28 July 2009



The Very Reverend Sam Candler
28 July 2009

I appreciate both the presence of Archbishop Rowan at General Convention 2009 and the position in which he is placed in this present age. He has been given both the vocation of overseeing the Church of England and the vocation of stewarding the Anglican Communion of churches, in an age that ricochets between uniformity and plurality. At one moment, we acknowledge the plurality of modern culture; at the next moment, we yearn for the routine and comfort and predictability of uniformity. In addition, the tension between uniformity and plurality is made fiercer by communication methods which react and provoke more quickly than ever before.

In Archbishop Rowan’s quick essay of 27 July 2009, “Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future,” he rightly perceives our tension; and he writes, at best, descriptively of our present Anglican situation. He is certainly correct in acknowledging that the Episcopal Church yearns to remain in Anglican communion. But he is also correct that ongoing decisions in The Episcopal Church have been the occasion for anxiety in some other parts of the communion.

Though descriptive, Archbishop Rowan’s essay also dips into diagnosis and prescription. In some of these matters, he will be open to theological critique. A primary critique will certainly be directed toward his repetition of the common perception that homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle.” Within two paragraphs, he uses “chosen lifestyle” and “choice” three different times.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention resolutions concerning homosexuality have never claimed that homosexuality was simply a choice, or, much more, a “chosen lifestyle.” Rather, Episcopal leaders have realized, over time, that being gay or lesbian was definitely not a choice for those members of our Church. Indeed, for many heterosexual persons, the realization that homosexuality is not chosen at all – no more than heterosexual persons choose their heterosexuality—has been the turning point in their ability to recognize God’s grace in homosexual relationships.

Obviously, the most prescriptive of Archbishop Rowan’s remarks is his suggestion, again, that the Anglican Communion of churches might develop a “two-tier”, or, less provocatively, a “two-way” structure of formal Anglicanism. One way of being Anglican would stress the values of local faith and theology, and local autonomy; the other way would stress the values of more global, and probably more ordered, forms of the church.

I find it curious that Archbishop Rowan repeats the language of “choice” not only in relation to homosexuality, but also in relation to Anglican Communion matters. He suggests that there may be those who will, in good faith, decline a covenanted structure. He implies that those who “elect this model” will also “not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates.”

It is the way that Archbishop Rowan uses “choice” which is bothersome, as if it would be as easy for someone to choose a homosexual lifestyle as it would be them to choose a certain way of being Anglican. At their deepest levels of identity, neither homosexuality nor Anglicanism is a choice. In particular, Anglicans have claimed that Anglican Christianity is a gift; and part of that gift is a joint realization of local grace and global grace. I understand that certain formal parameters of an Anglican Covenant have yet to be developed, notably any “two-way” system. However, it seems to me a distinctly un-Anglican maneuver to sever local autonomy from global communion. Those very poles, taken together within one orbit, are exactly what define the structure of the wider Anglican tradition.

A certain constituency of Anglicanism has always regarded our church as catholic. Our catholicity has been seen as a “given,” a “gift,” not something we have chosen at all. A distinct alternative to catholic Christianity has been known classically as protestant Christianity; and its development was associated quite often with choice, with free will.

Now, Anglicans generally prefer to be both catholic and protestant; but Archbishop Rowan, in my quick review, is sounding too much like a protestant and not enough like the catholic that I know he is. The Anglican tradition is too historically rooted, too old, and too rich, --indeed, it is too catholic—to be relegated to a matter of choice.

Let us remember that only recently has “choice” come to play much of a role at all in Anglican Communion matters. This is an age when we, as a communion of churches, have been considering our common identity at just the same time that we (and the world) have been strained by sexuality disagreements. Many want to resolve both issues with rigid uniformity. But can we return to an Anglican identity without the “bureaucratic absolutism” which Archbishop Rowan disavows (in paragraph 13 of “Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future”)? I hope so.

I suspect that Archbishop Rowan yearns for a classically catholic sense of ecclesiological identity; it is ordered and mostly uniform. In addition, I recognize that ecumenical relationships and conversations are easier with this model; Archbishop Rowan mentions them explicitly in this essay. However, the suggestion that “covenant” denotes a choice of association and membership is part of a rather distinctive protestant ecclesiology. The Anglican tradition is more catholic than mere choice; and it is more protestant than mere uniformity. If some sort of covenant does become a sign of Anglican identity in our future, let us pray that it arrives as a gift and not a constraint. Let it arrive as a choice for catholicity, a choice that always reveals itself later as unchosen divine grace.


Today (28 July 2009) is the birthday of Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose words grace the title bar of this blog, Good Faith and the Common Good. Enjoy!

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

27 July 2009

A REVIEW OF GENERAL CONVENTION 2009, for my parish, The Cathedral of St. Philip


It has been a week since the General Convention of the Episcopal Church concluded, and much of its heat –whether indicative of fire or not—has subsided. I remember a time, just thirty years ago, when most Episcopal parishioners had little idea what occurred every three years in the legislative councils of the Episcopal Church. Then, of course, in a double step forward, the Episcopal Church General Convention allowed women to be ordained priests and, at almost the same time, authorized a new Book of Common Prayer.

Those two events, around 1979, would have lasting effects on local congregations of the Episcopal Church. This year, in 2009, when every decision – and even every idle thought—of General Convention is quickly delivered around the world in internet seconds, one wonders which actions of General Convention will truly have immediate, or even lasting, effect on local parishes. Does General Convention affect our local parishes? How is the Cathedral of St. Philip affected?

My own review of the Episcopal Church after General Convention 2009 is that we have reiterated, and claimed our dependence upon, local initiatives for ministry in this church. On the controversial sexuality issues of the day, the Episcopal Church recognized pastoral generosity at the local level. On matters relating to the wider Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has urged local parishes, and dioceses and individuals, to develop personal and missional relationships themselves. I especially appreciated this Convention’s work on ecumenical and inter-religious relationships; again, our Episcopal Church recognized that good and healthy ecumenical relationships occur most authentically at the local level. We entered into full relationship with the Moravian Church; we took more definite steps toward theological discussion with our neighbors in the Presbyterian and Methodist churches.

Perhaps the most dramatic decision of General Convention was the Episcopal Church budget for the next three years. Surely everyone recognizes that the global economic recalibration has affected even our local parishes, and certainly our larger offices. The Episcopal Church passed a budget which eliminated some major staff positions at the national level; the budget assumes that some of those offices will no longer exist. There was understandable lament at those decisions.

On the other hand, that very budget was also part of a de-centralization theme, a theme of local initiative, which lay in the background of almost every General Convention action this summer. Just because the national office of the Episcopal Church cannot finance a certain ministry does not mean that the ministry ceases to exist. Indeed, the ministry –whatever it might be—might flourish more wonderfully if it starts and develops at the local level – at the level of vibrant parishes! Even more critically, the Episcopal Church did restore major outreach funding levels; it did not balance the budget by cutting mission efforts outside the church.

The only exception to this theme of local initiative and de-centralization was also important. We passed a resolution authorizing a denominational health insurance plan for The Episcopal Church. In doing so, the Church hopes to take advantage of more negotiating strength in the matters of health insurance. Obviously, the Church is not alone in matters of health care across the world either. This may be one area where larger could be better.
How did General Convention 2009 affect us at the local level? Simply put, General Convention expressed the very need for local initiative in the Episcopal Church. The vigor of Anglican Christianity continues to be most real in vibrant parishes, and in the energy of faithful parishioners. The Episcopal Church, and any church, is at its most effective when it encourages and enables such local energy and mission.

That is where we, at the Cathedral of St. Philip, are at our best. Even now, we are planning a magnificent Fall. We will celebrate Homecoming Sunday on August 16, with a grand display of mission and ministry. Sign up for a new one this year! It is when you have joined the Cathedral’s mission, that you have joined the mission of The Episcopal Church, the wider Anglican Communion of Churches, and the even greater mission of Christianity in the world.


The Archbishop of Canterbury has written an essay titled, "Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future." I am sure responses will follow!

24 July 2009



A few days ago, I was leaving Anaheim, California. The work of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church was good and important, but I was ready to depart that region. The setting –a convention center in Anaheim—seemed artificial and unseasoned, without a history or developed character. In fact, the character of the place was Disneyland; how much wisdom or character can one hope to imbibe from an amusement park?

Nevertheless, that setting was my home for two weeks. My routine was the same. Rise early, prepare for committee meetings, encounter ideas and faith and people and agendas, walk from one air-conditioned room to another, ride on escalators and elevators, eat processed food quickly and absently, sit on the legislative floor and pay attention, do all this some more, and then try to be asleep by 11:00 so I could rise again at 5:00 am.

I must admit that, for all its sterility, the Anaheim Convention Center, with two central hotels, was a comfortable place to gather and do business. Yes, it was artificial; yes, it was also mechanically efficient for us.

Then, one day after I left Anaheim, I was sitting on a dock in Canada with my father, just after sunset. Since my childhood, I have travelled annually to that lake, with its rustic cabins and primitive challenges. The deep green hemlocks and pines, the rich white birch trees, the cold black water, the open sky, all overwhelm any human activity; artificial devices are weak and meager here. It is easy to be mesmerized by the sky.

With a few others, my father and I peered eagerly into the northwest horizon, waiting and watching. A slight cold front was breaking up the overcast day. The air was chilly, but the sky had cleared above some post sunset clouds.

Then, suddenly, we saw it. The International Space Station was soaring over the north. The orange white glow was speeding at 17,000 miles per hour, 405 miles away from us. In the twilight, only Vega and a couple of other stars were beginning to appear. But, as we focused on this man-made intrusion into space, we also made out distant objects way beyond humanity’s foray into the heavens.

I have watched that northern horizon many a night here in Ontario. I have seen amazing light shows from the Aurora Borealis. It is always beautiful. If “artificial” means man-made, or simulated, or forced, or contrived, then this part of God’s creation is the very antithesis of “artificial.”

But for humanity, “artificial” is all we have. All we can muster, by definition, are man-made attempts and offerings. In fact, the International Space Station, a true modern marvel, is the very height of “artificial.” It is a man-made contrivance, inserted into the far reaches of God’s creation. Though it is the result of creative science, it is also a piece of art, like a paint stroke across the sky’s canvas.

Yes, the International Space Station is a work of art. It reminds me of a deeper meaning to the word “artificial.” Etymologically, “artificial” can mean “belonging to art,’ or “made by art.” At our best, we human beings create from artistic desire. We plan, and build, and explore, with artistic visions.

One of the many marvels about the space station is that it is also a work of art by committee. It has been added to, and revised, and corrected more times than…well, more times than an urban office building, or an old house, or… a piece of government legislation.

The old adage is that one will never eat sausage again after one has seen the inside of a sausage factory and how the stuff is actually made. One will never want to enter politics after witnessing the journey of a single piece of legislation. One will never want to go to church again after serving on a vestry or board of elders.

But those factories and legislatures and vestries are all we have. All we have are artificial attempts, human-made pieces of art, often assembled by committee, to witness to truth and grace in the world. That’s what the General Convention of the Episcopal Church was. Yes, it was set in an artificial place (a place designed to work!), it was committee after committee, it was the work of humanity. I hope and pray, nonetheless, that it has served us well.

Artificial devices are all we have on this earth, and all we have above the earth. At their best, they are truly works of art, inspired by glorious visions. For all our foibles, the Episcopal Church has a glorious vision; we want to be orthodox and generous, faithful and honest. We want to be true to God and to God’s creation. We are human beings, but we are on the dock straining to see grace over the horizon. We are human beings, but we have glimpsed divine grace in the twilight.

(This article also appeared at a website named Episcopal Cafe (here), for which I write from time to time.)

22 July 2009



The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori Writes to the Church

Several interpretations, as always, have followed the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop has written her evaluation here, and her actual words are worth more than those of the various media outlets!
Grace and peace to all of you!

21 July 2009

The Heavens Tell of the Glory of God

At 10:31 tonight, the International Space Station will pass over my head, just after a solar eclipse occurs on the other side of the world.


17 July 2009

A Letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams from The Episcopal Church Presiding Officers

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson, presiding officers of The Episcopal Church, have written a letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams, explaining Resolution D025 from General Convention 2009.

Its description is linked below, and it includes a link to the actual letter itself.




To the House of Deputies
General Convention – 17 July 2009


Whether you are a first-time observer, or a veteran, to General Convention, you know that the issue of blessing same gender commitments has been intense and controversial. For a generation, every General Convention has been considering this matter; surely we know every contrasting argument by now. We have heard all manner of voices – the progressive and the traditional, the shrill and the gentle, the painful and the pastoral.

At this 2009 convention, on the last day of our gathering, Committee 13 brings forward Resolution C056. We believe that it represents an elegant blend of theological care, ecclesiastical breadth, and pastoral generosity. Our cognate committee received eleven different initial resolutions on same-sex blessings and/or marriage, rites, we heard over two hours of open testimony, and we listened sensitively to various perspectives in our own committee.

My fellow deputies on Committee 13 are wonderful, and I give thanks for them. And let me say, too, that we especially appreciated working with the bishops in our cognate committee. This convention is wise to depend upon cognate committees to develop resolutions, resolutions which both houses, legislatively, might then find suitable; and we worked together gracefully in Committee 13. The House of Bishops received our resolution first, took some time with it, then took some more time; and they have amended our cognate version.

Now, the House of Deputies Committee 13 believes we have a fine current document. We desire decency and order in the Episcopal Church, theological decency and liturgical order; and this resolution supplies a gentle and modest way forward. We recommend that this house, without amendment, concur with the House of Bishops.

Sam Candler



It’s Thursday night, my twelfth night in Anaheim, the night before the last day of General Convention 2009. We are all tired, longing to be home; and we have faced grueling decisions. We have passed a budget with large cuts; they were necessary. We have made last second amendments and grown frustrated with parliamentary procedure. We have struggled with votes forcing us to think quickly about church and government issues. We have had to think quickly about the deepest theology and about the kindest courtesies. We have laughed thankfully with old friends. We have met some bright new faces. We have made some people rejoice; the same decision has offended others.

And tomorrow will be the last day. With it will arrive one of our most controversial resolutions, C056, presenting a way forward on the matter of blessing committed same gender relationships. Most of us have heard every argument for, and every argument against, going forward on this matter.

I have been chair of the “Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music” committee, which has been crafting this resolution for the last several days; and, as chair of the committee, I will present it on the floor of the House of Deputies tomorrow. I will urge recommendation of the resolution. In fact, I hoped we would pass a similar resolution six years ago, because I desire good theological and liturgical order. Six years ago, we consented to the consecration of a partnered gay man as bishop, and I believe that was a good decision; but I wish we had been able to construct, first, the orderly way that we could recognize and bless his union. That would have been “decent and in order.”

There is a good chance C056 will pass. The tenor of the House of Deputies seems to be favorable. But I will also feel for my conservative friends in the House of Deputies, and across the church. They are already a disappointed minority in many places (certainly here), and my call is to minister to disappointed minorities. They will find comfort in a large majority across the Anglican Communion of churches, and in many individual parishes in The Episcopal Church; that is well and good.

I will pray, tomorrow night, for that perfected heavenly community where our love and affection overwhelm the differences between us. All of us know that holy longing. None of us is there yet, though we are given the grace to glimpse it in our smaller communities –maybe in our parishes and, God willing, in our own marriages and partnerships.

I am thinking of my partner now, whom I miss and long to see after two weeks. The two of us have known joy and disappointment together; we have known pain and grace together; through divine grace, we have even known God through each other. Our union is blessed by God and by the Church. It is because I believe in that Church blessing, that it should be available to everyone, that I will be supporting C056.

15 July 2009



I rejoiced yesterday with many of my friends in The Episcopal Church after the passage of D025; it is an honest proclamation of full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church and an honest proclamation of our commitment to the wider Anglican Communion. That is its beauty. I also sat with friends who were discouraged, for fear that we had taken a step apart from the wider Anglican Communion. I disagree with their assessment, but I care for them.

Meanwhile, the headlines, as usual, have all the sizzle but none of the meat. The snippet headlines want the world to believe that The Episcopal Church has overturned a moratorium on the consecration of gays or lesbians, or has repealed the 2006 resolution B033. The substance of resolution D025 is far richer than that. It has re-affirmed the commitment of The Episcopal Church both to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians, and to the wider Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church refuses to believe it must choose between the two.

I am among that apparently growing minority who believes that the actual wording of 2006-B033 did not place a legislative moratorium on the consecration of gays or lesbians as bishops. I acknowledge that it was interpreted that way after its passage. I also acknowledge that some close friends of mine considered themselves excluded because of it.

In fact, however, B033 was always interpreted variously. A major reason it passed the General Convention of 2006 was because it mentioned neither “moratorium” nor “gays and lesbians.” Thus, there never was a formal “moratorium” in place in the Episcopal Church which has now been broken. There may have been informal moratoria, within the minds of individuals and nominating committees and dioceses, and that fact has always been legitimate in the church. At this convention, D025 simply does not mention overturning a moratorium, because no legislative moratorium is in place.

I do agree that certain relationships within the Anglican Communion of churches are strained. Those are the relationships, generally, who see sexuality issues as determinative for communion. I do not agree. There are plenty of healthy, vigorous, and missional relationships across lines in the Anglican Communion which are satisfied to let sexuality issues be secondary issues. Uniform opinion on the sexuality issues of our time –or any time-- should not be the basis for Christian communion. Indeed, they should not be determinative for Christian covenant either – but more on that at a later time!

14 July 2009

How I Spent the Summer

Click here to see a photograph and article about my usual day at General Convention.


The article describes the work of Committee 13 and it also links to the resolution that we are finally proposing. It was hard work, but I enjoyed the way that the bishops and the deputies worked gracefully and elegantly together.

Here is the statement I released:

“As we report C056 out of our cognate committee, I give thanks that our committee has worked with such grace and elegance. We tried to be sensitive to every voice on this matter, and we realize that the issue of same gender blessings has been contentious in the past. I have actually had great fun! Both the bishops and the deputies in the room shared the same goal, to produce a resolution that has a reasonable probability of being passed by both houses. It has not been easy, but we believe we have something that can achieve that goal. God gave us the grace to be of remarkably common mind. I am quite optimistic.”

Grace and peace to you!

13 July 2009


SPEAKS FOR RESOLUTION D025 (Anglican Communion: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion)
12 July 2009

I speak in favor of D025, and I commend the legislative committee for its energy and work. This past Wednesday, Archbishop Rowan Williams, addressed the global economic crisis with this remedy: he urged a re-ordering of society that looked to small-scale enterprises, local initiatives, and local relationships; I think he suggested that these local efforts would lead the whole world into a new, and a truthful, and an authentic, economy.

I suggest that these same principles of local development, local truth-telling, and honest relationship, are the keys to the economy of our Anglican Communion of churches as well. The Anglican Communion of churches is not comprised of instruments. We are comprised of relationships. This resolution honors those relationships. This resolution honors the presence of Christ in our fellow pilgrims around the Anglican world, the presence of Christ in our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the presence of Christ in the House of Deputies, and the presence of Christ in the House of Bishops.

The Episcopal Church is obliged to hold dear two critical relationship commitments. One commitment is to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in our churches; the second commitment is to communion in the wider Anglican Communion of churches. We can do both. When we honor those relationships, we honor the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the world. God has made of one blood ALL the peoples of the earth, and sent his blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off AND to those who are near. We can preach the same peace; we can do both.

The Very Reverend Sam Candler
Clergy Deputy from the Diocese of Atlanta



It’s Monday, July 13, 2009, Day Whatever on the legislative calendar, and I feel like Captain Kirk, on the starship “Enterprise,” recording another stardate in his log. I do not know cerebrally what legislative day this is (it is actually Day Six), but I do know emotionally that we have turned. As of yesterday, the House of Deputies began to feel like a body operating efficiently and dramatically, operating with direction and focus. After a few days of ‘warm-up” votes and floor debates, we were galloping on the back stretch yesterday.

The primary drama of Sunday, of course, was our vote on D025, having to do with our commitments to both the wider Anglican Communion and to the full participation of gays and lesbians in our own Episcopal Church. I was not surprised by the floor debate, but the margin in which the motion prevailed was noteworthy; it passed by roughly a seven to three margin. For me, this translates to something just over a two-thirds vote. Should similar issues, especially around parliamentary procedure, which often require two-thirds vote, arise again, then the House of Deputies may have a two-thirds vote block on those issues.

This morning, I have heard concern and disappointment from some quarters –along with great joy from places like Canada. Voices from the far right and the far left proclaim a similar headline: the House of Deputies has “overturned” 2006-B033 and its moratorium on the election of gay bishops – or words similar. But I have a major problem with that headline: B033 (the 2006 resolution) never said that; and I, for one, never interpreted it as a moratorium. I believe that much of our anxiety occurred by buying into that interpretation. If that resolution had meant moratorium, it would have said “moratorium.” I do not think the House of Deputies voted to overturn anything.

Now, of course, more drama awaits. If D025 is to prevail for the entire convention, then the House of Bishops will have to pass it in the same form in which the House of Deputies did yesterday. Much of the immediate feedback, especially from places outside The Episcopal Church, is obviously designed to pressure the bishops.

Then, there’s another issue: the matter of same gender blessings and commitment rites – or whatever title one prefers. My own committee, Committee 13, continues to discuss that matter. Whatever we report out will go first to the House of Bishops for initial action, and secondly to the House of Deputies (the reverse order of D025).

In great science fiction, such as Star Trek, the physical setting is futuristic, but the actual subject matter is the age-old mystery of human life and human relationships, and even divine relationships. Today, at General Convention, Stardate Legislative Day Six, some might proclaim that we are “boldly going where no one has gone before.” But this is simply a new setting for our common task and age-old mission: to witness to the grace and salvation of Jesus Christ.

12 July 2009



Some people say it to tease, and some people say it as a matter of principle; but, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church will often hear the House of Deputies referred to as “the senior house” to the House of Bishops. Because this General Convention may experience some deeper disagreements between those houses than in recent years, it might be good to enjoy a bit of history.

First, for observers: In the Episcopal Church, the House of Bishops consists of all our bishops of the church. The House of Deputies consists of four elected priests and four more elected laypersons from each of the regular dioceses of The Episcopal Church. At General Convention, a successful resolution must pass both legislative houses in the same form.

So, why is the House of Deputies considered the senior house? In the 1780’s, there was no formal Episcopal Church. Anglican Christians (those connected to the Church of England) found themselves organizing and setting up leadership along three different structures. First, there were those Anglicans in the southern colonies below Connecticut, including Virginia and South Carolina, who were great believers in representative government. Many of their Anglican churches had existed for a long time without the presence of a bishop at all. They had grown accustomed to organizing and supervising themselves. Nevertheless, they wanted bishops, because bishops distinguished their identity from the new world Protestant bodies.

Secondly, there were Anglicans in the north, especially in Connecticut, who followed the high church principles of Samuel Seabury. The Diocese of Connecticut organized itself to have no lay representation at all. A group of clergy elected Samuel Seabury to be bishop and sent him across the Atlantic for ordination. He ended up being consecrated in November of 1784, in Scotland, not England, because the English Parliament would not allow anyone to be consecrated bishop without vowing allegiance to the English monarchy.

Thirdly, there were those many Anglicans who were deeply influenced by The Great Awakening. The early Methodist leaders were mostly Anglican, and they would finally decide, at the Christmas Conference in 1784, to elect and ordain two of their own as ‘supervisors” – Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. Obviously, this group would separate from the other Anglicans in the new world; that was a great loss.

The first two general conventions of the Episcopal Church met in 1785 and 1786, without the Diocese of Connecticut, and, thus, without any bishops. They were following the Reverend William White, who had plans for the church to be democratically operated but otherwise to conform as much as possible to the Church of England. In 1786, English Parliament relaxed its ordination laws, and William White and Samuel Provoost (from New York) were permitted to be ordained in England for service in the United States.

So, it was not until the 1789 General Convention of the Episcopal Church that bishops were present. In fact, this date serves as the formal establishment of (what is now) The Episcopal Church. 1789 is the date of the church’s first real constitution; it created a House of Bishops, which would be allowed to veto the House of Deputies if it had enough votes!

Today, it probably does not matter who is the “senior house.” What is critical to our communion is that legislation is not authorized until both houses act favorably on it. By necessity, resolutions must begin in one house or the other. Some resolutions are first acted upon in the House of Bishops, some first in the House of Deputies. Each house (and its associated legislative committees) is wise to craft legislation that they believe, in good faith, might pass in the other house. So, it finally does not matter who is the “senior house.” But it does matter that The Episcopal Church has contributed a democratic and representative form of church government in a catholic and apostolic tradition. That may be the same sort of ecclesiastical wonder as was the United States Constitution wonder! May God be with us!



It was an honor for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to hear Archbishop Rowan Williams speak to us on Wednesday, July 8, 2009 (and again on the following day). Archbishop Rowan spoke eloquently and incisively on Wednesday evening about economic crisis. Among his fine points was his observation that it will be small-scale enterprises, local initiatives, and local relationships which will lead the world into a new economy. He mentioned efforts like Habitat For Humanity.

I suggest that those same principles of local development, local truth-telling, and honest relationship, are the keys to the economy of our Anglican Communion of churches as well. Some claim that our church is in a crisis just as urgent as that of our world economy. (Even if one claims that we are not in true crisis, we can certainly acknowledge that elements of our communion are anxious.) Following Archbishop Rowan’s economic principles, the remedy to our anxiety (or crisis) will not be a hierarchical declaration, from the top down. Our Anglican Communion will derive strength from local communities being faithful to how God leads them in their particular circumstances and in their particular time. Indeed, I believe this is the genius of our Anglican tradition.

I enjoy references to the “UK,” the “United Kingdom.” This past week, I began to recognize some obvious historical differences between a united kingdom and a united states. Our Anglican heritage finds its historical roots in a nation that is now known as the United Kingdom. That nation’s constituent parts were once governed by royalty – by kings and queens. In shorthand, this meant top-down rule, often far-removed from genuine relationships with the population. On the other hand, The Episcopal Church finds its historical roots in a nation that is now known as the United States. Our nation’s constituent parts were once independent states, much different from “kingdoms;” and our country continues to negotiate the best ways to apply both federal and state government.

It strikes me that what we know now as the Anglican Communion of Churches might once have more accurately been called the Anglican Kingdom of Churches. After all, The Anglican Church historically spread along the very same lines as English colonialism.

Today, are we an Anglican Kingdom of Churches, or are we an Anglican Communion of Churches? A secular kingdom “lords it over” its subjects, making rules that are, at best, sincere, but, at worst, tyrannical. A old-fashioned king usually “rules” at a distance, from above. (Fairy tales fantasize about kings who disguise themselves in order to mingle with their people.) On the other hand, a communion’s authority involves dispersed leadership; a communion values idea and inspiration from even the lowest members of itself.

Kingdom is about hierarchy. Communion is about relationship. Of course, Jesus’ parables of the kingdom of God are another matter; Jesus’s description of the kingdom of God overturns the world’s understanding of “kingdom.” At any rate, The Anglican Communion of churches rarely operates well as hierarchy. The Anglican Communion of churches is at our best when we honor relationships. In doing so, we honor the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the world.

11 July 2009



Every deputy or bishop who is keeping some sort of personal account of General Convention (through posts on blogs, reports to dioceses or home parishes, or even facebook) is remarking by now how long the days are. Most of us admit some fatigue. Will Sunday be a day of rest? (Yes: we can sleep a bit later. But there is the grand UTO Ingathering on Sunday morning, followed by an afternoon legislative session).

Yesterday, I was up early, preparing for our 7:30 am committee meeting. We have begun the untangling and review of eleven resolutions having something to do with same gender commitment blessings and/or marriage rites. This work will be complicated, as almost everyone in the church knows by now. Pray for the committee, for the House of Deputies, and the House of Bishops!

As usual, I was barely on time for the 9:00 legislative session. The special order resumed, in which the House of Deputies heard forty articulate and faithful statements about the effects of 2006-B033. All of us have heard most of this material “by title.” We all know the various arguments, justifications, and pain. Still, I was touched by almost every speaker, whether or not she or he was justifying or critiquing B033. Every person on the floor of the House of Deputies has a strong and faithful story.

After the 11:30 worship service, which I am continuing to enjoy, I snuck away for a quick thirty minute lunch, before the lunch meeting I had arranged with a subcommittee of Committee 13 at 1:00. (I can never actually eat while I am leading, or even participating in, a meeting!)

Then, we were back in the House of Deputies at 2:00, for a four-hour legislative session. We glimpsed some of the pain and confusion over the recent election of a bishop for Equador Central. We began to vote, finally efficiently, for trustees of the Church Pension Fund. At one point, a live and lovely pigeon flew over the assembly; actually, I could not quite tell if it was a dove or not.

I forgot to mention that one of our deputation had a serious accident just as the afternoon legislative session was beginning. She fell, and, it turns out, dislocated her shoulder. Another of our deputation, Claiborne Jones, left the floor and accompanied her to the hospital. I spoke to Claiborne later in the evening, and I hope and pray that bodies are mending. I mention this to point out that life –with glory and accident—continues in the midst of General Convention. We adjust. We pray for grace.

In the evening, my committee had no meetings. I attended the Integrity Eucharist, not only because I have so many friends involved there, but also because that worship service really is energetic! We sang some lovely pieces and heard an enchanting Kenyan anthem. Afterwards, I enjoyed a very late and important dinner with two old friends and finally got to bed about 11:30 pm.

General Convention continues to be part “family reunion,” part “county fair,” and part “state legislature.” At our best, maybe we approach “federal legislature!” There is important legislation. But there is also invigorating worship, old friends, new friends, crazy events – and everyone clamoring and claiming a piece of this grand extravaganza. We find some grace, but sometimes it is a bit bedraggled.

10 July 2009

Daily Corrections and Daily Glories

Daily Corrections and Daily Glories (but it sure was a long day!)

I wrote yesterday about the General Convention special order of business, but I was wrong. I stand corrected about being wary of the special order set for dealing with B033 resolutions. When the time came, I listened to two very short summaries of history and options; and then I turned to speak with a deputy whom I did not know. I was absolutely delighted during our conversation. Of course, I must admit that it helped that we were in agreement about both history and future. Still, I suspect that even if we had disagreed more, I would have enjoyed it. The man with whom I spoke was (and is!) a faithful Episcopalian who has given much time and energy to a church he loves. I suspect that, in this way, he was like every single one of the other deputies in the house. The thirty minutes I spent talking with my new pilgrim friend was a highlight of the day. Thank you, Committee 8, for the special order!

In fact, this day was a long one. For me, it started at 7:00 am, at the “Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music’ Committee that I am happily co-chairing with the good Bishop Wayne Smith. Actually, he chairs the House of Bishops committee 13; I chair the House of Deputies committee 13. He is a good man, and I am enjoying working with him. Our deliberations at that hour were tough. We were trying to review and approve various collects and propers for inclusion in the possible document, Holy Women, Holy Men. How hard it is, and treacherous, and even unwise, to try to edit or write collects by committee!

However, one of the highlights of the day occurred when I realized, with my colleague Ruth Meyers, that we were discussing critical theology in marvelous snippets and rich nuggets. For instance: is it imperative that we close every prayer of ours with a Trinitarian formula? Most of us are quite accustomed to it. But shouldn’t prayers designated for inclusion in Enriching Our Worship (not the Prayer Book) also engage us in various other conclusions? Despite our using up considerable time, it was quite engrossing. We did not finish. We will have to take up the resolution later.

I am enjoying worship at General Convention, and that has not always been the case. Two things have made it work well for me. 1) the music is splendid and strong. For our first two days, the selections for song have not been standard ones from the Hymnal 1982. We are tasting rhythm and delight. 2) the distribution of communion has been highly efficient. It is a challenge to administer bread and wine to 2000 people in a sort of warehouse. It has worked. Of course, the rest of the liturgies have been strong, too, including the sermon and meditation. But that should always be the case!

At 2:00 pm, our committee heard testimony regarding same-sex blessings and/or marriage rites. This material is well covered elsewhere on the internet, including here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_112249_ENG_HTM.htm. Enjoy. I was moved by several of the testimonies, including those relatively few who spoke against same-sex blessings in some way. Though the hearing ended shortly after 4:00, the officers of the committee have necessary paperwork and discussion, and we are always late!

So, it was 4:30 when I dashed over to the floor of the House of Deputies for our next legislative session. The voting mechanism for our first election did not work. This has become quite burdensome for the house. I must say, too, that it is difficult to vote electronically for twelve people. Thus, we tabled elections, and our special order of business commenced, about which I wrote at the beginning of this article.

Then I had a quick 30 minutes supper. I ate fast so I could go out and visit for 15 minutes with a former colleague, who once worked with me at the Cathedral of St. Philip. Elizabeth Rechter is now a priest here in the Los Angeles area, and it was fabulous to catch up with her.

At 7:30 pm, Committee 13 heard still more open hearings! This time, our testifiers were fervent witnesses urging us to include more people into Holy Women, Holy Men (that is the title if it passes; it might continue to be Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

So, the day is finally over, but we are only just beginning. There will be more long days. The rush and the quick decision-making are inevitable and often frustrating. But there are moments of tender glory in each day. The people here are beautiful, my committee members, those who testify at open hearings, the old friends I meet in the hallways, the new friends i have met. The people here are beautiful, and I love them.

09 July 2009

"Same-Sex Blessings and Order" Versus "Mis-Interpretation and Anxiety"


Today, Thursday, 9 July 2009, could be quite a tangled and tense day. Hearings and/or committee conference meetings meet at their earliest time of convention, 7:00 am. Everyone is up early! Then, after another session of Misson Conversation and the mid-day Eucharist, the testimonies, and speeches, and conversations and hearings begin; they will be about homosexuality, about strains upon communion and conscience, about same-sex blessings, abut varied recollections and hopes. It will be tangled and tense.

At 2:00 pm, the “Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music’ Committee will hear testimony regarding all the various resolutions having something to with authorizing rites for same-sex blessings or changing canons regarding marriage. There are about ten such resolutions, but there will be scores of nuances and variations of opinion. While many here sense that both houses are willing to allow some progress toward the acceptance of rites or blessings of same-sex couples, no one knows exactly what form that progress might take.

At 5:00 pm, during the legislative session of the House of Deputies, the house will take up a special order of business, which seek to review the issues surrounding resolution 2006-B033 – that is, a resolution that passed the General Convention of 2006 in the closing hours, and which, to many seemed rushed, confusing, and Painful.

I voted against the special order for review of 2006-B033. That seems surprising to some of my friends, but I believe that the way to go beyond B033 is to go beyond it. Let it be. Even at the time, it was subject to all sorts of interpretation, for it does not mention gays and lesbians at all. Still, many interpreted it to mean that gays or lesbians should not be presented, or nominated, for election to the episcopate. I did not interpret it that way, but I must also admit that there is evidence that at least one diocese did interpret it that way.

I do not know the details of the House of Deputies special order, but I do know that the World Missions committee, to which these B033 resolutions have been assigned, has worked long and arduously toward the right presentation. I pray for them, and I hope we can move out of the B033 morass gracefully. We do not need to linger in the land of anxiety and mis-interpretation. My understanding is that the World Missions committee will also hold regular open hearings tonight on the same matter. Then, the House of Deputies will take up a second half of the special order, again having to do with B033 issues, on Friday morning.

By late Friday morning, then, I am sure we will have reviewed almost all the various arguments in favor of, or against, same-sex blessings. We will have reviewed the various interpretations or reasons for B033. We will have hashed and re-hashed.

My prayer is about peace against anxiety. I pray that all this concentrated anxiety will not produce chaos and ill will and frustration. My prayer is about the order that might very well be established if General Convention finds a way to honor and bless same-sex relationships. I am glad that those resolutions devoted to such blessings will be considered in their customary ways by the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music committee. That would make available an ordered way of life that will make a great and graceful witness to the Anglican Communion and to the world.

08 July 2009

My Forecasts of General Convention

For the past two weeks, I have been gathering my own impressions about what will occur at this year's General Convention:

1. The secular media will not be as interested, on site, as they have been in the last six years. Issues of sexuality and division, always favorites of the media (and ourselves), are still present; but they have lost much of their immediacy and novelty. The Episcopal Church and homosexuality might very well seem like "old news" to the rest of the world.

2. The House of Deputies seems ready to pass some sort of legislation going forward with asking for authorization of rites for same-sex blessings. I am not so sure about the House of Bishops. I am glad to have so many friends who are bishops, and they report a variety of hopes and cares.

3. Regarding resolutions which seek to re-interpret, or repent of, or re-visit, resolutions of past conventions, let me say that I do not like speaking in code about things like "B033." The world does not care about our references. I believe Convention will pass resolutions that seek to honor all of God's creation, including gays and lesbians, resolutions that declare no hindrance to access to ordination, and also resolutions that confirm our commitment to the highest possible degree of communion with other churches in the Anglican tradition.

4.The real issue of General Convention 2009 will be money and budget. Our church is not immune to the financial situation of the rest of the world. We will have to acknowledge ways that our church can do more with less money, just like so many of our individual parishioners and parishes.

5. I regret that many of my more conservative colleagues and voices of authentic and classic evangelicalism are missing from convention. For sure, some of the more traditionalist organized interest groups that were so prevalent for the last twenty years are not here. I miss them. Our Episcopal Church will be weaker in their silence.

6. Given the fewer number of more traditionalist organizations here, I wonder if new "fault" lines will appear in our politics and in our legislation. In any organization, there are conservatives and progressives. If the "old" conservatives disappear, who will the "new" conservatives be? I forecast that the "new" conservatives will come from groups who were once known as "progressives."

More later. May God guide the Episcopal Church into all grace,


Day One at General Convention

Today (Wednesday) is officially the first day of General Convention, so I felt a bit embarrassed yesterday when I realized I was already tired!

But there was good reason for it. I am the House of Deputies chair of Committee 13, "Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music," (Bishop Wayne Smith is the chair on the House of Bishops side); and, at this point, some fifty-six resolutions have been referred to our work. I chaired our first meeting, and it lasted four hours. We introduced ourselves. We discussed. We organized. We laughed.

Some of my colleagues were wary of my introductions idea. Since the entire city, and much of the world, were to be entranced with the funeral for Michael Jackson to be held in the next few hours, I asked each committee member to offer his or her impression of "Michael Jackson." I was fascinated by the division of responses.

Some of our committee were great fans of Michael Jackson, at least at some point in their lives. Others claimed to have no knowledge of him at all. My interior point was that we who love liturgy and music in the Episcopal Church really ought to have some impression of a man who did liturgy and music in a new and extraordinary way. Sure, he was a talented and tragic figure. Can we not say the same about most of us? And about the Episcopal Church at times?

After an afternoon of structured introduction and welcome (from the Presiding Bishop, from the President of the House of Deputies, from the leaders of a "public narrative" project, from the House of Deputies orientation team), it was time for a quick supper.

Then, I chaired our committee's first open hearing, devoted to resolutions about a document named "Holy Women, Holy Men." For two more hours, our committee heard very astute and faithful testimony, and then discussed among ourselves how to proceed. We made progress, and this morning we meet again; I hope we can deliver a recommendation to the two houses quickly.

So, I was tired yesterday. But there was good reason for it. The church needs legislative work, and that work takes effort. It pays off when we see the fruit of the spirit around this place. I do see some fruit around here, and that is inspiring!

05 July 2009

Dean Sam Candler Blesses July 4 Runners

What a blessing it is to bless people!
(Click on the title above.)

03 July 2009

Is the Episcopal Church the Middle Way?

I have only today begun using this blog page, and the Episcopal Church is set to begin its General Convention on Tuesday. Therefore, I imagine most of my musings will be inspired, or uninspired, by church matters. However, I hope that this blog will eventually include much than institutional church matters. I believe that good faith occurs all over God's creation.

For the time being, I will post here a quick article I wrote about the history and identity of the Episcopal Church. Is the Episcopal Church --or the Anglican tradition of Christianity-- the middle way? No, I claim, we are the comprehensive way.


You pass my confirmation class if you can say that simple sentence: Henry VIII did not start the Episcopal Church. You pass with honors if you can state who actually did found the Episcopal Church: Jesus Christ founded the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church, developed from the Church of England, and an integral member of the Anglican Communion of Churches, is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

That church, started by Jesus Christ, has included inevitable conflict. Even the beautiful first century Christian community involved conflict, which we can read about clearly in The Book of Acts (see Acts 15:2). One of the great apostles, St. Peter, was opposed to his face by the other great missionary apostle, St. Paul (see Galatians 2:11). From then on, every Christian community has lived through conflict. Sometimes that conflict was minor, and sometimes it has been major.

The Anglican tradition of Christianity, evolving as it did far from Rome and the more established centers of western civilization, has always seen its share of conflict and debate. Usually, that conflict has emerged from competing sources of authority. Who, or what, is the final authority in the Anglican Christianity? From the fifth century onwards, ecclesiastical authority rotated from the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whomever the reigning monarch might be, to the Roman Pope; after the Reformation, that revolving locus of authority included the common people themselves.

Consider the first Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Augustine, who landed at Canterbury in 597 AD. He was the first official Roman missionary bishop in what we now call England; but a Celtic form of Christianity, centered around local abbots and monasteries, was already present. St. Patrick had already returned to Ireland; St. David had evangelized Wales; and the great St. Columba had already founded Iona in the north country. One of the early English synods, held at Whitby in 664, was convened over a concern for authority; would the established Church follow Roman or Celtic Christian customs?

They chose Roman customs, for a season, but not for all time. Jump forward to the great William the Conqueror in 1066. Long before Henry VIII, William the Conqueror also considered himself the head of the Church of England. He convened church councils (not the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury), he nominated bishops and invested them; and he refused to allow the Pope to interfere in what he considered the king’s business.

Later, Thomas a Beckett would lose his life by crossing King Henry II. In those days (11th and 12th Centuries), the King of England would often refuse to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury inside the country (Archbishops Lanfranc, Anselm, and Thomas a Beckett were all exiled at one time or another).

The Church in England was living through authority issues long before Henry VIII arrived on the scene. And, of course, the Anglican Communion of Churches continues to live through authority issues. At our best, churches in the Anglican tradition, including the Episcopal Church, have learned to live through authority issues with grace.

In the great Protestant Reformation issues of the sixteenth century, Henry VIII actually never abandoned the theology of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, he wrote a treatise against Martin Luther in 1521 which earned the title “Defender of the Faith” for Henry – and thus for all the rest of his succesors to this day. When he appealed to the pope for annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry was concerned far more for a suitable male heir for the kingdom than for the new Protestant theology. In another era, the Pope might have granted his request easily; but at that time, the weak pope was under the sway of the holy Roman emperor, Charles V – who was the nephew of Catharine of Aragon. There was no way the pope was going to offend Charles V by annulling the marriage of his aunt!

If there is any one person (other than Jesus) who did start –or who best represents—the Anglican tradition of Christianity, it is Elizabeth I. Reigning from 1559-1603, just after England had been swung violently back and forth between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, it was she who found a way for the Church of England to be both Catholic and Protestant. She represented a way to resolve conflict gracefully in the church.

At its best, the Anglican tradition of Christianity resolves conflict gracefully. And it does so, rarely by taking “the middle way,” which has long been another name for the Episcopal Church (the “middle way” between Catholicism and Protestantism). Rather, I believe the Anglican tradition of Christianity often finds truth on both sides of theological and cultural disputes. The Anglican Communion of Churches finds “the comprehensive way,” affirming truth on both the traditional and the progressive wings of Christian community. The Anglican Communion of Churches might better be called the “via comprehensiva,” the comprehensive way.

I believe this “comprehensive way” was responsible for resolving other conflicts in Episcopal Church history, too. It explains how the early Protestant Church in the United States of America could be related to the Church of England but also separate from it. It was the comprehensive way that held the Episcopal Church together during the tragedy of the American Civil War. The comprehensive character of Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church also enabled us to meet the rise of science and higher literary criticism in the nineteenth century with grace and faith. We found a way to read the Bible with both faith and reason.

The Christian Church inevitably involves conflict. Usually, there are persons of good Christian faith on both sides of the conflict. The particular Anglican tradition of Christianity is a way of dealing with conflict gracefully. Obviously, our history has not always been clearly graceful. Nor is it always graceful right now. But the tradition which guides us is truly a graceful one.

From generation to generation, the Episcopal Church seeks to honor the universal claim of the Christian gospel while also honoring local authority and indigenous faith. That is another inherent challenge – and conflict—in all churches. How can we be obedient to both global tradition and local authority? How can we honor both the gospel and our local culture? It is a journey and task entrusted to us by our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

When we remember Jesus, the founder of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion of Churches, let us also remember that our faith declares a comprehensive truth about him, too. Jesus Christ, we say, was both fully divine and fully human. Orthodox Christianity refuses to choose one nature over the other; Jesus is fully both. Jesus Christ is not some middle ground between divinity and humanity; Jesus Christ is comprehensive of all divinity and all humanity. That incarnational faith is the graceful style of Anglican Christianity, too.