30 September 2007

Truth in Advertising

Compliments of Louie Crew

29 September 2007

Integrity Responds to the HOB Statement

620 Park Avenue #311 Rochester, NY 14607-2943

September 25, 2007


NEW ORLEANS—The members of Integrity have prayed unceasingly for their bishops as they met this week to consider a response to the primates' communiqué. The bishops were pressured by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international guests to comply with the primate's demands. The bishops struggled mightily amongst themselves to achieve a clear consensus on how to respond. Integrity is gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward.

We are encouraged by their strong language against the incursions of uninvited bishops into this province, their commendation of the Anglican Listening Process, their unequivocal support that the Bishop of New Hampshire should receive an invitation to the Lambeth Conference, and their affirmation of safety and civil rights for LGBT persons.

Integrity President Susan Russell said, "In response to requests for 'clarity' the House of Bishops made it clear today that the Episcopal Church is moving forward in faith. I believe today’s response will be received as a sign of great hope that we are committed to working through the hard ground of our differences. I look forward to taking the support of the House of Bishops for the Listening Process with me when I and other Integrity representatives meet with Anglican colleagues in London next month to prepare for our witness at the Lambeth Conference."

"Integrity is confident that The Episcopal Church will continue to move forward," concluded Russell. "Integrity expects General Convention 2009 to be a tipping point for equality. We will be working hard in the months ahead to repeal B033 and to authorize development of a rite for blessing same-sex relationships as steps toward the goal of the full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ."


The Rev. Susan Russell, President
714-356-5718 (mobile)

Mr. John Gibson, Director of Communications
917-518-1120 (mobile)

The House of Bishops Responds To The Primates

The House of Bishops Responds To The Primates

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners

In accordance with Our Lord's high prienstly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to the Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23

The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in teh power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention.

* We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

* We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

* We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.

* We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops and call for them to end.

* We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

* We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.

* We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.

* We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.

Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention
The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

Blessing of Same-Sex Unions
We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, "...[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."

Episcopal Visitors
We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal Church.

Incursions by Uninvited Bishops
We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such insurvions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.

Communion-wide Consultation
In their communique of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council reiterate our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless we recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

The Listening Process
The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the church's conversation about sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, and to participating with others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts, conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches and so is well placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

The Lambeth Conference
Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.

24 September 2007

Are We They?

(Delivered at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, Ohio on 23 September 2007)

Amos 8:4-7, 8-12

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, my Lord and my Redeemer.

We are taught in Deacons School that we are to always preach on the Gospel reading for a given Sunday, since one of those things exclusively reserved for Deacons is the proclaiming of the Gospel. And I DID indeed have a sermon prepared on today’s Gospel of Luke. However, the more I read the Old Testament reading of Amos, in fact the more I read all of Amos, the more I felt compelled to preach on that instead.

So, I won’t tell. . . if you don’t tell.

Amos has always been a prophetic man and generally he was a real pain to the Israelites. I have a mental picture of him standing on the rooftops railing away to the Israelites about the things they were doing - and forecasting their gloom and doom. It reminds me of a street preacher who used to stand on the corner of Broad and High in Columbus every day, standing on a soap box and proclaiming the world was going to end in the next couple of hours. He hasn’t been there for a while, and I sometimes wonder what happened to him. He was, most of all, very amusing.

It was interesting to watch people’s reactions to his sermonizing:

· some would literally cross the street to avoid him
· some would lower their heads as they walked by,
· and there were a few brave souls who would take him on.

I can tell you, that he could out shout anyone

. . . except maybe Amos.

In these passages Amos is, once again, admonishing the Israelites. Actually, Amos might be considered the first voice of a social conscience in the world; he preached social justice before we even knew what social justice was.

This time he is shaming the Israelites for the way they were treating the poor. I find these passages are especially relevant today since last Friday was Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days in the Jewish tradition.

Yom Kippur is a ‘day of atonement’ on which you confess, before the Book of Life is closed, all those things you have done in the last year that are sinful or you consider to be failings. And, in the Jewish tradition, you then can start with a clean slate for the new year.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

On Yom Kippur, even the least observant Jew acknowledged the occasion and all markets and industry were closed. That means, of course, for the money changers and the merchants, this is a day when they are not making any money. . .

not a shekel!

Since most of the merchants were of the noble class, Amos is particularly hard on them

. . .and they are not too happy to have the straggly-bearded, bombastic old man once again slandering them.

They would just as soon he would fall in a hole somewhere and disappear forever. I imagine this is probably like the feeling many folks in Columbus had about that street preacher.

In the time of Amos’ prophesying, money and wealth were considered rewards from God for living a righteous life. This is not unlike the 'Prosperity ministry' a number of modern-day preachers are extolling today (and getting very rich themselves doing so!) "The more you have, the more God loves you" is their common mantra. "If you are doing well, it shows God’s approval. . . God wants you to have a big house and fancy car and pleasure yacht!"

But Amos seems determined to tear down that cultural norm.

Just as in the Parable of the Unjust Steward in the Gospel this morning, there are acceptable ways to accumulate wealth

. . . and there are other ways . .

What Amos is ranting about is the accumulation of wealth at the expense of:

the poor,
the homeless,
the hungry,
the ill,
the elderly ….

all of those who are without a voice, a protector, a way to provide for themselves.

I can imagine the merchants and nobles sitting around grousing because they could not open their shops, beating their breasts about the money they were losing, and plotting how to make up for it.

Aha, someone said,

"Let’s make the ephah small and the shekel great".

In other words, they were going to buy things with a light weight (the ephah was used as the weight when buying things and the shekel was used when selling things)and sell it with a heavy weight. In no time they would recover their losses from the holiday.

What a great idea!

Just like selling products more cheaply today…

products that are shoddy and easily fall apart,
and are made by someone on a poverty wage in a foreign country . . .

a practice that is also taking away the jobs of some of our neighbors
. . . causing them to need cheaper and cheaper products;
. . .an endless cycle demeaning honest work.

In addition, they were going to "buy the poor for silver" -- because the poor were so needy, they were going to be "righteous" and hire them for just enough money to keep them indebted. This brings to mind the old company houses that used to exist in coal mine towns or on large plantations during Reconstruction and even in Detroit in the early years of the auto industry.

It is what the World Bank is doing to many third world nations today, enabling them to only payback their interest and never any of the principle.

Were . . . and are . . . these people looking out for their neighbors . . .
or just lining their own pockets?

And they bought the needy for the price of a pair of sandals”. . .

Think how distraught and desperate someone would have to be in order to be bought for such little money in order to have a pair of shoes to wear.

Even today the roads of the Holy Land are dusty and rocky and the weather is hot;
one must have sandals. In Biblical times, it was even more difficult to navigate those roads and paths, so sandals were an essential part of life.

How arrogant and cruel to indenture another human being for such a small thing as sandals.

Or today,

for food stamps . . .
or a used winter coat . . .
or a ramshackled tenement to live in.

But, isn’t that what we, as a society, are doing today when we hook people on welfare – giving them just enough to subsist but not enough to make a better life.

Even our soldiers risking their lives in the Middle East are only getting an average of $1500 a month in wages, forcing their wife and children to depend on their families for help just to exist.

Should Amos be railing at us about this situation?

I think he would be standing on the top of the Capitol Dome in Washington yelling his lungs out!!

Amos warns that if the Israelites don’t change their ways, there is going to be rumblings of the earth and upheavals like the flooding of the Nile. Maybe he meant

that the oppressed would rise up,
there would be much dissention and moving about in the streets,
and people would be protesting against unjust conditions.

Does any of that sound familiar?

Been watching TV lately?

God remembers the sins of the mighty against his lowly. And there will be retribution. Amos warns that all this ill-gotten gain is going to naught; it will be no more.

And they will be left monetarily poor and their souls will be bankrupt.

The righteous can always look to God for assurance, but those with no souls have no source of succor.

Individual sins and national sins will be atoned by God. And there will be retribution.

And there shall be great mourning among those who forsake righteousness for their own greed. The famine will be a famine of the soul; many times they had the opportunity to listen to the prophets calling them short, but now they are past the time of grace. Theirs will be a life of sorrow and the Kingdom of God will be taken from them.

In verse 12, Amos foretold: “They shall wander from sea to sea, from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the world of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

I want you to take a minute and consider what is going on in the Middle East right now. . . who are the greedy?

Who is trampling down the poor and needy?

Who is profiting while the majority of the people are going without water and electricity and health care?

Who is sitting in Saudi palaces or coastal mansions and sprawling ranches while their brothers and sisters are living amidst violence, disease, misery, and chaos of their making?

Have we become those to Amos’ prophecy? are we they?

Do we sit here, fat, dumb and happy, because our economy is growing due to the wealth generated by big business as it wages war? Because our earthly stock is going up?

Mark 16:9 says “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal”.

Do we do nothing because we think we are only one person and can do nothing to affect world problems?

Do we shrug and say “it is out of our hands”?

A renown 19th century clergy, Reverend Everett Hale, said it so well:

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

17 September 2007

Parable of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin

(delivered at Lindley Assisted Living Center, 16 September 2007)

The Gospel According to Luke, 15:1-10

You will have noticed that we have been hearing a lot of parables in the last couple months. We are currently reading from The Gospel According to Luke, and parables are one of Jesus' favorite means of teaching.

Today, we again have a parable that is really two parables, but concentrate on the same teachings.

In the first part of this parable, a shepherd finds that one of his 100 sheep has wandered off. We need to remember that a herd of only 100 sheep was pretty small and indicated that the shepherd was not of moderate means; each and every one of those sheep provided a livelihood for himself and food and clothing for his family.

So the shepherd goes off to find that one lost sheep. When he finds him he lifts him to his shoulders and rejoices that the lost has been found. He calls all his friends together to celebrate finding the lost sheep.

We all can remember those pictures we have seen since childhood of the shepherd with the sheep on his shoulder.

What a happy sight!

In the second part of this parable, a silver coin is lost. This coin was the equivalent to a day’s wages. That is a significant amount of money, even now. After turning the house upside down, turning over beds, and sweeping all the dust bunnies out of the corners, the woman finds the coin and rejoices. She too calls her neighbors together to celebrate that the lost has been found.

In each of these parables something of value is lost or misplaced.

Don’t you think that we are as valuable to God as the coin and sheep were to their owners?

We find throughout the Bible that Jesus is always associating with sinners: remember when he ate with the tax collectors and talked to women of ill repute.

Those were the people to whom Jesus brought the good news of God’s love and the path to salvation; these were the lost that would be celebrated when found. Even the angels celebrate when a sinner is found. God is far happier when one lost soul is found those nine-nine good souls.

We need to remember that God is diligently looking for sinners. We never escape his eyes. And he has sent disciples to show us the way. We meet them every day; they show us the way to repentance and salvation. God continues to sweep in every corners, round up the dust bunnies and turn over every stone to find those of us who have lost our way.

So, no matter how ‘lost’ we may feel, we can be assured that someone will come and ‘find’ us and show us the way. And when we repent, there is great rejoicing in Heaven,

Even the angels are dancing!

04 September 2007

Services at Lindley

Every other week members of the congregation of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens goes to the Lindley Inn Assisted Living Center for a service and hymn sing. We have an average of 10-20 people each time and they really seem to enjoy the service and hymns.

Most of these residents are Methodists and Presbyterians so we do an 'Episcopal Light' service with opening collect, a psalm, the Gospel reading and Eucharist. Lots of hymns are interspersed before we close with a hymn sing. It has given me a chance to sing all those oldy-moldy hymns that are not considered 'vogue' today. The first time I did the service, when we started singing, everyone stopped, cocked their heads and listened to me sing. Singing unprepared solos was not exactly what I had in mind --- guess I will have to go back to voice lessons. Now they are accustomed to my singing and we all sing together.

It is at the discretion of the person officiating as to whether they will deliver a homily or not; since I am supposed to be learning to preach, I have begun preparing a 'sermon-ette' based on one or all of the readings that makes a single point that they might then think about the rest of the week (I would hope).

I really think I get more out of the service than they do. And I have acquired a couple of 'gentlemen' friends who wouldn't miss the service for anything!
The average age of the communicants is probably at least 80, but they seem to enjoy the fellowship and certainly enjoy the hymn sing.

This ministry has become an integral part of my diaconal training and will be something that I carry with me for the rest of my life. In my dreams, I have envisioned being a chaplain at the assisted living center and this biweekly event has only reinforced how much I like to bring the love of God to older people. Hmmmm - is there a calling there?

If you check my blog on a regular basis, you will find those full-length sermons I do monthly as well as these little 'sermon-ettes' that I do at Lindley.


The Parable of the Great Feast

(delivered on 2 September 2007 at Lindley Inn Assisted Living Center, Athens, OH 2 Sep 2007)

The Gospel According to Luke (14, 1, 7-14)

In this Gospel reading, we again find Jesus teaching through a parable – but this time we get two for the price of one. But they both deal with the issue of hospitality.

Jesus is invited to Sabbath dinner at the home of a Pharisee; there are lots of important people there and they are all watching Jesus to see what he will do. These Pharisees were gathering information that will later be used in Jesus’ trial in Jerusalem.

At these feasts, the tables were usually arranged in three levels so that the most important people were at the elevated tables where they could see and be seen. When Jesus noticed that the invited guests were jockeying for the ‘best’ seats, he used a parable to speak of the quality of humility.

The people trying to get the best seats felt they deserved it because of their position/reputation. Or those people who wanted to be seen as important even if they weren’t . . . sort of guilt by association. This was the time before place cards, so there was a free-for-all as people arrived – each one trying to get the most visible and honored seat.

Jesus’ warning to them was to consider the embarrassment if the host had intended those seats for others and asked them to move.

Can you imagine how you would feel if you were seated where everyone could see you and then had to move to a lesser table?

Your ego would be deflated and you would certainly lose face in the eyes of the other guests.

But those who chose to sit in a lesser seat would not have to move -- or may even be invited by the host to sit at the higher table.

This parable speaks to the humility of God’s children. In ancient times, those seated at the lower tables were considered servants to the upper tables. So, those who chose to sit at the lower tables recognized that although they may have gifts and talents that warranted their sitting in a special place, they were humble enough to realize that these gifts and talents brought them no special treatment. They knew that service, especially service to God, was far more important than prestige.

In the second lesson, Jesus gives a warning to the host that he should not invite only his friends or people who would be obligated to return the favor, but ask those who did not have the means to invite him back in return. As is the custom today, when someone invites you to dinner, you have to reciprocate with an invitation. This is a social obligation which most people do not violate. So it becomes a tit-for-tat. If you want to be seen with prestigious people, invite them to a feast and then they will have to invite you.

But by including those who were poor, crippled, lame and blind, the host would be fulfilling Jesus’ reminder that ‘what you do for the least of these, you do to me’. There would be no expected return from the invitation.

From these parables, we are reminded that we should give back to God with those talents He has given us and we should care for those less fortunate than ourselves.

This is the way to Heaven.