Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Covenant Texts and Intentions

It is, I think, a given that the proposed 'Anglican Covenant' is the fruit of a bad tree. It derives from the envy of a small number of emerging-world Primates and the homophobia of some influential North Americans. The disturbance they raised effectively together as far back as 1998 at the Lambeth Conference caught the Primates by surprise, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and our own Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. The surprise that these primates' highly un-Anglican behavior achieved enabled their effort to gain momentum. While the Churches of the Communion continued to work and pray in accordance with Anglican norms, the 'Family' of a few primates and their North American sponsors continued to work in a way that is much more akin to guerrilla politics than to Christ-like or apostolic fellowship.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rector's Study December 2009

From the Rector’s Study ~

“He was made man that we might be made God.” It is a statement about Jesus well-known in theological circles, enthusiastically endorsed by some, suspiciously scrutinized by others. It was written by the Bishop of the Egyptian city of Alexandria in his thesis Of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Athanasius was bishop at a time when the Church was struggling to understand for itself some central tenets of the faith and wrestling with how to communicate these meaningfully to a skeptical world around it. Tradition holds that Athanasius is the author of the creed that bears his name, and which we find in our Book of Common Prayer beginning at page 864. One reads in the fine detail of this statement of faith the subtle distinction between what Athanasius intends to say and what he decidedly means not to say. When Athanasius claims that Jesus ‘was made man that we might be made God,’ he means exactly what he writes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rector's Study November 2009

This month begins with a celebration of saints and saintliness and concludes with a celebration of both all that we have for which we can be thankful and the phenomenon of thankfulness itself. This month also marks the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of the next. The convergence of all these events reminds us of a basic truth of Christian life: relationship with God is oriented around gratitude. Thankfulness toward God for all that makes up our lives is the guide to and the product of being saintly.
“The original sin of Adam and Eve, the prototype of all sin, is presented as a failure to be receptive and grateful.” So writes theologian and author Ronald Rolheiser in his recent book, The Shattered Lantern: rediscovering a felt presence of God. He explains: “God makes Adam and Eve and places them in the garden and showers them goodness and life. They are given gift beyond measure and are promised that life will continue in this rich and good way on one condition – they are not to eat the fruit of a certain tree.” He goes on, “The condition God places on them is not an arbitrary or petty test…God has told Adam and Eve that they may receive life as gift, but they may not take life as if it were theirs by right.”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rector's Study October 2009

From the Rector's Study ~

“Ours was a life lived in paradise and thus it rendered any discussion of transcendental ideas pointless. …death was something similar to recycling.” So writes author Douglas Coupland in his novel Life After God. Fiction though it is, it is autobiographically reflective. He continues, “Life was charmed but without politics or religion. It was the life of children of the children of the pioneers – life after God – a life of earthly salvation on the edge of heaven. Perhaps this is the finest to which we may aspire, the life of peace, the blurring between dream life and real life – and yet I find myself speaking these words with a sense of doubt. ”

Few authors have expressed as well as this the spiritual life of many of the people emerging into adulthood in the wider community all around us here at ECR. Few authors have so well articulated the deep need among people today for a community like ours here at ECR, and for the good news about God that has made us who we are. Few communities like our own so well express God’s Love and so wonderfully celebrate the opportunity to connect other people with it, as do we.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

17th Sunday after Pentecost - 27 September 2009

17 Pentecost - 27 September 2009 - Proper 21 B
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
James V. Stockton

“I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.” It’s the opening sentence of author Julian Barnes’ latest book, Nothing to be Afraid Of. Barnes claims to be an atheist. Of course, if it were a settled issue for him it seems unlikely that would have written an entire book expressing his nostalgia for Church, religion, and faith in God. His voice made especially poignant because it speaks for one who believes that he once had that relationship, but seems to have lost it somewhere along the way.

I read a story about a family of mice who make their home inside a large grand piano. For as long as any of them can remember, they have blissfully enjoyed the music that regularly surrounds them. Sometimes it is sad, but not regretful, sometimes inspiring, and often soothing and peaceful. The mice take great comfort in the sense of some great Unseen Someone above them but also close to them from whom comes the beautiful music that they all love.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

15th Sunday after Pentecost 13 September 2009

15 Pentecost - 13 September 2009 - Proper 19 B
Proverbs 1:20-33; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38
James V. Stockton

One break-in was bad enough. Add to that another one, more severe, ten days later. Add these to the grief we still bear from July and August and one must wonder, is this just part of what one must endure and, given that we are Christians, must endure with and especially stiff upper lip? We’ve been through rather a lot here at ECR in a just short amount of time. So, is it our role as Christians to endure all this with particularly stoic disaffection? In terms of what we hear in the reading from the Gospel today, is this just our collective cross to bear?

People use the phrase in ways that suggest that it is so. Someone may be caring for a loved one who is chronically ill; someone else has been passed over for a promotion at work; a community has lost a beloved friend; a community’s sense of safety has been violated by people whose values violently contradict its own.

And if people find consolation in the notion that somehow this is just their cross to bear, then far be it from you or me to deny them that comfort. But it must be said, at least among you and me together, that the God that we are here today to worship and praise does not inflict pain and suffering on anyone. So, from where, then, comes the common wisdom that misfortune is sign of the cross that Christ Jesus places upon the shoulders of those who follow him?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

13th Sunday after Pentecost 30 August 2009

13 Pentecost - 30 August 2009 - Proper 17 B
Song of Solomon 2:18-13; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
James V. Stockton

Twentieth century historian and author Jaroslav Pelikan once observed that, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; [while] traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." I read a story about a parish and their new interim priest. The Rev. Mr. Hall offers thoughtful and lively sermons, is quick to respond with pastoral care and attention, and his manner is a balance of reverence and comfortable ease. But people notice immediately that the Rev. Hall is not doing Holy Communion the way that they have always known it to be done. And as good a fit as he might be, some begin to wonder if Fr. Hall might be downright audacious.

In terms of audaciousness, the Song of Solomon, or Song of songs, is the one book of the bible that fits that description. Reveling in the gift of senses, and in the sensuality of creation, here is the lover celebrating the arrival and embrace of her beloved. And the book never even mentions God.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

12th Sunday after Pentecost - 23 August 2009

12 Pentecost - 23 August 2009 - Proper 16 B
1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69
James V. Stockton

A fellow priest commented recently about preaching from the Gospel readings for this month of August. “Bread, bread, bread!” he said. “How much can I think of to say about bread? Remind me,” he added, “when Year B of the Lectionary roles around again, to take the month of August for my vacation.”

I’m glad to be back from vacation. And I say this not because I somehow managed to avoid for the most part a repeated emphasis at this time of the Church’s year upon Jesus’ teaching of the familiar if mysterious metaphor of ‘bread, bread, bread’ as somehow representative of, or equivalent to, his flesh. To the contrary, I’m glad to be back with this, my community of faith because while distance may ‘make the heart grow fonder,’ yet it is proximity that enables trust in God to do what it is meant to do.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Whose Tolerance?

My point about patience is that tolerance is a luxury that can be invited only by those on the inside. Those still being excluded, still having their access to the earthly expression of God's Kingdom denied, have little investment in tolerance of those who are barring the doors. That there is difference of opinion is plainly evident. Even that some of those who are homophobic or who are are all too eager to condemn gay people and we who are their friends may be sincere, let's accept this proposition for the sake of argument as well. But what then is the relevance of this to the Gospel or the Church?

People make choices. If they cannot follow the Gospel into the Episcopal Church, or cannot follow the Episcopal Church into the Gospel, so be it. I can admit, for the sake of argument, that people who despise gay people and who loathe us who advocate for their full welcome and integration into the life and ministry of the Church, can be intelligent, sincere, and honest. Done. But how does this translate into a some vague Utopian vision wherein none of these differences matter? Is it the suggestion of those calling for tolerance that humility before God, such as at the Eucharist, equalizes everyone in some practical way? Surely they can acknowledge that this isn't so. Instead of trying to pretend that the Church is a place and a fellowship where differences don't much matter, can't we instead be proud that this Church, now joined by the ELCA, is one that says that the difference between prejudice and bigotry on the one hand, and the Love of God on the other, is a difference we are proud to emphasize?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Whose humility? Whose patience?

Implicit in the analysis of some that 'we all need to be more humble' is the plea to wait for wider consensus, as represented in the image of everyone on their knees at the Eucharist. It's a nice image, I agree. Just to ground things in reality, though, it's useful for us, I think, to remember that people have been and are today divided even around their respective personal and denominational understandings of Holy Communion.

More importantly, though, when I hear or read these pleas for those of us who are passionate in our pleas, either for the Church's overdue expression of the inclusive Love of God for all, or for the Church to declare itself opposed to same, I am inclined to ask those folks to stop speaking and kindly to leave the room or at least to remain silent until invited to speak or to return to the room. So, I invite you, who are asking the rest of us to be quiet, to imagine that I've asked you please to refrain from commenting any further, at all.

I invite you to pause, spend some time with your reactions, and reflect upon how willing or not you are to comply. How passionately would you defend your 'right' to participate in the conversation? How passionately would you defend your right to be passionate about it?

Recently, I was invited by someone to 'go slow' in speaking up in our diocese and to our new bishop about honoring the recent actions of General Convention. It struck me that this person is a member of two minority populations in terms of representation in the membership and the leadership of our Church, and more profoundly so in our diocese. I could not help but wonder to myself how differently this person might have responded had this person still been on the outside, still being denied access to the conversation, still being denied full membership in this Church? Yet, now benefiting from still-recent changes in the canons of this Church, this person now was calling for further delay around the inclusion of others, of those still denied in this Church the manifest Love of God for all. I found it difficult to fathom how this person in particular could be asking for political prudence, but there it was.

Whenever people ask us for patience, for willingness to consider the matter of inclusion of LGBT people in the life and ministry of the Church as still undecided, which is no longer the case, I want them to pretend that someone has turned to them with condescending expressions of complacent sympathy, and told them that they must be silent and must wait until called upon before they may participate; and then, only in the limited ways that they are allowed. Then they would ask themselves if they really want to invite others to be more patient, to wait a little while longer, to remain outside, on the margins to which they've been assigned by those who enjoy full privileges.

It's one thing to experience the spiritual fellowship of humble faithfulness around the Eucharist. It is quite another thing to experience the hypocrisy of receiving the Eucharist with the dominant majority of God's people, while others of God's people are discouraged or denied their place beside us. The Eucharist doesn't make God's people what they are supposed to be. God's people make the Eucharist what it is meant to be. Or we don't.

Jim +

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Concerning the Conclusion of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

Concerning the Conclusion of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church concluded its work for this year. It will meet again in 2012. Please know that the Church did far more than address the two resolutions that made a few headlines during Convention. These other matters, equal in importance to the more sensational ones, include adopting the new practice of incorporating into the Church’s budget financial support for the Church’s seminaries. This has never been done before and is long overdue.

The Church also adopted a health care plan that will provide coverage for both clergy and lay persons employed by the Church and which should lower existing costs for these items. The Church called for greater participation by our Youth including seating on Vestry (a proposal that ECR’s own Vestry has been considering already and the logistics of which have been under review for a couple years.) The Church recommitted itself to being intentionally and proactively anti-racist. The Church has also reduced its overall budget and reduced by two the number of days that General Convention shall be held. The Episcopal Church has renewed its budgetary commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and expressed a new focus upon economic justice for the poor in the United States. All of which helps demonstrate that the Episcopal Church is alive, well, and responding conscientiously to its many responsibilities.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


With Fr. Jim away for vacation, this edition of the Radiant Cross provides a good opportunity to help our members and friends know a little more about our rector. Here is an updated biography of Fr. Jim.

Fr. Jim and his wife Lee Elena recently celebrated their twenty-first year together. They met in St. Louis, Missouri where Jim was born and raised, and near Lee Elena’s hometown of Monticello, Illinois. Lee Elena is a Nurse Practitioner working at a clinic in Giddings, an area designated by the state as under-served. Their three children are Valerie, 19, Emily, 17, and Melanie, 14. Fr. Jim attended a Lutheran elementary school and credits his early education in this Christian environment as formative of his faith in God. It was there that he began to sense a vocation from God to Holy Orders.

Before attending college, Jim worked variously as a self-defense instructor (earning a black belt in Chinese Kenpo), as a carpenter building custom homes, then as a laborer and/or department supervisor at a variety of manufacturing companies. Responding to a re-emerging sense of call, Fr. Jim returned to church life in his mid-twenties. Having drifted from the Lutheran Church of his childhood, he looked up “Church” in the white pages of the phone book. There he found a local Church of Christ congregation listed and began attending worship services. It was at this congregation that he was blessed to meet Lee Elena Mathis, his wife-to-be.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

5th Sunday after Pentecost - 5 July 2009

5th Sunday after Pentecost - 5 July 2009 - Proper 9 B
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
James V. Stockton

19th century American poet and author Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Our American eagle is very well, indeed. Let us protect it here and abroad,” he wrote. “But let us also beware of the American peacock.” At this time of the annual celebration of our nation’s hard-won independence, the scripture appointed for today are at least a happy coincidence. They speak to every Christian of the marks of genuine ministry, but also of qualities more widely recognized by many Americans as marks of genuine leadership.

The story of David shows that he is a reluctant draftee to the throne. Read his story in the two books of Samuel. David goes out of his way to avoid usurping the throne from King Saul, or even showing Saul the slightest disrespect. David ignores Saul’s petulant refusal to recognize David as the rightful king. Other than simply staying far enough away from Saul that Saul cannot actually kill him, David endures Saul’s slanders and threats with respectful pity. Until, finally, Saul’s stubborn rejection of God’s sovereignty and the people’s will leads him ever more deeply into the negative consequences of the path that he has chosen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rector's Study July 2009

From the Rector’s Study ~

Do you ever think about the ‘service area’ of ECR? Do you ever suppose that ECR serves certain areas, certain peoples, but not others. I doubt it.

“Across traditions, the ultimate focus is God – often represented as God’ sovereignty and God’s glory – as this extends to include the well-being of all life.” So notes theologian and author Paula M. Cooey in her book Willing the Good: Jesus, Dissent, and Desire. She continues, “Christians are called to love God and to love their neighbors as themselves. Nevertheless, conversion [to Christ and Christianity] focuses the energy on the making of the Christian subject or agent. This sustained, often all-consuming, focus…makes it all too easy to lose sight once again of the radical orientation to others of the Christian life and ethics.” Cooey reminds the reader that, “This focus on the other, apprehended in Jesus’ identification as the other in need, should collect and sustain the desire to will the good for all creation. Making people pure through the forgiveness of sins, and holy through their subsequent actions, is in this respect a by-product , a means, to a further end, and at best a secondary concern.” Her point is that, “When concern for one’s purity and holiness becomes the central force driving human life and action,…it subordinates God’s will for the good of all,…to the desires of one’s ego. This subordination,” she suggest, “constitutes a form of religious or spiritual narcissism.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

4th Sunday after Pentecost - June 28, 2009

4th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 8 B - 28 June, 2009
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43
Marie Butterbaugh

It’s a beautiful, cloudless spring day in Austin, Texas. The thermometer surges to one hundred degrees. It’s hot. Like many people I seek shelter inside where it’s cooler and settle in to check out the evening news only to find things that are deeply distressing. A television commercial that turns an innocent children’s cartoon into a gyrating free for all. Square “hot pants” on beautiful young girls. A carpenter’s square dispatched by “the king of burgers” to see if things measure up to his standards. Sponge Bob Square pants apparently gone mad!

News reports blare on. Commentators argue about the state of our nation and the world reminding us of the sad fact that our economy is in a mess. General Motors filing bankruptcy, billions of dollars are being allotted for war, potential conflict with North Korea and uncertain elections in Iran. You and I live in a world that often makes no sense.

What we have ALL declared?

What baffles me, with all due respect, is how people can continue to claim that "We have stated as a church that ALL God's people, regardless of orientation, are eligible to participate fully in the life of the church at all levels" and that "The Episcopal Church at a national level has a very open, supportive stand with regard to GLBT issues." Neither claim is true. Both are simply false.

I pray that people would lift their eyes, their hearts, their ears from the insular experience of the community of their self-contained 'liberal' local congregations. Rather than celebrate how wonderfully everyone there seems to get along with one another, because, as they will tyypically describe, everyone there seems to have entered into a tacit agreement not to discus 'issues' around which real disagreement may emerge. I urge them instead to sacrifice their own experience of beatitude in order to participate in the experience of those to whom beatitude continues to be denied by the Episcopal Church.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

3rd Sunday after Pentecost - 21 June 2009

3rd Sunday after Pentecost - 21 June 2009 - Proper 7 B
1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
James V. Stockton

I read a story. It the tale of some hardy folks, and rowdy, too: a farmer and three sons, Jimmy, Johnny, and Joe-Bob. None of them ever goes to church. None ever takes time to inquire after the things of God. They do speak God’s name once in a while, but not in any way that is reverent or respectful. The priest of the nearby church has been trying for years to draw Pa and the boys to God and to the people of God. The members of the church have done the same, but it seems their efforts have proven futile. Jimmy, Johnny, Joe-Bob and Pa are content to manage their lives, their joys, and their challenges, without benefit of God’s presence, help, or blessings.

The story of David and Goliath is a story that says much about adversity and how people face it. The story is well-known, at least in the broad strokes. As recently as the NBA match up between the Los Angles Lakers and the Orlando Magic, the drama of a sports team that starts the season with low expectations all around, then working its way into contention for the championship is characterized as a ‘David vs. Goliath’ match-up. In their struggles to defy their government’s repressive ban on media, the people of Iran are using cell phones, Twitter, and You Tube to get out the truth to the world around them. Their efforts are being written of as “a cyber David doing battle with a theocratic Goliath.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2nd Sunday after Pentecost - 14 June 2009

2nd Sunday after Pentecost - 14 June 2009 - Proper 6 B
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17; Mark 4:26-34
James V. Stockton

“Our lives are lived at warp speed.” So claims author Mark Thornton in his book titled Meditation in a New York Minute. He goes on to note that: “Our hectic schedules are crammed with crises, to-do lists, issues marked urgent and overflowing in trays, unpaid bills, a sea of unread email, and deadlines with due dates close to last Christmas.” I hear this and I think that somehow this fellow must be following me around. “Our agendas,” he writes, “have everything [written] in them but [the word], ‘relax’.” I daresay many people would identify with the author’s observations if only they had time to read them. So, because we are here this morning, let us breathe deeply and meditate upon that calmness of God that surpasses all distress.

An elderly and experienced priest with whose ministry I was blessed for a time as my spiritual director once suggested to me that “Inner Peace is over-rated.” And I wholeheartedly agree. The Inner Peace that has become an industry of self-indulgence for the economic middle and upper-middle class has, I suggest, little to do with the Peace of God which is often the calm in the midst of the storm, but never intended as an escape from it altogether. After all, how can Inner Peace become constant in one who is constantly seeking it?

I think I finally get it!

At long last, I think I understand. Let's just keep wringing our hands and maybe opening our checkbooks, but not our hearts or our doors, to the f*gs and queers. And while we're at it, since there is still no consensus among the WWAC about chicks in collars, let's dump them from Holy Orders, too. With all those folks out there prayerfully disagreeing about it, we have clearly moved far too quickly on that. And after, all they're only broads.

And let's also clear out all those others who have come in lately (people of minority 'tint'), since they make far too many of the regular folks just plain nervous. A few are okay, of course, as long as they know their place. And no more of these mixed marriages, either, not racially for sure, and not even religiously or denominationally. And certainly no one divorced, and no one in their second marriage, much less their third or more. Those people just set up a bad example. After all, moral right or wrong don't enter into it.

We simply need to get rid of everyone who is not acceptable to the 'mainstream' majority. Goodness knows we don't want to upset anyone by challenging systemic bigotry. Shallow pastorally but politically astute, that's the ticket. If we're going to upset someone in the name of Jesus, let's just disturb those folks who can do 'us' the least political harm. Yep, I'm convinced. Until we have near unanimity, anything with political implication, let's stay the heck away from it.

Whew! We dodged a bullet there, didn't we?
Jim +

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rector’s Study - June 2009

From the Rector’s Study~ June 2009

Order is a gift of God. Long ago, when I was in seminary, a fine priest of much experience enlightened me to an important he fact of life. “For many of the people in our churches,” he said, “the one thing that they can count on in any given week is the familiarity of the service of worship service in their parish church on Sunday.” If change was something attractive to us neophytes who were about to graduate and then ‘fix’ all the faults of the Church, regular order was a tremendous blessing to all those whom we hoped to serve.

In the messy zeal of the first decades of the Church, Christians needed to know this. For example, the city of Corinth was, at the time, a center of cosmopolitan chaos. The Christians there were accustomed to it. The Apostle Paul, himself familiar with some exciting events in the lives of the communities of the Church that he had helped to nurture, recognized that, for the Corinthians, community life and worship had become not only exciting, but also competitive and even contentious. So Paul reminded them that “…God is a God not of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33) and that “…all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). These first-generation Christians needed to know that order is a gift from God. Christians today need to know it, too.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost Sunday B - 31 May 2009

Pentecost Sunday B - 31 May 2009
Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
James V. Stockton

Take this moment for a nice deep breath. A deep breath in, a deep breath out. You may feel a calmness; rest in it. You may feel energized; rejoice in it. Now notice the people around you. Turn to now to someone near to you, and speak to him, to her, just four words: say, “God’s Love, God’s Power.”

Today is special because we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. And this little exercise is what we celebrate, and why. People will often assume that the miracle of Pentecost is the gift of tongues, by which the apostles of Jesus proclaim the Gospel to foreign people they have not met, in languages that they had not known before. We’ve heard the story: the apostles are together in a room somewhere. They are in the city of Jerusalem, and the city is extra-crowded just now because people have come there to celebrate Pentecost, the Festival of Weeks.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

7 Easter - May 24, 2009

7 Easter B - Sunday after Ascension - 24 may 2009
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
The Rev. Miles Brandon

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, come. Take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you. In Christ's name, we ask it. Amen.

Today's in the life of the church we remember Jesus' ascension to heaven forty days after his resurrection from the dead that first Easter. This morning I want to focus, in particular, on the very important charge or mission that Jesus leaves with his disciples just before ascending to His Father in Heaven. In our lesson from Acts, Jesus says, "You [my followers] will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will he my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." This charge, this mission, to be a witness to God's love revealed in Jesus to the whole world, is not just for those people who loved and followed Jesus two thousand years ago. It remains ours as well. It is our sacred trust.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

6 Easter - May 17, 2009

Easter 6-B May 17, 2009
Acts 10: 44-48; 1John 5: 1-6; John 15: 9-17
Marie Butterbaugh

I will change your name, you shall no longer be called wounded outcast lonely or afraid. I will change your name your new name shall be joyfulness, confidence, overcoming one, faithfulness, friend of God one who seeks my face.

Joyfulness, confidence, overcoming one, faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks my face. After experiencing the shattering collapse of a hoped for private adoption, Tim and I arrived at Camp McDowell, in Jasper Alabama for our Cursillo weekend, not knowing what to expect. What we did know was this, friends who love us are entrusting us to God’s care. They told us we would have a wonderful experience, dropped us off suitcases in hand and said they would return that Sunday to pick us up. As Greg and Doll Bennett drove away that evening, inside I cried out, “Whoa come back! Don’t leave us!”

Caution against appeasement

I caution anyone against using the state/church approach to the controversy around 'gay marriage.  The  practical effect is appeasement, and I'm doubtful that you would have  countenanced appeasement as regards slavery versus abolition.  Although it's true that the Episcopal Church did, in fact, straddle the fence on that issue, unlike the Methodist Church which declared itself plainly opposed to slavery even though it cost them popularity in the South.   In their case, spiritual and moral truths were more important than membership retention. 

In addition, please note that TEC's attempt at appeasement regarding the ordination of called persons who are women has failed miserably.  TEC admitted a 'conscience clause' to General Convention's adoption of the canonical amendment that did away with discrimination based on a person's sex.  Yet, the appeasement simply gave time for those entrenched in their bigotry, the very bigotry that GC had just rejected, to dig themselves in more deeply.  All of us are now paying the price for TEC's lack of courage regarding our convictions. 

Misogynist bigotry has only strengthened, and now fuels official homophobia in these same dioceses, except of course where the bigots have finally recognized that they need not pretend to be Episcopalian in order to serve God as they believe themselves to be called.  The bigots are following their consciences, however warped their consciences may be.  TEC should do the same, without  reservation. 

If slavery was wrong, it was wrong everywhere.  If  discrimination against gay people is wrong and is sin anywhere, it is so  everywhere.  Appeasement is not an answer.

Jim  +

Friday, May 15, 2009

Still no Reason for convenant

Still no Reason for a covenant -

He has made himself abundantly clear: the Archbishop of Canterbury is intent on imposing a covenant upon the Churches of the Anglican Communion. One can only wonder why he is intent on this end, for he has offered no real purpose for it. The sum of all his apologetic is that a covenant is an end that justifies itself. He fails to offer a genuine and theological purpose for it. On the one hand he notes that the Churches do function and serve in effective partnership with one another. On the other hand, he implies that without a covenant the Churches will not be able to continue to do so. His reliance upon a false and implied logic exemplifies a plain truth of the matter: neither he nor anyone one has yet offered a serious reason for pursuing a covenant.

Many have offered justifications for the concept of covenant per se, but no one has offered anything that approaches a compelling inspiration for this particular effort. This effort was initiated bureaucratically through the Windsor Report (even though the Primates themselves meeting at Dromantine expressed reservations toward the pursuit of a covenant) which was itself a response to the use of parliamentary bullying and the socio-politcally 'conservative' propaganda by emerging-world primates who were then and are still being funded and manipulated by hard-right American money. The Archbishop of Canterbury, apparently possessed of a curious notion of his role as somehow the head of a single global Church, now seems intent upon imposing this view of his own rights and privileges upon the wider Anglican Communion.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hand-wringing about leaving or staying

This hand-wringing over whether or not the Episcopal Church can or cannot be a place for all to be together is is unrealistic. In addition, I humbly suggest, it is based in an errant understanding of Church per se. The communion of saints is bigger than TEC. The mistake that I think many in TEC continue to make is to assume without thinking about it that TEC is the only Church in town.

We are a protestant Church, therefore it is inherent to our very being that we reject the notion that any Church can rightly claim to be the only true or single full expression of Christian faith. If we of TEC continue to straddle the fence on discrimination, a fence that is growing increasingly lonely, then we will end up with exactly what we deserve: an unprincipled community of people whose chief value and core identity has little to do with Christ Jesus and a great deal to with mediocre commitment to anything having to do with the gospel.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

5 Easter - May 10, 2009

5 Easter B - 10 May 2009
Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
Ryan Page

A couple of summers ago I had the unique opportunity to go on a two week canoeing trip with my boy scout troop. There was about five scouts and three adults in my crew plus a guide to help us navigate. We had a guide because we were canoeing the boundary waters of the United States and Canada.

On the trek we could only take what we needed and nothing else. We had to make sure that all of our personal equipment could fit in a waterproof bag in order to minimize space and weight. Looking at the bag that I had to put my stuff in I was worried that it wouldn’t all fit, but somehow I managed to squeeze everything in. Everything that we would take into the Canadian wilderness would be packed out, including trash.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Liberal" interest in the proposed Anglican covenant

Regarding recent efforts at offering an apologetic for the anomaly of an "Anglican Covenant," it bears repeating that the assumption that our "Anglican roots" involve "re-affirming together the essential doctrines of Christianity" is thoroughly mistaken. If our official history is correct, there are no such things as Anglican roots. Yes, there are roots in the Church of England. But, again, if history is correct in the telling, the roots of the Churches that rose from the Church of England's colonial expansion had nothing to do with a desire to create a global allegiance of independent Churches. At this juncture, it seems to me of critical importance that we reflect upon the facts, not the myth.

Clearly, the embrace of the idea of covenant among so-called 'conservatives' is driven by hope for punitive powers that they can exercise against the Episcopal Church in the U.S., the Anglican Church of Canada, and eventually even the Church of England. There's little mystery about this anymore for anyone who is paying attention. I think it serves us also, though, to examine why it is that some so-called 'liberals' are embracing the notion of a Covenant. At the risk of being overly-simplistic, I suggest that much of the motivation for the their zeal is rooted in the myth of a unity that has never really existed amongst the Churches whose roots are 'Anglican,' i.e., Churches emerging from the Church of England. Evidence that this idealized unity is indeed myth is found in the fact that there is no such thing as a singular and distinct Anglican theology, or a singular Anglican ethos, common to all the independent and autocephalous Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

4 Easter B - 3 May 2009

4 Easter B - 3 May 2009
Acts 4:5-12; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
James V. Stockton

Given the current environment, with the flue scare, I think it especially meaningful that you are here today. I read a story about a priest who always did his best to be an excellent example and standard for those around him. The Reverend Hector Hanks is walking home one evening. Near his house he sees a number of little boys and girls sitting in a circle with a puppy in the middle of the group. “Hi, kids,” he says. “What are you doing here with the puppy?” “Aw, nothing, really,” answers one little boy named Joey. “We’re just having a contest. We’re sitting here telling lies, and whoever tells the biggest whopper gets to keep the dog.” The Rev. Hanks puffs up in his most righteously indignant manner. “What?” he exclaims. “I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!” The children sit motionless, with their eyes and ears fixed upon the wrathful priest before them.

The image of an angry bombastic clergy person is one with which many people are familiar, maybe too many. The fictitious Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or figures from history: Jonathan Edwards, Lyman Beecher, George Finney, or Ellen White. I’ll leave it to people’s memories and imaginations to identify possible examples from more recent times. The point is not blithely to ridicule such folks, or blindly to approve of them. It is, instead, to suggest that when people consider the words and manner of such folks as these, they will notice a contrast between that image and experience and the one portrayed in the scriptures for this morning.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Matters of the Upcoming General Convention

Matters Concerning the Church
and the upcoming 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

In the Church's seasons of controversy, taking no public position is sometimes the prudent and charitably Christian thing to do. But the Church is realizing that it is time for those who once spoke out with bold and godly clarity on behalf of others, whose voices were refused legitimacy, to lay aside polite diplomacy and speak up again. The Church has been wrestling over the past decade with discerning the time to take a clear position on the issues roiling the Church today, and freely to accept the consequences of speaking plainly the Truth of the Gospel. This is the process that we will soon witness at the Episcopal Church's General Convention in July. Here at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, the community with whom I serve God, we are discerning ways that our own gift of hospitality has had us speaking the Gospel boldly in word and deed all along. Rightly, we may be humbly proud that this is so.

Currently, the precipitating concern over the last few General Conventions has been homosexuality, i.e. the question of what is the place, if any, of the gay person in the community of the Church? Around this controversial center, other matters of disagreement orbit: biblical interpretation and application of scripture, limits and privileges of constitutional authority, the meaning of communion in Christ, and the definition of Anglicanism. It is telling, I think, that most people concede that these other concerns are subject to legitimate differences of opinion. In addition, much could be said about what lies behind almost every controversy, namely: xenophobia (fear of difference); but homosexuality continues to orient the debate today.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rector's Study May 2009

From the Rector's Study ~

A beautiful future is unfolding before us, this community of ECR. Our own Pentecost experience is happening right here in our midst. Not with the same sensational rush of a mighty wind, yet the same Holy Spirit, the same igniting of God’s Love and Power, the same blessing of surprise that accompanied the first Pentecost for Jesus’ first disciples are manifesting for us even now. The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection is welcoming a wider variety of voices, speaking of God’s Good News from a wider variety of backgrounds, each proclaiming the Gospel as only he or she can put it into action, can put it into words. Christ was raised for all, and here at the Church of his Resurrection, we are putting this miracle into action. This is part of how we got here:

In April of 2005, the Vestry and Ministry Leaders of ECR identified a need and claimed the desire to expand our campus with additional parking capacity and an additional building to provide more space for ministries, education, and fellowship. It has always been a priority with me as rector that our parish community would understand the reasons for such expansion, and to know that expansion for its own sake was not reason enough. This priority continues today and I am happy to note that it is a priority also amongst our Vestry and Ministry Leaders.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

3 Easter B - 26 April 2009

3 Easter B - 26 April 2009
Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48
James V. Stockton

It happens that I am not the person that perhaps many folks here today were expecting to hear and to see. Some of us here, myself included, were prepared to welcome the ministry of our guest preacher, but he called me Friday evening to let me know that he was unable to come. So, while I was prepared to come and participate in ECR’s Work Day yesterday, looking forward to a time of good fellowship, vigorous labor, and savory food, I needed to take yesterday to prepare a sermon, this sermon, in fact. I apologize for any disappointment at the absence of our scheduled guest preacher; and I pray that my preparations have been adequate.

Today I shall call upon my oath from my years in Scouting. Actually it’s the Boy Scout motto rather than the oath, which is much longer and which escapes my memory. As any of the Scouts from our own troop 1407 will tell us, it is the Scout motto that is quite appropriate today: “Be Prepared.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

2 Easter B - April 19, 2009

2 Easter B - 19 April 2009
Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1-2:1; John 20:19-31
Marie Butterbaugh

The other day, standing outside Christ Chapel at the Seminary, I found myself watching as the Texas winds buffet the nearby tree limbs. Swaying hither and thither, the new green leaves swirl as they scatter about. Looking closely, one tree especially catches my eye. In its’ branches rests a rather large bird’s nest. Watching this nest swinging back and forth as the wind’s tempest continues, I begin to think about faith. Surely it is faith that initiates the building of such a nest. The faith that winter will turn to spring. The faith that believes from the depths of despair experienced on Good Friday comes new life through Jesus’ resurrection. I think about the faith of Thomas.

From the Easter narrative, we know that John, the other disciple, comes to tomb. He sees the linen cloths rolled up. Jesus is not there. He believes. Mary Magdalene hears the angels’ question, “Woman why are you weeping?” She encounters the risen Lord and at first she doesn’t recognize Him. Jesus speaks. Mary believes. She does as Jesus instructs. She goes to tell the disciples.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday B - April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday B - 12 April 2009
Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18
James V. Stockton

What is so good about the Good News is Jesus himself. Christ is the Gospel. Not the author of the gospel, not the subject about whom it is written, Christ is the Gospel itself. Once people have this one simple but mysterious idea in place, the remainder of Scripture and the teachings of the Faith and the traditions of the Church really rather nicely fall into order behind it, or more accurately, rise up from it.

This is not to say that all the rest of it becomes easy or unimportant. Quite to the contrary, the questions of the Christian faith and religion are numerous and fascinating for many people. This is why some of them are in church today, just like you and me, still asking questions.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Vigil B - 11 April 2009

Easter Vigil B - 11 April 2009
Matthew 28:1-10
James V. Stockton
That it still matters that Christ is risen, that he is risen indeed, is happily demonstrated in the presence of millions of people gathering in Churches this night and tomorrow morning. “His resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ upon the person of Jesus.” So writes theologian Edward Schillebeeckx in his book, Jesus: an Experiment in Christology. He goes on: “Jesus, who had announced the imminent reign of God,…despite the contradiction of his rejection and death, had not…been wrong. B]y raising him from the dead, God has now identified Himself… [w]ith him, who during his life had identified himself with…the coming rule of God [upon earth],…Jesus Christ is himself the [reign] of God.’

People today still celebrate God’s Amen upon the person of Jesus. Humanity still seeks the reign of God upon this earth and at this time. These truths are blessedly evident in the fact that people everywhere are gathering at the conclusion of the Way of the cross of Christ. And considering that, after all, what ends is the way of the cross, what a surprising conclusion it is! Through the introspective challenges of the season of Lent, through the poignancy of Holy Week, many have ventured into the experience of the first followers of Jesus.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday B - 10 April 2009

Good Friday B - 10 April 2009
Isaiah 51:13-53:12; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:37
James V. Stockton
Pilate’s remark, maybe a question, maybe sarcasm, maybe resignation to a self-serving belief that truth is just for naïve do-gooders and political dupes: Pilate’s remark: ‘What is truth?’ It shows up on the one of the oldest fragments of scriptural texts ever found.

In fact the discovery of this little bit of ancient writing, small enough to hide in the palm of your hand, overturned the long-held assumption among biblical scholars that John’s gospel must surely have been composed much later in history than the other three. Its sophistication, its appreciation for mystery, it all seemed to generations of scholars that John’s gospel must have been written in the very late second century or early third. Then this bit of papyrus, this fragment of a piece of a page of a gospel, comes along, and challenges their assumption. And like good scholars, they ask, without sarcasm or resignation, what is the truth? Because the truth matters.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday B - 5 April 2009

Palm Sunday B - 5 April 2009
Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
James V. Stockton

Of all the Sundays of the year, it is today that the challenges of being a follower of Jesus Christ rise up with plain and inescapable clarity. While each of the gospel writers tells the story, this year’s reading, today, from Mark the evangelist, tells it in a way that is the most straightforward. The truth is left to speak for itself. And perhaps ironically, the truth is found in Jesus’ decision to say nothing more. “But Jesus made no further reply,” the gospel tells us, “and Pilate was amazed.”

“The Passion is really the mystery of all mysteries the heart of the Christian faith experience.” So writes Episcopal priest and author Cynthia Bourgeault in her book titled The Wisdom Jesus. She goes on, “The spectacle of an innocent and good man destroyed by the powers of this world is an archetypal human experience. It elicits our deepest feelings of remorse and empathy (and, if we’re honest, our own deepest shadows as well).” As such, the Passion, as the Rev. Bourgeault notes, “has long been a popular subject of devotion…” as the literature and artwork attest that have grown up around it. “The Passion is quite manipulable,” she notes. It’s been used to stir anger and scapegoating… to fuel anti-Semitism, to induce [feelings of] personal guilt.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rector's Study April 2009

From the Rector's Study ~

“Live!” says God to the world. “Live! You are free, so live!” That inward journey upon which we entered some forty plus days ago has a destination. While we may rightly understand that we never really arrive there, yet it’s also true that the end point of our journey is always with us. Christ is alive, and so we too arrive at life. We live. Jesus has been raised beyond the finality of death itself. This Jesus Christ has made a journey from the glories of divinity to the struggles and joys of his own life among us as one of us. Christ’s journey has been always toward you and me and all humanity.

As trying as our forty days’ journey through Lent may have been, and as rewarding, Christ’s own journey has been far longer, far more challenging, and surely far more richly gratifying in the end. Our journey has taught us again that the journey inward to ourselves is a journey upward to God, for the more closely we draw to our true selves and to one another, the more closely we draw to God. Any soul-searching solitude, whether at Lent or any other time in our lives, will reveal to us that God is with us more surely than we’d ever supposed. Christ is raised from death and from everything that whispers of it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

3 Lent B - 15 March 2009

3 Lent B - 15 March 2009
Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
James V. Stockton

“We come into the world into the middle of things to which we are indebted, things not of our own making, for whose repair we nevertheless become responsible.” So writes professor and theologian Paula Cooey in her book Willing the Good: Jesus, Dissent, and Desire." She continues, “We die in the middle of things, leaving the legacy of our shared but unique presence, including the effects of our mistake, to strangers we will never know.” From this she concludes that “Transfiguration of desire” becomes for many people “a way of life, a perpetual revolution, and as such, a gift to the future.”

What is it that people desire but to love and to be loved, to be appreciated to be remembered, to be safe and secure, to be happy, to be free? This is a list of guesses; and as such it is incomplete. Probably anyone could add to or edit it. Cooey’s point is that a relationship with God especially as disclosed in God’s self-expression, i.e., in Jesus Christ, God become one of them, people can find their most basic desires met and thus transformed, we might say ‘morphed,’ into something quite unexpected.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rector's Study March 2009

From the Rector's Study ~

As a season that anticipates the conclusion of the shortened days and lengthened nights, the colder weeks and chillier months, Lent prepares people for the dawning of the springtime, the most literal translation of its name. And, by its spiritual definition, Lent prepares the heart and soul for the renewed dawn of the Light of Christ. The comparatively less hospitable weather of the season of our winter moves us to exercise a relative retreat into the refuge of our homes. So also Lent draws each of us to an inward spiritual retreat, an inward examination of our relationship of with God, of God’s relationship with you and me, personally.

The traditional practice of some sort of self-denial during this season exemplifies and supports this effort. For example, if one gives up his or her habitual Diet-Coke or coffee in the morning, then each time the habit ‘kicks in’ in, it reminds one powerfully of one’s intention to go deeper into the mystery of the knowledge and love of the Lord. Toward this end, and building upon the virtues of this tradition, I propose a new way for us together to engage this discipline here at ECR.

1 Lent B - 1 March 2009

1 Lent B - 1 March 2009
Genesis 9:8-17; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
James V. Stockton

Each of the readings for today reminds people that Christianity is something robust and challenging. Noah and his family suffer the deluge of the world. They suffer the angst of trying to warn their neighbors and friends to turn from their selfish and silly ways and be reconciled with God, and of meeting only with disdain and ridicule, but knowing that there simply is nothing more that they can do. Peter reminds the early Church, particularly those about to be baptized into it, that Christ Jesus suffered persecution and death for their sakes personally as much as for the sake of the world. He reminds them that their continuing relationship with God in Christ means continuing to confront their own proclivity for getting it wrong even when they are trying to get it right. The gospel reading reminds people that Jesus himself must endure a time of testing in a wilderness both material and spiritual in nature; that he must endure the pain of knowing that when John, his cousin and fellow seeker after God’s truth, is imprisoned, the corruption of the authorities who put him there ensures the worst possible outcome. Lent continues today with these reminders that Christianity is a robust and challenging enterprise by which God challenges the people of God in order that the people of God may continue to express God’s challenge to the wider world around them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dioces of Texas next to 'Leave'?

Is the Diocese of Texas next in line for 'leaving' TEC?

I am sad to report that some of the prominent drivers of the latest effort to divide and conquer the Episcopal Church from within, namely the Communion Partners, are based here in the Diocese of Texas. I am also sad to report, but also hopeful in the long run, that the Diocese of Texas seems primed to address a motion to 'dissociate' from the Episcopal Church. Our retiring bishop (thanks be to God for mandatory retirement rules!) has signed his name to yet another divisive and utterly foolish bit of un-Anglican word-smithing.

Our new bishop, currently bishop coadjutor, is said by the "Rector of the Communion Partners rectors" to be another Communion Partners bishop. Certainly, he has openly identified himself as sympathetic to the Gafcon bishops' communiqué issued alternatively to the Report of the last Lambeth Conference. He has clearly allied himself to the self-proclaimed 'conservatives' declaring that he will never allow clergy in this diocese to bless same-sex unions or gay persons who are either partnered or dating to function in the diocese as clergy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last Epiphany B - 22 February 2009

Last Epiphany B - 22 February 2009
2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9
James V. Stockton

“All it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” It was said by 18th century Irish philosopher and politician Edmund Burke. I think in his day many people lived, as they live now, with the assumption that evil must work deliberately and hard, to overcome the inherent goodness of humankind. But Burke’s observation is insightful and persuasive, isn’t it? ‘For evil to gain ground, all that is needed is that good people do nothing.’

During World War 1, Martin Niemöller was a commander of a German submarine. So committed was he to the cause, he even commanded his crew not to rescue the sailors of a ship that he had torpedoed, but to let them drown instead. After the war, Niemöller began studying theology. But at least until the mid-1930s, he remained a typical Christian anti-Semite. In 1931 Niemöller became a pastor in the German Evangelical Church. This is the denomination known in our country as the Lutheran Church. Initially, Niemöller supported the rising dictator, Adolph Hitler. But as the Nazis increasingly interfered in the affairs of the Church, Niemöller began to oppose them more and more. Because of his outspoken sermons Niemöller was arrested in 1937 and imprisoned first in Sachsenhausen concentration camp; then moved in 1941 to the death camp at Dachau.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

5 Epiphany B - 8 February 2009

5 Epiphany B - 8 February 2009
Isaiah 40:21-31; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
James V. Stockton

Most of our Adult Education Classes on Sundays, and our Wednesday noontime scripture study, begin with a prayer; and the prayer always includes thanks to God for the gift of curiosity. In one of my favorite movies, Inherit the Wind, based on the play of the same name by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, two attorneys are squaring off against one another. Ostensibly a trial around a school teacher who violated a law against teaching human evolution, the drama is deeper than that. One attorney, Matthew Harrison Brady is cross-examined by his counterpart, Henry Drummond. “We must not abandon faith!” declares Brady. “Faith,” he says, “is the most important thing!” “Then why did God plague us with the capacity to think?” asks Henry Drummond. “Why do you deny the one thing,” he goes on, that sets human being above the other animals?”

It’s an interesting point. Over the years, many of you have heard me claim that the most theological question that a person can ask is, ‘Why?’ In the play, it is not merely the ability to think that raises the anxiety of the protagonists. It is the ability to follow one’s thought even to the point of questioning, to the point of wondering ‘how is it so,’ ‘why is it so,’ ‘why must it be so?’ I believe ‘Why’ lies at the heart of God’s blessing to us, of the gift of curiosity. Do you want to know why?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rector's Study February 2009

From the Rector’s Study ~ (from the Rector’s Annual Report for 2008)

What matters to me most is the community of ECR. More than building, more than parking lots, more than lights and even more than the beautiful new windows in our chapel and our nave doors, the community is what matters most to me. And I pray always that this is true also for all of us here at ECR.

In our community, the year 2008 saw the wedding of Diane and Duke Dutiel and their departure for his job at the cathedral in Washington D.C. Werner and Dorothy Pankratz were wed in May. I had the privilege of blessing the marriage of Paul and Bailey Johnson, formerly Bailey Neville, who grew up here at ECR. I was further blessed to join in matrimony Amanda and Doyle Motes here in August. I was blessed also to do the same for Ricky and Zanterria Carpenter, our sexton’s son and new daughter-in-law. And ECR held our first Quinceañera last year in October, for Marissa Galvez. I had a lot of fun, and I hope we’ll have occasion for more such celebrations in the near future.

4 Epiphany B - 1 February 2009

4 Epiphany B - 1 February 2009
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
James V. Stockton

I disagree with you. I’m sure of it. I’m sure that there is some issue, some matter, some concern around which I have an opinion that disagrees with yours. And so, now what are we going to do? The people of the city of Austin are being asked to choose their mayor from among three prominent candidates with a fourth likely to join the race. In another year the state of Texas will be electing a new governor and major candidates are already staking out their positions on the major issues in contrast to those of their competitors. Diocesan Council is coming up in a couple weeks and the Church’s triennial General Convention is meeting later this year. And automatically, all of these events in the lives of their respective communities will bring to the surface things around which people will disagree. And in each instance, the question is: what are people going to do about it?

There’s a story about two groups of people all them member of the same church congregation. One group is sure that the best way to end their prayers in church is to say, “In Jesus’ Name...” The other groups is just as certain that the best way for them all to close their prayers is to say, “In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…” And the two groups, each just as sure as the other, argue themselves to a standoff. What are they going to do, now?

Friday, January 30, 2009

More on 'Lay Vicars'

Please note that in my comments about 'Lay Vicars' in the Diocese of Texas, I have not claimed or implied that Bishop Wimberly is up to something nefarious. I'm am simply noting that this approach, lacking definition and accountability, is clearly open to misuse and abuse. I further note that the canons that define and govern licensed lay ministries definitely cover the ministry needs of the congregations that cannot afford even a part-time Priest-in-charge. (It is worth reiterating that the term 'Vicar' does not occur in the National C&C at all; that the term "Vicar" occurs in our Dio of Texas canons once, at Canon 12, where it clearly equates to "Priest-in-charge," also used in diocesan canon 12; and that the term "Lay Vicar" occurs in our diocesan canons twice only with regard to participation at Council but with no definition of ministry, accountability, process for training, or procedure for deployment.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Lay Vicars" in the DoT

There is a category of lay ministry that has been quietly implemented and expanded here in the Diocese of Texas. It is called the "Lay Vicar." The current bishop, soon to retire, has been placing lay persons in charge of mission congregations and even in charge of parish congregations rather than have the parish enter into a search process for a rector. The distinction in this diocese between mission congregation and parish congregation is that missions are not financially self-supported while parishes are, and that missions are served and led by bishop's appointees rather than by called clergy as are parishes. In addition, a mission congregation is allotted one lay delegate unless the mission has an average Sunday of attendance that exceeds 200, qualifying it for two delegates, or more than 400 which qualifies it for three lay delegates. Few mission congregations are thus allotted more than one lay delegate. Meanwhile self-supporting parish congregations are allotted four lay delegates.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2 Epiphany B - 18 January 2009

2 Epiphany B - 18 January 2009
1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
James V. Stockton

I heard it said once that everyone is seeking someone to follow. And if this claim is true, then also true is the assumption behind it that whatever guides a person through life is more than just an idea, more than a quest for an answer to a pressing question. And it certainly does seem that the more challenging a situation becomes, or the more the number increases of multiple challenges conspiring to make life difficult, then the more people tend not to seek just a good idea, but instead, someone with the best idea, someone with the right answer, someone whom they may follow. Our new president’s inauguration is just a couple days away. And I have to wonder if people across the country and around the world might be so sure that President Obama will have all the answers to all the questions all the solutions to all the problems that it will be virtually impossible for the new president to live up to all the expectations and needs that people are projecting upon him.

A true story: In the 7th century a monk named Aidan, who lived at Lindisfarne, Scotland, became bishop of the region, the province of Northumbria. King Oswin, of one the neighboring provinces is a friend of Aidan; and shortly after Aidan becomes bishop, Oswin presents him with an especially fine horse for him to ride on his episcopal travels. Soon afterward, though, Aidan is riding along and meets a beggar. “Please, your grace,” says the beggar, “may I trouble for a few alms,” i.e. some pocket change. Immediately, Aidan dismounts and gives the horse and all its fine riding gear to the poor beggar. King Oswin learns about this. He is not pleased, and he summons Aidan. “We chose that horse specially for you,” Oswin declares. “We have many other horses,” Oswin continues, “lesser animals and less expensive than that one; any of them would be fine for a beggar.” It is obvious to Aidan that he not the leader that Oswin believes he should be.

Monday, January 12, 2009

On NOT painting with a broad brush

With respect, I take exception to the implication that in my essays I have painted anyone with a broad brush. To the contrary, I have referred readers to original sources so that folks like the "Communion Partners" can be read in the language that they choose. I simply and adamantly then encourage people to hold them accountable for what they say. I expect this from my fellow Christians, as I expect people to hold me accountable as well for my words and actions. But in every case, the holding to account must be honest and accurate. To say that I have painted with a broad brush that I think is unworthy of those of us on any side of any issue who are troubling ourselves to do the hard work of being specific.

The fact that I am willing to engage the doggedness of those who claim to be loyal to this Church while in print and in action they contradict that very claim may make people some discomfort. But ultimately, light is an agent of healing. It may be comforting to hold to the belief that we are really all the same or are largely all in agreement around 'what matters most;' but I think we need to face the truth. We are not all the same. And while can all agree on a majority of questions, e.g. yes, the sky is blue and yes, Jesus is Lord; yet there are important questions upon which people do not agree, and these are worthy of debate and even division.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

1st Epiphany B - 11 January 2009

1 Epiphany B - 11 January 2009
Genesis 1: 5-11; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
James V. Stockton

God brings order to chaos. It is the basic effect of the movement of God across the face of the world, a movement many people long to witness in their lifetime. I received an email recently. In it a fellow we’ll call ‘Sam’ tells of his experience with something he calls “A.A.A.D.D., Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.” “I decide to water my garden,” writes Sam. “As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing. As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mail box earlier. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys on the table. I put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and notice that the can is full. So, I decide to lay the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first. But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the garbage, I may as well pay the bills first. I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of soda that I'd been drinking.”

And so it goes. Even ages after the Spirit of God first moved across the face of the world, Sam experiences chaos. Many people will hear the beginning of the creation story, as we do today, and will recognize it as such. How many people, I wonder, will recognize it more personally? In the beginning there was utter absence; no inner light with which to move forward, no inner voice to try to follow, no helping hand to hold. How many people will more fully appreciate what it means to be in relationship with God when they recall or imagine what it is like not to be? I remember when my family and I first moved to Austin in 1996. Highway 183 was just a four lane blacktop from Balcones Springs Road northward. Driving up highway 35, I could tell easily where Austin stopped and Pflugerville began, then Round Rock. Now, 183 is a major six-lane highway through to Leander. Now going up I-35, the boundaries of Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock, and Georgetown are indistinguishable. And if the analogy is not perfect, if we have some nostalgia for what once was, then this helps, too. It reminds us that chaos is present still today at the edge of our existence.

Friday, January 9, 2009

So called "Communion Partners"

Concerning the so-called "Communion Partners:"

Sometimes leaving is the wisest thing to do. It can demonstrate rare integrity. In contrast, one will find with a little research that words that appear to be wise are proven by context and source to be merely clever. One need only to either (http://covenant-communion.com/?p=756) or search ENS archives for June 3, 2008, to find that the so-called "Communion Partners" is neither new nor wise. It comes to light quickly that this is largely the same old group of dissidents that have for years been denigrating the Presiding Bishop, the Church's democratically established polity, especially recognizing women among those called to Holy Orders, and its progress toward ending the Church's official bigotry and discrimination based around sexual identity and orientation.

One finds that that the 'Partners' are guided largely by several of those Five Guys with a Web site, the infamous "Anglican Communion Institute." It seems that the same fellows who implied their affiliation with an Institution that existed nowhere but in their own narrow minds are now trying to create the illusion of a growing partnership that has similar illusory existence. Here we see cleverness, not wisdom. Phil Turner, Chris Seitz, Ephraim Radner are still busy, still trying to claim relevance in the community of a Church whose reality they openly despise and whose polities they encourage people to violate. Here in the Diocese of Texas, along with being irritated by his foolishness, I am also personally embarrassed for fellow diocesan member Phil Turner to see him continue this effort. I pray that the Church will finally stake out its official polity on the matters that are continue to disturb him and the rest of these folks so that he and all of them can have a clear choice, then go find that Christian fellowship that will nurture them, but I pray will somehow, miraculously, not simultaneously nurture their bigotries.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Autonomy and TEC's origins

I appreciate people's basic endorsement of my observations from history that there was no original intention to create an Anglican Communion, and that the Communion didn't begin to take shape until Lambeth 1 in the early 19th century. I do note that people sometimes do not address the fact that the contemporary manifestation of the Anglican Communion is extremely new, dating to the establishment of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1968.

The faults I can find in some people's remarks include their assertion that my position is that ECUSA now TEC has "never sought to sustain a relationship with the Church of England." I agree with them that if this has been my assertion, then I would indeed be wrong. The fact is, however, I do not make this assertion. My point is that a drive to submit this Church, its autonomous and autocephelous polity, to England or to a formalized covenant has never been a characteristic of what it is to be Episcopalian or Anglican.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Rector’s Study January 2009

From the Rector’s Study ~

Watch out! Against all odds, contrary to prediction, a Happy New Year is heading our way. True joy, genuine inspiration, and real fulfillment lie ahead. Having doubts? Then let the Epiphany be your guide. I think there is more than coincidence at work when we find the beginning of our secular calendar year concurring with this season of Church’s life and worship.

"Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage" (Matthew 2:2). The key that opens our own happy new year is in a simple phrase. It describes what that Magi were doing in their day. All around them, the world was in its kind of turmoil. The Roman Empire was spreading its influence and enforcing it pax Romana. Peace? Yes, of a sort. But beneath the absence of overt disturbance that was effected by Rome’s combination of aggressive enforcement of oppressive law and the literal purchase of superficial loyalty, there churned serious discontent.