Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Rick Warren Should NOT Offer Invocation

From Bishop John Bryson Chane:

I am profoundly disappointed by President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to invite Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to offer the invocation at his inauguration. The president-elect has bestowed a great honor on a man whose recent comments suggest he is both homophobic, xenophobic, and willing to use the machinery of the state to enforce his prejudices—even going so far as to support the assassination of foreign leaders.

In his home state of California, Mr. Warren’s campaigned aggressively to deny gay and lesbian couples equal rights under the law, relying on arguments that are both morally offensive and theologically crude. Christian leaders differ passionately with one another over the morality of same-sex relationships, but only the most extreme liken the loving, lifelong partnerships of their fellow citizens to incest and pedophilia, as Mr. Warren has done. The president-elect’s willingness to associate himself with a man who espouses these views as a means of reaching out to religious conservatives suggests a willingness to use the aspirations of gay and lesbian Americans as bargaining chips, and I find this deeply troubling.

Mr. Warren has been rightly praised for his efforts to deepen the engagement of evangelical Christians with impoverished Africans. He has been justifiably lauded for putting the AIDS epidemic and global warming on the political agenda of the Christian right. Yet extravagant compassion toward some of God’s people does not justify the repression of others. Jesus came to save all of humankind, and as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pointed out, “All means all.” But rather than embrace the wisdom of Archbishop Tutu, Mr. Warren has allied himself with men such as Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda who seek to “purify” the Anglican Communion, of which my Church is a member, by driving out gay and lesbian Christians and their supporters.

In choosing Mr. Warren, the president-elect has sent a distressing message internationally as well. In a recent television interview, Mr. Warren voiced his support for the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These bizarre and regrettable remarks come at a time when much of the Muslim world already fears a Christian crusade against Islamic countries. Imagine our justifiable outrage if an Iranian cleric who advocated the assassination of President Bush had been selected to offer prayers when Ahmadinejad was sworn in.

I have worked with former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to improve the relationship between our two countries as hawkish members of the Bush administration pushed for another war. He has spoken at the National Cathedral, which will host the president-elect’s inaugural prayer service, and I have visited with him several times in Iran and elsewhere. Iranian clerics are intensely interested in the religious attitudes of America’s leaders. In choosing Mr. Warren to offer the invocation at his inauguration, the president-elect has sent the chilling, and, I feel certain, unintended message that he is comfortable with Christians who can justify lethal violence against Muslims.

I understand that in selecting Mr. Warren, Mr. Obama is signaling a willingness to work with both sides in our country’s culture wars. I appreciate that there is political advantage in elevating the relatively moderate Mr. Warren above some of his brethren on the Religious Right. But in honoring Mr. Warren, the president-elect confers legitimacy on attitudes that are deeply contrary to the all-inclusive love of God. He is courting the powerful at the expense of the marginalized, and in doing so, he stands the Gospel on its head.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Eighth Bishop of Washington

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letter from The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane

This letter was sent to clergy and congregations in the Diocese of Washington (DC). Thank you Bishop Chane!

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington December 9, 2008

To the Clergy and Congregations of the Diocese:

Last Thursday a front page article appeared in the New York Times, and a smaller article in the Washington Post, about the proposed formation of a new non-geographical province within the jurisdictional boundaries of the Episcopal Church. The proposed archbishop of this envisioned province is Bob Duncan, deposed bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

First and foremost, let me assure you that the formation of a non-geographical province within an existing province is highly unlikely. Before the establishment of any such province, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church would have to give her consent, and it is difficult to imagine that she would do so. If consent was given, the Archbishop of Canterbury would then form a committee of primates to discuss the feasibility of forming the new province. If two thirds of the primates felt that such a new province would assist and strengthen the ministry of the Anglican Communion, then the primates would forward their recommendation to the Archbishop of Canterbury who in turn would forward his recommendation to the Anglican Consultative Council for final vote and action. At present, neither two-thirds of the primates, nor the Archbishop seem favorably disposed to this

The gathering in Wheaton, Illinois of Duncan, Martyn Minns and several hundred of their supporters who seek the formation of the non-geographical province came as no surprise to most of us in the House of Bishops. But the press it has received, especially in the New York Times, was well beyond what was warranted considering that the proposed province is, at most, about 5 percent of the size of the Episcopal Church and that its chances of recognition are dim. I realize, however, that this most recent installment in the media’s coverage of how the sky is allegedly falling on the Episcopal Church caught many members of our diocese by surprise, and I want to allay their anxieties. We face our share of problems in the Episcopal Church, but wholesale defections to a movement committed to denying gay and lesbian Christians the birthright of their baptism is not one of them.

The Archbishop of Canterbury wisely did not invite any of the bishops consecrated to serve in the Nigerian, Ugandan, Rwandan or Kenyan incursions into the United States to last summer’s Lambeth Conference. Nor did he invite bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church, which broke from the Anglican Communion almost 130 years ago. Williams seems unlikely to reverse course now. He knows that the leaders of the proposed province have been working, overtly and covertly, to undermine the Episcopal Church for almost a decade, so what was a front page story to the editors of the New York Times was old news to him.

It would be folly for the Archbishop to even consider recognizing a non-geographical province because it would unleash chaos in the Communion, with theological minorities in every jurisdiction seeking to affiliate with likeminded Anglicans in other provinces. Unfortunately, the Archbishop has contributed to the confusion and anxiety the leaders of the proposed province have sought to foster by meeting on numerous occasions with Duncan and his allies. These meetings have bestowed an unwarranted sense of legitimacy on those who seek to deconstruct the Anglican Communion.

What Duncan and Minns propose – that Duncan become the Archbishop of a newly minted non-geographical province with the support of GAFCON primates such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda – is a rejection of the respectful diversity and generous orthodoxy that defines the Communion. It is a repudiation of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in our communal life. It flies in the very face of what it truly means to be an Anglican. For Minns to suggest that he is leading a “new reformation” is ludicrous and demeans the historicity and value of the real Reformation as we know it and live it.

The movers of the proposed new province embarrass themselves, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion by the self-serving media coverage they have worked so hard to achieve. The news of the proposed province appears at a time when more than 28 million Americans are living on food stamps, one out of every 10 new mortgage holders is facing foreclosure, unemployment is at its highest level in decades, the auto industry is “tanking” and the real danger of deflation or a possible depression looms large on the horizon. In the global south, millions live on $1 a day, and wars, ethnic and religious violence, poverty and the AIDS epidemic continue to wrack the African continent. To learn in this context that Duncan, Minns and their allies think that the most important issue facing the church is the sexuality of the Bishop of New Hampshire suggests a level of self-absorption that is difficult to square with the teachings of Christ. And to learn that the New York Times considers the complaints of these deposed, retired and irregularly consecrated bishops to be front page news suggests a fixation on “culture wars” reporting that deprives readers of a true sense of the challenges facing the church in this country.

I write this to you because our clergy and congregations need to know the current status of the irregularly proposed new province within our church. I also need to share with you my disappointment in the behavior of men who were once bishops in the Episcopal Church. Some of these men have been my friends, but they have now taken their own personal agendas for power and control beyond the limits of common Christian charity and decency. As you may already know, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has deposed Duncan and John-David Schofield as bishops and priests in the church, and the Presiding Bishop has recently inhibited Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth and determined that he has renounced his orders. The case of Keith Ackerman, the former Bishop of Quincy, remains to be reviewed.

During this season of Advent, please keep Rowan our Archbishop in your daily prayers, as I know you will continue to pray for Katharine our Presiding Bishop and primate. Pray for the church, the body of Jesus Christ, that it might be a center of strength and a beacon of light and hope during these very tough economic times for those we serve here in the Diocese of Washington and in the global community.

In Christ’s Peace, Power and Love,
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, D.D.
Bishop of Washington

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage

[from the San Diego Tribune]

Same-sex marriage
A question of how we feel about each other After Election 2008
By James R. Mathes December 4, 2008

When the Diocese of New Hampshire elected as its bishop a gay man living in a faithful, monogamous relationship, the Episcopal Church became a target. And so did I.

I received hate mail and even a death threat, so you can imagine that when I went to the Lambeth Conference in July – a conference of all Anglican bishops held every 10 years – it was with a certain degree of anxiety. Human sexuality is a charged issue in the Anglican Communion, so charged that the bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, was not invited.
Although he was not recognized as a participant, Bishop Robinson was permitted to make presentations twice during the two-and-a-half-week conference. Bishops from Africa, India, England, Asia, Australia and South America met Gene. Many of these bishops, who had rejected the very concept of an openly gay leader in the church, came to know the person and their perspectives changed.

On election night, friends who gathered at our home to watch the returns witnessed another change. When Barack Obama was declared the winner, we all sensed the history of the moment. I felt chills watching the president-elect in Grant Park in Chicago as he addressed the nation he would lead. As he spoke of healing and bringing unity to the United States, I remembered feeling similar chills when I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has taught us so much about healing divisions and reconciliation. Archbishop Tutu often leans on an African understanding called ubuntu, which can be captured in the words: “I am because you are.”

As I watched my friends listen to the president-elect, I felt connected to a constellation of people who had the capacity to overcome division and fear. I found myself filled with hope in the same way I had been when Bishop Robinson patiently met face-to-face with people who rejected him as a minister because of his sexuality and life partner.

Later in the evening, when it became clear that Proposition 8 would likely pass, the mood in our home changed again. Another historic moment had come. The state of California was changing its constitution to take away a right. A gay couple, who have been together longer than any of the straight couples present, quietly left our home, but their pain remained.

Many people say they have lots of gay friends, but they just don't approve of their “lifestyle.” In fact, Frank Schubert, the chief strategist who helped raise more than $40 million to pass Proposition 8, says he is not anti-gay, that he has a lesbian sister. I wonder if he celebrated this victory with his sister and her partner?

I feel a bit odd as a straight, white man making the case for gay and lesbian rights. It will seem even odder to some that I do so as a church leader. Nearly half of that $40 million war chest was contributed by Mormons, and we now know the Mormon Church was recruited to the cause by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. But here's the rub. On Election Day, we voted to take away a right, a right that hurt no one and that did not threaten traditional marriage. In taking that right away, we hurt people and demeaned their humanity.

There are reasonable people who think I am wrong and that the right side prevailed on this issue. However, the ongoing protests so widely criticized by Proposition 8 supporters speak to the level of pain this measure has inflicted. Those who favored the proposition, especially, must own their share of responsibility for that pain.

The solution may be another proposition; but in the meantime, I suggest that we follow the lead of Desmond Tutu and remember that the dignity of each person depends on every other person: “I am because you are.” We need to come to fully understand the other: straight, gay, black, white, brown, disabled, smart, not so smart. History has taught us that when we do, the world is changed because we are changed.

* The Right Reverend Mathes is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.