Friday, November 30, 2007

Wash. School Calendar Forgets Christmas

The most telling statement in this article is the following: "It was absolutely an error of omission," district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said. "In our efforts to be inclusive, we missed the obvious."

Well, at least this story helped me to learn a new word. I reasoned that if a xenophobe was "a person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples," then there had to be a word (an antonym—like xenophile, if such a word existed) to describe those who rush headlong to embrace every new influence and cultural extreme, even at the expense of their own culture.

And sure enough, a visit to the The Free Dictionary led me to:
xen·o·phile (zn-fl, zn-)n. A person attracted to that which is foreign, especially to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures.
This obsession with other cultures, even those that do not exist within a community or that have to be invented (How many devotees of Kwanzaa were there before someone fabricated this "holiday" out of whole cloth?), has become such an obsession that it causes people to forget reality. I mean, forgetting Christmas? C'mon.

Of course this could have been simply a case of a school secretary having a bad day. But this sort of thing is emblematic of what is happening to much of western culture—a reckless abandonment of our own cultural foundations while mindlessly chanting the mantra of "inclusion."

Wash. School Calendar Forgets Christmas
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - They made a list, but they should have checked it twice.

In a December newsletter to the families of elementary school students, Spokane Public Schools' list of "important dates" didn't include Christmas.

Hanukkah, Human Rights Day, winter break, the Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha, first day of winter and Kwanzaa all made the list. But no Christmas.

"It was absolutely an error of omission," district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said. "In our efforts to be inclusive, we missed the obvious."

The omission drew complaints from some parents that Christians are being overlooked in favor of other cultures and beliefs.

Greater Spokane Association of Evangelicals Executive Director John Tusant said the error surprised him.

"The stores have been decorated for the last month. How do you overlook that?" Tusant asked.

Hutton School parent Jane Harper noted the absence of Christmas but didn't think the omission was meant as a message to Christians.

"Christmas is so dominant in our society. I don't know that anyone should feel slighted," Harper said.

Roloff said the district would not have included Hanukkah and Eid al-Adha if it had intended to avoid religious celebrations. She said her office has been fielding calls about the newsletter from concerned parents, and that most have been understanding about the mix-up.

Christmas had been added to the "important dates" section of the online version of the school district's newsletter by Thursday afternoon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How the BSA Nets Piracy Suspects

This article from the conputer industry might seem a bit off topic, but it isn't really. Look at the lengths that one business organization is willing to go to to avoid lawsuits over the issue of software copyright infringement.

Cannot the Episcopal Church go to similar lengths in the current dispute over parish property.

How the BSA Nets Piracy Suspects
Nov 25, 1:44 PM (ET)

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Business Software Alliance collects tens of millions of dollars in settlements from companies it accuses of software piracy, but it doesn't have to file lawsuits to do it....

The BSA generally begins investigating businesses after a tip from an employee. Software vendors can also initiate or lend credence to a complaint if they tell the BSA that an organization has, for example, bought suspiciously fewer software licenses than it has employees.

Next, a law firm representing the alliance will send a company a letter informing its management that it is suspected of violating software copyrights, a crime that carries penalties of up to $150,000 per infringed work.

The letters will then state that the BSA is willing to avoid court and settle amicably - if the company audits its computers to see whether they contain unlicensed copies of software made by the group's members.

That turns out to be the key step. Usually, companies go along, and report to the BSA's attorneys what they've found. With that information, the BSA will demand payments, plus penalties and attorneys' fees, for the unlicensed software.

At that point, it's mainly a matter of settling on the amount and negotiating whether BSA can publicize the crackdown in a news release.

[...]

[Some attorneys] advise companies to have their lawyers conduct software audits and issue directions on which software licenses they need. Depending on the situation, findings from this kind of audit can be shielded by attorney-client privilege. BSA could still try to file a lawsuit in hopes of proving past infringement, but it is unlikely to go that expensive route, [one attorney] said.

It's not necessarily simple: The BSA in some cases will file complaints under court seal and win a judge's approval to raid companies so it can gather evidence on its own.

The group's enforcement director, Jenny Blank, said her group resorts to raids only when it suspects that a company might try to destroy evidence of its copyright infringement.

Even then, however, the case doesn't end in a courtroom.

"The parties don't litigate," Blank said. "They settle on dollar amounts."


I have excerpted the relevant parts, but you can read the whole story here.

Note the parts I have highlighted in bold. Even with the possibility of recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case that is relatively simple to prove and unlikely to be appealed, the business association would rather settle than taking the "expensive route" of filing lawsuits. And even when they raid a company that is infringing on copyrights, "the parties don't litigate," they "settle on dollar amounts."

Why is it that these companies, who have no biblical injunction to love one another, or to stay out of the secular courts, are behaving better than the Church?

Friday, November 23, 2007

What would Gamaliel do?

I have had conversations this week with several TEC insiders who have objected to my post on A Church out of Control and even more strongly to my satirical piece Location, Location, Location, both of which address, one seriously, the other satirically, the litigious tendencies of the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, as seen in a spate of highly publicized lawsuits over the past year.

The expression that was repeatedly used to defend the Presiding Bishop's multiple lawsuits was "fiduciary responsibility"—that the PB had a "fiduciary responsibility" to protect assets (supposedly) belonging to the Episcopal Church. Therefore, so the logic goes, she was only doing her duty in insisting that bishops and dioceses sue departing congregation over the property.

But, does not a settlement for the property, negotiated between dioceses and departing congregations, constitute a means of diocesan officers fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility? It seems that Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia thought so when he engaged in a lengthy process of negotiation with 11 departing parishes.

It seems that other bishops thought so when they negotiated settlements with departing parishes in such places as Plano, Texas; El Paso, Texas; and Overland Park, Kansas—to mention just three examples among many. Did these bishops violate their "fiduciary responsibility" by settling out of court? No one seems to have thought so at the time; and no presiding bishop prior to the present one sued anyone for it.

But as the Washington Times reported,
According to prior testimony, Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee was ready to accept buyouts from the 11 departing churches, several of which sat on historic pieces of property in Fairfax and Falls Church. That changed after he met with the new presiding bishop soon after her Nov. 4, 2006, installation.

"I told Bishop Lee I could not support negotiations for sale if the congregations intended to set up as other parts of the Anglican Communion," Bishop Jefferts Schori said, referring to the 77 million-member worldwide body of which the Episcopal Church is a part.

What particularly angered her, she said, was the presence of the Nigerian-controlled Convocation of Anglicans in North America, then headquartered in Fairfax. An American bishop for CANA, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, had been consecrated that August.

CANA's presence "violates the ancient principle of the church that two bishops do not have jurisdiction in the same area," said the presiding bishop, whose face appeared on three screens positioned around the courtroom.

Under further questioning by attorneys for CANA, she said that had the property been sold to a Methodist or Baptist congregation, she would not have objected.

But, "the Episcopal Church, for matters of its own integrity, cannot encourage other parts of the Anglican Communion to set up shop within its jurisdiction," she said in her deposition.

It then fell to Bishop Lee to break the news to the dissenting congregations, Falls Church rector the Rev. John Yates said in prior testimony. His church was one of the 11 that was negotiating amicably with the diocese until Dec. 7. That is when, he said, Bishop Lee told them things had changed.

"[Bishop Lee] said, 'There's a new sheriff in town. The situation is different'" Mr. Yates said.

Since the PB is reported as saying that she wouldn't object if the property were sold to a Baptist or Methodist congregation, she obviously believes that a settlement to sell the property does not violate anyone's fiduciary responsibility. Her real objection is to seeing property sold to Anglicans who would rather come under an alternative Anglican jurisdiction than to stick around for the new improved version of Christianity that has become her stock and trade. Her objections to property settlements, then, are based on differences of religious opinion and her desire to act punitively toward those who disagree with her. How wonderfully tolerant these liberals are!

There just might be a precedent for all this in Christian history. In Acts, chapter 5, the disciples, while under arrest, have proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ to the Jewish Sanhedrin--there was obvously a division over matters of religious opinion then, too:
When [the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and wanted to put [Peter and the other disciples] to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." (emphasis added) (Acts 5:33-39)

Bp. Schori has elsewhere expressed the view (also reported here) that, "if all sides in the current debate over sexuality and Scripture could 'hold their truths more lightly,' they might yet find a way forward."

Well, okay, if you want to try holding your "truths more lightly," here's a place to start. Let's assume that Gamaliel is right (and he certainly has been proven right about the beginning of Christianity). These Anglicans are as much a division in the Episcopal Church over a difference in religious views as the early Christians were from the Jews. How about applying Gamaliel's test to our present situation? How about dispensing with all the lawsuits and, instead, start negotiating settlements with departing Anglican congregations? "For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Or am I being too biblical?

Presiding Bishop: “I Ordered U-Turn on Deal.”

George Conger reports on PB Kathatine Jefferts Schori's testimony in the lawsuit over parish properties in Virginia:
In testimony before a Virginia court last week, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stated she had directed the Diocese of Virginia to sue the clergy and lay leaders of 11 congregations after they had quit the Episcopal Church for the Churches of Nigerian and Uganda.

In video taped testimony presented to the Fairfax County Circuit Court, Bishop Schori said she ordered Virginia Bishop Peter Lee to break a verbal agreement allowing the 11 parishes to withdraw from the diocese so as to prevent “incursions by foreign bishops.”

Bishop Schori’s testimony during the four hour deposition, recorded on Oct 30 and presented in evidence on Nob 15, did little to engender the sympathy of the court, as observers noted she carefully parsed her words, and at one point was directed by the court to answer a question.

Testimony in the week long trial, revealed that shortly after her installation as Presiding Bishop in November [2006], Bishop Schori met with Bishop Lee, telling him she “could not support negotiations for sale if the congregations intended to set up as other parts of the Anglican Communion.”

In December [2006] the diocese broke off negotiations with the congregations, and filed suit in January [2007] to recover the assets of the congregation.

Read it all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A poem for a sermon: The Lamb

The Lamb

The Shepherd loved His little lamb,
And gave it His tender care
And followed it with His loving eyes
As it wandered here and there.

And as He sat by His grazing flock
Who so meekly His voice obeyed,
He pondered sadly His little lamb
As again it strayed.

The little lamb had a loving heart,
And adored His Shepherd, true,
But would turn aside and seek his own way
As lambs so often do.

With his gentle voice the Shepherd called,
To His loved and straying lamb,
"Come back, little one, for you are not safe
Unless you are where I am."

But still the lamb would soon forget
And unthinkingly wander away,
And not really noticing what he did,
From the Shepherd's side would stray.

Until one day, the Shepherd kind
Took His rod in His gentle hand,
And what He then did seemed so cruel
That the lamb could not understand.

For with one sharp and well-aimed blow
Down the rod so swiftly came
That it broke the leg of the little lamb
And left it crippled, and lame.

Then the little lamb, with a cry of pain,
Fell down upon his knees...
And looked up at his Shepherd, as though to say,
"Won't you explain this, please?"

Then he saw the love in the Shepherd's eyes
As the tears ran down His face,
As He tenderly set the broken bone,
And bound it back in it's place.

Now he was utterly helpless,
He could not even stand!
He must trust himself completely
To his Shepherd's loving hand.

Then day by day, 'till the lamb was healed
From the flock he was kept apart...
And carried about in the Shepherd's arms
And cradled near to His heart.

And the Shepherd would whisper gentle words
Into his now listening ear...
Thus he heard sweet words of love
That the other sheep could not hear.

He felt the warmth of the Shepherd's arms.
And the beat of His faithful heart...
Until it came a blessing to seem,
By his weakness to be set apart.

Every need of the little lamb
By his Shepherd so fully was met
That through his brokenness he learned
What he never again would forget.

And as the broken bone was healed,
And once more became whole and strong...
Wherever the Shepherd's path would lead,
The lamb would follow along.

Thus at the Shepherd's side he walked
So closely, day by day,
For once a lamb has a broken leg
It will never again go astray.

For the cords of love had bound it so
In its hour of weakness and need...
That is had no desire to wander away,
When once again it was freed.

Could it be you are broken today,
And you cannot understand
The painful blow of the Shepherd's rod
Nor believe it came from His Hand?

He only seeks, by this painful thing,
For a time to call you apart...
To cradle you close in His loving arms,
And draw you near to His heart.

So look up into your Shepherd's eyes,
And earnestly seek His face...
And prove in the hour of your weakness and need
The sufficiency of His grace.

For as you are borne in His loving arms,
And carried there, day by day...
He will bind you so close with the cords of His love
That never again will you stray!

—— Author Unknown

Monday, November 19, 2007

From Anglicans Ablaze: "The Cost of Unfaithfulness"

Robin Jordan of the blog Anglicans Ablaze makes some important points in todays commentary and does it very well.
Monday, November 19, 2007

The Cost of Unfaithfulness
Commentary by Robin G. Jordan

What does Presiding Katherine Schori hope to gain from the costly and lengthy litigation in which she is involving the national church and a number of dioceses? It will not stop the Episcopal Church from hemorrhaging members. It will not help Episcopal parishes and churches to retain existing members and to attract new members. It will not prevent clergy, congregations, and dioceses from leaving the Episcopal Church. It will not keep other provinces from assuming jurisdiction over the departing congregations and dioceses. What it will do is strain the resources of the dioceses involved in the lawsuits. It will use monies that might have been put to better use in a shrinking denomination for evangelistic outreach, new church development, and congregational revitalization.

Read it all.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Gary Drier, a General Convention Deputy from the Diocese of Fond du Lac, shared this satirical missive with the Bishops/Deputies listserv today. I reprint it with his permission.
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
815
NY, NY

Dear Bishop Schori:

We heard about your interest in real estate, especially old church buildings. On the chance you are looking not just at just high end properties, you may want to investigate a gothic fix up.

It needs a little work: roof (some slate shingles slid off); walls (gaps in tuckpointing here and there); doors (main doors stick); heating (some radiators leak); floors (terrazzo has lost its seal) and plumbing (urinal bowl will not fully evacuate).

On the bright side, the property is home to some entertaining bats.

Our vestry recently passed a resolution to affiliate with the Anglican Conference of Mediocre Edifices (ACME). ACME is not in communion with The Episcopal Church.

Could you PLEASE hire some lawyers to take over this building and fix it up?

Sincerely,

Eddie Fuss

A short time later, this response also found its way to the Bishops/Deputies list:

Mr. Eddie Fuss
% St. Swithin's Episcopal Church
Smallville, WI 53850

Dear Mr. Fuss,

I am in receipt of your letter regarding the disposition of your church building. As you are no doubt aware, congregations can leave the Episcopal Church, but buildings cannot.

My extensive legal team and I have considered the matter you have placed before us, and we must state that your property does not have sufficient value for us to be interested. In suing various congregations around the US, we have primarily selected those properties whose sale can net a considerable return, given that any effort to maintain a ministry in them will likely not result in a congregation capable of paying the utility bills, much less the other costs associated with the upkeep of the building.

I need to inform you that since your congregation has chosen to affiliate with the Anglican Conference of Mediocre Edifices (ACME), we have empowered the sexton (as the only remaining person whom we recognize as having any interest in the building) to sell the building as a restaurant, tavern, night club or any enterprise that does not involve its use as a place of Anglican worship. It sounds as though the St. Swithin's building has excellent potential as a Halloween House of Horrors.

You will soon be hearing from my attorneys who will, unless we change our minds, sue you in your own person for your leadership role in affiliating with the Anglican Conference of Mediocre Edifices (ACME). I also need to state that if your bishop attempts to negotiate any sort of settlement contrary to our expressed wishes, we will sue him also.

Love and Peace,

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori


(posted and possibly even written by
Robert Munday, Deputy from Quincy)

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Church Out Of Control

Anyone who lives in the Episcopal Church these days has probably already recognized himself (or herself) to be a victim of the (purported) old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!" However, the last two weeks have seen the times get even more interesting than usual.

First, there was the news item: "Presiding Bishop reaches out to bishops attempting to withdraw dioceses"—such a compassionate sounding title for an article conveying that the PB had sent letters threatening disciplinary action against the bishops in question! As one commentator put it, "The Episcopal Church is probably the only place where 'being reached out to' means being threatened, deposed, and sued." These threats against bishops of dioceses come on top of the numerous places around the country where the Episcopal Church is involved in legal action against departing parishes.

A concurrent development with the escalating legal tensions over the past year has been the repudiation of the General Convention 2006 resolution (B033) urging restraint in giving consent to the election of a bishop "whose manner of life might present a challenge to the larger Communion"—in other words, a gay bishop. This call for restraint has now been repudiated by various dioceses, a partial list of which includes: Los Angeles, New Jersey, California, Rochester, and (just this past weekend) Chicago.

Chicago held its election for a new bishop this past weekend also. While, Tracey Lind, the partnered lesbian candidate (and Dean of the cathedral in Cleveland) was not elected, the Chicago Tribune reported the successful candidate, Jeff Lee, from the Seattle area, as saying:
"I am overwhelmed and grateful to God for the opportunity to come to such a great diocese," Lee said by telephone. "In many ways, I believe Chicago reflects the face of the Episcopal Church in all its diversity. Rich and poor, urban and suburban, black and white, gay and straight ... and I believe I've been called to be a bridge-builder and a reconciler."

The election marked the most recent flash point in the conflict over homosexuality in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. The 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, began a shift in the church and some thought there would be further divisions if Lind were elected bishop.

When asked about his stance on gays in the church, Lee said he supported full inclusion.

"I believe God is calling us to full inclusion of gays and lesbians in ministry of this church. ... There is a place for everyone in the church, and the church has to catch up with God's vision," he said.

In case anyone doesn't remember, this is simply a repeat of the Diocese of California's election of a bishop, where they also did not elect the lesbian candidate, but elected a "straight, white, male" bishop who was just as strongly committed to advancing the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.

This past weekend also brought news that the Diocese of Northern California has voted to support gay couples.

All of this means that, despite the Windsor Report and the Dar Es Salaam Communique, despite the General Convention's passage of B033, and regardless of what the House of Bishops said at its meeting in New Orleans, the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals will continue unhindered.

There was also this rather bizarre news item that the Episcopal Church is taking disciplinary action against three retired bishops. The three retired bishops: Fairfield, Bena, and Cox have, since their retirement, been received into, respectively, the Anglican provinces of Uganda, Nigeria, and the Southern Cone. Their "crime" is, apparently, that they have, under the direction of their new provinces, ministered to Anglicans in North America who are also affiliated with those overseas provinces. The substance of the complaint is that the bishops failed to "resign" in a way that was approved by the House of Bishops. I am sure the bishops thought their resignation was taken care of when they retired. To all but the most bellicose among us, pursuing these bishops in retirement must seem like an egregious example of legal overkill. But, hey, welcome to the Episcopal Church!

Then there is the news that the Province of the Southern Cone has passed a resolution opening its doors to any US diocese that desired to transfer into that province. This is a move obviously aimed at the bishops and dioceses who are "being reached out to" by the Episcopal Church's litigious Presiding Bishop. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

In all this, the silence from Lambeth Palace has been deafening!

Ealier in the week, there was a report from London Times religion writer, Ruth Gledhill, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, "described the plan of [Southern Cone] Archishop Greg Venables [to take dissenting US dioceses under his wing] as a 'sensible way forward.'" I am willing to bet that this is the last talk of that sort anyone hears from the ABC.

There seems to be a pattern emerging here. This isn't the first time Rowan Williams has made a comment that seemed to support orthodox Anglicans in the US, only to have the comment nullified several days later in an official "clarification" issued from Lambeth Palace.

It appears that, if someone can actually talk with Rowan Williams, the fellow isn't really a bad chap. But then his Wormtongue managers at Lambeth Palace and the heavily US-funded Anglican Communion Office regain their control over him, and he becomes once again entranced to do nothing while evil prospers.

Actually, the ABC seems to be acting under the assumption that the best way to keep the Anglican Communion together is to keep the Episcopal Church together. Thus, he is remaining silent while the litigious (did I mention that already?) Presiding Bishop crushes all dissent. American Conservatives are apparently supposed to reconcile themselves to being casualties in a war Rowan would like to pretend doesn't exist.

In reality, the only way to save the Anglican Communion is to discipline the Episcopal Church for its departure from Anglican Communion norms. The Archbishop of Canterbury can accomplish this discipline through his prerogative of invitations to the Lambeth Conference. The Primates can accomplish this discipline by censuring the American Church and limiting TEC's participation in the instruments of unity. If this does not happen, not only the Episcopal Church, but the Anglican Communion will fly apart under the centrifugal forces of the orbit into which the anarchic deviations of the American Church have cast it—and it will happen sooner rather than later.

Are you listening, Rowan?

Saturday, November 10, 2007