Thursday, July 31, 2008


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones: just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate. this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks. and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

-- Mary Oliver

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bishop Gray: We are a multi-dimensional Church

A little over a year ago, I joined a group of colleagues -- priests and deacons -- for a week at CREDO, the amazing one-week retreat paid for by the Church Pension Fund to help Episcopal clergy reconnect with our calling and plan (a little) for our future. The CREDO I attended was at the serene Duncan Gray retreat center near Canton, Mississippi (and speaking of "Fiat Lux," that's the view from my window at dawn, above). We were welcomed to the Duncan Gray center by none other than the Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray III, the bishop of Mississippi. Both his father and his grandfather had been bishop, so the retreat center and the diocese in which he serves is truly a sacred family trust. Bishop Gray was a most gracious host, shared several meals with us, and was a delight to meet.

Bishop Gray is conservative, yet whether you agree or disagree with him, he has a gracious open way with both liberals, moderates and conservatives that is simply amazing. Earlier this week he testified at the Windsor Continuation Group hearing at Lambeth. I am indebted to Trinity Cathedral Dean Brian Baker, who was at CREDO with me, for finding this and posting it on his blog. I share Bishop Gray's testimony with you, and invite your comment:

Remarks by Bishop Duncan Gray III
At the Windsor Continuation Group Hearing

Lambeth Conference
July 28th 2008

A bit of personal history: I have been nurtured and shaped within the Evangelical tradition of my Church. Most importantly, this means that the ultimate authority of the Holy Scripture and the necessity of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus as the way to the Father are foundational and non-negotiable components of my faith.

Within my own province, I voted not to consent to the election of Gene Robinson, for reasons both theological and ecclesiological. I have followed to the letter and the spirit of the Windsor Report — before there was a Windsor Report.

For my faithfulness to this communion I have been rewarded by regular incursions into our diocese by primates and bishops who have no apparent regard for either my theology or ecclesiology.

I have made some peace with this reality, preferring to think of the irregularly ordained as Methodists — and some of my best friends are Methodists!

What I cannot make peace with is the portrayal of my sister and brother bishops in the Episcopal Church, who disagree with me, as bearers of a false gospel. That portrayal does violence to the imperfect, but faithful, grace-filled, and often costly way, in which they live out their love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, I am in serious disagreement with many of them on the very critical sacramental and ethical issues about which the Communion is in deep conflict. Are we sometimes, at best, insensitive to the wider context in which we do ministry, and at worst, deeply embedded in American arrogance — Absolutely! And for that insensitivity and arrogance we have begged the Communion’s forgiveness on several occasions. “But do I see the Church in them?” as the most serious question at the last hearing asked. As God is my witness, I do. Despite my profound disagreements I continue to pray “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We continue to reaffirm our creedal faith together. We continue to gather round the Lord’s table together, bringing the brokenness and imperfectness of our lives into the healing embrace of our Lord who sends us out together to the poor, the weak and the hopeless. And, in the midst of our internal conflicts, they show me Jesus.

There are dozens of bishops like me in the Episcopal Church. We are not a one, or even two dimensional Church. We are a multitude of diverse theological, ecclesiological and sacramental perspectives — and the vast majority of us have figured out a way to stay together.

How is this possible? I think it begins with the gift from Saint Paul, who taught us the great limitations of even our most insightful thought. We do, every one of us, “see through a glass, darkly.” And none of us can say to the other, “I have no need of you.”

One day, Saint Paul says, we will see face to face, the glory that we now only glimpse. But in the meantime, as each of us struggles to be faithful, may each of us, the Episcopal Church and the wider communion, find the courage, and the humility, to say to one another, “I need you — for my salvation and for the salvation of the world.”

Wisdom from the Bishop of Buckingham

The reaction to Rowan Williams' address is rippling across the bishops' blogs today. I again commend to you the blog by Alan Wilson, bishop of Buckingham, England. There is much worth reading on his blog; he also has a great summary of a talk by England's chief rabbi, among other items you should read. And you will be rewarded by Bishop Wilson's choice for artwork on his blog today. Here is his main point this morning (the bold-face highlights are his):

Our group this morning felt we needed to begin with reality. We can all fixate on “if only’s” — if only the US bishops hadn’t proceeded, if only Lambeth 1998 hadn’t been so mismanaged and poorly led, if only the Nigerians had come. All this is fantasy. The Chief Rabbi’s holy pragmatism was a better starting point. Rowan is inviting us to be more humble, to listen, to repent, to enlarge our hearts. This means dying to our fantasy rallying points and hostile preconceptions, so that we attain a state of reality, responding to the call to life of the Lord who called Lazarus to life. If, on the other hand, we just cant let go of that stuff, then we stay in the tomb. The life of Anglicanism does not depend on the institutional wellbeing of Anglican structures, which will plainly have to morph, bend and perhaps even break. It’s a simple spiritual choice, really.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury address

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has just delivered his second address to the bishops, and summarized the competing points of view in the Anglican Communion. Rowan asked them (and us) to consider the following question:

"Whatever your views on this, at least ask the question : 'Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ?' "

Fair question. I invite your comment (but please read his address first at the link above).

Lambeth uneasiness: Go to Whitstable

By all reports, Lambeth is getting more difficult for the bishops.

The bishops and their spouses were moved by a presentation on domestic violence against women, a subject that was pointedly pushed off the table at the Lambeth conference ten years ago. At this Lambeth, the topic is being given full play. Most difficult for the bishops was the realization that in some parts of the world, Anglican bishops are not only complicit in violence against women but are participants. You can read the report on Episcopal Cafe

Meanwhile, the Windsor Continuation Group issued recommendations on how to make the Anglican Communion more unified. The recommendations are lengthy, and many of the American bishops are wary.  Neff Powell, the bishop of Southwest Virginia, said the bishops are "uneasy" at the week ahead with the difficult issues confronting them.

Finally, my good friend, Greg Rickel, bishop of Olympia (you will hear more about him when we get to C'ville), took Sunday off and took the train to Whitstable over on the Kent coast. He posted photos of the fishing village and his observations about his day trip including this gem: 

They happened to be having their annual Oyster Festival this weekend. So, I took part in these festivities and, on beautiful day, hung out with normal, everyday people. I didn't have to have an ID badge and there was not "the next thing to get to." 

Whitstable is one of our favorite places on the planet, so I've posted a photo above of Lori next to a fishing dory in Whitstable from our trip there in '03 (we rode bikes there).

Have a great Tuesday, dear readers. Today I will be back packing, tossing, and moving stuff into neighborhood attics. And another farewell dinner tonight.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday evening laughs

Tomorrow we will get back to the business of packing, sermon writing, Lambeth, and all that very serious important stuff. But on Monday night, how about a few laughs? If you haven't seen this video before, it is worth a few moments of your time. The video is just below the cartoon, just scroll a little. And tomorrow's Bizarro is on the money as usual. 

Farewells this week

We went to Trinity Cathedral Sunday to say farewell. Trinity has been our spiritual home for 20 years. Many of our dearest friends are there. We've worshipped at Trinity, served on more ministry teams than we can count, and I was ordained there. Last night a group of Trinity folks had dinner party for us and that was delightful. And a group of Trinity folks told us they are giving money in our name to the Charlottesville SPCA because it has a "no kill" policy. We have more farewell dinners this week. And more stuff to throw out. Onward we go. Anyone want a 1970s vintage stereo cabinet? It's on the street, free for the taking.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Women bishops at Lambeth

photo credit The Rev. Cynthia Black ©2008

Behold the day the Lord has made! 

We are blessed to see this day, a class photo of the women bishops at Lambeth. And I am proud to call a few of them friends. How many more will there be in ten years?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Packing and tossing, Shakespeare in the park

Today we shall give you a break from Lambeth, though if you want to catch up on the latest go to Episcopal Cafe; the news today includes the British government granting asylum to David MacIyalla, the Nigerian who has advocated for gay people in Africa (we had the pleasure of meeting him when he visited Sacramento last year).

As for Lori and Jim, we are in the throes of tossing stuff (the recycling can will be bulging again this week). Painters and paperhangers come this week to make over our bedroom and dining room, so our house is in total chaos as we move furniture from room to room. We will be living in our home office this week. One last party at our house is not likely, though we have brunches and dinners booked solid through the week. We took a picnic dinner with our neighbors, Greg and Ellie, to the Shakespeare Festival, performed under the stars in our own Land Park last night and saw "Twelfth Night" done in a colorful Cuban motif.  It worked muy bueno.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lambeth contrasts

Forgive me, dear readers, for continuing to focus on the Lambeth conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world in the U.K. The contrasts are fascinating. Yesterday the bishops joined together to march through the streets in their purple cassocks, heard a speech by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and met with the Queen for tea. 

Still the battle rages for the heart and soul of the Anglican Communion, the third largest branch of Christianity in the world. The Windsor Continuation Group, composed entirely of bishops, proposed a stronger more centralized Anglican authority. That proposal was met warily by American and Canadian bishops who stand for more lay involvement in the governance of the church and for the inclusion of gays and lesbians. The Episcopal Cafe has an excellent analysis of these issues. It seems to me that the proposal stands in sharp contrast to the "Indaba" method of conversation-through-relationship that has so enthralled many of the bishops. 

I have another place for you to stop today, outside the gates of the Lambeth conference at the Marketplace. The British group Ekklesia has a report on a Marketplace display focusing on human rights, and what the bishops are missing by not having Gene Robinson present.

And the bishops continuing blogging their impressions (who would have thought ten years ago at the last Lambeth that bishops would be posting their thoughts on the internet?). My favorite of the day comes from Arkansas Bishop Larry Benfield

Following the brief program, we enjoyed fellowship and lunch in Lambeth Palace Gardens.  I took the time to visit the palace library to enjoy the rich historical documents so important to our communion.  As I saw up close a copy of one of the first Books of Common Prayer and reaquainted myself with some of our history up close and personal, I was once again reminded that this is not the first time that the church has been in conflict.  The way in which we approach our current issues seems to me to be at least as important as how they are resolved.  In fact, we still live with some of the unresolved conflict from the past which is part of who we are.

Later in the afternoon we enjoyed tea with the Queen and her one thousand closest friends.  Standing in the gardens at Buckingham Palace watching the Queen of England make her way through the sea of bishops, I wondered if anyone could have imagined this kind of Anglican Communion in the 16th century.  I wonder, even more, what it will be like at my fifth Lambeth Conference. My role is one of committed wondering.  Ultimately, God will shape the future.  I, for one, am glad it's not up to us.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tea with the Queen, the blogging bishops

Today the bishops are off to tea with the Queen, and then are marching through the streets of London in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to end world poverty. I am still not sure what to make of the juxtaposition of those settings. You can decide for yourself; read about the bishops' Walk of Witness, led by Archbishop Rowan Williams.

I am amazed by all of the bishops who are blogging from Lambeth. I feel as though we have a ringside seat, and even better, we get to hear what the bishops think. Episcopal Cafe has a great daily roundup and is worth checking. Among the more insightful and entertaining blogs is from Alan Wilson, an English bishop. His blog entry today, called The Kingdom as Hawaiian Luau, includes photos and cartoons. Definitely check it out!

Nor are the small and large ironies lost on the bishops. For example, the major news headline for the week was about the primate of Sudan, the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, calling for the resignation of Gene Robinson and his harsh words about the American Episcopal Church. Yet my bishop from Northern California, +Barry Beisner, had breakfast with Bishop Deng Bul, and over the eggs and crumpets the Sudan primate invited Barry to visit Sudan! Meanwhile, the American bishops will be hosting the Sudan bishops to a cocktail party on Saturday. Some bishops have noted on their blogs that the conversation over the white wine will be most interesting and you can bet they will be posting reports on their blogs. 

So onward we plunge, Anglicanism in all its splendor, all its commitment, all of its contradictions and ironies. Keep the bishops in your prayers!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Brian McLaren, a non-denominational evangelist from Maryland, was the featured speaker at Lambeth on Wednesday -- and his words are worth noting. He talked of how Anglicanism is uniquely placed to bring Christ's light and hope to people everywhere, and he pointed out that the Lord's Prayer is focused on making earth like heaven. Check out Brian McLaren's website on your own and the report by Episcopal News Service on his talk to the bishops. The Integrity website also has a very readable account of McLaren's talk. And Bishop Nedi Rivera from Olympia (Seattle) has a fascinating mediation on McLaren's talk.  Maybe we can get Brian to come to Charlottesville?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lambeth update

The sobering news from the Lambeth conference today: Bishops from Sudan are calling for the immediate resignation of Bishop Gene Robinson and the withdrawal from Lambeth of those American bishops who voted for him as bishop of New Hampshire (which presumably would include the bishop who ordained me, Jerry Lamb). This is not likely to happen. Nonetheless, the issue has been joined.  To read the statements of the Sudan bishops, click Thinking Anglicans. Meanwhile, Robinson has been keeping a daily blog which is worth reading. Click Canterbury Tales from the Fringe. You can also view video updates from Presiding Bishop Katharine and others by clicking Episcopal Video.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Enough to go around if none will be greedy

I am very moved reading the sermon given by the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, of the Diocese of Colombo (Sri Lanka), yesterday at Canterbury Cathedral at the Sunday Eucharist for the Anglican bishops convened in the once-a-decade Lambeth conference. You can read the full text and hear his sermon by clicking here: Canterbury sermon. A few words to remember: 

"As I look around and see you, I see this wonderful unity in diversity. Shortly, when the sacrament is administered, lips from numerous countries, numerous nationalities, numerous cultures will touch the same cup. We are united in spite of the fact that we are different, because in Christ we are equal. There's enough to go around if none will be greedy.

Here my dear sisters and brothers is an insight of what the Church is called to be: an inclusive communion, where there is space equally for everyone and anyone, regardless of colour, gender, ability, sexual orientation. Unity in diversity is a cherished Anglican tradition – a spirituality if you like, which we must reinforce in all humility for the sake of Christ and Christ's Gospel."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Canterbury's stone

Many words have been expended about the Lambeth conference underway at Canterbury Cathedral. But the words, so far, have not told me much. The photos are more interesting; I am struck by how the bishops look differently from each other. There is no sameness about them. They don’t all wear the same shade of purple. They look to be in a state of becoming. And they are in a place that is in a constant state of becoming.

Five years ago, Lori and I had the privilege of living for a week at Canterbury Cathedral. Many of the settings in the photos coming from the Lambeth Conference at Canterbury are very familiar. 

One morning while we were living at Canterbury I awoke early and went for a walk around the "precincts" of the great cathedral, and I came upon a stone worker who was taking a break. His name was Peter (pictured above), and I asked him what he was doing.

 "Building the Cathedral," he replied.

 His answer surprised me, so I said: "I thought it was finished."

 "Oh no, the Cathedral is never finished."

Peter explained that, like his father, and his father's father, he would go "round and round" chipping off broken stone and repairing it. The old church is always being made new.The work is never done. Canterbury, this holy of holy places, is always in a state of becoming. What better place for our bishops to be this week? What better place for all of us to be?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Recycling and boxing...

With a break in the Sacramento summer heat, we are back in the garage pitching and sorting. Kinda tedious, but needs to be done. Yesterday, Marilyn Flood, our wonderful senior warden at All Souls, helped me clean the rector's office and box my books (she did most of the boxing); I wheeled the boxes, three at a time, down the street on a hand cart to the post office and mailed them to C'ville. Maybe the boxes will get there by Advent. The paper recyclers are getting windfall out of this move. Meanwhile, UCLA Special Collections today indicated it will accept several boxes of research material I have on hate groups in Southern California in the 1980s. So my alma mater is helping to clean out the garage. Onward we march, heading East of Reno...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lambeth and Rome

With all of the brewing controversy in the Anglican Communion on display at Lambeth this week, one might think that the Vatican would welcome schism in our church. Not so fast. British newspapers report today that the Pope is working behind the scenes to bolster Archbishop Rowan Williams, and has called upon Anglicans to find a "mature" way to avoid schism. The Pope has sent three cardinals as official observers at Lambeth. The reason? The Vatican suspects that those who are divisive within one branch of the Christian Church will remain divisive if they come to another. To read about it click here: The Independent. The Daily Telegraph has a similar report, which you can read by clicking here: The Daily Telegraph.

The Diocese of Virginia is maintaining a very good website with several resources on the Lambeth conference. You access it by clicking here: Lambeth/Virginia. Also, the Archbishop of Canterbury has an official Lambeth website with the daily schedule which you can access by clicking here: Lambeth Daily Schedule. Let me suggest bookmarking all these sites, along with those listed below for the blogging bishops, for the duration.

Meanwhile, our bishops -- some 600 of them -- are cloistered inside of Canterbury Cathedral and its "precincts" in the once-a-decade Lambeth conference. Please keep the bishops -- all of the bishops -- in your prayers. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thanks for a great weekend!

Lori and I had a fabulous weekend meeting so many new friends in Virginia. On Friday we met 75 wonderful people at Westminster-Canterbury, and then we met another couple hundred at Shrine Mont. We learned new names, answered a few questions, and we laughed and danced, and we ate too much food. We had a wonderful weekend. And it was my honor to celebrate my first Eucharist in Virginia in the outdoor sanctuary of Shrine Mont, the official cathedra of the diocese. Thanks to all who made this such a great weekend, and for the warm and genuine greeting.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

We are in Virginia!!

We made it!

We escaped the smoke-smothered Central Valley this morning and arrived here in Charlottesville this afternoon. We've had an amazing feast of crab cakes and the home of Patty Conner and Jeff Gleason, and we look forward to a wonderful weekend meeting as many people as we can. And breathing clean air!
-- Jim & Lori

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Keeping up with Lambeth

The Lambeth gathering of Anglican bishops begins Monday at the University of Kent overlooking Canterbury Cathedral and its environs. Many of the bishops are already there, and more are traveling in the next few days.

This Lambeth conference will get more mainstream news coverage than at anytime in history -- and for good reason. The issues of schism and sexuality, ordination of women bishops in England, the inclusion of LGBT people in the full life of the church, the authority of bishops (or lack thereof), relations with the Roman Catholic Church, and how we read Scripture will be swirling throughout the conference. 

This conference will have more transparency than any major church council since the Fourth Century. One reason is that several bishops will be contributing to daily blogs (a word not in existence at the last Lambeth conference). One of the blogs will be done by eight American bishops who cover the range of geography and theology in the Episcopal Church, including Neff Powell of Southwest Virginia and Marc Andrus of California and Nedi Rivera of Olympia (Seattle). You can read their blog by clicking right here: Lambeth bishops. Also, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who is not an invited guest but who will be present at Kent, is also keeping a blog which you can access by clicking right here: Canterbury Tales from the Fringe.

I am happy to talk about all of this as it progresses, both here on this blog and by email at or by other means (and Lori and I will be with you this weekend!!).

And please keep all of the bishops -- ALL of the bishops -- in your prayers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Who is the greatest among us?

Jesus said, "The greatest among you will be your servant."
-- Matthew 23:11

Martin Luther King was fond of repeating that saying from Jesus, found in the Gospel of Matthew. Dr. King would say, over and over, that all of us can be great because all of us can serve. ALL of us can be great, because ALL of us can serve.

This saying from Jesus comes again to us in this morning's Daily Office readings. As I prepare to depart for a new calling with a new people I pray that I will find a deeper way to serve that will make sense, will resonate in my new place with my new people. And I pray I all of us, as a people gathered together at Prayer and at the Table, will hear a deeper call to greater service to our community and in the world. 

I pray we will grow and learn together how to be great by our being servants especially to the lost and forgotten, the sick and hurting.

I am also mindful that the bishops of the Anglican Communion are gathering this week at Canterbury for the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference. They will come from every corner of the earth, from every race, men and women, liberals and conservatives, Angl0-Catholics and Evangelicals. Much will be made of their "bonds of affection," but in all candor, some intensely dislike and distrust each other.  More eyes are on this conference than ever before in history, not just from within our communion but throughout the world. I dare say more prayers are carrying them than at any time in history. Let us join in those prayers that our bishops -- all of our bishops -- will find a way to greatness by finding a deeper way to serve all of God's children. And may they find a way to listen to the Risen Christ speaking through each other.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Prayer for Independence Day

The California State Senate joined me in this prayer this morning, and I share it with you:

O God, as we approach the celebration our nation’s independence, we give thanks for our freedom and for those who dedicate their lives to the protection of our freedom.  Help us to remember that not all people of this earth enjoy freedom of expression, freedom from want, freedom from pain or freedom from persecution. So guide our minds, so open our hearts and so fill our spirit that we may work with courage and vision on their behalf, and so make us worthy of the freedom we enjoy. Amen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My day with Bishop Robinson

On Tuesday, Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire came to Sacramento for the first time. I played official host to Bishop Robinson in the California State Senate as he met with legislative leaders for about an hour. It was a remarkable conversation about the intersection of religion and public life, ranging far beyond the hot-button issues that have so enveloped our church. Later, he preached to about 400 people at the noon Eucharist at Trinity Cathedral, my home parish, with our own Bishop Barry Beisner presiding. Much of what Bishop Robinson had to say was memorable, but this in particular about God's Kingdom: "We are NOT called to be on the Selection Committee. We are called to be on the Welcome Committee."

This I must say about Bishop Robinson: I found him to be kind, gentle, warm, funny and able to articulate a faith in Jesus that is passionate and clear. I wish those who demonize him would have the chance to meet him. He talked of the death threats he regularly receives, and how he expects to see in Heaven those who hate him. His centeredness was simply remarkable.