"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Twelve Days of Convention (or "Thank God Convention is only one day") (Moved)

On the first day of convention my church gave to me a lawsuit from 815.


On the second day of convention my church gave to me two deposed bishops (Schofield and Duncan, of course)
and a lawsuit from 815.


On the third day of convention my church gave to me three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815.


On the fourth day of convention my church gave to me four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815.


On the fifth day of Convention my church gave to me five golden patens... no wait, they took those.
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815.


On the sixth day of Convention my church gave to me six MDG's
five golden chalises... no wait, they took those too.
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815.


On the seventh day of Convention my church gave to me seven bloggers blogging
six MDG's
five golden thuribles... oops, no they were taken too.
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815.


On the 8th day of Convention my church gave to me eight empty promises
seven bloggers blogging
six MDG's
five golden offering plates... oh, they took those too??? drat.
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815


On the 9th day of convention my church gave to me nine press releases
eight empty promises
seven bloggers bloggin
six MDG's
five golden candlesti---... Oh, not those too.
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815


On the tenth day of convention my church gave to me ten empty buildings
nine press releases
eight empty promises
seven bloggers blogging
six MDG's
five pieces of missing altarware (there, is that more accurate?)
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815


On the eleventh day of convention my church gave to me eleven lawyers suing
ten empty buildings
nine press releases
eight empty promises
seven bloggers blogging
six MDG's
five pieces of missing altarware
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops
and a lawsuit from 815


On the twelfth day of convention my church gave to me... (deep breath... ready? let's go for it!)
twelve StandFirm comments
eleven lawyers suing
ten empty buildings
nine press releases
eight empty promises
seven bloggers blogging
six MDG's
five pieces of missing altarware
four angry wardens
three pre-convention hearings
two deposed bishops...
....and a lawsuit from 815!!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

(moved)

God and the Convention willing, today will be my last Sunday in the Episcopal Church. It comes very close to the point at which I can claim half my life was spent here. wow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In Two Weeks (moved)

In two weeks time, this will all be over. Nothing about my church life will look like it does today. None of the stresses I currently have will be relevant. I'm sure there will be some new stresses, but the current ones have an end date. My parish, my diocese, my province... none of it will look the same. In some ways, that's a relief. I've pretty much had it. I'm tired. It's time to end this and move on. But in some ways its really sad. Parting ways with friends is never good. And some friends I'm sure won't be able to see ways to maintain the friendship past the fork in the road. And we are giving TEC up for lost. I am glad some of my brothers are able to stay behind and fight for the souls TEC has kidnapped into her agenda. Perhaps these brothers are stronger than I am. And more than anything, what will happen in the next two weeks is awesome... in the old fashioned since of awe inducing. This is the moment. Plant a flag for Jesus or don't plant any flag at all, folks. Or as the bishop has so often said, we must "be ourselves at our best."

It's gone on for so long, I find it hard to believe that it is coming to an end. Sunday, will be my last Eucharist in TEC, God willing. TEC was a home to me when I needed one, but I know what it looks like when it's time to move on. I moved on once before from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). There was no big vote then, no mass movement. It was just me, moving on. It wasn't sudden; there were no milestones and big dates. I just slipped quietly out. But one thing is common to both, this overwhelming feeling that I want more. More Scripture, more tradition, more godly fellowship and spiritual growth. More.

May you, too, receive more.

And Now for Something Completely Different (moved)

Because I'm tired of obscessing over the Church... here's a little something I've had in the works for a while and thought I'd share here. It's just a little thing about adoption.


Annie Maw: A Foster Mother’s Legacy

Her name was Annie and she was my great-grandmother. I never questioned that relationship. I never even gave it a second thought when, as a child, she told me about being born on 25 December, 1897 and how she never liked having her birthday on Christmas Day because you never got as many gifts as you would if your birthday was any other day. 1897 seemed so far in the past, a whole different century! As a child I had a sense of awe about that. I remember vividly how she told me of the very first time she ever rode in a car, she remembered it in such detail, even so many years later as Alzheimer’s Disease began to take many other more recent details from her memories. I remember how my mother told me of growing up with her Annie Maw and "Daddy" (Annie’s husband, Fritz, who died before I was born) living just up the street. My mother told me that Annie Maw could cook the best biscuits in the world. I learned that my favorite little apron that I liked to wear to play pretend or help in the kitchen was made by my Annie Maw.

I never questioned my relationship with Annie Maw as she grew older and frail and sometimes was unable to recognize us when we went to pick her up from Uncle Jim's house. She had come to live with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Margie as when she could no longer live alone in her apartment (the apartment where all her neighbors came out and greeted us children with stories of a bygone era and everyone there seemed so very old, though I doubt now that they were). At Uncle Jim’s house, she had the bedroom down the hall and she was always happy to see us come to visit her. Sometimes, we took her with us to our house for a longer visit and sometimes she stayed overnight. Nor did I ever question my relationship with Annie Maw when she could no longer live with Uncle Jim and Aunt Margie and instead was moved into a small, stark room in a nursing home. I hated visiting that nursing home, especially as I was a preteen and found it so awkward that Annie Maw sometimes could not remember who we were. I hated visiting, but I always loved her. She was my Annie Maw.

And when she died at the age of eighty-eight, she was still my Annie Maw.

It was never a secret that Annie Maw was of no genetic or legal relation to me at all. And yet I never questioned that she was my real great-grandmother. A young woman in her early thirties, Annie McCampbell did something very few people of her time would ever dream of doing; she adopted a little girl, Hazel. Hazel had had a hard story… her birthmother had died young and her father was an alcoholic. With six children and a drinking problem, my biological great-grandfather could not take care of his family; child protective services came in and took the children. They were scattered; one got married, one joined the military, two were adopted by separate families. And Hazel was adopted by the McCampbells. Only one remained: Jessie.

Adoption was a shameful thing in 1930 and the poverty of the Depression made taking in other people’s kids even less appealing. It was then that Annie and Fritz McCampbell adopted Hazel. But they also did something even more extraordinary. They became permanent foster parents for Hazel’s older sister, Jessie, who legally was too old to be adopted. Jessie was no baby, in fact she was a young woman who had already had a few unfortunate foster placements behind her, but she still needed parents. Annie and Fritz became those parents in all but legal standing. It was Jessie who was my grandmother.

Annie McCampbell was nothing more than a stranger to Jessie for the formative years of my grandmother’s life, but she was more a mother to her, a grandmother to Jessie’s daughter and a great-grandmother to me, than many biological mothers ever even dream of being. She and Fritz parented and mentored Jessie; and when Jessie’s husband left her with a tiny daughter, Annie and Fritz helped her to raise my mother. My mother’s devotion to Annie Maw and "Daddy" was unwavering. My mother never called her own biological father "daddy" but would call Fritz McCampbell by that name, and not just "daddy" but usally she would say "daddy… my daddy." These were her grandparents, no matter what genetic testing or legal documentation might say to the contrary.

And never, as a child nor as an adult have I questioned that.

When other adoptive mothers worry that their children will feel left out of genealogy projects at school and the various names and dates of family history, I think of Annie Maw. If, by mothering Jessie, she became so fully my great-grandmother, then there must be a link that goes back into time as well. Annie’s care for my mother and grandmother changed the course of my family forever. And without that course correction, I probably would never have been born. She is as much a contributor to my being and my being who I am as any biological relative. And so I have to conclude that it is not only genetic code that makes a great-grandmother. Something more is vital here, it is the life lived and the stories we pass to our children.

And so I have another treasure in my family tree, Annie Maw, who I hand down to my own children, the ones born to me and the one adopted into our family. I hope my sons will see most clearly that Annie Maw is their "real" great-great-grandmother. She was the one that sparked a passion for adoption in three generations of women in my family. And so she has had her touch on my children’s life, though she died so long before they were born. She has changed their destiny forever, as well. She has contributed to their being and being who they are. And nobody can ever question that.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Want One of These (moved)


"A Brooklyn clergyman decided to fulfill literally the admonition to ' go out into the highways'. His travelling chapel has stained-glass windows, a small organ, and a steeple that can be lowered to permit passage into a garage."
Photograph by Underwood and Underwood

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Passings (moved)

Give to the departed eternal rest.

Today, with the people of my former parish, in a place I once thought would be my church home forever, I said good-bye to a saint, a dear lady who graced the church militant with her gentle humor and unending optimism, who this week joined the church triumphant.

It would have been enough of a good-bye, or rather a 'fare-well sweet sister' had it not been in such a poignant location, among a people I loved and lost, had it not been in such a time when I again am faced with loving and losing. I know that I shall see my dear sister again, but not as soon as I would like, not with the easy access we once had when our worship was in the same place and our Christian family so immediate and close. I shall see her again, but I do not know when. Anne Gross, rest in peace... until we meet again.

But it was more poignant then and there... life is like a little death now. To step into the church, and remember when I was their deacon, when they were my people... how we lived our lives and shared our faith journey together. How I don't see them so readily now, how the place is not home to me. How I can never return there, though of course the awkward moment when one dear lady asked me if I might someday come back always has to take place, doesn't it?

And since I left there, I've already left another place, a place I visited last week on a joyful occasion, only to realize that it would be the last time I would celebrate such joys with these people and still be in the same church (that is church with a little c, for they will always be my brothers and sisters in the Christian family). I could feel a separation between us, like the veil that goes between life and death, only in this it was merely between one life and another.

And in all this, I know I am leaving again. I know I won't be able to remain long where I am. I know the choices we are making will again divide me from the people I now love and serve. (Twice in one year is truly too much.)

And yet, in confidence, I know I shall see them all again. When we are not accessible to one another, we are still part of one another, and through it all, God gives promise that his children will again be together. And so, while so much is perishing, there is new life. It is hard to see, but I know it is there. I've had so many conversations recently centered around the dying part, let's not forget the living. And though we may be more absent from one another than we may like, dear friends do not let me be gone from you and let us indeed see one another again.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More Old Wounds (moved)

While I'm posting stupid things I wrote once upon a time, my mother-in-law asked that I make this available for her, so I'm just putting it here for convenience. I don't think I want this blog to be *about* this tragic time in my life and my diocese, but have some patience with my ramblings. Once I have managed to make it through church tomorrow, without my bishop and rector and brother at the helm, maybe I'll shut up and finish that novel I started this week (reading, that is, not writing).


The Case for Leaving The Episcopal Church
(Note: Fr. Simons' article is found on parishtoolbox.org)

I want to thank Fr. Jim Simons for his thoughtful comments on the situation in the Episcopal Church. On many things we agree, or as I have often said to others, we disagree on strategy, not theology. Jim Simons is my brother in Christ, and the current situation has no power to change that. In fact, I know all of "the twelve" who signed the now infamous letter, the twelve conservative priests who publicly decline to realign. I respect each of them, some of them I count as close friends.

And yet, it remains that we do disagree on strategy. Fr. Simons mentioned that it is not the way of the Old Testament faith for the faithful to set themselves outside the body. He is correct. It was never appropriate, no matter how apostate Israel became, for the faithful to go off and found a new Israel. At one time, my own argument ended here, as do the arguments in Fr. Simons’ document. But there are two fallacies at play here. The first is that the body of the faithful who are in favor of realigning are not going off and founding a new Christianity. The Episcopal Church is not our Israel. We belong first and foremost to a body of believers, world wide and across the millennia, who profess Christ crucified and raised from the dead. The Episcopal Church is only a tiny faction within that larger new Israel. Furthermore, we seek to found nothing new, as that would be an affront to the catholicity of our faith. We seek only to be under the authority of another, already existing, segment of that one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith.

Many have accused us of seeking schism. This is not what we are doing. Schism seeks to separate from the body, realignment in fact seeks fuller membership in the larger body of confessing Christians. If the Episcopal Church were the fullness of the valid expression of the faith, of course this would be schism. Of course, this is not the case. Centuries of schism in the church catholic and generations of decline in the Episcopal Church have left the Church fragmented and the Episcopal Church sliding further and further from the few boundaries of Christianity on which that torn and fragmented Church can manage to agree. Dr. Rod Whitacre once told a class that there is only one kind of schism, schism from the Body of Christ. Regrettably, that schism has already taken place long ago in the Episcopal Church.

The second fallacy in the Old Testament Israel model is that this is not how the New Testament church has functioned. While the people of Israel were always defined by their ethnic heritage, no matter what faith they espoused, whether faithful or apostate, the church does not have the luxury of similar boundaries. The Church has always defined itself by the faith, not the ethnicity. The church has therefore had the obligation to consistently define what groups of people are and are not within the Body of Christ. This sacred discipline was doubtles no more comfortable on either side of the aisle during the eras of the Gnostics and Arians than it is today. It is, sadly necessary at times, for the Church to lay claim anew to her doctrines and draw lines beyond which we may not cross while claiming to be members of the body. We cannot happily sit by while the tithe dollars of faithful Christians go to support the creation of paganized liturgies, apostate theologies, and lawsuits against servant of Christ.

Personally, I find Fr. Simons’ arguments to be a bit naïve. His comments about women’s ordination being a difficult subject for the Southern Cone are indeed accurate. However it is very ungracious to assume that our brothers and sisters in the Southern Cone, having truly exceeded the call of duty in accepting our ordained women in the first place, would be anything less than charitable in their behavior towards us. Still more disturbing is Fr. Simons’ assumption that the women of the church might not be aware that our vocations are difficult for some to accept and that we would not be ready and willing to set aside our own personal positions and feelings for the cause of Christ. I, for one, would gladly set aside my ordination if the body of Christ required it. This is not because I have some distaste for my calling, rather it is because the nature of the ordained call is not about retaining one’s rights but emptying oneself of those rights for the sake of the Cross.

I further find Fr. Simons’ assumption that the Episcopal Church would treat Pittsburgh any more kindly than other dioceses and parishes have been treated and that the Episcopal Church would repent of their extra-canonical actions against the orthodox to date to be a little naïve. The whole idea that this abusive relationship will get any better if the one party would only return to the vulnerability and intimacy that was once shared is, unfortunately, neither a likely outcome nor a responsible risk. No doubt my cynicism is a symptom of my fallen human nature, and yet at the same time we must be as wise as serpents, not leading our people intentionally into danger.

I agree with Fr. Simons on much, including that this will be a painful process. However, the faithful have counted the cost and it is a pain we are willing to bear. It is my sincere hope and prayer that the relationships we have built here in Pittsburgh can stand as a testimony to the Episcopal Church and to the world that no matter what side of the strategic debate we stand on, Christians honor one another and strive to love one another as Christ loved us. I have been honored these four years to serve among the finest clergy and most inspiring Christian men and women I have ever met. I pray those relationships are not ended over issues of strategy.

Old Wounds

I wrote this a year ago and shared it with some members of my diocese. But because of my then parish assignment, I did so anonymously. Maybe it's because I'm reacting, a little ticked off with TEC, kind of want to slug the first person I find in a tacky mitre.... or at least grab such a person and shake some sense into her. Actually, its part that, but I also feel it's time to claim my words. So here they are.



What Do We Leave Them?
October 19, 2007
I have been an Anglican, an Episcopalian, for fifteen years. It was the liturgy that wooed me from my childhood church. I was a young Christian looking for more. A cultural Protestantism, a surface faith, could not hold me. I would rather be an agnostic than a shallow, cultural Christian. Finding liturgical worship was like finding my way home to something richer, more all-enfolding. I had come home.

I thought long and hard, though, before taking the plunge. My only hesitation about the Episcopal Church was this: at the ripe old age of eighteen it was clear to me that the Episcopal Church had done an abysmal job of keeping its children Christian. None of my friends who were “cradle Episcopalians” were really practicing the faith. They were just marking time, Sunday by Sunday, before they would go off to college and graduate from church. Most of them would return for their wedding day, but none of them could really say they knew Jesus. Their lives bore no fruit.

Even at eighteen, I knew that the church I stepped into would be the church in which I raised my own children. I thought long and hard about joining a church in which membership would be a parenting handicap. I knew that I wanted my own children to know Christ. It was heartbreaking to choose a church which I could not trust to assist in that venture, but at least I can say that I went in with my eyes open.

Even fifteen years ago, America was a nation in search of culture. The Episcopal Church with our liturgy gives young people, Gen-X’ers a sense of belonging and ritual that so many of us desire. With our sense of Tradition, the Episcopal Church (like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches) gives otherwise disconnected X’ers a sense of place in a long chain of believers stretching back to the dawn of time. This is immensely valuable, a rare and precious gift. It is a gift which can be a tool to attract people my age to the Christian faith. It is a gift that can combat the surface Christianity which so repelled me, even at the age of eighteen. It is a gift which so many in the world at large are seeking. Yet it is a gift which we have utterly failed to pass on to at least two generations of our children. The median age in the church is somewhere in the upper Baby-Boomer range; that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Fifteen years later, I have three children of my own. Having gone in with my eyes open, I work every day to make sure they are discipled in the Christian faith. I realize that the church I have freely chosen has long ago abandoned any real Christian upbringing of children, relegating Christian mentoring to watered-down Sunday schools and pre-digested preaching. In some ways, I am thankful. I have no illusions that I can leave the discipleship of my children to the work of the church. I take up my task as a parent with eyes open and heart willing.

At the same time, I see the children of my parish as they grow up and graduate from church. I can count on one hand the number of kids who will likely come back, voluntarily, when it does not involve pleasing their parents or finding a decent backdrop for their wedding pictures. Ministry in this environment is like swimming upstream; how can we disciple the kids when for over a generation we have left the parents as fallow fields?

And when my own children grow and leave this nest, where am I to direct them in their search for a faithful church community, for I can no longer simply accept that a church that has a similar name on its sign will have a similar doctrine from its pulpit. My children can no longer trust the guidance of the church on the simple basis that it is the church of their youth. Within our own lands, our children are like lambs among wolves.

It comes down to this, in the end. When asked why I choose the road that I have chosen, the road to support the realignment of the church, though it will mean loss for me, personally, I have three reasons which are second in importance only to the truth of the Scriptures… three young children for whom the church will be an inheritance. We must be good stewards of the faith for their sakes. For at least two generations we have failed in that stewardship and the inheritance has not been, in its fullness, delivered. Thus I find myself saying that this must stop here. This young generation must not suffer for the sins of their forefathers. We must ask ourselves: what do we leave them?

Starting Over (moved)

Yesterday, they threw me out.



No, not me personally. They don't even know who I am. Likely they don't care either. But they threw me out anyway.

"They" is my church. The national body of my church deposed my bishop yesterday. And in doing so they sent a resounding message to so many others. And it was not the message they intended to send.

In deposing Bob Duncan they intended to tell the rest of us, those of us who dare to follow Bishop Bob (surely in their estimation like lemmings) that our subversive behavior will not be tolerated, we will be punished, we must cease and desist... it is no doubt "for our own good." They intended to show us where the power lies. They surely intended for us to see and submit. They intended nothing wholesome.

In deposing Bob Duncan they instead sent a much clearer message. We know where the true power lies and that power never in his life wore a mitre, a fancy ring, a little white dog-collar. We know where the true power lies, and it is not with those who deposed my bishop. As a friend said, they did their worst, and we're still here.

In deposing Bob Duncan, they showed us instead that there is no place for us in their little club. Each one of us, was essentially if not truly deposed from the Episcopal Church. There is no recognized authority in the Episcopal Church with which we will not clash. There is no restraint to keep those authorities from being rid of us, changing the rules and making up martial law for the sake of calculated expedience, when the time comes that the clash takes place. When they find me, they will be rid of me too.

In ridding themselves of Bob Duncan, they made it clear, they wish to be rid also of me. We are alike, Bishop Bob and I. We don't look alike, sound alike or even think alike. But we are as alike as any two children of the same father can be. We are walking the same path, living the same commandments, fighting the same fight, and worshipping the same Lord. We are both sinners, both redeemed, both slaves to the one who has freed us, both bought with a price. When Bishop Bob is at his worst, he is my brother whom I love. When he is at his best, he is my father in God whom I strive to imitate.

They may never find me. They may never actually get around to throwing out one so lowly and politically worthless as I. But it does not matter. In their hearts, they did that yesterday.

So today is a new day. A good reason to renew this old blog. Tomorrow, the next day... my life hasn't changed like my bishop's has. I still have loose ends to tie up. I'll still go to my old Episcopal Church on Sunday, for now. But I now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that this servant is waiting at tables at which she has no place. It's only a matter of time.