Sunday, May 31, 2009

Regional blog adds dignity, sanity to a bad situation.

"The usual wackjob suspects in the anti-abortion movement are attempting to wash their hands of the situation." (The murder of Kansas abortionist Dr. George Tiller)

If that statement really does reflect the mentality of Dakota Women, damn glad I married out-of-state.



Madness, irony, evil

The murder of late-term abortion specialist Dr. George Tiller is already igniting as a Reichstag Fire for abortion-on-demand politicians. Even the President is into it. (No link - I'm sure whatever news outlet you favor will have his comments in your face soon enough.) This will be treated as a national "crisis" demanding who-knows-what new laws against the thought, speech, expression and other rights of peaceful and law abiding pro-life advocates.

Meanwhile, the sick scene played out in Kansas should be enough to make any of us despair of any kind of moral, spiritual or intellectual coherence intruding on our national madness.

This is the second time that Tiller's been shot. The first time was by an ostensible "pro-lifer." Look for today's killer (apparently apprehended) to claim a lofty moral motive or divine insight for murder.

Then there's the crime scene - Tiller was an usher in a church. Here was a "Christian" who made a specialty of killing viable babies and advocated abortion at any stage of gestation. Evidently his pastor, congregation and conscience didn't have a problem with that - or if they did, he had immunized himself against them.

More and more, we descend into the moral incoherence and social chaos described in a scene from Genesis: Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them."


Local pastor outs Planned Parenthood's law-evading "consent form"

The consent is supposed to make a clear reference to the termination of a living being... he's scanned in what they are actually doing. You can see it here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

South Dakota Lutherans reject ELCA effort to endorse actively Gay/Lesbian pastors

Madville Times has a report and links via a friend's live blog from the ELCA South Dakota Synod Assembly. A resolution was passed by which the Synod rejected ELCA's Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. The vote in favor of the resolution to reject the report was 362 - 238.

From Saturday's Morning Lessons: Prayer of Preparation for Pentecost

The first assigned lesson this Saturday morning is Ezekiel 43:1-12.


Verse 11 touched me this morning and led me into prayer for my parish, and for all Christian preachers and congregations on Pentecost Sunday:


When they are ashamed of all that they have done,
Holy God, on the Day of Pentecost your Apostle Peter told the distressed people to repent of their sins, be baptized in Jesus' name, and receive your gift of the Holy Spirit. Deliver your church from "cheap grace." Remind us to confess our sins and so open our churches to receive a fresh outpouring of the Spirit.

portray the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form
Holy God, your Apostle Paul wrote that your people are the new temple, the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Set us free from fascination with the material things of church, however beautiful they might be, and let us see that our brothers and sisters all around us are where you dwell. Teach us again that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, unique in each person but working for the good of all, are the "form" of the temple your Spirit builds.


—all its ordinances and its entire plan and all its laws; and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe and follow the entire plan and all its ordinances.
Holy God, you are above all words, rituals, laws and everything else that goes into "religion." Fill us first and foremost with love, the evidence and most excellent way of the Holy Spirit you give us. By the Spirit remind us of what Jesus says, that only love fulfills your law and your plan.

In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Come Down, O Love Divine

Come down, O love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

Archbishop of Canterbury: Reflections on Pentecost

From 2008

Friday, May 29, 2009

Traditores

During times of fierce Roman persecution, some Christians wavered and gave up their Holy Scriptures or even other Christians to the authorities. Those who did this were called traditores, from the verb "to hand over."

Andrew Carey has a commentary that suggests a new traditor clique in the church - "chilling" is Carey's word for it.

Interesting On-Line Ministry Opportunity Tomorrow (Sat. May 30)

You can check it out here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Church Law" Part VI (the last) - We're adequate! No, really, we are...

IV.19, which begins on p. 790 in the Blue Book, is just not very confident that the reconciliation/conflict resolution/submission process can stand up and salute in front of Lady Justice.

The Canon asserts that clergy in the process, at risk of losing their livelihoods, professional and community reputations among other things, cannot
  • - claim Constitutional protections
  • - go to the secular court for interpretation of TEC Constitution and Canons

In fact, IV.19.3 claims that no court has authority to review what TEC hath here wrought.

In addition,

  • - clergy can be charged with an offense in a diocese of which they are not resident (I suppose this is to keep people from getting away with something by moving away, but it also opens the question of blog readers in some other state alleging that my "Doctrine" is an "Offense" causing them "Injury." And if they do,
  • - I must, at my own expense, appear before the "Panel" called for in the "reconciliation" process.
  • - If I don't appear, the Panel can assume the truth of the allegation against me (IV.19.6).

Obviously, there are people in power in TEC who think that these revisions are all good. Two words: unintended consequences. Sometime, people they don't like are going to get hold of the process and use it on people they do like.

But I guess "balancing the books" is another fair definition of "reconciliation."

"Church Law" Part V - Who's on First?*

Since TEC proposes to shift the disciplinary canons from sanctions on manifest misconduct to "conflict resolution" (hidden under "reconciliation," remember), how do conflicts find their way into the disciplinary process?

They begin with a complaint from an "Injured Person," as defined on p. 771,

Injured Person shall mean a person, group or Community who has been, is or may be affected by an offense.

Has been? Yep, this is probably retroactive, as the "statute of limitations" in this thing is ten years (except for very serious abuse cases, on which there is no time limit.)

May be? What does that mean? Is there going to be proactive discipline, like in Minority Report?

This blog is a bit over 2 years old. In that time, I've railed against certain leaders and groups in the church. If this Title IV revision gets passed in July, will I be on the bad end of a complaint for what has, in somebody's opinion, affected them? Or, if what I've blogged might be used to impede some group's agenda in an upcoming Convention, is that grounds for a complaint?

Depends, I guess, on how you understand "Offense," as defined on p. 771,

Offense shall mean any act or omission for which a Member of the Clergy may be held accountable under Canons IV.3 or IV.4.

Now, these two Canons are 99% about stuff that all of us would consider misconduct, such as revealing the contents of a sacramental confession. But then comes IV.4(h)(2), which says that clergy must refrain from

...holding and teaching, publicly or privately, and advisedly, any Doctrine contrary to that held by the Church...

Stay with me now... just what is "Doctrine?"

...basic...essential teachings of the Church (found in) Holy Scripture, Apostles' and Nicene Creeds... (OK, so far so good, that's what traditional Christians say)

...and the Sacramental rites, Ordinal and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer. Uh oh. Here things get slippery. Let me play out just one scenario.

TEC has started defining its "Baptismal Covenant" (which is a Sacramental rite in the Prayer Book) as entitling all baptized people to all roles in the church. The GC has passed and probably will pass more resolutions to this effect. This is key to Gay/Lesbian claims for access to ordination, especially as Bishops.

So, are my blog posts opposing this idea "an Offense" because I "publicly held and taught" a "Doctrine contrary... to the Sacramental rites of the Church"? Is a Gay activist who wants to be elected Bishop an "Injured Party" if somebody reads my lil' blog and may be convinced to oppose the activist's election? Are the activists' friends who nominated him an Injured "group or Community" who can go to a Bishop and allege an "Offense," bringing me into the "reconciliation", I mean, "conflict resolution" process?

This kind of subjectivity runs through the "theological" revisions of Title IV.

But wait, there's (one) more...

* Abbott & Costello. Take a break and enjoy.

"Church Law" Part IV - What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?*

Title IV, Canon 1 (Blue Book p. 770) says that the canons for clergy discipline seek to "resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, amendment of life and reconciliation..."

That is an interesting slip. Disicipline ceases to be the correction of misconduct and is recast as "conflict resolution." Since the canon routinely intones the "hierarchical" nature of The Episcopal Church (TEC), the onus for any conflict is going to rest upon clergy who disagree with hierarch Bishops. Although the canons do not limit "Injured Persons" to Bishops, it is the Bishop who designates just who counts as an Injured Person (p. 771). (NB the Canon capitalizes terms which are formally defined in the Canon itself).

The key word in all this is the lovely sounding (and quite Biblical) "reconciliation." TEC uses this to mean, "You can't stand at a distance and disagree with me. You must come in and have this conflict 'resolved.'" Except that Biblical reconciliation, in Jesus' words, assumes a brother or sister relationship, a healing of distress between parties of equal value and standing in Christ.

But how is one "reconciled" to an hierarch? Reconciliation suddenly transmutes into submission.

Indeed, a frequently whispered critique of TEC discipline is that Biblical and theological words are twisted to fit assumed entitlements to power, not just the longstanding power to conduct discipline for the protection of the faithful, but a newfound power to equate dissent with misconduct.

And this power is enabled by subjective standards of misconduct...

* Nick Lowe, 1974, became a hit for Elvis Costello

"Church Law" Part III - We got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand*

One of the justifications for changing the clergy discipline canons is that the existing rules "are based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)" (Blue Book, p. 766). This is not elaborated - the "military" nature of the current canon is left hanging in the air, presumably to conjure images of firing squads or waterboarding.

Enter TEC's "theological" approach, framed as "reconciliation" but shifting quickly to "conflict resolution" and submission. More on this in Pt. IV.

Let me just say here, as a veteran who lived under the UCMJ for a few years, that the military code is designed to keep service members on duty and in action. It contains a lot of "non-judicial punishment", with penalites such as loss of rank for misconduct. And even these are not imposed until informal sanctions like scrubbing latrines have failed to modify bad behavior. Military discipline escalates slowly, only removing people from the service or imprisoning them for the most habitual or serious offenses.

By comparison, TEC under its current Presiding Bishop has removed an unprecedented number of clergy from duty while proclaiming "reconciliation" and "all is well." ( see pp. 22-26 here). The vast majority of these "inhibitions and depositions" fell on dissenters, not cases of abuse or ethical misconduct.

Clearly, there are word games going on...

Neil Young, "Rockin' in the Free World," 1989

"Church Law" Part II - If we say abusers were the target, too bad if those dissenters are collateral damage

As I said in Pt. I, Church disciplinary canons are necessary to protect God's people. We know all too well that clergy can perpetrate sexual abuse, embezzlement and other forms of misconduct against the faithful.

But what we have in the Title IV revisions is a much broader agenda for discipline. The revisers wanted to empower one order of clergy, the Bishops, to haul lay people into disciplinary hearings. This portion of the proposal caused a big outcry prior to the 2006 General Convention (GC), and it was tabled. Continued protest against the idea led to its removal from what will be presented this summer, but the revisers are clear that they want it in eventually. Page 769 of the Blue Book admits that the only reason the "lay discipline" language was removed is that the "time is not yet propitious" for its adoption.

Why is lay discipline so important? Is the media full of stories of lay people perpetrating sexual abuse and financial misconduct in The Episcopal Church? Of course not. Not that those things don't happen, but the greater reality is that lay people can protest and organize in ways that clergy can't.

Lay people can be the strongest dissenters in the structures of The Episcopal Church (TEC). They have tremendous power over money, both as voluntary donors and as voting members of parish, diocesan and national budget bodies. They don't have to worry, as do clergy, about a Bishop's control over their access to employment.

So, "lay discipline" is pretty much a means for Bishops to harass, discourage and pick off lay "ring leaders" when it comes to dissent. A church that was once (and still claims to be) "democratic" and collegial in leadership wants to be more top-down and arbitrary.

Disciplinary canons are justified to protect lay people from false shepherds. The effort to enable action against lay people, although off the table for the moment, shows that the real agenda is to get rid of lay dissenters and thereby buffer Bishops and bureaucrats from accountability for their actions.

But there are dissenting clergy as well, and the canons are trained on them...



"Church law" Part I - how to hide a purge in a haystack

The triennial General Convention, the legislative body of The Episcopal Church (TEC), meets July 8 - 17.

Among significant considerations will be the "Title IV" Canon Law revisions. Title IV deals with discipline of clergy, a necessary protection of the faithful.

The proposed revisions are found in the mammoth "Blue Book" of Convention materials. This is a pdf file. The Title IV report begins on p. 766.

One of General Convention (GC)'s flaws is the sheer bulk of paper and concocted business. Much gets by the Bishops and Deputies (other clergy and lay delegates) without adequate attention. As in all politics, much is purposely hidden in the pile so it can be passed without examination.

Because of this, it is impossible for one lil' blogger to get at every aspect of Title IV. (And even if one could, it would be more material than a blog reader would endure). Click Stand Firm in the Useful Links down to the right of this page and you will find a display page with numerous blogs that might look at Canon revisions.

For my part, I want to tease out what appears to be an effort to get rid of any critics of TEC's eccentric, increasingly autocratic and unaccountable national bureaucrats. Hidden beneath pious language are mechanisms to harass or remove dissenters.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An atheist questions the morality and "science" of abortion

He keeps his arguments clean and simple and seeks to be consistent with his broader values. He does not call for a government ban on abortion, which makes his moral argument even more compelling. David Harsanyi in the Denver Post:

What about future DNA tests that can detect any "defects" in a fetus? What happens when we can use abortion to weed out the blind, mentally ill, the ugly, or any other any "undesirable" human being?

Recently, Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare ruled that women are permitted to abort their children based on the sex of the fetus. In the United States, a woman can have an abortion for nearly any reason she chooses. In fact, a health exemption for the mother allows abortions to be performed virtually on demand.

If you oppose selective abortions, but not abortion overall, I wonder why? How is terminating the fetus because it's the wrong sex any worse than terminating the fetus for convenience's sake? The fate of the fetus does not change, only the reasoning for its extinction does.

Now, I happen to believe (as the civil libertarian and pro-life activist Nat Hentoff once noted) that the right to life and liberty is the foundation of a moral society. Then again, I also believe a government ban on abortion would only criminalize the procedure and do little to mitigate the amount of abortions.

The key to the moral discussion keeps coming back to the social reality of the human being. "It's just my choice!" is incoherent when birth is inherently social, establishing and defining families, citizenship, inheritance claims and other webs of relationship. Even for an atheist, "right to life... is the foundation of a moral society."

And the key to the scientific discussion keeps coming back to, "When is it life?" The pro-abortion answer, "When I say so," is an appeal to ignorance. Harsanyi writes,

You may not consider a fetus a "human life" in early pregnancy, though it has its own DNA and medical science continues to find ways to keep the fetus viable outside the womb earlier and earlier.

But it's difficult to understand how those who harp about the importance of "science" in public policy can draw an arbitrary timeline in the pregnancy, defining when human life is worth saving and when it can be terminated.

h/t Greg Griffith

Read these guys if you think the church is more than a place for your funeral

Fr. Dan Martins is an Episcopal priest, in what was, until very recently, the denomination's mainstream (used to be called "Broad Church.")

While The Episcopal Church (TEC) has embraced extreme stuff that its own research and statistics show to be self-destructive, Dan has stayed faithful in his ministry. He will even be a Deputy at the General Convention this July.

From that vantage point, Dan is blogging informed reflections on the proposals (read: changes) that Gen Con will drop on the clergy and people. He is sober minded and even handed, and if you care about the church as more than a place to meet your private needs, you need to read Dan's reports.

Looking in from outside is David C. Trimble, who blogs as Still on Patrol. He's not joined a new church, but he's had it with the excesses of TEC. He has a good summary of the Gen Con agenda. You need to have a look at his analysis of the coming changes to "Disciplinary Canons." Looks like "Dog's Law - you'll know you broke it when you done been kicked", as a South Carolinian friend used to say. Again, if you care about the church beyond having a building for a ceremony now and then, you should read what Trimble has to say.

And do check in here in days ahead. I will be posting some of my own analysis of the Discipline Canon changes. Slow reading but my oh my...

Oh. My. God. (UPDATED)

Fellow Episcopalian Curtis Price blogs as Robbinsdale Radical. Earlier this week, he posted a letter he'd seen in the Rapid City Journal. He likes it; it just made me stare at the computer screen and shake my head. Just one of several ideas in it:

When a woman decides to bring a child into the world she is risking her life. One of the risks is being killed by the father. Did God turn his judgment over to 51 percent of the United States population to make life-changing decisions for every woman?

UPDATE: You need to read the whole letter, and also Perpetua's comments in this thread. The quoted paragraph is incoherent. The the first two sentences are about men who kill women to stop them from having a baby - a case in which the man was most likely insisting on abortion. The third sentence then blames this on pro-life people. It simply doesn't make any sense, unless the author is saying, "If you people would just let the men coerce their women into abortions, they wouldn't have to kill them."

As I posted yesterday, my wife and I just celebrated our 19th anniversary. These have not been easy years - it has taken the kind of durable and sacrificial love that the Bible describes. Throw in an autistic kid and the wear and tear has been extra.

That's because marriage - a commitment to which our Prayer Book (for now) assigns the primary responsibility for creating and nurturing new life - is not about two separate beings. It is about two becoming one. Yes, that's a "religious" view, but the letter writer asked a God question.

My wife and I decided together to stop having kids after Joey was born. This wasn't easy - we'd talked about having a daughter along with the two boys and my wife often joked about "having ten if we'd started sooner." But you know what? I didn't summon a mob of eeeeeeeeevil men to force a decision on my wife. Nor did I threaten to kill her, or any of the other sick slander that people use to justify abortion.

The reason marriage is a disaster in this country is because of the crappy raw material we bring to it. If we think of ourselves as individuals, or members of a "voting bloc" separate from and more important than our spouse, no wonder we can't share any kind of love worth the name. It's garbage in, garbage out. Lord, have mercy.

Finally, just as a point of fact, Curtis is an avid advocate of the Gay/Lesbian movement. The Dean of one Episcopal Seminary, a militant abortion advocate, is a lesbian. If the letter writer wants to talk about minorities dictating to majorities, how about same-sex attracted people trying to lecture the rest of us (and we are way more than 51%) on marriage, having children, family planning or much of anything else?

Man, I was enjoying Spring/Summer. Just got back in touch with the fact that we live in a fallen world. Siiiiiiigggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.



Daily Kos: Great Plains to dump "conservative" values

Values which are presented as "homophobia, intolerance and racism."

h/t Robbisndale Radical

Are we liberal, or not so much?

We just passed new "hate crime" legislation in DC, but nothing like what's coming up in England. Melanie Phillips has an insightful piece. Well worth reading and thinking about if you consider yourself "liberal" or "progressive."

The true liberal position, that it is right and just to tolerate behaviour that deviates from the norm as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is deemed to be rank prejudice on the grounds that homosexuality is not ‘deviancy’ but normal. ‘Normality’ is thus rendered incoherent and absurd and accordingly destroyed altogether. The agenda is therefore not liberal tolerance but illiberal coercion against mainstream moral values, on the basis that the very idea of having normative moral principles at all is an expression of bigotry. So anyone who speaks out against gay rights is immediately vilified as a ‘homophobe’ and treated as a social and professional pariah.

h/t Peter Ould

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Today is our 19th. I think Melissa would agree with me that marriage is one of Christ's crucibles for those who would live out His Gospel.

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33)

It makes it easier if you think your spouse is kinda cute, too.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"The Saddest Acre in America"

Section 60, Arlington National Cemetery, where our troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq are being laid to rest. Pause and give thanks for those who have sacrificed and, of your charity, offer prayer for their loved ones.


Liberty Belle lands in Sioux Falls

The restored WWII B-17 Liberty Belle was on display at Joe Foss Field here in Sioux Falls this week. My younger son and I paid a visit and walked through the plane.

She reminds us of what Memorial Day is all about. From Wikipedia,

Approximately 4,750, or one third, of B-17s built were lost in combat...

...14 October 1943 would later come to be known as "Black Thursday". Of the 291 attacking Fortresses, 59 were shot down over Germany, one ditched in the English Channel, five crashed in England, and 12 more were scrapped due to battle damage or crash-landings, a total loss of 77 B-17s. 122 bombers were damaged to some degree and needed repairs before their next flight. Out of 2,900 men in the crews, about 650 men did not return, although some survived as POWs. Five were killed and 43 wounded in the damaged aircraft that made it home, and 594 were listed as Missing in Action. Only 33 bombers landed without damage. The resulting losses were a result of concentrated attacks by over 300 German fighters.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Liturgy of Good Friday, Book of Common Prayer).

Do you hate this blog? Give thanks for those who died so you can.

"Freedom is not free," goes the saying. Fellow blogger Baby Blue Online posts news that China is blocking all kinds of internet communication as the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre comes up.

China is interfering with Blogger, YouTube and other internet outlets that we all take for granted. The manifest wisdom of free and open communication is not seen as manifest or wise in many parts of the world, and the sad truth is that we have freedom of speech and other liberties because many people died fighting for them.

This is an ostensibly Christian blog, and warfare is something that most followers of Jesus want to limit. Some disciples are pacifists. Prayers for peace are common in churches. War is what happens when human beings fail to use the highest capacities that God has given to the human race.

But the irony is that those higher capacities could not flourish on earth without warriors to sacrifice for them in dire times.

Whatever our ambivalence about war, "selfish" is too weak a word to describe us if we don't stop to remember and give thanks for the lives laid down so that we can, among other things, blog and tweet.

Is the Episcopal Church protesting Anglican "border crossings" while setting up to do the same thing?

Anglicat is doing a nice job of bringing forward various quotes and ideas from the Presiding Bishop's recent visit to Minnesota.



The PB wants to downplay the term national church and point to Episcopal Church - presence? mission? authority? - in various countries. This seems another evolution (or at least acceptance) of the disintegration of the Anglican Communion world wide, with at least two new groupings of Anglicans based primarily on competing belief systems rather than some form of Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and long gone "bonds of affection."



There's a degree of hypocrisy in what the PB is putting out there. She has been one of the major voices opposing "border crossing" by Bishops from other Provinces, but ever since the "Episcopal Church USA" (ECUSA) surreptitiously changed its name to "The Episcopal Church" (TEC), it has been positioning itself to both separate from and meddle in off-shore churches.



What she's saying reflects the anti-Biblical form of religion TEC is practicing. She seems to be setting up to take revenge by inflicting on others what she would not want inflicted on TEC. The church that sues other Christians, takes revenge, redefines marriage, downplays the cross of Christ... well, you get the picture. TEC's national leaders have gone beyond error into active betrayal of even the most basic of Jesus' teachings around the globe. TEC not only teaches things alien to most Christian churches, it behaves in ways that are counter to what Jesus said.



On another matter, the PB held up the emergence of TEC "regional offices" (one is down the road in Omaha) as a sign of "decentralization." That is manifest propaganda. The regional office model is due to the financial problems of the denomination and a growing inability to afford a headquarters in New York City. And dispersing the staff does not undo the fact that denominational power is more centralized than ever, with the PB poised to become a kind of Pope.



I wonder if the Minnesotans who heard this realized the irony. The PB looked them in the eye and said, "I am decentralizing," while she was standing there in their diocese to meddle in their Bishop election process.




A more-than-pleasant surprise

Given the singer's, uh, history. But her voice was never in doubt and this is a wonderful offering of sacred music for both late night and Easter season. h/ts Rick Lobs/ Lobster Pot and Bosco Peters/Liturgy blogs. Liturgy also supplied the lyrics and some other info:

V. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia.
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
V. Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech You, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A sign of the times, a sign of the timeless

A few blocks from Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, Faith Temple gave away at least 6,000 lbs. of food for free this afternoon.

I drive by their campus on my way home, and at about 5 p.m. their parking lot was packed with people.

It was a sign of the need in these distressed times, but also a sign of the eternal love and compassion of Christ, reaching out to people through his body on Earth, the church.

Blessings on Pastor Jeff and his people. May God continue to bring amazing abundance through their ministry.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)

Anglican TV: Archbishop of Uganda sees end to cross-border "pastoral care"; reaffirms "broken Communion" with Episcopal Church

The highs are heavenly, the lows are hellish (UPDATED)

THE HIGH: The Reverend Dr. Leander Harding preached a beautiful sermon for a priest's ordination in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago. Here's just a bit,

But, the personal God is not content that the sacrifice of his Son–that what he has done by the pouring out of his life to bring men and women back to their Father, to make them again clean and holy, and to give them a witness in the world which shall cause the rest of God’s alienated children to come home–the personal God is not content that that should be a story that’s in a book somewhere. The personal God wants that sacrifice to become real; he wants it to become personal; he wants it to become something that people can see, and they can touch, that is put in front of people in such a way that they can respond to it, that their hearts can be broken and made warm and that they can be reconciled to their Father and give their lives anew to God in Christ and receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be witnesses in his Name to the ends of the earth. And so, God calls, the Lord calls in his church. You know, he comes to his church with the marks of the crucifixion upon him, this crucified and risen one, and he breathes into his church, he breathes into them. He says, “My peace I give you; as the Father sent me, so I send you.” And so, what the Lord wants is he wants in this time and in this place, this person to come and give himself so that the sacrifice of his Son might be re-presented in front of his people in such a way as it is real for them and provokes their response. That’s what the ordained priesthood is all about.

THE LOW: A heart rending, stomach churning investigative report from Houston. (Warning: the story contains graphic language and descriptions). In part,

Haslanger flew home, figuring he'd explained fairly well why he was a never-giver. He didn't expect to hear from the school again.

But, of course, he did, about two years later. And this was the letter that sent him over the edge. This was the letter that would disturb him so much that he took a leave of absence from his six-figure job as chief operating officer of a manufacturing company, which wound up being a permanent leave. This was the letter that unraveled all the effort that had gone into kicking self-medication with drugs and drink, and wiped away all the help he had received in therapy: The school wanted Haslanger to contribute to a new scholarship in the Reverend Jim Tucker's name.

Before he started spiraling, Haslanger wrote letters to St. Stephen's and to the
Episcopal Diocese of Texas, here in Houston.

"I wrote them a letter, and I said, 'That's a big mistake. You guys are going to get bit in the ass for starting a scholarship in Jim Tucker's name,'" Haslanger says.

This warning was summarily ignored. A single accusation of child molestation was not going to gum up the gears of the fund-raising machine.

But about ten years later, another accusation surfaced. And another. And then another, this one from the Episcopal church and school in Houston where Tucker worked after St. Stephen's.


+++
A medical doctor who was part of the Commission on Ministry that interviewed me for ordination back in the 80s said, "I have a job in which I can tell people, 'Take of your clothes' and they do it, no questions asked." He was giving me a good insight into one dynamic of abuse: some of us hold positions to which people extend a great measure of trust.
In the case of clergy, heavenly highs come when we respond to that trust like Christ the Good Shepherd, guiding people toward the "green pastures and still waters" they need, willing to "lay down our lives for the sheep" by putting our own needs aside.
We fall into low pits of hell when we manipulate the people's trust and become predatory, using them up to satisfy our own needs.
Over twenty years of ministry, I've noticed that I can bless people beyond measure when I'm not even trying, and wound people incalculably with what I think are the best of intentions.
Dr. Harding and many others get to the heart of the matter: clergy must become so transparent that our own egos, needs and agendas disappear and only Christ shows through for the people.
For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. (Paul, 2nd Letter to Corinth 4:5)

UPDATE: A moving and relevant post at The Lobster Pot. Good to have Rick Lobs blogging after a hiatus.

South Dakota Reservations may receive economic development funds and advocacy from The Episcopal Church

According to a report from the Episcopal News Service, anti-poverty resolutions to be considered at the denomination's General Convention include
  • + (focus) on the poorest counties in the United States that encompass federal reservations for Native Americans...to develop programs with measurable goals for advocacy to federal, state and local governments to reduce poverty in these counties and to "build capacity and sustainable communities through development initiatives, working with local dioceses and tribal governments."
    The resolution calls for convention to commit a minimum of $400,000 to the effort.
  • + increase by 15 percent the 2007-2009 triennial budget of the four so-called "aided dioceses" of Alaska, Navajoland Area Mission, North Dakota and South Dakota for ministry with native people. It also would give the church's Office of Native Ministries a 20 percent budget increase.

The General Convention takes place in Anaheim, CA in July. Ministry funding priorities are increasingly complicated by the Episcopal Church's membership decline, falling value of investments and litigation over denominational conflicts.

h/t TitusOneNine

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pro-Gay Marriage NH Lawmakers vote AGAINST Gay Marriage - because the bill contains language honoring the free exercise of religion

Yeah, crazy headline. But the news from New Hampshire is crazy.

They had a Gay Marriage law ready to pass (already passed by the State Senate), but the House narrowly defeated it, because some Gay Marriage advocates were aghast at religious protection provisions inserted by the Governor.

These provisions, common sense under the First Amendment's "free exercise of religion," would affirm that no clergy could be forced to perform same-sex weddings and that religious institutions would not have to bend their faith practices to accomodate it. (The Canon Law of the Episcopal Church, at present, is clear that no clergy person shall be obligated to solemnize any marriage. Wonder how the legislature would deal with language like that if challenged in court. But I digress).

Obviously, marriage for Gay couples is not the whole agenda of its advocates. This kind of dishonesty makes it harder to have the "dialogue" for which progressives so often plead.

Planned Parenthood stands by "Roe's" junk science and mythology, seeks to ignore SD's informed consent law


South Dakota has a serious informed consent law which requires that real information be given to women seeking abortion. Planned Parenthood, wed to Roe v. Wade's mythology of fetal non-humanity and sub-humanity by trimesters, went to cooperative judges to overturn the law, only to have a favorably flaky decision vacated by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court last June.

Now, PP is trying to evade the law by producing its own "informed" consent form without the specific, life affirming language of the State statute. PP has filed an injunction against the State to prevent imposition of sanctions.

Do you know? Do your priest and vestry know?

You might be aware that The Episcopal Church is engaged in millions of dollars of property lawsuits, all over the country. They are using your donated dollars for this, as our Minnesota neighbor R.A.Livingston documents so well. You need to read his "Primer" if you are not up on these things.

And do you know that the fight is about more than buildings? Do you know that the Presiding Bishop and her inner circle are using the courts to force a new form of decision making and management on all Episcopalians?

If you have a lawyer (or at least someone who speaks the language!) in your congregation, you should pass along A.S. Haley's analysis of what the Presiding Bishop is claiming in the courtroom. Here are just a couple of them, along with my comments in italics:

"The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical religious denomination, comprising 111 geographically-defined, subordinate entities known as 'dioceses' and nearly 7,700 worshipping congregations, usually called 'parishes,' in the United States and other countries."

Have you ever told your non-Episcopalian friends about the "democratic" nature of the church, and how lay people and clergy all meet and vote on key issues? Get ready to say goodbye to all that if this Presiding Bishop gets her way. The case she is making says that the church is not at all democratic, but a pyramid with Presiding Bishop at the top and "subordinate" dioceses and congregations taking orders at the bottom. If you think that's an exaggeration, see the next point:

"The 'Presiding Bishop' is the 'Chief Pastor and Primate' of the Church and is elected by the General Convention. The Presiding Bishop is charged with leadership in initiating and developing Church policy, strategy, and programs; speaking for the Church on such matters; and carrying out appointive and disciplinary functions prescribed by the General Convention."

Ever told your friends, "My church doesn't have a Pope or that kind of absolute authority"? Well, that is set to change according to the claims of the Presiding Bishop. "Initiating policy, strategy and programs" is a vast expansion of what used to be (and on paper still is) a Presiding Bishop's very limited role. Do you know that the current church law requires the Presiding Bishop to get permission to conduct events in your Diocese? That the Presiding Bishop can't just walk in and tell your Diocesan Bishop what to do? All of this is being ignored and the initiative and decision making that have always been entrusted to your Diocese and your congregation are being taken over by the Presiding Bishop. Do you know that she's actually inserted herself into the Diocese of Minnesota's efforts to elect their next bishop?

Episcopalians are, on average, older than the members of most other churches and than the general U.S. population. Many of you say things like, "Well, I just want to know that the church will be there for comfort in my last days and to give me Christian burial when the time comes." Some of you say, "I'm tired of all the old fights and will just have to leave them to someone else."

But you are the ones who know the values that the Episcopal Church once held, including its respect for the local congregation and the regional diocese to make primary decisions for the mission of the church. If you don't stand up for these things, they will not be part of any future the Episcopal Church might have.

+++
I am currently looking at the proposed changes to "Disciplinary Canons" for the Episcopal Church. I hope in the next few days to post some interpretation and warnings about some significant points.

Usury watch - SD's Senators 2 of only 5 votes against credit card reform

SD was the only delegation with both Senators voting against. (Final vote was 90 - 5). West Virginia's Senators were both absent.

He moved the orange cones



A major Feast Day on the Church calendar that never gets its props. The Ascension is 40 days after Easter, so it always falls on a Thursday. Try gettin' people whipped up for that.

But there are majestic and comfortable messages. Christ returns to his rightful place in glory, to represent our frail, doubtful humanity and make a place for us.

This reverses our loss of paradise. Our way to God was like the roads in Sioux Falls during Spring/Summer construction - every way you try to go blocked by orange cones and barrels. As Christ ascends into heaven, the cones and barrels get moved. He opens the way.

The morning readings contain some comfort, too. Christ's Ascension is not for the strong and perfect, but for the weak and wobbly,

those of us being bested by life's tests and challenges:

For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Hebrews 2:16-18

those of us who worship him through a fog of doubts:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:16-20

So, Happy Ascension Day! Alleluia!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peter & Caron Stebinger congratulate the Diocese of South Dakota

by email via the Diocesan Office:

I have been on a Federal Deployment for the past week and so have been tardy in sending along my thanks to the Standing Committee and the whole Diocese for welcoming Caron and me into the process of discernment for your next Bishop. It was a Spirit filled time and we were carried along by the prayers of all of you. Even the hearings and the questions were enjoyable.

I feel that the Holy Spirit spoke very strongly in Father Tarrant's first ballot majority and know that he is the one called to serve with all of you. Hence my withdrawal after the first ballot. He and Pat are entering a very challenging time of ministry with all of you, and you and they will constantly be in our prayers.

Again thank you for so graciously including us. God is good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Planting, job seeking and other needs in church and world

The Church calendar notes "Rogation Days" this week. Originally, these were prayers for a blessing on Spring planting. There were also processions and prayers to ask a blessing on whole communities.

With urbanization and industrialization, Rogation prayers were adapted to ask blessings on labor and commerce.

The Book of Common Prayer (USA, 1979) includes three prayers for Rogation Days. With many folks suffering under the present economic distress, the second one has special relevance:

I. For fruitful seasons
Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly receiving good things from your hand, may always give you thanks;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II. For Commerce and Industry
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

III. For stewardship of creation
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Astounded

Today's first lesson:

Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were
astounded
that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
+++
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls is celebrating the completion of a three year capital campaign today. The bulk of the money went to make our church more accessible to more people more of the time.
+++
We are astounded.
+++
We had our doubts as we launched this thing. But God took it and did more with us than we could have asked or imagined. We are a new congregation in many ways. The Holy Spirit fell on us and we are more aware of belonging to Jesus Christ than we were three years ago.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday

The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Saturdays

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Evening Collect for Saturdays

O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon us who watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship on the morrow give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+++
I'm still less than adept at taking the right amount of rest, and that idea of coming to Sunday worship spiritually prepared gets away from me. But I'm learning.

Weed warfare time

I pulled some weeds today. As always, this reminded me of Matthew 13:24-30, a little story by which Jesus warns his followers to work patiently, cautiously and gently, even when dealing with evil:

"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.'"

Weeds grow close to the good plants. Some look enough like the good plants to pass. Some have long tap roots down to the root ball of a good plant. So ripping at them with rough impatience can kill what you are trying to nurture.

I once heard the parable preached in Spanish, and it's always stuck with me:

Le preguntaron los siervos: "¿Quiere usted que vayamos a arrancarla?" "¡No! —les contest√≥—, no sea que, al arrancar la mala hierba, arranquen con ella el trigo. Dejen que crezcan juntos hasta la cosecha.

The Spanish verb for "rip out or pull up" is arrancar. It can't help but come out violently - you roll the double "r" in the first syllable and nail the hard "c" as you accent the last. The Catholic priest whose sermon I heard gave example after example of violence from Church history and illustration after illustration of the daily excesses of human self-righteousness. He ignited each point with arrancar, often leading in with a violent sweep of his arms and Les arrancamos cuando..., "We rip up others when we..."

And of course he came to the point that Jesus makes: we wind up ripping up ourselves and the good we seek to do in the process.

For those who don't get down and pull weeds, maybe change the parable to indiscriminate spraying of weed killer. Same idea. You wind up destroying the garden you sought to grow.

Jesus' warning might make sense even if you are not a Christian.

Our iconography sucks these days

One of South Dakota's liberal bloggers takes Christians to task for their support of Miss California USA. Yeah, he's snarky, but he makes a point worth considering - why in the world are Christians using a sexually provocative model as their icon of sexual morality?

He doesn't get by without a conservative blogger's strong critique. Nevertheless, I think his point has merit.

People of all positions pull in these media figures as icons today. An icon, in the Orthodox Christian tradition, is an image through which one can gaze toward divine reality.

But most entertainment figures are images through which one can gaze to see - pretty much nothing. How do you get from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Perez Hilton? How do you get from Mother Teresa to Miss California?

And you folks in Minnesota, please... you didn't have any liberals with more substance than Al Franken?

'Nuff said. We are the ones who vote for/internet search for/obsess over these media types.

North American Anglicans: We're all LOOOSERS

In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that. The Apostle Paul, First Letter to Corinth 6:7-8

Mediation fails in British Columbia, more litigation on the way.

In Los Angeles, a Bishop (overseer, guardian of faith, chief pastor) tries to sue individual lay people to fund his litigation against their churches. More courtroom antics to follow.

In Jamaica, Anglican leaders drop their call for the fueding churches to stop suing one another. The Episcopal Church rejoices and plows ahead with multimillion dollar lawsuit spending upon which nobody gets to vote.

You see what happens when churches drop their foundational sources and teachings to chase after other agendas?

Some thoughts on the recent Gallup Poll (views on abortion)

The thing that struck me was the 53% that has held firm since 1975 - folks who do not accept abortion on demand, but who see some situations where it should be allowed.

If we take the arm wrestling pic as a symbol, each arm represents about a 23.5% point of view. One arm represents those who would not permit abortion under any circumstances. The other arm stands for those who believe in unquestioned abortion on demand.

Notice that the arms are strong and dramatic. They're what you see when you look at the picture, and they're what you watch when they stress and strain against each other.

Then there's the table. It's blended into the gray background, a bit in shadow. The mighty arms dig their elbows into it and grind, but there it sits. That's the 53%. That's where most Americans are on this contentious issue.

I think that a good number of Christians sit in that 53%. "Abortion on demand" or "reproduction as an individual matter" cannot stand up under any reasonable reading of Christian Scripture and tradition. But many followers of Jesus also chafe against legalism, and would not impose "duty" on a woman who was raped or a victim of incest. Nor would they insist that a wife and mother has a duty to die when a pregnancy is life threatening. You would find a range of positions among Christians on these tragic situations, and Gallup's data finds a range of exceptions and restrictions within the 53%.

Christians can (for the moment) teach our values and obligations to our church members, regardless of what the culture around us does or doesn't do. (Although some groups, like the Episcopal Church, are run by a crazed faction that calls abortion "holy work".) Harder to navigate is a political way forward for all Americans. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court nationalized the abortion issue with Roe v. Wade in 1973, the brutal arm wrestling has ground on the American people.

The American solution, which Sen. McCain brought up in the Presidential race, would be to leave the matter to the State Legislatures. This will satisfy neither of the wrestling arms, the two groups of less than 25% each. But that is the wise pressure release in our Constitution. When divisive issues arise, allow people to work them out at the State level. National solutions need not be imposed on a diverse population.

Even with Roe overturned, we would have several states with very permissive abortion policy. California wrote "Right to Privacy" into its State Constitution, so even without Roe, CA would have liberal abortion access. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has more restrictive policy. The nation would show an array of laws and policies, reflecting the "23.5% - 53% - 23.5%" reality of the people.

This is one of several reasons why Roe is garbage, not worth the paper on which the Justices issued their eccentric decision.

  • - Roe forced a divisive single issue, over which the people hold various and nuanced positions, into a one-size-fits-all national policy mold.
  • - Roe became the archetype for the worst possible solution to our most divisive issues: abandoning persuasion and finding a court to impose our positions on our neighbors.
  • - Roe enshrined the notion that ideology trumps reason. Scientific advances expose the Judges' "three trimester" model as the most wretched kind of junk science, but that is not enough to call into question their idea of "penumbral rights" that can be dictated by activists against all contrary evidence.

Sadly, what Roe has put in place makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to return to the States for relief from nationally divisive issues. Even if Roe were overturned (which will not happen with a 23.5% President choosing new Justices), the model it has established would poison the States, as we see with Gay Marriage. The people, through their legislative processes, would enact law - but the 23.5% folks would find an ideological activist State Judge, Court or Panel to overthrow it.

So our likely reality is that the majority of Americans will remain an inert table for the sweaty pleasures of ideological minority factions.

Friday, May 15, 2009

More pro-lifers than pro-choicers in latest Gallup Poll

This is a first in Gallup's tracking on abortion views, which began in 1975.

The shifts in position take place among the 47% of people who hold an absolute view for or against the legality of abortion.

53%, a figure not much changed since 1975, do not accept abortion on demand but believe it permissable in certain circumstances.

h/t Stand Firm in Faith

Usury watch - both SD Senators seem poised to vote against credit card reform bill


The Senate is looking at its version of a bill that earlier passed in the House of Representatives and is supported by President Obama.

Senior Senator Tim Johnson (D) and Junior Senator John Thune (R) cite potential loss of SD jobs as their main concern.

In the House of Representatives, SD's lone Rep., Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, was the only Democrat to vote against the House version of the bill.

Rapid City Journal interviews our Bishop-elect

Mary Garrigan of the Journal provides the only consistent mainstream media coverage when it comes to religion in the state. She spoke with John Tarrant shortly after the election, and you can read the whole article here.

Among the quotes I found refreshing was

“I hate labels, but I would call myself a moderate,” Tarrant said. “I think we need liberals to respect conservatives and conservatives to respect liberals and for all of us to not forget that we really do need to respect each other.” He admits that the national church hasn’t done a great job of that so far, but said past failures shouldn’t preclude the possibility of future success. (emphasis mine)

It is high time that folks in national leadership own up to this. One need not be on either "side" of any particular issue to see that disagreements have been - and at present continue to be - massively mishandled.

This summer's General Convention is poised to continue the destructive trends of single-issue advocacy, increased centralization of authority in unaccountable leaders, multi-million dollar lawsuits, new church canon law sanctions against dissenters within the denomination and isolation from the wider Christian witness in the world - all while the church's own reports show it aging, shrinking and unable to evangelize.

I think we have confidence within the Diocese of South Dakota that John can build relationships and provide positive leadership. This was reflected in the positive tone of the election Convention and his large vote majorities.

He will need our prayers, encouragement and supernatural patience (a fruit of the Holy Spirit, after all) when it comes to the dysfunctional denominational gatherings that come with his new role.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On the Bishop-elect's agenda: Clergy deployment in South Dakota

Bishop-elect John Tarrant noted the problem of clergy isolation in his recent comments to the Episcopal News Service.

That is just one of several clergy deployment and retention issues that he will engage as the Tenth Bishop of South Dakota. Ironically, this will come up right away as his election opens a vacancy at Trinity Church, Pierre.

Learning about clergy life here is eye opening, humbling and inspiring. I am somewhat insulated in a "normal" city parish. Many of the skills and assumptions I've developed over 20 years as a priest work quite well in Sioux Falls. But what clergy face in most South Dakota settings - rural towns and Indian Reservations - is very different from anything experienced by the majority of Episcopal Church clergy.

Most of us have not had to find out if our health plan will cover air transportation. People needing trauma care here will likely need a helicopter or fixed-wing trip to Sioux Falls or Rapid City.

Most of us daydream about the freedom to travel upon retirement. But some Reservation clergy look forward to just the opposite - the chance to stay home. They put in years of constant driving over long distances to reach scattered and isolated churches. They seldom have time off in settings with frequent medical emergencies, high suicide rates and cultural ways that work against concepts of "time management." A Tribal member's funeral can last several days, including Wakes that allow for any and all guests to speak. Events start when the people are present, not when the clock ticks a certain hour.

The compensation of clergy outside the cities is among the lowest in the Episcopal Church. Reservations include some of the poorest counties in the United States. Many "White" congregations are in very small communities and not able to support a full time priest.

The isolation noted by John Tarrant is inflicted by long distances between Episcopal clergy, and in some cases between a priest and clergy of any tradition. Add to this the formidable forces of nature here. Events can be scrubbed at a moment's notice by blizzards, tornado watches, floods or other extreme situations. Interstates can be closed for hundreds of miles. Loss of power and communication can isolate a community for days at a time.

And the assumption that "technology" can compensate doesn't work. There are chunks of South Dakota without cell phone or internet coverage. After presiding at a funeral on the Crow Creek Reservation in the middle of the state, I flipped open my cell phone to call home only to find that I couldn't get coverage - not even roaming - until I'd driven about half an hour toward the city of Chamberlain. That was just a short inconvenience for me - it is a fact of life for many of our diocesan clergy.

Needless to say, clergy turnover is high and vacancies are not easily filled.

Among the many expectations we lay on our Bishops (many of which are totally unrealistic), clergy development and deployment is an area in which the Bishop actually has the authority to make an impact. It was gratifying to hear all four candidates for Bishop discuss this prior to the election.

Pray for Bishop-elect Tarrant as he seeks to meet this need. And pray for clergy to serve in this part of God's world, and for God to sustain them here and bless their efforts.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bishop-elect Tarrant begins to outline his priorities

Picture, coverage and quotes posted by Episcopal News Service.

From the article:

Among the difficult issues he will be facing, he said, are social conditions at some of the 60 Episcopal congregations in the diocese located on Indian reservations. "At one, the suicide rate is epidemic and the church has to be a beacon of hope in those situations," said Tarrant, who is not from a native background.

One of his priorities, Tarrant said, will be to visit the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the current bishop, Creighton Robertson, last year closed nine churches, citing declining contributions and attendance.

Tarrant, who has served in Pierre since 2005, also noted that other issues include effects of the current recession and isolation that many clergy feel in sparsely populated areas.