Sunday, September 30, 2007

Presiding Bishop at Grace Cathedral

Today was another rich and full day at Grace Cathedral, with the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop of California Marc Andrus at the Forum and the 11 a.m. service. You can hear both the Forum and the service online at

The Presiding Bishop's homily was provocative and gave me a renewed appreciation for angels. You can read the text of the homily here.

Below is a story from the San Francisco Chronicle:

In S.F., presiding U.S. Episcopal bishop affirms same-sex unions

Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer

Sunday, September 30, 2007

On Sunday - the deadline set by church leaders for the Episcopal Church to roll back support for same-sex unions - the U.S. church's presiding bishop spoke unequivocally at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral that there would be no retreat.

"All people - including gay and lesbian Christians and non-Christians - are deserving of the fullest regard of the church," the Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori declared during an hourlong discussion before services. "We're not going backward."

Jefferts Schori said these are the views of the church's bishops as well as of its lay members - who have increasingly affirmed rights for same-sex couples. As such, Jefferts Schori's comments served as the punctuation to a historic day.

What will happen next is unknown. But a number of U.S. bishops on Friday declared that they are unifying the scores of breakaway churches that view homosexuality as sinful. They are seeking alternative oversight from conservative leaders based abroad.

"A schism of sorts seems inevitable," said the Very Rev. Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral, who moderated the Sunday discussion with Jefferts Schori.

Anglican Communion leaders issued a communique in February for the U.S. Episcopal Church's bishops to state by Sept. 30 that the church would not authorize rites for same-sex unions or approve gay clergy as bishops. Conservatives viewed it as an ultimatum. Some have suggested that the Episcopal Church's price for noncompliance might be lesser status within the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, the body of churches whose roots are in the Church of England.

The issue of whether gays and lesbians in committed relationships can have their unions blessed by their churches may be the single most divisive issue in U.S. Christianity today. Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran denominations all are torn over the issue. But it plays out dramatically on a global scale among Anglicans, who are the largest, most unified Protestant body in the world.

Jefferts Schori and other Episcopal bishops believe the Anglican Communion is defined by a tolerance for a wide set of beliefs. They believe the communion should continue to minister to a variety of views.

"The pastor's job as shepherd is to mind the whole flock," Jefferts Schori said, referring to a biblical parable of a shepherd who goes searching for one lost sheep. "I am continually, prayerfully reminded of those who are wandering off. The job of the church is to reach ever wider to include the whole."

That Jefferts Schori would be in San Francisco on the deadline day was a coincidence: She had accepted the invitation to come over a year ago, long before the Anglican Communion's leaders issued the communique on same-sex issues in February. But her views, the Episcopal Church's direction and the setting all affirmed each other.

"It's an accident in some sense, but it's a blessed accident," Jefferts Schori said in an interview about the significance of her speaking Sunday in San Francisco.

The 27,000-member Diocese of California, based in San Francisco, has ordained more gay and lesbian clergy than any other. Priests in the diocese - which includes San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa counties and part of Santa Clara County - have blessed same-sex unions for more than three decades.

Those practices, once on the margins of the Episcopal Church, have become the mainstream.

The church's House of Bishops gathered in New Orleans last week to discuss how to respond to the communique. They chose to maintain the status quo: They would "exercise restraint" by not consecrating any gay, partnered candidates for bishop, and they would not authorize "any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions."

For conservatives, the statements were hollow because it allows priests to privately bless same-sex unions.

"This is neither prohibition nor restraint," said a statement issued Wednesday by the Right Rev. John-David Schofield, bishop for the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin. "It is simply turning a blind eye."

Conservative bishops and priests in the United States believe Anglican leaders in Africa hold a truer understanding of Christ's teachings.

"The church in the West has lost its way," the Right Rev. Robert Duncan, the bishop of Pittsburgh, said on Friday, in announcing the new coalition. "The church in the 'Global South' is utterly clear about what it is to follow Jesus Christ."

Jefferts Schori said on Sunday that she sees the path of Christ in a different manner.

"Jesus hung out with people on the margins," she said. "He hung out with people who were unacceptable to the Judaism of his time.

"He didn't spend a great deal of his time seeking to throw people out. My sense of what it means to follow Jesus is to love the image of God in our neighbors and respond to the needs of the image of God in our neighbors."

Jefferts Schori is skeptical of the fate of any breakaway churches or diocese, saying Duncan's efforts would be the latest in a line of splinter groups that failed.

"There's such a long history of splitting that it would be a sign of the Spirit's movement if he were able to gather them into a coherent whole," she said.

"American Protestantism is characterized, unfortunately, by the desire to fracture," she said. "There's a piece to American character that we have to have fully defined, black and white, precise understanding. And that's not a terribly Anglican characteristic."

Many of those gathered Sunday applauded Jefferts Schori, saying they support her views and believe that the direction of the church will ultimately lead to full equality - having formal, authorized rites for same-sex unions.

But some view the current treatment of gays and lesbians as tantamount to second-class status.

Christopher Hayes, 40, of San Francisco said he and his partner of 13 years are in the planning stages of their same-sex union, a ceremony that will take place in Grace Cathedral. But he feels frustrated by the state of events.

"I want to hear that we're not satisfied with where we are right now," he said.

Jefferts Schori said the time is not right - yet - for such a moment.

While some conservatives may leave because of the church's views, she said others may be drawn to the fold.

"Decisions the church as a whole makes can open the door wider for people who have not been part of a faith tradition or this part of Christianity. ... The church always is changing."

E-mail Matthai Chakko Kuruvila at

Saturday, September 22, 2007


The past week has been incredibly busy in preparation for Camino, a national Episcopal young adult gathering being held at Grace Cathedral. Today, lots of really wonderful people from across the country showed up, danced, sang, prayed, and learned about ways we can together work for a more just and peaceful planet. There's lots more going on tomorrow and Sunday as well.

Tonight, during a delicious meal, an entertainer/activist on a bicycle rode into the Cathedral Plaza played some sweet tunes, rapped, and got many of us up and out of our seats. Learn about this fascinating guy and his creative work here and here. My friend Jo introduced Lyra (another member of Camino's Design Team) and me to Paul at the Revolution Cafe a few weeks ago in the Mission.

Also, check out the Episcopal Life story about Camino here for more on what is to come. I'm especially excited and grateful that there's a significant group of people from Virginia in San Francisco for Camino including my good friend Paris.

Bishop Marc Andrus (who has made an important statement on the current Bishop's Meeting going on in New Orleans) will join the Camino gathering on Sunday as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Doctor Who as a parable of Christ

This morning Matt was thrilled to share this story with me. I think he's likely the greatest fan of Doctor Who in North America. If you don't know the program it is well worth checking out, longest running science fiction television series ever.

Church hosts Doctor Who service
A church is to host a Doctor Who-themed communion service aimed at young people.

St Paul's Church in Grangetown, Cardiff, was once used as a filming location for the BBC Wales-produced series.

The "cafe-style" service for people in their teens and early 20s, will feature music and clips from the hit show.

One of the organisers Fr Dean Atkins, said as a saver of the world, Doctor Who was "almost a Messiah figure".

Two years ago, the Anglican church was used as a location for the Father's Day episode of the first series, in which a giant reaper creature attacked wedding guests at the church.

I love the series and it has such a great following that we couldn't resist doing something for young people on a Doctor Who theme
Parish priest Fr Ben Andrews

Fr Atkins, youth officer with the Diocese of Llandaff, said: "In the series there are lots of references to salvation and the doctor being almost immortal.

"We are using the figure of Doctor Who as a parable of Christ."

The language used in the series also lends itself to exploring the Christian faith, he said.

He added: "Christ is a kind of cosmic figure as well if you like, somebody who does not travel through time but all eternity is found in him.

"He is a kind of encapsulation of the beginning and the end, in fact he existed before time began and he will exist when time ends."

Parish priest Fr Ben Andrews said: "I love the series and it has such a great following that we couldn't resist doing something for young people on a Doctor Who theme.

"Lots of people think that young people are the future of the church.

"This kind of event will show they are part of the church of the present and have an important part to play in its future.

"We are building on the past but always looking forward."

The service takes place on 23 September at 1830 BST.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/09/12 15:07:33 GMT