a priest's musings on the journey

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Perspectives: Episcopal Church Names First Female Bishop in Cuba





Episcopal church names first woman bishop in Cuba

07.02.2007 Source: URL: http://english.pravda.ru/world/87173-bishop-0

The Episcopal Church has named a woman as bishop in Cuba, the first such appointment by the church in the developing world, church officials said Tuesday.

The Rev. Nerva Cot Aguilera was named suffragan bishop on Sunday during a service in the Cuban city of Matanzas, said Robert Williams, director of communications for the U.S.-based Episcopal Church.

"Nerva will also be the first woman bishop outside the First World, and her appointment is a wonderful reminder that in some nations, leadership is primarily about gifts for service and not about gender," said U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who in November took office as the first female leader of The Episcopal Church.

Cot will be consecrated in Havana on June 10 along with the other newly named suffragan bishop, Ulises Mario Aguiera Prendes.

Cot, 69, told The Associated Press that she was "tremendously honored" but also faces "a great challenge" as the church, with some 10,000 members, moves toward greater national autonomy.

Cuba was a diocese of the U.S. church until 1967, when it was forced to break away because hostility between the U.S. and Cuban governments made contacts difficult and at a time when Cuba's communist leaders were embracing official atheism a stance abandoned in the early 1990s.

It has operated under a Metropolitan Council now chaired by the archbishop of Canada, Andrew Hutchison. It also includes Jefferts Schori and the archbishop of the West Indies.

Cuba's interim bishop, Miguel Tamayo, is also bishop of Uruguay.

As suffragan bishops, Cot and Aguiera will serve under Tamayo. Cot said she will be responsible for western Cuba with Aguiera heading the church in the east a step toward possible establishment of two full dioceses within a few years.

Cot was a secondary school teacher before church reforms permitted her ordination as one of the first three Episcopal women priests in Cuba in 1987. She said her daughter Marianela, who is now studying in Brazil, is the first Cuban woman ordained since then, reports AP.

Cot's husband, Juan Ramon de la Paz Cerezo, is dean of the church's Holy Trinity Cathedral in Havana. One son is a priest and another daughter is an administrator with the church.

Cot said she had not seen the sort of divisions over the ordination of women within Cuba's relatively small church that Anglican communities elsewhere have experienced in recent years.

Williams said that the bishop of the Seattle-based Diocese of Olympia, Washington, the Rt. Rev. Edna Rivera, is also Latin American from Puerto Rico but has spent her entire life in the United States.


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:: posted by Padre Rob+, 10:17 AM | link | 0 comments |

Perspectives: Some Thoughts on Presiding Bishop Katherine's Webcast

My initial reaction to Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori's response to the Primates' Communique and her call for a period of fasting was one of hurt and betrayal. I still see it unfair to ask the GLBT community in the Church to bear the greatest burden of a fast which would prevent them from receiving access to all of the Sacraments and would prevent them from participating in all levels of ministry in the Church. However, Her Grace is clear, that this Church will not be going backwards in its affirmation that all human beings have been clained by God as God's beloved, regardless of orientation, color of skin, gender, etc. The Episcopal Church will continue to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation, inclusion, and equality. Nonetheless, at this point in our life together, Her Grace feels we need to pause; we need time and space for listening, so that we can clearly hear the voice of God and together more clearly discern the direction that the Holy Spirit is leading us. If I am hearing her correctly, my sense is that pastoral care to all in the Church will continue as neccesary on the local level; but, the larger church needs time to clarify God's call and mission to us, and to discover, by the help of the Holy Spirit, ways to move forward together. She compares this season with Jesus agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked the disciples to wait and pray. During this season of uncertainty and discernment, we are called to wait and to pray; to wait on God to guide and reconcile in God's time.

I was struck by her comment of what true inclusivity means for us as the Body of Christ. If we are to be truly inclusive, then we must make room at the Table for those who disagree with us. As I see it, Christ has already made room for each of us. So, what we are really called to do is come and take our place at the Table, and not refuse to gather around it when we see others there who are different than us or who experience the Gospel in different ways. Our great gift during this time, is the opportunity to see the image of God and to hear the voice of Christ in the persons with whom we most profoundly disagree. This comes through gracious listening and sharing together in common mission. Our only hope for unity lies in our ability to receive this gift, and to reclaim our Anglican ability to gather together in worship and mission with those who hear the voice of God speaking a bit differently. It is when all of these interpretaions of God's voice come together that the fullness of the Body of Christ is manifest. Some in the Anglican Communion are no longer able or willing to live in such a tension of diversity. Bishop Jefferts-Schori asks us to learn to be patient as we learn how to include those who are struggling to live with diversity of thought in the Church. Impatience, she says "is an idol, a false hope unwilling to wait on God ofr clarity. An idol that fails to expect that the Spirit will lead us into all truth." Our response is to lead those who need clear answers now to a place of love, where fear is absent and where God's healing grace can be experienced.

Part of our committment to inclusive listening involves not only listening to the grief and suffering of others who disagree with us, but also involves ourbeing able to articulately tell our story, and to firmly ground it in God's Story. Bishop Jefferts-Schori pointed out that as Anglicans we test what we believe is the voice of God through the lenses of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Those of us who have heard the Holy Spirit calling us to acknowledge the baptismal identities of GLBT Christians as full and equal members of Christ's Body have done a good job appealing to reason. However, we need to more thoroughly wrestle with Scripture and Tradition and hear affirmation to our perception of the Gospel in those places. Her Grace acknowledges that this is essential if we expect certain members in the Communion who read the Scriptures differently to hear us and our understandings of what God is saying today. We also need to find ways to be engaged together in common mission, as it is in the midst of mission that opportunities for "conversions of understanding" can occur.

She also calls us to find a way to "lower our emotional reactivity" in the midst of this controversy in order to find a way to live together. She says that our intensity about these issues hinders our ability to find resolution. We need space and time to allow a "non-violent" response to operate which will create a "life-giving resolution" to emerge in God's way and in God's time.

I must confess that I often have trouble waiting on God to work in God's time. I want answers yesterday. Yet, I know that Bishop Katherine is right. She is not asking us to take steps backward. She is not asking us to sacrifice pastoral care for anyone. She is calling us to "be still and know that God is GOd". She is calling us to slow down, to be patient, to be quiet in order to hear that still, small voice that the Spirit is whispering amid the clamor of this controversy- that quiet voice in which we are able to discover how to journey together, pray together, worship together, and serve together, even if we can not agree on all issues. Time and space is needed in order to find a way to be both an Inclusive Church and a United Church. Patience is needed in order to keep everyone at the Table and to refocus our energies back to mission and service in the world.

++++++++

You can listen to the webcast
here

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:26 AM | link | 2 comments |

Monday, February 26, 2007

Perspectives: A Sermon by The Rev. Mel White "God Loves You. Period."









:: posted by Padre Rob+, 7:58 AM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Perspectives: The Rev Canon Francisco de Assis Silva, Anglican Church in Brazil, Reflects on Primates' Communique

Reflections on Dar-es-Salaam

by the Rev. Canon Francisco de Assis Silva
Provincial Secretary - The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil
Translated from http://xicoassis.blogspot.com/ by Luiz Coelho

At a recent presentation elaborated by the Rev. Dr. Carlos Calvani, of
which I had the honor of presenting in Berkeley, before an audience of
American Episcopalians, I reaffirmed that the Anglican Communion
needed to re-discover the authentic meaning of communion and get over
the illusion that the rationality embedded in certain "consentual
textual instruments" could be the warranty of unity of this part of
the Church of Christ.

Even (after)having told that to an audience that was very heterogeneous
(theologically speaking), their reaction was of a complete empathy
with the pre-supposition that a communion is made of feelings in much
more a horizontal rather than a vertical dimension of truths built by
reason.

Sadly, this dichotomy ended up winning at the Primates' meeting, in
Dar-es-Salaam, last week. Their final document simply submits an
important part of the Anglican Communion to a scrutiny that
reminds me of the famous papal edicts of the Middle Ages, against those who
would dare to think differently. The "liberals", as they are commonly
called, have a fixed date to formally apologize for their pastoral
excesses.

Normally I use this space here for political and everyday analysis.
Rarely I use it for expressing specifically theological opinions.
However, I would have the freedom of expressing, at the beginning of
the liturgical Lenten time, my deep sadness for such a huge step back
in a process I would call the hermeneutical journey of the Church. I
affirm peremptorily here the exclusive personality of my opinion,
detached from any institutional role I represent. It is the opinion
of a theologian who insists on believing that the Gospel is made of
inclusion and caressing of all people.

Instead of being concerned with the issues that really disqualify our
world, such as poverty, war, aggressions to the environment, among so
many urgent ones, they keep spending words and money being concerned
about their peers who have advanced in the comprehension that people
who have a sexual orientation that is different from heterosexuality
are equal beyond God and are also equal in their beloved God's
service.

And this is just because the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church
of Canada have decided to advance with respect to the way with which
homosexuals are treated among their jurisdictions.

An uncertain future is before the Anglican Communion. And it is sad
to realize that the climate of confrontation now comes to
ecclesiastical discipline, which means power and a not very adequate
use of it for maintaining the "neurosis of the discursive correction
of the faith".

As I have commented somewhere else, the communion is broken. The fact
that some conservatives refuse to take part of the Eucharistic table
with their equals is an irreversible symptom that the Anglican
Communion is agonizing.

Unfortunately, some of the primates - fundamentalists and sexists -
have twisted the Church's agenda: from serving the world to a negative
focus on sexuality. The world expects much more from the Church than
value judgments or correct dogmatic formulas. This is part of the Age
of Reason, that has shown to be innocuous as a tool for struggling
with the real dilemmas of humankind!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

It is such a great comfort to me to realize that there are some voices in the Global South that are struggling with the "real dilemmas of humankind". I've had the pleasure of getting to know some of my brothers and sisters from this part of our Communion, and I know them to be committed to fighting poverty, homelessness, homophobia, and other social justice issues. There are missions and preaching points in the midst of slums and in the streets, where sometimes the Mass is said and the Gospel is proclaimed amid gunshots and gang fights. One parish is trying to start a music school for poor children in its slum. One is feeding the homeless with sandwiches and the Holy Eucharist. This is kingdom work. These are the needs that demand our energies and attention. Thank you Canon Francisco de Assis Silva for challenging the rest of the communion to not forget about our Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel and to break the yoke of the oppressed.

While I'm thinking about the voices from the Global South, let me recommend a book edited by Bishop Terry Brown, Other Voices, Other Worlds: The Global Church Speaks Out on Homosexuality. This book shatters the myth that there is a homogenious anti-gay voice in the Global South. It tells the truth that gays, Christian gays, live and minister in every part of the world. This book takes a look the debate from the perspective of theologians and clergy from the developping world. You can Find it at any major book seller.

Also, take a look at the blog of Luiz Coelho, who translated Canon Francisco de Assis Silva's blog into English. He writes occassional reflections from a third world, Anglican, progressive perspective. He is currently a seminarian in the Brazilian Church, working with the Church in the Streets in Rio, Christ the King Mission in the City of God slum, and is an active parishioner in his home parish Church of the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. You can read his thoughts
here<

I'll work on a list of other great bloggers from the Global South and publish them here later.

Peace and blessings,
padrerob+
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:14 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, February 23, 2007

Perspective: Presiding Bishop Schori briefs the Church Center (mp3)

Click here

to hear Presiding Bishop Schori's briefing at the Church Center.

I was very upset by her earlier suggestion that we fast what I see as justice. However, after listneing to her today, I am feeling a bit more at ease. I am beginning to see rays of hope. Her Grace makes some good points.

God lead us to find the way for inclusion for all people in the Communion of Anglican Churches. We can have communion and inclusion.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:15 PM | link | 0 comments |

Perspectives: The Rt Rev Michael Curry, Bishop of NC Responds to the Primates' Communique

February 22, 2007

Some Preliminary Thoughts from The Bishop after the meeting of the Primates

of the Anglican Communion in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I want to share some preliminary thoughts after the recent meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Dar es Salaam. I am not seeking to address the issues and substance of the communiqué of the Primates, or the implications of it. Rather I want to suggest a frame work for faithfully, carefully and pastorally walking through this moment of history in our world and church.

First, while this may seem self evident, I encourage us all to read very carefully, and indeed, prayerfully, the documents and statements that have emerged from the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion. In moments of deep conviction and difference I find it helpful to step back, slow down, breathe deeply, and ponder slowly. It is important to hear what is and isn’t being said. Further, the communiqué is a highly nuanced document, and it will take some time and reflection by us all to understand a reasonably shared interpretation of what it is actually saying.

At this point there are four key documents, all of which can be found on the Anglican Communion News Service and Episcopal News Service. Links to these can be found at the conclusion of this letter.

The Primates Communiqué
The February 20, 2007 press conference of the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Reflection of the Presiding Bishop following the meeting
The draft of the Anglican Covenant
In particular I encourage us all to read the careful reflection of our Presiding Bishop and Primate, Bishop Katherine. One of the reasons I will not make premature public judgments about the meaning of all of this is that it will be important for me to hear directly from our Primate, as she was present at the council, and also, as I trust her wisdom and judgment. Hearing and discernment of the mind of Christ happens in the community of the body of Christ. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18:20) Therefore I look forward to hearing from our Executive Council which meets from March 2-4, and await the assembly of the House of Bishops, March 17-22, where my ears will be open and my voice will be heard.

Second, we must prayerfully and carefully allow the councils of the Episcopal Church, the House of Bishops and the Executive Council to think through, deliberate, pray over and seek to discern that which is a faithful response for us to the actual, not the perceived, request of the Windsor Report and the Primates Communiqué. Through our various councils working together, we as the Episcopal community, seek to hear the voice of Jesus and follow our best understanding of his way and will. We must trust these councils of the church.

Third, and this is a more extended reflection, I am convinced that we must see this in a broader context of our church struggling to be faithful to its gospel calling to be a church that is truly catholic. This struggle may, as similar struggles in the past, lead us as the church to a new awareness of God’s purposes among us. Let me say a bit more about that.

Earlier this morning I was re-reading an essay reflecting on the late Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s book, The Gospel and the Catholic Church. It has been some years since I first read Lord Ramsey’s book, and my copy has been lost. Unfortunately it is out of print. But this essay reminded me of one of the Archbishop’s clear insights and affirmations. The church catholic has been called into being and given life by the Gospel, the Good News of God, disclosed in Jesus the Christ.

That is part of the message of the Day of Pentecost. On Pentecost people of various tribes and nations, representing the whole of humanity, were enabled by the Spirit to hear and declare the Good News of God in their various tongues (Acts 2:11). In that experience the church catholic, a community of faith embracing and yet transcending the varieties and differences, all sorts and conditions of our humanity, was born. The living out of the Gospel of Jesus is what gave rise to the catholic church.

This was a stunning and critical moment in human history, but the implications of that only unfolded over time, with great struggle and difficulty. For example, the inclusion of Gentiles in what was essentially a Jewish movement provoked a major crisis in the church. In this act of inclusion ethnic, social, cultural and religious boundaries, customs and traditions were crossed. Read the accounts of that struggle to include Gentiles (Acts 10-15).

In time it became clear that the Spirit of God unleashed in the teachings and life of Jesus, clearly challenged prevailing understandings of the traditions of Judaism to move beyond the surface of the tradition to the depth of the tradition where God’s purpose and intention might be discovered. That crisis was not resolved quickly, or easily, or without great pain. One need only read Paul’s tension filled narrative composed years later, recounting his clash with Peter over how to practically live out the catholic impulse of the Gospel in terms of how Jewish and Gentile Christians should relate to each other (see Gal. 2:11-21).

That early crisis, in time, led to a stunning breakthrough, the emergence of the church catholic, the body of Christ, embracing and including a variety and diversity of nations and peoples, transcending social, ethnic, cultural, national, tribal, ideological differences in a unity born of baptism into the body of Jesus Christ.

We may be living through a very similar period in the history of the church, and indeed in the life of the world. Now the living out of our catholicity as a church may be in tension with itself. On the one hand to be a catholic church means that we are part of the body of Christ, universal, embracing, through baptism into Christ, many peoples and nations. This catholic conviction of the Gospel is what lies behind the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28:19, 20). Our Anglican heritage and expression of catholic Christianity is our way of participating in the church catholic.1

And yet, on the other hand, that very Gospel based catholic impulse is the one that calls us to be a community that welcomes, embraces and includes all the baptized holding the faith of Jesus. “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28) Seeking to live out this very gospel based conviction of our catholicity in the American context has brought us as the Episcopal Church in tension with many of our brothers and sisters in the world wide Anglican Communion.

We are in the midst of trying to work out what it means and how to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ. We are struggling, as Peter and the first church did, to figure out the way that follows in the footsteps of Jesus. We are laboring to be what Jesus intended when he said, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” (Mk. 11:17)

That Gospel vision is not one quickly attained or easily realized. The arduous task of faith in a time such as this is to labor on diligently in the daily work of the Gospel that is ours, to engage prayerfully the issues before us in our church, and at the same time to wait patiently.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Your brother in Christ,

+Michael



1 There are two tangible expressions of this Anglican heritage of catholic Christianity. One is the historic episcopate, the apostolic succession of bishops, and the continuity of apostolic ministry thereby exercised through all orders of the ministry of the baptized (lay people, deacons, priests, bishops). That is why the consecration of Samuel Seabury and the establishment of an American episcopate (via the Church of Scotland), clearly in apostolic succession, was critical to the establishment of the Episcopal Church as a catholic church, and not merely as a sectarian movement in America after the Revolutionary War. The other expression of our Anglican heritage of catholic Christianity is our communion with the See of Canterbury and our sharing in the life and mission of the Anglican Communion as a contemporary practical expression of the Anglican branch of Christ one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. We are part of the universal body of Christ extended around the globe and beyond time to the saints in glory.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 7:41 PM | link | 0 comments |

Sermonette: Lent 1 C Feb 25, 2007 The Great Temptation



Luke 4:1-13

4Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.



This all too familiar story from the life of Jesus is often seen as Jesus’ great test: his temptation to yield to Satan’s temptations to sin, and his victory over those temptations. Jesus has just emerged from the baptismal waters of the Jordan, where the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him and he had heard the voice of God declaring that this was his beloved Son in whom he was pleased. This same Spirit immediately drove Jesus to the desert for a time of preparation and spiritual reflection. Here Jesus fasted and prayed and grappled with his identity and the work he was called to do. At the climax of his spiritual quest, Satan came to him, tempted him to take the easy road and offered an alternative way for Jesus to live out His mission in the world. Jesus identity was not in question. Even Satan conceded that he was the Son of God. Satan’s temptation was not for Jesus to deny his identity as the Son of God. However, Satan wanted to tempt Jesus to consider changing the implications of what that meant for Jesus and his work in the world. He wanted Jesus to compromise just a bit so that the work of God would not be fully accomplished. With each temptation Jesus not only affirmed his identity, but he also affirmed his intention to be obedient to the mission that God had claimed for him. Jesus refused to compromise and to take the easy road to Messiah-ship. He refused to acknowledge the Temptor’s attempt to frustrate the saving work he was called to accomplish.


During these days of Lent, each of us is confronted with a desert experience in which we are called to spend time with the Spirit in order to grapple with our identities and callings. We too have been filled with the Holy Spirit and claimed as God’s own beloved sons and daughters through the waters of baptism. We have been united to Christ, grafted into his body, and commissioned to carry out the work he began. We too are faced with temptations to short cut God’s work, to take the easy road, to do just enough Gospel work to make us look like followers of Jesus Christ and to be engaged in mission just enough to salve our consciences and ease our guilt. We are challenged during Lent to reaffirm our identity as God’s beloved, as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, and as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. We are called to recommit ourselves to the work that God has called us to do- to re-evaluate our gifts and our stewardship of them.

At this point in our corporate life, the Episcopal Church is being challenged to affirm its mission and identity as a part of Christ’s Body. We are being tempted to compromise our mission; to give up part of what God dreams for us to be; to accept an identity that is less than the vision and promise that God has for us. We are being tempted to allow ourselves to be shaped by the values and mission of the world, because it is becoming to hard to allow ourselves to be stretched by the values and mission of the Kingdom of God, of which we are called to be ambassadors. As we wrestle with who God has called us to be and how the Holy Spirit is guiding us to represent God and His Realm in the earth, we too find ourselves in the wilderness, called to a fast, called to prayer and discernment. The Primates have asked us to clarify what we have heard the Voice in the Cloud declare unto us. Our Presiding Bishop has asked us to be patient and to fast same sex blessings and ordinations of coupled gays and lesbians for a season, I suppose as a sign of good will and a sign of our willingness to listen. But, which voice is catching our attention? The voice that is rooted in fear and calls us to a mission of excluding those from the life of the Church who are different from us? The voice of tyranny which calls us to a mission of oppressing the minority and denying blessing to some who are raising their cups to draw from the well of grace? Or will we listen to the voice of Christ and his call for us to proclaim the gospel to the poor, to liberate the oppressed, and to set the prisoners free?

Yes, it is time to proclaim a fast. But a fast that oppresses and excludes anyone from the River of God’s grace that freely flows from the Throne of God is unacceptable to God. The fast that is acceptable to God is the fast of our fears, our selfishness, our hatred, our pride, our self-centeredness. It is a fast that loves mercy and does justice. How can we claim to affirm God’s acceptance of us and God’s call for us to participate in his mission of reconciliation when we back away from the full vision of God’s calling? How can we claim to be the Body of Christ when we are willing to place the shackles of fear and exclusion back on the hands and feet of gays and lesbians as we contemplate whether or not we will carry on the liberating work of the Liberating Christ? How can we hear God call us to be a House of Prayer to All People, and then shut the door to gays and lesbians for a season, until we figure out what to do with them?

The Primates are right. It is time for clarity. Although they tempt us to take a step back from the mission to which we have been called, it is time for us to humbly accept and to boldly proclaim God’s commission to us. It is time to take a stand and to say we are a Church that welcomes whosoever will come; we are a Church that loosens the chains of oppression, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, shelters the homeless, comforts the sick, welcomes the outcast, and loves every human being unconditionally and totally. It is time to be clear, that we intend to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and invite all to the waters of life. It is time to make it clear that we will bar no one from the Table of grace, that every person has a seat at the Lamb’s High Feast, that everyone is welcome to come have fellowship with God and God’s people. It is time to be clear that we are a people motivated, empowered, claimed, and identified by love; and when we cease to love, we cease to be the living Body of Christ. When we yield to the temptations to conform just a little to the values of the world, when we exclude just one person, we cease to be who God had claimed us to be, and God’s work in the world is diminished.

When I was in the Pentecostal Church, we used to sing a song:

Jesus breaks every fetter
Jesus breaks every fetter
Jesus breaks every fetter
And he sets us free

Now is the moment of decision. Will we proclaim the release of the captives? Will we lead the oppressed through the liberating waters of the Jordan River into the glorious redemptive freedom of the Promised Land? Or will we turn our backs on them, place the fetters back on the ones who have already tasted freedom in Christ and dam the waters of grace for the oppressed still crying out for deliverance? Will we be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, or will we succumb to the temptations a false Messiah, who only wants to offer grace to an exclusive group of privileged chosen ones? Now is the moment for us to raise our voices and declare that we are the sons and daughters of God, and that we will not be dissuaded, that we shall not be moved, that we will not turn back, that we will not give up, that we will not stop loving and proclaiming the Gospel until all come within the saving embrace of the Lord of Love.

Let it be so. Amen.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:26 AM | link | 2 comments |

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Perspective: A True Fast: The Church in the Streets in the Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro



As US conservatives and Fundamentalist Global South Primates waste time and resources on keeping certain people (read gays, the poor, the homeless, etc.) out of their church, these Global South Anglicans in the Diocese of Rio de Janeiro are using their precious resources to proclaim the good news to the poor, and to announce that in the Church of Christ the Liberator all are welcome. With all this talk about a season of fasting, it seems to me these Anglicans in Rio have allowed the Holy Spirit to teach them how to make a fast that is acceptable to God:

(Isaiah 58: 5-11)
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.


I suggest that we all offer our prayers and support to our brothers and sisters in Rio who are taking the work of the Gospel seriously. If you'd like to make a financial contribution to this ministry, you may write the diocesan offices at:

Rua Fonseca Guimarães, 12 - Santa Teresa - Rio de Janeiro - RJ -
Brasil
Cep:20240-260

Don't just give up chocolate this Lent: DO JUSTICE!
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:22 AM | link | 1 comments |

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Persepctive: We love or we die



"These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." Lyndon Johnson, after W.H. Auden's poem, September 1, 1939

How much more are we in the Church called to make a Church in which all of God's children can belong, pray, worship, serve, grow,and recieve grace, love, nurture, support and healing!! We either love each other, or we quench the Holy Spirit, the giver of Life. We either welcome everyone, or we turn Christ away with the ones we exclude. We treat each other with dignity, respect, and mutual forbearance, serving Christ in each other, or we are living some lifestyle other than Christian discipleship and we are worshipping some idol other than the God of love known to us in Jesus Christ.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 7:11 PM | link | 0 comments |

Perpective: Thoughts on the Presiding Bishop's Call to a Season of Fasting

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. Philippians 2:1-15


This ancient Christian hymn embedded in this excerpt from St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians describes the essence of what the Christian life looks like. The core value of Christian discipleship is self-emptying, sacrificial love; the same humble attributes that were manifested in Christ, who for the sake of love for all of creation was willing to embrace the hard wood of the cross, so that through his suffering, God would triumph over evil. Jesus himself taught that if we wanted to follow him we would have to deny ourselves and carry our own cross. He taught that the essential attribute of discipleship is love: we are called to love God and our neighbor as we love ourselves. St Paul fleshes out this commandment to love a bit further in the Epistle to the Philippians by admonishing us to inculcate a humility which “regards others as better than ourselves” and looks after the interests of others. In so doing we are exalted by God, as Christ has been, to “shine like stars in the world,” scattering the darkness of sin and evil and illuminating the world with the brilliance of the love of God which empowers and sustains us.

Having already been called to a life of sacrificial love and having already committed to live this life with an affirmation of the baptismal covenant, I understand that the Gospel of Love calls me to make personal sacrifices for the greater good. It is only within this context that I understand what
Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori is asking us to do when she calls us to a season of fasting and abstinence for the greater good. I am, in fact, willing to make sacrifices for the health and welfare of the body of Christ; however, there are some observations concerning this call to a fast that I feel need to be made.

First of all, it is all to easy for the heterosexuals in the Episcopal Church to agree to abstain from blessing same sex unions and from ordaining gays and lesbians who have been called to serve God’s Church as deacons, priests, and bishops. What kind of sacrifice is that for them? How can that in any way be considered an act of abstinence for them? If gay Christians are being called to such a great sacrifice, then heterosexual Christians should be called to an equally sacrificial self-emptying, for the sake of bringing healing to the larger Body of Christ.

Yet, thus far, there seems to be no call for the heterosexual members of the Church to bear the burdens of the gay members. What sacrifices will they make? How will the stoop down to shoulder a bit of the weight of the cross that gay Christians are being asked to bear?

The Presiding Bishop compared the disagreement with gay inclusion with the controversy over eating meat in the early Christian community. She writes, “In those early communities, the meat available for purchase in the public market was often part of an animal that had been offered (in whole or in part) in sacrifice in various pagan religious rites. The troubling question in the Christian community was whether or not it was appropriate to eat such meat - was it tainted by its involvement in pagan religion? Did one participate in that religion (and thus commit apostasy) by eating it? Paul encourages the Christians in Rome and Corinth to recall that, while there may be no specific prohibition about eating such meat, the sensitive in the community might refrain if others would be offended. The needs of the weaker members, and the real possibility that their faith may be injured, are an important consideration in making the dietary decision.”

It is with this controversy and its solution in view that she calls us to a season of fasting. The difference, however, is that in the Pauline Church, the strong were asked to abstain out of love and regard for the weak. Now, the oppressed are being asked to abstain out of love and regard for the oppressor. Of course the very notion is iconic of Christ,

Once again gay Christians are being offered as an oblation for the sake of “the greater good”. We are all being called to a season of fasting, but only the gay members of Christ’s body are suffering. Gay Christians are being asked to bear the weight of this cross alone. And they will bear it; once again gay Christians will place themselves in the wounded hands of the Crucified Christ, and offer themselves with Christ on the hard wood of the cross in order to draw all humankind into the saving God’s saving embrace. Gay Christians will humble themselves and deny their baptismal right to be full participants in the life of the church. Gay Christians will fast the blessing of the Church on their loving, committed, monogamous relationships. Gay Christians will submit to being excluded from consideration for service as a bishop in the Church. Gay Christians will offer themselves in sacrifice for the greater good because Christ has called his followers to lay down their lives for others. Christ has called his followers to love their enemies; and if we must love our enemies, how much more are we to live sacrificial lives for the love of brothers and sisters. Gay Christians will enter into this season of fasting, knowing that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy will come in the morning,” realizing that while it might be Good Friday, in some days Easter will come. They can endure a period of not receiving the sacramental grace offered by the Church in the blessing of their unions, because they know that the Church’s refusal to celebrate sacramental grace for them can not bind the Holy Spirit nor prevent God from giving His blessing to them in abundant grace. Gay Christians can make this fast, trusting that even if the Church excludes them, God will never abandon His beloved and nothing will ever be able to separate any of us from the love of God. Gay Christians will walk the way of the Cross, because Jesus has asked his followers to love one another as he has loved us; and that means loving those who persecute, exclude, and oppress.

As for me, I have decided to find power and grace in this cross and in this fast. I will not be a victim; I will not be cast aside. I have recently discovered the tucum ring. It is a simple black ring made from the nuts of the Brazilian tucum palm by indigenous Indians and worn by the poor who can not afford gold rings and by those who choose its beauty over the beauty of a gold band in order to stand in solidarity with the oppressed poor. The tucum ring is a sign, a sacrament even, of God’s resistance of everything that is inhumane. It is a sign of the wearer’s commitment to stand up against injustice, oppression, sin, and all that disrespects the dignity of any of God’s beloved. It is a sign of hope that God will liberate the oppressed and relieve the pain of those who suffer. I wear it as a reminder that I am one with all who suffer injustice in the world for whatever reason, because we are all bound together in Christ. When one suffers, we all suffer; when one is rejected, we all have been excluded; when one is mistreated, we all are humiliated. I wear it because when one child of God is denied the sacraments, I am denied that same sacrament. When a committed, loving, gay couple is turned away from the altar and denied sacramental grace, then I have been denied grace as well; I wear the tucum ring because we are married to oppression until the Institutional Church acknowledges the liberation that God in Christ has already given all of God’s beloved. I wear the black ring because it reminds me that God is on the side of the oppressed, that God hears the cries of the poor, and that God is present, suffering and emptying out Himself in love in the midst of oppression and injustice. I wear the ring to remind me of the mystery that suffering and oppression somehow contribute to my sanctification and somehow enable me to be a bit more like God. I find comfort in the words of St. Peter of Damascus:

..the more a man is found worthy to receive God's gifts, the more he ought to consider himself a debtor to God, who has raised him from the earth and bestowed on dust the privilege of imitating to some degree its Creator and God. For to endure injustice with joy, patiently to do good to one's enemies, to lay down one's own life for one's neighbor, and so on, are gifts from God, bestowed on those who are resolved to receive them from Him through their solicitude in cultivating and protecting what has been entrusted to them, as Adam was commanded to do (cf. Gen. 2:15)." (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 176)

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 12:38 PM | link | 9 comments |

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sermonette: True Repentance



Ash Wednesday
2007- St Thomas Reidsville, NC

Tonight we begin a spiritual journey that the Church has taken since ancient times; a Lenten pilgrimage in which we re-member and make present in our lives the life, sufferings, and sacrifices our Lord Jesus made for all of us. Since the time of Gregory the Great, the Church has participated in this 40 day penitential fast, in remembrance of Our Lord’s 40 days of fasting and temptation in the desert. It’s a season of simplicity and austerity- even our liturgy reflects this with the removal of words and songs of praise, for example. During these days we make small sacrifices in our daily lives and attempt to incorporate newer practices and behaviors rooted in love and justice in our daily living. Some of us give up chocolate, or alcohol, or meat and we take on new behaviors like volunteering in a soup kitchen, spending more time in prayer and bible study, or visiting the sick. We spend time reflecting on our personal lives and behaviors to see in which ways we being faithful- or not being faithful- to our baptismal covenant and to our call as Christ’s disciples to love God and neighbor as we love ourselves.

We begin this 40 day season of penitence by acknowledging what sin has done to us as human beings; we kneel and receive ashes on our foreheads as we hear the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” For a moment, each of us is forced to contemplate our mortality- to come face to face with the final result of our rebellion against God. In the context of this contemplation on our mortality, the Church calls us to repentance. This act of repentance is not a self-loathing, self-deprecating act by which we punish ourselves for sinning by taking on penitential sacrifices throughout Lent. Where is Grace in that? Repentance, in its truest biblical and theological sense simply means to turn around or to turn away. For us, repentance is like making a u-turn. We turn away from the path that leads to death, we reject the consequences of sin and evil that we come to face with at the imposition of ashes, and we begin walking on the path that leads to the life that God in Christ offers us.

That is why, as we submit to receiving the ashes as a public sign of our repentance, we are marked with the sign of the cross- well more precisely, the priest traces on our foreheads the mark of the cross that is already there- that sign of the cross with which we were sealed by the Holy Spirit at our baptisms and marked as Christ’s own forever. So, as we reflect upon our mortality, we also see the hope of abundant and true life in God, through the triumph of the cross of Christ. We see the death that is trying to claim us because of sin, but we also see that we have already been claimed by God as God’s own forever, and we remember that because we belong to God, we are loved by an everlasting compassion, and embraced by an eternal mercy… and that there is nothing, not even death, that can separate us from the love of God.

It is this awareness that we belong to God and are unconditionally and completely loved by Him, that empowers us to reorient our lives to allow that spark of Christ within us to radiate God’s love into the dark, cold world around us. Since we belong to God and are in fact a part of Christ, our behaviors begin to imitate Christ’s, as we progress along the road of repentance. More and more we turn away from those behaviors which diminish love in others- leading to death- and we incorporate those behaviors which love and affirm the dignity and worth of others- leading to abundant life.

During Lent, we give alms, say more prayers, abstain from certain foods and pleasures so that we can free ourselves from the distractions of the world long enough to be attentive- at least for these days- to the progress we are making in our pilgrimage to live the life of Christ. We more intentionally practice being Christ for others during Lent, so that when Easter comes, we can celebrate the mystery of our incorporation into the resurrected life of Christ and more fully participate in God’s desire to reverse the consequences of sin and offer life to all. We contemplate death with ashes and crosses this evening, so that we can leave this place empowered to produce works in our lives that are life-giving, merciful, and just. This is not to obtain favor from God or to find salvation. Rather, it is to joyfully and lovingly be present in the world as the life-giving body of Christ- as ambassadors of Christ and of God’s kingdom in the world. We abstain from food and pleasures, not merely to say we are sorry for our sins, although that is part of why we make penance- but we abstain to feel part of what Christ suffered for us and experience a bit of how Christ continues to suffer in the world today. We fast to make ourselves aware that in some places Christ is hungry, cold, naked, and sick- and to remind ourselves that the true fast that God accepts is to love mercy and to do justice.

As ambassadors of Christ, we recommit our lives to bearing witness the values of God’s kingdom. During Lent we examine our lives and our behaviors in order to allow the Holy Spirit to show us how to more fully represent the God of love and mercy in the world in which we live. Ultimately, this season is a fast of all of those things which turn us away from loving God and loving others- its is a fast which is meant to open our eyes to see those things which are blinding us from seeing Christ around us. It is a fast meant to prepare us to recommit to the values of God’s Kingdom as we renew the vows of our baptismal covenant on Easter Day.

I call you to a holy Lent. May the Spirit of love, mercy, and life be with you during these days, guiding you down the path of true repentance, and leading you to the source of mercy and justice, the God of grace in whom we all have been reconciled to eternal life in Jesus Christ.

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:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:14 PM | link | 1 comments |