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Posts for December, 2009

Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles Elects Lesbian Bishop

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2009

Rev. Cannon Mary GlasspoolAs a follow-up to what we first reported Thursday, it is now official: the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has elected Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, 55, as the first openly gay bishop since the national church lifted the ban on such elections. Rev. Glasspool has been in a committed relationship since 1988.

Rev. Glasspool is the first openly gay priest to be elevated to the bishopric since Rev. Gene Robinson was named bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Rev. Robinson’s election prompted a huge outcry in the worldwide Anglican communion. In response, the American Episcopal church agreed to a temporary unofficial ban on future elections of openly gay priests as bishops. The church voted last July at its annual convention in Anaheim to re-open its top leadership to LGBT people once again.

American Episcopal Leader “Deeply Concerned” about Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill

Timothy Kincaid

December 4th, 2009

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has released a statement on the proposed Ugandan “Kill Gays” Bill.

In tone it appears that Schori has no illusions about influencing the decision in Uganda

We give thanks for the clear position of the United States government on human rights, for the State Department’s annual human rights report on Uganda, which observes that the existing colonial-era law on same-sex relations is a societal abuse of human rights, and for the State Department’s publicly voiced opposition to the present bill. We urge the United States government to grant adequate access to the U.S. asylum system for those fleeing persecution on the basis of homosexuality or gender identity, to work with other governments, international organizations, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide adequate protection for these asylum seekers, and to oppose any attempts at extradition under a law such as that proposed in Uganda.

And, further, she recognizes that much of this evil has been exported by anti-gay Anglicans in the United States.

Finally, we note that much of the current climate of fear, rejection, and antagonism toward gay and lesbian persons in African nations has been stirred by members and former members of our own Church. We note further that attempts to export the culture wars of North America to another context represent the very worst of colonial behavior. We deeply lament this reality, and repent of any way in which we have participated in this sin.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Episcopal Church may select another gay bishop

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2009

episcopalIn 2003 the Episcopal Church selected Gene Robinson, a gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire. And the Anglican Communion exploded.

Conservatives around the world strongly feel that heterosexual men are the only acceptable leaders of the church. And while it had long been understood that gay men and women were priests in the “reprobate and worldly West”, it was simply unacceptable to them that a gay man should ever be in a position of authority over a heterosexual.

As the world’s second largest Christian church, Anglicans dominate faith in a number of nations, often in countries where homosexuality is seen as a sin more alien than murder and less forgivable than rape. So this decision by American Anglicans (the Episcopal Church is the US branch of Anglicanism) had global consequences.

Since that time, anti-gay Americans (often of other denominations) have worked with foreign Anglicans (usually Africans) to sow discord and seek schism. Several conservative Episcopal congregations, and at least one diocese, broke from the church and sought support and solice from evangelicals with whom they share little other than anti-gay activism.

The Anglican Communion warned the Episcopal Church – and other liberal members – that there was to be a moratorium on gay bishops and a ban on celebrating same-sex unions.

What followed was a good faith effort on the part of Episcopalians to reconcile with the concerns of conservatives. But conservatives felt no need for compromise. They broke communion with the Americans, sought to establish missions in the US, and poached churches. They established a two-tier status whereby only anti-gay prelates could be fully members of the Communion.

It seems now that the Episcopal Church has decided that they have done all that they can. And they refuse to be held hostage to superstitions and bigotries of foreign cultures. They selected a woman as their presiding Bishop and allowed local bishops the authority to allow same-sex marriages in their diocese.

And now they are on the brink of elevating another gay Bishop, this one possibly a lesbian. (Riverside Press Enterprise)

Two of the six candidates to replace two retiring assistant bishops are openly gay. If one or both of them is elected, he or she would become the first bishop in a same-sex relationship elected since V. Gene Robinson was chosen to head the New Hampshire diocese in 2003. That action led dozens of conservative parishes and four dioceses to vote to leave the Episcopal Church. No openly gay bishop has been consecrated since then.

The Washington Times has a profile of one candidate, Rev. Mary Glasspool.

Clergy in the Los Angeles diocese tell me that she’s got a decent chance because her executive experience in Baltimore assisting the bishop and mentoring clergy ranks her above the other five candidates for the two jobs.

It is certainly possible that the church may select any of the other four candidates for the two positions. However, should it do so, it will not be a some form of concession to anti-gay activists. If a new gay bishop is not selected tomorrow, it will be another time soon.

The Episcopal Church has moved on into the 21st Century and refuses to be any longer shackled by the homophobia of Nigerians and Ugandans. It will no longer listen to those at home who would rather align themselves with foreign prelates who would execute gays or condemn them to a life sentence than stay in communion with their gay Christian neighbors. And I think that the Episcopal Church is better for it.

Church marriage comes to E. MA Episcopalians

Timothy Kincaid

November 30th, 2009

Bishop ShawA favorite tactic of anti-gay activists is to pretend that changes to civil marriage law will require churches to change their religious practices in some way. But to do so requires a willful determination to ignore the evidence to the contrary (or a willful determination to lie).

And a decision made by an Episcopal Bishop in Eastern Massachusetts proves the point. Although gay and lesbian couples have had the right to legally marry in that state, they could not do so in an Episcopal Church or with an Episcopal priest presiding. Priests could “bless their union”, but not declare “by the power vested in me” that they were married.

Until now. (Boston Globe)

Five years after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the local Episcopal bishop yesterday gave permission for priests in Eastern Massachusetts to officiate at same-sex weddings.

The decision by Bishop M. Thomas Shaw III was immediately welcomed by advocates of gay rights in the Episcopal Church, who have chafed at local rules that allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, but not sign the documents that would solemnize their marriages.

This change in policy should cause anti-gays to worry. But not for any reason that they will admit.

Contrary to the political ads and fiery denunciations from pulpits, changes to civil marriage laws do not require churches to do anything. But they do provide the framework under which same-sex couples can live exemplary lives and show conscientious religious leaders that their objections are based not in principle but in presumption and false impression.

Civil marriage equality will in time lead many many churches to not only adapt to including same-sex marriages but to also hold up such commitments as the most appropriate venues for love and sexual expression for same-sex attracted persons. But this change will be voluntary, a change of heart based on decency, empathy, compassion, and their observation of married couples in their pews.

Anti-gays speak loudly of “religious freedom” and of the fear of coercive efforts to compel them to follow man-made laws rather than God’s laws. But I believe that a voluntary change of heart is something that anti-gays fear far more than any coercion from government.

And I believe that their efforts to ban marriage equality are designed and intended more to deny religious freedom to those who, like the Episcopal Church, would celebrate such marriages than they are to stop that small percentage of the population who would avail themselves of the opportunity.

Yes, anti-gays lost political battles in Massachusetts over the last five years. But their real losses are felt in the announcement of Bishop Shaw.

Ohio Episcopalians to Bless Same-Sex Unions

Timothy Kincaid

November 11th, 2009

episcopalFrom Cincinnati.com

The Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, in an address Friday to the 135th convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, made the announcement that he said should surprise no one.

He said his position on his support for the blessing of “same-sex unions” was clear in his writings prior to his election as bishop of the 80-church, 25,000-member diocese in 2006,

He said he was lifting the “prohibition on the blessing of same-sex unions, effective Easter 2010.”

Recognizing the risk of empowering anti-gay activists through incautious or flippant actions designed more for political grandstanding rather than the pastoral needs of the community, the Bishop is stepping carefully.

No individual ministers will be forced to bless unions against their will. Further, at least one half of the couple to be blessed had to be Episcopalian, it must be “the union of the two persons who have vowed lifelong fidelity to one another, and accept accountability to the faith community as a faithful household”, and the Bishop will review each application for blessing personally.

Anglican-Episcopal Split on the Horizon

Timothy Kincaid

July 27th, 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to the action taken by the Episcopal Church to allow ordination of gay bishops and celebration of same-sex unions. (The Guardian)

The archbishop of Canterbury today reiterated his opposition to ordaining gay clergy and authorising same-sex blessings, warning liberal churches that such practices would lead to isolation and relegation in the Anglican communion.

Rowan Williams was responding in a statement today to developments in the US Episcopal church which earlier this month voted to open the ordination process to gay people and to consider developing blessings for same-sex couples.

Williams is envisioning a resulting two-tier church: those who are “good” Anglicans and obey the demands of exclusion and repression of gay Christians coming from the African and Asian churches, and those who are secondary churches who offer inclusion to gays and thus are not allowed to participate fully in communion matters and in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

This is likely to be as acceptable to the Episcopal Church as it would be to anyone else. So it looks like this is the beginning of the end of a world-wide Anglican Communion.

Episcopal Church to Collect and Develop Liturgical Recognitions of Same-Sex Unions

Timothy Kincaid

July 15th, 2009

The Episcopal Church has taken a step forward in recognizing same-sex marriages. By a vote of 104 to 30, the House of Bishops has just voted begin the “consideration of theological resources and liturgies for the blessing of same gender relationships” and to “collect and develop theological resources and design liturgies, and report to the 77th General Convention for further action.”

Wording:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call for a renewed pastoral response from this Church and for an open procession for the consideration of theologicalresources and liturgies liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources and design liturgies, and report to the 77th General Conventionfor further action consideration; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved that bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church, and be it further

Resolved that this convention continue to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further

Resolved that the members of this church be encouraged to engage in this effort

The House of Delagates will likely confirm the resolution. And the Episcopal Church will begin the process of determining precisely what liturgy will be used to bless same-sex unions. Further, it appears to me that the Church may have given permission to Bishops in marraige or domestic partner states to generously accomodate recognition and provide some blessing of such unions.

Follow this story at Episcopal Cafe

Episcopal Church Chooses Gay Christians Over Foreign Appeasement

Timothy Kincaid

July 14th, 2009

At their national convention in 2003, delegates of the Episcopal Church took a vote that was not much watched by those outside of the body of Anglicans. Yet this decision has perhaps had more global fallout than any specific religious action in centuries.

When the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, it infuriated conservative American Episcopalians as well as those around the world affiliated with the Anglican Communion, the globe’s third largest Christian fellowship.

In America, several priests and laypeople left the church in protest along with a handful of churches and even four dioceses. Other religious leaders were quick to throw in their opinion with some, like evangelical mega-church pastor Rick Warren, leaping to praise the dissidents.

A number of Archbishops in Africa and Asia condemned the American church and declared that they would not break bread with anyone who would accept gay Christians on an equal standing. The global body stood on the brink of schism.

In 2006 the Episcopal Church took a breather. They chose to stand back and hold off on ordaining any further bishops or in taking any steps to recognize or celebrate same-sex unions in hope that this cooling off time could allow them to find common ground with anti-gay elements of the Communion and achieve peace.

But peace was not an option. Conservative Anglicans are not interested in unity in Christ or the guidance of each body’s conscience or in allowing all to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They want strict adherence to their demands or harsh punishment as a consequence. Either reject gay Christians, or to Hell with you.

This week the Episcopal Church is meeting again, as it does every three years. And it appears to have made its decision. By a vote of 99-45, resolution D025 broke the moratorium on partnered gay ordinations. (NY Times)

The resolution passed on Monday was written in a way that would allow dioceses to consider gay candidates to the episcopacy, but does not mandate that all dioceses do so.

This is of particular note because while the resolution had passed the House of Deputies handily (77-31 in the lay order and 74-35 in the clerical order), it had not been anticipated that the House of Bishops would be so resolute.

This is a step that should not be underestimated. It is quite likely that this action will lead to a separation of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. Indeed, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the church, hinted at such last week when he addressed the American delegation.

Dr. Williams addressed the General Convention in Anaheim as it opened last week, saying, “Along with many in the communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. If we — if I — had felt that we could do perfectly well without you, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

Should a separation (or expulsion) occur, it may soon be followed by other national bodies deemed too “liberal” by those who measure their faith by who it excludes. Eventually the parent church, the Church of England, may find itself in the position of fighting for its own inclusion in the body to which it lends its name.

Also in play is a resolution to “collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions” for consideration in 2012. This resolution, C056, has moved out of the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies) and is now before the House of Bishops.

The significant majority of Bishop support for ordination – considering its expected consequence – may give promise of a positive outcome for C056. Having embraced full inclusion of gay Christians, the church may feel less need to hesitate over blessing of their vows and commitments.

Today the Episcopal Church made a momentous decision. They took a step towards inclusion that will likely result in their exclusion. They decided that you are more important than the good favor of those who reject you. They decided that you are more valued than centuries of tradition, communion, and organization.

Given a choice between welcoming you into their fold or appeasing those who find you abhorrent, they chose you.

For excellent blogging of the convention and its decisions, see Episcopal Cafe

– – –
A special congratulations to my friend Dan who leaves this week to become an Assistant Rector at an Episcopal Church in Illinois. May God keep you, guide you, bless you and shower you with His blessings.

Episcopalians Win Tentative Ruling about Fresno

Timothy Kincaid

May 7th, 2009
St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral

In December 2007, John-David Schofield, the Espiscopal Bishop officiating out of Fresno, declared that his precint was seceding from the Episcopal Church and putting itself under the authority of a South American Anglican Archbishop. The Episcopal Church replaced Schofield with Bishop Jerry Lamb in March of 2008 and the two parties have been in conflict ever since over who owns the extensive properties of the San Juaquin Diocese.

The court has now tentatively sided with the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Jerry Lamb said he is very pleased with a nine page tentative ruling. Lamb said a judge recognized him as the legal authority which means if the ruling becomes final Lamb controls all Central Valley Episcopal Churches including Saint James Cathedral. Lamb said, “A lot of people have been hurt on all sides of this question. It’s not a time of celebration. It’s a time of being pleased that we can go forward.”

This follows a similar ruling in January that returned St James Parish in Newport Beach back to the national body.

Rick Warren to the Rescue of Anti-Gay Anglicans

Timothy Kincaid

January 11th, 2009

We have previously discussed how President-Elect Obama’s selection for his inaugural invocation, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, has sought to meddle in the current internal affairs of the Anglican fellowship in Africa. He has, on the international stage, sided with those who are anti-gay.

Well now it seems that Warren wants to meddle on a local scale.

Last week, the California Supreme Court found that the current leadership and congregation at St. James Parish in Newport Beach could not just walk away from the Episcopal Church and take the buildings and property with them. This left those discontented with the Episcopal denomination without a physical home.

The Episcopal Church is hoping that the physical ownership of the site will remove leverage from the local anti-gay activists and will allow for this congregation to be again a part of the fold.

But it seems that this does not fit with Warren’s agenda. He is encouraging the congregation to stay in discord and is offering the assets of Saddleback to keep the pot bubbling. Christianity Today has extractions from letters written by Warren:

… [The Episcopal Church has] already considered me an adversary after partnering on projects with Kolini, Orumbi, and Nzimbi, and writing the TIME bio on Akinola.

But since last summer… I’ve been on Gene Robinson and other’s attack list for my position on gay marriage. ….[Our] brothers and sisters here at St. James in Newport Beach lost their California State Supreme Court case to keep their property.

We stand in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.

Rick Warren has, in so many words, declared war on the Episcopal Church.

It is one thing to take an anti-gay position based on one’s theology. It is quite another to encourage schism in another denomination. It is now time for the Episcopal Church to make a formal protest to the President Elect. Rick Warren cannot invoke blessing on a nation if he is seeking to divide a denomination of which he is not even a part.

Further, the ECUSA should be joined by every church body sharing the belief that those who seek discord should not be given a place of prestige. I do not doubt for a moment that Rick Warren will endeavor to bring about splits in the Presbyterian (USA) and United Methodist denominations if he is left unchecked.

Colorado Episcopal Church Ordains Lesbian

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2009

From the AP:

The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado is ending its so-called “period of restraint” on ordaining gay priests.

Bishop Robert O’Neill ordained Mary Catherine Volland to the priesthood during a ceremony at St. John’s Cathedral on Saturday.

Loss for Anti-Gay Ex-Episcopalians

Timothy Kincaid

January 5th, 2009

When the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as a Bishop, it threw several conservative congregations into a tizzy. Some were so upset about the idea of their church including an openly gay man in so high a position, that they announced that they would take their marbles and go elsewhere.

St. James parish in Newport Beach was one such church. Now they have found that it just isn’t that easy. The Supreme Court of California has informed St. James parish that they can go elsewhere, but they have to leave their marbles behind.

The California Supreme Court ruled that the 2.4-million-member national church, and not a local parish in that state, owns a church building and the land on which it sits, property which members of the congregation said belonged to them when they left the church.

This decision upheld the 2007 reversal of a 2005 judicial decision granting the property to the local congregation. 2007 was a sad year for the church; also in that year Rev. Praveen Bunyan, the priest who led the disaffiliation, resigned his duties over inappropriate attention paid to a female parishioner.

This unanimous Supreme Court decision is, no doubt, discouraging to the parish that lost its marbles. But it is definitely encouraging to the Episcopal Church, especially as it may direct that the multi-million dollar assets of the San Juaquin Diocese in Fresno remain under the control of the denomination, and are not at the discretion of the break-away Bishop.

Although the deeds showed that the local church owned the property, the parish had agreed to be part of the greater Episcopal Church of the United States and to be bound by that church’s rules, the court said. Those rules said local churches hold property in trust for the greater denomination.

“The local church agreed and intended to be part of a larger entity and to be bound by the rules and governing documents of that greater entity,” Chin wrote.

So it now seems, at least in California, that it may actually cost chuches something to stand by their convictions.

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