Hampshire congregation throughout, Adams writes from a perspective sympathetic to Robinson, but she does well to describe opponents in a fair light. This is no black and white, good guys-bad guys tale. The fallout for individual parishes in New Hampshire is made pretty evident - as happened across the nation, a lot of older, conservative members left the church with a heavy financial impact. Many in my diocese pretended this wasn't the case, but after a couple of years, it has become evident the attendance and financial impact was, and remains, significant. It's nice to see it reported fairly here.
There are plenty of thoughtful moments, nuggets of wisdom and insights into the liberal/conservative differences sprinkled throughout. Here's one that's not original, but is an important one. Responding to questions about the authority of scripture, Robinson (p 158) answered:
"...as Christians we take scripture very seriously. Episcopalians have always taken scripture seriously, but never literally. Some of the critics are calling themselves traditionalists, and yet are trying to take us to a place that has never been our tradition. Ever. We've never been a denomination that literally read and believed every word of the Bible. On the other hand we take it all seriously."
Really, for anyone around the Anglican Communion that's interested in the story that has played out over the last four years or so, it really is a must read. I'll write a wrap-up review when I'm finished. Kudos to Elizabeth Adams for writing this, and I wish her well in her new home city of Montreal.
In the event you'd really like a copy, but are short of ready cash, email me and I'll gift a copy to the first three people to ask.
Interesting little article on the emerging church from the floor of the Christian Booksellers Association trade show. Some snippets:
From the odd:
One morning as I walked through a hotel lobby, I spotted a badge-free person with a particularly familiar face and smiled in a most cheerful manner, stopping just short of saying, “Hey, how are you doing?” The familiar face, as it turned out, belonged to Chuck Norris. I tell that story for three reasons:
1) it’s a good story;
2) I’m hoping the search engines will draw Chuck Norris fans to this site; and
3) it underscores the fact that you never know who will show up at CBA.
Norris was there promoting his autobiography, Against All Odds, which releases in September.
to comments on evangelicalism...
I also identify with evangelical Christianity... Even so, I am among those who have grown increasingly disenchanted with evangelicalism. Don’t get me wrong—I could sign, and have signed, any basic statement of faith issued by most evangelical ministries and companies. It’s not a problem of doctrine; it’s a problem of practice.
to the bizarre
This year, I asked a fellow Episcopalian, a book editor who could have easily sat out the event, why he bothered to attend. “Are you kidding?” he said. “I love CBA—it’s so bizarre!” Amen to that. Display cases in the lobby of the Georgia World Congress Center, where the event was held, exhibited such items as Actual Brimstone from Sodom and Gomorrah and canvas sandals featuring an embroidered scripture reference and American flag, for those who feel the need to wear their faith and their patriotism on their feet. More than a few groups of journalists hold annual contests to see who can come up with the best example of “Jesus junk” from the trade floor.
and then, to some comments on the emerging church:
What the emerging church offers and encourages is a new way of doing church and being the church, one that resonates not only with the 18-to-34-year-old demographic—the first fully postmodern generation—but also with people who think like those in the younger demographic but are older in age. Or way older, like me. If you came to faith in Christ during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s as I did, you should readily understand the emerging church. Remember how we tried to create a whole new model based on Luke’s description of the early church in the book of Acts? Well, the emerging church is succeeding where we failed, for reasons I can only speculate about. Sometimes I think we just gave up too soon. We ended up with some decent alternatives for that time (think Vineyard Fellowship and Calvary Chapel), but that’s not what we really wanted. What we really wanted then is what they’re actually doing now.
Item of note to the Episcopal Church: An Acceptable Sacrifice, newly published in the UK, is a newly published collection of essays on the place of gays in the church, more specifically the Church of England and Anglican Communion. The topics included range from an essay by Maggi Dawn on how we interpret scripture, to specific analyses of what (people think) the Bible says to us and beyond.
Maggi I know personally, and her chapter kicks off the book in good fashion with a solidly Anglican (if we even know what that means any more) look at hermeneutics. I've only read a couple of chapters beyond that, but it is very readable so far, and I appreciate that the book is aimed at the unconvinced middle (which is where I suspect many of the authors are themselves.)
This is the kind of work that should have been done by the Episcopal Church long before Gene Robinson. Former PB Frank Griswold's established a committee in Jan 2005 (see oblique reference half way down) eighteen months after the horse had left the stable, but has yet to see the light of day even now, a further two years on.
The good news is that new Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori seems to have a much more pragmatic and practical approach to the issue (while acknowledging her personal position is well to the liberal end). See her remarks to the staff at Episcopal Galactic HQ.
Having been found by one so worthy as Dave Walker as occupying "the middle ground" on the great Anglican debate, I thought maybe I'd articulate as clearly as I can where that is as far as I'm concerned. The middle is the least comfortable place to be because you get to take flak from both extremes. This is exacerbated by the "if you're not for us, you're against us" mentality that extremists tend to hold. Unfortunately, in any ideological argument, the extremists are the only ones that get air time.
There's plenty of history on my blog about my gradual change in stance from being totally opposed to "gay rights in the church" to being OK with it. That's as far as it goes. I'm not going to rant and rave about justice and blah, blah, blah, singing "We Shall Overcome" and "Kumbayah". There are plenty of people who will, ad nauseam. What they don't realize is how tiresome that gets for the rest of us (and I just know that's going to madden a few people, but yes, you can get pretty tiresome at times.)
While I may, in theory, be OK with the expanding role of gays in the church, it doesn't mean I'm blind to the underhanded tactics that have been used and are used by gay proponents. And spare me the disingenuous shock, please. Nor do I necessarily believe they've done a good job of making their case. In other words, I can see why plenty of people don't buy what they're selling. In fact, one of those other designated middle-grounders, Rev Sam of Elizaphanian, put it much better than I could (emphasis mine):
3. Whilst TEC (The Episcopal Church) might, therefore, have underlying justice on their side, I think they have repeatedly undermined their own position through a reckless disregard for the 'bonds of affection', most especially with regard to +Robinson. More than that, I find much of the theological perspective articulated within TEC to be bafflingly bad, and barely Christian. It seems to me now that there is a very strong case for TEC to make a prophetic witness - but that witness will be compromised through dilution with extremely bad theology. There is also the distinct smack of self-indulgence in some quarters.
That paragraph leaves me dumbfounded in its sheer elegance and accuracy. Of course, it would be easier to judge the theology if somebody in power would actually care to articulate some...
Also some good stuff from self-confessed "woolly liberal" Raspberry Rabbit.
Enough of the liberals... On the right, we have the reason I'm no longer a religious conservative. One of the reasons my views on the gay issue changed significantly was because I really didn't care for the vitriol and hatred that spews from those on the "right" side of this issue. Whether it be Stand Firm, the ever so inaptly named David Virtue, CANA, AMiA, The Network, I just don't want to have anything to do with them. On the fringes of reasonableness in that group is the Rev Kendall Harmon, who seems like a decent fellow which, sadly, is more than I can say of most of his regular commenters. It's been quite amusing to see the breakaway groups disintegrate into tiny fragments as they find each other lacking in the appropriate ideology - this is, after all, how we have ended up with thousands of protestant denominations.
That fragmentation is also a case ion point that we will never be able to unite the church under one all-inclusive banner unless we are all willing to live with people with whom we disagree. That goes for both sides. Easy to say, very hard to do without a lot of charity for each other.
So yes, the middle ground is a tough place to be - stay there very long and you can take a bullet from either direction. There's a reason they called it No Man's Land in WW1.
So two days after the end of the Primates meeting, the general position becomes a bit clearer. But not much.
Sitting in the middle, I wonder why I even care about either of these bunches of extremists. The liberals are ready to jump all over their (until very recently) darling Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori because she, apparently, is something of a good diplomat. Which means, sometimes you figure out what will work and go with it. You don't stamp your little feet and hold your breath until you get your own way. Which is what Father Jake and commenters seem to think is wise. Well, until the Ash Wednesday liturgy wised him up, I guess.
I can only guess that TEC liberals have never actually read any books about leadership and change, because they seem astounded that everybody isn't swayed by their dazzling (lack of good) arguments.
I imagine their script went something like this in their heads:
TEC liberals: "Hey, we think you should do this."
Rest of the world: "Uh, OK, if you say so."
Imagine their shock when a large number of people actually dares to not only fail to follow the script, but actually questions them! I can thoroughly recommend Ron Heifetz's book Leadership Without Easy Answers to them. (His other book Leadership With Easy Answers is much harder to find - apparently the only copy is in the Bush Library. Believe it or not, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" is actually in there...)
The bottom line is that the onus is on anyone who wants to change the status quo to demonstrate that their change is valid. And to persuade enough people to their point of view by reasonable means. If they act before that point, then they will meet opposition not only from those with diametrically opposite point of view (which will always happen anyway) but from the people in the middle that they alienate because they haven't given them the space and time to think about the issue. Impatience is the cause of most failures to effect change. It's a huge mistake to focus your energy on those opposed to you. It's much more important to work the middle ground, which TEC liberals have generally failed to do over the years. If I lean to that side of center these days it's despite their arguments and actions, not because of them.
KJS understands that one must go slowly and that the middle ground is important, I think. I've been very impressed with her apparent calm amid a pretty delicate situation. Even if she cried at some point, so what? If I had to spend a week cooped up with the likes of Akinola, I'd probably cry too at some point. It will be interesting to see how the Episcopal House of Bishops reacts. I'm sure she has a workable plan in mind. Whether she can make them follow it is another matter.
As I've noted before, it would be nice if the Bishops could actually come up with that theological justification for ordaining active homosexuals that Frank Griswold commissioned a long time ago, but I guess that actually putting it down on paper might be a bit much for them. It's much easier to arm wave and stamp one's feet than actually explain oneself. (That whole, "it seemed like a good idea at the time" probably doesn't cut it even as a Master's thesis). I'm in the middle of reading a Gene Robinson biography right now, and it's, well, OK so far, if a bit fawning.
The one laughable thing about much of the debate is that the liberals really seem to think that General Convention accurately reflects the mind of the Episcopal Church at large. The liberal faction hijacked the entire superstructure of the church years ago and are now apparently delusional that it is a fully representative body. Imagine the hilarity that would ensue if I were to imply that the US Congress is fully representative of the American people. And that George Bush obviously has the full and undivided support of all Americans.
The eight General Convention deputies from my diocese last time were all from Seattle bar one, who just happened to be a relative of a Diocesan officer. Combined, their political views would be somewhere just to the left of Karl Marx. Even for a Diocese like Olympia, they were 6 sigma liberals. So it will be interesting if people start acting on bad assumptions like that...
Oh well, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose...
On a lighter note, last Saturday my wife and I went with friends to the Tractor Tavern in Ballard (north Seattle) to see The Waybacks play. Their drummer, Chuck Hamilton, is a friend of mine, which is how I even learned the band exists. They are a phenomenal band, virtuosos all, who are also just plain fun to watch. Their style is, well, some might say bluegrass, some newgrass, but let Scott Nygaard of Acoustic Guitar magazine describe them:
Possessed of dazzling instrumental chops and an absolute mastery of acoustic musical styles, The Waybacks are an eclectic acoustic quintet, steeped in a wide array of Americana idioms. Whether mesmerizing audiences at intimate venues or creating a sensation at major festivals, the band has brought its onstage alchemy to enthusiastic fans far and wide.
Eclectic in both their influences and approach, The Waybacks embrace multiple genres and put their unique stamp on the lot, rendering them all with turn-on-a-dime precision and characteristic charm, wit, and virtuosity. In so doing, they transcend genre altogether, conjuring up musical landscapes that defy boundaries but always find their center at the crossroads of fun and fascination.
Their most recent album is From The Pasture To The Future, but I am also really partial to their live album from 2003 Way Live. The hidden track on the end features the Green Acres TV show theme set to Purple Haze, which might give you a hint this is musical insanity at its best. There's also their debut, Devolver and the interestingly titled Burger After Church...
So the fuss and bother in Dar es Salaam is over, let the fallout begin. As usual, the Primates were able to write in several volumes what would have taken mere mortals only a few paragraphs. Also as usual, there is much consternation on both sides - an encouraging sign, really. By all accounts Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori comported herself extremely well.
On the other hand, there's not a lot to like about either extreme position. On the one hand we have Akinola playing the role of an African Pat Robertson, trying to turn the Anglican Communion into a branch of the Southern Baptist Convention, and on the other hand, the Episcopal gay lobby that still can't quite grasp that the precipitate nature of the Gene Robinson election pissed off a lot of people (and not just the far right) and that further precipitate action is just driving the bus further over the cliff.
Put that in the middle of a bunch of aging clerics who could debate for days what to have for lunch, you have to wonder where God went in all of this. I will say that Rowan Williams seems to have done a pretty decent job of holding it all together, though.
The bottom line is that the "Schedule" contains what are either "recommendations" (liberal-speak) or "requirements" (conservative-speak) levied on the Episcopal Church. Actually on the House of Bishops, to be exact. No more openly gay-in-a-relationship bishop candidates (gay priests and closeted active gays are apparently OK -this is the Anglican Communion version of "Don't ask, don't tell", apparently) and no official sanctioning of same-sex blessing liturgies (backroom Las Vegas style quickie marriages are OK, I assume.)
Reaction from the conservative side (at least the kind that aren't howling for blood every five minutes) is initially guardedly optimistic (but even I'm not sure what that means...) At least Kendall Harmon is a decent fellow.
The gay lobby (check the comments) is up in arms, because in today's society, "I want my candy and I want it NOW, dammit!" is the way things get done. Wait a few years while all this settles out? Unconscionable! Inconceivable!
Never mind that the VGR election was done without any theological preparation at all, and absolutely no consultation whatsoever. Oh, by the way, where's that theological position paper that Griswold commissioned a couple of years ago in response to the Windsor Report? Gee, that might have come in handy somewhere along the way. (Still waiting on that - Anyone? Bueller?)
On the other hand, there are more moderate gay voices out there.
And then there's the curious issue of the lack of action required by other provinces that have violated several of the same rules concerning gay marriage - yeah, I'm looking at you, Canada. As some have rightly noted, this looks more like a witch hunt on the Episcopal Church. Ah, where's a good ducking stool when you need one?
Mostly, though, I just can't wait to see Dave Walker's final take on the whole sorry affair.