Sunday, December 30, 2007

Audtion Script for "The Richest Man in Santa Fe"

This is the audition script from "The Richest Man in Santa Fe," a play I've written that will be produced in "Benchwarmers VII" at the Santa Fe Playhouse in Santa Fe on February 23 at 8 pm and February 24 at 2 pm. This play and "So, What's with Eliot?" are one act plays running about 15 minutes each.


Cast of Characters
HARRY: a street person/bum, but not too shabbily dressed. He may or may not be God. He has refused to say “Thank you” to Stan who first put a dollar in his basket, then a twenty.
STAN: a man in his mid-thirties to mid-forties. Stan is headed for a mid-life crisis. Harry has cajoled twenty one dollars from him and refused to say “Thank you.” The reading begins with Stan waiting for Harry to thank him.

SETTING: HARRY sits on the bench with a blanket and a basket with paper money in it.


I’m waiting.

I see that.

So where’s the “thank you?”

HARRY looks all around for a “thank you,” as if it’s an object.

I guess it’s not here.

Where’s the “thank you?!”

You want a “thank you?” . . . How much cash have you got on you?

How much cash have I got on me? Who in hell do you think you are?

I’m not sure you’re ready for that.

Ready for what?

For me to tell you who the hell I am?

Try me.

O.K. God.

God, what?

God. . . .That’s all. . .I’m God.

I guess I forgot in the middle of all this that I am in Santa Fe.

It doesn’t matter: Santa Fe, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Espanola. It’s the same everywhere.

Yeah, sure. Look, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you look nothing like George Burns.

Audition Script for "So, What's with Eliot?"

What follows is a cutting from one of the plays I wrote which will be produced in "Benchwarmers VII" at the Santa Fe Playhouse in late January through most of February. This cutting was used for auditions for the play.


Cast of Characters

The Director: Male or female, has a seat in the front row center of the audience.
Phil: A young man dressed very Santa Fe. Phil is very New Age.
Ron: Older than Phil, dressed well, in a way that distances him from others.
Harry Somewhat shabbily dressed.
Ernest V-neck sweater over a white shirt. Slacks.
Eliot: Middle aged man, dressed simply. Has just learned that he has cancer.

SETTING: Phil is auditioning for an lib part with Eliot, who is about to reveal to Phil what is distressing him. After the first two scripted lines, they are on their own (only they follow THIS script).

I just got the news today.

You just got the news today?

PHIL and ELIOT drop their scripts and appear to be on their own from here on.

ELIOT (Tentative)
Yeh, I’ve got. . . I’m. . . cancer.

Oh, no! Really?

Yeh, really. Cancer.

Bummer. Major Bummer.

You can say that again. . .

Bummer. Major Bu. . .

That’s not what I meant.

Hey, I’m sorry. I know something about what you mean. It’s hard. It’s got to be hard. That’s been one of the hardest things I, personally, have gone through.

You’ve been through this?

Yeah! I’ve been through this. Big time. All my life I’ve been dealing with this. So I know what you’re going through. But with me, it wasn’t cancer: it was Capricorn.


Yeah. It’s this way: it’s like everything about me is Aquarius. I’m talking deeply Aquarius here. I should have been Aquarius, but I couldn’t move my December birthday. So all through my life there has been this awful conflict -- what you called “major bummer” -- between who I am as a person – definitely Aquarius – and who I am in the technical, surface sense – Capricorn. So when you tell me that you’re dealing with Cancer, I know just what you’re feeling. I’m with you, Buddy. 100%.

(feeling distressed, angry)
You don’t understand. . .

I don’t understand?

You don’t understand. . . .I’ve got cancer in my body!
(Phil moves further away from Eliot)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

My first 40 years as a priest

I was ordained in Topeka, Kansas forty years ago and today I want to share with you some of my reflections on my life as a priest. I am deeply grateful to God for the past 40 years of ordination. On the whole, they have been wonderful years (that is, full of wonder). There have been very few days out of the past 40 years of ordained ministry when I have wanted to do or to be anything other than Episcopal priest. For me, it has always been a real privilege and honor to be a priest -- and that has been true even when the times have been rough. And they have been rough at times.

Two years after being ordained as the most conservative and, probably, one of the more racist members of my seminary class, I spent an afternoon listening to the stories of several Black students who were holding a civil rights demonstration at the University of Kansas where I was chaplain back in 1965. The stories I heard had such power for me and they represented so much of the presence of God I had read about -- so I joined them and, with 103 Black students, was arrested and jailed..

The County Jail was overflowing, with the male students 4-6 to a cell on the second floor and the women on the first floor. The students asked if they could be released from their cells for just 5 minutes, so I, the minister and only non-student, could lead them in prayers. My life and my understanding of the church changed that day more than on any other. The pain in the arrest came three months later, when my bishop, who had urged his clergy to be involved, caved into some very vindictive people and, in effect, put me on half salary for the next year and a half. I lived through that with him and more; but three years later, it became a choice between leaving the work and the people I really loved. . .or becoming terribly cynical about the church as institution. Much the same thing happened ten years later, when someone else's fear resulted in my having to leave friends and colleagues I had loved ...and moving on.

There have been other kinds of heartbreak -- sitting up night after night with a young 16 year old boy as his mother died, leaving him absolutely alone, without other family. And in Madison, what seemed like almost weekly AIDS-related funerals at the church. So often the service was for someone who -- just weeks or months before -- had been in a pew mourning another friend's death. There have not been many months in the 40 years without some kind of heartbreak.

Most of my forty years have been in campus ministry and it has often been wild and woolly: as priest I was arrested and jailed twice, and then I went back to jail, only this time to coach an inmates chess team which then beat the University of Rochester faculty chess team five matches to two. In earlier years, I led encounter groups, hosted Allen Ginsburg at our Coffee House ministry in Kansas, wrote two books, learned fire eating and juggling, and through my service as trustee of one the largest public pension funds in the country I got to go head to head with Roger Smith and the full board of General Motors and other major corporations on moral and ethical issues. I couldn't dream of a more exciting or fulfilling life. But the best, the very best has been out of the limelight and with you and with the people at Christ Church, Warrensburg, Missouri, week by week building up the life of those church families. That has been the deep satisfaction.

Things have changed drastically since I was ordained 40 years ago. When I was ordained, women were not allowed to serve on Vestries, girls were not allowed even to acolyte, there were separate churches for Black and white Episcopalians. Mostly white Episcopalians did not know about Latin American, Asian or other kinds of Episcopalians. When I was ordained, it was like the congregation hired a priest to be its minister. Where the priest was, there was the church: it felt like the task of the lay people was to assist the priest in his ministry.

Things are so much healthier now, where my reason for being here is to support you in the real ministry of the church -- the living out of the Christian faith in our families, in our businesses, in our schools and hospitals and agencies, as we try to reflect the will of God in this Valley. My job is to feed, to nourish, to support, sometimes to inspire, but then to get out of the way -- because you are the ministers.

What I would like to do is four things, fairly briefly: I'd like to tell you something about what it means to me to be a priest; to tell you some of the things I am most proud of; to share a couple of secrets; and then to say thank you -- to you and to God.

What it is like to be a priest? to be a priest is to wrestle with an on-going contradiction of isolation and intimacy. On the one hand, there is a powerful intimacy with people. It is an intimacy of being with you as you struggle with the most personal details of your lives. It is the intimacy of being privileged with the deepest doubts and the most serious questionings and struggles of so many people. What many of us have with one or two or maybe three people in our lives, a priest may have with hundreds of people over the years.

But over against the intimacy, is the isolation. Often, when I walk into a room with my clericals on, a hush settles over the conversation. And invariably people apologize to me for their language, or for being angry or upset – as though I'm holy God or a non-person. The worst came 26 years ago when I announced to the congregation that my wife and I had just adopted a baby boy. One member of the congregation cornered Judy at the coffee hour and with a loud voice that rang through the hall, announced, "What a wonderful way for a minister to have a baby!" Apparently she knew something I had not known: there are three genders - male, female and clergy.

There is a certain, maybe necessary, distance in pastoral relationships. Some of that, I've found, I bring, myself, and much of it probably goes with the territory. I think sometimes my ill-conceived humor is an awkward way of protesting the isolation, the sense that there is something different.

The best things about the work of ordained ministry are the people and the enormous variety of challenges and tasks and demands of the work: teaching, preaching, organizing, nurturing, administration, counseling, studying, working with community organizations -- the list is endless. The worst part of all that is that no one can do all those things well. And there is so much that I have not done well: partly because of temperament, partly from the ADHD, partly because if you are fully committed to be a pastoral presence in the lives of your families, it’s hard to shift focus to the organizational/structural concerns -- just as if you are fully committed to structure, process and program, it’s hard to shift focus to the pastoral needs of your families. So, there is always a built-in frustration in a pastoral relationship.

I think the things for which I am most proud are also the things for which I am most grateful. Thirty-seven years ago, a fellow college chaplain, John Simmons, asked me to join him in trying to build bridges between the church and the homosexual community. From that moment on, that work has always been a part of my life. What I have learned is that it’s not about sex – it’s about what it means to be human and what it means to exclude those whom God includes. Our culture has made this very difficult. Over the years, I have heard such painful, tragic stories -- even of clergy children whose fathers would not let them receive communion in their churches. And I have experienced such wonderful lives and inspiring stories from both sides of the bridge -- and none more inspiring than in the life of this congregation. So it’s some pride. . . but much, much more gratitude.

The same has been true with the clowning. The clowning (the performance side) has been nourished by so many clergy and lay people, mostly, probably, by a young graduate student in North Carolina, Kenny Kaye, who had dropped out of school to juggle. He was so talented and so gracious and forgiving; but he was also shy. He could not even pass the hat. .so he was soon broke. So, with Kenny’s skill (he ended our act by juggling 3 ping pong balls out of his mouth) -- with his skill and my professional training in passing the hat, the two of us formed “Uncle Billy’s Pocket Circus” as a street show and performed all over the South, including the International Jugglers Convention Banquet Show. Kenny, a Jew, taught me to see the clowning and the juggling as an expression of my faith and of my ministry. It was through the clowning that I saw, more and more, the parables, the Beatitudes and so much of the life of Jesus as the ministry of the fool, the pied piper, enticing us into a deeper and more compelling vision of life. None of it would have happened without Kenny and a host of others, including David Fly (my spiritual mentor in clowning and foolery) and Pat Anderson, who inspired and challenged me to develop and organize “The Care Fools,” a clown troupe of fairly severely disabled clowns who worked miracles wherever they went – real miracles.

One part of the 40 years most of you don’t know about was that my church in Madison, Wisconsin, was, I believe, back in 1983 the first Episcopal Church in the country to provide public sanctuary for people fleeing for their lives from El Salvador and Guatemala, knowing that we would very likely be arrested and imprisoned for doing so. I know it was from that experience in Madison, that the work with San Pablo’s, our sister congregation we house, was so attractive to me. What we learned from the refugees, living with them day by day, was that they had much more to give and to teach us than we had for them. One family, in particular, were so kind and so gentle and so committed to their faith; but their bodies were covered with scars from being tortured by their own government. They had earned those scars, as Archbishop Romero had earned his death, by witnessing to their faith. It was another side of church that continues to touch me.

Following that experience, it has been such a joy to have spent 15 years working with the people of San Pablo. Again, we each have much to give, much to receive from one another. The bonds of love and respect between St. Paul’s and San Pablo are so important for them, and even more, for us. Our ministry with San Pablo is unique in our diocese and nearly so, in the whole of the Episcopal Church. We are so fortunate.

Of my forty years as priest, the last 15 years have probably been the best -- in my life with Ann, in my life with our children and most certainly in my life with you and the people of this diocese. You have opened your hearts and your lives to me so consistently, and you make such a difference in one another’s lives and in being a bright beacon for the people of this Valley who need you so much. Time after time, you have been willing to stretch, spiritually, and to risk your own comfort for the benefit of others -- for the homeless, for those who struggle daily for survival, for becoming a really inclusive church and for entering into such a wonderful relationship with the people of San Pablo. Thank you for your part in all that.

Briefly, three secrets. Shortly before applying for the position here at St. Paul's I was on the verge of leaving the active ministry and going on to something else. I went through a career evaluation center and the night before the end of the program, I could only see alternatives outside the church. Something happened that night I know not what -- but the next morning my vocation was never clearer and I have not had a moment's doubt since. It could only have happened with Ann's support and the grace of God -- both were critical.

Second secret: When I arrived here, I knew very, very little about running a church, being a rector (but that is not a secret or surprise to many of you). Now other clergy often turn to me for advice. Whenever that happens, I give thanks for your patience and your willingness, and Ann’s, to teach, to challenge, and most of all, to forgive me. I think the love we have had for one another has covered a multitude of mistakes and mis-steps. Mostly, when I have done things you have thought were especially good or wise, that’s usually because I had previously consulted Ann. You will never know how important Ann and her wisdom and her vision have been to us all these past 15 years.

The last secret, which is not really a secret but something maybe that I should have spent all my time on this morning. I think the real strength of any of us in ministry (lay or ordained) comes not from our natural strengths, but from our disabilities or our woundings. I know that is true for me. In retrospect, one of the gifts I received from my childhood has been a deep acquaintance with pain and with darkness. For me, lurking somewhere beneath the surface is a kind of melancholy or poignancy. It has to do with the fragility of life and sadness. I have never seen this as something that should be feared or avoided. There is a sadness to life, but it is never the last or the only word: more often than not, it is the gateway to our deepest spirituality. It's the other side of the red nose and it has been more than equally important.

So I think of the hundreds and hundreds of times I have been moved to tears by the heroism with which you and others have faced life and all it brings. I see it in the ways you and those who have gone before you have faced death or serious dislocations in your lives. I have seen you affirm the power of life and goodness in the midst of darkness and despair. I have seen you love and support strangers, the homeless, those who, at the beginning, seemed strange and threatening.

It has been a rich 40 years. Thank you for having me as your priest these past 15 years. Spiritually you have been a real Godsend to me. I have felt from the beginning here, that God has called me here, through you. I am really honored to be a part of your tradition of caring, your reaching out into the community, and your loving concern for all kinds of people. You have given me wonderful Vestries and the best Senior Wardens. You have surrounded me with support and love -- you have been willing to reach and to stretch in wonderful ways. You are wonderful partners in ministry. For that, I give thanks to God and to you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A False Notion of the Unity of the Church

One of the threads in the discussions of the World Wide Anglican Communion over the past several years has focused on the priority of unity within the Body of Christ. In good part, I believe, that discussion has been fueled by the difficulty many are having with one of the central virtues of Anglicanism, comprehensiveness, which allows for differing viewpoints to co-exist within the same congregation, diocese, province and Communion. Against that sense of dis-ease, I note the following about our necessary unity:

First, it is most often that we find or discover our unity with one another in mission or in jointly resisting evil in the world. Councils and committees are important, but they rarely have the power of seeking justice and exercising compassion together in the world. The unity of the church, expressed in public documents comes in a poor second to the unity of the church in resisting evil or promoting the Kingdom of God.

In response to seek to replace comprehensiveness with uniformity, often referring to “the scandal of our divisions,” I fail to see how a wondrous array of perspectives and commitments being lived out through different denominations is scandalous. We are all united in the Risen Body of Christ -- what could be closer What I would consider as scandalous is what the Roman Catholics do and infer -- that is, saying that they are the authentic church of Jesus Christ while others represent different shades and expressions of inauthenticity and untruth.

This is what will be scandalous: It will be scandalous when the Quakers are not allowed or honored to be the very best Quakers they can be -- and the same for the Mennonites, the Baptists, Episcopalians and Orthodox. No one denomination, national or international church can represent the others. While there are strains of the Mennonites in certain enclaves of Roman Catholics, that witness will always be an aberration. In the same way, the discipline of the Assembly of God cannot be integrated within the Orthodox tradition without compromising what is special and unique there. Why compress everything into a shadow of its former self in the name of unity? Talk about your scandal!

The problem is not with our differing denominations -- it is with our lack of humility, charity and ability to see the fullness of Jesus Christ in ways we, ourselves, do not embody. I remember the words of a long dead bishop in the United Methodist Church, “Thank God we are not all United Methodists!” When Episcopalians can say that with convictions, we will be a much stronger and more faithful expression of the institutional life of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Richard Shimpfky preached an excellent sermon a few years ago about the diversity within the Trinity which co-exists with the unity. For Jesus to pray that the church may be one, even as he and the Father are one, does not presuppose a lack of diversity or difference. Diversity and difference are built in to the life of the Trinity.

Consider, too, the life of Jesus. Where in his band of disciples can one discern anything like "unity" within the followers of Jesus? Where could you ever discover such a thing -- even in the early church with its diversity of experience and beliefs? If you want to dispel the myth of “the faith once delivered to the saints” as having anything at all to do with a unified set of beliefs or ways of thinking about divine love, atonement, Baptism or any other core beliefs in the early centuries of the Christian church, read David Rhoads’ “The Challenge of Diversity: The Witness of Paul and the Gospels” (Fortress Press).

In the dialogue about unity in the church it is always fair to ask: Is there a way to the unity you are holding up that can come about by means other than strict enforcing of boundaries around theological and ethical formulations and concerns? I believe that the unity God provides the church is the unity which allows and encourages a variety of faithful responses through our varied faith in God.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Fort Worth

On the House of Bishops/Deputies list serve, The Rev. Liz Zivanov writes:

"I don't think the rest of the church really understands the gravity of the situation in Ft. Worth or the other ACN dioceses. Will we (the leadership of TEC, and especially the bishops) continue to watch as this sort of emotional and spiritual violence continues?

First guns from the Stand Firm folks; now guns and tasers in the Diocese of Ft. Worth. And there's not even an effort to hide this violent activity."

My Response:
The subtext of much of the Convention speech by Bishop Iker this past weekend in Fort Worth was full of demonizing and intimidation, while on the surface complaining of intimidation from those threatening to hold him accountable for his leadership of the diocese.

Here is a sampling:
"Wherever Christians gather to take a stand for the Gospel,even in church conventions, the devil will be close at hand, seeking to beguile, divide, and mislead. Watch out!"

Comforting words for those who oppose his agenda!

"Counterfeit Christianity, man-made religion, and revisionist theology must be identified and rebuked for the sake of the unchanging Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Strong words as precursor for honest and open debate about the nature of the Gospel.

"Let us not lose our will to stand for conscience and truth, whatever the consequences or the cost."

The force of this statement is not to honor individual conscience, but the bishop's conscience -- and those who have a different conscience,formed through their own lives in the church and in our seminaries, know well the consequences and cost involved in voicing them.

Granted that near the end of the speech there are notes of graciousness and caring for those who oppose the bishop's agenda; but it is difficult to be caring for those who have just been characterized as on the other side of truth, counterfeit Christians deserving of public rebuke, agents of the devil.

We can all understand the pressures involved when one's world is under attack, as the bishop's world of traditional exclusion of women and homosexuals has been under attack, but Christlike response to such differences is usually couched in prayerful commitment and offers of dialogue,not demonizing and devaluing. The response from those in leadership at this Convention mirrors a different spirituality than that embodied in our Scripture and Book of Common Prayer. We must not demonize them, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we must not allow their words or actions to define the presence of Jesus Christ in the world or in the church -- for where they stand is not where he said he will stand.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rant or Religion?

While listening to a series of audio tapes of notable closing arguments before the Supreme Court, one case in particular stood out. The case was Cooper v. Aaron (358 U.S. 1) 1958 concerning the intention of the school board of Little Rock, Arkansas to delay the desegregation of the their schools. Their case was composed of three arguments:

· the people of Little Rock had different beliefs about race relations than other parts of the country;
· the nation should not impose its beliefs on Little Rock;
· unless the Supreme Court allowed them to retain control of their schools and to operate under their own orthodoxy there would be a massive resistance, possibly including violence.

In speaking to the people of Little Rock, Justice Thurgood Marshall made it very clear there would be no sympathy for those who failed to show proper respect for the Supreme Court on this or any other issue: we all live in the United States and our citizenship is based on respect for Congress and the Supreme Court.
The more I listened to Thurgood Marshall, the more one thing in the life of our own Episcopal Church became very clear. The stance of the dioceses of Fort Worth, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and others is really no different than that of Orval Faubus, George Wallace, Strom Thurmond and other champions of States’ Rights after desegregaton became the law of the land! Both groups oppose what they see as Innovation, whether racial integration or inclusivity. Both share the perceptions of a True Believer, convinced that they alone possess the real truth and morality – and that conviction, they believe gives them the right and the responsibility to resist and to oppose the dictates of General Convention or Congress, whether the moral issue is desegregation of the schools or full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church.

The central issue is remarkably the same: whether the authority of General Convention or of the Supreme Court overrides the assertions of a Bob Duncan, Jack Iker, John David Schofield or an Orval Faubus or George Wallace. The disrespect for legitimate authority in an Orval Faubus is mirrored in a like disrespect from Bishop Duncan, forbidding prayers for the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
These three dioceses, soon to be joined by one or two more, claim a truth and an orthodoxy for themselves that allows them to banish and to harass any in their midst who are seen to be “trouble-makers.” It allows them to raise, in effect, the ecclesiastical equivalent of the Confederate flag – a slap in the face to our spiritual ancestors who worked so hard to maintain the comprehensiveness that has marked our unique contribution to worldwide Christianity.

Bishop Duncan’s refusal to pray for our Presiding Bishop is clearly against both the letter and the Spirit of the New Testament. The question surely arises, “How do you fancy yourself as one of the chosen recipients of "the faith once delivered to the saints" while so brazenly scornful of the heart of the faith actually given to the saints?” This is not orthodoxy – it is a pale distortion of Biblical religion, actually more rant than religion.

How do we respond to this substitute for the faith most of us have known? The first thing we must do is to say that we don’t recognize this attitude as having anything to do with the Jesus Christ we know. It is a new religion. The second thing we can say is that, like the opposition to segregation, this new religion seems to be built around collective fears and dislikes rather than upon a faith received.

The third thing we must say or remember is that these bishops and the clergy and people who follow them are our brothers and sisters. We can and must wish them well as they move out of the Episcopal Church into some other faith and practice. We do them no favors, though, in allowing them, in leaving, to take the property which belongs to those for whom they have such little respect.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Episcopal Majority: Undermining The Episcopal Church, Part 2

The Episcopal Majority: Undermining The Episcopal Church, Part 2

The Episcopal Majority: The Undermining of the Episcopal Church, Part 3

The Episcopal Majority: The Undermining of the Episcopal Church, Part 3

Give Me a Break!

One of the men who accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury to our House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans was Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem. Upon reading his speech (read, “scolding”) to the bishops, I felt it was important to respond (I would post the speech, but it is little more than what I note before, only with more flourishes).

Is it a fair reading of this speech to conclude that this is what he is saying, in plain English:

1. The Muslims with whom we live will dictate the terms of what is essential in our faith and we dare not deviate from their judgment.

2. The American Church no longer values the historic Creeds, the Bible, Jesus or much else central to the Christian faith. What is the evidence for that? We just told you that it is so.

3. The Lambeth Conference, which at no time previous to its last meeting was ever considered a legislative body, has legislated the one and only one interpretation of seven verses of the Bible. If you don't agree with those interpretations, it is likely that, as others have told me, you are not Christian.

4. The Anglican Communion values diversity -- but only within the confines of uniformity. Some of my best friends are different from me.

5. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which enters into dialogue with complete openness to embracing our truths and discarding their own,the Americans have a real stake in the outcome of sitting around a table.

6. I am aware that I have hinted that you are a non-Christian religion and have been more than clear that you have no regard for standards or communion, but please forgive me if, by any means, I might have offended you.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What Can We Tell Our Children About the War?

This was written at the very beginning of the invasion of Iraq. Much has changed -- but not the perennial concerns of Christian people.

Like most people I have spent a great deal of time sorting through a myriad of perspectives on the war in which we are involved. The more I learn, the more conflicted I become. There was no justification for the horror of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That is bottom line. At the same time, as adults in a free society, it is important that we understand why militants and moderates in the Middle East feel as they do. Our country has done many things in that area in the name of anti-communism that have caused distress and often outrage among the ordinary people of the region. Will this be a time when, in defending ourselves on the one hand, we also find ways of reviewing and purifying the hurtful parts of our foreign policy? Can we love our country while at the same time acknowledging its imperfections (patriotism) or do we have to believe that we are entirely good and our enemies the epitome of evil (nationalism)?

Over this past month, I have been struck by the questions I have been asked by children. Especially the very simple question: “Why do we have to have wars?” It is that question that raises, for me the equally important question: As people of faith, what do we tell our children about the war, even given our own confusion?

I think I would begin with two stories. The first story is our oldest story, the story of Adam and Eve and their children. Most of us remember their two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain was so jealous of his brother and so filled with resentment and unable, I think, to talk about his feelings to anyone at all that he . . . .

We know what he did. That story is in the Bible because it reflects something that happens in families and nations (especially nations) over and over again. That story forms much of the basis for the greatest story of the Salinas Valley, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I don’t know why brothers and sisters fight so much. My brother and I didn’t stop fighting until I was 50 years old! Thank God we didn’t kill each other or injure one another in those long years of struggling.

The other story that is important to know is the story of Abraham and his two sons. Abraham had been promised by God that he would be the father/grandfather/great grandfather, etc. of all the people of God, through all time. This was a thrilling prospect; but there was a hitch. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, tried to have children and couldn’t. In utter frustration, Sarah suggested that Abraham have the child with his servant Hagar. And so he did, with the birth of Ishmael. Ishmael proceeded to spend the rest of his life preparing to be the head of the family when Abraham died.

But then, just when Abraham was near death and Ishmael would come into his glory, God told Abraham and Sarah to get ready. They, in their late eighties, were going to have a baby! Sarah’s response was to laugh – and when the child was born nine months later, Sarah named the boy “Isaac,” which means laughter.

So what happened to Ishmael? Ishmael was no longer the chosen one. Ishmael had to leave – and his people became the people we now call Arabs. Isaac got to stay and his people became the Jews – and one of the Jews was Jesus, whom Christians follow. From the two sons came two families: the children of Isaac, Jews and Christians; and the children of Ishmael, the Arab peoples and the heart of Islam. Both families have become great families, rich in generosity and achievement and dedication. But we have also been like brothers and sisters who don’t get along – and our history has been filled with distrust and jealousy. There have been times when Christians have been terrible to the Jews and to the Arabs – and times when the Arabs have been terrible to the Jews. . and on and on.

All three religions are wonderful religions; but people in each of our three major religions, because of their jealousy, prejudice, resentment and fears, have twisted the goodness in their religion to hurt others.

Why do we have wars? One way to answer the question is with a story: the other is to say that wars begin when jealousy, resentment, hopelessness and fear get out of hand. When you’ve got too much prejudice, you’ve got war. When you’ve got too must resentment or fear, you have war.

There are three things I would like our children to know. The first thing they need to know is that the war is one part of our lives: it is not the whole of our lives. They need to know that it is their parents’ job to keep them safe – their parents will worry about all the things that need worrying about. We need to let our children know that when they get overwhelmed by all the news of the war, they can ask us to turn off our televisions.

Second, our children are, in so many ways, the most important people in the world right now. That is so because they know, in ways the rest of us have forgotten, that we are all children of God. They know that everybody belongs to God and they are the ones who will make a difference to the prejudice in the world. I want my children to know that when someone is being bullied, teased, ignored or hurt because of who they are, then God needs them to befriend those who are being hurt.

It is an old truism that the first casualty in war is truth – and that has been just as true in our country as in any other. In mobilizing for war, we paint ourselves with all goodness and our enemies as entirely evil. We create caricatures of other races and peoples. We did not fight Germans, we fought Krauts. We did not fight the Japanese government, we fought Japs and then Slopeheads and Diaperheads and on and on. I hope and pray our children know better.

The last concern I have for our children is that they understand about violence. For centuries people have wanted to get even when they have been threatened or hurt. The Biblical admonition “an eye for an eye” was an early attempt to mitigate the evils of revenge but our religions have gone beyond the notion of “an eye for an eye” to opposing revenge, itself, as a way of responding to violence or hurt. As Gandhi said, “if all that we have is ‘an eye for an eye,’ eventually the whole world will be blind.”

The first thing God wants us to do when faced with evil is to stop it, to restrain it -- but not to add to it. If we have to lock someone up to restrain him, we lock him up. If we have to destroy someone’s weapons, we destroy them. But when we try to get even, we become the evil we deplore.

My last words are for parents and the rest of us. In the midst of worry, anxiety and terror, we need to remember that God’s peace is real and that it is present. The blessing that is used in so many Christian churches, “The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God . . . .” That was written by Paul, not while lazing on the beach and feeling good about the world, but as he was facing a death sentence. There are wars, there is jealousy, resentment, hopelessness and poverty all around us; but at the heart of it all is the peace of God which will sustain us as we, with others, work calmly and with absolute resolution to restore God’s wholeness and holiness to this broken world.

An Anglican-Episcopal Quiz

After seventeen days of extensive research and consultation, The Episcopal Majority has finally developed a quiz which will most likely qualify one for several offices in The Episcopal Church, including Deputy to General Convention, Bishop of an endangered diocese in either the northern or southern part of The United States, Official Commentor at Fr. Jake Stops the World, Titus One, and Stand Firm in Faith, and as Certified Co-Pilot for our Presiding Bishop, ++Katharine Jefferts-Schori.

The Rev. Thomas B. Woodward


Please answer the following questions honestly, without consulting prominent web sites or looking at your neighbor’s computer. Your answers will determine the authenticity of your orthodoxy or “orthodoxy.” Good luck and godspeed.

Part One

In the past, Anglicans have struggled with many weighty issues. Some have caused splits, while others have not. Which of the following religious issues, having ardent supporters on both sides, have caused splits in the Episcopal Church?

a. May Christians participate in armed combat, killing other humans on demand?
b. May Christians use birth control methods?
c. Must women cover their heads while in church?
d. May Christians own slaves?
e. Are women as suitable for ordination as men?
f. Is abortion always wrong?
g. May the church bless a life-long commitment between two people of the same gender?
h. Given the clear Biblical prohibition against touching pigskin, may Christians play football?
i. May murderers be ordained to the priesthood?
j. May a gay priest with 30 years of exemplary service to the church be consecrated bishop?
k. Should the tithe of 10% be mandatory for full membership in the church?

Answers: The following have divided Episcopalians, but have not caused splits within the Episcopal Church: a, b, d, f, h, i, k.

The following have caused splits within the Episcopal Church: e, g, j.

The following divided a congregation which had already split from the denomination: c.

Bonus Question: Is there a common theme among the things that have caused splits in the Episcopal Church? [Hint: It is, apparently – at least in the minds of some – more important to God than money, murder, families, biblical commandments, or owning slaves.]

Note: One congregation that left the Episcopal Church over the issue of consecrating gay priests as bishops later found itself divided over the biblical issue of women having to cover their heads while in church. Those who felt that biblical commandment was no longer binding decided to return to the Episcopal Church; they were welcomed back.

Part Two

  1. Name five heroes in our biblical tradition who have served time in prison or have committed murder without serving time in prison.
  2. In the genealogy of Jesus, there are four women who are noted for "sexual irregularities." Name three of them.
  3. Name three crimes noted in Leviticus as deserving death.
  4. When Jesus is quoted as saying "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), which groups of people who believe in him and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit does he mean to exclude?
  5. When Jesus is quoted in the Sermon on the Mount as saying, "Judge not, that you not be judged?" which groups of people did he intend for us to continue judging?
  6. Are there sayings of Jesus or dicta of Paul which contradict or qualify the blessings in the Beatitudes for certain groups of people?
  7. In what is referred to as The Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus described those who will be saved and those who will suffer eternal punishment by their responses to the hungry, the poor, and the like. What happened to Jesus’ footnote, identifying those who would be excluded from the kingdom no matter how responsive they were to the poor?

Bonus Question:

8. Where does St. Paul contradict the saying of Jesus recorded in John 13:35, that "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" by saying, in effect, if you are gay or lesbian it doesn’t matter what Jesus said – you are damned through eternity if you express your love physically? [Hint: It is probably in Paul’s Epistle to the city where Pope Benedict now lives.]

Double Bonus Questions:

  1. When the clear words of Jesus are contradicted by Paul, whose side would orthodox Christians choose?
  2. If the matter might involve the possibility of touching on human sexuality, whose side would "orthodox" Christians choose?
  3. Is it worth asking why?


  1. Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul.
  2. Tamar, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth, Mary the Mother of Jesus.
  3. Cursing one’s parents, touching pigskin, homosexual relationships, etc.
  4. None, absolutely none.
  5. None, absolutely none.
  6. None, absolutely none.
  7. There is no such footnote. There never was such a footnote. You can find qualifications, denying certain groups from the kingdom, but not from the lips of Jesus. He does not distinguish the sheep from the goats by our prejudices, nor by Paul’s.
  8. Romans 1:26-17
  9. Jesus.
  10. Paul
  11. Either “yes” or “no” is correct.

Part Three

When the Network, in its video, "Choose This Day," refers to the Episcopal Church as a "foreign, alien and pagan religion," how does this comport with any reasonable standard of reason, grace, sanity, or even truth?

  1. Is it possible to disagree about matters of capital punishment, abortion, poverty, and biblical inerrancy, and still belong to the same denomination?
  2. Who said the following:
    1. "Peter Akinola is the Dick Cheney of the Anglican Communion."
    2. "The Roman Catholic Church cannot conceive of women priests. The Episcopal Church has woman priests who can conceive."
    3. "They wouldn’t be in CANA if they didn’t know what they’re doing – and they are not there."
    4. "We elected him bishop because we know him, and we know the Holy Spirit in him, and we trust in God’s presence."

3. What would be the response in the Roman Catholic Church if a group of dissidents left the church and, in doing so, claimed the property of the parish for themselves?


  1. It wasn’t Dick Cheney. It was a member of the Episcopal Church Institute.
  2. Mark Russell.
  3. Mort Sahl (adapted)
  4. The people of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
  5. Mark Russell
  1. Riotous laughter, followed by a brief pause and then twenty minutes of snickering and guffawing.

* Note: “The Episcopal Church Institute” is a group of six loyal Episcopalians, most of whom live in the Southwest, based on the model of the Anglican Church Institute, an impressive sounding “orthodox” group of six guys (now three) with a web site, located in Colorado. They share one computer amongst themselves. When our web site is fully operational the ECI Board of Directors will be listed there.

Part Four: Essay Question

In 50 words or less, explain why Paul’s opinions about homosexuality are as important as the Incarnation, Resurrection, Holy Baptism, and the theology of our Book of Common Prayer.


If you have gotten this far, you have scored "Excellent." If you have failed to answer over half of the questions or have failed to provide the correct answer to more than three questions, you still have scored "Excellent," as we live by Grace. Amen.

The Episcopal Majority invites you to score yourselves and post your scores, comments, and quibbles in the "Comments" section.

If you need an Official Certificate, please print the document below: we operate on the Honor System.



This certifies that _____________________ has completed the Anglican-Episcopal Literacy Quiz with a passing grade of __ and is thereby qualified for the position of (check one)

__ Deputy to The General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

__ Bishop of an Endangered Diocese of __ the North, __ the South of The Episcopal Church.

__ Official Commentor on

__ Father Jake Stops the World

__ Stand Firm in Faith

__ Titus One

__ The Episcopal Majority

__ Certified Co-Pilot for Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts-Schori

__ Other


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Creating Martyrs - An Ancient Story

This piece was written in response to the urging of a moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay and lesbian priests as bishops in The Episcopal Church, urged by conservative and reactionary Anglicans in different parts of the world. Martyn Minns, mentioned below, is the titular leader of most of the individuals and groups that have left the Episcopal Church because of our desire and will to become fully inclusive. Peter Akinola has led the world-wide fight to demonize and demean gay and lesbian people.

Recognizing that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was "once for all," it is still true that that sacrifice is reenacted and represented through additional innocent victims, sacrificed by those who cannot abide their presence or what they represent.

Many of us have recognized and been deeply affected by the saving grace of the martyrs of Sharpeville and of Birmingham and Selma. Nearly every posting on the House of Bishops/ House of Deputies list-serve points to the impending sacrifice of gay and lesbian Christians within the church and countless throngs outside the church hoping for some word of affirmation from God. "Sacrifice" may seem too strong a word for a moratorium, except that the message of a moratorium in this case carries the strong message that there are those who can be sacrificed for a greater good -- even by those who represent Jesus. That is an ancient message and, unfortunately, there are plenty who are eager to hear it. . . and to act on it.

Martyrs, as we all must know, do not always shed blood -- some shed tears, some shed their emotional and spiritual lives if the betrayal or hurt is deep enough. And there is worse.

If, as it appears to many, that we choose Martyn Minns over Matthew Shepherd even for a while, we will create martyrs. It will be the church creating martyrs. And those martyrs will, in time, be saving martyrs, sharing not by choice but by destiny in the saving work of Jesus on the Cross in their humiliation.

It may be for some that the death of Jesus on the Cross, which was accomplished to hold the religious establishment's faith, to hold the Empire together, was not enough, not sufficient. Just as for me and for so many others of us in this and every other church, it took the Martyrs of Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery for us to begin to understand the humanity of the victims, so it will take more Matthew Shepherds (some Black, some Brown, some Asian) for those who stand against The Episcopal Church and its full embrace of gay and lesbian people.

How odd that it will be a brother or sister of Matthew who will be the agent of salvation for Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and his brothers and sisters in faith, enabling them to see the full humanity and holiness of those they once saw only as sin or threat.

I hesitate in publishing this, because I know I can't speak for the experience of others. I can only assume that I am not overstating their case.

Incompatible with Scripture?

I woke up this morning thinking, what would the difference be if we granted the divided vote in Lambeth on 1.10 to stand? What does it really say? “Homosexual behavior is incompatible with Scripture?” Then I thought:

- Remarriage after divorce is incompatible with Scripture.
- Injustice in any form is incompatible with Scripture.
- Turning one's back on people blessed with holiness is incompatible with Scripture.
- The taking of human life is incompatible with Scripture.
- Even the touching of pigskin is incompatible with Scripture (there goes Rugby and football throughout the Anglican Communion).
- The treatment of women as less than fully human, while not incompatible with some of Scripture is clearly incompatible with the teaching and actions of Jesus Christ.

So, the questions spill out:

Why, with so many things being honored and practiced throughout the Anglican Communion that are incompatible with Scripture, is there so much energy behind the blessing of a faithful, loving relationship between two members of the same gender who wish to respond to what they know of God in their lives together?

Why so much fear and anger about a diocese electing a priest they have known for years – and known for his godly leadership and live – and then consenting to the discernment of that diocese?

If you want to be a Scriptural absolutist, be a Scriptural absolutist; but do not pick and choose to support your own personal predelictions. That is, by and large, incompatible with Scripture.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

An Open Letter to Our Bishops

     I urge the Network-related bishops of The Episcopal Church as well as others to communicate publicly to the primates opposed to seating our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming primates’ meeting  a demand that she be seated and be treated with the same deference and courtesy these primates ask for themselves.
     I urge you, as well, to remind the primates who support you that this treatment of Katharine Jefferts Schori is shameful behavior for any ordained or lay person. We live by the words of Jesus, not Dick Cheney.

     Jesus accorded the woman at the well and the woman taken in adultery more consideration and courtesy than these primates are according the elected leader of our church.

     If you remain silent, you are complicit in this shameful behavior -- and surely, once such behavior is countenanced, it will come back to inflict terrible damage on you, once you are out of step with this kind of ecclesiastical arrogance.

     Our church which nurtured you, confirmed and ordained and consecrated you and has provided you with your theological education and your opportunity to serve God as Bishop, deserves this from you.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Breaking of Vows

     Two images come to mind in reading Pittsburgh’s bishop, Bob Duncan, explain his reasons for seeking Alternative Primatial Oversight for his diocese, even though he knows and his attornies know that such is illegal and completely against the polity of The Episcopal Church, which he has sworn to honor:

1.        St. Paul in Romans 9-11 goes to great pains to assert that when God makes a promise, that promise is unbreakable. Otherwise God would be untrustworthy. The same is true with our Lord's promises of faithfulness to his vocation -- the Cross is preferable to the slightest deviation from his promise. When we break our ordination or consecration vows, we undermine the credibility of the Christian Church, the Body of Christ we were ordained or consecrated to serve.
To do so, in two words, is to commit spiritual abuse.

2.        When dealing with a married couple when one of the couple wants out to begin or continue with a different partner, the advice of professional is almost always the same: deal first with the stresses and anguish within your marriage -- and divorce if you must. Only then and only after a period of time should you consider any new affiliation.

     My own conclusion is that Bishop Duncan should first deal with his ordination  and consecration vows of loyalty to The Episcopal Church and its doctrine and discipline. He should have done so without involving his clergy or the people of his diocese. The honorable thing to have done would have been to take a leave of absence to sort things out with peers or spiritual advisors, then announce his decision to leave The Episcopal Church's ordained ministry because he could no longer honor his vows (without which he would not have been ordained or
consecrated) or hold a private ceremony of recommitment to his ordination and consecration vows. Once separated from his vows, he would be free to seek out whatever succor or position he wanted in the church of God.

Encouragement of one's clergy to follow anything but this process is, I believe, conduct unbecoming. From my own experience of leadership in the civil rights movement and the Sanctuary movement, I know how beguiling power and the attraction of opposion is -- those of us who have been more or less successful in resisting the evil hold of those things are fortunate while those who succumb end up doing more damage than any good they could have envisioned.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Convocational Convenience

Not wanting to criticize an organization about which I had only bad feelings, on a friend’s advice I searched out the web site for the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA) at  and read through the Frequently Asked Questions. It is a remarkable document.

What I found interesting is the clever (read “disingenuous”) way CANA's official stances waffle on several Biblical and doctrinal issues while the origin of this secessionist group is its absolutist belief that there is only respectable understanding of Biblical authority and interpretation. They indicate that on several crucial moral and doctrinal issues there is only one way to understand Biblical authority and interpretation (thus their charge that The Episcopal Church, by abandoning the Bible, is apostate and deep in heresy), but on matters which might affect their ability to lure additional Episcopalians into their convocation, they indicate that you could look at Biblical evidence this way or you could look at it that way – it all depends. However, they indicate, when they eventually achieve a larger base of the disaffected they will clarify which stance will govern the faithful. There is a word for this. Unfortunately the word will not pass the Blog moral police.

First You Steal, Then You Ask for a Loan

Martyn Minns, the new missionary bishop to North America from Virginia/Nigeria, has charged Peter Lee, Bishop of Virginia with neglect for not being adequately pro-active in responding to the pastoral and personal needs of the clergy Minns has helped leave The Episcopal Church.

How can a reasonably reason person respond?  On the one hand, Martyn Minns is centrally involved in a movement which charges TEC with apostacy, teaching heresy, highjacking the Christian faith and other such demonic actions. On the other hand he expects TEC to respond to him and his charges with the faith which he says we have adulterated and distorted.
On the one hand, MM is countenancing the alienation of property from TEC while asking for forebearance in financial matters. Isn't that a little like committing identity theft on a friend and then telling the world he is a cheapskate because he won't give you a loan?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Whatever Happened to "Wise as Serpents?"

The Church Times has a report by Pat Ashworth covering the recently leaked letter from Rowan Williams to the primates, in which it was disclosed that Dr Williams invites Dr Jefferts Schori to Primates’ Meeting.
Today, in the Telegraph Jonathan Petre reports that Archbishop fears Church schism in gay row. This is based on an interview in an ITV documentary to be aired tomorrow in Britain (11 am, ITV1). According to the Telegraph:
The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that he fears losing control of the worldwide Anglican Church, which is on the brink of schism over homosexuality.
In a surprisingly frank assessment of the crisis, Dr Rowan Williams said that he feared anything that set Christians more deeply at odds with each other.
“And because I am an ordinary, sinful human being, I fear the situation slipping out of my control, such as it is,” he said…
“I fear schism, not because I think it’s the worst thing in the world but because, at this particular juncture, it’s going to be bad for us. It’s going to drive people into recrimination and bitterness.”
In a documentary on Canterbury Cathedral to be broadcast on ITV tomorrow, the archbishop added: “We can’t take it for granted that the Anglican Communion will go on as it always has been.
“Of course that’s unsettling, of course that’s painful for everybody, but there’s no way of moving on without asking the hard questions.”
My response:

In this country, the Presiding Bishop would hire Speed Leas or some other really good consultant to map out how to deal with the conflicts and maximize the chances for resolving it or dealing with it with positive results all around. I assume we would even consider a facilitator other than the presiding officer for a gathering like the Primates' next meeting.  Instead we have an academic with little real world savvy who has backed and filled on his own intellectual commitments chairing a Primates' meeting filled with enormous misunderstandings, even bigger egos, massive cultural differences and an agenda full of gender issues about which the Archbishop of Canterbury seems uniquely unsuited to understand, much less illuminate.
What was it that Jesus of Nazareth said? "Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves."