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 ( 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.