Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Does debate ruin or enable relationship?

The headline of Yvonne D. Hawkins' editorial in Sunday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader was, "Immigration Debate May Reopen Nation's Wounds." She is an African American woman, and asks "whether we've discovered the pre-eminence of relationship over rhetoric." She worries that the debate over Arizona's new immigration-related statute (really a debate over national and international relationships) will deepen distrust and isolation among non-White Americans.

My question is the same as in my blog post on Monday: What's wrong with standing up for one's side in a debate? Isn't honest exchange of ideas and perspectives a means to relationship? It can be painful, exposing errors in thinking and flaws in our attitudes, but how else do we arrive at honest understanding? Isn't any relationship the art of overcoming our ignorance of those we don't know, and isn't that a bumpy process in the best of circumstances?

Relationship building requires all parties to have integrity. The minute the border crossers are all just criminals or the people of Arizona are all just racists, they are excluded from the debate and there can be an "outcome" but little in the way of relationship. I've attended some flawed anti-racism training put on by a national religious body. It didn't matter how many skin colors were represented on the "facilitation" team, they spoke one "language" and perspective only - White liberal. We heard very little about ethnic or cultural experiences and perspectives, but much about our own collective (White - and somehow male and straight got tossed into the "race" mix) flaws as they were prejudged in the program materials.

Not that some of those flaws aren't real. But being lectured on them in a one-directional seminar setting, with predictable, predetermined political conclusions from a curriculum, does not establish trust, deeper knowledge or any real encounter with a different world view.

Ms. Hawkins commendably shares a personal experience in her piece. When she went in to replace her lost South Dakota driver's license, staff asked her for immigration papers. Her Black face, in their frame of reference, equaled an African immigrant.

Her response is telling: "Some conversation with friends and a little therapeutic column writing helped ease the hurt I felt that day... a piece of the hurt remains."

She did not confront the person behind the desk. Retreating into a pre-existing comfort group and striking out "therapeutically" in editorials probably reinforced separation rather than overcame it. As she admits, she still harbors the hurt.

How much more might have been gained by saying something to the employee, even something testy or harsh? "You think all Black people just landed from Africa?" might have been rough, but it might have broadened another person's narrow perspective, probably as an unforgettable lesson. It might even have planted a seed of relationship.

Unless, of course, the person behind the counter said nothing, harbored a hurt, vented about it to a homogenous group of friends and maybe put up a "therapeutic" Facebook assertion about "angry Blacks."

I think we have to hang around one another, risk some ways to confront and debate one another, and let some disagreements just be there when we aren't making progress. Sometimes, we need to shut up and just listen - I know at least one local group that visits Reservations with no agenda other than to meet folks and mostly just listen, even if that means absorbing some angry comments or rejection.

I served in an Army unit that was 80% Black. I learned more from that three year experience - including insights into my own biases, intolerances and virtues - than via decades of harangues from a White liberal religious organization.

Let me end with a positive illustration. Readers of this blog know that I reported a bitter controversy between Episcopalians on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Sioux Fall based Diocese of South Dakota. As reported in last week's Rapid City Journal, that fracture is well on the way to healing - because our recently consecrated Bishop, John Tarrant, made a series of personal visits to the people on Pine Ridge. One church member there emailed to say, "We love him!"

He's made a few policy tweaks but hasn't backed off entirely from the earlier Diocesan position. The positive progress is all about how he's established a relationship, showing respect for the people there while maintaining confidence in his own integrity.

This kind of relationship, not built on predefined "bad guys," is what allows for common work toward a solution.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And they think we should be flown over?

Proposed 'deathanol' plant in Oswego County raises some stink |

A laugh for your evening. Kramer was the humor writer for the Orange County (CA) Register when we lived out there.

Does my heart good to see that his new East Coast digs have the same fine issues as the Great Plains.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Church of England: Christians must witness to "the unique significance of Jesus Christ," even in pluralistic settings

There is a news summary of the report here. The full document is a large pdf, "Sharing the Gospel of Salvation."

While acknowledging the “shadow side” of some historic evangelistic endeavours, the report’s foreword notes that: “…the fear of getting it wrong should never obscure the Christian’s commitment to the good of all and to making Christ the centrepiece of that good. Too much reticence is as untrue to our history and our vocation as too much stridency.”

"But conversion must never become a word of which Christians fight shy. In Christ, old identities are never the last word and the good is offered for all the world. So there should be nothing embarrassed or awkward about the Church's commitment to draw others to Christ. This we do, not in order to win favor for ourselves, nor to make others more like us, but simply because we want to share God's gifts as we have received them - freely and unearned."

h/t Karen

Some pics from the Golden Jubilee at Blue Cloud Abbey

Brother Benet, Oblate Director, by the noisy finch house...

Father Thomas, former Abbot, Notre Dame grad and liturgist...

Brother Sebastian, Vestment Maker Extraordinaire!

The leis around their necks are not some newfangled revisionist thang... they were gifts made by an Oblate who hails from Hawaii!

Good News: Pine Ridge congregations, SD Bishop build positive way forward

Christ Church, Red Shirt Table (Pine Ridge Reservation) ->

Episcopal church on reservation gets new life

Mary Garrigan of the Rapid City Journal follows up on the Pine Ridge Episcopal churches, which were the source of considerable controversy over the last two years.

There's no rocket science involved: Bishop Tarrant made numerous visits to establish a positive relationship which, in the words of Pine Ridge Priest Robert Two Bulls, "felt like the Holy Spirit."

It is so wonderful to see love and good will overcome estrangement and division.

Is it a "problem" to advocate a minority position?

Cory Heidelberger's Madville Times blog recently covered the split vote of South Dakota's Senators on SB 3310, which designates about 75 miles of grassland as national wilderness - that is, land under Federal management.

There are already 30-plus comments on his blog post, arguing for and against the bill. It is a great example of civic engagement and debate.

That brings me back to Cory's headline, "Johnson Good on Grassland Wilderness; What's Thune's Problem?"

Why is it a problem that Thune is against the act? So are several of Cory's commenters. That's our political system: all sides get a hearing and have their advocates.

If Cory is right, it sounds like the act has a pretty solid coalition of area residents and interests in favor, and Senator Tim Johnson (D) voting their position.

So Sen. John Thune (R) is arguing what seems to be a minority position - albeit a significant minority including the South Dakota's Governor and Legislature, ranchers and, to judge from the comments, folks who just like the land the way it is without a new layer of "management."

So, what's the problem? The Founders' complaint was not "taxation," but "taxation without representation." It is vital that all interests be represented when there's an issue. There does not have to be unanimity and no political decision can generate 100% satisfaction. There will be "winners and losers." But if the "losers" get a fair chance to make their case, and have their advocates in the legislature, that's about the best we can do - certainly preferable to bureaucratic fiat or shopping for a biased judge to force an outcome.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The Bible lessons today make me look in the mirror and shake my head. It is so hard to add anything constructive to a polarized church and world, yet the instruction is

For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

I get warned that those who practice

"enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions... will not inherit the kingdom of God."

But that's the culture - church and world - in which I live, in which I am asked to give perspective and address "issues." To say that I am immune to this would be hypocrisy.

Is there a better way? The alternative sounds like life on some other planet:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

All of these qualities were more easily lived when I was a lay Christian. In all honesty, ordained ministry seems to keep me in the swamp, constantly bit and infected by various vectors of evil.

Anyway, I'm sleep deprived this morning. My wife is back in the hospital, the autistic kid had a seizure last night, and it feels like an effort just to let the dog go out and pee. I am so far from keeping up with the demands of this morning's lessons, yet I have to go preach on them in just a few minutes and it makes me sick.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hierarchy: A (De)Motivational Poster

Click it to enlarge. Or just proclaim it to be something greater.

Just a bit of inside Episcopalian humor. The rest can just gawk in awe and wonder.

Inspiration and more fun at The Elder Oyster of Ohio.

"Christian Nation," "Secular Government," straw men and boogey men

Folks on the political left don't like assertions that America is/was a "Christian nation." And folks on the political right are sometimes sloppy in asserting that national identity.

I. America's Christian identity is cultural, not Constitutional.

Alexis De Tocqueville identified this reality when he visited the young American nation,

"The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live."
Democracy in America, 1835

The Founders were not of one mind theologically. A number were not orthodox Christians and some were accused of atheism and impiety in their day. They did not write any kind of Christian creed into the Constitution. But pointing that out, or cherry picking pithy quotes from Thomas Paine, does not overturn the observed reality that Christian churches were central to community life (including education), that moral consensus rested upon Christian assumptions, that Biblical quotes permeated public discourse and that most of the Founders were Christians.

This broad Christian consensus, Tocqueville noted, allowed for a robust politics because it tempered rather than inflamed sectarian claims. America was spared European style religious warfare not by denying Christianity, but by applying its virtues broadly and voluntarily in community life.

The genius of this approach comes into law in the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

No religion shall be foisted upon the people through government, nor shall government dabble in curbing the religion of the people. You can't be required to affirm the Apostles' Creed to run for dog catcher; likewise you can't be prevented from gathering some friends to pray for the election of a Christian dog catcher.

America is more diverse today, and the idea of current Christian cultural consensus is debatable. But one has to ignore and falsely revise history to deny the formative influence of Christianity on this nation.

II. Secular Government

Turkey's 20th century revolution established a secular government - its Constitution banned overtly religious parties. Yet Turkey is an indisputably Muslim nation.

Secular government prevents the imposition of theocratic government - but secular government is not "atheistic" government. A government that states "there is no God" is way over into the realm of religion. Secular government does not assume a secular world view or impose one on the people.

Secular government, practiced correctly, operates from the principles of the First Amendment. It does not endorse a religious creed but it does not presume to suppress any creed, either, beyond denying any creed's claims to rule over citizens who don't confess it.

Christians must make common cause with others to influence law. It is not enough to say, "Here's the Christian teaching, so this is what the law must say." Rather, Christians can voice our perspectives and concerns in the discussion of an issue, knowing that action will require buy-in from others who might not share our beliefs but who do share some common concern. Roman Catholic social teaching frequently appeals across differences to "all people of good will."

An example is playing out in New York right now. New York is one of the few states without "no fault divorce," and is considering its adoption. Christians and Feminists, who disagree on many things, are voicing opposition to the change because both groups see it as harmful to the common good.

Secular government, rightly understood, does not impose Christianity as the only voice, nor does it prevent it from being one of the voices.

III. Right now, government over-reach is a much greater threat than "theocracy"

The idea of a theocracy is abhorrent to Americans - it was, in fact, abhorrent to the Founders and the Christian culture that established the United States.

The Founders were aware of the raw power of majorities and built into the Constitution features that would frustrate absolute majority rule - even rule by the Christian culture consensus of which they were a part.

Right now, we have people who call Christians "wingnuts" asserting the near paranoid position that electing someone like Sarah Palin would lead to theocracy. It's a straw man argument, assuming that any cultural appeal to "Christian values" translates into an attack on the Constitution.

The Founders were also aware of the pretensions of elites - minorities with an agenda - to exploit the majority. They wanted this frustrated as well.

But the reality around the country today is that factions are getting over, with government help. While I lived in California, "zoning laws" were being used to favor business interests over churches in some communities. Around the country, people are invoking "harassment" laws to force coworkers to keep Bibles or other signs of Christian identity out of sight. This warping of "freedom of religion" into "I expect government to keep me free from even knowing that religion is around" has entered public discourse. Ironically, it subverts secular government by entangling the state in religious matters. The state is called in to protect the hapless citizen from the religious boogey man.

One form of this warping is the call to protect "cultural" expressions of religion against free expression of religion - with the result that the state actually serves one faith group against another:

America ceases to be a Christian nation when enough people are convinced to be something other than Christians in their community life. The state has no business preventing or advancing that. Those who use the state to attack Christians degrade protections available to all citizens, actually opening up the likelihood of more intrusive and narrow government in the future.

Why bad things happen to good Christians

"And it is his wont to drive us, to kindle us incessantly to his love lest when we again love ourselves we mentally abide in this exile, lest the quiet of this life be so pleasing as to lead us to forgetfulness of the Kingdom, lest the mind, delighting in good fortune, grow sluggish. Thus he also mingles lashes with His gifts so that everything which delights us in this age grows bitter, and that glow arises in the spirit which always disquiets us to heavenly yearning, incites us, and, so to speak, delightfully stings, sweetly torments, and merrily saddens us."
Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel II.4.3

Illustration: "Christ Bearing the Cross", Raphael

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Associated Press: Mich. museum's Little Bighorn flag for sale in NYC

Little Big Horn Battlefield, Montana

The Associated Press: Mich. museum's Little Bighorn flag for sale in NYC

This iconic Plains battle took place in Montana.

Previously, Custer led scientific exploration missions in South Dakota's Black Hills, where a State Park bears his name today.

The Army was first deployed to enforce treaty provisions, keeping white settlers out of Tribal land (including the Hills). But when gold was discovered, the government changed the mission and called on the military to move the Tribes out.

Little Big Horn was a tactical victory but a strategic defeat for the Plains Tribes. Screaming headlines and sensationalized news created a public outcry and justified the government's ultimate destruction of the Tribes' lifestyle.

Before heading west, Custer played a significant role in the Civil War, his notoriously reckless flair giving the Union cavalry a fighting chance against the generally superior Confederate horsemen.

After his death, he became a mythic hero. In recent decades, of course, he has been remythologized as a genocidal madman (a nice way for DC politics and journalism to disown their cold blooded and racist policies and lies).

Like Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok and other larger than life figures, Custer was something of an aging rock star who met his end out on a final, edgy tour.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Last WWII Lakota Code-Talker Dies

Governor asks that flags fly at half-staff to honor code talker | | Argus Leader

Although the Code-Talkers from the Southwestern Tribes are better known, 11 soldiers from South Dakota's Plains tribes, speaking the Lakota (Western), Nakota (Central) and Dakota (Eastern) dialects served in WWII.

The Native languages, being oral rather than written, were indecipherable by the Germans and Japanese, so Code Talkers could transmit messages without worries about interception.

This week, the nurse from the famous Times Square "kiss" photo also died. The WWII generation is leaving us pretty quickly now - may we find ways to maintain memories and learn lessons from them.

Facebook friend, spiritual friend

political action has been confused with power of God action and is an idol for many US Christians.

Local pastor and pal, identifying his "Political Views" in his FB profile

But what is your alternative approach?

There's a challenging post at one of SD's liberal blogs. Bob Schwartz assails the Republicans, in this case Congressional candidate Kristi Noem, for getting cheap political mileage by claiming to represent "Dakota values."

Schwartz gets in some good licks, some of which leave a mark:

Do these values consist of complaining about the Government spending more than they make while taking millions in government subsidies or gladly taking much more from the Federal Government than we pay in while complaining about government pork? Is it that we value having some of the lowest wages in the country to the point where some consider a Walmart greeter to be a “good paying” job? Or maybe South Dakota values include railing against a state income tax while accepting far more injurious to the middle class government revenue streams that include sales taxes on food and video lottery? Or just maybe they are making it so that credit card companies can setup shop in our fine state and allow them to charge whatever interest rates they want to the people that can usually least afford it? Those South Dakota values?

But he's also got his own meaningless shorthand going. In his very first sentence he says that those who don't share his worldview are "wingnuts" and "fungelicals." The latter is an apparent contraction of "fundagelical" (editorial epithet for "fundamentalist-evangelical"), shortened so as to sound like "fungus" and dehumanize those he critiques. Not much of an improvement on citing nameless values.

Then, in a comment, one of his acolytes totes this lil' candle:

...every voter should be very wary of supporting any candidate who emphasizes values over issues, logic, history, and reason.

Dang right! So don't vote for people spouting "Hope and Change." Don't adopt historically discredited models of government-run economy. Don't rally young people to vote by having Hollywood celebrities tell them, "If you don't, rape will become legal!"

Schwartz makes some good points about some Republican inconsistensies and irrationalities. My quibble is that the same inconsistensies and irrationalaities permeate our politics. They aren't the property of any one group.

"And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Misery loving company and all that...

If you've tried your darndest to produce a good outcome in a relationship or other situation, only to have the whole thing go way south, you might want to have tea with Charles Dickens:

Even Dickens could not stage-manage all the real-life characters around him. A prime example is his feckless Micawber of a father, who ran up even more debts when he had a son to pay them. The newly flush and established Dickens hoped to put his father out of temptation's (and embarrassment's) way by setting his parents up in a little house in the country. As [Dickens scholar Michael] Slater says, "Dickens had, in fact, written the (idyllic) end of their story for his parents, complete with a cast of comic extras (the name of their maidservant, a certain Betty Peek, sounds promising) and it only remained for them to conform to it." Alas, Mr. John Dickens couldn't be so easily contained.
Alexandra Mullen in The New Criterion, June 2010

A Brit has fun with World Cup underperformance

h/t David Ould at Stand Firm

Parishes or clubs?

Christ Church, Yankton. (Diocese of SD website)-->

The traditional Anglican understanding of "parish" is a local church that takes responsibility for the spiritual care of it's geographical area - including those who are not members of the church.

Julian Mann, Vicar of Outibridge in Sheffield, England, recently blogged about the need for the traditional parish model. The alternative, he points out, is small, homogenous congregations that putter along until age and attrition turn their sanctuaries into historical markers or restaurants.

He writes,

"...if these churches serving local communities proved unable to sustain themselves would be a tragedy for the spiritual welfare of our nation. Large tranches of the population would be spiritually disenfranchised, and the New Testament Gospel for all without distinction would become a gospel for some with the right financial, educational and demographic qualifications."

Obviously a Northern Plains issue, what with small, aging congregations dotting the landscape. Julian asks,

"How can such churches justify continuing to take resources from others without any recognition that they need to change their spiritual culture, remove their barriers to growth and become hospitable and mission-oriented? Complacent free-loading off others is wrong even when it is done democratically."

This is close to St. Paul's oft-abused teaching,

For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.

Paul was not laying out a platform for the culture, but a policy for the church - those who came to church only to take and not to give should not expect church help. He expected radical transformation that would have wider impact, as in

Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Julian is echoing this as well as the quote attributed to William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-44,

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

Because the church has lost confidence in Jesus' message of the Kingdom of Heaven and the eternal destiny of the human being, it seeks to do only earthly things that can be done better or at least in greater measure by government or other entities. The fruitlessness of this leaves small, in-grown churches - warm and homey but existing for the comfort of existing members until they (and the church) inevitably cease to exist.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Episcopal bigwig: The Christian marriage service is "a dumb prayer" and "laughable"

The "Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage" in The Book of Common Prayer contains language consistent with marriage rites in most Christian traditions, including

"The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people."

This is, for those who like the word, just about the most "inclusive" paragraph in Christian worship. Marriage exists before the church. Christ performed a miracle to prolong a wedding party, well before he preached his message to the world. While marriage signifies some unique expectations for Christians, all marriages - Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, whatever - reflect God's design and are to be honored. When people who were married outside of the church convert, we don't require some sort of "remarriage." Some people request a church blessing, and that's fine - but their marriage is honored with or without it.

Yet on a listserve for Episcopalian insider poobahs, one of them had this to say:

"It is a dumb prayer that is based on prejudice not Bible IMO - God did not establish a bond and covenant of marriage in Creation. The story has nothing to do with marriage - it has to do with procreation - which we no longer support with abandon. As to Jesus attending a wedding as a basis for holding marriage in esteem - also not much of a reason. I hope someday we have an opening to the marriage ceremony that is not so laughable."

You can guess why she thinks it's "prejudice." Not much effort to decode the little group of elitist, wine and cheese clergy that think that.

Besides which, the poobah's own reasoning is faulty. The Genesis account is not just about making babies, but about restoring the human representation of God in male and female (that used to be an "inclusive" talking point, but we're about half-past that now). Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding had nothing to do with procreation, unless maybe Cana had an unusually ugly poplulation and they needed "closing time" levels of inebriation to have sex. Paul's description of marriage as a reflection of the mystery of Christ and the church points beyond procreation, to the kingdom of God where Jesus says there is no more marriage. Like the rest of this Episcopalian leadership club, she has no idea what the Bible says and banks on the general Episcopalian ignorance of the scriptures to make a bogus argument.

Even more bizarre is that the person who posted this craziness used to be known as a "moderate" influence on the church.

But the most painful thing for me is to read a church leader - a leader in a church I still serve - expressing such contempt for my marriage. The language of that service has been a source of strength and inspiration for my wife and me for 20 years now. We have come back to it for help in seasons when "worse, poorer and sickness" outweighed "better, richer and health." But we are dumb, laughable beings to the single-issue advocates who fly all over the world to confabs about their single issue.

I've already sent the quote to my parish leaders. I will be sending it on to my Bishop in just a minute. I'll get the usual responses about, "Oh, well, just do a good job right where you are and stuff like this won't really matter."

I disagree. This crazy statement can't be overlooked. The traditional Christian understanding of marriage is not just about procreation. It emphasizes commitment, sacrifice, forgiveness, reconciliation, spiritual nurture, comfort and a journey of love beyond the campfire ease of eros and romance. It is what my wife and I do with our autistic child. It is what we do when one or the other is exhausted and our male and female brains just don't get each others' responses to that.

It is not a bunch of aging narcissists draping themselves in fancy robes and titles to talk about a campy LGBT catholic lite club that mocks what it claims to practice.

No wonder I would sooner go to the Wesleyan guy around the corner, an old lady in a nursing home or a Benedictine monk three hours away for wisdom. I wouldn't ask national Episcopal Church leaders how to boil water. They betray truth they promised to uphold, not to bring "justice" to others but to indulge themselves.

h/t Greg Griffith and there's oh-so-much-more.

The miracle of simplicity

My wife and I made it to Blue Cloud Abbey last Saturday. It was a precious experience to take part in the Golden Jubilee (50 year anniversary) of three monks.

They renewed their life profession vows, and we took part in the singing of Psalm 119:116 (118:116 in Roman Catholic usage) and Doxology, the profession prayer prescribed in Chapter 58 of the Rule of St. Benedict:

Uphold me, O Lord my God, according to your promise and I shall live. And do not confound me in all my hope and expectation. Glory be to the Father and to his only Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Abbot Denis preached with wonderful simplicity and clarity. He made the amazing half-century perseverance of his monks into an encouragement to all of us in the commitments we seek to keep each day.

"What makes a monastic vocation?," he asked from the pulpit.

"It's doing what we heard it the Bible reading," he said, returning us all to a passage that applies to any Christian in any endeavor:

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:12-17

Monday, June 21, 2010

That missing ingredient

"For each bears his neighbor as much as he loves him. Then if you love, you bear; if you cease to love, you cease to tolerate. So him whom we love less we also tolerate less, because with the onset of aversion the neighbor's deeds are more swiftly led to a heaviness of importance which the wing of charity does not smooth for us."
Pope Gregory the Great, who in 595 sent a missionary team to England. They established their mission at Canterbury.

Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round.
Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Pentecost Letter to the Anglican Communion, 2010

...The Episcopal Church and indeed, the Anglican Communion, are dealing with what happens when the marginalized move to the center, and those formerly in the center are moved toward the margins.
Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, Message to the Denomination, June 18, 2010(emphasis added)

Let me say this for about the millionth time. There were LGBT people all through the Episcopal Church. A disproportionate number of clergy and members of church decision making bodies were gays and lesbians. Some people liked it, some did not. The denomination did not splinter over it, nor did the wider Anglican Communion.

But when it came to consecrating Bishops, there were emphatic warnings - Archbishop Williams says "repeated pleadings" - that this would be a deal breaker, because the tolerance allowed by "local option" could not possibly be applied to Bishops, who represent the church globally, across boundaries.

Still, even when the Episcopal Church consecrated a gay activist Bishop, there were years of "conversation" and other efforts to arrive at a way forward - efforts which included endless "listening" to the LGBT activists.

While most of the Anglican Communion sought a way to keep everybody together, a small group of people - affluent, comfortable Americans in the main - have decided to "move people they don't like to the margins." That is, people who lack little if anything have decided to push away most other Anglicans - the majority of whom are among Africa's poor. A small group of nominal Christians, with access to plenty of money, government leaders and absolute media approval decided to marginalize many people who, in some places, face violent persecution for their Christian faith.

Episcopalian insider LGBT activists say it's for "inclusion" - but as I said above, they've had place in the Episcopal Church for decades. They've had disproportionate representation among clergy and in church decision making bodies. They've had whole congregations and even some dioceses flying their rainbow flags without sanction.

So the missing Anglican ingredient hasn't been "inclusion." That's the lie screamed by the self-serving activists and clutched by others who want the public approval that comes with fawning over them.

The missing ingredient is love. Self-interest activists aren't very good at it. "The wing of charity does not smooth" their "I'm a victim and you're my problem" neurosis and its ever boiling rage. "Recrimination, confusion and bitterness" are their sacramental elements - they are empty and bored without them. They think in centers and margins and have no doubt that those unlike them must "be moved" out.

I started this post with a great Church leader's exhortation to love. I'll bookend it with the contrast of an LGBT Episcopal Church leader from a typically sour, moribund Episcopal diocese, addressing the Archbishop of Canterbury:

So, Rowan, as we say over on this side of the Pond - grab a dog and some suds, park your back end in a stadium seat, keep your pie hole shut and watch the game. You might learn a few things about how to play it. Quoted and linked here.

The final word over the church comes from the one that activists can't abide:
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Jesus, Luke 6:32-36

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Current Sunday lessons - a rant

I've had some positive things to say about The Revised Common Lectionary, which provides shared sets of Bible lessons across Christian denominations each Sunday.

But the current cycle is really, well, what's the theological term? Pissing me off.

Instead of a set of lessons built around a common theme for the week, we have two competing cycles running. The wonderful Old Testament lessons on the Prophet Elijah do not have common themes with the wonderful New Testament expressions of God's grace in Paul's Letter to the Galatians and The Gospel of Luke. The options are to force a cheap theme that isn't true to the texts, or to leave the people wondering why you avoided the challenging passages in one of the readings.

Current Sundays frequently juxtapose violent Old Testament passages with New Testament words of mercy, and reek dangerously of the historic stereotype of "that ugly Jewish religion which our beautiful Christian faith came to replace." It is a perception that has aided and abetted anti-Semitism over the centuries.

Then there's the sheer length of the readings. Even with some suggested (and, to most readers, confusing) sections to omit, there's a mind-numbing jumble of words that drop on the congregation. One of my parishioners came up with her lesson leaflet and asked me, "Is the font smaller?" Sure enough, it is. There's no way to make the long selections fit on the sheets, so the publishers are just throwing them on with dinky, eye straining letters.

Today sported a silly didactic use of Psalms 42 & 43 in combination. Usually, there is a single Psalm or even a short portion of a Psalm for congregational responsive reading. But somebody among the Illuminati decided that we needed to make the big, impressive point that two Psalms share a refrain and we should throw down all twenty-one combined verses to teach our people about poetic devices of the Old Testament. I am sure that there were pathetic sermons all over the mainline church world today - "Speaking these two poems as one teaches us that they were once of a piece. We reclaim an ancient beauty lost to us when we omit one or the other." Now we have a lectionary supporting the worst kind of preaching - the factoid crammed crap that somebody mouths after running to a reference book instead of actually reading, praying, and seeking God's word for the people.

'Til next time, Rant Off.

Maybe a crucified pig would move our hearts

Today's Gospel in the Revised Common Lectionary was Luke's report of one of Jesus' most dramatic exorcisms. It included

"Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned."

It is hard to preach this passage. In all fairness, people have questions that are not easily ignored or answered. What became of the demons? If they lost their host bodies, did they just go infest somebody else? Aren't "demons" just an archaic way of expressing mental illness? Then why does the Bible say that some entity went from a man into a bunch of pigs?

But what really derails the sermon is the sympathy everybody feels for the pigs. If Jesus is good, why would he let that happen to the innocent animals? People are so put off by the passage that it is hard to come up with words that lead them into worship. They are confused by Jesus or even indignant toward him - hardly in a place to welcome his presence with praise.

That very ambivalence takes us to the stinging message of the passage. We simply do not love one another in the way that God loves the human race. Jesus does not move us because our fallen nature does not care about our neighbor's salvation.

The Gerasene community had given up on the possessed man. Luke tells us plainly that he was "a man of that city," but the other citizens just chained him up from time to time; mostly they were fine to leave him out in the burial caves or the outdoors.

When they find him "clothed and in his right mind" with Jesus, they are afraid. Then they seem to weigh their neighbor on a balance against their devalued pork futures, and find the deal intolerable. They ignore the healed man and ask Jesus to go away.

We're no different. We can watch countless portrayals of people being killed in our favorite TV series or even a single movie, and it's no big deal. It's entertainment, in fact. Compare it to your reaction to a TV or movie portrayal of a pet being killed.

How about in the real world? Compare your reaction to the recent news of Mexican police killed by narcotraficantes to your feelings over the oil coated creatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

We rightly see the beauty of so many creatures - but we are in a fallen state that blinds us to the beauty and value of God's most significant creature, the human being. Like the Gerasenes in Luke's report, we don't see the salvation of a fellow human as worth the loss of a herd of pigs.

How, then, can we comprehend the idea that God would value us so much as to allow the humiliation and death of his Son to save us? Maybe God should have sent a pig to be crucified for us - it might better move our hearts to worship.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Father's Day tribute - I think...

"When we won, I didn't even know we won. I honestly didn't know we won. I actually cried before the game. How stupid is that? How dumb is that? How do you cry before the game and then you don't cry after you win? Daddy, you raised a dumb child."

He then smiled at his parents, standing above him and laughing, then kissed the trophy again.

A sweet story on the L.A. Lakers' Ron Artest

Friday, June 18, 2010

New look & note the email, please

OK, playing with some new Blogger options this afternoon.

Note my new email, which is my parish inbox. Enough of the Yahoo spam magnetism.

Just type it out with the . and the @ as they should be in a normal email, and it should reach me just fine at Church of the Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls. That's where God has me.

Archive has moved down to the bottom of the page.

Blessings on four of Christ's friends this weekend

Retreat "Hermitage" at Blue Cloud Abbey, Marvin, SD (from Abbey website)

Yes, there's all the Episcopalian ugliness swirling about the net, but let me interrupt with some of those day-to-day blessings of church life:

Near Marvin, SD, three members of the Benedictine community at Blue Cloud Abbey will celebrate Golden Jubilees of their life vows this weekend. That's fifty years each of dedicated life for Brother Benet, Brother Sebastian and Father Thomas.

Brother Sebastian makes vestments in the Abbey workshop. The ordination set worn by Episcopal Bishop John Tarrant was Sebastian's work, and I have green and white vestments fashioned by his hands.

Brother Benet directs the Oblates of the Abbey, and is a published author admired for his wit.

Fr. Thomas is Blue Cloud's former Abbot. He studied liturgy at Notre Dame, and is largely responsible for arranging Blue Cloud's worship to help its guests participate.

Later on the same day, Kim Fonder of the Episcopal Church's ministry on the Lower Brule Reservation will be ordained a Deacon by Bishop Tarrant. This will take place in Sisseton, about a half hour from Blue Cloud, as part of the Niobrara Convocation. The Convocation is an annual gathering of South Dakota's Native American Episcopalians.
<--Church of the Holy Comforter, Lower Brule. (From Diocese of South Dakota website).

Kim is a significant lay leader for Lower Brule, one of the most active Reservation congregations. The community there has endorsed and supported him toward ordained ministry.

My wife and I hope to make both celebrations. I encourage your prayers this Saturday, June 19th, as Blue Cloud Abbey celebrates the three Jubilees at 11 a.m. (CST), and as Kim Fonder is ordained a Deacon in Christ's service (4 p.m., CST).

Archbishop of Canterbury asks Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop to stay out of key Anglican meetings

It is all over the Anglican blogosphere, having been discovered by religion reporter George Conger. You can read about it here, here, and here.

Basically, the Archbishop has asked the Episcopal rep to stay away from prominent gatherings of worldwide Anglican leaders, since the American denomination keeps doing the opposite of whatever agreements the global Communion works out.

The Episcopalian position grows more incoherent by the day - yesterday's denomination of intergalactic peace 'n' justice now crows about American exceptionalism and independence from foreigners. The "inclusive" church now dismisses the objections of "a few Africans."

The fragmentation of the Anglican Communion seems inevitable. The Episcopal Church has plenty of old money to cobble together an international "communion" of its own, built around gay (albeit closeted, in many cases) clergy in subsidized state churches of the Northern Hemisphere and small clusters of LGBT activists in the Southern. Won't be much in terms of congregations or Christian faith, but will get plenty of press as it issues proclamations and hangs its name on causes - especially those favored by opponents of Christianity.

Meanwhile, less moneyed but growing and spiritually vital Anglican Provinces have formed networks based on traditional Christian faith and appear ready to ignore the historic Canterbury connection altogether.

This isn't mere symbolism or reorganization. As Fr. Dan Martins points out,

...the church of Canterbury is a church that is not just old, but was itself established by a church that was founded by not one, but two, apostles: Ss Peter and Paul. Canterbury is the token of the apostolicity of my particular church. Being tied to Canterbury is not magic. It guarantees nothing in and of itself. But, as part of a system of connections and reference points, it is invaluable, and ought not to be tossed aside, even for reasons that, in the thick of present but ultimately passing conflict, appear weighty.

Anglicanism was an experiment in global Christianity based less on uniformity than on "bonds of affection" among people of Christian faith. But even bonds of affection can snap if the parties pull too hard in opposing directions.

Personally, it is at once heartbreaking and disgusting to have invested decades of ministry in a denomination that now betrays both Christian faith and the Anglican effort at global Christian fellowship and witness.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

South Dakota site vital to international satellite tracking of Gulf oil spill

Near Garretson, SD, just outside of Sioux Falls, is the U.S. Geological Survey Center.

Through agreements with other countries and private industry, the site is able to access satellite images of the Gulf spill. These are used to plan responses and assess damage.

The South Dakota facility is a clearing house for resources that are not readily available together elsewhere:

"Canada uses radar which can, in effect, see through the clouds. The French provide high-resolution images. And Japanese satellites highlight different features, such as shallow water penetration."

Peace and Just Us

The documentation at Anglican Curmudgeon is more complete, but I can give you the gist in short form:

Episcopal Church says (October 2009):

Resolved, That the Executive Council, meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, October 5-8, directs the Executive Officers of General Convention and the Office of General Convention to refrain from using the Hyatt hotel chain for General Convention and its related bodies and staff, until housekeeping staff summarily fired from its Massachusetts hotels and replaced by contract workers are offered the opportunity to be restored to their original employment and work conditions and provided with back pay for time missed due to their fall 2009 layoffs...

Episcopal Church does (December 2009):

They worked for years cleaning and maintaining the Episcopal Church Center in midtown Manhattan. But after they were fired on Dec. 30, nine hard-working people are in desperate need of divine intervention.

"We came to work on Dec. 30 as every day, hoping to leave a little earlier to celebrate the new year," said Bronx native H├ęctor Miranda, a father of three. "But when we got to the building we were told that we no longer worked there. Just like that. They picked the date well to fire us."

Now, without the means to support his family, Miranda has no idea how he will pay the rent.

"Even worse," he said, "without health coverage I don't know how I am going to pay for my wife's treatment. She is a diabetic, you know."

The workers lost their jobs - which paid standard wages and benefits - when the church canceled the contract with Paris Maintenance, a union cleaning contractor, and replaced it with the nonunion Benjamin Enterprises.

But hey, who can doubt the social justice zeal of an organization whose leaders fly all over the world to build a new communion of... well... just what is their distinctive that compels them to separate from other Christians?

Oh, that's right. They want ordinations and rituals for a small, affluent cohort of the population:

Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire... expressed dissatisfaction... and stated that it was time to move beyond speaking simply of "GLBT" (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) orientations: "there are so many other letters in the alphabet," he said; "there are so many other sexualities to be explored."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NPA Sports Exclusive: Unpleasant intrusion in World Cup Group C

Before you start that sermon preparation...

"Be zealous... to reflect on the words of God, do not despise the writings of Our Creator which were sent to us. It is exceedingly important that the spirit be thereby galled to warmth lest it grow numb in the cold of its own iniquity."
Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel II.3.18

Monday, June 14, 2010

Just another moment that makes me love living here

So I had a chance to hit the gym today. I parked on 39th St. in Sioux Falls. Now, for those of you on the coasts, Sioux Falls is a city - the largest in SD with close to a quarter of a million people.

A rabbit goes bounding across the street. We see this all the time. But all of a sudden there's a blur and, just as the rabbit makes it to the cover of shrubs in front of an office building, a hawk completes a dive at it and then with a couple of muscular flaps is up in a tree to wait for another chance.

Living in SoCal just five years ago, I would have had to see that on Animal Planet. Here, it's just the neighborhood.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Not a long resume, but the right reference

The Second Lesson in tomorrow's Revised Common Lectionary gets to the core of the Christian message:
...a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.

That is to say, we don't win God's favor with a long resume of religious exertions or good deeds - we have it because it rests on the Son of God, to whom we belong by faith.

The Anglican Articles of Religion (1549) say,

XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

A Doctrine "full of comfort," as we see in tomorrow's Gospel,

...a woman in the city, who was a sinner... stood behind Jesus at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears... Then turning toward the woman, he said... "Do you see this woman? ...I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love."

Justification by faith in Christ is comforting because it is available to any and all. Nameless, marginalized "sinners" can claim it just as much as the well known, well respected and religious.

This incident is so important that it is one of the few recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Two of them report Jesus saying that the story will be told forever, in memory of the woman. There are differences in how the four place the event chronologically and other details, but all affirm the message that God's mercy is available to anyone who recognizes it in Christ.

Luke sets the woman in contrast with a religious leader, who expects priggish adherence to religious purity standards. In the other Gospels, she is contrasted with Jesus' own disciples, who object to her lavishing expensive ointment on his feet. "It should have been sold to help the poor!" is their protest. So neither the moral legalist nor the liberal do-gooder come off well. Only the party crasher who recognized God's favor and mercy in Christ got it right.

And please, please, PLEASE note the order of things:

...her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.

NOT "She showed me some love so I forgave her sins," but "She recognized God's mercy and so she was set free to show great love."

Because Jesus was there, she felt favor that made her unafraid of the other party guests. She walked into a room full of people who disdained her or, if "sinner" in this case meant prostitute, possibly bought her sinful services in secret while rejecting her in public.

Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven" and "Your faith has saved you, go in peace" not as rewards for her foot washing, but as assurances to the woman and provocations to the others. Their failure to recognize God's favor in their midst is exposed as they begin to mutter, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

Justification by faith is a challenge to those of other belief systems, who set up standards we must meet to earn God's favor or to somehow validate our lives.

But the doctrine also challenges the church, as we often bury this Good News under our hypocrisies, complexities and passing urgencies, hiding it from those who would be blessed to hear it.

Chris Matthews w/ Harold Ford: are Dem elites purging their own moderates?

The lack of Dem core support is one of Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin's vulnerabilities here in South Dakota.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Dramatic thunder and lightning the last couple of days here. It reminded me of the concluding verses of Psalm 29:

The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire; the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare.

And in the temple of the LORD all are crying, "Glory!"

The LORD sits enthroned above the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as King for evermore.

The LORD shall give strength to his people; the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

North Dakota Public Radio interview with "Prairie Republic" author Jon Lauck

Give it a listen!

He has book signings at the Little Professor Bookstore in Aberdeen, SD and at the Barnes & Noble in Fargo, ND today (Saturday, June 12).

I guess God was making a point...

Back around Mother's Day, I posted thoughts on Lydia, the Bible's first named Christian convert in Europe.

She had means, a career, a family and a personality that could prevail upon strong willed men of the time. And she was thoughtful, able to listen to and engage big ideas.

Couldn't help but think of her again this week when women emerged as standard bearers in a number of primary elections around the country. In my earlier post, I wrote "...may God bless his children with many more moms like Lydia." It seems like He might have plans to bless many more people than I imagined. Let's pray that it is so.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Speaking of how we can't talk to each other... and maybe how we can

Mary Ailes has two recent entries on our Episcopalian lawsuits, where Christians who can't agree on what we believe are mired in multimillion dollar litigation over title to buildings and bank accounts.

In California, the State Supreme Court is trying to unravel a bizarre appellate decision in the litigation between St. James' Anglican Church, Newport Beach, and the Episcopal Church's various lawsuit filing entities.

In Virginia, the State Supreme Court is seeking greater clarity in how to apply the law to a large scale division between a group of Anglican congregations and the Episcopal representatives there.

Sadly, the Virginia groups had negotiated an agreement before the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church entered in with a campaign of redirecting donated money to sue everybody. The newly defined "national church" not only rejects dissenters' claims to property, but refuses to allow negotiated settlements or even purchase of the buildings by congregations that built and maintained them in the first place.

In both cases, the Supreme Courts tossed matters back to lower courts, opening up the expenditure of many more years and dollars in adversarial action.

Ailes' comments on the Virginia case are moving. She lives and worships there and has many friends on both sides of the courtroom:

No one won today... It is a time of thoughtful consideration, a time of prayer and fasting, a time of listening to the Lord and to one another.

For what saddens me even more, even now, is that the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed that there has indeed been a major division in The Episcopal Church. It is severe enough for that part of the statute to be satisfied. This means that the Supreme Court could see and affirm that the Episcopal Church is indeed in very serious division.

The Presiding Bishop continues to deny that there is a division, sort of like China claiming Taiwan. Hard to know how to describe the national leaders, who only converse with a small circle of the like-minded. Sub-Christian behavior, certainly. I'm tempted to call it anti-Christian, with all the awful weight and implication of that.

But there are those little signs of a better way, even if it might have to wait for a total denominational collapse before it can be employed to start rebuilding. Ailes reports,

I will tell you however, that the first person to contact me - to want to know how I was feeling and if I was okay was a loyal and perhaps somewhat progressive Episcopalian. She's very much an advocate of what some might call innovations, she would see as acts of justice. But what seemed to matter more to her today were not positions on issues or property or lawsuits - but the welfare of a friend. Her outreach of hospitality meant so much and it's those kind of actions - still possible after everything that happened - that gives me waves hope, even now...

...Just recently, Truro [a dissenting Anglican congregation] hosted a wedding conducted in the main church by a current Episcopal rector in the Diocese of Virginia. It was an amazing opportunity to work together again.

And then there's this little gem I received from one of South Dakota's Reservations:

What do you think of Bishop Tarrant? We love him already! He's been out to our Reservation at least 3 times now! Wow! We haven't had a Bishop out since [name of bishop and date of visit]!

It's not like Jesus left us without encouragement and simple instructions:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Fr. Ryan Hall (Brookings, SD): Factors in the decay of civil discussion

He had some fine comments on a post at this blog, and has since constructed a fuller analysis at his.

A sample here but go to the link and read it all:

My wife, who is a Nebraska grad, made the point last night (as she was about in tears over my ranting about Nebraska selling out), that politics and sports are basically two sides of the same coin in terms of discourse. The more I have thought about it, both are symptoms of the a disease that affects the body politick in this country. I abhor talking politics. I have political opinons; I read papers; I vote. But I don't like talking politics (particularly with parishioners) because people cannot do so anymore in a civil tone of voice if the topic or party of the person they are discussing politics with differs in any way, shape, or form.

I think brings me back around to my initial comments on Fr. Tim's blog. Most people in the under 35 crowd idolize people like Jon Stewart of the Daily Show or The Onion website, both harsh satirists. What I was trying to get at in that comment was to ask the question, "How did we get to this place where we can't talk to each other anymore?"...

...Whatever the factors and motivating influences that have led us to this complete breakdown in civic discourse, I think our culture in itself has failed because we have lost the ability to see the face of God in people who don't have the same ideologies as we do. By ideologies, I mean everything from people who don't vote like us to people who don't root for the same team as we do. Until such time, I am resigned to the fact that civil discourse is lost to our culture because it is more important for us to be right than to be the children of God in the community that God has ordained for us to be in.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Front page fun with regional health care

We have two fine health systems operating in and from Sioux Falls, and I thank God for them daily. But I'm about to have a bit of fun with both...

The front page of today's Sioux Falls Argus Leader featured the headline:

Sanford eyes Oregon, Ireland

Does that mean Sanford Health wants to buy and rename them?

After all, the article includes the news that Sanford's merger with North Dakota's MeritCare, which created the largest rural regional health network in the U.S., will result in the MeritCare name going away and the whole operation becoming Sanford Health.

But apart from fun with the headline, there's very positive news. Sanford is building clinics around the U.S. and in other countries where pediatric care is a pressing need.

Sanford continues to consolidate and expand its medical research departments, in particular the "Sanford Project" to seek a cure for Juvenile Diabetes.

I had fun with our other regional health system as well. Lower on the Argus' front page was a blurb about Avera Mckennan Hospital landing world champ bicyclist Lance Armstrong to speak at the opening of the new Avera Cancer Institute in October.

Now, some of the local competition includes Avera's styling as the humble Roman Catholic hospital standing up against a soulless Sanford corporate giant... except now Avera is building a big opening and fundraiser around a professed atheist.

Of course the positive news is that Armstrong is a cancer survivor - more than that, a person who overcame cancer and continued to fulfill personal goals on a world stage. Certainly an inspiration for the survival and quality of life hopes of cancer patients.

May Sanford and Avera continue to thrive and lift the quality of life on the Northern Plains and beyond.

Episcopal Church made a "a full, well-thought out decision" to reject "the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion"

From an interview with The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion:

Given that the development in Los Angeles [the consecration of a non-celibate lesbian] meant that gracious restraint was not being exercised, I think the Archbishop did have to act. What I think he’s done is say, “Look, the consecration of Mary Glasspool is a full, well-thought out decision of the Episcopal Church. There are implications to that decision. In that action, it is clear that The Episcopal Church does not share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion as expressed through the Instruments of Communion time and time again. They’ve made that decision and that’s fine. But if they don’t share the faith and order, then they shouldn’t represent the Communion on faith and order questions and that’s why ecumenical dialogues are the obvious ones where issues of faith and order are discussed and they ought to be discussed by bodies that share that faith and order. At the very minimum to be honouring to our ecumenical partners so that they know who they are in conversation with. Similarly on the Standing Committee on Faith and Order, if you don’t share the faith and order of the Anglican Communion then it’s an odd position to be in to be making decisions on faith and order. So we’ve asked the people to serve as consultants not as decision-making members. I think that’s an obvious working out of a decision not to exercise gracious restraint.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A pity there aren't more like her

Election Results: Dems Suck at Civic Engagement « Flying Tomato Farms

I really like this piece at Flying Tomato Farms. Here you have a person who specializes in sustainable farming while blogging a good analysis of state and local election numbers and issues... and one of her city officials actually reads it and comments.

The sad thing, which the blogger and the commenter both note, is the low participation in the political process. We're not talking just low voter turn out - see the official's comment about no-shows at public meetings on important issues.

It is so good to read an information seeking, community concerned citizen and a conversation seeking, community concerned official.

But it is so sad (as both of them note) that there is so little real public engagement in the process.

I would opine that low involvement contributes to government sprawl and intrusion on the one hand or people becoming marginalized on the other. When the general public takes the process for granted, it can get worked by factions and activists who expand government control. Alternatively, there can be no process at all and issues affecting a community are simply ignored.

Low public involvement in politics correlates with today's decline of many civic and social venues, as is suggested in Jon Lauck's Prairie Republic.

Certainly a big issue for churches today - we've moved from the center of society out to the edges in a very short time. Spiritually, that's not a bad place to be. The church of the New Testament lived on the margins. But it's still a disorienting change to deal with.

Jon Walker: Primary points up South Dakota's "different desires"

Interesting facts and explanation by reporter Jon Walker:

Republicans have won [the Governor's seat] all eight times since 1974, when Richard Kneip was the last Democrat to win. Democrats have won marquee statewide races since then, but always for Congress. Democrats hold a 13-8 lead over Republicans in U.S. House elections since 1974 and a 6-5 edge in Senate races.

Different desires in state, national elections

That pattern shows that South Dakota voters look for different things in state and national leaders, [Northern State Univ. Prof Jon] Schaff said.

"Races for federal office have tended to be on the basis on who can deliver federal money. Democrats are well suited for that," Schaff said. "At the state level, what most of the state wants from state government is to be left alone."

Think about it if you're not a South Dakotan - who are the significant SD politicians you can name? Likely Democrats, including former Presidential candidate George McGovern and long time Senate leader Tom Daschle. Reservations, farming, military installations and other features of The Rushmore State all assume significant Federal involvement.

State Dems hissy-slap GOP House candidate Noem... or are they trying to help her?

Kristi Noem photo by Emily Spartz / Argus Leader

While [Democratic House incumbent Stephanie] Herseth Sandlin offered her congratulations, the South Dakota Democratic Party went on the offensive Tuesday night, calling Noem an extremist and comparing her to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"With extreme views that are outside of the mainstream, she became known as 'South Dakota's Sarah Palin,'" state party Executive Director Erin McCarrick said in a statement. "South Dakotans need real solutions, not an extremist like Kristi Noem who isn't ready to lead and has demonstrated a troubling lack of understanding of the challenges facing our state."

From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Sometimes, liberals get in the habit of listening to other liberals exclusively. "Sarah Palin" might be a good slam only among people who already agree that any conservative woman is "outside of the mainstream."

Meanwhile, in the real world, three out of four national candidates for whom Palin actively campaigned won or got into run-offs.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Episcopal press release spin - actually, it points out the denomination's flaws

In a press release intended to flip yet another bird at global Christianity (for which the national leadership will probably invoke the goddess Shiva to gain digits), The Episcopal PR folks share some quotes intended to show independence from any and all authority. Except the quotes point out ways in which TEC betrays the whole Anglican Christian effort:

Quotes from the history books

Presiding Bishop William White, the first Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (1789), said that the Church of which he was a prime architect was to contain “the constituent principles of the Church of England, and yet independent of foreign jurisdiction or influence.”

Quite right. That's why the Anglican Communion has removed TEC for bodies that speak for global consensus. TEC consistently rejects "constituent principles" of the wider church (including its formally stated understanding of marriage) and TEC seeks to impose its eccentric agenda on other Provinces. So TEC's blown its own foundational ideas and the consensus of the wider church. It is a club based on the whim personalities, not a church at its national level.

Archbishop of Canterbury Charles Thomas Longley, who convened the first Lambeth Conference, said in 1867: “It has never been contemplated that we should assume the functions of a general synod of all the Churches in full communion with the Church of England, and take upon ourselves to enact canons that should be binding upon those here represented. We merely propose to discuss matters of practical interest, and pronounce what we deem expedient in resolutions which may serve as safe guides to future action.”

The global synod role was not contemplated because it was assumed that all the Provinces would believe and behave within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. TEC, by acting the fool, has torn Anglicanism's traditional "bonds of affection" and necessitated that which it claims to hate. On TEC's LGBT agenda, the Communion did express "safe guides to future actions," and TEC simply flipped the them the bird.

Archbishop of Canterbury Campbell Tait noted in 1875 about the Lambeth Conference: “There is no intention whatever on the part of anybody to gather together the Bishops of the Anglican Church for the sake of defining any matter of doctrine. Our doctrines are contained in our formularies, and our formularies are interpreted by the proper judicial authorities, and there is no intention whatever at any such gathering that questions of doctrine should be submitted for interpretation in any future Lambeth Conference any more than they were at the previous Lambeth Conference.”

The marriage rites of The Books of Common Prayer were unified in their statement of the nature and purpose of marriage as monogamous lifetime union between a man and a woman. So TEC has emphatically attacked a "forumlary" expressing Christian doctrine across the entire Anglican Communion.

Resolution 49c from the 1930 Lambeth Conference notes: “Churches in the Anglican Communion are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.”

Spewed some perfectly good Guatemala Antigua all over my keyboard reading this. "Mutual loyalty?" TEC signed onto and then promptly betrayed the statements it made with other Anglican Provinces. Common counsel? Then why all these statements of autonomy?

TEC continues to style itself a global peace 'n' justice club with total American authority and autonomy. TEC will tell you that this is "post-modern" or "emergent," church jargon to dress up irrationality as virtue.

TEC vests authority in whoever acts out most eccentrically and shamelessly.

TEC projects its faults on others.


h/t Stand Firm for posting TECs talking points

A Prayer for Election Day

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers
and privileges: Guide the people of the United States (or of
this community) in the election of officials and representatives;
that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of
all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your
purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer, 1979

Monday, June 7, 2010

Uhh... like, OK?

Another SD blogger says... uh... whatever this is:

Yes, atheists have killed, tortured, lied and stolen - never in the name of atheism, but because they're bad. Can most religions say that?

Anybody got a decoder ring handy?

The Episcopal Church no longer represents in global Christian dialogue

Episcopal Life Online - NEWS

Anglicans like to make things wordy, complex and loaded with acronyms. So here's the deal:

The Episcopal Church consecrated a lesbian bishop after Christians around the world said, "Please don't, that's not a practice with which the global church agrees." The Episcopal Church flipped them the bird. Now The Episcopal Church's representatives have been removed from bodies which represent Anglicanism in global interfaith discussions.

It is sad. The Episcopal Church ministered Christ's sacraments to me. It nurtured me in Christian faith and absolutely taught me how to pray and turn my life toward God each day. Now, it is driven by eccentric, uncaring narrow-issue activists. What a friggin' waste.

Episcopal Bishop John Tarrant did not consent to the consecration of a lesbian Bishop, predicting it would damage Christian unity. And so it has.

Jesus v. Orange Cones

This one got a good amount of post-service feedback, so I figured I'd share. God sent a message to which a wider group was receptive.

Paging Dr. House...

As Gregory House shows us each week (more frequently if you gots enough cable channels) a diagnosis can come oh-so-close yet still be all wrong. Which reminds me of:
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

People can remember the past, yet misinterpret it.

People can remember the past, yet put themselves above it. How many movies (*cough*DancesWithWolves*cough*) are built on the assumption that if I or someone like me went back to the past I/the person like me would never do the bad things stupid people did back then. Which is nothing new.

People can remember the past, yet distort it.

The use of history requires all of the diagnostic histrionics of Dr. House and his team. Yes, Santayana is right that accurate memory must be in place. But to avoid repeating the past requires much more.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Luke's inspired art

Today's Gospel in the Revised Common Lectionary is Luke 7:11-17 (text is below).

We have two "large crowds" who walk smack into each other at the choke point of a city gate. You have a procession of death and grief coming out, and an amazed procession of expectation heading in.

Beyond telling us that the crowds are "large," Luke uses no adjectives to describe the moment. He lets us feel the abrupt stop, the two emotionally charged crowds blocking each other's way.

He leaves room for our hearts and minds fill in the adjectives, which will be words like "tense, frustrated, confused, angry." But no matter what we sense in the scene, the standoff is broken by an unexpected force: Compassion. It is not insistence on right-of-way that prevails, but divine tenderness. What wasn't there is suddenly present. Life displaces death, because "God has looked favorably on his people" in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Soon after healing the centurion's slave, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Episcopalian legal team in Peru?

From the AP:

Outside, seven Indian shamans in brightly colored ponchos repeatedly stabbed a cloth doll representing van der Sloot in a "spiritual punishment" ritual. "We're punishing him so that all the forces of evil are purged," one shouted.

Aw, why not. A step up from the way his case was handled in Aruba.

Visualizing the BP Oil Disaster - Visualizing the BP Oil Disaster

h/t Pastor Steve Hickey at Voices Carry, where there are some good prayer suggestions as well.

I've centered the spill over Fairmont, Minnesota. This shows the top of the spill outline over Minneapolis/St. Paul and the far left of it taking in Sioux Falls and Madison, South Dakota. The lower section of the shadow is well into Iowa.

To give some idea of the size, it would take 45 minutes to an hour to drive from Sioux Falls to Madison, and a good 5 to 6 hours to drive from Sioux Falls to the Twin Cities.

Why I'm not a fire eater in the health care debate

If you skim my blog you know that I am by disposition "conservative" on many issues, although such labels fail to do most folks justice.

One of the reasons I've been pretty mum on the health care debate is that I have two disabled/special needs family members. I'm in that crowd of "Something needs to be done but I don't know what" people.

Exhibit A:

Just opened the mailbox and found the pre-insurance tab for my wife's week in the hospital. She had a painful GI issue - treatment included a couple of diagnostic tests but no surgery, thank God. But it comes to


Exhibit B:

My autistic kid takes several meds. I got a look at what just one of them would cost without insurance:


I work two jobs, the second one mainly to carry a good medical plan for my family. The deductibles will still leave me out a few thousand, but I won't have to come up with $50K for the hospital or $2K per month for the pharmacy. Still, the staggering cost of health care really comes home when you look at an invoices like these.

This keeps me humble when it comes to health care policy. More than a year's salary for a week of gastrointestinal distress is absurd, as is expecting a person to pay more than their mortgage each month for a bottle of pills.

How to make the costs realistic without devaluing and degrading care and research is a big challenge, sprawling into several aspects of our political and economic systems.

Book signing in Sioux Falls

The news piece text is here.

And check out the Prairie Republic Facebook Group.

Friday, June 4, 2010

People who aren't in church this weekend...

...include South Dakota's snarkiest blogger...:

Why do the Jews embrace the Old Testament? Because it justifies killing people. Why do Muslims embrace the Koran? Because it justifies killing people. Christians supposedly embrace the New Testament (which justifies peace) but most of them choose to ignore those teachings. People ask why I don’t believe in religion.

...and a South Dakota soldier who gave his life to save others:

...the park was where Barnard would go to be with God. Barnard didn't agree with certain elements of organized religion... but he had faith in God and was good to his fellow man.

There are many serious, thoughtful, moral and otherwise noble people who will not be in church this weekend. I'm not talking about the lightweight, flippant, "Oh, I'm spiritual but not religious" types. I mean people who care about life's big questions and want to do something more than take up a bit of space and oxygen for a few decades.

On Good Friday, The Book of Common Prayer has the church confess its own responsibility for failing to reach some and driving others away:

Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;

For those who have never heard the word of salvation
For those who have lost their faith
For those hardened by sin or indifference
For the contemptuous and the scornful
For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and
persecutors of his disciples
For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others

One of my parishioners is a college professor who has read all of the major "new atheists." What he finds is that they don't really debate Christianity so much as they point out the failures of Christians.

I certainly don't have a canned solution for this issue. It is likely to be with us as long as the church and the world carry on. Judas will find his place among the apostles and some pagans will show qualities that Christ blesses. But it is a cop out for a Christian to say "The church isn't necessary," because that is not an honest reading or presentation of the New Testament.

The church must always remember that Jesus stands in judgment over "religion." Our laxity on the one hand or extremism on the other can lead us away from the Lord whose body, temple and ambassadors we are meant to be. When people do not get a glimpse of Christ in us, they will walk on seeking the way, truth and life we failed to convey.